Pit bulls are one of the most misunderstood dog breeds in the world. The assumption that they are aggressive and dangerous dogs is not supported by scientific fact. It has been proven that pit bulls are no more likely to be aggressive than any other breed of dog. In fact, they can be loving and loyal family pets, service animals, therapy dogs, and K9 police dogs.
There are many myths and misconceptions about pit bulls that contribute to their negative reputation. In this blog post, we will debunk some of the most common using evidence-based research.
What Is a Pit Bull?
You may be surprised to learn that “pit bull” isn’t actually a singular type of dog breed. It’s an umbrella term that encompasses multiple dog breeds with similar physical features like big heads and wide chests. Pit bull-type dogs that fall under this category include the American Pit Bull Terrier, American Bully, American Staffordshire Terrier, Bull Terrier, American Bulldog, and Staffordshire Bull Terrier.
BSL and the Misidentification Problem
BSL, or breed-specific legislation, is a term used for laws that ban certain dog breeds. They most commonly apply to pit bull-type dogs, Rottweilers, German shepherds, and Dobermans, to name a few.
These laws are solely based on a dog’s perceived physical appearance, not scientific data or DNA. Many pit bull owners lose their pets or cannot find housing because of this inherently flawed breed identification practice.
Even professionals in the canine space can’t accurately determine breed based on visual perception. In a study conducted in a shelter environment, pit bull-type dogs were misidentified by dog professionals 60% of the time (based on the dogs’ actual DNA results).
The Science Isn’t There
There is no scientifically validated study that has linked dog aggression and breed to support laws like BSL. In fact, a study published in April 2022 concluded the opposite.
Using the DNA sequencing of thousands of dogs across the country and survey results of over 18,000 dog owners, researchers found that breed has little to do with a dog’s behavior or personality. Dog personalities were found to be influenced by their environment more than anything else.
Practical Alternatives to BSL
Dogs are individuals. The notion that pit bull-type dogs are inherently aggressive is not based on scientific fact. There is little genetic basis for specific behaviors in dogs and therefore no strong correlation between breed and aggression.
There are more productive alternatives to BSL. For example, the American Bar Association, American Veterinary Medical Association, The Humane Society, and ASPCA, among others, support breed-neutral legislation that more effectively protects communities, families, and pets.
A breed-neutral approach is a practical substitute that would assess the individual dog and dog owner, not the perceived breed of the dog. Carefully crafted generic, non-breed-specific legislation would address the root of the problem: irresponsible pet ownership.
5 Common Pit Bull Myths
The following are some of the most common myths about pit bull-type dogs.
Myth #1: Pit bulls have a locking jaw.
No dog has a locking jaw. The way a dog’s jaw works is that the upper and lower teeth interlock when the dog bites. This is how all dogs bite, regardless of breed.
Myth #2: Pit bulls are inherently aggressive.
This is another myth that is not supported by science (see above). There is no such thing as an inherently aggressive dog breed, even if there were bred for dog fighting. Any dog can be aggressive if it is not properly socialized and trained. Pit bull-type dogs are no exception.
Myth #3: Pit bulls are the most dangerous dog breed.
Refer to myth #2. According to the American Temperament Test Society, pit bull-type dogs have a passing rate of 87.4%, which is higher than many more popular dog breeds (including Golden retrievers).
Myth #4: Pit bulls are responsible for most dog attacks.
Due to the major discrepancies with breed misidentification (described above), dog bite statistics and stats of dog bite-related fatalities are not reliable.
Myth #5: Pit bulls are more likely to bite than other breeds.
Nope. A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that no breed of dog is more likely to bite than another. The study found that the most common dog bite injuries were caused by mixed-breed dogs.
Dogs Are Individuals
The myths and misconceptions about pit bulls are harmful to these dogs and their owners. They can lead to discrimination against pit bulls and make it difficult for them to be adopted (the majority of shelter dogs are pit bull-type dogs).
It is important to remember that bully breeds are just like any other dog breed. They are individuals with their own unique personalities. They deserve to be judged on their own merits, not on the basis of myths and stereotypes.
If you are considering getting a pit bull, consider adoption vs. a breeder for your next furry family member. And really do your research and learn about the breed. Seek reputable resources like peer-reviewed studies and objective articles. You can also talk to pet parents who own pit bulls or a pit bull mix and get their firsthand experiences.
Like any dog with proper socialization and training, pit bull breeds can make wonderful companions, family dogs, therapy dogs, and even service animals. They deserve the same amount of love and care as any other breed.
How You Can Help
Foster! Volunteer! If you’re in Southern California, check out our rescue partner K9 Kismet for volunteer and foster opportunities. Or look up another bully-friendly rescue near you!
Sign! You can sign petitions in opposition to BSL across the country like this one.