10 Pit Bull Myths And Why They're Bullsh*t
Fact: Pitties love to snuggle! 💕
You may have heard one of the many common myths about pit bulls out there — like that they have a locking jaw — but are these beliefs even true?
Pit bulls are one of the most misunderstood dog breeds in the world, and with all of the false information out there about them, it can be hard to know what’s a pit bull fact versus just another silly myth.
The Dodo reached out to Jenny Efimova, a dog trainer and owner of Dogminded, to find out more about the most common pit bull myths.
1. Pit bulls aren’t good family dogs.
A common pit bull myth is that they don’t make good family pets. According to Efimova, who works with tons of pitties and their families, that just isn’t the case.
“We know that countless pit bull-type dogs and pit bull mixes make wonderful family dogs and pets and are loved by adults and children,” Efimova told The Dodo.
In fact, the American staffordshire terrier scored high for “affectionate with family” by the American Kennel Club.
The truth is, just like people, dogs are their own individuals, and you shouldn’t stereotype a dog from any breed (pit bulls, by the way, are a general type of dog and not even a breed). “All dogs are individuals, and this includes pit bull-type dogs,” Efimova said.
2. Pit bulls are inherently aggressive.
Some people think that pitties are born aggressive, but this isn’t true for a vast majority of pit bulls (or any dog breed for that matter).
“Again, all dogs are individuals!” Efimova said. “I’m going to keep repeating that since far too many of us lean on broad generalizations (and myths) when it comes to dog breeds and behavior.”
According to Efimova, no breed is inherently any one thing. “Aggression is not a trait but an umbrella term for a series of behaviors,” Efimova said. “And all behavior is a product of many factors beyond genetics, including prenatal development, socialization and learning history.”
3. Pit bulls are bad with other animals.
Any individual dog can get along amazingly with other animals, while another dog from the same breed might not love other animals all that much. It all depends on the specific dog and not the breed.
“If getting along with other dogs or species in your home is important to you, then I would work to prioritize this when choosing the right dog for your family, regardless of breed,” Efimova said.
4. Pit bulls have a locking jaw.
It’s commonly believed that pitties have a “locking jaw” that clamps down when they bite into something, but pitties don’t actually have any special mechanisms in their jaws that make them lock into place.
“No dog has a locking jaw, and since pit bull-type dogs are dogs, neither do they,” Efimova said.
5. Pit bulls have a bad temperament.
Pitties are commonly thought to have a bad, unpredictable temperament, but according to the American Temperament Test Society’s Temperament Test, American pit bull terriers actually are among some of the most well-tempered pups, scoring on average 87.4 percent.
While pitties scored well above average, it’s also important to remember that every dog is an individual. “A dog’s ‘temperament’ and behavior is a product of many factors, only one of which is genetics,” Efimova said. “Things like prenatal development, socialization and learning history have major impacts on dogs’ behavior.”
6. Most dog-related incidents involve pitties.
Most dog-related incidents that the media covers would surely give us an impression that most dog-related incidents involve pitties, but that just isn’t the case.
In fact, here are some dog bite statistics:
- Most dog bites occur with dogs who are not spayed or neutered. (Source: The Humane Society)
- 25 percent of fatal dog bites were inflicted by chained dogs of many different breeds. (Source: Fatal Dog Attacks)
- Over 30 breeds and dog types were associated with dog-bite fatalities. (Source: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association)
“First, it’s helpful to remember that we don’t hear about the overwhelming majority of dog bites occurring every day in the U.S. and the breeds involved,” Efimova said.
“Second, the media almost always refers to ‘pit bull’ vs. ‘dog’ in their headlines about dog-bite incidents involving pit bull-type dogs.”
And lastly, according to Efimova, visual breed identification is often faulty, and in many instances of media reports, the breed identification comes from a second- or third-hand account. This means that reporters might mistakenly classify a dog as a pit bull when the dog is actually a totally different breed altogether.
“Reports of pit bulls involved in dog bites are both overrepresented and sensationalized,” Efimova said.
7. Pitties were only bred for fighting.
It’s a common misconception that pit bulls were only bred to be fighting dogs, and because of that, every pit bull comes from a fighting history. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
“The overwhelming majority of pit bulls living in pet homes, rescues and shelters do not come from dog fighting lines,” Efimova said.
8. It's not safe to get a pittie from a rescue.
Rescued pitties are the sweetest creatures in the world. But before you adopt any dog (no matter their breed), you should do your research before making a commitment.
Efinova says to make sure the rescue you’re adopting from is reputable and does their due diligence with assessing dogs.
When adopting a dog, it’s always helpful to vet the rescue or shelter to learn about their practices, policies and the training methods they use with their dogs. If the shelter doesn’t seem like they invest in their dogs or know their histories well, there’s a chance the pup you adopt might have health or behavioral issues he’s dealing with.
You should also take the time to gather as much information as possible about the individual pup you want to adopt so you can reasonably know what to expect if you decide to take him home.
“Be sure to ask questions and learn as much as you can about the dog you’re adopting to make sure they are the right match for your home, family and lifestyle,” Efimova said.
9. Pitties have the strongest bite.
A common myth is that pit bulls have the strongest bite of any dog, but this belief is also false.
“Damage from dog bites is not related to breed,” Efimova siad. “Size can certainly be a factor when it comes to the impact of dog bites, and there are plenty of breeds that are much larger than a typical pit bull-type dog.”
10. Pit bulls require a heavier hand in training.
As a dog trainer, Efimova hears this myth all the time — and not just about pit bulls, but other breeds as well. “It’s a common misconception that some breeds require a heavier-handed approach,” Efimova said. “The truth is that the principles of learning apply equally across all species, let alone breeds.”
When it comes to the best way to train dogs, positive-reinforcement-based training (or using a reward to reinforce desired behavior) is effective across species for teaching all behaviors, including behavior modification.
“In fact, the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior recently released their new position statement on humane dog training, emphasizing that positive-reinforcement-based interventions are the most effective, humane and evidence-based interventions for training and behavior modification,” Efimova said.
This, of course. applies to pit bull-type dogs, too! So if you’re a guardian of a pit bull or a pit bull mix, you never need to worry about being extra stern or harsh with your dog — since positive reinforcement works brilliantly.
“Your dog can learn effectively (and happily) using a positive-reinforcement-based approach no matter what behavior challenge they’re facing,” Efimova said.
While there’s tons of misinformation out there about pitties, remember that all dogs are individuals. When looking to adopt a new dog, don’t focus on breed — focus on who fits into your lifestyle the best. When you focus on personality over breed, you might just find a sweet pittie cuddling with you on the couch.
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