Tuesday, December 28, 2010

the Ins and Outs of language for 2011

“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ourselves so our dogs can escape the generalizations, stereotypes, and myths that bring them harm, here are some outdated terms and ideas that need to be kicked to the curb.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?


Unknown said...

HI Donna! What about pibble? We love it but dont want to be on the out list!

Meredeth said...

I don't know how you feel about this recent event but based on the second to last "out" on your list above, please sign the petition I created to tell Pres Obama what we think of his phone call to the Eagles' owner:

Anonymous said...

Several of my friends and I call them "Pibbles" and I have on friend who calls them "Pibbs".

Erin said...

My fabulous friend and dog trainer always calls my girl a "peebo" which I think is totally darling.

J.M. said...

Great list.
The "bred to fight" is particularly bothersome.
We`d laugh hysterically if someone suggested that humans could be bred to perform certain behaviors but yet some think it makes sense when applied to dogs.
If anyone knows of a human who`s been bred to vacuum,please let me know.

Bindy said...

I agree with the outs and recommended in's. Pittie is kinda like Rottie, never cared that much for either, but they are both terms of endearment and "soften" the sound, rather than PIT or ROT. I call them Peanut Butter Toast (PBT)! Warm, gooey and sweet.

Pinky's Mom said...

What's in a name?

Yes, Pittie does sound like 'pity' but I think that some of us want to somehow avoid the word "Pit," especially when talking to people who are not educated about the breed. I like 'American Pitbull Terrier,' said with enthusiasm, but sometimes I just bite the bullet and say the P-word (As in "Pitbull. YES SHE IS A PITBULL"), even though my instinct is to worry that the nice lady down the street will look at Pinks and think "Pit? As in Fighting Pit? Yikes!" People also just shorten it to 'Pit' but then that doesn't seem right either...Pibble is cute, but then people wonder if I know that it's actually pronounced Pit Bull.

It's a conundrum.


Anonymous said...

Changing breed names or group of breed names always leaves me ambivalent. It always seems to cause more confusion, rather than less. I know it's done in the right spirit, but unless you can get everyone to agree and mount a public education campaign, it just adds another term to the mix. We all know what a "PRT" is, right? Even my friends that have them still call them "Jacks".

(disclaimer: I have retrievers so I suppose I do not get a vote here).

I think "retriever" is out and "ball fetching fanatic crazy dog" should be in. Much more descriptive. :)

Andie said...

I would say "its all about how they are raised" is OUT and "its all about how they are managed" is IN!

Former fighters can be great dogs and great dogs can do very bad things, so dont just rely on upbringing, rely on long-term management!

Nina and Lill, pit bull education team, Espanola Valley Humane, NM

Donna said...

Very good addition, Andie. Thank you.

By the way, we're very proud to call our personal dogs pit bulls. Pit bulls = Good. Although since we don't have proof that they're fullbreed (we haven't done DNA testing yet), it's much more accurate to call them pit bull type dogs.

Anon 4:51 - Not sure if we're changing breed names as much as searching for a better way to describe the hundreds of thousands of 'pit bull type dogs' that are asking for help and understanding. Language is an incredibly powerful tool and its use can help or hurt dogs. For example, you might be very accepting of your neighbor wanting to adopt a victim of cruelty from BR, but would you want your neighbor to adopt a former fighting dog from BR? It may very well be the exact same dog and the same wonderful personality, but one label is going to open minds to that animal and the other will cause it (in many cases) to be rejected and feared.

SheNitz@comcast.net said...

RE: Bully Breed/Pit Bull Type Dog. I like to use "American Not a Pit Bull Terrier"!

The Foster Lady said...

Ah Donna, never stop trying...like the good dog-owner you are. I can't BEAR the word 'pittie'...it is just like chalk on a blackboard to my ears and I could take almost anything BUT that. Because APBTs and their mixes are such proud dogs, such loyal dogs that the last thing they want from us is 'pit'....Compassion, yes, companionship, by the bucket loads..but never 'pity'.

And the Obama thing...you can't even BEGIN to imagine what it is like to live in Philadelphia. You just can't imagine.

Jen M. (booizzy.com) said...

My pibbles have all seemed bred to trust. What you do with that trust determines whether or not we can be friends.

Karen with Elektra said...

I like pibbles! I call ours "our baby"! Sorry, she is so cute and small compared to all our husky's! Maybe she will get a little bigger like Eva Peace? I like this BLOGG!!! Donna and Tim - you just rock!!! love ya!

EmilyS said...

a 2 edged sword. The effort to move away from dogmen-based language (with all the attendant crap: "never trust a pit bull not to fight" ) is entirely laudable. The insistence on seeing our dogs as DOGS with characteristics and behaviors like other dogs: also very important. The growing understanding that "fighting dogs" don't have their behavior set in stone, and that human expectations drive so much behavior, especially in a human-centered breed like ours: EXTREMELY important.

But the growing emphasis on the "warm gooey sweetness" of our breed (which is certainly part of them) can paper over the OTHER side. Which is that our breed was meant to be, and IS, a tough minded, confident no matter what, don't back down, don't give up, take-no-crap dog that does best engaged in a challenging job that involves its body, mind and spirit (which can be weightpulling, search/rescue, detection, agility, or ... therapy/service work). They are tough determined bulldogs and they are highdrive, prey-oriented terriers. Our dogs are not poodles (though even poodles aren't poodles)

I smile at the "pretty in pink pibbles" too, but I fear for our breed if that is all our dogs become.

It's great that those Vick dogs who still remain shut down and fearful (and probably always will) were rescued and are in safe places. They deserve that. But no one should think that THOSE poor creatures represent what the APBT should be (that would be more like Hector and Leo). If your dog's courage isn't proverbial, you don't have a real pit bull.

I'm completely in favor of dropping "never trust you pit bull not to fight" and saying "never set your pit bull up to fail"... as long as people understand what this means for management of our dogs.

Donna said...

Pit bull fanciers can certainly add to the stereotypes. "tough minded, confident no matter what, don't back down, don't give up, take-no-crap dog" can apply to many of the dogs we admire, but does not describe untold numbers of full breed pit bulls that are just the opposite. The word "individual" never had so much meaning and never shook the dog world up as much as it has recently. We learn. We evolve our thinking to match what we've learned. The dogs lead the way.

Diane said...

I am with Pinky's mom 100%.

I am not a pit bull apologist but sometimes I struggle with the "what kind of dog is that?", "is that a pit bull?" or "that is not a pit bull, is it?" questions.

I agree with Donna -- "pittie" sounds like "pity" and I don't like it -- but I struggle for something that sounds sweeter than "pit bull" and I have said it.

I sometimes say "American Pit Bull Terrier" but it sounds a little pretentious in casual conversation. It also sounds like breeder speak. My dog comes from the SPCA.

I sometimes say she is a "little pit bull" which sounds dopey when she is standing right there but she is on the smaller side.

I think over time as the breed becomes more well understood this will become a non-issue. I am forcing myself to say "pit bull" even when it is uncomfortable to do so, and work hard to make my dog the best example of the breed that she can be. And I put really cute collars on her!

Anonymous said...

With all due respect, if you think "bully breed" is a vague catch-all term, how can you believe that "pit bull type" is an improvement?

Those of us with positive feelings about "bully breeds", "pit bull types", "pitties", "pibbles" and "pit bulls" are not the ones whose perceptions need changing. We can use any of these terms with pride.

We need to use language --which I absolutely agree is a powerful tool - to enlighten the rest of the population, who most likely care not a whit about a dog's actual ancestry or DNA. They see a "pit bull type" or a "bully breed", and they are afraid.

Until we make great gains in overcoming bigotry, I would argue for inclusivity, not exclusivity. If my dog is a boxer/American bulldog mix but is feared because of his physical appearance by people who think of him as a pit bull, does that somehow disqualify him from the new IN nomenclature? He will still die if he winds up in a shelter or, heaven forbid, Denver.

Our trainer refers to the dogs I love -- we have 4 bullies/pits/pibbles -- as "American dogs." Works for me.

EMac said...

When people ask me what kind of dog Sienna is, my stock answer is "Rescued and friendly". After about 10 minutes of lovin', I tell them, "Now you can tell people you spent 10 minutes cuddling a Pit Bull and lived to tell about it. I also tend to use Pibble. And if the Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen can be called a Pee Bee Gee Vee, why can't our dogs be called Aay Pee Bee Tee's?

Donna said...

@ Jimbo. Thanks for your thoughts. I'm going to hold off on posting comments about MV here so we don't go flying off track into a whole other topic besides language about dogs.

Pinky's Mom said...

@Diane: Yes, cute collars and t-shirts, ha ha. I totally agree with you about not wanting to sound apologetic, like I am somehow ashamed of my dog's breed or heritage (though again, who really knows exactly what her heritage is without a DNA test!), that's why "Pibble" feels wrong for me.

I have also had the experience of people (my own mother for goshsakes!!) who really want Pinks to be a Bull Terrier, because that way, they don't have to explain that we allow our 20-month-old son to live with (and love) a PITBULL (OMG!!!! A PITBULL!!)

People even shout "Spuds!" or "Target dog!" at us on our walks and I am proud to say that I always reply to them with a "Nope. She's a Pitbull."

Anyhow, I think the right thing to do is to use "Pitbull" and hopefully it will be a non-issue at some point in the near future.

KB said...

A pit dog technically could be any dog that's been thrown into a fighting arena... even a Chihuahua... Personally, I prefer to go back the origins... most of these dogs were based off American Staffordshire terriers or Staffordshire bull terriers, right? So when in doubt, I prefer to just say it's an AmStaff mix (mostly because AmStaff rolls off the tongue better than StaffBull or even Staffordshire Terrier)

Unknown said...

After having had rescued pit bull type dogs (adopted as adults) for the last 6 years (Cysco, adopted at age 3 from the MSPCA-Boston, died from cancer in 2008, and Burma, adopted from DPVHS at age 8 in 2009...and still going strong :-) ), I totally agree with this blog post. The "it's all in how they're raised" just isn't true - as evidenced by the MV dogs and possibly my dogs (who were both strays). Trying to explain to people their breed type...they're never satisfied (and I don't like it either) by "I don't know". With Burma, we had to have DNA breed testing done because Massachusetts Dept of Children and Families wouldn't allow us to adopt children from them if we had a "pure-bred pit bull" in our home. So we had to prove that she's not a "pure-bred" pit. Well, the DNA testing companies don't test for APBT because it's not an AKC breed! She tested as 1/4 Miniature Bull Terrier, plus some: AmStaff, Staffie, Am Bulldog, French Bulldog and Jack Russell. So now I know that she's essentially a bulldog/terrier mutt but when I try to tell people THAT they look at me like I'm in denial! We pit-bull-type dog owners just can't win! and yes, MA DCF did eventually allow us to adopt from them. :-) And EmilyS...Burma is NOT a "don't back down, don't give up, take-no-crap dog", nor does she have a high prey drive so please do not stereotype my dog. She's a sweet, loving nanny-dog type who is absolutely wonderful with children.

Anonymous said...

It's silly not to call your pit bull a pit bull if someone asks. I'm usually very ready to say yes, she's a pit bull is asked. "That's a pit bull?" Yes, she's a cool dog isn't she and yes, she is a pit bull. Why would you be ashamed?

Also I agree that dogs are individuals but we also need to make sure genetics are not ignored. If you get a lab who was breed for hunting and retriever trials, you will expect that the dog likes to retrieve and naturally wants to retrieve because it was breed for these characteristics. Although you can find lots of people who spend lots of money on the perfect working puppy only to have it lack in the drives it was supposedly bred for.

Pit Bulls where initially breed to pit bulls. The dogs that would grab on to the bulls face and hold on the longest where the ones that where bred. If you have a pit bull from true working lines you can expect it to grip, be tenacious, have high prey drive. But not all will just like not all labs fetch.

Today however, who knows what a pit bull is supposed to be. Ambulls, mastiffs, english bulls and other things have been breed in along the way. Backyard breeders breed for different traits than the breed was originally bred for. Responsible pit bull breeders aren't breeding dogs right now. I think that is one reason why you need to look at this breed as individuals. Because of their popularity there really is no breed standard anymore. What is today's pit bull anyway? Who knows.

Marcia said...

We got our Loki when she was only 2 weeks old the mother had been killed in an accident. I was told the pups were pitbull/boxer mix. But with Loki you don't see any boxer in her, she is a tiny, tiger striped ball of wiggles. Luckily I've never had anyone scared to come up to her, I've been asked if she is a Am Staff a few times, we just reply yes she is and she is the sweetest most loving wiggle butt you could ever meet. The most she hurts with is her tail when it gets going at high speed lol.

emkc said...

OUT: fighting breeds
IN: breeds most often exploited by humans

In the shelter where I used to work, adopters would ask me, "Why do you do home checks only for pit bulls and pit mixes -- because they're the most dangerous dogs?" Answer: "No, because they're the dogs most prone to being exploited by people."

Juli said...

I generally use probably APBT when asked what breed my Hero is. I like APBT for him because he has some very terrier traits - he acts like my friends whose various terriers do earth dog around mice (or at the mention of mice), for instance. (Really want to take him to Michigan where there is an earth dog setup that can handle larger dogs.) None of the other terms for our dogs have that terrier emphasis. I also use the historical term Bulldog, because he likely has some other Bulldog breeds mixed in with the APBT.

I think the emphasis on management is key not just for our dogs but for all dogs. There were 6 dogs at my mom's house for Christmas. Poor Hero got to spend most of his time either alone in a room or muzzled due to my sister's hysterical breed profiling. (She threatened to leave, Hero thinks a muzzle just means extra treats.) The dog that actually bit someone (no broken skin luckily) was her developmentally damaged (and therefore unpredictable) lab mix. I was roundly shouted down when I suggested that perhaps that dog needed a muzzle since she couldn't manage the no teeth on humans rule.

Anonymous said...

Pit Bull. My dog is a Pit Bull. I've corrected people who asked if she was an AmStaff, or any of a number of more "acceptable" versions of pit bull type breeds.

She came from a shelter without pedigree paperwork, so I have no idea what breed(s) are a part of her background.

I am proud of her because she is such a sweet, loving dog. When we pass people on the sidewalk, just one glance her way or a small word, and she's heading for the "new friend" because she knows no strangers.

I manage her on-leash in public at all times -- she has a large "personal zone" and is still learning to be comfortable around other dogs. A bag full of treats helps .... she gets something tasty when she sees another dog and looks back at me.

Say it loud, say it proud: MY DOG IS A PIT BULL (and I love her)!


KaraL said...

I run a small Pit Bull type rescue in Texas. In regards to the tough as nails, take no crap comments all I can say is our 13 lb Chihuahua will walk up to any of our own APBT's and take whatever toy they have away from them. My 70 lb Great Dane/APBT mix runs away from her. We do not condone this behavior from Zena (Warrior Princess Chihuahua)but it is pretty interesting that these take no prisoner Pit Bull types surrender the goods.
What I have learned from living with these wonderful dogs is they are sweet, loyal, loving INDIVIDUALS and when properly managed (as ALL dogs should be)they make great family members.I can't imagine life without my dogs!!

Boris said...

While sometimes well deserved: "we'll have to cyber-smack you." :-)
and I like the thought, remind folks
Out: - smacking
In: - positive reinforcement or correction

I know we should treat all as individuals, however I can't help noticing. People can act like the stubborn, 'bull-headed ones' Pit Bull and American Bulldog types in our family...
when pushed or pulled, often they just push back in the wrong direction.

Hoping all Bad Rap Crew and sponsors celebrate the year past and wishes of a rewarding New Year,
Boris' Family

NinaG said...

I am pleased to see that "Bully Breed" is out...I have ALWAYS had an issue with that term. I have heard from "non-Pit Bull people" that they equate that phrase to a school-yard type bully. Personally, I think THAT is the LAST image we want to promote when people think of our dogs.

I am also relieved to see "Pitty" on the OUT. One of my co-workers in the shelter I worked in used to use this term freely w/ potential adopters and never once noticed the perplexed look on people's faces or paused to explain that it was a nick name for a Pit Bull.

And I LOVE Andie's statement:
"its all about how they are raised" is OUT and "its all about how they are managed" is IN!

Because we have to admit that genetics plays a strong role in how nature (or the manner in which an animal is raised) affects that animal's behavior and temperament.

One voice counts said...

T h a n k y o u

Donna said...

@ Julie. Tim and I use the term bulldog, too. We don't use it in written form too much though since it's bound to give people the impression that American Bulldogs are essentially pit bulls. Love my bulldogs, though.

Sorry to hear about your family trials at Christmas. You have much more patience than I do!

@ Nina G - I still think of 'bully' as positive word for our dogs "Bully for you!" but combining it with breed - Bully Breed - has been getting messy. ie, a mastiff is involved in a negative news story and suddenly it's the same thing as a pit bull since you know how those bully breeds are all the same. We don't have the political power to reclaim those words, but by easing back on the use, we can help them lose their charge.

Alex said...

Well, I've always been partial to the term chunky headed baby or angel, so maybe that will take the world by storm and they'll be know as the Chunky Headed Terrier :3

Dianne said...

This is a fantastic OUT and IN list for the New Year! I love it!

A lot of what I do is humane education as an adoption counselor at the shelter and adoption events. Here are some of my thoughts.
I have heard others say they don't like "pittie" and to me that just goes along with "sheltie","collie","scottie" - other affectionate names for breeds. I usually emphasize that they are (usually) mutts. I also like "wiggle butts."

"Bait dog" - man I hate this one. I over heard someone describing a dog as a "bait dog" when in fact she had skin allergies and was being treated for them.

"tough as nails" -- I've yet to see one. What I say is they tend to be people pleasers. My favorite example was a mama dog who would work with you for treats. But she didn't really care for the treats, so when you weren't watching she'd quietly spit them out.

I emphasize the "American" and the "terrier" aspects -- loyal, like to dig, like to tug.

Jill said...

I always say pitbull when someone asks. My pitbull is a perfect ambassador for the breed; she's gentle, sweet, happy, beautiful and has giant brown saucer eyes that will melt you (no, I'm not biased, I swear!). She's a one-dog ignorance-buster.

kirstan Sanders said...

Definitely NOT pittie, pit, pibble, furbaby, furkid or whatever else NON DOG term people use. They're dogs, so maybe we could call them 'dogs'. Why does it have to be breed specific unless one is specifically ASKED? I hear SO many people saying things like 'my pit does this'... why? They're dogs. Great dogs.

If someone asks my breed of dog, one is a pit bull (or apbt, etc.) and one is a dane/pit bull cross. I rarely get asked. It's pretty obvious on both dogs.

It's also pretty obvious they are doted on, adored, cherished, and WORKED. They're teammates, not children. It's also quite apparent that I do not appreciate other people's dogs snarking at either one of my 2. :)

who wouda thunk it?? said...

any Pit Bull that lands in a safe, compassionate home, is certainly RESCUED from an uncertain future. I think the answer to "is that a pit bull??"" should be..... "he/she is a rescue dog"

Donna said...

Yep, Kirstan .. we all seem to be coming full circle at the same time on this topic. Dogs. Just dogs.

Anonymous said...

Our first dog trainer suggested "St Francis of Assisi Terrier".... but in private, I will admit to calling my 7mth old pup "my litlle peebo" occasionally

Cathy said...

I tend to use the term "fathead" when referring to any big thick-skulled pooch, but that's probably just me. :)

mikken said...

Out - Dog Fighter
In - Dog Abuser

semidesi said...

I just met a "Pit Bull Type" dog today who really had the phenotype of what the common layperson views as a "pit bull" - a largish stocky 75 pound brown dog with a blocky large head. I generally just refer to dogs that look like this as large dogs because in reality it is very hard to know. In this guy's case, his phenotype did not match his actual genotype which was lab (the new ones are much bigger and have huge heads) with ridgeback. His owner said the rescue knew what his parents were. In his case he didn't have the "type" of either parent breed but just looked like some "big ol' bulldog lookin' dog." Luckily we're in the North Bay so there isn't any BSL here as I know of, but if she went somewhere where there was, she would get in trouble for owning him just because of his appearance. Though I am quite inexperienced, he didn't look particularly pitbullish to me though. He seemed too big. He was pretty calm for a lab mix though, which was interesting.

Juli said...

What about just dropping the "Pit Bull" and calling them American Terriers? It matches up with their close relative the Staffordshire Terrier and putting the emphasis on Terrier helps people understand their need for exercise, work, amusement and management - which really is common with the smaller terriers too.

Semidesi - I've seen a lot of very pitbull looking labs. My mom's purebred field line lab has a proportionally bigger neck and as big of a head as most APBTs, though a slightly narrower nose. I live in Portland where "black labs" are ubiquitous (and often mix breeds), I suspect that some of them actually have quite a bit of APBT in that mix.

Anonymous said...

But they are bred to fight. If we wanted to be respected and trusted, we have to tell the truth. And this has nothing to do with people, please don't make the comparison as dogs are not people. Every breed was created and bred for a purpose, and the purpose of fighting dogs is to fight. Pretending otherwise while giving them cutsie names is probably why there are so many problems in the first place. Its not management, its not abuse, its genetics. Let's start being real - no minds will ever be changed without the truth.

Katie said...

Mine are "pit bulls" too to anyone who asks. It's a term most people understand (on whatever level) and I want people to connect my friendly well-behaved dogs with the horror stories on tv. It helps drive home my point that it's an owner issue, not a dog issue, and that well-owned pit bulls are perfectly good dogs.

And yes, dogs are individuals, but breeds exist for a reason.

She Who Loves Book and Dogs said...

Sometimes, if the person is the argumentative type, that just wants to argue with me about my dog breed, I just reply that: "She is an Ethiopian Collie!" It stumps them EVERY time!

Respectful people get a real answer, and Suzy loves those type of people because they always hand out attention and treats!

Thank you for all of the work that you do for this breed!

Emily Browning and Suzy Q

Brooke said...

Well, I've said mine's a "long nosed boxer" on occasion. But usually we call her "killer pit bull of doom" because she is extremely licky and will lick your skin off with all the love she wants to give. :) Round here, the only folks who say "that's a good lookin' pit" tend to be the type who have one (with a huge set of testes) so they can be cool, or worse, dogfighters.

Donna said...

I understand your opinion, anon 11:18. Many disagree with us on the "bred to fight" point, but we're going to keep sticking our necks out on this one even though it may be unpopular with pit bull fanciers especially.

Unfortunately, pit bulls seem to be one of the only breeds whose historic negative use is still used to define them -- to their detriment. Pit bull people can learn a lesson from Rottweilers, Doberman and German Shepherd people, who avoid cramming the negative history of their breeds in their breed descriptions. Just imagine if every Rottweiler bio, website and news article called them out as reliable tools for intimidation with a historical presence in one of humanity's worst genocides. Really? Who needs a breed like that on the planet.

Instead, their devotees are wise to point out their many attributes as well as their owners' responsibilities in owning them.

In our experience after taking so many pit bulls from fight busts into our homes, the dogs display a normal amount of terrier traits and are no more willing to fight than any other type of terrier IF set up to fail. The blessing of having so many of these dogs over the years is seeing how willing they are to be social with other dogs. This is not what the dog fighters told us they would do.

Pit bulls won't be able to get out of their darkest hour until society understands that they are first and foremost, born to be companion animals that are especially eager to please their owners. While it's true that their history includes people who've used and abused their terrier nature for gain, the dogs themselves - especially the dogs from fight busts - have been reminding us again and again and again that they are much, much more than humans' attempts to refine anti-social behavior.

They ARE companion animals and we should allow that to be what defines them.

Robin Pruitt said...

i dont want to be on the "out" list either, but I call my "foster failure" abused pitbull my "pretty pittie" or even more my "pitty pittie" to even further baby the words all the time (usually said in a very sugary sweet tone too, lol)

Anonymous said...


The pit bull is first and foremost a dog fighter - these dogs were never bred for human companionship as their main function. Never. Just like it was never the main function of the German Shepherd to terrorize Jews, it was just one thing they were used for. (You really didn't think the two were equal, did you?) I have to agree with Anon 11:18 that not being honest doesn't help the situation. Not all pit bulls want to fight, but it doesn't change the fact that fighting was what they were created for and is their primary intention. It is the reason we see so many news reports featuring our dogs. To borrow your words, pit bulls won't be able to get out of their darkest hour until advocates understand that they are first and foremost, born to be fighters, regardless of if pleases their owners or not. I have no idea where the myth came from that pit bulls are companion animals and have this insane loyalty that makes them fight (hello?) but it is setting pit bulls up to fail, and fail horribly, while making their owners and rescues like yours sound terribly uneducated. It is sad when BADRAP can't get it right, and leaves very little hope that the average owner will do any better. It makes my life as a pit bull owner all that more difficult and frustrating as non-owners know the truth and assume I believe the BS the rescues say. They tell me that the reason they don't want pit bulls around is because they don't trust owners to care for them the right way because they have been given the wrong information form groups like yours. And I'm starting to agree with them!

Donna said...

Anonymous - You're not getting it. You're using one of the historical uses of the dogs as their defining feature, a mistake that the Rottie and GSD people have been wise to avoid (you don't think the Germans selectively bred their guard stock?).

We're using the current use of the dogs as their defining feature. Companion animals are not pitted, but socialized properly and managed responsibly as all dogs should be. Even working dogs with extreme drive deserve the same. Using language that ties them to a past that was - to be honest - not as successful as dog fighters would have you believe (hello Hector and friends), holds the dogs back and puts them in the crosshairs when they fail.

"Of course they fight - they were meant to fight." No. Of course they can and do fight when people get stupid. They're terriers, they're dogs -- but since dog fighting became illegal, every pit bull born is essentially born to be a companion animal. Whether they actually get to live a life as a companion animal is up to us.

This view doesn't absolve anyone - pit bull owner or otherwise - of their responsibilities as dog owners.

Donna said...

Anon: 2;33.
Out of respect to this topic, dialogue uncloaked, please.
Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Hi Donna,
I'm not sure how I missed this the first time around, but I just discovered it when you linked to my blog post about language today on facebook. This is awesome, and as always, really well said. It's great having you guys as mentors. Hope to see you when we're out there next week visiting the barn!
Aleksandra (& Ben, Sir Chick, and foster Curious Georgia)