Here are 12 important tips for responsible pet ownership. Please read these carefully because they are paramount to being a great owner with a breed ambassador. In today’s media, responsible ownership and having stellar breed ambassadors is critically important to dispelling myths, misinformation, and breedism:
- Never allow your dog to roam free. Your dog should always be leashed when outside of your home or fenced yard for their protection. Unlike a Golden Retriever, when a Pit Bull approaches a stranger unleashed, people will automatically assume that the dog is vicious and take quick action to remove the dog from their area. The public will not hesitate to call animal control, or even the police, when they see a Pit Bull on the loose; bully breed dogs have been killed by police officers for no reason other than being in the street unleashed. This is an unfortunate truth.
- Never take your dog to a dog park. Even if you think your dog is wonderful with other dogs, all it takes is one incident. Small playgroups are best for dogs, so check your local Craigslist or join a Meet-up group to find other responsible owners looking for ways to socialize their dogs. Also understand that first time meetings should be done properly. You can also contact your local Force Free training facility; they will often be able to help. It’s a really good idea to use the services of a Force Free training facility to assist you in setting up appropriate play groups.
- Take your dog to training classes. Ongoing training classes are best for ALL dogs. This is important because it is much more difficult for people to look down upon your dog when he is well-trained and behaved. Show off your well-educated Pit Bull every chance you get!
Note: Skip the training facility (or individual trainer) that uses prong, pinch, or shock collars, touts anything about dominance theory, or uses punitive methods for training. Some red flag terms/phrases to look for are: “master trainer”, “balanced trainer”, any kind of board and train option where you cannot be involved with what is going on, i.e. sending your dog away to be trained, “different training methods for different dogs”, the terms “alpha” or “pack leader”, etc. If you have questions, please always feel free to reach out and ask. You don’t want to train your dog with outdated and completely discredited methods and take the chance it will ruin your dog and your relationship. There are trainers out there who will try to hide what it is they do, at least initially to get your business. If they are telling you to do something to your dog that makes you uncomfortable, listen to your gut and leave.
- Socialize your dog as much as possible before and after they reach maturity. Dogs do not fully mature until about 3 years of age (give or take), and around this time some owners may notice a dramatic change in their dog’s tolerance of other pets. In order to keep the peace, and for your dog to be able to handle new situations with confidence and pleasure, ongoing socialization is a must. With both people AND dogs! Socialization does not mean visiting your local off-leash park and allowing your dog to run wildly, an obedience class in which your dog is surrounded by, but not directly interacting with other dogs is still being social. Any time you can bring your dog out with you to a public place will help with their socialization and help them to deal with various situations.
- Be a responsible parent! Do not allow your dog to be subjected to people who are belligerent or cruel, as your dog has a keen sense of knowing who likes them vs. who does not care for them so much. By forcing your dog to interact with these types of people, you are being an irresponsible owner. You would never force your human child to deal with an uncomfortable situation you placed him in, so do not expect the same from your dog. Do not allow people to approach your dog inappropriately, you are your dog’s best advocate!
- Know where your dog is at all times. Do not leave your dog outside unattended. Safely tucked inside the house is the only place your dog should be when you are not home or you cannot directly supervise him. You have no idea what is going on in the yard when you are away – children could be teasing your dog or your dog could be practicing escape techniques they tend to perfect oh-so-quickly. You also don’t know who might decide they don’t like your dog and toss an anti-freeze laced steak into your yard. A little far-fetched? Maybe but it has happened! When you aren’t there, you have no idea what could happen and won’t be present to stop it.
- Many dogs need a job. Not all dogs are made for police work or able to be trained as a service animal, so think small. A job can be obedience classes, taking a walk with you every day, sitting at your feet while you are on the computer in the evenings, or following you around the house while you do chores. Pit Bulls and other bully breed dogs are highly intelligent animals with above-average problem solving skills; they need to feel important and needed.
- Daily exercise is a must. Playing fetch, hiking, bike rides or whatever you love to do, your dog will be more than willing to participate.
- Spay and neuter your dog. Altered pets live longer and generally healthier lives. It’s just that simple.
- Understand that your dog may be dog reactive. Take precautions and use common sense – do not allow your dog to run up to unknown dogs, and never allow unknown dogs to run up to your dog. You are your dog’s advocate; you should never expect your dog to automatically be friendly with unfamiliar dogs, especially without a proper introduction. Some dogs cannot be around any other dogs at all, and dog reactivity/aggression is not something you will be able to train out of your dog. You can curb reactivity and often control it, but not stop it altogether. The key to dealing with any reactivity is to understand your dog’s particular triggers and work on controlling the behavior, but most of all – love your dog for who he is! This is not a flaw, this does not mean you have a bad dog nor are you a bad owner, it just is. Management, consistency, and dedication are all important.
- Never trust a dog not to fight. Even though your dogs are the best of friends, it’s better to be safe than sorry. All it takes is one time for a fight to break out. This is especially true with multiple dogs in one household of the same sex. Crating and/or separating by rooms are both safe options to use when you are not at home.
- Do not breed or buy while shelter animals die. Thousands of Pit Bull type dogs die in shelters each year, and bully rescues are often up to their necks with requests for dogs needing to be surrendered. There are many wonderful pets out there waiting for their forever homes, so instead of going to a breeder or breeding dogs for yourself, contact a rescue or shelter and save a dog from certain death. Instead of being part of the problem, be part of the solution.
Pit Bull Myths and Truths
“Pit Bulls have locking jaws.” The jaws of the Pit Bull are functionally the same as the jaws of any other breed, and this has been proven via expert examination.
The few studies which have been conducted of the structure of the skulls, mandibles and teeth of Pit Bulls show that, in proportion to their size, their jaw structure and thus its inferred functional morphology, is no different than that of any [other] breed of dog. There is absolutely not 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 ADBA booklet, “Discover the American Pit Bull Terrier.)
Common Health Issues
There are quite a few very common ailments and emergency situations that can crop up with a new (or even existing!) pet. It’s important to be able to recognize them for what they are and have some idea on what to do about them.
What is BSL?
Breed-specific legislation is a law or ordinance passed by a legislative body pertaining to a specific breed or breeds of domesticated animals. In practice, it generally refers to laws or ordinances pertaining to a specific dog breed or breeds. In laymen’s terms, this is legislation that restricts your right to own the breed of your choice. It concentrates on the breed rather than owner responsibility, where the focus SHOULD be.