Puppy Love / Love Cats Pet Rescue Logo
The Pit Stop - Informational Overview - What it means to be a bully breed owner and keeping up your end of the leash.

Every year thousands of dogs are placed in shelters because their previous owners did not take the time to research their breed. For a successful life together, it is imperative to know whether a dog's temperament will mesh with your personality and lifestyle. Ignoring this important step can lead to problems for you and your dog. Spare yourself the aggravation of picking the wrong type of dog and do your homework first. We put more thought into buying a car than adopting a pet. A pet, however, is not disposable property. Pets emotionally attach to their owners and do get depressed when an owner drops them off at some strange place never to return again. Although many breeds are abandoned by their owners, this page focuses on the "pit bull"/bully breeds and what you should know before adopting one.

Topics:


What's a Pit Bull?

"Pit Bull" is a generic term that is frequently used to describe several types of dogs developed from the English Bulldog and terriers of England. The American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, American Bulldog, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Bull Terrier, and mixed breeds that include any of these breeds fall under the affectionately called "bully breed" category.

Back to index

HUGE MYTH!

All "pit bull" owners are drug dealers, gangsters or are involved in dog fighting.

FACT

Owners range from physicians and accountants, to teachers, authors and laborers. The most visible segment of bully breed owners is the disreputable one. However, reputable and responsible owners are working hard to dispel this myth.

Some Famous Bully Breed Owners Past and Present:

  • Helen Keller
  • Fred Astaire
  • Humphrey Bogart
  • Thomas Edison
  • General George Patton
  • President Woodrow Wilson
  • Mel Brooks
  • John Steinbeck
  • Mary Tyler Moore
  • Barbara Eden
  • Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith
  • Jon Stewart (from the Daily Show)
  • Bernadette Peters
  • Jessica Alba
  • Michael J. Fox
  • Brad Pitt
  • Rachel Ray
  • Cesar Milan, the Dog Whisperer (owns several) Video

and the list goes on and on...

ANOTHER FACT:

Bully Breeds were so loved around WWI that they represented the US in WWI posters.

Back to index

Media hysteria and bad owners have greatly damaged the reputation of this breed. Every negative incident involving a bully breed dog makes it difficult for those owners who do handle their dogs responsibly. Additionally, dogs waiting to be adopted must wait longer due to the negative perception of the breed.

child with two pit bulls

Reasons to Own a Bully Breed Dog

  • They make great family dogs.
  • They are tolerant enough to handle even the most boisterous children.
  • Bully breeds are snugglers, they want to be close to you and close to the action in the home.
  • Bully breeds are not big barkers, your neighbors will thank you. If they do bark, pay attention, they are trying to tell you something.
  • Your bully breed will love you wholeheartedly.
  • If you're looking for a loyal exercise partner, a muscle-powered bully is up for the challenge.
  • Over a century of careful breeding for companionship has produced rock-solid temperaments in the majority of bully breeds who work regularly as therapy, police, and search and rescue dogs.
  • Bully breeds have a natural and genuine affinity for people. These dogs have a depth of loyalty that isn't often seen in many other breeds.

The only way to repair the pit bull's bad reputation is to keep them in the hands of responsible owners. Ask yourself the following question to see if you fit that profile:

Would You Make a Good "Bully Breed" Owner?

  • Are you an experienced dog owner or a natural leader?
  • Can you commit to being a more responsible dog owner than anyone you know?
  • Will the dog live as a member of the family, never to be chained in the yard?
  • Are you firmly committed to properly socializing and training your new dog?
  • Are you able to train with consistency, kindness and patience?
  • Are you physically able to handle a strong and active dog?
  • Are you willing to have a dog that can never be safely taken to a dog park?
  • Are you informed about the biases and misconceptions about these breeds?
  • Are you willing to work to help change the public perception of these breeds by doing all of the above?

The media is quick to headline any story of a pit bull type dog getting into trouble, whether the culprit was an irresponsible owner, a dog with a substandard temperament, or both. You'll inevitably have to spend some time educating uninformed neighbors, friends or relatives that your dog is a well-behaved, loving and responsibly owned family member. Owning a bully breed dog is not for shrinking violets.

Back to index


Know Thy Bully Breed

  • Find the "American Pit Bull Terrier ": It's easy to mistake one bully for another.
  • An adult dog is not fully mature until approximately age 3. If this is your first bully breed dog, an adult dog might be the best choice because its temperament and personality are fully developed by this time.
  • Keep your bully breed under control at all times, whether on a leash or in an escape proof enclosure. They are smart and can figure out how to buck the system.
  • Never trust a bully breed not to fight. They may not start the fight but they may not back down either.
  • Bully breeds desperately want to please you. Obedience training will give them boundaries and you will know how they respond to you. This will help make your relationship harmonious and establish you as the "top dog".
  • Bully breeds can cohabitate with other dogs (if they are dog friendly). The best situation is to have a neutered male and a spayed female. Having two same-sex dogs, or two un-neutered dogs, increases chances of dominance and territoriality problems.
  • Regarding small animals, many bully breed dogs have a high prey drive and may chase small animals or livestock. How well a bully does in a home with a cat or small animal depends on the temperament of the individual dog and the supervision of its owner.

Why You Should Never Take a Bully Breed Dog to a Dog Park

  • Dog parks can be chaotic and not everyone is knowledgeable about proper dog etiquette.
  • Dogs are pack animals. Strange dogs interacting with one another are not a pack and as a result scuffles can occur. You can socialize your bully by having regular play dates with his/her own pack. Develop a small group of playmates for supervised fun in a safe and contained, private area.
  • At some point in every dog owner's life, their dog will either initiate or be subject to an attack by another dog. If your dog is a bully breed, one of two things will happen - he/she will walk away or it will defend itself. If your bully breed dog is involved in a fight at a dog park, whether or not it started the fight, the situation can feed the stereotype of bully breeds and further tarnish their image. While dog parks can be fun with its many different breeds and temperaments, the odds of your dog getting into an unfavorable situation is increased. Taking your dog to a dog park is not worth the risk.

If You Have a Multi-dog Household, Make These Tips Part of Your Routine

  • Feed the dogs separately, even if they seem to share a food bowl without problems.
  • Pay attention to signs of aggression.
  • Dogs should never compete for toys or treats.
  • Supervise play wrestling to be sure it doesn't escalate. Dogs that are seemingly playing well together are capable of crossing the line.
  • Avoid allowing your dog to stare down or intimidate another dog. If your bully breed is allowed to scuffle with another dog, the situation can become exponentially more difficult to control.
  • Make sure your dog never experiences being in a fight as this can make a huge impression on your dog and influence his tolerance of other dogs in the future.
  • Never assume your dog won't fight.
  • If you have a multi-dog household, experts recommend spaying and neutering all canine family members (regardless of breed) as this decreases aggression. The success of bully breeds living in multi-dog households depends largely on individual temperaments of all dogs involved and the owners role in maintaining the peace.

Back to index


Responsible Bully Breed Owners

Being responsible applies to all dog owners. However, it is more imperative when your dog of choice and it's behavior are under public scrutiny. Here are some steps advised by "Bully Breeds" magazine.

Socialize your Dog
Before your pup is 16 weeks old, it should have encountered hundreds of people, places and things. It should have the attitude "been there, done that".

Obedience Training is Paramount
Training enforces the human-animal bond. Dogs love having a job to perform. A well-behaved bully is a source of pride for their owners. People do take notice and it's a great feeling. Also, exercise your bully as a tired dog is a good dog – and has happy owners.

Leash 'em
Walk your dog on a leash and keep it under control in public. Don't allow your dog, no matter its breed, to infringe upon other people's space. Bully breed owners should never use an extendable leash. These dogs are strong and can snap this type of leash in seconds. Never allow your bully breed to run loose in an unfenced area.

Spay or Neuter
An altered dog is less likely to roam and is typically more even-tempered than an intact male or females.

Supervision
Bully breeds are natural diggers and climbers. Never, under any circumstances, for any amount of time, leave your dog unattended in a yard or tied up outside a store or in a car. Dog theft is rampant and a bully breed dog is particularly desirable to thieves due to the popularity of dog fighting. Bully breeds (and all dogs) should live inside of the home with the family. This is so important for the dog's mental well-being as they desire human companionship above all else.

More advice:

  • Never leave your dog unsupervised with young children.
  • Microchip your dog.
  • Make sure it is up to date on vaccinations.
  • Always have ID tag, rabies tag and dog license on your dog’s collar.
  • Your dog should always wear a strong, snugly fitted collar. Good choices are leather or heavy-duty nylon collars.
  • Never play tug of war or rough house with your bully as it encourages aggression and makes the dog think it is OK to compete with you.
  • Join a dog club to stay informed and to develop a support system of people dedicated to the same breed.
  • Know your breed's strengths and weaknesses. Media hysteria and bad owners have greatly damaged this breed and every incident involving a "pit bull" makes it worse for all bully breeds and their owners, often prompting breed specific legislation or breed bans.

Potential bully breed owners must realize their dog's need for human companionship and the importance of obedience training to prevent dominant behavior. If a dog exhibits dog aggression, the owner must be vigilant in preventing fights with other dogs and maintain control of the dog at all times.

Being a responsible bully breed owner is extremely important for the sake of the breed.

Back to index

Bully Breeds - The Dark Side

Dogs of the bully breeds are tenacious, strong, agile, very loyal, and have a desire to please their owners. Unfortunately, these traits have attracted the worst of humanity. Unethical people have taken the positive characteristics of these breeds and have turned them on people which accounts for some dog attacks. In the end, the dog pays the ultimate price - death; the wreckless owner gets a slap on the wrist. However, laws are being created to bring harsher penalties against abusers. Animal fighting is now a felony in the state of Illinois. Also, in 2007, President George Bush signed the Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act into law. This law provides felony penalties for interstate commerce, import and export related to animal fighting activities, including commerce in cockfighting weapons. It will make it much harder for criminals who engage in dog fighting and cockfighting to continue their operations. Each violation of the federal law may bring up to three years in jail and up to a $250,000 fine for perpetrators.

Even hideous mistreatment of these dogs can rarely squelch their inherent goofy and happy nature or their desire to be with people and to please them. This is proven time and time again in cases of dogs rescued from extremely abusive situations such as dog fighting. Given a good home, they can and do bounce back. For prime examples, read about the dogs rescued from Michael Vick's dog fighting compound. See their amazing journey from confinement and abuse to freedom and happiness:
SEE THE UPDATE: From their rescue, to their evaluations, and on their way to happy homes.

Other Online Resources on Bully Breeds


Back to index