So here’s the thing about pit bulls. They really aren’t for everyone.

I know this is going to piss people off, but just hear me out.

As a dog trainer and someone who has been in rescue for over 10 years; and got her start rehabbing pits, it’s frustrating to me when I see rescues and Facebook posts boasting about nanny dog stuff, and that every household should have a pit bull, and all that crap. I just can’t agree with it.

Here’s Rock, my first ever dog of my own. He is something of a pit. I don’t really know for sure, I adopted him when he was 10 years old; overweight, with severe arthritis and an awful ear crop job. I never did a DNA test on him. Didn’t care to, but for ease of labeling and all intents and purposes, he was a pit bull.

So, problem No.1, is that most of the time, dogs in rescues are often labeled as pits or pit mixes, when they aren’t. Just because a dog has a boxy, big head, does not make it a pit mix! Did you know that out of a dog’s 20,000 genes, only 6 genes account for head size/shape, and only 1% of total genes accounts for physical appearance of the dog? That’s insane!! What does this mean? It means you need to look at each dog as an individual. Not a group.  Not all pits are like your buddy’s fat, farty couch potato.

(Check out this cool slideshow by Animal Farm Foundation for more info on dogs and genetics!)

In general, pits really are excellent dogs. I adore them. They are smart, loyal, and funny. But they are also stubborn, pig headed, large, strong with a huge mouth and big teeth with lots of energy and stamina. This means they really aren’t for every home, and I think rescues need to be more responsible about adopting them out. Pits do best when they have training, consistency, a job even. Don’t have something for these dogs to do? Expect them to be hyper trouble makers who get into stuff or destroy things.

Big problem No.2? Rescue denial. American Pitbull Terriers were in fact originally bred in America to fight each other. There is no nice way to put it. What this means though, is that while the genetics can cause the APBT to be inherently dog aggressive, the breed was developed to be social with people. Don’t believe me? Check out the book ‘The American Pit Bull Terrier’ by Joseph L. Colby. Colby created the breed here.

So really, what am I trying to say here?

That pits can be great dogs. But they were never bred to be the “nanny dog.” They are not for everyone. They can be VERY dangerous in the wrong hands, and wrong hands doesn’t necessarily mean a gang banger who wants to intentionally raise aggressive, fighting pits either. Sometimes tough love is needed and a firm owner and handler is a plus.

Pit bull rescue has fast become the trend (THANKS, Michael Vick), and I see more and more novice owners taking on a responsibility they are not prepared for because rescues are creating and selling such a soft, fluffy, idyllic tone around pit bulls. Do yourself and the potential dog you’re rescuing a huge favor, even before you adopt. Do your research, consult with a professional trainer, and be very honest with yourself. Ideally, a rescue is lifelong and you should know what you’re truly getting yourself into. Meet the dog, take the dog for a test spin (foster to adopt if the rescue will allow), find a trainer, and don’t feel sorry for a dog with an awful history. Be aware of any issues the dog has and talk to your trainer right away about how to remedy the issues before they become difficult to manage. Then, go forth and love your pit bull.