The pit bull used to watch over kids. But now it's got a bad rep. Here's how to fix it.
How a stereotype is killing some of our Earth's most cutest and family-friendly friends.
Once upon a time there was a dog called the Staffordshire bull terrier. It was so good with kids, it was called the "nanny dog."
The Staffordshire bull terrier is a version of the pit bull breed. Much like pit bulls, it combines the tenacity and determination of the terrier with the strength and loyalty of the bulldog. It's like the Anna from "Frozen" of dogs.
The Staffordshire and the American pit bull are a bit like cousins. They're both great for protecting your kids, your cows, yourself, your sister and her ice castle — and like all protective things, it comes from a place of loyalty and love and affection.
And also like all protective things, it can be a little hard to deal with at first.
So get to know it! Do your research! Pit bulls are very similar in ancestry and in natural-born temperament and nanny-like history to Staffordshires. Helen Keller had a pit bull! And that dog who watched over The Little Rascals? Pit bull. So what happened to these wonderful, kid-friendly animals?
Overbreeding, bad training, and neglect, especially for pits. And repeat. Then repeat. Then repeat again. Pretty soon you go from farmers in England being all, "YES! The nanny dog will be amazing for my family!" to everyone being all, "OMG, pit bulls are murderers. The end."
1.2 million shelter dogs total are killed each year ... and pit bulls and other misunderstood breeds are a huge part of those adorable friends we've lost.
No one, not pit bulls and not babies, comes into this world as evil. We're shaped by the world's expectations of us, and pit bulls are a perfect example of that. In this video, "evil" pit bulls are wearing monster hats, reading with kids, and (as far as I can tell) laughing!
Expectations, y'all. Check'em.
The perception of pit bulls is 100% our fault.
That's good! Because all we have to change is ... our minds!
We can change how we care for, train, and think of pit bulls — and we get cute friends as the reward.
If people learn more about pit bulls — the whole breed as well as their own individual dog habits — PEOPLE can adapt their behavior, and everyone will be happy as a result. Know thy dog and be well!
That being said, you can't train your dog by changing your mind. Specific dogs require specific care. You wouldn't take someone who loves to do tae kwon do to the ballet and expect them to plié and pirouette with Misty Copeland. That person would really mess up that ballet and probably kick Misty Copeland in the face!
But take that same kick-happy tae kwon do person to a soccer game, and you might see some interesting fieldwork and possibly some goals. Score.
Same is true of dogs. Play to their strengths and offer them positive ways to express their innermost selves. All dogs — pit bulls included — will respond accordingly.