Don’t Bully My Breed: Thoughts on the Pit Bull Bias

Let me start by saying it’s not clear if my dog, Ru, is a pit bull mix. She was a stray in a rural, impoverished area and she’s brindle, so the chances are good. But she’s also very skinny and has many personality traits typical of a sighthound mix. We’re pretty certain she has some kind of herding dog, but unless DNA testing becomes reliable in the next couple of years, we’ll probably never know.

ReindeerEither way, many times I’ve been walking my dog casually down the street and had people cross to the other side to get away from us. When Ru has approached someone submissively while on leash with her tail happily wagging, I’ve literally seen people jump back screaming. At the dog park, people will see a pit bull arrive and they’ll leave, muttering under their breath, “that’s just not a good dog,” even though the pit hasn’t done anything.

It’s hard to see and experience all these things first hand and not begin to form opinions. While it’s not a bad thing for people be nervous of my dog when we’re walking at night, I’ll admit it is a little perplexing. If only they knew that this sweet little monster was the most eager-to-please and submissive dog I’ve ever met – she literally pees herself when she someone yells at her.

Kiss

Let’s start the conversation with what a “pit bull” actually is. Pit bull is not a breed but a term used to describe dogs with a certain set of physical characteristics. These breeds include but are not limited to American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Bull Terrier, and Staffordshire Bull Terrier. When you combine all these breeds together, the “pit bull” population is HUGE in comparison to most other types of dogs (that’s important, we’ll come back to that).

Pit bulls were originally bread in the UK for dogfighting by mixing bull dogs with terriers. It was important that trainers be able to handle their dogs in fights, so human aggression was deeply frowned upon. In the United States, pit bulls became a favorite breed of Americans and were considered to be friendly, hardworking, and brave. They were popular mascots, particularly in WWI propaganda posters, and were owned by celebrities like Theodore Roosevelt, Helen Keller, Billie Holiday, and of course the Little Rascals. Looked at no differently than any other breed of dog, pits’ reputation began to change in the 1980s, when increased dog fighting became associated with poverty, drugs, and crime. Many of the damaging myths were created and perpetuated by sensationalized media headlines.

In terms of innate traits that makes the pit bull more dangerous, the well popularized “lock jaw” is a myth, and these breeds have no better chemical or mechanical ability to hold on than any other dog. Pit bull breeds regularly perform as high or higher as many favorite family breeds on temperament tests by the American Temperament Test Society (learn more: http://atts.org/). In a recent test done by the same group, pit bulls received a passing rate of 83.9%, passing 4th from the highest of 122 breeds. That’s better than even Golden Retrievers passing at 83.2%. The average passing rate for ALL breeds is 77%. Even the ASPCA has said that sensationalized over-reporting, as well as outright false reporting, has contributed to negative perceptions about the breeds.

Furthermore, although many sites claim that pit bulls are responsible for 60% or more of dog attacks, that’s not taking into consideration the extremely high numbers of pit bulls in comparison to other types of dog breeds. When dog bite statistics relative to the population are looked at, pit bulls come at the bottom of the list:

Registered Population

# of Reported Attacks

Breed

% vs. Population

  Approx.  240,000            12   Chow Chow   .005%
  Approx.  800,000            67   German Shepherd   .008375%
  Approx.  960,000            70   Rottweiler   .00729%
  Approx.  128,000            18   Great Dane   .01416%
  Approx.  114,000            14   Doberman   .012288%
  Approx.  72,000            10   St. Bernard   .0139%
  Approx. 5,000,000            60   Pit Bulls    .0012%

Source

Additionally, because of the pit bull’s “tough guy” reputation, these breeds are more likely to be owned by people with criminal tendencies. Dogs raised around this type of behavior are less likely to be properly socialized and positively trained, which will create issues in a dog of any breed. Because they were bred for dog fighting, it’s especially important to socialize pit bull puppies with other dogs from a young age, and be extra cautious when testing an adult pit bull for dog reactivity. If pit bulls are not introduced to other dogs and even other small animals from a young age, they have increased likelihood of aggression towards other animals, although that does not mean that they will have the same aggression towards people. When properly socialized, pit bull breeds are affectionate, playful, sensitive, and trusting of strangers, so they do not typically make good guard dogs.

IMG_1042Are there aggressive pit bulls? Absolutely. But there are also aggressive beagles, shepherds, retrievers, mastiffs, and even cute little chihuahuas. Even more important than the breed is training, socialization, and education. As I mentioned in a past post, it’s important to be aware of your dog’s limitations and respect them – after all, some dogs are not good with kids, crowds, or other dogs. Always ask someone before you approach their dog if he or she is friendly, especially if you have a dog or child with you, and teach your kids to do the same. Nothing impresses me more than a 10 year old who asks me if he can pet my dog before coming up to us.

Furthermore, spay and neuter your dogs! Approximately 92% of fatal dog attacks involved male dogs, 94% of which were not neutered, according to the American Humane Association. Neutering reduces aggression, especially in males, and un-neutered dogs are more than 2.6 times more likely to bite than neutered dogs. It isn’t just male dogs, either – female dogs in heat and nursing moms are more dangerous and unpredictable than spayed females. Rather than creating breed specific legislation, maybe we should consider increasing requirements around spaying and neutering our pups.

If you’d like to learn more about this breed, I recommend checking out the BAD RAP website: http://badrap.org/

What are your thoughts about pit bulls?

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Lovely Clothing: Androgynous Casual

IMG_0840IMG_0837

IMG_0846IMG_0841_v1Today I’d like to admire the fashion aesthetic of my good friend Monique. Her look tends to fall somewhere between schoolboy chic, East Coast yachtman, and blue collar punk, with a few grandpa sweaters thrown in. She wears no makeup (lucky her), but instead focuses her efforts on the perfect flip of her hair, which she cuts and buzzes herself. Like her decor preferences, Monique leans towards simplicity in her outfits, with clean, straight lines and minimal accessories. Inevitably I find her in the menswear section when we go thrifting together.

Top from Passport Fashion, Jeans from Forever 21, Boots from Guess, Glasses from Lucky Brand

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Eggnog Bread Pudding

IMG_1021I’m not a big holiday person. I loved the holidays as a child, but many years of working Christmas retail and watching the fiasco start earlier and earlier has turned me somewhat jaded. I never say no to dessert, though.

IMG_1018Last weekend my boyfriend and I threw a Friendsgiving party. Everyone brought food and drinks, and as a result, we had a few cartons of eggnog and loaves of bread left over in the morning. I had been wanting to try a twist on bread pudding for a while, and eggnog seemed the perfect way to add a holiday element. Custard-y and rich, this bread pudding has a subtle eggnog flavor that isn’t overly sweet or overwhelming like the store-bought drink.

IMG_1017Eggnog Bread Pudding

  • 1 French baguette
  • 2 cups eggnog
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1tsp. vanilla
  • 3 eggs, slightly beaten
  • Butter, softened

IMG_1030Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter a 8×11 baking dish. Slice baguette into 1 inch squares and put it into the baking dish. Mix together the eggnog, milk, salt, vanilla, eggs, and pour it over the bread. Push the bread down so that all of it is wet. Let it stand for 10 minutes. Bake covered for 30 minutes (I simply put a baking tray on top). Bake uncovered for another 30 minutes.

IMG_1023What’s your favorite holiday treat?

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Five Steps to the Ultimate Pampering Evening

I love getting quality alone time. I’m one of those people that would rather spend a Friday night alone, curled up in bed, than out spending too much money at a loud bar. I used to feel guilty about that (our society isn’t super into introverts), but I’ve gotten old enough that I know it’s just better to do what makes me the most happy.

When I’m planning the perfect “me” evening, I really like to spoil myself and do exactly what I want to do. Spoiling yourself doesn’t need to be something big or expensive, like a $100 massage, but just indulging in something that makes you really, truly happy. It’s an important reminder to rely on yourself for happiness and that it doesn’t need to come from someone else. Treat yo’self!

Here are my five necessities for the perfect “spoil Cat” evening:

IMG_08701. Create a Homemade Spa

I love to take a bath or even just a shower. I’ll use my favorite body wash and maybe even a couple of candles to get totally relaxed. Then I like to put on a face mask like Lush’s Catastrophe Cosmetic – what could be more wonderful than a fresh, blueberry infused face mask? Sometimes I’ll even spend an hour painting my fingers and toes.

2. Watch the Perfect TV Show

If I have a TV show I’m super into, hanging out alone on a Friday night to watch it feels like such a treat! Maybe I’ve been thinking about it all week at work, and now I get the chance to just relax and marathon five or six episodes. Some of my recent favorites include The Newsroom, Hemlock Grove, and Scandal. Or, if I’m lucky, maybe I’ll have a couple episodes of Top Chef to catch up on.

IMG_08713. Order Delivery Food

What could be more of an indulgence than having someone else not only cook your food, but also bring it to you? I rarely order delivery with friends, but I absolutely love ordering my favorite Chinese dishes alone, so I can have whatever I want. My favorite place even does dim sum all day, and I always order enough to completely stuff my face and have leftovers for another meal or two. If delivery feels too expensive or isn’t your thing, make sure you have something easy, but totally delicious to chow down on.

4. Read a Magazine 

Magazines are one of my favorite ways to treat myself, since buying them is so frivolous. There’s something that always makes me feel so fabulous when I’m flipping through a Real Simple or Food & Wine with freshly painted nails. I love to read blogs as well, obviously, but sometimes it’s nice to get off of the computer and take your time reading something you can actually hold.

photo5. Drink a Fancy Cocktail

When I’m at a bar, I’m a beer girl, but at home I’m all about mixing up a fruity cocktail. I love squeezing fresh lemons, mixing them with nice vodka and powdered sugar in my grandparent’s old cocktail shaker, and sipping it out of a sugar encrusted cocktail glass. It’s the perfect time to embrace my inner girly girl since A) no one can see me do it and B) it doesn’t cost $10+ a drink. This time of year, I recommend heating up some cider and then mixing it with a nice whiskey for a warm-to-the-bone treat.

What are your favorite ways to spoil yourself?

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Birthday Cake Milkshake

IMG_0949I love cake. I have been known to eat cake for breakfast or, when circumstances become especially grim, make a single serving in a mug to eat in bed while watching trashy TV (we all have those moments). And while I love a cake from scratch, I’ll readily admit cake out of a box can get the job done.

But for a moment lets forget the ice cream cakes and the cake with a scoop of ice cream and jump to the good stuff – cake milkshakes. Instead of going through the hassle of creating a whole cake, this recipe leaves out the baking and goes straight to the eating.

IMG_0943Birthday Cake Milkshake

  • 1 cup vanilla ice cream
  • 1/3 cup yellow cake mix (feel free to substitute if it’s not your favorite flavor)
  • 2/3 cups milk
  • Sprinkles, for decoration (optional)

Scoop ice cream into a blender. Add yellow cake mix on top and pour milk over. A tablespoon of sprinkles can also be included for decoration. Blend together until mixture is even and creamy. Serve as is, or run ice cream along the edge of the glass, pour sprinkles into a bowl, and run the edge of the glass through the sprinkles so some of them stick. Add a straw and enjoy!

IMG_0947This is just a single serving milkshake, but multiple as many times over as necessary for a party or get-together.

What’s your favorite birthday treat?

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