A Little History

Since the late 1800s, pit bulls have been popular family pets. Famous historical figures like Helen Keller (her service dog), Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain, and John Steinbeck all owned them. The dog featured in “The Little Rascals” was a pit bull; pit bulls were the only dogs to grace the cover of Time Magazine three times. Popular advertisements of the early 1900s also featured pit bull type dogs, including Buster Brown Shoes, Wells Fargo, and Eveready (now Energizer) Batteries. A pit bull was the original mascot for the University of Texas Longhorns!

Pit bulls also served our country during World War I; at least one, Sergeant Stubby, gained fame for saving lives, lifting morale, and warning U.S. soldiers about an enemy attack. He served in 17 battles and was awarded nearly a dozen medals, including the Purple Heart. Stubby was the first dog to be given a rank in the U.S. Army (Sergeant). The American Pit Bull Terrier represented the U.S. on war posters of the time—“neutral, but not afraid.”

As the century progressed, however, new efforts by animal advocates put an increased focus on the cruel and illegal activity of dog fighting. The inadvertent and unfortunate side effect of this new movement was that some people began to seek out pit bulls for illicit purposes. This began a cyclical process whereby the media began to cover only negative stories about the dog, ignoring the over 99% of pit bulls living in happy, fulfilling homes. The dogs themselves had not changed, but public perception of them had.

Today, advocates, rescuers, and pit bull owners work extremely hard to restore the image of the pit bull as an All-American family dog, like the hero Stubby. Hundreds of thousands of Americans’ families are made whole by a beloved pet pit bull. Famous stars like Michael J. Fox, Jessica Alba, Jon Stewart, Brad Pitt, Jessica Biel, Madonna, Pink, and Alicia Silverstone also own and love pit bulls.
History courtesy of www.love-a-bull.org

Q: What exactly is a pit bull?
A: The term “pit bull” is used to describe different breeds. Let’s take a look at a few breeds that are part of the “pit bull” family.

American Pit Bull Terrier
American Pit Bull Terriers are generally lean and muscular. They are recognized as a breed by the UKC or United Kennel Club. Males should weigh no more than 60 lbs and females around 50.

American Staffordshire Terrier
The American Staffordshire Terrier or Amstaff is recognized by the American Kennel Club or AKC. The Amstaff is a stockier dog than the American Pit Bull Terrier.

American Bully
American Bullies are a fairly new “pit bull” type dog. They became popular in the 1990’s. The American Bullies have a short and stocky body, yet they are muscular. It is said that American Bullies have a lower energy level than the American Pit Bull Terrier. American Bullies have their own registry: the American Bully Kennel Club.

Any dog with “pit bull” type characteristics can be labeled as a “pit bull”.

Q: I’ve heard that pit bulls have locking jaws. Is this true?
A: Pit bulls aren’t anatomically different than any other dog breed. Their jaws do not lock and they do not bite with any more force than a Lab, Golden Retriever, or any other dog of that size.

Q: I am looking for a guard dog to protect my home. Is a pit bull a good choice?
A: No. Pit bulls are too friendly with people to be up to this task. In fact, pit bulls have a high risk of being stolen, partly due to their love of people and the fact that they will happily and willingly go with a stranger. They can easily be led out of their owners yard, which is a good reason they should never be left outdoors unattended.

Q: I’ve heard that pit bulls are not good with children. Is this true?
A: Pit bulls are excellent with children and will often tolerate more tugging and pulling from a child than other breeds. It is very important to teach children how to properly handle the dog and never leave children and dogs alone, no matter the breed of dog. Because of their large size, a pit bull can accidentally bump an unsteady toddler with its tail, so it is worth mentioning again never to leave children and dogs unsupervised. Pit bulls mature anywhere from 2-4 years of age, so a family with small children may want to consider an older, mature dog versus a young puppy with lots of energy. Many of our dogs have lived with kids of different ages so we can work with the dynamic of your family to find the perfect pit bull companion for you.

Q: Are pit bulls as vicious as the media portrays them?
A: Not at all. Under many circumstances, the media labels any dog they can not readily identify as a “pit bull”. Dogs that are: unvaccinated, unattended, unaltered, and under socialized are more likely to bite, regardless of breed. The Pit Bull Placebo by Karen Delise is a great read for those trying to better understand the breed.

Q: What special care does a pit bull need?
A: Pit bulls are generally healthy dogs but they can be prone to allergies. Some allergies can be managed with Benadryl. Demodex mange is a condition that is common in pit bulls. Below are some examples of Demodex.

The left image is an extreme case of Demodex before being treated by a vet. The right image is after treatment. Demodex is treated by weekly injections for 6-8 weeks and medicated baths. Heartworm preventative is very important in keeping your pit bull healthy. There are many different types of preventative, from a monthly pill to an injection every 6 months. For more information on heartworms, please visit http://www.heartwormsociety.org/. It is also important to have yearly checkups and vaccinations from a vet for the health of your dog.