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It all happened so fast: the neighbor’s pit bull came out of the open front door growling, my two leashed pit bulls started to bark and lunge, and I tripped on the curb as I backed onto the opposite sidewalk, falling down and accidentally dropping the leashes.
Suddenly my dog Radar, a fearful little rescue with scars on his face, was bolting across the street towards another tough-looking dog, and there was nothing I could do to stop him. My “good dog” Ralph retreated to the sidewalk and lay down, as if to say, “I can’t watch.”
Radar chased the neighbor dog inside the house, and I prepared myself for the worst. Although Radar has never been in a fight, I didn’t know the neighbor dog, and they were both so worked up, it seemed something terrible was about to happen. Thankfully, once they found themselves in the living room, they seemed too stunned to do anything else. My boyfriend grabbed Radar and carried him outside just as the neighbor finally came around the side of the house with her baby on her hip, having missed the entire ordeal.
In the end, nobody was hurt. My neighbor and I apologized for our respective dogs’ behavior, and I made a mental note to finally enroll in that “reactive rover” training class I’d been considering for months. I need to make sure something like this never happens again.
All dog lovers owe it to their pets to be responsible, attentive guardians, but pit bull parents have an even more important role: to be a breed ambassador for these marvelous, misunderstood dogs.
How to be a pit bull breed ambassador
Know the pit bull personality
Pit bulls are fun, affectionate dogs with a long, impressive history. They’re intelligent, active, funny, and all-around adorable. They’re also frequently misrepresented in the media due to harmful and pervasive myths, and no matter how great your dog is, chances are you’ll encounter somebody who thinks poorly of him because of his breed. You can help change public opinion about pitties by learning all about them and helping show off their true, wonderful natures to the world.
Know your dog
Every dog is different, even within a specific breed. For example, some pit bulls love other dogs, and some only tolerate them, or don’t like them at all. By learning your dog’s preferences and quirks, you can decide what kind of environment is best for her, and help her be a good “ambassadog.”
I know my girl Ralph is gentle and sweet with everyone she meets, so I often take her for walks in busy neighborhoods and on playdates at the off-leash park. Radar, on the other hand, is too reactive for public parks, so he gets his playtime in small, supervised groups with dogs and humans he knows and trusts. They can both be ambassadogs in their own unique ways.
Ralph and radar snuggle up—photo by Elisbeth Geier
Keep your best friends busy
Training will help your smart, motivated pit bull use her best manners everywhere she goes, and as a bonus, it’s a great way to bond! Pit bulls are excellent candidates for Canine Good Citizen training. Thanks to their intelligence, sensitivity, and high cuddle quotient, they also make great therapy dogs.
Athletic pitties can shine in dog sports like lure coursing and agility. Keeping your dog active and engaged in the type of training that suits her best will not only make you both happier, but help combat the myth that pit bulls are dangerous and unpredictable.
Be like the pit bull
Pit bull guardians sometimes need thick skins to deflect ignorant comments about their dogs. Thankfully, our lovable lightbulb-heads set great examples for how to interact in the world. Be curious and engaged. Be active. Be loyal to your best friend. And always be willing to play.
Being a pit bull guardian can be challenging, but the rewards are endless, and you’re guaranteed a lifetime of love.
Just look at these two!