I ran across a fantastic article today (published 8/3) out of the Los Angeles Times about how pit bull owners are reclaiming their dogs’ good name. This piece does a great job of showing all angles of the debate – the dogs can be dangerous if they’re adopted by negligent/abusive owners and not socialized, the dogs can be fabulously loyal and friendly and gentle if they’re trained and socialized well, and while people will often go with the worst-case-scenario assumption of how the dogs will act, people often find themselves won over by the breed when they’re not even looking for it.
This part in particular spoke to me:
The friends watched as their pit bulls roughhoused good-naturedly with
other dogs. But when Biggie trampled a yelping Jack Russell terrier — who
scampered off, unharmed — then started toward a frisky Tibetan terrier, his
owner grabbed him. “No, you’re too big to play with them,” Cabrera said
Still, as far as dog park etiquette went, the damage was done. “No
aggressive dog is supposed to be in here,” dog walker TerriAnne Phillips told
the two young men.
When we took Barker and Hailey to the dog park for the first time, they got a couple of looks. But there are usually several other pit bulls there, too… and none of them have been aggressive in the way that most people think of it. I think it’s the difference between “assertive” and “aggressive.” Barker – the pit mix – likes to be in charge in a dog group when he can, but he’s not going to pick a fight about it. Sometimes he’ll climb on another dog to prove he’s the big dog (even if he’s smaller, ha), and we heard him give a warning bark once, which the other dog acknowledged and walked away. But he loves to play, and when a scuffle broke out last time neither he nor any of the other pit bulls in the park were in the middle of it.
Hailey – the full-blooded pit (we think) – is rambunctious and playful, but she’s content to run around with other dogs and look at/sniff things, and doesn’t even wrestle like Barker does. She is definitely not interested in being in charge. Actually, as nice as she is to all the other dogs at the park, she is way more interested in the people… she’s usually running around getting free backrubs from all the other pet parents. Then she runs over to us with her big pit grin on her face, just to check in, and a minute later she’s off again.
I’m so relieved that we’ve found both an outlet for our dogs’ energy and a way to socialize them so that maybe one day we can take Barker to Petsmart without him rattling the roof with his barking. I think – and this could be me humanizing the dogs again – that when he’s on his leash or Gentle Leader, he gets frustrated that he can’t willingly go check out another dog, and feels threatened that they’re going to be the “big dog” when he doesn’t have a chance. So he asserts himself by using his voice. Maybe getting used to other dogs and realizing that they’re not gonna mess with his turf (if by turf you mean the pet store), so he can relax…
Okay, enough dog-bloggin’ for now… I just loved that article and think it’s a great read for pit bull owners – especially new ones – to get a feel for the challenges and rewards of having a pit.