Monday, October 19, 2009

News & Updates

  • The REAL Pit Bull is holding a luncheon fundraiser on October 24th (which is National Pit Bull Awareness Day), at the Linden Chevys Tex Mex on Stiles Street/Rt 1.

    If you bring THIS FLIER with you, and indicate on your bill that you are there for the fundraiser, 10% of the cost of your meal will be donated to RPB. It’s that simple to help Pit Bulls! You can go eat any time during normal business hours, but RPB officers will be in attendance from 12 noon to 2 pm. Come out, have some food, and raise your glass to Pit Bulls! What a great way to come together and bring positive energy and awareness to Pit Bull issues.

  • We also are planning a Thanksgiving fundraiser, to be announced soon, that will allow you to speak your mind, share photos of your dogs, and express thanks for this amazing breed we know as the American PIT BULL Terrier. Keep checking the blog and our EVENTS page for updates.

  • Liberty Human’s Bark in the Park was held Oct. 11th in lovely Liberty State Park, and we had a blast. What a great day filled with caring people, fun events, and lots of bulldawg smiles. We are SO looking forward to next year!


  • The first frost hit this morning in northern NJ, and the temps are dropping steadily. For that reason, our weekly Pit Bull training classes – held outdoors in a local park – are on hiatus until we find suitable indoor quarters, or spring hits: whichever comes first! Ah the perils of Northeast living! In the mean time, if you have indoor space in the Union County area you’d like to donate on a weekly/hourly basis, please LET US KNOW.

    Our Click Bulls! and Pit Bull Fundamentals lectures will be going strong all year, so be sure to keep checking the HOME ROOM for new dates. Please SIGN UP for the Pit Bull School announcements list, as well.
  • Blissin' Out Over Pit Bulls

    Yoga’s all about being present in the moment, and let’s face it – Pit Bulls are pretty darn good at doing just that. And I don’t think I’ve ever seen a human quite master the Savasana pose or Upward Dog the way a Pit Bull can. Somehow, Pit Bulls and yoga seem to go together. (Or maybe that’s just me!)

    Thanks to Illinois-based yoga instructor and dog trainer Sachiko Eubanks, RPB is using yoga to help bring awareness to the plight of the Pit Bull.

    Sachiko approached us about doing benefit classes after we put out the call on Facebook that we were looking for a teacher who’d be interested in combining yoga with Pit Bull education. Sachiko ran with the idea, telling us she wanted to use her yoga classes as a platform to educate. She is donating to RPB the profits from today’s class, plus ones on the 20th and 22nd. She also created a wonderful display in the studio, so students all week can view material on the breed.

      Sachiko: I have been studying yoga for 9 years and teaching for 5 years. "Karma Yoga" (giving back something to society through yoga) is a big part of practice. Last year, my dog of 15 years died (she was a Lab/Grey hound mix), and I then adopted Mac, a Pit Bull mix puppy.

      I wanted to be a part of educating people about the breed and especially BSL. I am hoping that more people will have true understanding of the breed and BSL through our event at the studio this week.

    Coincidentally (or does the Universe just work in mysterious ways?), the studio Sachiko teaches at – Prana Yoga - is located in Geneva – very close to Elgin, where residents are currently fighting to keep BSL out of their city. What a prime time to help bring educational materials and a sense of mindfulness to the public!

    We are SO grateful to Sachiko for her generosity and appreciative of her giving spirit. Ironically, she thanked US for allowing her this opportunity to educate. We are the ones who are thankful though, and we just know Sachiko’s karma is heading through the roof right about now.


    If you’d like to head out to Prana Yoga Studio to take a class or check out some educational breed material, please visit: Prana Yoga Center

    Sachiko's classes will be held on 10/19 at 1pm, 10/20 at 9am, and 10/22 at 5:45pm. There will also be a raffle with the prize being a 10-class card (worth over $100).

    Tuesday, October 13, 2009

    Help! My Breed's Name Has Been Hijacked!

    I used to know what other advocates meant when they used the name "Pit Bull". Usually it referred to the APBT. Sometimes it encompassed the American Staffordshire Terrier and Staffordshire Bull Terrier as well (the former for all intents and purposes is an APBT anyway; the latter not so much - close enough, though!) But nowadays, as I browse the various "Pit Bull" education sites on the web, it has become increasingly clear that my breed's name has been hijacked!

    The name "Pit Bull" is ending up in the names of organizations that aren't APBT-focused. It is being used interchangeably with the term "bully breeds" (which is an unofficial, ever-changing category of breeds and mixes). One "educational" site told me "Pit Bull" is a derogatory term that essentially means "vicious dog". And another "Pit Bull" site actually included mastiff breeds in its statement of purpose.

    Oftentimes, under the guise of "Pit Bull education", APBT temperament and history is being appropriated for the use of educating on a number of related (but separate) breeds and even breeds that have completely different histories and temperaments.

    There is much confusion about what a real, sound, temperament-correct APBT is. If the guarding-prone American Bulldog, or the human-sensitive Dogo Argentino are "Pit Bulls", does that mean that guarding behavior and human sensitivity are acceptable behaviors in the APBT as well? When we talk about Pit Bulls being love bugs with humans, and uber-sound around friends and strangers alike, we cannot simultaneously be talking about a variety of breeds that might have very different temperaments. Calling that Dogo mix in your rescue program a "Pit Bull" when it has a very different temperament than an APBT, is harmful to the APBT breed as a whole.

      Responsible Rescue means proper breed-ID along with appropriate education:

      When New Hope Pit Bull Rescue brought Jasper (ABOVE) into their program, they went out of their way to make sure he got appropriately labeled. As he matured both physically and temperamentally, it became clear that he was not a purebred Pit Bull, and was most likely an American Bulldog or AB mix. Jasper is the perfect example of a dog that would have been mislabeled a "pit bull" by many people, but just happened to end up in a rescue group that knew what they were doing, and hence got a more accurate ID.

    RPB works very hard at educating on proper breed names, identification, and appropriate labeling. Misapplication of the name "Pit Bull" (which RPB uses as shorthand for "APBT") is something we are constantly fighting against. The APBT is THE ONLY BREED that has the words PIT BULL in its official name, and it is really aggravating that so many other breeds and mixes are inappropriately being called "Pit Bulls", too. Because what happens when those mislabeled breeds end up in the newspaper labeled as "Pit Bulls"? The American PIT BULL Terrier breed as a whole ends up being the fall guy. Just look at any piece of BSL across the globe - the first (and oftentimes only) breed mentioned is the APBT.

    Instead of leading the media and law makers, advocates have allowed the media and law makers to define "Pit Bull" for them. In the 90s, when Pit Bull Hysteria reached a fever-pitch, reporters were quick to use the label "Pit Bull" - even when the dog in question wasn't actually an APBT. Legislators followed suit with the whole "label based on looks" thing. For some reason, instead of insisting on proper breed identification, many advocates fell in line with the media and law makers and began using the term PIT BULL in just as broad a way. The pattern I've noticed is this: if a breed looks like an APBT, is a breed that might have been targeted somewhere in BSL, is a bull or mastiff breed, or has vaguely similar history to the APBT - call it a "Pit Bull".

    The "Pit Bull" that attacks someone and ends up a headline might not actually be an APBT. But the breed that is actually officially known as the (American) PIT BULL (Terrier) will get the blame. The actual dog could be an American Bulldog, a Boxer mix, a dog that looks similar to an APBT but has no papers proving it is such, or any number of breeds/mixes. But thanks to the insistence of many that "Pit Bull" really IS just a label to be slapped on a bunch of breeds and dogs that merely look a certain way, there really is no way to argue with the media. "Pit Bull" is being used in whatever way the user deems appropriate.

    It is wonderful that there are ever-increasing numbers of people willing to stand up for what is right, to fight against BSL and try to help save the lives of dogs. It is just a shame that the term "Pit Bull" is being misused to such a wide extent, as this is confusing, misleading, and even detrimental to the work we are all trying to do as educators and advocates.

    We here at RPB are PROUD of our breed's nickname, PIT BULL. We use the name PIT BULL *only* when referencing the American Pit Bull Terrier. We do NOT support the use of "Pit Bull" as a catch-all term, and we demand that the media use proper breed names when identifying dogs involved in attacks - and when a dog's breed cannot definitively be identified, reporters shouldn't guess! "Pit Bull" should not be the default! We encourage rescues to properly identify the dogs they bring into their programs. An American Bulldog is NOT a Pit Bull - it is a different breed, with a different temperament. The same goes for Pit Bull mixes, Staffy Bulls, 'American Bullys', Bull Terriers, the mastiff breeds, and so on. And education on the unique histories and temperaments of each of those breeds must go along with proper labeling and identification.

    We can't educate on "Pit Bulls" when we are actually talking about a wide variety of different breeds. "Pit Bull" should be used to refer to ONE specific breed. It is not a catch-all, not a category.

    Friday, October 9, 2009

    Another for the WTF Files

    Is it any wonder Pit Bull advocates are constantly up in arms over the way our breed is portrayed in the media?

    Read this report, headlined "Animal officer dies after pit bull encounter" carefully. Note the line that indicates the DOG had NOTHING TO DO with the ACO's death.

    Then tell me that the press doesn't bend over backwards to print the words "pit bull". No integrity at all. Such a shame.

    Tuesday, October 6, 2009

    Chaos or Calm? The choice should be obvious.

    There was a video clip from a(n) (in)famous TV trainer's show floating around the internet recently. I had the misfortune of viewing this clip (oh, the 'joys' of needing to be up-to-date on all the news and happenings in the training and Pit Bull advocacy worlds!), and quite literally was horrified. This TV show had hit a new low. The clip showed two Pit Bulls fighting, one dog latched onto the other's lip. The people supposedly in charge were absolutely not, and I cringed in sympathy for the dogs involved in this disaster.

    While the star of the show is supposedly both a Pit Bull advocate and someone who knows about "rehabilitating" aggressive dogs, nothing about this clip should have convinced anyone he was either of those things. The dogs were completely set up to fail - a dog with known issues let loose among a group of other dogs, with the star rattling on about how such a situation was likely to trigger a fight (DUH!). Surprise-surprise, a fight breaks out. To make matters worse, the camera person makes sure to capture all the chaos, a close-up of one dog latched onto the other's lip, and "demonstrating" the apparent persistence of a Pit Bull once it grabs onto another dog. Just the sort of exposure the breed needs, right? I can't imagine any true Pit Bull advocate being ok with this sort of footage airing.

    I won't link the video here because the last thing I want to do is give this charlatan any more exposure (plus yes, the clip shows the breed in a really bad light), but it was just another in a long line of crappy "rehabilitation" efforts demonstrated on this dude's show. Time and again, this program demonstrates how to set dogs up for failure, teach them to practice bad behavior, then beat them for doing exactly what you'd expect them to do (bite or fight) in the given scenario.

    The reason I bring this up is to point out the WRONG way to do things, and contrast this with the RIGHT way. The right way may not be exciting or dramatic enough for a TV program, but it is humane and effective - which is way more important!

    Over the weekend I had the pleasure of attending an Emma Parsons seminar. Emma is the creator of the Click to Calm method of modifying aggressive behavior in dogs (particularly dogs aggressive to other dogs). Unlike you-know-who mentioned above, Emma's whole goal as a trainer and behavioral consultant is to set the dog up to SUCCEED. What does that mean, exactly? It means the dog is put in situations where he or she has the opportunity to learn appropriate behaviors and NOT PRACTICE aggressive behaviors.

    Those who understand behavior and learning understand that the more an animal gets to "practice" (and hence gain reinforcement for) a behavior, the more difficult it is to eliminate that behavior. So the earmark of any good behavior modification program is that it always sets the dog up to 'do the right thing' and NEVER EVER purposely sets a dog up to fail (IE. practice aggression).

    The seminar also included demonstrations of the Click to Calm method on real, live aggressive dogs. During two days worth of demonstrations, there was NOT ONE aggressive outburst. Emma is so skilled at working dogs at their comfort levels while also teaching them new and better ways to behave as she gradually increases the difficultly level, that no dog felt threatened or the need to aggress or bite. All the dogs learned new skills and coping mechanisms, and none of the dogs got to practice aggressive behavior. They all stayed calm, and in a state conducive to learning.

    What many fail to realize, is that aggression is always about making some scary or uncomfortable thing go away. That old "alpha dog" theory has been thrown away, and we now know that dogs aren't trying to "dominate us" when they aggress. Dogs who aggress are seriously stressed, frightened, uncomfortable, in pain, or fearing for their safety. To put a dog in a stressful environment that actually induces an aggressive reaction, then yank, jerk, alpha-roll, or string up the dog for aggressing, is abusive and most CERTAINLY not training or behavior modification.

    Don't fall for the charade of a "rehabilitator" who is constantly pushing dogs to the chaotic points of extreme stress and aggression! Proper behavior modification is about making a dog feel safe, comfortable, and proving to him or her that there is no need to aggress. This is done through positive experience, gradual exposure, teaching new behaviors, and SETTING THE DOG UP FOR SUCCESS at each step along the way. Training and behavior modification sessions should be calm, gentle, and relaxed.