We all know I love pit bulls. It’s no secret that I do my best to promote, defend, and praise the breed any chance I get. Well I have to admit, for years, I have done the breed a huge disservice. What?! That’s right friends, I have actually been setting the breed back with my good intentions.
Ok, what in the world am I talking about? I’m talking about this line: “It’s not the breed, it’s how they’re raised!” This line, which I have always been quick to offer up any time I hear someone badmouthing pit bulls, is actually wrong. Sure, I was saying it with only the best of intentions, but here is the underlying message I was actually conveying: “If a pit bull is raised well, it will be a good dog. If not, it will be a bad dog.”
Let’s think about this. I basically just told the person that already dislikes the breed that a dog with an unknown past, in which it could have been raised badly, might be a bad dog. Or that a dog that was raised bad is a bad dog. Do you see how flawed this is? I was basically telling this person that the only way to know if the dog is going to be good or not, is to get it as a puppy and raise it yourself. I implied that once bad, the dog has no hope. Whoa, and I also just also did a disservice to adoptions! Another thing I am a huge advocate for! Not cool Morgan, not cool at all.
So what is it that I should have been saying all along? “It’s not the breed, it’s how the dog is managed!” You see the difference? By saying this, which I believe is absolutely true, you are not damning a dog with an unknown past but instead giving them the green light to still be good dogs. And you are giving the person permission to believe in the dog and understand that while it may take a little more work, it can still be a great dog.
Let’s look at some examples. First, we have little Maggie Moo. I honestly can’t remember if I’ve ever said this on my blog before or not, but I have good reason to believe she was used as a bait dog for dog fighters. If this isn’t a bad past, I don’t know what is. I didn’t raise Maggie, she was around a year and a half old when I got her, but I have managed her correctly and she is a great dog. Yes, there was a learning curve. No, things weren’t perfect from the start. I learned how to work with Maggie and have spent a great deal of time doing just that. If you met her today and I didn’t tell you a thing about her past, you would never know she hadn’t been “raised” perfectly. See how by saying “it’s how they’re raised” instead of “managed” could have been detrimental to Maggie if she hadn’t ended up with Last Hope Rescue and people that understand that every dog deserves a chance, despite their past?
Another great example is the Vick dogs. I don’t really like to call them that, because it reduces them to nothing more than victims (which they are so, so much more than) but since that’s how most people know them, it’s just easier. But I digress. These dogs were raised anything to be anything but good. Their past was probably ten times worse than whatever Maggie experienced but they too are shining examples of “it’s not how they’re raised, but rather how they are managed” that makes or breaks the dog. We can all agree that they weren’t raised well but since they were rescued from Vick, they have been managed extremely well. If you haven’t already, I highly recommend that you check out The Lost Dogs. It’s a great book and I talk about it more in depth here. To sum it up quickly though almost every single one of these dogs went on to lead wonderful, happy lives, with some even becoming shining ambassador’s for the breed that now are publicly recognized for their greatness. They are very real, very public examples of “it’s not how they’re raised, but how they’re managed”. Read all about them and see great pictures here.
And these are just a few examples of dogs that came from bad backgrounds but, through proper management, are great dogs. Every day dogs are rescued from horrible situations and go on to lead wonderful lives. And of course this applies to all breeds, not just pit bulls. Think about it this way: if a dog, any breed, is raised perfectly but lands in the hands of a bad person, they could potentially turn into bad dogs. This is not to say that they will, just that it could happen.
There was a wonderful article that I read that talked about this in much greater depth. I wish I could remember it so that I could direct everyone to read it, because it made such an impact on me. Since I can’t I urge everyone to spend some time thinking about what I’ve said today. If you are guilty of saying “It’s how they’re raised” like I was, I hope that you think a little before you say it next and possibly change your wording just a little. Who knows, you might just change someone’s mind and help them see the potential in all dogs, not just shiny new puppies.