We at PetPickings.com are honouring the Pit Bull breed in the month of October which is the birthday month of our very own beloved rescue Pit Bull Bruno. We have taken the liberty of declaring October “National Pit Bull Month”, during which we will be publishing various stories and facts related to Pit Bulls in an attempt to provide a better understanding of this highly misunderstood breed.
I’d like to introduce you to our Pit Bull Bruno whose 8th Birthday it is this month. I picked him up as a lost, confused, flea ridden and frightened puppy on 22nd December 2003 from a street in an affluent suburb in Cape Town. As dozens of cars whizzed passed him I couldn’t bear the thought of just leaving him behind as a lost soul in my rear view mirror, so I stopped. As I approached him slowly and talking softly, he looked up at me with hope in his eyes and a wag in his tail, so I scooped him up, put him in the car and that’s where his nightmare ended and my education began.
My initial thought was that he was a large Staffie pup that had perhaps wondered out of someone’s garden gate that had perhaps been accidentally left open. Judging by his teeth and his clumsy behaviour, the vet estimated he was about 10 weeks old. He was a bit thin and riddled with fleas, but nonetheless I was sure he belonged to someone, so I did the responsible thing and reported him as found to all the animal shelters, vets and community newspapers. His comic antics, soppy kisses and incredibly loving nature had crept into all of our hearts, so two weeks later when I hadn’t received a single phone call, he officially became brother to our 3 year old Jack Russell, two cats, two kittens and an integral part of our family.
With the decision made he was named Bruno, taken for inoculations and enrolled in puppy class at a local training school. Three things became perfectly clear at puppy school A:
- Bruno had never been properly socialised before coming to us.
- Bruno was a dominant male.
- The ‘trainer’, who was a young lass of no more than 20 yrs old, was clearly inexperienced and really had no idea what she was doing.
With my furkid leaping on the other puppies, pinning them down with joyful-sporty – puppy-playfulness whilst they yelped with fright, I decided to intervened by hauling him off and telling him a firm “NO“. The young trainer lass reprimanded me as he was “establishing a pecking order in the ‘pack’ of puppies” … in my view however he was behaving like a tosser, reprobate and social retard – behaviour that I wouldn’t tolerate and didn’t find very ‘sociable’. I’m not sure if he ever tried that sort of thing with our Kira the Jack Russell, I somehow doubt it, although he certainly wouldn’t have got away with it. She had him firmly in a subordinate place and exactly where she wanted him in the relationship dynamics of our house.
So off we went to another training school to enroll in puppy class, by which time Bruno was 14 weeks old, we had already wasted 2 weeks of precious time of rehearsed bad behaviour at the other school and were ready to work with more experienced trainers. It was here at school B that I was greeted with large dish eyes and an exclamation of “you do realise that you have a PIT BULL??”, to which my response was, “Oh, ok … “. I glanced down at my boy who was gleefully looking up at me and wagging his tail at supersonic speed. “Are you sure??”. They were apparently very sure and decided not to allow him near the puppy class without even giving him a glance or chance. So into the first big training class we went for the next two weeks, sans socialization of puppy class, until we had an unfortunate incident with an adult dog aggressively launching himself at Bruno whilst he was minding his own business trying to master the ‘sit’ command. Bruno, who by now was a teenager, snapped out of his concentrated sit and reacted. It all was over in a fraction of a second as we pulled them apart, but … as the ‘Pit Bull’, Bruno was expelled from school … yup expelled. I didn’t know they could expell you from dog school? The other dog who had started the altercation of course was permitted to stay. Our first taste of “Pit discrimination”.
Again I found myself looking for and eventually finding school number 3 that was further away, but had qualified animal behaviourists on board and seemed better suited. By this stage Bruno was 16 weeks old, an angel at home with all the other pets, great out and about … until approached by a strange dog. At school number 3 they determined he was expressing ‘fear aggression’ as a result of his bad experience at the previous school and that due to his breed we would need private lessons first before introducing him to a collective class situation. It was here that I learnt about the Pit Bull breed, general training of potentially lethal dogs (German Shepherds, Dobermans, Rottweilers etc …), Bruno’s responses to certain stimuli and how to handle them through positive reinforcement. Bruno learnt, through clicker training, to become a canine good citizen and went on to become a fully fledged registered therapy dog with his Jack Russell sister Kira.
Are we responsible dog owners? Yes, I believe that we are and have to be. As Bruno had a late and bumpy start in his most formative time as a puppy, I am aware of his limitations and make sure that I never set him up for failure when we go out in public. We always steer well clear of strange dogs and he always remains tethered to me or my husband on a leash. Our job and responsibility as his pet parents is to make sure that we don’t give anyone any negative ammunition, as it is Bruno “the Pit Bull” who will be blamed regardless of who the instigator is of the situation.
Some questions you may ask are:
Is a Pit Bull suited to an inexperienced pet parent? No I wouldn’t recommend it … but then nor is a Rottweiler, German Shepherd, Doberman etc …
Is a Pit Bull dangerous? No … only in the wrong hands … but then so is a Rottweiller, German Shepherd, Doberman etc …
Would I trust him with small children? Most definitely yes. It is our Jack Russel we have to watch around kids!!
Am I glad that we have Bruno in our lives? Without a shadow of a doubt. He is the most intensely loyal and loving dog I have ever had the privilege to know and share my life with. He has enriched our lives enormously and I would go to the ends of the earth for him, as I know he would for me.
I hope that you continue to follow us during the month of October and share in our celebration of this wonderful and so sadly misunderstood breed. Please also feel free to share your stories with us – we’d love to hear from you!