Busting Myths: Can Pit Bulls Be Good Pets?

In order to match thousands of dogs and cats each year with the right homes, adoption advisors at PAWS spend a lot of time listening, sharing ideas, educating and, sometimes, busting myths. Because American Pit Bull Terriers and mixes of the breed account for 20 percent or more of the dogs available for adoption in shelters, PAWS' staff and volunteers work diligently to dispel the most common myths that may keep potential adopters from considering some really fantastic dogs.

Myth #1: Unpredictable around children

The truth is that Pit Bull Terriers have enjoyed a long history as family pets. When well-socialized and properly raised, these dogs can be perfect for tolerating kids' rambunctious play. While some dogs might not be suitable with all little ones (they can accidentally knock them down) common sense dictates that young children should be taught how to properly interact with all dogs and should never be left unsupervised with any breed.

Dawn Kaestner was open to the idea of welcoming a Pit Bull into her home. When she took her family to PAWS to look for a companion for their 11-year-old dog Scarlett, Shelter Manager Lisa Hockins introduced them to Rhodes, a handsome red-nosed Pit Bull Terrier mix. Dawn appreciated the careful matching process.

"I loved that you required other dogs in the home to interact with the shelter dogs [during the adoption visit] to ensure a good fit," she shared. Dawn and her sons, nine-year-old Jack and seven-year-old Owen, found Rhodes irresistible and renamed him Sheldon after adoption. "We fell in love with Sheldon. Sadly, a week after bringing him home, our dog Scarlett was diagnosed with a blood platelet disease and died suddenly. Our family was devastated but Sheldon proved a nice distraction, especially for our sons."

Myth #2: Can never be trusted with cats

Most dogs of any breed will have the strong desire to chase after cats or smaller animals. It's a trait leftover from their days in the wild. Anyone who wants to add a canine friend to a family with felines should always find out more about the individual dog's experiences and behavior before making the decision to adopt. Contrary to popular belief, Pit Bulls shouldn't be automatically ruled out. In reality there
are endless examples of Pit Bulls who live in beautiful harmony with cats, birds and other pets.

Pit Bull sleeping with two kittens

Above: Pit Bulls, like many other dogs, can be loving, trusted friends with feline family members.

Myth #3: Can't do anything but fight

Pit Bulls have excelled in many dog sports such as agility, search and rescue, tracking, obedience, and pet-assisted therapy. As an ambassador of the breed, Guiseppe goes to work every day with his guardian. He demonstrates his admirable qualities of patience, gentleness and a love of human attention while walking in Seattle's Greenwood Seafair Parade. In addition, the Washington State Patrol has several Pit Bulls who are trained to sniff out bombs. Those dogs work side by side with officers to protect citizens from terrorist attacks.

Myth #4: Only owned by drug dealers and gang members

Mukilteo Animal Control Officer Shanita Duke shares her home with rescued Pit Bulls Thor and Scabby, and world famous chef Rachael Ray loves and travels with her Pit Bull Isaboo. Pit Bulls are the trusted companions of many different people from all walks of life. From athletes and celebrities to law enforcement officers, this loyal companion has a long, successful history of peacefully living in our society.

At PAWS we have met hundreds of Pit Bulls and other dogs with the characteristically large square head who are loving, gentle, wonderful companions simply looking for someone to give them a chance. It's no secret that those who choose to adopt one of these jewels must daily combat the stereotypes. They must continue to be good ambassadors for the breed through attentive, responsible guardianship. With their help and yours, now that you are armed with the truth, one day these myths will be history.

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