|My name is Doc. Pretty sure I'm a pit bull.|
I posted something about this on Facebook recently, and I ranted a bit, but I'd love to hear some feedback from anyone out there who might be reading this blog.
Once again, I was browsing Facebook and came across a post insisting that "pit bull" is a meaningless term and not a breed and that not every pit bull is an American pit bull terrier. (Of course not – American pit bull terrier owners, in particular, are usually adamant about insisting that just because you have a pit bull does not mean you have an APBT.)
But all of this backing away from our dogs being pit bulls, or even related to pit bulls, is making me wonder: Why is being a pit bull such bad thing? Why would anyone who loves pit bulls feel compelled to back away from a dogs' likely heritage? (And by heritage, I'm talking general breeding heritage here, not dog-fighting history – just the dogs' heritage as related to the breeds that have always fallen under the label "pit bull.")
No, every dog being called a pit bull is not an American pit bull terrier. Some are American staffordshire terriers, some are Staffordshire bull terriers, some are mixes that do indeed appear to be primarily one of those breeds, and indeed some are being erroneously called pit bulls when they probably have little or no pit bull in them. Just like some black-and-white-spotted dogs with little or no Dalmation in them might get passed off as Dalmations and some dogs with black-and-tan pointing that clearly mutts might be called Rottweilers. But the purebred-looking Rottweilers that come into the shelters aren't called "Rottweilers" in quotes, or Rottweiler-type dogs or dogs with Rottweiler-type markings. Adopters aren't discouraged from thinking it might be a good idea to learn something about the Rottweiler as a breed before they take the dog home. Likewise with the Dalmations, the Golden retrievers, the German shepherds – not every dog with pointy ears and a black-and-tan coloring is a German shepherd, but people who know the breed well can make an educated guess and feel fairly confident calling a dog a shepherd without feeling like they have to hedge their bets or steer people away from thinking it might be one.
Everyone who knows dogs knows that within a breed there is always a wide range of individuals. Even within a line or family of dogs that are closely related there are individuals. Even within a tightly bred litter there are individuals. And on top of that, there are factors like environment and socialization and handling that will play into what a dog will be like when it matures. So of course we should judge dogs as individuals, if we're going to be put in a position to judge them, which is why pit bull lovers have long opposed the kill-all-pit-bulls policies that used to be so hyper-popular everywhere. Far more than they are now. You can't say all pit bulls are alike, just like you can't say all retrievers are alike.
What I'd like to know is why can't we have both good dogs that are individuals AND pit bulls? Why can't our pit bulls just be good dogs that deserve the same fair shake as all other dogs? Why do we have to try to back away from the possibility that they might even be pit bulls? If we want people to take us seriously as responsible pit bull owners, shouldn't we acknowledge that our dogs – whether they are of the gamedog, purebred show dog, working dog or shelter dog variety – are good dogs not DESPITE the fact that they might be pit bulls, but because pit bulls aren't inherently evil? They are, just like other breeds of dog, just dogs. But they are also pit bulls. And that's OK. At least to me it is.