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October is National Pitbull Awareness Month: Busting the Myths

October is National Pitbull Awareness Month

When is national pitbull awareness day (NPBAD)? That depends on who you ask. 

Kennel to Couch says it’s October 26th. National Today says it’s on October 23rd. The ASPCA claims it’s on October 24th, and some say it’s the last Saturday in October. 

It doesn’t matter which day you choose -- October is National Pitbull Awareness Month. So let’s talk about pitbulls and bust some myths, clear up some misconceptions and get down to the facts about this big beautiful breed.

History of Pitbulls

Pitbulls were originally bred from English bulldogs. Looking back to the early 1800s, bulldogs were crossbred with terriers to become pit bull terriers. Around the time of the Civil War, when British immigrants came to the United States with their pit bull terriers, the breed was renamed the “American” pit bull terrier.

At first, pitbulls were bred to fight. But shortly after arriving in America, they took on a more well-rounded role of not only herding cattle and sheep, but also protecting livestock from wild animals and guarding humans against thieves. 

The rise and fall of the American pit bull terrier

Friendly, brave and hardworking, pitbulls found their place as “the all American dog.” In fact, pitbulls were used as the nation’s mascot during WWI & WWII. Loyal to their human owners, pitbulls quickly transcended from mere work dog to loving canine companion.

The breed was often found in advertisements, commercials and even on TV shows (remember Petey from the Little Rascals?). Everyone wanted a pitbull, including Helen Keller, Mark Twain and Humphrey Bogart. Even Roosevelt and Edison had one.

But as quickly as they rose to stardom, the pitbull quickly fell back down the ranks, settling in as a “regular” dog.

In 1976, Congress amended the Animal Welfare Act of 1966 to (among other things) make dogfighting illegal in all 50 states. Sadly, dogfighting resurfaced in the 1980s. That’s when people began to buy and breed pitbulls for unlawful purposes with no regard for proper socialization and temperament.

Is that where it all went wrong for the pitbull breed? Surely the media didn’t help with titles like Time Magazine’s “The Pit Bull Friend and Killer,” and Sports Illustrated’s “Beware of this Dog.”

Through no fault of its own, the pitbull was now portrayed as a dangerous monster rather than a friendly family member.

Coming full circle

Thanks to widespread education and devoted advocates, the pitbull is turning the corner once again. Yes, people bred pitbulls to fight illegally. Most that were saved from underground fighting rings were also sentenced to euthanization as they were deemed as unable to be rehabilitated.

But the media couldn’t deny the truth when the “Vicktory Dogs” -- the dogs rescued from Michael Vick’s Bad Newz Kennels in 2007 -- found foster homes and were given a second chance in new furever homes. 

As it turns out, these dogs are capable of being rehabilitated. Forty-eight of the 51 dogs rescued successfully overcame their troubled start in life, and emerged as loving, loyal canine family members.

Reclaiming their rightful title as the “All American Dog,” today’s pitbulls can often be found working in law enforcement detecting narcotics, or showing off their strength in agility sports. Their protective, loyal personalities make them terrific service and therapy dogs. 

And when they’re not on the clock, they can also be found lounging around the homes of stars like Jessica Biel, Jennifer Aniston and Rachel Ray, to name a few.

About the pitbull breed

How long do pitbulls live?

American pit bull terriers have a lifespan between 12 and 16 years.

What’s the temperament of pitbulls?

Stubborn, friendly, affectionate, intelligent, loyal, obedient, clownish, gentle and, of course, brave.

How big is a pitbull?

Male pitbulls grow to 45-53cm tall and weigh in at 16-30kg as adults. Adult female pitbulls stand between 43-50cm tall and weigh 14-27kg.

Do pitbulls come in different colours?

They sure do! You can find black, white, fawn, brindle, beige, grey, red and brown pitbulls.

Debunking some myths about pitbulls

Myth: Pitbulls lock their jaws when they bite.

Fact. No breed of dog is capable of “locking” its jaw. Pitbulls do have a stronger bite than smaller dogs, but that’s simply because of their size. The larger the dog, the stronger the bite. Rottweilers and English mastiffs actually have a stronger bite than pitbulls.

Myth: Pitbulls are the most “dangerous” breed.

Fact: In a study analyzing 10 years’ worth of dog bite data, researchers determined the bite incidents to be “preventable issues unaffected by the dog’s breed.” 

Myth: Pitbulls are more aggressive toward other dogs.

Fact: There are no studies proving that any one specific breed is more aggressive toward other dogs than another breed.

Myth: Pitbulls are naturally vicious.

Fact: According to the Canine Humane Network, "Pitbulls are not inherently aggressive.” In fact, it’s just the opposite. According to the American Temperament Test, “pitbulls and mixed breeds consistently score above the average for all breeds tested, year after year."

Myth: Pitbulls are not suitable as family dogs.

To the contrary, pitbulls make wonderful family pets. They’re known to be affectionate, loving and loyal companions.

Now we want to hear from you. What are your thoughts about pitbulls? Share your stories and opinions with us in the comments below.

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