When you meet a new dog or see a photo of one on the internet, what’s your first thought? For most of us, we immediately start wondering what kind of dog it is. All of us have these preconceived notions of what we think of specific dog breeds.
We may unfairly stereotype a dog because of its appearance or size instead of taking the time to learn about the dog’s personality.
These misconceptions have created bad reputations for many breeds, specifically pit bulls, which isn’t even a recognized breed. It’s a term used to describe dogs with similar physical characteristics, such as square shaped head or a muscular build. That’s how so many mixed breed dogs end up being labeled pit bulls. Instead of looking at each dog as an individual with unique and valuable qualities, a dog labeled as a pit bull is pegged as dangerous — all because of breed stereotypes that are simply untrue.
With October being National Pit Bull Awareness month, I want to celebrate these gentle giants and help share the real personality of pit bulls to dispel those misconceptions.
Every pit bull has their own individuality and has just as much potential to be a great family dog as any other breed. The idea that certain breeds are more dangerous or more likely to bite is false. Any dog can bite, regardless of its breed. A peer-reviewed study found that nearly 85 percent of dog bite fatalities were from unneutered dogs, and the co-occurring factors that led to bites were things like lack of socialization or positive interactions with people and animals, abuse or neglect, and tethering for long periods of time. Dogs are individuals with their own temperaments and behaviors that have nothing to do with what they look like.
Even if you were to judge a dog by its lineage, research has actually shown that pit bulls tend to have a better temperament than some more popular breeds, such as golden retrievers and border collies. If you look back 50 years ago, pit bulls enjoyed a long history of being America’s favorite breed. It was only recently that they fell victim to media bias, which has led to a lot of the misinformation that surrounds them today.
Throughout history, dog breed trends have shifted, with different breeds growing in popularity while others are perceived as dangerous. What this shows is that we need to stop putting emphasis behind a dog’s breed and look at each dog as an individual with their own personality, quirks, and all. You know you shouldn’t judge a person based off their physical characteristics, so why is it acceptable with our four-legged companions?
This is why at the Arizona Animal Welfare League; we don’t list a dog’s breed on their kennel cards and in their online profiles. We don’t want potential adopters to make assumptions around a dog’s breed before they get a chance to meet them. So many amazing dogs at our shelter are overlooked because of misperceptions about their breed.
Misperceptions that overshadow a dog’s individuality. Everything about a dog’s life experience, their story of how they ended up where they are today, is what makes them a unique individual, not who their parents or grandparents might have been.
So, as a proud pit bull rescue mom, I ask you to look behind a dog’s breed and give them a chance to show you just how special they are. Let’s work together to end breed discrimination and ensure that every pet has the opportunity to find a loving home — no matter their breed.
Editor's note: Alessandra Navidad is president and CEO of the Arizona Animal Welfare League and a proud pet parent of a pit bull called Charli. Visit aawl.org.
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