How to be a Pit Bull Ambassador

January 16, 2011  

By Micaela Myers

“Is that a pit bull?”

“Is he mean?”

“Will he bite?”

With two adopted dogs that many people think look like pit bull mixes, these are questions I hear frequently. More often, people just cross the street or snatch up their children to avoid us.

As a result, I try to be a pit bull ambassador whenever I step out the door with my dogs. I want to show people what amazing companions they can be, even if it’s just one person at a time.

If you have a pit bull in your family, here are five things you can do to help change people’s perceptions:

1. Cultivate a well-behaved dog

It’s been said a thousand times, but actions really do speak louder than words. The most important thing you can do if you have a pit bull is to train and socialize your companion.

When your dog is young, take him or her places, let him see new things and meet people and pets of all types and ages. Teach your dog basic obedience.

Better yet, work to get him certified as a Canine Good Citizen through the AKC’s CGC program.

2. Choose your training style and collar carefully

Using harsh methods of correction can result in a fearful dog and further negative perceptions about the behavior of bully breeds. Positive reinforcement training is a better bet. Positive reinforcement rewards good behavior with treats and praise, cultivating confidence and good manners (click here to learn more).

Also, remember that what your dog wears can also influence how people view pit bulls. So avoid “tough-looking” collars, such as those with spikes and metal.

3. Be open to starting a conversation

While some people may cross the street when they see a pit bull-type dog, having a pit bull in the family also provides countless opportunities to talk about misconceptions, whether it’s with a coworker, a mother in the park or someone chatting with you in the grocery store line.

Hearing the same stereotype comments every time you say your dog is a pit bull can get old, but don’t get defensive. Remember that many people are just repeating things they have heard elsewhere. Educate yourself, and use these opportunities to help others understand the pit bull’s plight and true nature.

4. Take your responsibility seriously

Because we are under additional scrutiny, those of us with pit bull family members must take on an extra sense of responsibility. This is especially true in off-leash areas, such as dog parks. Dog parks can be chaotic, and spats between dogs are common. Even if a pit bull doesn’t start the tiff, he may get blamed. Know your dog, and make off-leash decisions carefully.

When it comes to pets, good fences definitely make good neighbors. At home, make sure your yard is properly fenced or keep your dog inside. And even if you’re just going to get the mail or take a stroll down the block with your dog, be sure to clip on that leash.

Responsibility also means spaying and neutering. Most dogs involved in severe bites and attacks are not spayed or neutered. Spaying and neutering also helps reduce overpopulation and has important health benefits.

5. Let the world see your love

If your dog has some special talent, get out there and celebrate your partnership as you show the world the wonderful things pit bulls can do.

Sporty types may want to consider flyball, Frisbee or agility. If your dog loves to strut his manners, there are various types of obedience trials and competitions.

Snuggly types may prefer therapy work. Therapy dogs visit places such as schools, nursing homes, hospitals and hospice centers. There are various organizations that certify therapy dogs. Most require the dog pass a CGC test or similar evaluation.

You have the opportunity to help people rediscover the pit bull. Together we can change the world, one waggy tail and slurpy kiss at a time!

Photos Courtesy of Pit Bull Rescue San Diego

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Micaela Myers is a magazine editor and the author of three equestrian books. She lives in Southern California with her two adopted, mixed-breed dogs and enjoys volunteering with local rescue groups and the StubbyDog Project.

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Comments

13 Responses to “How to be a Pit Bull Ambassador”
  1. loveabulldesign says:

    I have two dogs, a pit mix and a “pit bull” (whatever that even means anymore- there’s no breed integrity). And they are both off-leash trained with e-collars. I respect the fact that to honor people’s fears and misconceptions, in some situations a leash is a courtesy and in others legally required, however, I don’t think that my dogs should be subject to additional restrictions just because people are wrongly afraid of them. I have dogs that I have professionally trained, and that are obedient and 100% reliable off leash, with or without an e-collar. I make a point of keeping them safe from misconceptions and other people’s dogs (who are usually poorly trained and ill-mannered) when required but feel it is important not to take away from their liberties just because people are uneducated. I have already taken painstaking effort to train them better than 90% of dogs out there. The leash is a false comfort anyway, a truly aggressive dog will break a leash, or break away from his owner holding the leash. The owner’s own nervousness and tension are communicated through the leash, starting more dog fights than anything else. Otherwise these are good suggestions, and you should always protect your dog from other people’s ignorance above all- even if that means using the leash more often, but in front of my own house, on my own property and in other safe zones, particularly where there are other dogs off leash, my dogs will be off leash as well.

  2. StubbyDog says:

    @loveabulldesign Thanks for sharing, we think it’s great that you have such well behaved pit bulls and clearly that is what is really needed to help change perceptions with a pit bull ambassador.

  3. loveabulldesign says:

    @StubbyDog Yes, I do agree that if your dog isn’t 100% reliable, no matter how friendly, a leash can avoid many potential problems. E-collars, though controversial, have a ‘vibrate’ setting rather than ‘shock’ as well and are a nice additional insurance to help reinforce commands. Professional training in using them is a must, however. My dogs get excited to wear their collars because it means they are going somewhere they can run around and play. And honestly, it’s the training that makes the difference. I walk my dogs with cute nylon or leather collars and no ‘props’ like prong collars or choke chains, because they are trained. : ) You guys keep up the good work!

  4. StubbyDog says:

    @loveabulldesign Thanks! You keep up the good work too! The world needs more responsible dog guardians, regardless of the breed.

  5. Fuppoff says:

    I live in Ireland and came across this site by chance but I’m so impressed I really want to set up something similar here. I have a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, a breerd that is on the ‘Dangerous Dog’ list in Ireland & one that receives all the negative media attention and stereotypical reactions that the pit bull does. Pit bulls are banned completely from this country (for no other reason than a knee jerk reaction by politicians to head line grabbing media distortion). Often when I am out with my 4 year old bull terrier I will come across someone who will comment ‘oh she’s actually lovely I thought she was a pit bull’. I used to simply respond by saying she was a staffy but now I try to say that she is related to that breed and that pit bulls are amazing dogs if given half a chance.

    I just think in this country it is so ingrained in people’s heads that the pit bull is a savage dog it’s so hard to change that perception. This article is really inspirational and I hope eventually by education and meeting dogs like my own, people will start to change their minds. I’m so impressed by this site. There is nothing like this here, maybe I can make a start. G.

  6. StubbyDog says:

    @Fuppoff Thank you so much for your kind words. We would love if you could share your experiences with us about what things are like in Ireland for pit bull type dogs and their guardians. With photos of your dog of course, if you are interested please email [email protected].

  7. MariahRogers says:

    I live up in Montana and now and then i see Pit Bulls strolling with theyre owners, and i have to say that after learning and studying them for years, i am proud to say that every Pit Bull i’ve met was the greatest dog ever. But i do understand where they sit in the media and what people view them as, but i’ve looked past that. and im proud to say that im getting one, and i plan on changing minds, by showing my pit off. i think people especially people of the 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, 50’s and 60’s should know the Pit Bull as an icon like Sergant Stubby, and Pete the Pit Bull from “Our Gang”/ “Little Rascals” becasue people only judge the cover of one self and dont take the time to read the character. and its sad. i remember i was at a Gun Show, i was wearing my pit bull sweater and this old person asked me “You like them mean dogs” and i said in my proud happy self defending the breed “Yes, and im proud to say that i am getting one as well” and he just glared, and i remember thinking to myself, if in his time knew the Pit Bull as an icon, then why judge them like that? but he probably never really seen the true Pit Bull before, and stuck to what people were saying on the TV, and not really seeing the picture. Pit Bulls are just like anyother dog out there, its people who do the training, and caring for the dog, and most people are just to mean, so they do these horrible things to them, and when it gets out to public people are scared, and it’s not fair. i met a woman at PetsMart one time and she had her pit bull, and i asked her if i could pet it, and she said yes. and we talked and i asked her what her thoughts on the breed were, and i will never forget this, she said she would never let a Chihuahua near her children, because they are abnoctious, and she loves what the Pit Bull provides to protect and watch her children with respect and care, and that was all i needed. hope people read this and see what i see in the Pit Bull. thanks Mariah
     

    • StubbyDog says:

       @MariahRogers Thank you for sharing, we hope that people will take the opportunity to teach people the true nature of pit bulls in a calm, non-defensive manner whenever they can. There is an army of pit bull lovers out there (like you) and together we can change perceptions every where.

  8.  @MariahRogers  Thanks for posting this 🙂 Please check out my facebook page. Would love your support! https://www.facebook.com/PittBullDiscriminationAwareness

  9.  @Fuppoff  It takes having many many people coming together & standing up for this breed to make any kind of change. What I & StubbyDog is trying to do is just that. Please visit my facebook page as well & share share share! Let’s put an end to BSL! Thanks! https://www.facebook.com/PittBullDiscriminationAwareness

  10. Thanks for all you are doing here! I hope you don’t mind my sharing my page on here. We need to band together to change the medias outlook & put an end to BSL! 
     
    https://www.facebook.com/PittBullDiscriminationAwareness

  11. fortnerd says:

    I have a wonderful pittie named Toby.  He is such a sweetheart, my two granddaughters love him.  The oldest, she is 2 1/2, sits on him to watch TV, the youngest one is 1.  She crawls all over him.  He sits very still and lets them play.  I have a T-shirt that reads:  “If Timmy had a pit bull, he wouldn’t have been in the well in the first place!”