As a child of the 70's, I remember a family in our neighborhood that had two Dobermans. Every adult in our neighborhood warned us kids to stay away from them. When we asked why, they told us they were dangerous. When we asked why they were dangerous, they didn't have an answer.
During the 80’s, we were supposed to be scared of German Shepherds. My friends had a German Shepherd and it was quite friendly and extremely smart. Once again, no one could tell me why I should be afraid of them.
As an adult in the 90’s, I saw countless stories on television and read articles in newspapers about the rise of the rowdy Rottweiler and how it was being used by gangbangers and drug dealers. Once again, my friends owned a Rottweiler and it was one of the sweetest dogs I’ve ever known.
Toward the end of the 90’s, Pit Bulls became the latest trend of “Dangerous” and “Vicious” dogs. I had several friends that were stewards of pit bulls and I loved playing and spending time with them, even dog-sitting for them when my friends were out of town. I loved them so much that I wanted to rescue one. When I went to adopt a young pittie, I was told that this particular breed was considered “vicious” and I would need several hundred thousand dollars worth of insurance, my dog would have to wear a muzzle whenever in public, and a host of other ridiculous rules we would have to follow. I was dumbfounded, especially considering one of my friends lived in Little Italy, which was where University Hospital was located. I had read an article about therapy dogs at the hospital, and how beneficial they were for both young and old patients. In the article, there were pictures of the therapy dogs. Two of them were clearly pit bulls. I only lived two miles from the hospital, so you can imagine my confusion of how pit bulls went from being therapeutic to vicious. Was there some invisible line they crossed during that two mile stretch that flipped a switch in their brains and personalities? I was so fascinated that I began researching the breed and wrote a couple of research papers on the topic for some college courses. My love affair with the breed had begun.
Myth: Pit bull terriers are more aggressive than other dogs.
The truth: The American Temperament Test Society, which provides a uniform national program of temperament testing for dogs, has found that pit-bull-terrier-like dogs passed the test at a higher rate than many other dog breeds, such as golden retrievers and border collies. Some people think these dogs are somehow physiologically and genetically different from other dogs, but they aren’t.
Myth: It’s easy to identify a dog’s breed by looking at him or her.
The truth: It’s been shown that almost 90 percent of shelter dogs visually identified as a particular breed are not identified accurately. When we look at dogs of unknown parentage, the best we can do is guess at their breed, and it turns out that even dog experts are usually wrong. We label them with breeds that aren't actually in their genetic makeup, and we often aren't able to identify breeds that are in their genetic makeup.
This misidentification becomes a huge problem when municipalities pass laws and ordinances that contain provisions discriminating against dogs of certain breeds, such as pit bull terriers. The laws end up adversely affecting not only dogs of the targeted breeds, but many other dogs who simply look like them.
Myth: Some dog breeds are more dangerous than others.
The truth: A peer-reviewed study found that nearly 85 percent of dog bite fatalities were from unneutered dogs, and the co-occurring factors that led to bites were things like lack of socialization and positive interactions with people and animals, abuse or neglect, and tethering for long periods of time. Breed had nothing to do with it.
Myth: Pit bull terriers have locking jaws that make their bites more dangerous.
The truth: Pit bull terriers are physiologically no different from any other dog out there. There are no locking jaws; it just doesn’t exist.
Myth: Pit bull terriers are not family dogs. Only bad people have them.
The truth: According to Vetstreet.com, the American pit bull terrier is one of the top three favorite breeds in 28 states. So, the idea that they’re reserved for certain types of people is false. There are millions of these dogs in our country, and they’re family pets, therapy dogs and service animals, just like other dogs. Any kind of dog can make a great pet.