FAQ about "pit bull" dogs

Mythbusting The misinformation that can lead to breed restrictions

There is nothing anatomically unique about the jaws of “pit bull” dogs.  Read more

No. An American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) exhaustive review of dog bite studies conducted in North America and elsewhere concludes “pit bull” dog specific regulations are not helpful in preventing dog bites because “serious bites occur due to a range of factors.”

There are many reasons for the high numbers of dogs label “pit bulls” in shelters.

The main reason being the use of visual identification to breed label dogs. This leads to inaccurate and bias-induced labels.

Additionally, local breed specific policies may make it difficult for families to keep their dogs. This is a particularly difficult issue for renters in areas where landlords aren’t welcoming to large dogs or certain breeds.

However, this is not a reflection on the “pit bull” dogs themselves, rather the reactionary policies that affect them.

What we commonly know as “pit bull” is a label arbitrarily applied to various breeds and breed mixes.

And even if there was an applicable breed standard, there is no valid scientific evidence that one breed or type of dog is uniquely capable of inflicting serious injuries.

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There is nothing unique about the neurological system of a “pit bull” dog. All dogs, regardless of breed label, experience pain. How each dog responds to that pain will vary but the response cannot be predicted by breed.

The myths around “pit bull” dogs make for great sensationalized reporting.  Publishing and broadcasting stories about dog bites that are perceived to involve “pit bull” dogs – even if those dogs are not correctly identified – results in ratings and clicks.

Additionally, thanks to the stereotypes, people are quick to visually identify any dog involved in a bite as a “pit bull.”

Historically, some American Pit Bull Terriers (APBTs) were bred for that purpose, but they were also bred to be family dogs and farm help. To look at the APBT through the narrow scope of dog fighting is to miss out on their long and positive history in our country as cherished companions.

Plus, we can’t isolate the history of “pit bull” dogs from the history of dogs in general. If we use “historically bred for” as an indicator of future behavior, for any kind of dog, we are showing an unsophisticated understanding of dog breeding, dog genetics, and dog behavior. Breeding, conditioning, and training a dog for a specific purpose, no matter what that task may be, is a complex process.

If we look at modern “pit bull” dogs, the idea of them being “historically bred for” anything is irrelevant. We can’t possibly know what these dogs were historically bred for because the modern “pit bull” dog is made up of a diverse group of dogs with no agreed upon pedigree or phenotype. Many dogs labeled “pit bulls” are mixed breed dogs of unknown pedigree or other pure bred dogs.

We have no idea how a dog will behave simply because we’ve guessed at their ancestry, nor can we know what purpose-bred specific role or tasks (if any) might present themselves in an individual dog’s behavior.

Rather than rely on “historically bred for” to make determinations about an individual dog, look at the dog in front of you.

The term bait dog is a label people use to describe dogs used in dog fighting. Bait dogs do exist, but you won’t typically find them in shelters. Sadly, according to law enforcement professionals, these dogs are rarely found alive during dog fighting investigations. However, an unusually large number of dogs end up with the label “bait dog” based on nothing more than speculation about the dog’s past and appearance.

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