Training Your Ambassador
by Barbara De Groodt
As with so many issues in our society, opinions about them get polarized. Often the truth lies somewhere in the middle. This is the case with the Pit Bull. Many times, those who love the breed don't see anything wrong with it; and those who are afraid of the breed will say every Pit Bull is dangerous because they’ve seen or read something negative about it.
Guardians of Pit Bulls or any bully-breed type of dog have the opportunity for, and even the responsibility of, raising a well-trained, well-socialized dog to act as an ambassador for the breed. This is one way we can begin to reverse the discrimination that is currently plaguing these breeds.
What is a Pit Bull?
The reality is that the term “Pit Bull” has become a very generic term. Any dog who is muscular
and has large cheek muscles is quite often termed a Pit Bull by the media, law enforcement, and the general public.
Importance of Training
In my training center, I am always stressing the importance of early training and socialization, as well as continued training for several years. This applies to all dogs, not just Pits. Pit Bulls are not separated into classes of their own at my center. They are integrated into my day care and training classes just like any other dog.
Evolution of Traits
In the shaping of dog breeds, certain traits were desirable to meet different types of needs. A dog who would fetch and carry probably became a bird dog of some sort. Hounds were bred for their sense of smell and tracking abilities, and so on. The Pit Bull breed was originally used for the bloody sport of bullbaiting, in which a tethered bull would be immobilized by a group of “bull dogs.” Therefore a dog who had gaminess (not aggression) was selected for breeding. The term “gamey” in this context, means that the dog has a very strong work ethic, and it does not equate to aggression.
The Pit Bulls’ strong work ethic makes them perfect dogs for obedience, search and rescue, and tracking. It also makes them excellent therapy dogs and service dogs. Several police forces use Pit Bulls very successfully for their canine patrol.
Even though the American Pit Bull Terrier (APBT) has historically been bred for bullbaiting, and later for dogfighting, a well-bred APBT has a rock-steady temperament and, contrary to popular belief, is NOT inherently aggressive toward humans. However, as adults, some APBTs may show a tendency for aggression towards other dogs; but just as many bird dogs don't know what to do with a bird, many Pit Bulls are not aggressive toward other dogs.
Know Your Dog
A well-informed and responsible dog guardian will know the shortcomings of his individual
dog, and will not put her in situations where she will fail. It is the guardian’s responsibility to work toward minimizing undesirable behaviors and training his dog to be a good citizen.
The bottom line is the Pit Bull, like any dog, must be trained properly—with respect and with humane, pain-free methods. We who love the breed know they can be great dogs when in the hands of a responsible, well-informed guardian who treats them with the love and compassion they deserve.