Don’t Bully the Breed

Don’t Bully the Breed

By: Elizabeth A. Miles

Hi there! My name is Elizabeth, and I love my Pittbulll!

That’s right – I said it. I love my pit bull. I am proud to say that I have been the owner, and mom of my oversized puppy, Rarrie, for the last four years. We met her when she was just four months old, when she arrived in Pennsylvania from a shelter in South Carolina.

When we arrived at the adoption event, we were there to meet a lab. You know – everyone’s favorite family dog. But when we met that particular pup, it wasn’t a good match. That dog wasn’t the picture-perfect version of that yellow lab, who is trained, obedient, loving, and playful.

As we walked around to meet the other dogs at the event, we stopped to talk with one of the fosters at the rescue. She had one of the most beautiful dogs at the event with her. Two of my daughters, who were nine and ten at the time, sat down to greet the dog, who immediately jumped up into the lap of my ten year old, and curled up to soak up the loving.

The three of them sat there for two hours, cuddled up on the ground outside of a pet store. I couldn’t tear them apart. And, honestly, I was just as smitten, too.

In talking with the handler, she told me that Rarrie was a pit bull mix, and was a mix of Pitbull and Rottweiler. I blinked at her. Took a deep breath, and could feel the tension and fear knot in my stomach. “How the heck am I going to break the news to the girls,” I thought to myself. “We can’t adopt her. She’s too aggressive.”

Seriously. I had to have a moment with myself here. I grew up in a family that believed that there were certain dogs we want to adopt, and others that we do not. Pit bulls and Rottweilers fell into the latter category. Somehow, though, I could not ignore the face of this adorable little dog that was so craving some TLC, and seemed to adore my girls, and they her.

I considered the fact that, while I always understood that there were certain breeds that were more acceptable to adopt as a family dog in comparison to a pit, I never stopped to question why. I had to take some time to educate myself, both on dogs in general, and on the breed. In my research, I learned some interesting facts.

First and foremost, pit bulls are one breed listed among others that fall into the category of “bully breeds.” Strike one for those dogs on the list, and this is unfortunate. The term “bully breed” actually refers to the origin and history of the dogs, and nothing to do with temperament. These dogs are descendants from crosses between ancient bulldogs and a variety of British terriers, which produced the Bull-and-Terrier breed that had the muscle and tenacity of the bulldog with the agility and the alertness of the terrier. Given the physical characteristics, they were good sporting dogs, and eventually, they were used and bred as fighting dogs. Their size, strength, and speed were used to the benefit of their owners, as was their temperament. These dogs are very loyal, affectionate, and playful companions. Important to note here: pit bulls that were bred for fighting other animals are not prone to aggression towards people, unless the dog is raised in an aggressive environment. Aggression was not tolerated by their handlers, and, usually, any dog that stepped out of line from their handlers would have been put down.

So, we recognize that Pittbulls were bred for fighting. What is often left out of their history, though, they were also, at one time, bred as farm dogs, and family pets. Conclusion: they are strong animals, with a strong will and work ethic, who make great companions, and are very affectionate and loving (and if you don’t believe me, you should see how excited Rarrie can get to kiss and hug her family). While genetics do play a role in how the dog will respond to other animals, and people, it’s important to know that they can live peacefully with other dogs and animals, and, when given the proper training and socialization, they make a great addition to many families.

Notice…I said “many” and not “all.”

As I learned on my trip to the adoption event that day, just because a dog is part of a bully breed doesn’t mean he/she is inherently violent, and just because a dog is a member of a breed more-commonly associated with being a “family” dog, doesn’t mean that it’s a slam dunk that the dog is going to fit in with your family. I raised four energetic kids. Not every dog comes with a temperament that can exist with that kind of energy. There are other factors to consider as well.

For example, consider the following questions:

  • Can the dog exist peacefully with other dogs, cats, or other animals?
  • Into what kind of environment was the dog born and raised?
  • Was the animal abused in any way by a previous owner?
  • What are some of the inherent traits of the breed?

As with people, the genetic makeup of an animal does not tell the full story.

That being said, why should we care?

First off, there are cities and countries in the world where pit bulls are completely banned. In those cities where pits are not banned entirely, many residential communities restrict pit bulls from residing there. This means that, should you adopt a pit bull, and need to move into an apartment or condo with a restricted list of breeds, you are going to have to surrender your pet. On the contrary, if you are already living in such an environment, and decide to adopt a pet, it is likely that you will be restricted from adopting one off of the bully breed list. Imagine how sad my kids would have been that day, had they spent all that time getting to know Rarrie, only for me to have to tell them that our apartment complex wouldn’t allow her to live there!

And, due to the stigma associated with the breed, these dogs are commonly found living in shelters, most of them for much longer periods of time before adoption than a non-bully-breed pup.

I realize that my dog is one of thousands of pit bulls. And, yes, I am biased (just a little). I also realize that pit bulls are not the only breed on the restricted list.

But, I am also a responsible dog owner, who took the time to understand that any animal, bully breed or not, can be violent and aggressive towards people and other animals. How they are raised, socialized, and treated in the home all also factor into how suitable they will be for your family.

Take the time to meet a dog you are considering adopting. Spend time watching him/her react to the environment around them, and make a plan to integrate that dog into your home and family.

And then, enjoy the puppy love…

The current Bully Breed List is below. I was surprised by a few of these myself. How about you?

  • American Bulldog
  • American Pit Bull Terrier
  • American Staffordshire Terrier
  • Boston Terrier
  • Boxer
  • Bull Mastiff
  • Bull Terrier
  • Cane Corso Italiano
  • Caucasian Shepherd Dog
  • Dogo Argentino
  • English BulldogEnglish Mastiff
  • French Bulldog
  • Great Dane
  • Neapolitan Mastiff
  • Olde English Bulldogge
  • Pug
  • Rottweiler
  • Staffordshire Bull Terrier

For more details on specific types of pitbulls please see this detailed article!

Resources/Additional Reading:

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