Last week, I kicked off Pit Bull Awareness Month by debunking some common pitty myths. This week, I hope to replace those myths with some doggone common sense. Our handlers have found that it does wonders for all dogs, including Rescue Ranch pit bulls.
All dogs are potentially dangerous
Dogs of any breed can bite. Not because they’re bad dogs but because they’re dogs. It’s unfair to ascribe human motivations to them. What’s also unfair, is to ask them to know how to behave without teaching them. Still, that’s what we often expect.
The fact is that dogs try very hard to understand us, but this cross-species communication isn’t easy. They not only have to learn words and what they mean, they have to learn that human gestures may or may not correspond to the words or tone they’re hearing. To complicate matters, dogs are naturally inclined to prioritize body language. So trying to correctly interpret all of the conflicting signals we’re sending them, is really hard work.
Now, imagine that you’re a dog who’s assumed to be “naturally aggressive.” That you’re afraid, unsure, and lack confidence. Perhaps you’ve been loved but never socialized, trained, or given proper boundaries. Or maybe you’re a traumatized rescue, betrayed by humans. Would you know what to do?
Maybe we should spend more time trying to understand them.
Use common sense and avoid disaster
A mentally or physically damaged dog can indeed be very dangerous, regardless of breed or type. But Pit bulls are no more reactive to people, or likely to bite, than any other dog. Small dogs bite. The problem is that while a single Chihuahua bite is painful, it’s rarely life-threatening. On the other hand, a single bite by a powerful dog can be.
Dogs have a communication ladder that escalates to a growl, or a bite, when earlier signals have been ignored. Admittedly, some dogs cycle rapidly through warning stages and are not safe for inexperienced handlers. But again, it’s not the breed, it’s the individual.
Pit bulls have a bad reputation in large part because unscrupulous people are attracted to their “tough” look and use (abuse) them in terrible ways. You can make any dog “mean” if you hurt them enough.
We’ve found that with Rescue Ranch pit bulls, or any dog, we get good results with respect and a little doggone common sense.
Doggone common sense tips to get you started:
- Adopt a dog appropriate to your skill level and lifestyle.
- Supervise all young child-dog interactions.
- Make proper introductions with new dogs and humans.
- Learn to communicate your expectations effectively and never assume your dog knows what they are.
- Learn to read your dog’s “communication ladder” and intervene before matters escalate.
- Socialize and train your dog.
- Aways stay in control (leash, fence, crate train).
- Never put your body, or any body part, between two fighting dogs.
- Never reach for the food bowl or toy of an unknown dog.
- Don’t assume your dog is comfortable in a new situation.