October Is Pit Bull Awareness Month!

October 13, 2013

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.   (www.aspca.org/pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/dog-behavior/truth-about-pit-bulls).

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.



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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Charmaine October 14, 2013 at 1:10 am

Excellent, very nicely said!


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