What is it About Pit Bulls?

What is it About Pit Bulls?
Misunderstood dogs face uphill battle to change public perception


Pit Bull. Two simple words, but so very charged, the reaction to which varies wildly. There are their fearful detractors, those who would have them demonized, having fallen prey to the dogs’ misrepresentation in the media. And then there are their champions, who are struggling to change the tide of public opinion. “Pit Bull” is, in fact, a loose term for many distinct “bully” breed dogs, such as the American Staffordshire Terrier, the American Pit Bull Terrier, and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. There is a general misunderstanding of the nature of dogs that fall into the Pit Bull camp, one that can be blamed largely on the sad fact that any aggressive attack is often inaccurately blamed on the scapegoated Pit Bull with little concern as to the offender’s actual breed. According to testing by The National Canine Temperament Testing Association, the Golden Retriever, Poodle, Border Collie, English Setter, and numerous other breeds are considered more likely to become aggressive than the breeds commonly referred to as Pit Bulls. While the average score of the 231 breeds tested was a mere 82.4 percent, Pit Bulls scored a 86.5 percent (the higher the score the better).

In truth, bully breeds are goofy, loyal, lovey dogs, by and large fantastic with children. In the UK, they were known as “nanny” dogs, and many Victorian illustrations of family life portray a sweet Pit Bull-type dog overseeing his chubby, beribboned charges.

Yes, this personable package comes wrapped in a powerhouse of a body, one that historically was bred for the cruel blood sport of dog fighting, but these dogs are anything but mean by nature. Sure, some, if left unchecked, have more of a tendency toward dog-aggression than, say, the average affable Labrador Retriever does, but if ever there was a testament to the underlying sweet nature of these dogs, it is seen in the rehabilitation stories of the Pit Bulls seized from Bad Newz Kennels, the Virginia dogfighting ring that was run by NFL quarterback Michael Vick.

Subject to some of the worst humanity has to offer, these were dogs that were caged or chained alone in the woods, tortured, and forced to fight, the torn-apart losers of the battles callously dumped in mass graves, the females tethered to rape tables. And yet, thanks to public outcry and an unprecedented ruling by the judge overseeing the Vick case, nearly $1 million was put aside for the rescue and rehabilitation of these dogs. With the help of a great many caring individuals and organizations who were unwilling to see them put down after having suffered only abuse at the hands of humans, these former dog-ring fighters have now been adopted into homes with other dogs, and are volunteering in elder-care facilities and schools to help children learn to read.

Hector, one of the Bad Newz victims, bears deep scars on his chest. He was adopted by Roo Yori, best known as the guardian of Wallace the Pit Bill, a national flying-disc champ (see the Summer 2010 issue of Modern Dog for photos of Wallace and his high-flying Frisbee grabs). Hector is now ensconced in the Yori household, where he happily shares a home with Yori, his wife, Clara, and Wallace, as well as a Rat Terrier named Scooby, Angus, a black Lab mix, and Mindy Lou, a toy Australian Shepherd. What better testament to the forgiving nature of these animals? As Jim Gorant, author of The Lost Dogs: Michael Vick’s Dogs and Their Tale of Rescue and Redemption (Gotham, 2010) has noted, “Generalizations and preconceptions are as unhelpful and counterproductive for Pit Bulls as they are for people.”

There is much work to do, though, to change public opinion. Many, many dogs falling into the Pit Bull camp, lumped together under this one inaccurate label, are crowding shelters, their numbers vast, the available homes few. Moved by the plight of these dogs, Brooklyn-based photographer Bethany Obrecht turned her lens to some of these animals, who hopefully faced her camera.

Sadly, most of the dogs Obrecht photographed didn’t make it, victims of an overburdened shelter system and an uninformed public. We’re hoping we can change that with a positive public relations campaign taking aim at their misrepresentation and drawing attention to the plight of legion Pit Bull-type dogs in desperate need of a home. Adopt a sweet, goofy, grinning Pit Bull today. We’re willing to bet you won’t regret it.

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Comments (38)

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Mon, 07/09/2018 - 04:03
What a gloss over of such a dangerous animal. Just look up the CDC reports on human deaths associated with particular dog breeds and you will see that pitbulls have a staggering lead along with Rotweillers. Together they are responsible for half the human deaths from dog attacks. If you have ever taken care of a child , as I have , who has been mauled by one of these animals you would change your mind. There can often be no warning with these animals.
Wed, 10/17/2012 - 20:17
Right. Half of human deaths from dog attacks. Let's not even mention how they used to be babysitters until thugs learned they could be trained to be vicious.

It's too bad you had a bad experience and also too bad you won't learn the truth.
Thu, 09/19/2013 - 10:17
They used to be baby sitters? What kind of idiot thinks any dog would be capable of taking care of their baby? This is also made up as you can read here: http://thetruthaboutpitbulls.blogspot.com/2010/08/nanny-dog-myth-revealed.html
Mon, 01/20/2014 - 20:14
i wouldn't blame the whole pitbull population because of this one bad dog, theres just bad owners not bad dogs.
Mon, 01/06/2014 - 15:42
Jeff Boofhead is that you? How is the life of spreading dangerous misinformation going?
Fri, 12/19/2014 - 01:02
Great article! It's nice to see a mainstream publication that's not specifically "pitbull" oriented saying great things about this breed/class of dogs. I am a firm believer that no matter what breed or mix of dog you're dealing with, the single most important factor in how aggressive or gentle, uncontrollable or obedient it will be is how it is raised. Whether a "pit" or a poodle, if a dog is given boundaries, love and attention, an appropriate care and discipline growing up, it will much more likely than not grow up to be a well-rounded and loving dog. Yes, what are pit bull terriers today were bred to fight other dogs, but Rhodesian ridgebacks were bred to hunt lions, and Irish wiolfhounds to hunt wolves, but you don't hear of people saying that they must be dangerous breeds as a result. And I can't stand the whole "aggressive gene" cop-out. So you're telling me that scientists have mapped the pit bull genome and have isolated and identified the "aggressive" gene? Give me a break. It's just like all the other anti-"pit" arguments; completely void of any legitimate backup. I have two APBTs, one is five years old and one is only eight weeks (just got her yesterday :). Our adult APBT is the sweetest, gentlest dog I've ever met, loves other dogs and absolutely adores kids, especially our four year old daughter. I'm not saying her personality is strictly because she's a pit, it's because she was raised properly! Sorry about the rant :) Love the article!
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Thu, 12/06/2012 - 19:48
"In truth, bully breeds are goofy, loyal, lovey dogs, by and large fantastic with children. In the UK, they were known as “nanny” dogs, and many Victorian illustrations of family life portray a sweet Pit Bull-type dog overseeing his chubby, beribboned charges." What a crock... Cite your source/sources that proves this statement is true... Oh that's right you don't have any legitimate sources...
Tue, 12/11/2012 - 06:25
Well I don't have any proof on the nanny dog nickname, but in terms of temperament testing, they either scored better or on par with any other dog. All sources are cited in the paper as well.

Wed, 03/27/2013 - 00:44
I assume you're referring to the ATTS results, which most dogs fail for shyness, not aggression. Standards also vary by breed, so comparing passing percentages of breeds means nothing, if the same behavior from two separate breeds can result in one passing and one failing.
Mon, 01/20/2014 - 20:21
its called experiance you cant just say oh i heard about bad things all pit bulls are bad. And iam not sure if you read the article but it explained why there is so many "pit bull" attacks its because idiots like you get attacked by a lab and run and say it was a pit bull simple as that.
Tue, 04/29/2014 - 13:51
This statement is very true, families often had painting of their children with their pit bulls. I've heard this on multiple reliable websites as well from veterinarians and dog trainers. Although no dog should be left alone with a baby or a child, they are a very tolerant breed. I'm just saying I have met and played with 2 golden retrievers, 1 dachshund, a german Shepard, 2 labs, a Great Dane mix, and 5 pit bulls over my life. I've been tackled by one of the golden retrievers, bitten by the dachshund, bitten by the German Shepard, and bitten by 1 lab, and still to this day I am constantly being bitten by that Great Dane, but never have I been bitten by any of the pit bulls I have interacted with. (Those were dogs of friends that I've had). The dogs that I have been bitten by, I understand the situation completely and never would I blame any of these dogs for the bites. They were all really exited and this is how they chose to channel their energy. When a dog channels it's energy like this it's bad parenting, not the dog.

If you want to actually be taken seriously I suggest you do your research because this information is very true.
Tue, 05/20/2014 - 22:43
So happy to see some positive words on the pups I love so much, I do think its hilarious someone flagged all the positive comments about the story, we just cant have anything positive regarding the bullies without some negativity somewhere!!
Thu, 12/27/2012 - 18:06
Thank you for this article. And let's not forget that the Little Rascals best friend in the world, Pete, was a PitBull. And one of the gentlest, friendliest animals in the world.
Thu, 12/27/2012 - 21:26
What an amazing and positive article highlighting the truly wonderful qualities of Pit Bull type dogs and explaining their history, characteristics, their plight in the shelters and how so many of them never get the chance to experience true love and explaining their ability to adapt and overcome such monstrous circumstances. Short, but to the point, great overview to help spread the word about Pit Bulls. I will share and I will continue to fight for my dogs, my Pit Bulls...I have never been loved by more loyal, amazing, beautiful, sweet souls and I feel I owe it to them to do so.
Fri, 12/28/2012 - 07:11
Love it ! Well written and truth is something not seen in most Pit Bull stories. Thanks Modern Dog for putting great writing in your magazine.
Fri, 12/28/2012 - 10:38
finally- a realistic, unbiased article! awesome work!
Wed, 01/02/2013 - 04:38
Great story. The pit bulls aren't the problem as you eloquently point out...
Sat, 01/05/2013 - 14:41
I have a very active, athletic 7 yr. old male Pug. He loves to chase big dogs and will swim with them. I take him to the dog parks as much as I can. Pit Bulls are one of his favorites. Their owners get a big laugh as he humps a Pit Bull. I have a video of him swimming with a Pit Bull. It's to bad they have such a bad rap. But, as long as the media continues to focus on Pit Bull attacks rather than the Pit Bull being a neat little dog, the bad rap will continue. The media should do more stories on the Pit Bulls that do loving things in nursing homes and schools. And, judges hand down stiffer sentences to people who take part in dog fighting. In my opinion, Vick didn't do enough jail time. Nor did his partners in crime. At least he has the money to pay for the dogs who made it through such a horrible time in their short lives.
Thu, 03/14/2013 - 05:48
These dogs really are sweet as long as you know how to handle them. The reason Pit Bulls have the reputation they do is because they get in the wrong hands. As most other dogs, they need exercise and training. Owning a dog is a lot of responsibility and if you don't have the time then don't get a dog. The media also portrays them as being bad because they focus on the negatives with them... Any other dog is just as likely to be considered "aggressive". It is good to see people supporting Pit Bulls instead of always putting them down. Thank you for this wonderful article.
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Thu, 05/02/2013 - 15:34
perhaps anecdotal but if you are looking for historical evidence of the nanny dog i submit this - http://thepetcollective.tv/did-you-know-that-pit-bulls-were-known-as-the-nanny-dog/

or you can just do your best(weak) to demonize the breed and contribute to their further mistreatment. really makes you as a bad as the people who abuse them to begin with.
Thu, 05/30/2013 - 05:30
One of my family members has two Pit Bulls. They are the sweetest, most loving dogs in the world. Aggressive? Hardly. They shake when someone new comes around or they feel uneasy. The most precious dogs ever. They have completely changed my opinion of Pit Bulls. I have been educated!
Sun, 08/04/2013 - 10:41
My Pitbull SMOOCH is my first pet ever happy very active, sweet, loyal,goofy,and loving loves children and the outdoors SHE always keeps me smiling.
Thu, 08/08/2013 - 05:48
You can't make a difference if you don't speak up. I'm trying to speak for the unspoken Pit Bulls through the lives of my boys Remy and Scooby. For as much happiness and love as they bring me, I know they can help others, and hopefully play a part in getting rid of the bad name these guys get. I post pictures and goofy videos of my dogs and more! Please like, share, comment, anything, it could change just ONE person's impression and save a pit bulls life.
Pit Bull Love<3

Sat, 08/10/2013 - 02:29
Pitbulls are the best breed of dogs in the world no doubt about it !
Sat, 08/10/2013 - 13:01
Great article- like with children it's about how you are brought up- your surroundings-- there isn't some gene that makes you innately aggressive and evil. I've got an American pit bull terrier, Rocko, and he's the most cuddly, sweet boy you've ever met. The only time I've been bit buy a dog was by a chihuahua; but that doesn't make the breed an aggressive one.
Sun, 09/15/2013 - 14:12


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