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5 broken pit myths and 9 reasons why pits make awesome canine companions

I have a confession to make. When I was very young, I was terrified of pit bulls. We had a white one that lived next door and he was a grumpy dog that made me incredibly nervous. What I realize now, is that he had a horrible owner! One that encouraged his aggression and vicious breeding. In fact, that dog actually killed the other dog that resided there at one point while we sat helplessly and watched through the fence. It was a less than stellar introduction to the breed, but it was the 80's and we didn't know then what we do now.

As a teen, I was around many great Pitbulls, one named Cindy, I'm pretty sure was more pot-bellied pig than she was a pit bull and was as sweet as could be. And then there was Chopper. Chopper was an amazing dog we had as a teenager, he looked for all the world like some type of collie cross, but those who know dog breeds often knew otherwise. Despite looking like a collie, he was a pitbull coyote cross. He was a dog we rescued as a pup, him and his brother when working up in a logging camp. He was incredibly smart, gentle, and loved sticks and swimming in the lake we were working at. He tolerated kittens climbing on him like he was Mount Everest and children trying to give him a cookie he knew he wasn't allowed to have and I'm pretty sure he could smell peanut butter for miles. He climbed trees and treehouses, glided down slides, and was the best mountain biking and camping companion a teen could ever ask for.

As I grew up, I learned more about Pitbulls and had the joy of working with many over the years and I was heartbroken how much false media was being falsely relayed as facts. And let me tell you, my perception after working with many of them, is a far cry from my version of them in my head as a child. Including the AMAZING and beautiful girl, you might have noticed above. Her name's Emma and she's a THRIVER! She had her two front legs broken as a pup and underwent many many painful surgeries to help them heal again so she could walk and run again. These days, she can be found doing amazing zoomies and hanging out with her amazing mom.

I know now they are extremely loveable, smart and are amazing companions that regularly get a bad rep because of BAD PEOPLE. Even with pit bulls that have been betrayed by the other end of the leash, many are often able with a lot of time and care - to be able to trust and love again over time. It's a huge tribute to their kind, strong and generous spirits.

So today is Pitbull awareness day so I thought I'd share 5 huge myths (that have been scientifically proven to be false yet still keep getting relayed as fact) and also 5 reasons why they make incredible canine companions for the right owners on the other end of the leash.

First up: 5 Myths (often relayed as fact but aren't) about "Pitbulls"

1. Pitbulls attack humans more than any other type of dog. An often-cited study showed that Rottweilers and pit bulls were involved in more than half of fatal dog attacks. However, that very same study acknowledges that these results are not conclusive for several reasons. First of all, “Pitbulls,” are often misidentified. This is because of the old myth (that I've also lumped into this main myth) that Pitbulls are a breed of dogs. Many of you will think of these cuties when you hear the term ‘pitbull’, but they’re actually American Pit Bull Terriers, a breed of dog that falls under this Pit Bull umbrella alongside American Bullies, Bull Terriers, and Staffordshire Bull Terriers. Pitbull is short for “American Pit Bull Terrier,” though this term is used to describe ANY short-haired, mixed-breed dogs with blocky heads between 35 and 100 pounds in weight. A dog labeled as a pit bull may actually have any number of distinctive breeds that make up its heritage: American Staffordshire Terrier, Bull Mastiff, Boxer, Cane Corso, or Labrador Retriever just to name only a few of the many bloodlines that could create a boxy, short-haired dog. Ironically, the loose term of “pit bull” emerged in the 1930s when the American Kennel Club came up with the name “American Staffordshire Terrier” to distance the breeds from violent myths. But it just further confused things and as a result, the general public found it much easier to just say “oh, that’s a pit bull.” So, when you’re judging pit bulls for their supposed tough-guy image, remember it’s actually a number of different breeds you’re generalizing.

2. All Pit Bulls are mean and vicious. The truth is that The American Temperament Test Society is an organization that records the results of their standard temperament test for many dog breeds. The average pass rate for all breeds is 83%. That said, 84.5% of American Staffordshire Terriers and 86.8% of American Pitbull Terriers pass the test. This means they’re slightly more likely to pass than many other breeds. Compared to only 77% of the general dog population passing. These temperament tests consist of putting a dog through a series of unexpected situations, some involving strangers. Any signs of unprovoked aggression or panic in these situations result in the failure of the test.

3. Pitbulls “turn on their owners” and snap without warning. Neurologically healthy dogs never attack without reason, and rarely without warning, no matter what breed they happen to be or not be. All dogs are vulnerable to being misunderstood by us humans – we communicate in vastly different ways. We usually interpret a wagging tail as a sign of friendliness, but a stiff, slow wag can indicate insecurity – a warning to stay away. Flattened ears, “whale eye,” yawning, and tongue-flicking are all subtle signs that fearful dogs show when they feel uncomfortable. When people inadvertently ignore these signs, the dog may feel they have no choice – and must bite to avoid an uncomfortable situation. Some tips to keep you out of such a situation? Avoid approaching dogs you do not know. Give your dog space while they eat and sleep, and educate your children on dog safety. Never leave your child unattended with any dog. And never, ever punish your dog for growling. Growling is a normal, acceptable way for dogs to warn us – without it, they might skip the warning signs and bite.

4. Pitbulls bite the hardest and lock their jaws on their victim. On a National Geographic special, Dangerous Encounters, Dr. Brady Barr measured the bite force of several dogs and other animals. The American Pitbull Terrier was shown to have the lowest bite force when contended against the German Shepherd and Rottweiler. However, ALL the dogs had an average bite force of 320 pounds of pressure. Pitbulls, like all large dogs, are strong and equipped to cause damage – just not to the point of being particularly dangerous compared to dogs of the same size. The idea that a pitbull’s jaw locks, however, is completely false. No breed of dog has any special jaw mechanism that makes it impossible for them to let go. Pitbulls are often large, strong dogs, and need an owner who is capable of controlling, training, and managing them – just like all large, strong dogs. The few studies which have been conducted of the structure of the skulls, mandibles, and teeth of pit bulls show that, in proportion to their size, their jaw structure and thus its inferred functional morphology, is no different than that of any breed of dog.

5. Pit bulls’ brains swell/never stop growing. This rumor started with the Doberman and has since been often repeated about many game-bred dogs in general. The concept of an animal’s brain swelling or growing too large and somehow causing the animal to “go crazy” is not based on truth in any way. Their brains grow at the same rate as any other dog, and the only time that a Pit Bull’s brain is going to swell is if it receives a serious injury. If an animal’s brain were to grow too big for its head, the animal would die.

Now, onto my favorite and hardest to narrow down into a shortlist - but here are 9 reasons why "Pitbulls" make amazing canine companions.

1. Pit Bulls don’t require much grooming. Their short coat is very low maintenance and they can be bathed in very little time — not that they need to be bathed often. They do not need to be brushed (though most enjoy it) or get doggie haircuts, and their fur is not naturally odiferous.

2. Pit Bulls are very eager to please people. A Pit Bull will do almost anything his favorite people ask of him, just to hear their praise. These dogs crave our attention and approval and are very social with humans. This devotion to people has contributed heavily to the bad reputation of Pit Bulls because bad people often use a Pit Bull’s eagerness to please to train the dog for nefarious or criminal purposes.

3.Pit Bulls are often very athletic. A Pit Bull will definitely motivate you to get daily exercise, whether you only want to walk around the block or train for a marathon. Pit Bulls also tend to excel at dog sports like agility. However, Pit Bulls are not obsessive about exercise, as some breeds and are just as happy to snuggle on your lap on the couch.

4. Pit Bulls are super loyal. When you adopt a Pit Bull, you have a friend for life, through thick and thin. While Pit Bulls are not good guard dogs because they just love people so much, they may intercede if someone or something threatens “their” humans.

5. Pit Bulls are hilarious. Just like people, all dogs are distinct individuals, but Pit Bulls are usually bursting with personality and they love to make us laugh by clowning around. They are fun and playful, even as they get older. If you need more laughter in your life, a pitbull can definitely help you with that!

6. Pit Bulls love, love, love people. And Pit Bulls do not discriminate against humans for any reason - even when we discriminate regularly against them. Even when a Pit Bull does not like other dogs, they typically love humans and are happiest when they are with us. They remind us of this by wiggling happily and kissing us often! It is one of many reasons why pit bulls are great family pets.

7.Pit Bulls love to cuddle. Even the most athletic Pit Bull will also have a sedentary side and crave being hugged and petted. Adopt a Pit Bull and you will have a constant companion keeping you warm in bed, on the couch, on your lap in your favorite chair. Did I mention that many Pit Bulls don’t realize they are too big to be lap dogs? For this reason and because they are so trainable, Pit Bulls can be excellent therapy dogs!

8. The Pit Bull smile. Pit Bulls are great for your mental health. If you are having a bad day, one look at your Pit Bull’s huge smile and lolling tongue will surely make you smile and their zest for life is infectious. Truly, happiness is a Pit Bull smile!

9. Pit Bulls are great with children. Pit Bulls are a loyal, people-oriented breed that thrives as part of the family. They are affectionate with both adults and children. Note: All children should be taught how to interact with animals and should ALWAYS be supervised when playing with any animal.

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