I was talking to Jessica today and she mentioned a rehoming ad on craigslist where the owners stated that the new owner would “need to be experienced with Pitts.”
Okay, so you all know the spelling was difficult for me to get over to begin with (only one ‘t’, if you didn’t know) but more than that, I started thinking about what people might think when they see that someone that wants to adopt the dog must have some kind of special experience with that breed.
I might think, “hmmm….what is SO different about Pit Bulls that I need special experience with them?”
It’s important to note that if the dog needs an “experienced” home due to human aggression issues that this is NOT normal in a Pit Bull whatsoever and the new owner doesn’t need Pit Bull experience, they need experience with human aggression; the two do not go hand in hand.
How often do you see this with other breeds? How often do you see, “must have experience with Golden Retrievers”, or “must have experience with Pomeranians”?
While I fully recognize that owning an APBT comes with challenges, the vast majority of those challenges are not due to the nature of the breed but rather, the nature of the uneducated masses to blindly believe the fear-mongering media while not putting one lick of effort into doing any of their own research. Because like, thinking for yourself and learning stuff and things is like, all hard and stuff and oh look!
I can’t help but perceive “must have experience with” as a kind of warning. I would venture to guess that many a person has been turned off to giving a deserving Pit Bull a home after reading something like that.
Sadly, I’ve also seen notes like this on shelter cards and rescue bios and I have a similar reaction. If we are ever going to change the public perception of the Pit Bull, we as supporters of the breed need to stop doing things that contribute to the Pit-Bulls-are-inherently-and-catastrophically-different-than-other-breeds stigma.
Perhaps then, it would be better to speak to the specific behaviors that the dog is exhibiting that one would need to have experience with. After all, is teaching to walk nicely on leash done any differently whether the dog is an Akita or a Dalmatian?
“Hold up, wait a minute,” you say, “are you like the other groups that think Pit Bulls are the same as every other breed?” Make that a HECK NO! Breed traits DO exist and they should be a factor in picking out the perfect dog for your family. However, one also needs to acknowledge the individual personality traits of each given dog. Like many things in life, there is a happy medium. We can be aware that each and every breed was developed for a specific purpose which causes the dogs within that breed to have some proclivity toward those characteristics while at the same time, realizing that each dog within any given breed is going to be shaped by his/her own life experiences to a certain extent.
To be fair, some dogs in need of their forever home, regardless of breed, may need a little charm school which is fine and should be explained to potential adopters. My suggestion is to do so with as much a positive spin as possible. Instead of, “must be the only dog”, why not, “prefers the company of humans over other dogs”, or “gets along best as a spoiled only dog”? If a dog is a leash puller, rather than say, “must have a strong owner”, how about, “would love to take you for a walk, please be able to keep up with this sled-dog wannabe”. Rather than, “no cats”, consider something like, “finds cats to be horrific roommates and has begged us to find a home without them”. If you are properly screening your potential adopters, then anyone who doesn’t quite get it should be weeded out during your adoption counseling anyway. Take a light-hearted approach to the dog’s individual quirks and get people to simply consider giving this dog a home by not using negative phrasing that may scare them away before they’ve even had a chance to stare into those deep soulful eyes.
Have you ever read a doggie biography that made you cringe? How would you have changed the wording?
Director, Pit Bulls Against Misinformation