Pit Bull Myths and Facts (Do You Fear Newfoundlands?)

by Borderstan.com August 18, 2011 at 2:00 pm 6,023 24 Comments

Pit Bulls, Borderstan

All breeds of dogs need responsible owners to give them love and training. (Photos from Sora Devore and Gina Lantella)

From Tori Tyree. Questions? Leave a comment or email Tori at [email protected].

I read an interesting book the other day that examined a news story involving a dog attack on a 17-year-old girl. It was reported that she was rocking in a chair and when she had called her dog over to her, the dog lunged at her and attacked her chest, face and arms without provocation. It was later discovered that she had rocked over the paw of her older dog, and in the pain and confusion the dog jumped at her.

What I want you to know about this story is that the article is from 1897, and the dangerous dog in question was a Newfoundland. The publication I was reading is called The Pit Bull Placebo, which basically examines news reports of dog attacks, from the turn of the century to the present, to identify factors in dog aggression and dispel the myth that Pit Bulls are inherently dangerous dogs.

At the turn of the century the most-feared dogs were the Newfoundland and the Bloodhound. In the 1920s and again in the 1960s it was the German Shepherd. In the 1980s it was the Doberman Pinscher. Today of course, the title of most “dangerous” dog goes to the Pit Bull.

The media has done a really good job of feeding public fears with half-truths and catchy sensationalized headlines. While it is true that pit bull type dogs do bite, it is also true that all dogs bite and can cause serious injury. If it’s not a Pit Bull though, it’s most likely not going to make the news.

One of the big issues is the perception. The myths about the breed that scare responsible dog owners away are attractive qualities to irresponsible pet owners, or more precisely, people who want to have a fighting dog.

It’s important to remember at the end of the day that a dog is a dog. He needs a responsible owner who is dedicated to teaching him how to behave and what is expected from him.

Pit Bulls are one of the most popular dogs for a population of people who want them for the wrong reasons. So, the myth continues, and the Pit Bull is ultimately the victim of abuse, or is thrown out and ends up in a shelter where they sit for months at a time because responsible owners won’t adopt animals they believe to be vicious animals.

Myths About Pit Bulls

Here is a rundown of the myths you’ve heard about Pit Bulls.

Myth: “Pit bulls have locking jaws.”
Fact: There is absolutely not evidence for the existence of any kind of ‘locking mechanism’ unique to the structure of the jaw and/or teeth of the American Pit Bull Terrier, says Dr. I. Lerh Brisbin of the University of Georgia (from the ADBA booklet, “Discover the American Pit Bull Terrier.”)

Myth: “Pit bulls have 10,000 pounds per square inch (PSI) bite pressure.”
Fact: Testing has shown that the domestic dog averages 320 pounds PSI. The highest recorded PSI for a Pit Bull was 235.

Myth: “Pit bulls turn on their owners.”
Fact: There is always a reason for a dog’s behavior. If aggression is the problem, the reason is linked to poor handling, under socialization, lack of training, and misunderstanding of clear “dog” signs. The news reports of “family dog attacks child” usually leave out important details of what happened prior to the incident. One story claimed a 7-year-old was mauled by the neighbors’ pit bull. What the story left out was that the owner had beaten their “family” dogs severely, left them in the basement to die and they were surviving on plastic tubing and garbage. The dog in question had actually eaten rat poison and had gone crazy. When the child opened the basement door, the dogs went for the first person they saw.

Myth: “The brains of Pit Bulls swell and cause them to go crazy.”
Fact: This myth actually originated with the Doberman pinscher. It was believed Dobermans suffered from a brain affliction that caused it to swell and the dog to would “just snap.” It was not true then, and is certainly not true today.

5 Things to Know About Pit Bulls

Here are five things you probably didn’t know about the Pit Bull:

  1. Pit Bulls make great therapy dogs, search and rescue dogs and agility dogs. Because this breed is so eager to make their owners happy, and because they are such hard working dogs, they have made great companions in these fields.
  2. The Pit Bull was so popular in the early 1900s they were our mascot not only in World War One, but World War Two as well. They were featured on recruiting and propaganda posters during this time period.
  3. Sgt. Stubby. A Pit Bull war hero. Stubby was wounded in action twice, he saved his entire platoon by warning them of a poison gas attack and he single handedly captured a German spy.
  4. Pete the Pup on the original Little Rascals was a Pit Bull.
  5. Pit Bulls score an 83.4% passing rate with the American Temperament Test Society. That’s better than the popular Border Collie (a breed who scores 79.6%).

Now that you know more about this wonderful dog, you should consider taking a closer look at this breed to see if it makes a good fit in your family. Currently the Washington Humane Society is promoting its Adopt-A-Bull August program. For the month of August all fees have been waived for any Pit Bull adoptions. With over 1,000 animals going through the shelter every month this summer, something needs to be done to save this breed from its undeserved bad reputation.

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