“Language shapes the way we think, and determines what we can think about.” - Benjamin Lee Whorf
Various catch phrases of every kind have been used over the years to shape how society views - and ultimately treats - pit bull type dogs. In the interest of evolving ourselves so our dogs can escape the generalizations, stereotypes, and myths that bring them harm, here are some outdated terms and ideas that need to be kicked to the curb. In the new year, we encourage better, cleaner language to help listeners gain a better understanding of the breed, and a more practical and compassionate view of dogs in general. Here's hoping that 2011 represents a period of fast growth and that even these new-and-improved terms will be replaced once again.
OUT - "Bully Breed"
What the hec IS a bully breed, anyway? We have no idea. This catch-all phrase has been used to stereotype more than help by causing some to apply over generalized traits and behaviors to several different breeds of dogs and breed mixes, including boxers, boston terriers, mastiffs. Aye! It gets so messy. Seriously, let's help the dogs and phase this term out.
IN - "Pit bull type dog"
We aren't terribly fond of this term either, but it matches 'our' dogs more than any we've found yet. Let's hope a new and better term emerges in the new year to describe dogs that appear to be pit bulls. With that in mind, remember that we've already learned from the scholars of the world that properly identifying breed type based on physical appearance alone is virtually impossible. Here's why.
OUT- Temperament test
IN - "BEVAL" (short for behavior evaluation)
We now know that you really can't see a dog's true temperament through any given 'test.' At best, we can get a snapshot of personality type by observing behaviors during assessments. On that note, the word 'temperament' has been dropped altogether in some circles and replaced with the more generous word, 'personality,' to reflect an animal's flexible nature, given his environment and handling.
OUT - "Fighting dog"
IN - Victim of cruelty
Needs no explanation. Lots of cruelty victims are ready to see the term 'fighting dog' go far, far away.
OUT - "Bait dog"
IN - Victim of cruelty
Like nails on a chalkboard, 'bait dog' is one of the most over-used and irresponsibly applied terms used to describe dogs with scars and unknown histories. Drop this one like a hot potato, please.
OUT - "Bred to fight"
IN - Born to be a companion animal
Since when are dogs born ready to be abused? Stop saying pit bulls were 'bred to fight,' or we'll have to cyber-smack you.
OUT- Mandatory spay/neuter.
IN - Dog owner support programs.
Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) including mandatory spay/neuter laws are always out. Teach a man to fish and change the world. (For a less cryptic example of owner support, visit our webpage on outreach programs, and watch us power it up in 2011.)
OUT - "Trained to fight"
IN - Abused ... Victimized ... Encouraged to be anti-social.
Seriously. You don't need to train a dog to defend himself or to scrap with other dogs. You simply set him up to fail in several different ways. The Vick dogs taught us well; when dogs fight, people are always to blame.
OUT - "It's all about how they are raised."
IN - "It's all about how they are managed."
(Thank you Andie of Espanola Valley Humane, NM). Last we checked, dogs are still animals with behaviors that need to be managed by responsible owners no matter what kind of upbringing they have had. This definitely applies to all breeds, however some of the most abused and mistreated pit bulls out there are leading the way with reminding us all that dogs are a reflection of their owners.
OUT - Using images of pit bulls you haven't actually helped to fundraise for your cause.
IN - Actually helping pit bulls.
OUT, OUT, OUT - Celebrity dog abusers and their political allies.
IN - Compassionate, kick ass, boots on the ground advocates who work tirelessly to help the dogs.
OUT - "Pittie"
IN - Anything but pittie.
I have to admit that last one is a personal pet peeve (pit peeve?) and not necessarily a needs-to-go-away term, but if you must use it to describe your dog, recognize that it sounds like pity to some ears - aka pitiful. And our dogs are anything BUT pitiful. But I promise not to wince too hard if you use it in front of me, since clearly, it's a term of endearment - and what's sweeter than that?