The American Staffordshire Terrier: A breed entirely misunderstood

by: Alexis O.

Managing Editor

With so many dog attacks revolving around “pit bulls,” these naturally sweet, affectionate dogs are bashed and banished from many communities for no fault of their own. “Pit bull” is actually a slang term for the official name of the breed. Formally named the American Staffordshire Terrier, this dog has just as much potential to be an outstanding family pet as any other breed. One of the reasons pit bulls have gotten such a bad rap among so many is because they are often used in dogfighting. In the 70s people blamed the Doberman, in the 80s people blamed Germpitbull-story AOan Shepherds, in the 90s people blamed the Rottweiler, and now people blame the pit bull. When will they blame the humans?

Dogfighting has become an increasingly popular “sport” among uneducated, malicious people. This illegal act involves breeding and raising pit bulls to be vicious and mean in order to fight to the death in a ring with other dogs. The whole nightmare of this event revolves around a monetary prize. “When I heard about Michael Vick’s dogfighting charges, I was sickened. I will never support any team who accepts him, and he deserves the same treatment he put those little angels through,” says senior Cindy Nielsen. While many of these dogs are in fact vicious, it is because their masters have trained them to behave this way.

The reason why this breed is so popular in dogfighting is because it is a naturally strong and stocky dog. Its bone structure is stout and compact, making it a hardy companion. Pit bulls are more likely to fight to a greater extent and withstand injuries that would otherwise kill another breed of dog. Sometimes, to toughen up male dogs (who are usually the prized champions), the dog fighters will use them as “bait” in the ring. This involves the “prized” fighters attacking and mutilating the bait dog, who usually is exposed as a young puppy. As this puppy fights for its life, the men will gain control of the other dogs and try to patch up the puppy (Keep in mind that these people are not veterinarians, so a plethora of health complications commonly arise.). Sadly, this puppy, all chewed up and shaking, is scarred for life and now views the world as a life or death situation. Seeing everything as a threat is bound to elicit the “survival of the fittest” reaction, unfortunately creating an aggressive dog.

While ignorant people continue to ban the breed and run for cover when a Staffordshire terrier (pit bull) trots their way, they are not aware of the facts. Just like all people are not murderers and thieves, pit bulls are not all aggressively inclined. Senior Jennifer Streetmon agrees, “One of my good friends owns pit bulls, and they are literally the sweetest dogs I’ve ever encountered. They would not hurt a flea. The stereotypes that this breed faces hurts my heart; this a complete nurture development case rather than nature.” Yes, there will always be that awful owner who mistreats his pit bull, causing it to be mean, but there are so many loving families who overlook this badly misunderstood breed. Dogs are not all the same! If raised right, this breed makes a wonderful family dog, is great with children, and is just as loyal as any other dog can be.

Pit bulls are far from the stereotypical devil spawn that society has made them out to be. They enhance the lives of their owners and anyone who comes into contact with them with their undeniable affection toward people, loyalty, bravery, and positively-channeled, incredible power. Pit Bulls have served key roles in search-and-rescue efforts, excel in agility training, and work nationwide as therapy and service dogs. Famous pit bulls include Petey in the Our Gang/Little Rascals film series and an American poster mascot during WWI.

Since dog breeding originated, dog breeders have bred dogs to attain desired traits and to eliminate undesired traits.  It is no different with the pit bull breed – selectively bred for hundreds of years to fight other dogs. Certain traits were bred into the breed that will stay there forever unless bred back out. It is like the digging instinct of many terriers, the compulsion to run in Greyhounds, etc. Inevitably, some pit bulls will exhibit the “urge” to run after a squirrel or play roughly with a small dog or child. Owners must recognize and accept this fact, or they will not be able to provide competent ownership and have fun with their dogs. While some owners say their dog exhibited no prior aggression before attacking their child, this may be far from what is actually true. Pit bulls can and do interact peacefully with other dogs, children, and animals. Individual dog temperament, early training and socializing, all play an important role in whether or not a pit bull is capable of getting along with other animals and children. Many people successfully keep multiple pit bulls and other pets/children in the same household. Success is based on careful supervision, proper management and training, and the individual animals involved.

As a very famous man (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.) once said, “I have a dream, that my four children will live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character,” and I have that same dream for this breed: that one day, they will not be judged by their breed, but by the content of their character. Dogs do not have a voice, and they rely on people like you to stand up for them. Will you end the discrimination?

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