Category Archives: Understanding Specific Dog Breeds

The Powerful Pit by Maggie Digiovanni, Guest Poster

I stopped the car, fully intent on going to my neighbor’s aid as the strange dog followed him into the garage.  Joe was unaware of his visitor as he opened the door to his house and went inside.  Breathing a sigh of relief, I pulled into my own driveway.

My daughter took her time getting her bible and backpack before getting out of the car.  As I headed around the front I turned to look back and was horrified to see the dog headed in our direction.

“Get in the house now!” I urged Jaimie.  One trait of Down’s syndrome, which she has, is the ability to move slower than any turtle on earth.  The more I pushed her to go faster, the slower she got.  The dog moved closer.  Vainly I held my purse between us and it, knowing it was useless as a defense.  I backed away; he followed.  I sighed with relief when we were both safely inside the house.

I called Joe to let him know about the dog and to ask if anyone he knew owned it.  He came out to find and report the animal to the police, but in those few short minutes it had disappeared from the subdivision.  This was my first introduction to fear of a pit bull, a dog I staunchly defended to all who talked against the breed.

The pit is a beautiful animal that I always associated with ‘Daddy’, an animal that used to travel with Cesar Milan during his animal training television series.  It was a beautiful old dog that stayed calm, cool and collected among even the wildest dogs Cesar approached.

The pit is also one of the primary dogs put into the fighting ring or used as guard dogs among stellar members of the population such as drug dealers.  These dogs, when saved by animal groups, are often considered beyond saving and are destroyed because they are unpredictable around people.  With this information in hand, a majority of the human population have deemed them unacceptable for society.  What is the real story?

The pit bull was initially bred to hold bulls, bears and other large animals until its owner killed the beast.  When this practice was outlawed, they were put up against other dogs in the savage fighting arena where they often fought to the death.  Since people had to handle the animals, the dogs were socialized to this end and seldom did a pit bull that killed other dogs turn on humans.

Eventually these untrained people got into the act of breeding indiscriminately and today’s pits of all shapes and sizes were the result.  Along with changes in appearance came changes in personalities and the more people-aggressive pit is often today’s result.  However, that isn’t the end of the story.

Within the breeder communities are the professionals who keep close records, who pay attention to every tiny facet of a dog’s physical and mental attributes.  From these breeders come the real pit bull, an animal that can have immense patience with animal or human, as shown in Daddy on Cesar’s show.  Although he was an animal more than capable of ripping anything or anyone apart, he was often the calming effect on more hyper animals.

Like any other dog, given socialization as a puppy, put in a setting of good housing, good food and a kind, loving hand, the pit bull is no more vicious than any other breed.  However, when maltreated, beaten on a regular basis, ignored when starving and at the whim of the elements, they can turn, as could any human under the same circumstances.

Broad of chest, with a massive head that encompasses extraordinarily strong jaws, the pit was perfect for its initial purpose.  Those same traits have made them pariahs in many cities.  Insurance companies refuse to write policies when a pit is a member of the family or the policies premiums are so high, most can’t afford them.  Fortunately, several states have banned laws against specific breeds of dogs.  That may be the start of re-education for the public about this noble animal.

Generally healthy, some pits are prone to hip dysplasia, cataracts, grass allergies and heart disease.  For the most part they are robustly healthy.  They have a deep willingness to please their owners.  The aggression so many fear is held for other animals, which must be taken into account when bringing an older pit into the fold with other dogs.  Go slow with introductions to form lasting bonds.

Today I look back on my first meeting with pit bull fear and am ashamed.  That animal did not pose a threat.  He looked as though someone tossed him out by the road and all he wanted was human contact and food.  However, with my daughter’s health at risk, I must admit my actions would be the same if the same thing occurred again.  Because no matter how innocent human or animal strangers may appear, taking chances with my daughter’s wellbeing is never an option.


Zen, As In Shih Tzu by Maggie Digiovanni

Southern writer, Maggie Digiovanni rescues Shih Tzu dogs from shelters and is a true lover of the breed.  In this article, she shares this special dog with us.

I got to the Humane Shelter well ahead of the growing crowd.  All of us anticipated adopting a pet for fifty dollars instead of the usual two hundred.  I wanted a Shih Tzu and had received word that there was one available.  Since little dogs are usually adopted first, I was taking no chances.

There he was, long shaggy hair dragging the floor and soaked in urine.  Obviously he was so new no one had gotten him to the grooming room yet.  No matter.  I fell for him collar, leash and urine-soaked coat.

“Don’t put him in the tub for a couple of days.  You don’t want to frighten him,” warned the lady filling out the paperwork.

“Oh, of course,” I agreed while silently envisioning a bath moments after we got home.  It turned out he wanted a bath so bad he actually wallowed in the shallow tub of water to get his coat clean.  Once dried, his flag of a tail went up waving proudly as he surveyed his new home.


Shih Tzus are the most Zen of creatures. They seem to know no fear.  Rocky immediately stuck his head in a very dangerous area – between our Scottish terrier and his food bowl.  Startled at the little dog’s audacity, Mr. Scotty moved back to let the new guy eat.

At the groomer’s or the vet’s office, Mr. Scotty shook so hard the tables would wobble.  Rocky walked in as though he owned every place, allowed them to attend him, and calmed his more nervous friend on more than one occasion.

A Shih Tzu’s tail is the primary clue to how it feels.  High and waving, it signals all is right in that dog’s world.  Low and dragging, it’s time to check with the vet.  He’s feeling mighty low if that tail ain’t waving.

Originally kept by Chinese royalty, these wonderful little dogs have faces that melt the meanest heart.  When their coats grow full-length, they require daily grooming at minimum.  Most owners will gather the hair on the head into a delightful flowing topknot.  However, those of us who do not have sufficient time for constant grooming tend toward ‘puppy’ cuts with head and body hair clipped short while the marvelous tail flows in the wind.

The way the facial hair falls sometimes gives this pup the nickname of Chrysanthemum Dog as it looks like that gorgeous flower with the pup’s nose as the center.

One not so lovable trait of the Shih Tzu is the difficulty in house training.  It requires constant attention until it finally gets the idea.  I put down training pads for Rocky.  They remained dry.  I took them up as useless only to discover he had wet under each pad.

Although generally sturdy, like all animals Shih Tzus have health problems owners must be on the lookout for.  One is hip dysplasia.  The long body and short legs make this a possibility in a large percentage.  They snort and snore because of the pushed in nose and jutting lower jaw.

Dental, kidney and bladder problems are fairly common.  As stated before, if the Shih Tzu’s tail is dragging it’s a good idea to check with the vet.

They are amazingly good with children and other pets, but due to their small size they may be at a huge disadvantage when playing with children.  Owners should always be in attendance during child/Shih Tzu play times.

Overall, this dog brings joy to almost any household.  It will take over the home and an owner’s heart with equal abandon.  The household will be all the better for having a Zen Shih Tzu in residence.

The Mysterious Weimaraner

8 Months Old Gator

8 Months Old Gator


In researching Weimaraners, I read that these high-energy dogs are “bred to hunt all day, need an athletic owner who can meet his demanding exercise needs: running, biking, hiking, jogging, field work.” (

Oh boy, did our Gator miss that boat! He certainly would have benefitted from younger, more active owners, but no one could have loved him more.

As it was, I rescued Gator from a backyard breeder situation that was less than ideal. He was the last of the litter and at 10 weeks, needed to leave his mama. His sire was locked in a good-sized pen with mama and baby and everytime the little puppy moved, the big male would snarl and jump at him. I was with my former daughter-in-law, supposedly looking for a second Weimie puppy for her, in the backwoods of the Arkansas hills. After getting lost and having to turn around in the drive of a doublewide with a sign over the front door with a sawed-off shotgun and the words “We don’t call 911,” we were grateful to reach the correct destination, only to find this abused puppy.

The baby left with us and my daughter-in-law told me he was a gift from her to me. (We had just lost our beloved Great Dane to cancer.) So Gator’s first days with me were spent in Arkansas. I bathed him, fed him, walked him, slept with him and we bonded.

Gator at 10 Weeks

Gator at 10 Weeks


Weimaraners are among the more interesting dog breeds. With their silver-gray to brown coats and eerie, yellowish or light blue eyes, they present a rather imposing presence to strangers. These dogs are intelligent, but you sometimes have to work to get their attention. If Gator is outside and spies a squirrel or rabbit, we must be vigilant, because he is likely to take off in any direction to give chase. Small prey provide great interest to Weimies.

Experts say Weimaraners are not good with cats because of their strong prey drive. That has not been our experience. We brought Lucy home from a shelter at 6 weeks. Of course, we kept a close eye on her introduction to 3-year-old Gator, knowing that his breeding might be an issue. You can see from the photos that tiny Lucy was not the least bit intimidated by the big dog, and the big, bad Weimaraner was extremely gentle with the kitten.

Gator with Baby Lucy

Gator with Baby Lucy


What we did learn early on when we brought Gator home was that, as advertised, he was definitely an alpha dog. Our 6-year-old Miniature Schnauzer was not amused by the little intruder’s attempts to exert his alpha-dog personality. Gator, however, went nose-to-nose with Jack, and the two of them battled often for the preferred spot on the sofa or to be lead dog on neighborhood walks. Jack eventually controlled the situation without it becoming too physical. Weimaraners tend to be aggressive with other dogs of the same sex.

Gator and Jack

Gator and Jack


The breed is reputed to be rowdy, exuberant jumpers, but we never experienced any of that with our dog. Said to be suspicious of strangers, I can honestly say that Gator never met a human he didn’t love. The only dog that he heartily disliked was a very sweet Sheltie that lived next door. Sadie had a shrill bark that apparently hurt Gator’s ears, and he wanted to get to her in the worst way! One day, he pulled my husband down in the yard as he yanked the leash out of his hand. At 95 lbs, Gator is a strong animal! Fortunately, Jim reached the dog before he decided to go through the neighbor’s screened lanai.

Our Weimaraner’s one bad habit that is said to be common with the breed is separation anxiety. Some breeders blame it on lack of exercise and boredom. Gator’s separation issues were extreme. If we both left him alone for any length of time, he destroyed any object that belonged to me. Because he was extremely crate-phobic, we could not confine him that way. He ate basketball-sized holes in the garage drywall. He ate wooden door frames. He cleared any papers he could reach on my desk and ate them.

Despite all this, he is a very special dog. I recommend that anyone interested in Weimaraners make sure you are dealing with a knowledgeable breeder and ask to see proof of his lineage. Too much inbreeding can contribute to negative characteristics.  Gator was the product of backyard breeders whose only concern seemed to be making money.

Plan to provide your pet with toys that stimulate his mind. Weimies are clever animals and strong chewers, despite their gentle mouths. Look for Kong toys you can stuff with treats or peanut butter and toys that make him search for the treats hidden in them. Balls are good if he doesn’t destroy them. Some Weimaraners love stuffed animals as puppies, but Gator ate his.



Gator Loves His Disk


If you are a strong owner who is calm, assertive, confident and know how to gently handle a strong-willed but sensitive, high-energy dog, a Weimaraner could be an excellent choice. You must be able to provide him with plenty of daily exercise and mental stimulation and someone should be around much of the day to avoid any destructive behaviors.  Our dog was easy to house-break and excelled in his obedience classes.  He knows hand signals and responds easily.

This breed is said to be prone to bloat, though we never experienced it. Never exercise your dog an hour before or after eating. When we first brought Gator home, the veterinarian told us to take out pet health insurance, because the breed is prone to ACL problems with knees. ACL surgery is fairly common with Weimaraners caused in part by their tendency to turn and take off “on a dime” when a small creature catches their eyes.

The other common health issue is tumors. As they age, unsightly masses pop up all over the animal’s body. Several were removed from Gator’s hips but because he was so large and so afraid of being crated, the veterinarian recommended we ignore any future ones. Anything suspicious is biopsied . So far, they have all been benign.  Gator may appear a bit rough these days with his many lumps, but he is a happy senior, 11-year-old dog and loving life.

Gator with Our Grandson

Gator with Our Grandson


Weimaraners are wash-and-wear dogs, requiring only the occasional bath and brushing. They do shed but not excessively, if they are fed a healthy diet.

While breed and genetics certainly play a role in the overall make-up of the dogs, I believe that just as with children, how the animal is raised determines a great deal about his behavior and personality.

Weimaraners generally live 10-13 years. Our boy is now a senior citizen, but he’s healthy, active, loves everyone he meets and defies many of the breed’s traits.

Feed your dog a high-quality diet appropriate for his age and activity-level. Treats should offer healthy nutrients to add to his regular food. For an example of a very healthy dog treat, click here.

Make sure he is obedience-trained, gets plenty of exercise, and shower him with love. You’ll have a wonderful, confident pet.

The Scottish Terrier, a Big Dog Clothed In a Small Package

scottish terrierHe sat in a cage that had grown too small. His dark chocolate eyes begged to be free. How could anyone resist?

“Why is that dog in such a small cage?” I asked the sales person. This was in a day before I knew how pet stores got their wares in way too many instances.

“Oh, he’s ready to leave us.”

“Wonderful! Someone bought him.”

“No, he’s too old to sell. He’s at least six months.”

I laughed. “Which one of you will be taking him home?”

“We can’t take every dog that doesn’t sale. He’ll be put down if no one wants him.”

All semblance of laughter disappeared at the prospect of this gorgeous Scottish terrier being killed simply for being too large to be puppy cute.

“How much?” I growled.

“One hundred and he’s yours.” Never have I written a check so hastily. That day I had learned more about the horrors of pet shops than I ever wanted to know. In return I had the pleasure of meeting a type of dog that had never previously been considered for our home.

He bounced with excitement when we introduced toys. Balls ended up under the sofa or met with shredding teeth. To and fro, back and forth, he bounced, reminding us of Winnie the Pooh’s Tigger. Only when exhausted or disinterested did he walk like a normal dog.

A passionate player, he chased anything that rolled, walked, ran or flew, never catching them, just enjoying the game. However, when facing another dog that posed a problem, our Scotty became all business and would charge anything, no matter what size.  At eight months of age he wanted to take on a Rottweiller at a rest stop.  This is a trait most all Scotties share.

Described in breeder magazines as ‘stubborn, independent, sensitive to praise or blame and hilarious in his seriousness,’ I would never have recognized Mr. Scotty as that breed. Stubborn and independent at times, seriousness never seemed to enter his hard head. Devoted to my husband, whom he adopted before the man even walked in the door, he followed his master’s every command without question. Bred to work apart from his master, this is a dog that can be difficult to train. Never depend on an electronic fence to stop this little guy or gal.  Either will happily barrel past the shock to chase a squirrel or anything else that catches the doggy fancy.

Ours did not, and neither does the breed as a whole, jog. Although his short legs can pound some ground, a Scotty simply doesn’t care for running long distances and will adamantly refuse the invitation. He will, however, wreak havoc on a person who is unprepared for the enormous strength of those legs. By the way, do not toss your Scotty in the pool. Most of them cannot swim.  The heavy body, big head and short legs conspire to make him sink like a stone. A Scotty is a champion digger, as I noted the day I lay down on a hammock in the backyard. Upon awakening, I stepped into an eight-inch deep trench that mysteriously appeared during my nap.

A Scotty, unless he’s too old to move fast, should never be put in a chest harness or a reel-type leash. The trademark broad chest in a harness allows him to pull with greater strength than a neck leash. So will running out to the end of a reel. My husband discovered the error of his ways when he combined a chest harness and reel leash. He decided to toss a tennis ball and let Mr. Scotty run out the full fifteen feet. Mr. Scotty hit the end of the leash; Bruce hit the ground. A person who is unsteady on their feet should own a Scottish terrier only if it is totally trained to obey commands.  Otherwise, walking becomes a test of strength and he will generally win.

Some folks laugh at this terrier as a guard dog – until they hear him bark. He has a huge dog’s bark inside a compact, muscular small body. An amazingly nimble pup, he can excel at agility tests.

Scotties have several unique features, having been bred to chase animals that go underground. To safely hunt burrow game, they have super hard skulls. This allows them to bump their heads in close quarters without resultant damage. Massive teeth that can put a German shepherd to shame hold their prey. In addition, this is one dog that counts on having his tail pulled, should he get stuck in an animal den. Thus, it lacks the sensitivity other dogs’ tails might possess.

All in all, the Scottish terrier is a tremendously loyal pup, who will give his all for those he loves. Although he is said to be aloof, ours was anything but. He wanted to be included in every aspect of our lives even to going fishing out on Sarasota Bay.  There he made removing the fish from the hook a contest of speed between him and his master.  Yet if he got a sample of fish taste in his mouth, he spat it out violently!  He much preferred beef.

Scotties shed very little, but as they age they may be prone to large water cysts, tumors and cancer as well as joint problems. Our pup died within six weeks of being declared perfectly healthy because of spleen cancer that raged through his body within a very short time.

If there was ever a perfect dog, the Scottish terrier is it. Whether groomed with traditional Scottish coat or shaved for brutal summers to look more like a black fox, the Scotty is a beautiful dog.

The Mighty Great Dane

A dog with allergies to pet food

Ginny, a Harlequin Great Dane


Great Danes are simply the best dogs God created! That said, I’ll admit to certain prejudices with this subject. This breed is not for everyone. From my personal experiences with several of the giant pups, I believe they are best suited for less rigid folks. If your home is filled with antiques and lots of bric-a-brac, a Dane may have difficulty moving around without damaging something. If you are over-protective with your children, this might be more dog than you would enjoy. But if you can roll with whatever the day brings, Dane antics and all that goes with them, you will find these dogs to be the most gentle, sweet-natured and comical of all breeds.

These gentle giants do take up space. They make wonderful house pets but because of their size, they require a bit more room to move around than would a smaller dog. Older Danes may do well in apartments because they aren’t as active as younger ones.

My first purebred Great Dane was a birthday gift from my husband in 1984. I brought Ginny home from the Meistersinger Kennel in Kentucky when she was only 6 weeks old. I now know that was really too young to leave her litter, but she settled in quite well. Our little one was completely house-broken in 3 weeks, quite an accomplishment for such a young animal.

Harlequin Danes tend to grow larger than the other colored Danes, and Ginny was no exception. But she didn’t realize how large and strong she was. When she was 6 months old, she and our 4-year-old were playing a game of tug of war with Mike’s knit stocking cap. In trying to grab it, Ginny accidentally grabbed two of our son’s fingers and left 2 deep gashes. Stitches ensued, and the ER nurse would not believe it was just an accident with a puppy. She was determined to report the “dog bite.” Fortunately, the doctor disagreed after discussing it with Mike. As for Ginny, she was distraught and our older sons said she cried most of the time we were gone. When I returned with Ginny’s playmate, she cried some more and would not leave Michael’s side. Danes are very sensitive to the people around them.


Great Dane

Ginny Loved the Holidays.


Ginny sailed through her obedience classes and was extremely well-behaved and dependable, as are most Great Danes that are properly trained. But as wonderful as she was, Ginny still managed to get into her share of mischief. There was the summer day I found her tangled in the rope hammock, crying like a baby. But she stayed perfectly still while we slowly worked each leg free. You can read about Ginny’s escapade with the Christmas gifts and the Tipsy Fudge Cake here.

Ginny Loved Children, Cats and Other Dogs

Ginny Loved Children, Cats and Other Dogs


Adolescent Danes must be as closely supervised as you would a human toddler. When Ginny was about 10, Jim gifted me with Coby, a handsome blue Dane puppy. This little boy was as intelligent as Ginny but definitely had a mind of his own. When Coby was about 8 months old, I was cooking dinner and visiting relatives were in the den with the dogs and the kids. No one noticed as our big dog teethed on a handmade, cherry credenza. You do need to pay close attention to these dogs until they are at least 2 years old. If trouble is around, they will find it!

Except for their immense size which can be intimidating to some small children, Great Danes make wonderful family pets. They truly believe they are human children. Both Ginny and Coby ran and played with our 4 boys and allowed our younger daughter to dress them in doll clothes and her own clothes. Some of our grandchildren crawled all over Ginny, and she just licked them. Danes must be house dogs! Their sensitive natures require lots of human contact.

Coby with Our Grandson.

Coby with Our Grandson.


Coby, a Blue Great Dane

Coby, a Blue Great Dane


These dogs are not expensive to feed. Choose a high quality kibble and follow your breeder’s instructions if your pet is a puppy. Because Great Dane puppies grow so quickly, they cannot handle regular puppy food, because the protein percentage is too high. Severe orthopedic issues may develop if those puppy bones are not treated well. For help in selecting a dog food, look at the BARKS AND MEOWS page on this site. This will tell you what should and should not be in a quality dog food.

Enroll your pup early in obedience classes. A dog this large must learn to obey on command or you will have big problems.

Danes love soft beds! Invest in a good one. My mother chose a regular twin bed mattress for her Great Dane. During the day, she slid the mattress beneath her own bed and pulled it out at night. It is important for these animals to have soft beds in every room where the family gathers. If you don’t, your dog will choose a comfy sofa. Our family room was large and our Danes knew they were allowed to sit on the brown sectional sofa but not on the white one at the other end of the room. (That pretty much applied to the children, as well.)

Coby Loved His "Personal" Chair In the Sun

Coby Loved His “Personal” Chair In the Sun


Start as you mean to go on with Great Danes. Let them know from Day 1 what is and is not allowed and that you are the boss. Never hit any dog, but be especially gentle with a Dane. They are sensitive animals and will respond well to positive reinforcement.

Great Danes should be crate-trained early. Our dogs loved their crates and Ginny often chose to sleep in hers at night.

Take your dog out around strangers frequently. Socialization is important with any dog but especially so with this breed.

Danes grow to 100-200 lbs. depending on gender and breeding. Our Harlequin girl lived to 14 but most only live 7-9 years. We lost Coby to bone cancer just before his 8th birthday.

Great Danes are generally healthy dogs and are easy to raise. They require very little grooming. Some people have good luck with bathing the dogs in walk-in showers, but that didn’t work with ours. Coby’s breeder had cold and hot water faucets installed in their garage and pulled a hose from those connections to bathe the big dogs, even in winter.




Because Danes are at risk for certain developmental problems, it is crucial to get your dog from a reputable breeder. Never, ever buy from a retail pet store as most of their dogs come from puppy mills.

Common health issues to watch for include bloat, hip dysplasia and panosteitis. Bloat can be avoided by not allowing the dog to exercise an hour before and after eating. Feed your dog at least 2 meals a day so he isn’t eating too much at once.

Hip dysplasia is genetic, so be sure you receive certification that both your dog’s parents are free of that problem.

Coby developed panosteitis and it last about 4 months. Our veterinarian said it was mainly caused by the huge growth spurts that Danes go through. Coby was an exceptionally tall Dane.  Careful attention and curbing his exercise during this time worked well for my dog, and he outgrew the problem.

If you decided to add a Great Dane to your family, you’ll be in for years of joy, laughter and sheer delight at the dog’s antics.


October Is Pit Bull Awareness Month!

October is Pit Bull Awareness Month!  Therefore, it seems fitting to feature the pittie in our breed series.  Along with Doberman’s and Rotties, Pit Bulls are among the most feared of all dog breeds.  It’s a shame because they are possibly the very best breed if they are raised properly.

Pitties, or Bulldogs, have quite a history.  They were originally bred to hunt and help farmers.  The “Pit” designation came about when unscrupulous people began breeding them for bait against bears and other large animals.  In the early 1800’s, they began pitting the dogs against other dogs in a fighting ring.  As time went on, they bred the bulldogs to smaller dogs to get them down to a smaller weight and what is now known as the Pit Bull Terrier.   (

Betsy Tibbs with Pit Bull

Betsy Tibbs with Blackie, 1939

My Mother grew up with pitties for pets.  She used to entertain me with stories about her special dogs.  They were loyal and easy for her to train.  Since she was raised in rural Portland, Tennessee, I’m sure they were actually acquired to be working dogs on the farm, but she would sneak one into her bedroom at night.  One of those dogs defended her from an attack by a particular nasty mule one day when she cut through the wrong pasture.

As a young adult in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, Mother owned another bulldog.  Blackie was her favorite of all.  This dog would apparently do anything to please her and she taught him all sorts of tricks.

When I was a baby, Prissy was our family dog.  Prissy was a Pit Bull – Terrier cross, and I adored her.  She acted as my babysitter and kept me out of trouble as a toddler on many occasions.  When my parents divorced, Mother sent Prissy to live the rest of her life in South Georgia with my grandmother.


The author with Prissy

At the age of 8, I visited my grandmother and spent a delightful week playing with Prissy.  She had a daily ritual that we followed.  Prissy and I walked the two blocks to “town” in Pavo, Georgia, each day.  First, she stopped at a hardware store for hugs and petting.  Then we moved down the street to a grocer who gave her treats from the butcher.  Our last stop was the drug store where Prissy sidled up to the cash register and waited for someone to bring her a spoonful of ice cream.  I probably didn’t appreciate this unusual behavior as much then as I do now.  She was a very intelligent dog.

As far back as the Civil War, Pit Bull Terriers served as loyal companions and held jobs to assist their handlers.  Sallie, a Staffordshire Bull Terrier was the mascot of the Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry and worked at the Battle of Gettysburg standing guard over dead and wounded Union soldiers.

Remember Tige, the dog on the logo of the Brown Shoe Company that made Buster Brown shoes?  I remember wearing Buster Brown shoes as a child.

Many of us recall Petey, the mascot and companion of the Our Gang actors in the Little Rascals movies.

Pit Bulls are wonderful pets if they are raised correctly.  They are strong, large-muscled dogs and require obedience training and an owner who will be convincing as its leader.  If you want any type of bulldog for a pet, socialize it early and find a good trainer who uses only positive reinforcement.

They also need exercise – plenty of exercise!  Have you seen Cesar Millan’s television show with him skating while his dogs run beside him?  That works well.  Or if you are a runner, you dog could run with you.  Or you could bike and the dog could run.  Throwing a Frisbee for him to chase is also good exercise.  Dogs love Kong® toys and trying to get the treats out of a Kong® chew toy will keep him mentally stimulated and busy for a long time.

If you are thinking of acquiring a Pit Bull as a pet, take into consideration where you live.  Breed discrimination is alive and active in many locations.  Be sure your area isn’t one that bans Pit Bulls.  If you rent, check with your landlord for permission to own the dog.

If you have small children, do your homework before bringing home a dog.  No dog of any breed should be totally trusted with young children.  Kids can seem like rivals if they should approach a dog’s food bowl or toys.  Be sure your children are old enough to respect a dog’s territory and belongings, and be sure the dog you want to add to your family is either a puppy that can be properly trained and socialized or an adult that has a history of gentle behavior with families.  Don’t take a breeder’s or even an animal shelter’s word that any dog is great with kids.  Ask for a trial run.  Keep the dog for a couple weeks with permission to return the dog if it shows any sign of aggression when it shouldn’t.  Never, ever leave your children alone with the dog until it has been with you for a long while.  That goes for any breed of dog.

If you do your homework, have the correct environment, and are willing to train and properly socialize the animal, a Pit Bull could add years of joy and happiness to your life.



The Misunderstood Bulldog

For those who dislike – or fear – the Bulldog breeds, I can tell you that discrimination is alive and well with canines, just as with humans.  You cannot assume that all people of a particular race are bad, and you cannot assume that all dogs of a particular breed are bad.  Discrimination is wrong, no matter the species.

I am a Bulldog advocate.  They aren’t for everyone but for those who understand them and can be the strong pack leader required, no better dog breed can be found.

The American Pit Bull Terrier is from the same lineage as the American Staffordshire Terrier.  According to Wikipedia, the real difference between the two breeds is size and weight.  The American Pit Bull Terrier tends to be the larger.

The American Pit Bull Terrier became well-known because of their breeding.   In 19th Century England, they were bred to bait bulls and bears.  When that was outlawed, dog fighting became popular.  Dog fights are held in “pits” or rings and the animals are trained to fight to kill.  We all know the horrific story of football player Michael Vick’s dog-fighting days.

In earlier times, farmers used the Pit Bull to work withlivestock and the breed worked its way to becoming a wonderful family dog.  Remember the kids’ dog in the “Our Gang” movies?  He was a Bulldog.

Pit Bull Terriers have been maligned for years.  Stories of owners being mauled by their own dogs or attacking children put fear in our hearts.

FACT:  The American Canine Temperament Test Society says that Bulldogs have the most stable temperaments of all purebreds. (http://www.

Betsy Tibbs with Blackie in 1939


My Mother grew up in rural Portland, TN, and always had Bulldogs for pets.  She possessed a natural talent for training her dogs, and we always thought of her as a “dog whisperer” before that term was coined.

My childhood pets were a Bulldog-Fox Terrier mix and a Bulldog–Chow mix.  Before I was born, Mother had trained



9. WITH DOG PRISSYPrissy, the Babysitter Dog

Prissy, the Bully-Fox Terrier-mix, to follow basic commands.  This smart little dog could almost read minds and seemed to anticipate what the people around her wanted.  She would fetch most anything, and Mother often used her to corral two-year-old “me.”  Bulldogs were known as wonderful caretakers and companions for children and were often referred to as “nanny dogs.”

Maggie, our Miniature English Bulldog may be a product of puppy mill breeding.  We fostered Maggie when she was 8 months old, and we had to go to school on raising a Bulldog.

Following research, I believe that Maggie was bred by a Midwestern puppy mill.  According to her breed standard, she should have topped out at 30 lbs.  She grew to 46 lbs. of solid muscle.


Maggie With Our Grandson

While Maggie possesses traits of a larger Bulldog, her best trait is her fabulous personality and her love of children.  She adores our grandson.

If puppies are not properly socialized with lots of human contact, they will grow up to be shy and not necessarily friendly.  That doesn’t always translate to aggression, but it could.

Parents should be vigilant when children are around dogs of any breed.  Even though I trust Maggie with our grandson, I NEVER leave them alone together.  Children should be taught from an early age to respect a dog’s territory and never to pull their ears or tail or approach a dog that is eating or has a toy in its mouth.  Common sense would eliminate many problems.

Owners must be “leader of the pack.”  Dogs look to the strongest in the pack to lead them.  You MUST be that leader or your dog will not obey. It isn’t done with aggressiveness or physical punishment of any kind but is accomplished with respect.

Read a book; take a class; or talk to an experienced dog trainer.  Just learn how to lead your Bulldog, so he doesn’t lead you.

I believe that breeds are not “bad.”  It’s a combination of genetic breeding and how a dog is raised.  Indiscriminate breeders who don’t pay attention to genetics or temperament breed problems into the puppies.  This is what you see in puppy mills.  Any breed of dog can produce problem puppies, if the breeder doesn’t care.