Saturday, July 19, 2008

Dare to be responsible.

Well, Pit Bull guardians are nothing if not loyal. The outrage that echoed all across the internet this past week over a Verizon commercial for their new Dare phone was impossible to ignore. Letters and emails shot out from all over the country, and Verizon services were canceled in the blink of an eye. Our dogs are big mush pots, but man their owners are tenacious and quick-acting. The controversy even got AdAge Magazine talking

The commercial in question featured snarling, chained Pit Bulls, and a man jumping a fence into the yard that contained them (trespassing, we might add), all in an attempt to reach a phone and hence bringing himself within an inch of being mauled by the dogs. Advocates were understandably angered by the inaccurate and harmful portrayal of their breed. We all know APBTs as loving, sweet, and really bad guard dogs, but the general public has the mistaken belief that the dogs are mean, vicious and well, just like they were shown on that Verizon ad. When people believe falsehoods about Pit Bulls, the breed gets banned, families are torn apart, and innocent dogs die. Our job as guardians and advocates is to help the public understand the breed and ads like Verizon's just enforce incorrect views, leading to support of bans and mass euthanasia. This isn't a knee jerk response due to hurt feelings - lives are at stake, here.

Wouldn't it be nice if companies paused to reflect on the possible negative effects of the images they use in their advertising? A little responsibility goes a long way.

Monday, July 14, 2008

"Pit Bull" who??

Is it any wonder the Pit Bull breed is in a mess when no one can even come to any consensus as to what a Pit Bull IS? How can you address the issues surrounding something you cannot even properly identify?

This recent Toledo Blade article about Ohio's "Pit Bull Problem", says that 'pit bulls' can be defined as "relatively short, yet muscular members of the terrier group as well as the larger mastiff group, which historically has been crossbred with certain terriers to create larger pit bull breeds such as the Italian Cane Corso and the Spanish Perro de Presa Canario." Huh? Can someone else make sense out of this mish-mosh of a paragraph? Because we certainly can't.

There are so many possibly varieties listed here (are ALL these breeds a serious threat??) that we venture out of the realm of breed specific and more towards something that may just be canine specific. Or maybe it's human specific. As in, it's not the BREED it's the person holding the end of the LEAD. Responsible ownership behavior is what counts - not BREED. A conclusion to draw now if ever there was such a time.

BSL is supposed to ban breeds by psychically predicting what their behavior will be. Not only do BSL proponents claim they can determine the future behavior of all members of ONE breed of dog, now they are claiming they can predict the behavior of numerous breeds of dog, all conveniently lumped under the neat-n-easy heading of "pit bull".

RPB has always used the nick name "Pit Bull" for the American Pit Bull Terrier, and ONLY the APBT. It is, after all, the only breed with the words "pit" and "bull" appearing in its name. The media has bastardized the term, and other groups have shunned it, but we hold strong and fast like our dogs to a moniker of which we are not only unashamed, but PROUD.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Diffusing Tension

Let's face it. People are scared of Pit Bulls. People get tense, nervous and downright panicky in their presence. Nasty looks and haughty one-liners may be the natural response to those who voice their disdain for our breed, but these negative reactions to negative encounters only breed more negativity. And we sure have more than enough of THAT to go around!

While a well-behaved, under control dog does more for the breed than character space limits would allow room to say, Breed Advocates can employ a number of additional tactics that go the distance to dispel fears.

Besides typical polite dog guardian behavior (leashing, picking up poop, keeping your pup from leaving pee mail in the wrong 'mailboxes', and avoiding crowding of apprehensive passers-by on sidewalks), here are a couple of other neat tricks to try that will wow while also helping to shape new perspectives:

  • Ditch the chain leashes and spiked collars - sport fancy, fun wear by companies like Collar Mania (a proud supporter of rescued Pit Bulls!) and humane training gear by Premier & SofTouch Concepts, slick leather leashes by Raw Dog, and excellent martingales by Schafer Kennel.

  • Cute-up by dressing your bulldawg in dog t's or coats (in the colder months), bandanas, or silly collar accessories.

  • Teach your Pit Bull a goofy trick or two. How can you be a'skeered of a dog that waves at you, 'sits pretty', or sneezes on cue!

  • Have some stock responses for typical comments or reactions from the general public. Instead of shooting a dirty look or a cranky comeback, smile and emphathize with the fear while also acknowledging the fallacy of the belief. Something like, "I am sorry my dog frightened you, it is really a shame that people have been led to believe Pit Bulls are mean. My dog is actually very friendly and loving". Then add, "Look! I think he likes you!" as you cue your dog to wave. Imagine the impact on the person who experiences such an encounter!

  • Keep in mind that you are always, always an advertisement for the breed - and how you act reflects upon the breed as a whole. When you're out with your Pit Bull or parading around town with that "My Pit Bull is my best friend" t-shirt, always keep in mind that your behavior matters as much as your dog's!

    The goal isn't to 'hard sell' the breed. We know these dogs aren't for everyone and aren't all fluff and cuteness. The goal is to jar people into a new reality, one that does not include the idea of Pit Bulls only as killers owned by thugs and criminals. A reality that reflects a bit more accurately the life the average Pit Bull lives with the average owner.