America’s Dog Petey of the Little Rascals:  Was He a Bully?


Petey by definition is a pit bull terrier but is definitely not a bully breed in the sense that the media has been known to portray them today.  One has to wonder what happened and why does this breed get such a bad rap?  It is generally true that bad dogs result from bad owners but this fear has really gripped some people and driven them into breed specific persecution.While it’s also true that any dog can bite, it is not sound science to discriminate solely based on a breed’s physical characteristics.We’lltake a closer look at the beauty of this breed and hopefully, replace fear and neglect with education and acceptance.

Breed Origins:

Pit bull is used as a generic term to identify certain breeds.  It is basically the breeding of bulldogs and terriers together to form any one of the following breeds: Staffordshire Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, American PitBull Terrier.  One theory suggests they were developed in England but their origins could even be from a Mastiff type dog in 1st century Rome before intermixing with other European breeds.  They were trained to calm bulls by biting the nose and hanging on which humans found very useful to help subdue the animal.  Pit bullswant to please their master and don’t naturally want to bite so owners were very comfortable handling them.  All of these characteristics unfortunately led to the cruel sport of bull- and bear-baiting.  These dogs were intentionally placed in a pit with an agitated bull or bear while spectators placed bets on which dog would hold on to the nose the longest or which dog would bring the animal down first.  It wasn’t long before owners gambled on pitting their own dogs against each other.With the advent of humane societies and animal welfare laws this blood sport was illegally banned but underground betting still existed.  The dogs were introduced to America and used primarily around the farm to help with cattle and livestock.  In the 1980’s there was a resurgence of dog fighting making the macho looking pit bull a popular choice.They were the preferred guard dog for drug dealers and the horrors of dog fighting were romanticized to epic extremes.

Pit Bull Truths:

They DO NOT lock their jaws.  There is no scientific basis supporting this myth.   There is no locking mechanism in this breed or any other breed for that matter.

They DO NOT have a higher than normal bite pressure.  In fact German Shepherds and Rottweilers have been tested to have a higher bite pressure measured in pounds per square inch.

They WILL NOT attack for no reason.   There has not been any documented case of pitbulls maintained as a family companion fatally attacking anyone.

They ARE gentle with children (dubbed the nanny dog), used as police dogs,therapy dogs, andhave even displayedacts of valor on the battlefield.  The most decorated war hero dog was a pit bull named Sergeant Stubby!   He made front page headlines during WWI for warning his regiment of poison gas attacks, locating wounded soldiers and comforting those that served.

Original caption: Washington, DC: Meet up with Stubby, a 9-year-old veteran of the canine species. He has been through the World War as mascot for the 102nd Infantry, 26th Division. Stubby visited the White House to call on President Coolidge. November 1924

Original caption: Washington, DC: Meet up with Stubby, a 9-year-old veteran of the canine species. He has been through the World War as mascot for the 102nd Infantry, 26th Division. Stubby visited the White House to call on President Coolidge. November 1924


Conquering Our Fears:


It is not uncommon to be fearful of a larger dog, particularly one you don’t know.  Sometimes it can be hard to read a dog.  Their tail may not be wagging and they may have a stern or serious look about them but that doesn’t necessarily mean the dog is unhappy. If you are feeling confident,you can approach the owner of a companion pit bull. Most people love to showcase their family member so don’t be afraid to ask if you can say hi to their dog.  On occasion an owner may tell you that it is not a good idea but that is more of a personality issue with that dog than an issue with the breed itself.  Some dogs are just nervous by nature and need more time to learn to trust people or other dogs.  As with any breed there are always exceptions to the rule.

Also, not all dogs with square heads and wide jaws are an indication of a pit bull making it difficult to visually distinguish them from other non-pit breeds.  By the same token you may find yourself interacting with a dog that doesn’t exhibit the typical physical traits but could very well have some pit in him.  Theposter from the National Canine Research Council shown here is quite an eye opener for those of us who aren’t as familiar with visually identifying the breed.

Visual ID_Pit bullLearning from Experience:


As dog walkers and pet sitters we have the privilege of spending time with several varieties of pit bulls and developing strong connections with our clients.  One of them is a lucky, little guy named Shadow.  He was listed on Craigslist as a free puppy untila very special gal saw the ad and acted fast to rescue himfrom a very uncertain fate.  Shadow’s life could have easily taken a bad turn if she didn’t speak up and work with rescue groups on his behalf.She took him into foster temporarily but couldn’t help but fall in love.  Now we get the pleasure of regularly spending time with sweet Shadow!  He is one of the most well-behaved, people-pleasing, lovable dogs you could ever meet.  He goes to dog parks, walks nicely on the leash and more than anything just wants to be your best friend.

Shadow Puppy

Shadow Puppy


Shadow grown

Shadow grown



All dogs regardless of breed require proper training and socialization.  Poor breeding and bad training by backyard breeders who view them as a quick profitare greatly harming the pit bull’s reputation.  Overcrowding of the breed in low income areas has become a real issue as well as overpopulation due to the lack of spaying and neutering. Pit mixes comprise a large percentage of the stray pet population.It is all a recipe for disaster and the pit bull has been taking the heat for far too long.  It is time to put the heat back on the humans and rehabilitate these ill-conceived notions.  The pit bull’s tenacious spirit and willingness to sacrifice their own life for their master is a wonderful trait that should never be exploited for profit.  They are affectionate and have a natural desire to please.  While they may not get along with all dogs, biting of humans is most uncharacteristic.  Although pit bulls seem to be the target of much debate in recent years, other breeds have been in the crosshairs throughout the decades.  Thankfully, rescue groups work tirelessly to educate the public and strive to ensure their safety and well-being.  While misconceptions may always exist, no breed should ever have to suffer discrimination, especially the one that was once considered America’s sweetheart.

If you are still uncertain about this devoted, lovable darling of a breed, just ask Spanky!