Saturday, March 21, 2015

Bully: Owning a Pitbull

  • Man, watch out. You might wake up one day without a face.
  • Aww what a cute puppy! What breed is he? Wait. What? He's a pit? Oh my god.
  • That one looks like a fighter!
  • The trouble with those dogs is their jaw pressure-- so strong they can do some damage even if they don't mean to.
  • Aren't those thug dogs? 
  • Pitbulls are great dogs. As long as you keep them firmly in hand and control their nature. 
  • Aw I like pits. Just wouldn't have one myself. Too risky, really. 

These are just a few of the casual comments dropped when we tell people Solo's breed.  Other reactions include the minimal: such as raised eyebrow or a startled "oh!" Or, the more extreme: peopel circumnavigating us entirely by crossing the street to avoid walking past Solo. Or, if they do choose to risk walking by us, they may draw their arm up to their chest in fear that Solo may take a casual bite out of their hand as he pads past. My personal favorite pit-phobia came from a kennel owner who learned Solo's breed and proceeded to raise the cost of boarding him, explaining the increase as "insurance against the strong likelihood that he would tear down her fences."

Mmhmm. All right lady. Whatever you say. How's bout I just take my business elsewhere? 

It's the rare individual who actually pauses and pats Solo's head without commenting on his breed, the size of his head, or other "notorious' characteristics. It's the rare person who doesn't make a joking, fearful, or patronizing comment. It's the rare person who treats Solo simply as what he is: a pet dog.

At first, this treatment of our little pup bothered me. With a huff, I thought: Who are you to comment on my life choices? If I want to own a pitbull, I'll own a pitbull. Go educate yourself! And while you're at it, mind your own business, you bossy-butt.  Then, slowly over time, I grew accustomed to the comments and remarks. Now, when someone shies away from Solo, I do one of two things: I either make him sit and let his sweet face and waggy tail do the talking, or I simply ignore their over-reaction, striding past with my pup, on or way to toss his frisbee or his favorite little ball.

Yet let's be real and face it: a notorious stigma--largely overblown thanks to the media--does surround the breed. Making the decision to own a pit was a definite choice to put up with prejudice and ignorance. And this on top of the typical responsibility of owning a puppy.  So what has owning a pitbull taught me?

  • Mind your manners. Train your dog.Teach him to sit, stay, heel, and walk without pulling. It's amazing what can be accomplished if you just mind your manners, act courteously, and be considerate. How does the saying go? You get more with sugar than you do with vinegar. 
  • Hold your tongue. Don't snap or scoff at people who express an uninformed opinion. Demonstrate your pitbull's sweet personality by having him lay down or sit. A submitted, well-trained pooch is much less intimidating. Then, share a happy pitbull fact. "Did you know that pitbulls were once trained as nursery dogs because they're so good with children?" "Did you know that pitbulls actually have some of the best temperaments of all dog breeds? "Remember Petey from Little Rascals?" A difference of opinion may simply exist because the other person doesn't know the simple facts. 
  • Wag your tail and move on. Some people--no matter what you say or do--are going to be negative, rude, and cause trouble. You can either whine about it or, like Solo, just wag your tail and move on. It pays to know when it's time to just walk away and brush it off. 

Surprisingly, I think that having a pit has taught me more about people than it has about dogs. Do any of you own a pitbull or another of the "bully" breeds? I'd love to hear about your dog and any anecdotes/lessons you may have from owning a pitbull. Share in the comments below!

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