A friend of mine posted a meme today that boiled down to “it’s all in how you raise them”, about dogs in general, and of course featuring a picture of a pit bull.
It’s simply not true, and I am so frustrated by the perpetuation of this myth, especially when it comes to my heart breed.
Dogs are a product of their genetics as well as their environment.
That’s why we have breeds in the first place. That’s why Border Collies are working sheep, not Dalmatians. That’s why the military is full of hard-hitting Shepherd breeds like the Malinois, not Golden Retrievers.
That is why I bought a Border Collie instead of an Australian Cattle Dog and adopted pit bulls instead of Chow Chows. Because they’re all so very different, completely apart from how they are raised.
I feel like, with pit bulls especially, we set both dog and owner up to fail when we insist that if you raise a dog right, you can mold him into anything you want him to be.
Helo is eight months old now, and he’s well-socialized with both dogs and people. He goes to doggy daycare and occasionally to the dog park. Right now he loves to play with other dogs. He’s a social little butterfly.
And I will completely unsurprised if and when that changes, because I know that pit bulls are genetically inclined to be aggressive toward other dogs. If he’s the oddball, that’d be great, but more likely he will become less social as he matures.
I expect it. I watch carefully for signs of trouble.
I know that all of the socialization and good experiences in the world cannot overcome genetics. They can influence where on the spectrum he falls, certainly! It is not all for nothing. But it is also not everything.
There are so many stories of people who are shocked when their pit bulls grow aggressive toward other dogs, and it both angers and saddens me.
People feel like they failed their dogs, when that is not at all true. I have seen so many online posts over the many years I have been involved in the breed where people did everything right and their pit bulls grew up to hate other dogs. They are confused and heartbroken. They blame themselves for failing.
And that is so unfair.
The American Pit Bull Terrier was selectively bred for many generations to fight other dogs. They are quick to fire up, slow to simmer down. They are strong and they were designed to have the drive to never quit, to never back down, to never give up.
It’s part of what makes them such great dogs, that tenacity, that fire, that determination.
But it’s sure no good when that gets turned onto a harmless, rude dog at the dogpark and the owner is shocked and caught entirely by surprise, because that’s not how she raised her dog to be.
We need to be honest about our dogs. We need to respect that they are a product of both breeding and environment. We need to do our research and make wise choices that suit our lifestyles, not just follow our bleeding hearts.