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Do pit bulls just get a bad rap?

If you spend any time at all on forums involving dog lovers, you're bound to encounter discussions about pit bulls. Many dog lovers -- and owners -- say that pit bulls get a bad rap.

Those who say that pit bulls are just suffering from a public relations problem will usually tell you that, "It's not the dog. It's the owner."

Well, that's not quite true. Here are a few facts about pit bulls that aren't just hype:

  • Pit bulls were never the "nanny dogs" that they're often portrayed as being. That was a made-up story by a breeder anxious to revamp the pit bull's aggressive image. The dogs were once very popular, however, and were even thought to be great family dogs.
  • Pit bulls weren't always the top of the list when it came to feared breeds. German shepherds held that position in the 1970s. If you go back even further, to the 1800s, bloodhounds were considered the scariest dogs to have around.
  • Pit bulls can be well-socialized and well-trained. When they are, they're pretty much as safe as any other breed of dog in terms of likelihood to attack.
  • They don't have locking jaws. This is a popular myth about pit bulls that people often believe accounts for the amount of damage that they have been known to do to victims.

However, all of those relatively neutral facts, there are some serious negatives that it pays to recognize. First, not all pit bulls are well-socialized. In fact, many are anything but. There are plenty of irresponsible dog owners out there that don't put the time and effort into training and socializing their animals. There are also owners that purposefully encourage their dogs to be vicious -- because they like having an intimidating guard dog.

Second, pit bulls are fighters -- and they're powerful. An adult dog, male or female, can weigh 80 pounds, most of which is muscle. They're also tenacious. While their jaws don't "lock," they do tend to grip a target fiercely and hold on. And they may bite a victim over and over again once they start an attack.

So, pit bulls may get a bad rap, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't be cautious around one. A pit bull attack could leave you struggling to recover for months and leave you with lasting scars, so it simply pays to be cautious.

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