The Pit Bulls’ NOT So Surprising Past

I’ve always been a lover of pit bulls. There are three in our building, all of whom I’ve rolled around on the floor and played with. I love them, and I trust them as I trust most pits. As most of us responsible dog lovers and owners know, the pit bull’s bad rap isn’t due to the breed, but to their owners. There are two unfixed males in our dog park who’ve caused serious harm to other dogs. Most of us purposefully avoid them and their owners. Is their aggression their fault? No – it’s due to the fact that their owners never knew enough or were responsible enough to train and socialize them. The rest of the pit bulls in our park, and there are many, romp and play amidst all the other dogs, including the little ones, and they happen to be the gentlest, sweetest and most sensitive dogs I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. Lafayette Park pits that we love: Ulysses, Layla, Bella, Kool, Rusty… you sweeties know who you are.

I just read an article in Yahoo! News by Claudine Zap. Rather than try to paraphrase her piece, I’ve decided to post it in bits and pieces here. The title? “Pit Bulls’ Surprising Past: Nanny Dogs.” I say that their past isn’t surprising at all, and even today pits are typically loyal, loving and protective of their families – including the tots.


Ms. Zap’s article:

“Try to quickly summon an image of good-with-small-children dog, and chances are you'll picture something adorably Benji-shaggy. Or maybe a sweetie-pie golden retriever, or a loveball of a lab. It's not likely, at least not in today's perception of the breed, that an American pit bull terrier leaps to mind.

These days, American pit bull terriers are unfortunately known for dog fighting. But back in the day, they were brought in as the "nanny dog": The trusted animal to watch over your children.

Vintage photographs surfaced by a photo blog show off the breed with its broods.” (posted throughout this blog)

“Yet the once beloved breed has become a scary breed. This is the same American pit bull that is now the poster pooch for Michael Vick's dog fights, and the bad-news stories that seem to point to the pups as ferocious Fidos.

In the case of Vick, convicted of running a dog-fighting ring, 47 of the pit bulls from his kennel were taken to animal sanctuaries or adopted. One rehabilitated doggy named Mel, who moved to Dallas with a new owner, even received an edible key to the city.

But before they were the fighter dog, pit bulls were a family dog. Helen Keller had a pit bull. Laura Ingalls Wilder -- who wrote "Little House on the Prairie" -- owned one, too. And Petey, the mascot pup with the black eye patch in "The Little Rascals"? Pit bull.

Over time, the dogs that were also bred to battle bulls and fight other dogs got a reputation for a nasty nature. Cesar Millan, the “dog whisperer” who is around the breed every day, says it's people who should be blamed, not the breed. He writes on his website, ‘Pit bulls get a bad rap because of irresponsible owners.’

It's striking--and quite sad--to see such documentation of how beloved the now-maligned dog once was. The very same American pit bull is now more often associated with Michael Vick's dogfights, and stories of household pets gone bad, sometimes tragically involving kids.


Responsible owners include Jon Stewart, Alicia Silverstone, Jamie Foxx, Jessica Biel, and Jessica Alba.”