Part Three – Stop Asking Pit Bull Owners These 6 Dreaded Questions

Below are some of the most common questions or comments that Pit Bull owners get, along with some suggestions for helping to change the conversation. I have been asked every single one of these questions. I try to use each encounter as an educational opportunity to change the conversation. 

If you wouldn’t make the comment or ask the question about another type of dog, you might want to ask yourself why you are asking this question of a Pit Bull owner.

the-family-aaron-amanda-ella(Please keep in mind that Sarcastic Dog is a pit bull friendly space. I am happy to respond to genuine questions or concerns but I ask that everyone respect the Rules of Engagement for this blog)

Pit bulls are adorable

Piper         Photo Credit: Sarcastic Dog

Piper was the only one at doggie daycare who LOVED dressing up. Go figure πŸ˜‰

Will she bite me?

When I first brought Piper home as a foster puppy at 12 weeks old, one of my neighbors asked me if Piper would bite her. She was genuinely concerned and I gently explained that while Piper was a puppy and that all puppies can be a bit nippy and are still learning bite inhibition (one of the main reasons for providing early and regular socialization), Piper was (and still is) extremely gentle. My neighbor has become one of Piper’s biggest fans.

It is extremely rare that any dog bites without warning. Dogs generally give many signals through their body language that they are unhappy or uncomfortable before they ever bite. 

luke-and-babette

Have you seen any signs of aggression from her yet?

What’s most upsetting about this question is the foregone conclusion of the asker that aggression is inevitable. While it is possible that Piper (or, again, any dog) could become aggressive, Pit Bulls are not inherently vicious. The assumption that Pit Bulls will inevitably be aggressive is not rooted in any scientific facts or data. 

etta

What do you do when her jaws lock?

Nothing because Pit Bulls do not have β€œlocking” jaws. I repeat, they do not have the ability to lock their jaws nor do they have any unique functionality associated with their jaws. (Honestly. This is science, not opinion) Are their jaws strong? Yes. Can they be tenacious? Absolutely! However, when the skulls of various dogs are compared, all dog skulls share the same characteristics and basic bone structure. There is nothing “abnormal” in the skulls of Pit Bull type dogs. (Read more about the myths surrounding Pit Bull bite strength as compared to other dogs.)

Help change the conversation about Pit Bull type dogs. What not to ask Pit Bull owners. Click To Tweet

ramona

Don’t you worry that she’ll just suddenly turn on you one day and rip your face off?

Nope. Never. This is another one of those media-hyped myths that many buy into.  I have never been concerned that Piper will suddenly snap and become a vicious monster. While I absolutely believe that some dogs can be unpredictable due to any number of factors (fear, resource guarding, medical issues, etc.),  I am no more concerned that my Pit Bull will suddenly attack me (or anyone else) than I am that either of my Yellow Labradors will, out of nowhere, suddenly become aggressive towards me or others.

luke-alisha-franky-dino

 

But she’s so sweet. How did you get her to be so sweet?

I’m sure that this is meant as a compliment but really it just suggests that Piper is an anomaly as opposed to the norm. Dogs are individuals, just like people, and some are sweet, some are funny, some are shy, some are grumpy. Piper isn’t “sweet despite being a Pit Bull – she is sweet because that’s her personality. She’s also terrified of being in the car, hates loud noises, loves to snuggle at night, is stubborn and seriously smart. 

dino-franky-looking-dapper

 

Well, it’s all how they are raised, isn’t it?

While on the surface this seems like another compliment about my skills in raising Piper, this is actually one of the most damaging and misleading comments/questions.

If this were true, how do we explain dogs like the survivors of the Michael Vick dog fighting ring? These Pit Bull type dogs were rescued from the most horrific, violent, abusive, neglectful situation and one would expect that they would be completely distrustful of humans and other dogs. But most went on to be amazing family pets and/or therapy dogs? We need look no further than the Vicktory Dogs to see shining examples of  how resilient and forgiving these dogs can be in the face of truly reprehensible treatment. On the flip side, how do we explain dogs who grow up in great homes and who never experience trauma or abuse, but who are snappy or reactive or truly aggressive? Environment, health, history, trauma, socialization all contribute to a dog’s behavior.

beezus

Pit Bulls are just dogs & we need to treat them as such by not demonizing OR idealizing them Click To Tweet

Other installments in the Changing the Conversation series:

Educate, Advocate, Don’t Berate

Myths & Misconceptions: Bronwen Dickey Changing the Conversation About the Misunderstood Pit Bull

My Pit Bull Story

Myths About Pit Bulls: Let’s Dispel Some More


If you have a pit bull, what are the most uncomfortable comments or questions you get about your dog? If you don’t have a Pit Bull, what’s a question you would like to ask?

By | 2017-02-21T12:51:18+00:00 October 4th, 2016|Breed Specific Legislation, Dogs, Education and advocacy, Pit bulls|48 Comments

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48 Comments

  1. The Daily Pip October 5, 2016 at 7:39 pm - Reply

    I never really thought about the implications of the “it’s how they are raised” statement. People say that all the time about dogs of all kinds. Pretty irresponsible.

    I have a family member who has made some really dumb statements. When she heard I was volunteering with Safe Humane Chicago, she asked why I would want to work with the criminal dogs. (seriously, she said this). When I tried to explain to her that the court case dogs are not actually the criminals their former owners are the criminals, she seemed totally confused. Sigh, sometimes it is just easier not to engage.
    The Daily Pip recently posted…Rock Sand SunMy Profile

    • SimonDawg October 6, 2016 at 8:52 am - Reply

      You raise a really good point about how people, so often confuse the actual human criminals with the dogs who are being victimized. Sometimes it is easier to not engage but I keep coming back to the notion that we have to be a voice for the voiceless the way you did with your family member.

  2. Carleen October 7, 2016 at 12:32 pm - Reply

    I couldn’t imagine being asked those types of questions about my dogs. Yet I do see people ask those of pit bull owners. Thanks for helping educate people on this.

    • SimonDawg October 9, 2016 at 8:01 am - Reply

      Happy to do my part to spread awareness and to change the conversation for bully breeds.

  3. Paul Kirhagis October 7, 2016 at 1:25 pm - Reply

    Kudos. Working with bully breeds(I never use the term “pitbull” because it is misleading and useless), we hear all of these wayyyyyyyy to often. I will be sharing this post far and wide to bring some awareness to these things.

    • SimonDawg October 9, 2016 at 8:04 am - Reply

      Pit Bull is indeed a misleading term as it generally refers to any number of breeds and there is no such thing as a “Pit Bull” Thank you for the reminder. Thank you, also, for sharing the post! We have such a long way to go to really change the conversation about bully breeds and to educate ourselves and our communities on understanding dog behavior.

  4. Golden Daily Scoop October 7, 2016 at 2:17 pm - Reply

    I help out at a local doggie daycare and I can honestly say we have the best pitties in the world! They are more well behaved than most of the dogs there. Their personalities are so sweet. I’ve always said, if I didn’t have Goldens than I would have a pit! πŸ™‚
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    • SimonDawg October 9, 2016 at 8:07 am - Reply

      Agreed! The pit bull mixes are pretty special. I grew up with a Golden and know how special they are too! πŸ˜‰

  5. Nichole October 7, 2016 at 4:28 pm - Reply

    Love, love, love this. Thank you for the series you are doung.

    • SimonDawg October 9, 2016 at 8:08 am - Reply

      Thank you! And thanks for sharing the post πŸ™‚

  6. Rachel October 7, 2016 at 9:12 pm - Reply

    That last one was very eye opening and makes a very good point! It’s really so sad how pit bull breeds are branded. We need to continue this conversation and your posts are doing an awesome job.

    • SimonDawg October 9, 2016 at 8:17 am - Reply

      Thank you. I am so glad that you are finding value in the series. I really appreciate the feedback πŸ™‚

  7. Hindy Pearson October 8, 2016 at 6:20 am - Reply

    This is a topic that makes my blood boil! The witch hunt instigated by the media against dogs that look a certain way, innocent family dogs ripped from their homes then killed because of how they look, and the ignorant asking stupid questions. Where’s the blame on those who are really at fault – the irresponsible guardians who get these dogs for the wrong reasons, and of course don’t bother to train them, as every dog should be trained. It’s hard for me to be tolerant when more cities are bringing in BSL legislation, Montreal being the latest. It’s so heartbreaking, but hopefully we’ll be able to change peoples’ perceptions and misconceptions, one article at a time.
    Hindy Pearson recently posted…6 Tips For Buying the Right Pet StrollerMy Profile

    • SimonDawg October 9, 2016 at 8:13 am - Reply

      We have so much work to do and I honestly believe that if we took the resources that go into creating and trying to enforce misguided BSL (that does nothing to create safer communities) and put the time, energy and money into community outreach and education, affordable training and even into accessible veterinary care and support where needed, we would have a tremendous positive impact for all dogs.

  8. Jane October 8, 2016 at 7:30 pm - Reply

    Thank you for dispelling all these crazy myths. I do not have a pit bull, though one day I would love to. I do however have a chow mix that people automatically assume he is vicious because of his looks and because he’s a chow.

    • SimonDawg October 9, 2016 at 8:09 am - Reply

      It’s so unfortunate that there are so many misconceptions about bully breeds out there. The judgements are by no means reserved only for pit bull type dogs and I’m sorry that you and your chow mix have been subjected to the negative assumptions.

  9. Pawesome Cats October 8, 2016 at 9:05 pm - Reply

    I’ve heard plenty of people make generalisations about pit bulls – it’s great to read well-informed posts that help to raise awareness about the real issues beyond breed.

    • SimonDawg October 9, 2016 at 8:01 am - Reply

      Thank you! I’m glad you are enjoying the series πŸ™‚

  10. Ruth Epstein October 8, 2016 at 9:51 pm - Reply

    Great post, I never ask about a pitbull when in the park, as I always feel that those that bring their dogs to a dog park are responsible dog parent plus the park we go to we are all like family there

    • SimonDawg October 9, 2016 at 8:00 am - Reply

      Thank you! We shy away from dog parks because I know that if something were to happen, Piper would be blamed even she wasn’t at fault. It’s so wonderful that your dog park friends are like family. Here, I feel like at most dog parks the humans stop paying attention and don’t really know dog behavior.

  11. Dash Kitten Crew October 9, 2016 at 2:51 pm - Reply

    I will be honest. I do not approach dogs, because it’s the owners lack of ability I often question. Asking if a dog bites might be, I think, a sensible question to a non-dog or novice dog person but why ask it specifically of a pitbull – crazy!!!!

    There are no bad dogs only stupid, or bad owners. A dog is like a child, a blank slate for us to guide, love and cherish. We need to do so and stop asking negative questions about some of the sweetest dogs you might meet.
    Dash Kitten Crew recently posted…The Continental Sunday SelfieMy Profile

    • SimonDawg October 10, 2016 at 9:20 am - Reply

      It definitely comes down to what is going on at the human end of the leash.

  12. christine caplan October 9, 2016 at 3:06 pm - Reply

    There are so many things I want to say about this awesome post. It’s amazing the things that people fill their heads with about a specific breed. Let’s start with these: don’t your worry they’ll turn around and rip your face off? or Have you seen any signs of aggression yet? WOW. I remember reading a great story about how Pitties were the first breed to babysit children in the 20s or 30s. Maybe that’s a old urban legend but how could the narrative around this breed be so negative? I saw they suspended the ban? Finally someone with common sense…

    • SimonDawg October 10, 2016 at 9:36 am - Reply

      I’m so glad you liked the post! I am actually writing a follow up post to talk about some of the other myths that are floating around that, sadly feed the media hype and fuel the BSL fire. Unfortunately, the “nanny dog” story, while a really nice story, is also a myth. If you read Bronwen Dickey’s book Pit Bull: The Battle Over an American Icon, she discusses, in depth, the source of the negative stereotypes and offers a really solid explanation about why they are so hard to overcome.

  13. Tonya Wilhelm October 9, 2016 at 5:52 pm - Reply

    Great post. I particularly like the last part about raising them right. As a dog trainer, I hear this a lot. Or, “is it nature or nurture?” Well, it’s both. Sweet pups.
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    • SimonDawg October 10, 2016 at 9:23 am - Reply

      I so appreciate that, as a trainer, you embrace all dogs. When you consider that one of the largest pet companies in the world won’t let pit bull type dogs into their daycares, you know we have a problem.

  14. Jasmine | About Pet Rats October 9, 2016 at 9:47 pm - Reply

    Great post! Pit Bulls are some of the sweetest dogs I’ve ever met. The whole assumption that all Pit Bulls are aggressive is a form of canine racism. Glad you’re helping dispel this myth.
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    • SimonDawg October 10, 2016 at 8:56 am - Reply

      So glad you liked the post! I hope this series on Changing the Conversation about Pit Bulls is helping to dispel some of the myths that are running rampant.

  15. Beth October 10, 2016 at 12:17 am - Reply

    Wow, so much bias πŸ™ I don’t have a pit bull myself, so it is shocking to see all the crazy questions that get thrown at you. I think it is great that you have the opportunity to teach people that pit bulls are just dogs.
    Beth recently posted…Fetching!My Profile

    • SimonDawg October 10, 2016 at 8:55 am - Reply

      Thanks! I’m still learning as I find my voice in bully breed advocacy.

  16. Robin October 10, 2016 at 12:19 am - Reply

    So many good points here! Just like black cats, pitbulls are all wrapped up in urban legends. I have never owned one personally, but I have encountered a lot of pitbulls. My experience is that they are not really any different than any other dog. They have different personalities and their owners train them in different ways. Many of the ones I’ve met have been pretty happy and lazy. I see no reason to fear them.
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    • SimonDawg October 10, 2016 at 8:54 am - Reply

      It’s amazing to me how some of those urban legends take hold and become so ingrained in our cultural perceptions. I hadn’t thought about the black cat myth but now I’m wondering if there is a cross-blog series of posts we should be writing about the various urban legends associated with different dogs, cats and other pets… πŸ˜‰

  17. Tenacious Little Terrier October 10, 2016 at 12:26 am - Reply

    We already get so many stupid comments and questions as it is. I can’t imagine having a pit bull and having to deal with all that!
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    • SimonDawg October 10, 2016 at 8:51 am - Reply

      It’s not fun to deal with some of the questions but if I can have conversations that open someone’s mind and heart a bit, I’m happy to have those conversations,

  18. Malaika Fernandes October 10, 2016 at 1:07 am - Reply

    I hate it when people are prejudiced against a particular breed. In India here people have the same opinion about Rottweilers here thanks to some very irresponsible pet parents. I hope your post creates the awareness that pit bull parents are in need of
    Malaika Fernandes recently posted…How To Tame A Teething PuppyMy Profile

    • SimonDawg October 10, 2016 at 8:49 am - Reply

      Sadly, breed discrimination is everywhere and we’ve seen the target of that discrimination shift from one breed to another. I too hope the post has a positive impact for everyone. Responsible pet parenting has nothing to do with the breed of dog and it’s time we focus on what is happening on the human end of the leash.

  19. Cathy Armato October 10, 2016 at 9:35 am - Reply

    This is such a great post! All these points are so important & help to dispel some of the ridiculous myths about the breed. Sharing widely.
    Love & biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

  20. Kama October 10, 2016 at 12:59 pm - Reply

    Funny enough, I actually get some of these questions when it comes to my Chihuahuas. Every breed has its’ stereotypes, and it’s sad that people can’t see that what they are asking is just that….a rumor….dogs (like people) are individuals. Stop stereotyping!

    • SimonDawg October 10, 2016 at 3:48 pm - Reply

      Sadly, it doesn’t really surprise me that you also get asked some of these crazy questions. People need to educate themselves!

  21. Kim October 11, 2016 at 12:31 pm - Reply

    Please. Lock jaw!!! They are not alligators!!!

    • SimonDawg October 18, 2016 at 4:16 pm - Reply

      Exactly! It’s kind of amazing how many myths and misconceptions are out there about these dogs.

  22. Carol Bryant October 11, 2016 at 9:17 pm - Reply

    As a dog mom of the highest order, I applaud you for writing this. In April, I hosted a fundraiser with my wife to call attention to pit bulls. The rescue group does so much good in their name. They get a bad rap due to bad people in general who get them and then in media sometimes. I really love that you are getting the word out because pitties are pawsome.

    • SimonDawg October 18, 2016 at 5:28 pm - Reply

      Thanks for the support! Piper has inspired me to dig deeper into this issue and to, hopefully, make a difference in the way people think and talk about pit bulls.

  23. Jenna Hughson October 12, 2016 at 9:01 am - Reply

    UGH! Such a hot topic this one. I am a huge Pit lover, and actually just did a post a couple days ago about this as well. These questions are so ridiculous, but you are absolutely right, people who are owned by pits get asked these things far too often.

    • SimonDawg October 19, 2016 at 8:24 am - Reply

      It is such a major issue right now. Hopefully, we are starting to see a change in the conversation.

  24. Hannah October 12, 2016 at 5:39 pm - Reply

    I always feel so awkward when people say, “It’s all in how they’re raised!” or variations. I get that they’re trying to give me and/or my dog a compliment, but I simply cannot let it stand. Still trying to figure out a concise reply that I’m happy with, though…

    • SimonDawg October 18, 2016 at 4:15 pm - Reply

      It’s sometimes hard to find the right words that will educate someone with compassion. Definitely a work in progress for me πŸ˜‰

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