You might have caught the most recent viral news on Pit Bulls lately. The bulky and brawny Hulk has been making Internet rounds, both capturing the attention of people everywhere, and starting conversations about the breed that need to be had.
I love Pit Bulls — I am an advocate for them, especially for the pups that need homes. I even fostered one myself. In my experience, I’ve found Pit Bulls to be sweet, loyal dogs that want to love and be loved. Their relaxed and happy natures make them great companions and family members.
My love for Pit Bulls has led me to take a stance on those that perpetuate negative stereotypes for these lovable pups, further contributing to their “demonized” reputations. I find it troubling that Pit Bulls like Hulk are bred for specific looks and features (i.e. overly gigantic proportions and thick muscles). Please note, I am not condemning dog owners for obtaining pets from reputable and responsible breeders.
In order to explain my perspective on the dangers of this kind of breeding and why a dog’s DNA shouldn’t be sold for thousands of dollars, let me talk about my foster Pittie. Two years ago, a wonderful, sweet girl named Peach came into my life. Peach was an owner surrendered Pit Bull who spent most of her four years outside, had a few litters of puppies, and was dog aggressive. She was also terribly skinny and recovering from a surgery that was performed after she was critically wounded by another dog.
Yes, I fostered a dog-aggressive pup, and she changed my life. Peach loved humans both young and old. When Peach met other humans and no dogs were in the environment, she acted like any other dog. Playing, napping, begging for treats, and being near her humans is what she loved best.
As I got to know Peach on a deeper level, I began to recognize hints and clues to her past. Giving treats outside was a major no-no — if there was another dog on the street, she assumed that pup would steal her food. I noticed one of her teeth was almost flat, as if it had been filed down. She cowered if she heard loud voices. My heart began to break for this pup, but I knew I had to be a part of a positive change. Working one-on-one with Peach and other Pit Bulls made me realize how deeply dogs are affected by trauma, which led me to volunteer at shelters and perform other works of charity to help emotionally wounded pups.
I wanted my foster dog to feel love and be accepted by the world. Fortunately, Peach was eventually adopted by a loving family in the suburbs. But not all dogs end up being as lucky as Peach. Many don’t even make it to foster homes or even find forever homes. Many are euthanized or live out their days in a shelter because of their stigma: violent, uncontrolled, and mean. My foster had emotional trauma done to her at the hands of nasty humans. She was left scared and abandoned. With the threat and reality of violence, her only learned knowledge to survive was to respond with other dogs with violence to get her fair share of food. Peach wasn’t born inherently mean or violent. Life circumstances and trauma by humans made her that way.
How can we change this? We all know that dogs respond to warmth and love, as do humans. Also like humans, dogs are shaped by their experience — whether it’s trauma and abuse, or love and compassion. When there’s a designer 174-lb Pit Bull making viral headlines, it contributes to the former experience, not the latter. When you look at a dog that was designed with extreme features in mind — a large mouth, overdeveloped muscles, and an enormous body mass — you see a pup created to feed into an aggressive image. With that, what his humans have him selling mentally and emotionally isn’t the kind of dog that is sensitive and friendly. This is showcasing a dog as dangerous and intimidating, which breeds fear and ignorance among those who don’t know the real Pit Bulls, the loyal, loving, family friendly dogs we know them to be.
Dangerous and intimating can inadvertently cause dog fighting, because after all, that’s what dog fighting rings cultivate, animals that are aggressive and look ready to kill. Additionally, the breeder that created Hulk, “uses shock collars, choke chains, and heavy restraints, and antagonizes them with violence in order to make them ‘the best security dogs’ that they can.” Don’t even these so-called “breeder” training tactics sound a little too much like dog fighting? I thought so.
We must always look at trends, especially those involving dogs, with a clear and present gaze. Why is this popular? And when did it become this way? Instead of marveling at dogs like Hulk for their muscles or the exorbitant price to stud them out, let’s instead take a good, critical look at our obsession for cosmetically designed dogs — and how the price these pups often pay for their popularity is abuse and homelessness.
I don’t want the world to be an ugly place for Pit Bulls. I want the world to be a place where all dogs can get the families and love they deserve. When breeders make designer dogs like Hulk, they perpetuate venomous imagery which makes it harder for these pups to find loving, forever homes. Pit Bulls don’t deserve this. No dogs do.
If you want to get involved with Pit Bull advocacy, please see: Stand Up For Pits Foundation, The Positive Pitbull, New York Bully Crew, Pin Ups For Pitbulls, It’s The Pits Dog Rescue, Dogs Deserve Better, Bad Rap, or contact local shelters in your area to get involved!