Pit bulls: A breed with a good heart and a bad reputation


No creature is born evil. In the nature vs. nurture debate, nurture carries a lot of weight. Consider a child having been raised with patience and loving care: that child is likely to become a kind and compassionate adult. The same can be said of the American Staffordshire terrier, commonly known as the pit bull.

According to the ASPCA’s official position statement on pit bulls, “genetics do not exist in a vacuum. Behavior develops through complex interaction between environment and genetics.”

Essentially, if a dog is properly socialized, given consistent training and a loving home, there is less chance of aggressive behavior as an adult.  It shouldn’t come as a shock that a dog that has never known kindness from a human hand is more likely to bite than one that has never been anything but mama’s fur-baby.

The American Kennel Club, founded in 1884, currently defines standard characteristics for 200 dog breeds. About the pit bull, formally acknowledged in 1974, they say, “More than 100 years of responsible breeding have transformed [the American Staffordshire terrier] from brawler to trustworthy family companion.”

The AKC describes pit bulls as “intelligent, calmly protective and [possessing] an ardent desire to please their owner.” Yet these dogs are demonized while their irresponsible owners are at the root of the problem.

Bad PR perpetuates the stigma surrounding this breed. In reality, they are no different than other dogs. They require training and enrichment to keep their minds occupied, or they will develop unwanted behaviors out of boredom and frustration. The responsibility for providing proper outlets for their energy belongs to the owner.

Pit bulls make great companion animals. Madison McClanahan, 18-year-old CF student and pit bull enthusiast, agrees. In public, McClanahan said she often hears judgmental and disparaging comments about the breed but has only ever known pit bulls to be affectionate and playful.

“I believe it’s more of the people who make them a problem,” Madison said. “And out of all the dogs I have owned, I have to say the pit bulls have been the best. I would even say they are nicer than my Labrador retrievers.”

The American Temperament Test Society, inc. published breed statistics on their website based on their testing results, which include automatic failure for problem behaviors like unprovoked aggression or strong avoidance. The American pit bull breed has a pass rate of 87.4%, exceeding the pass rates of some of the more socially acceptable dogs. Golden retrievers (85.6%), beagles (79.7%), Yorkshire terriers (83.7%) and Chihuahuas (69.6%) all fall short in comparison.

In a conversation with Denise Linn, a senior dog groomer at Linda’s Grooming in Homosassa, she said, “I’ve never been bitten by a pit bull in my line of work. It’s the little ones you have to watch out for. Any time I’ve gotten bit, it was by a little dog.”

The pit bull breed doesn’t deserve its bad reputation. They deserve a loving home just as much as any other breed, yet they are passed over for adoption at shelters out of fear. To change their image from public enemy number one to loveable best friend, we need to be goodwill ambassadors for the bully breeds. Spread the word: pit bulls are lovers, not fighters.