We’re a Schnauzer rescue group of course but we also engage in pet education. Schnauzer Rescue of Texas (SRT) is partnered with PetRescueRx and, when we saw Dr. Buckley’s article with insights on the Pit Bull breed, we thought is was one of the most balanced articles that we had read….and we wanted to share it with you. Pit Bulls always seem to be in the news. Though specific to Pit Bulls, the advice about understanding the breed you want to acquire for a family pet is widely applicable.
Pit Bulls – My Ten Thoughts; By Glenn Buckley, DVM (owner, Pet Rescue Rx)
Used with permission. PetRescueRx.com (August Newsletter)
I recently had the opportunity for several radio interviews regarding pit bulls. As we all know there is much concern regarding the breed and misconceptions as well. As a veterinarian who has been working emergencies my entire career I have seen the good and the bad of the breed. Many times people take a positive or negative position on the dogs and I believe there is a huge gray area which should be examined so good decisions can be made.
First: Shelters and Rescues across the country are overwhelmed with pit and pit mix dogs that need homes. Pit bulls can make wonderful family pets but it is important to have knowledge of the breed and understand the characteristics that have caused much controversy. DO NOT buy a pit bull puppy. You are supporting breeders who are in it for the money and this encourages more breeding and results in more dogs surrendered to shelters. Adopt. Adopt. Adopt!
Second: Pit bulls were bred hundreds of years ago in England for hunting large animals. They were bred for overall strength and agility. The dog is extremely loyal to their owners. Unfortunately the qualities they were bred for add to the problems associated with the breed today. Dog breeds vary because each breed was designed for a purpose. Border collies herd and have this instinct which can be encouraged with training. Greyhounds are built to run. Terriers served a purpose for hunting small animals and rodents. Pit bulls were bred to hunt. My point being is that you cannot take the run out of the Greyhound because you don’t allow them to run. You cannot take the herding instinct from the Border collie because they do not have a flock of sheep. These qualities are in their genetics and always will be. The same can be said for pit bulls. The muscle mass of the body and jaw is impressive. The instinct to hunt remains. If we encourage that trait in an aggressive fashion we will have an aggressive and dangerous dog. If we do not encourage that aggressive behavior we STILL have a dog that was breed with those qualities which at some point may or may not be displayed. The sad part is that when these aggressive episodes happen by SOME pit bulls the damage and injuries inflicted can be severe and fatal to other animals and people. We (the people) did this to the breed. We bred for these qualities. Traits that at one time served a purpose as a working and hunting dog, remain today.
Third: ALL DOGS have the potential to bite. Any dog when provoked can bite. This again is where breeding and genetics plays a roll with the pit bull. You have a dog which was designed, over hundreds of years of breeding, for qualities that make them strong hunters. These dogs are designed to bite, hold and shake their prey. To say these qualities do not potentially exist in the dog shows the ignorance of the owners’ understanding of the breed.
Fourth: Pit bulls need stimulation. Their design requires owners to spend significant time with their dogs making sure they have positive, energetic activities. These dogs need to run. They need to be allowed to use the bodies we gave them in a safe way. Running, chasing balls or Frisbee and monitored play with other dogs are great exercise. Old saying, “A tired dog is a good dog.” If your lifestyle does not allow you the time to exercise a pit bull as it needs then I would recommend a less active breed.
Fifth: Media reports. I have heard the argument that the media has over reported the cases of pit bull attacks on people and other pets and as a result the breed has a bad reputation. The media does not make up the reports they communicate; they just make us aware of the attacks. Why does it seem that the reports so often involve pits? Simple because there are SO MANY pits and the genetic breeding can possibly result in severe, violent attacks. If animal shelters had a majority of Yorkies for adoption, as we see many times with pits, would the numbers of bites on people by Yorkies increase? Probably, just because of the population size. Would these bites be as severe as a pits’? No, that is not what a Yorkie was designed to do. As a veterinarian, I have seen, many times, the damage the pit bull can do to other animals in a fight. Again, this is what people did to these dogs in the breeding process over hundreds of years. The strength and agility of these dogs is impressive. The bite is powerful.
Sixth: Ownership. Take ownership and responsibility of the breed you have. If you have a pit then be a responsible pit owner. These dogs have the potential to do serious injury. Not all will. They are loyal family dogs many times. Do not leave these dogs – or any dog – unsupervised around small children. Teach children not to fear dogs but to approach with caution and respect. If you have a yard for your pit make sure it is secure with a fence which will work knowing their strength and agility. Understand that a pit or any dog not familiar with another person or pet normally in their pack, is a possible target for aggression. This is, in my opinion, why the pit gets out of the yard and attacks another dog while being walked by the owner. I have treated such cases many times. Know the breed. Know the potential for injuries. Use caution and respect others by taking these precautions to avoid injury or death to someone’s pet or family member.
Seventh: Do not get a pit bull because you think it’s cool! If you need a pit bull to support your masculinity, don’t get a pit bull. Get a car or a new pair of shoes. Do not bring a living, breathing animal, which will need your care for the next 10-15 years, into your life if you cannot commit to every aspect of ownership. Dogs cost money.
Eighth: Have your pit spayed or neutered. That’s all I have to say about that.
Ninth: Have any pet spayed or neutered. Ok, I said it again! It’s important!
Tenth: Pit bulls can be a great addition to a family. So many need a loving home. With that love and an understanding of the breed – combined with being a responsible owner – you can have a loyal, happy dog. Prevent accidents from happening. Don’t let your pit become another media report. Take precautions. Ignorance and lack of responsibility by the owner is a likely cause of many pit bull attacks that I have witnessed.