By Mary L. Harwelik of The Real Pit Bull, Inc, Guest Blogger
Editor’s Note: The American Pit Bull Terrier, a highly intelligent and quite loyal dog, has been villainized as being overly aggressive and dangerous. Mary Harwelik, founder of the Real Pit Bull, a 501(c)3 volunteer-driven nonprofit in central NJ that focuses on educating the public about this lovable breed, debunks 8 myths about this often maligned breed.
Myth 1) Pit Bulls have locking jaws. The jaws of the Pit Bull are functionally the same as the jaws of any other breed. “There is absolutely no evidence for the existence of any kind of locking mechanism unique to the structure of the jaw and/or teeth of the American Pit Bull Terrier,” says Dr I. Lerh Brisbin of the University of Georgia.(From the American Dog Breeders Association’s booklet, Discover the American Pit Bull Terrier.)
Myth 2) Pit Bulls chew with their back teeth while gripping with their front teeth. As stated above, the Pit Bull’s jaws are, functionally speaking, the same as all other breeds.
Myth 3) Pit Bulls don’t feel pain. Pit Bulls have the same nervous system of any other breed, and they can and do feel pain. Historically, those dogs that would tolerate or ignore discomfort and pain and finish the task they were required to perform were the dogs that were bred and the sort of dogs breeders strove to produce. This is the trait that so many breed fanciers speak of, which may be defined as, “The desire to continue on and/or complete despite pain and discomfort.”
Myth 4) Pit Bulls have more bit pressure per square inch than any other breed. There could not be any conclusive testing done to measure something like strongest breed bite pressure per square inch. A reason for this lies in the fact that dogs bite with varying pressure depending upon the situation. A dog cannot be instructed to bite down on a measuring device as hard as possible, so a tester could have no way of knowing whether or not a particular dog being tested is actually using its jaws to capacity in any given testing phase. There are also size and strength variations among breeds. A very large Pit Bull may bite harder than a small Rottweiler, German Shepherd or other breed, while a standard sized Pit Bull may not have as much jaw power as a larger, typical sized Rottweiler. If one breed is to claim “highest bite pressure,” all breeds would have to be compared. And there are hundreds of breeds.
Myth 5) Pit Bulls attack more people than any other breed. Bite statistics are difficult to obtain accurately. Dogs that are referred to as Pit Bulls in statistical reports actually are a variety of breeds and mixes. Also many people have a difficult time identifying a true Pit Bull. Considering these facts, the actual number of attacks attributable to American Pit Bull Terriers is considerably lower than represented.
Myth 6) The brains of Pit Bulls swell and cause them to go crazy. Prior to the boom in Pit Bull popularity, the Doberman Pinscher was rumored to suffer from an affliction in which, as the dog grew, the skull became too small to accommodate the brain. This would, according to the rumor, cause the Doberman to go crazy or just snap. This rumor could never be proven, and indeed had no merit whatsoever. Now that the Doberman fad has run its course, the Pit Bull has inherited the swelling brain myth.
Myth 7) Pit Bulls turn on their guardians. Dogs, as a species, do not perform behaviors just because. There are always reasons for behavior, and when aggression becomes a problem the reasons can be such things as improper handling, lack of socialization or training, a misreading of dog behavior by the guardian, or disease. Aggression, when it presents in dogs, follows specific patterns. First come the warning signs, then more warning signs, and finally, using its teeth. When a guardian is startled by a sudden, aggressive outburst, it is because they have been unaware of problems that were brewing. This is true of all dogs, not just Pit Bulls.
Myth 8) The only thing Pit Bulls are good for is dog fighting. Unfortunately, a large amount of attention has been brought to the fact that the Pit Bull was originally created for fighting other dogs in the pit. The truth of the matter is that the Pit Bull is one of the most versatile of canines, capable of excelling at just about any task its guardian asks it to complete. This breed is routinely used for: obedience trialing, conformation showing, weight pull, agility and has even been know to participate in herding trials, search and rescue work, and a variety of other tasks including police and armed services work. But fanciers will argue that the task this breed performs best of all is that of a beloved companion.