Pit bulls once enjoyed a wonderful reputation. In fact, some of the most famous dogs in American history were pit bulls. The image of a pit bull, which was considered a symbol of bravery and reliability, represented the US on recruiting and propaganda posters during World War One. Famous figures such as Helen Keller, President Theodore Roosevelt, General George Patton, President Woodrow Wilson, Fred Astaire and Humphrey Bogart shared their homes with pit bulls. The pit bull star of Little Rascals, better known as “Petey,” became just as popular as the children. They were commonly referred to as “nanny dogs,” because they were loyal and caring companions for children. So, how did the pit bull fall from one of the most highly revered breeds in America to one of the most feared? The answer to this question usually lies at the other end of the leash.
Like any other breed of dog, pit bulls are shaped by their environment and, if not provided proper socialization and training, can be encouraged to show aggressiveness toward people. In tests conducted by the American Temperament Test Society, evidence shows that pit bulls are actually less aggressive toward people than many other very popular breeds today. As of March 2011, scoring a passing rate of 86.4% the pit bull surpassed the scores of many popular breeds including the Beagle, Border collie, Golden Retriever, Lhasa apso and Maltese. Unfortunately, when people began looking for a “macho” dog to meet their demands, the pit bulls strength and intimidating appearance caught their attention. Sadly, these types of people don’t value these dogs as companions, but rather as weapons. This is where the problem usually starts. When headlines start filling up with reports of pit bull fighting and attacks, people tend to blame the breed as a whole and often ignore the owner at fault.
Responsible bull breed owners must understand that their actions can impact the rights of others to own bull breeds. It’s imperative that pit bull owners become breed advocates and model responsible ownership practices in order to help overcome the negative reputation of the breed brought about by irresponsible and careless owners. It’s important to remember that these dogs are living, breathing creatures that have the potential to become life-long companions and friends if we just give them the chance.