Not Everyone Loves a Pit Bull

August 29, 2011  

Stubby lived his life on a chain until one day he broke free and ran away. A Good Samaritan found him and brought him to the shelter. Now his real story begins…

Every morning, we have our “regulars” that we pass by on our walks. There’s the landlord, Mr. Modesto, who always smiles and waves and Mrs. Waithe who always insists on getting me a dog treat. (Marnie always worries that stopping by Mrs. Waithe’s will make us late, but I don’t really understand how late is a bad thing if it means I get treats.)

Lily and Matt were on the way back from taking me out when we saw a new neighbor who was moving into an apartment on the first floor. He scowled when he saw us, and jumped back into the open doorway to his apartment.

“Careful!” he yelled.

“Stubby, sit,” Matt instructed me. I sat down and waited for Matt’s next cue. I was used to this – I hadn’t been to obedience class yet, but Marnie had read online that it was best to have your dog show good manners when meeting someone new.

I am all about good manners! (Except when I chewed the head off on one of Lily’s Barbie dolls, but the doll was smiling at me funny!)

“This is Stubby,” Matt told the man, and I’m Matt and this is my sister Lily. We live in 3F.”

“Is that a pit bull?” the man asked.

Matt nodded. “He’s friendly. Say hi, Stubby.”

I stood up to say hi but the man jumped back, scaring me. I froze in my tracks.

Lily knelt down. “It’s okay Stubby.”

“It’s not okay,” the man yelled at us. “You keep that dog away from me and my kids!”

He slammed the door in our faces.

I worried that this wasn’t over.

What do you do when someone won’t even give you a chance?

Previous: Sometimes Even Superheroes Get Lost

Did you miss the beginning of Stubby’s story? Read the start here.

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41 Responses to “Not Everyone Loves a Pit Bull”
  1. mellonz says:

    The ignorance of some people just infuriates me! I have been verbally abused whilst out walking my two bullies. Sadly ignorance breeds prejudice. I just pity these people for missing out and knowing this fabulous breed!

  2. SusanHurt says:

    I had a man yell at me from his porch that there was something wrong with me for having “that kind of dog!” She was heeling and behaving herself. She sat down and quietly looked around when I stopped and looked at him. His little “whatever” furball was lunging at us, snarling and barking, while he struggled to hold on to it. I looked at my dog, looked at him, and said, “It seems to me that YOUR dog has a bigger problem and causes more problems than MY dog.” He glared at me and went in his house.

  3. AnnVanderlaan says:

    @mellonz Did anybody arm themselves with a stick yet on your walks? We just sat down on the opposite side of the road and let the woman walk by so she wouldn’t whack us.

    And then there was my neighbor down the street who said “New people moving in with those kind of dogs don’t belong with decent folk.” When I pointed out to him that I have lived here since 1984 (10+ years longer than he) and that he used to greet me when I was walking my last dog, he drove off in a huff.

  4. StanModjesky says:

    I don’t suspect this neighbor will be around for long, so if you give him a wide berth and let him keep his fear and misery to himself, things will work out. It’s much worse when YOU move into a neighborhood where a dog hater already lives. Where I had my business in the city in the nineties, there was a family who were so psychotically anti-dog that breed didn’t matter. They’d spread the sidewalk with broken glass in the hope of injuring my very shy standard poodle. And when another neighbor walked past their front step with his shih tzu, the “lady” of the house came out snarling, and told him that every Sunday she went to Mass and prayed for God to give him (the man) cancer.There is no escaping whackos. You have to avoid engaging them.

  5. LM says:

    It really sucks when this all too familiar reaction occurs when we are out and about with our bullys, especially when they are displaying such good canine behavior. As hard as it is, do your best to take the high road and keep your distance from such ignorance. Continue to exemplify what an amazing dog you have– these people can’t usually be reasoned with verbally, but once in awhile change their tune when you lead by example. So sorry you had to experience that, unfortunately all of us do…

  6. CassyLemon says:

    I haven’t had verbal abuse about my boy as of yet. I have however, had funny looks from people as I pass by. Most of the time at the dog park he is such a good boy and is very well mannered I get asked a lot ‘What kind of dog is that?’ and I hesitate sometimes to say it’s a pit bull….but I say that he is and that I got him from a rescue. They are usually always impressed how good he is and how well he plays with others. Some people will also take their dog in another direction in fear but once he comes up to their dog and just smells them and wants to run they calm down. I always reassure them he likes to play and won’t hurt their dog…as I only have a cat at home that doesn’t really love to play with him at all. I feel like people who act out like that are the ones who have only heard of the maulings on the news and have no other knowledge or contact with pit bulls. Their ignorance is a shame…they are very wonderful dogs.

  7. KellyKnickerbockerReynolds says:

    Maybe you could put a note on his door? Just a really nice, welcome-to-the-building type note. Kill ’em with kindness (not that he showed you or your dog an ounce of kindness himself). It’s better to keep calm and positive – getting upset or defensive will only make him feel vindicated in the feelings he already has. You can apologize for getting off on the wrong foot earlier and let him know how long you and stubby have been residents of the building. Let him know that you understand why he might be weary of bully breeds since the media often portrays them in a negative way. Let him know that pit bull type dogs work all over the country for the betterment of society; as therapy dogs in hospitals and retirement homes, search and rescue and narcotics dogs, that they’ve served in wars. Invite him to say hello to Stubby the next time your paths cross…if he doesn’t accept, oh well. At least your communication will have left off on YOUR terms, not HIS (slamming his door in your faces, acting like a jerk).

    The next time you see him out, I’d try to find someone else you know and make sure he sees your dog interacting with other people and kids, if possible, in your complex. 🙂

  8. SusanKarp says:

    I’d like some talking points for what to say when people say “pitbulls were bred for fighting” and that’s why they are scared of them. How do I intelligently respond?

  9. LauraHopingardner says:

    Ignorance is such a sad thing. I was walking my sweet Buddy in the park by my house, when a woman scurried away with her two young children. I was keeping my distance, because I know how people are. But I was close enough. I overheard one kid say, “What’s a pit bull, mama?” Made me sad, because my Buddy loved and adored my nieces and nephews and was always great with kids.

  10. KellyKnickerbockerReynolds says:

    You can say… yep, and Rhodesian Ridgebacks were bred to hunt lions in Africa &Jack Russell terriers were originally bred to track and kill small prey. Both are common companion animals today.

    Pit bulls were specifically bred away from HUMAN aggression. In the 1800s, any pit bull that showed human-aggressive tendencies was immediately killed in an effort to perfect bloodlines. Traits such as gentleness, the desire to be handled by humans and temperamental stability were emphasized. A “fighting dog” that’s apt to turn on his or her human trainer would be counterproductive. Pit bulls are generally trusting of humans, and therefore are easier to steal out of backyards than many other breeds. Today, a human aggressive pit bull indicates some type of abuse or neglect. You can read more about this here:

  11. KellyKnickerbockerReynolds says:


    You can say yes… and Rhodesian Ridgebacks were bred to hunt/kill lions in Africa & Jack Russell terriers were bred to track and kill small prey. Both are common companion animals today.

    You can also say that while pit bulls were bred to fight other animals, they were specifically bred away from human aggression. In the 1800s, any pit bull that showed human-aggressive tendencies was killed in an effort to cull bloodlines from that trait. Instead,

    traits such as gentleness, the desire to be handled by humans and temperamental stability were emphasized. A “fighting dog” that’s apt to turn on his or her human trainer would be counterproductive. Today, a human aggressive pit bull indicates some type of abuse or neglect. For a really good background on the pit bulls, a lot of the info above can be found here:

  12. SixDegreesPGH says:

    I volunteer at a no-kill shelter that is 90%+ pit bulls and have a variety of things I’ll say… When a person isn’t too totally freaked out I will bring out a pit bull or a mix that they don’t realize has pit in them for them (lots of pit/lab mixes around here) to meet and only tell them they have pit when they ask. I just kind of shrug it off when I say pit like it’s no big deal and I start telling them about things like how their nickname is the nanny dog they are so good with kids and they’re one of the more popular breeds in other countries. I’ll tell them that they are one of the most loyal dogs you’ll meet and will do anything for you and they used to be one of the more popular breeds in the US. I’ll tell them there are bad breeders or the wrong people who take advantage of their loyalty to make them fight. I remind them of Petey from the Little Rascals. Sometimes depending on the conversation if I have one that likes some, but not all dogs I’ll tell them it’s just like people, not everyone likes everyone and any breed of dog doesn’t like every dog they meet. I tell them I’ve never had a pit bull come after me viciously, but I have had it happen with other breeds once or twice (I don’t name them generally). I tell them that if a dog (any breed) makes me nervous I won’t open the cage. I let someone else handle them.

  13. KellyKnickerbockerReynolds says:

    @SixDegreesPGH My black and white bully has a black patch on her eye, and everywhere we go people are like, “SHE LOOKS LIKE PETEY FROM LITTLE RASCALS”. I think a lot of them are surprised to know that she is (and that Petey was) a pibble. 🙂

  14. WendyJacksonCapeSanBlasFL says:

    We adopted a young pup from a Humane Society about 2 years ago. We thought it was a lab mix but she if very much a Pit mix. She is the sweetest dog we have ever had! Has a fantastic disposition and is nothing but a big ball of love! I sure wish folks would give them a fair shake! It’s NURTURE not NATURE in the case of Pitties!

  15. AlexandraBeck says:

    by stating the fact that animal – animal aggression and animal-human aggression are very different things. A dog can very much disdain all dogs, but love all humans. Second point of fact to mention: being bred to fight and being raised to fight are very different as well. trust me, ive encountered many labradors that CANNOT be around other dogs, but are ok with ppl or vice versa. Beagles too. I could go on, but suffice it to say ive met aggressive tendancy towards dogs IN EVERY BREED and human aggressive tendencies IN EVERY breed as well. For the record, I work in the veterinary field and fostered dogs too. You can use the vick dogs as an example, during the raids most of those dogs were very human responsive – afraid, but not vicious. A good number of them are therapy dogs and passed tests most peoples dogs never could. And last but not least, generally speaking, if you were training and breeding an animal to fight which means you beat them mercelessly and treat them bad, why or why would u have a dog that would try to kill u?????

  16. AlexandraBeck says:

    what we do especially when awkwardness strikes, is put on a show. We go places and do our obedience in public, on a leash of course. Ive had many folks stop and say “wow, she is a great listener!” or “she is soo well behaved!” If a snobby snobberston appears we perform for them. If it were my neighborhood, i would stop accross the street from their house and perform for them. If they are ever watching, and they may be, it might strike a conversation….hopefully polite.

  17. GemmaZanowski says:

    I have one “trick up my sleeve”: I walk my pittie fosters with my standard poodle. Not only is is realllly hard to ask to pet the poodle without also petting the pit bull, but the juxtaposition seems to soften the image of the pit bull as well. After all, if the pathetic, weak poodle (don’t get me started on poodle stereotypes, which are the opposite of pit bull ones, but land many lively, athletic standard poodles in rescue) can live safely with a pit bull, maybe we all can. Of course I echo what everyone below said about having an obedient dog and showing it off. I take my fosters out all the time to practice obedience work; it not only shows that these dogs are fabulous pupils, but it also fine tunes those skills in a variety of environments. There will always be pit bull haters out there. But the majority of people haven’t formed a solid opinion, and it’s advocates’ job to give those people as many positive impressions as possible.

  18. StubbyDog says:

    @LM You really said it best, just lead by example and slowly, we can change minds about pit bulls

  19. StanModjesky says:

    Gemma, that’s great. I use any request to pet any dog as a teachable moment, especially if there are children involved. It takes only a little extra effort to teach someone how to approach a dog that does not know them: extending a hand for a sniff, no sudden motions towards the dog or handler…

  20. GemmaZanowski says:

    Thanks Stan : ) I agree, especially since children are impressionable. Not that kids should pet a dog without permission….

  21. SixDegreesPGH says:

    What’s funny is some people at the shelter don’t want to bring a pit out to meet the kids when they come for a tour (brownie girl scout troops on occasion). They think they’ll scare the kids or be too much. They want to bring out a lab or something fluffy. I ignore them and bring out the best pitty we have. I’ve had some great comments from parents who have never met a pitbull before.

  22. Iluvmypibble says:

    @LM XO well said!

  23. mellonz says:

    @AnnVanderlaan OMG Ann that is awful!! I didnt encounter anything like that just verbal abuse. I did call the police as the man followed me on his bike and made me really nervous, he then started shouting abuse at me saying i shouldnt be out with those types of dogs & how dangerous they were. He scared me as it’s very remote where we live & i didn’t know what he was going to do. He got a warning by the police not to go round harrassing young ladies out on their own! I then had the president of our HOA paying me a visit following complaints that I have “Dangerous dogs” I was furious! I insisted that he come in and meet both my “dangerous dogs” who were both impeccibly behaved. I also took great delight in informing him they were both in training to be therapy dogs, they would hardly be doing that if they were dangerous!!!

  24. StanModjesky says:

    @GemmaZanowski Asking permission is part of the teachable moment.

  25. StanModjesky says:

    @AnnVanderlaan@mellonz Friends of mine had a yellow Labrador that was the most laid-back dog you could hope to meet, although he was crazy about playing fetch. There was one guy who walked past their shop every day and would shout at them “Don’t let that dog near me!” One day he went so far as to be carrying something that was more of a tree branch than a stick, and popping off about the dog. Bill turned to the dog and said, “Gunter! STICK!” Gunter ran out, grabbed the branch out of the guy’s grip and went running merrily in the other direction, shaking it around. The guy must have changed his walking route after that…

  26. StanModjesky says:

    @mellonz@AnnVanderlaan I would not be able to tolerate living in an neighborhood with a HOA. It seems like the worst tyrants become active members of those associations.

  27. GemmaZanowski says:

    @StanModjesky For sure. I meant asking their parents’ permission. Kids should always ask an owner’s permission of course. When I was first rehabbing my standard poodle, he was terrified of kids…so terrified he could not be in the same room with a child. Because he is huge and fluffy he was a kid magnet. I had to admonish severely several parents for standing and watching their children chase him trying to pet him. Parental accountability is very low compared to dog owner accountability. However, the reason we have leash laws is so that we can control who our dogs come in contact with (and to keep the dog away from cars, obviously). So when parents fail to confine their kids (or when adults just run right up and pet a dog), it pretty much negates the purpose of these regulations. There’s just an interesting dichotomy regarding dogs in this country. We err by assuming two extremes rather than holding beliefs that fall in the middle of the spectrum — that is, that dogs are generally friendly, but caution should be used around them initially and their boundaries should be respected.

  28. AnnVanderlaan says:

    @mellonz I have no idea why people behave this way, esp. when they have no experience except secondhand hearsay. After taking some Psychology and Anthropology courses in grad school, I can appreciate the evolutionary benefits of recognizing kin, excluding outliers and generalization of information. But sheesh, this is like saying that every white man in the South wears a sheet over his head after dark, or every man with a scarf or turban on his head is a terrorist. It’s just a convenient fiction and a different breed of racism.

    I once lived in a very remote area — as in no houses in sight — of rural WV with my son and a Doberman. Only my trusty dog and a shotgun dissuaded two moonshiner-imbibers from trying to break into the house one night. Truth be told, they were way more afraid of Magic than my shotgun. To go one up on the creep factor scale, the County Sheriff’s office was only open from 8am-5pm, and the State Police post was 80 miles away. On a crisp autumn morning you could step outside and smell the mash from nearby stills on the wind. But after that one encounter, I understood the difference between ‘dog’ and family member guarding the clan.

  29. AnnVanderlaan says:

    @StanModjesky@mellonz 4 dewclaws up Gunter!

  30. AnnVanderlaan says:

    @StanModjesky@mellonz Coming from the Old Yankee North, there should be a “W” in front of HOA — as in WTF?

  31. mellonz says:


    Stan, Had i known the sort of busy bodies that live in these neighbourhoods, with nothing better to do than to cause trouble & stick their nose in other people’s busines, I would never have moved into one. Certianly won’t again!!

  32. StanModjesky says:

    @mellonz@AnnVanderlaan I hope you are fortunate enough to be renting, which will make it easier to leave. There’s an interesting book about the excesses of HOAs, titled “Privatopia.” I sold real estate for a living once upon a time, and it was when the HOA concept was just gaining some steam. Nothing worse than another layer of government, especially one not limited by common law. I have just seen one horror story after another, including a close friend who became a pariah when he was having financial problems and wanted to defer paying his condo fees for a few months.

  33. ruiner86 says:

    It’s just like racism.

  34. pitbullfriends9 says:

    I love the writing from the dogs perspective. That is a sad story that is true all to often.

  35. theprettychic says:

    Honestly there’s nothing you can say or do when someone is as closed minded as the individual in your building. You & Marine continue to be ambassadors for the bully breed and pit bulls. When my family adopted our first pit bull (Sasha) we had the usual uncomfortable stares however, Sasha continued to wag her tail and smile as we walked by those you were “nervous.” When my neighbor first met Sasha he was admitted he was nervous and “had never been this close to a pit bull” before. He found Sasha to be loving, caring and loved giving kisses. We’re not going to be able to ease or change the minds of everyone we come in contact with however, we can change their perception of this particular bully breed. I hear it all the time when my family and pitties are out “they’re beautiful dogs (while they’re walking away slowly), they’re well behaved. Keep doing your part and Marine will continue to his. The best comment comes from my sister who has never interacted with a pit bull not even mine (although my niece loves them to pieces and walks them both and combined weigh more than her) the information I shared on my facebook page “has changed her perception of pit bulls but not my mind and I’m not going to get one.” When it comes to pit bulls my motto is “Societies perception is NOT these dogs reality”

  36. BetseyHench says:

    What’s really unfortunate is the man’s actions scared stubby…I was in this situation before when i was on a walk one day and the person was getting all shrilly waving their arms about which had visibly scared my dog to the point of him cowering and moving behind me so i cut the person off and said well you’ve officialy scared my dog i hope you feel proud of yourself for scaring a dog that did absolutely nothing to you…

  37. heidischick says:

    I walk my two pits just about every day. I’ve had several people comment on how good they are, how they thought pit bulls were supposed to look meaner (their ears and tails aren’t cropped) and come pet the dogs. One man said he and his wife were nervous when they saw my husband and I moving in with pitties, but that after a few weeks of seeing how well-behaved the dogs were, his opinion changed. Now he regularly stops to pet them as we walk by. I have, however, had a woman bring her kids in the house as I walked by stating, “Oh, don’t mind me for being nervous.” I told her, “Ma’am, they’re completely harmless. They love people.” She replied, “Oh yes, I’ve seen you walk them. You are really good with them.” So then why the heck did she feel she had to bring her kids in the house?! Thankfully, though, those encounters are few. My pups have been slowly educating lots of people in my neighborhood about what pitties are really like.

  38. R Mac says:

    It always amazes me that people will be sitting there petting my pit mix and bad mouth pitts. They are so afraid of them but can’t even identify one when she sits in their lap! People are so silly it’s sad that they believe the news as gospel and never even bother to gain other sources for they’re opinions.

  39. cdenzinger says:

    Just curious, what shelter do you volunteer for? Where is it? @SixDegreesPGH

  40. SixDegreesPGH says:

    @cdenzinger Animal Protectors in New Kensington (near Pittsburgh).

  41. SixDegreesPGH says:

    As a side note, dogs that have come after me weren’t necessarily at the shelter. One was in pain and I didn’t know it and touched him in the wrong place and he got ticked off. (luckily he had a cone on) None have ever gotten a hold of me though.