The Complete Gamedog – #1

Chapter 16

The House Pit

Readers might notice that we have not included chapters on conformation shows and weight-pulling, catch dogs, hog hunting, competitive obedience and Schutzhund trial activities; we prefer to leave this to those who actively participate in these activities and would therefore know more about them. Pit Bull owners interested in getting involved in conformation and/or weight pulling should contact the American Dog Breeders’ Association for information on clubs and activities in their state.

Our main goal in presenting this chapter is to help the novice American Pit Bull Terrier owner raise a dog that becomes a stable, controlled member of the owner’s family rather than a menace to society! The decision to get a game-bred pit bull puppy and raise it as a house pet is not one that should be taken lightly. A bulldog is not ‘just like any other dog’; there are very special responsibilities that go along with owning one.

Is a game-bred dog a good pet?

A lot of serious dogmen feel that the dogs do not belong in the hands of ‘pet’ people and are resentful of the people who keep the dogs as pets. Though we believe that a bulldog can be a very good companion dog under the right circumstances, the above opinion is not without some justification. The fact is, the problems that have faced the breed over the past decade or so have been- -almost without exception caused by irresponsible pet owners. Though the Humane Societies and media always try to blame dogfighting for the Pit Bull attacks, the fact of the matter is that it is not dogfighter’s dogs that have gotten out of their yards and attacked people, or ran loose in public places and killed other people’s pets; serious dogmen keep their dogs properly confined and under control.

A game-bred Pit Bull is a fighting dog, bred down from many generations of fighting dogs; to even consider raising one of these dogs as a pet you must understand this and accept it – even if you are totally opposed to dogfighting. No matter how you raise this dog he will still be a Pit Bull, not a Golden Retriever! Time and time again we’ve seen people get a Pit Bull puppy with the attitude “if I raise him right, he won’t want to fight” and in nearly every case we’ve seen the situation eventually come down to a serious problem.

One woman we knew successfully raised two female Pit Bulls together for almost five years until the dogs got into a fight over a toy one day when her ten year old son was home alone. The poor kid finally got the dogs separated after they had done some serious damage to each other, and after that day the two dogs got into fights continually until a new home had to be found for one of them.

A friend of ours has a stud dog that was sold as a pup to some young guys who had the dog as a fraternity mascot: this worked out real well–until the day he got into a fight with another fraternity’s mascot (a Dalmatian) and killed it. We ourselves have a bitch on our yard that came back to us at nine months old after she kept attacking the dog her owners had purchased her to be a ‘companion’ for.

We aren’t trying to paint a picture of all game-bred American Pit Bull Terriers as fight-crazy maniacs–there are a lot of bulldogs that do fine in a pet situation, even with other animals – but one must never forget that a Pit Bull is a Pit Bull, and never get caught off guard. Owning any dog is a responsibility, but those who choose to keep a bulldog as a pet must be exceptionally responsible, even when other pet owners aren’t.

For instance, if a dog running loose approaches and you know your bulldog is dog-aggressive, it is up to you to ensure that your dog doesn’t get ahold of that dog, even if that means leaving the area as quickly as possible or even picking your dog up in your arms. If you live in an area where dogs are constantly running loose, you might need to consider walking your dog late at night, or in another area, or even muzzling your dog. You can pretty much guarantee that if some idiot’s mutt jumps on your dog and gets torn up, everyone is going to come down on you and your ‘vicious Pit Bull’, not on the person who let their dog run loose.

Is this fair? Hell no, but that’s the way things are. More than once we have talked to bulldog owners who had an incident where their dog got ahold of someone else’s dog and maimed or killed it, and their attitude is “well it wasn’t mv fault because that dog shouldn’t have been running loose”. Whether or not you were “in the right”, there’s no justification to allowing such an incident to happen.

A bulldog must never ever be allowed to run loose. This is a cut and dry fact. He should be kept on a leash at all times when off your property and you should have a good breaking stick with you and know how to use it, even if your dog has never shown any inclination to be aggressive. The one day you don’t have a breaking stick always seems to be the day you will need one! When your dog is on your property, he should be securely con-fined. Chapter Thirteen details how to use a breaking stick as well as the different methods of securing bulldogs. We would strongly recommend having some sort of chain, cable or kennel run setup for your dog even if he or she will be primarily an indoor pet.

Up to this point, we have mainly focused on all of the negative aspects of owning a game-bred dog. This is because we feel the gamedog is not for everyone. The sad irony of this is that quite often it is the type of person least suitable for owning an American Pit Bull Terrier that gets the breed. This includes idiots who like the idea of having a dog that people will be afraid of. sickos who are attracted to the breed after reading the ridiculous stories the humaniacs make up about dogfighting, and possibly the most dangerous type: the well-meaning but uninformed animal lover. Someone who knows nothing about dogs (let alone Pit Bulls) and just came home from seeing “The Little Rascals” at the theatre thinking it would be real neat to have their own “Petey” is a disaster waiting to happen.

Anyway, above are some of the reasons why not to get a bulldog; but for the right person, a game-bred American Pit Bull Terrier makes an excellent pet.

Bulldogs are generally very intelligent animals and ‘easy keepers’, meaning that they don’t tend to have near as many health problems as many of the show breeds. Because they are bred for performance (and a performance dog has to be structurally sound to compete and win) rather than a show judge’s interpretation of what a fighting dog ‘should’ look like, problems such as hip dysplasia are very uncommon. On the other hand, the AKC American Staffordshire Terrier (show ‘cousin’ to the American Pit Bull Terrier) ranked third highest for incidences of canine hip dysplasia, according to a recent survey conducted by the Orthopaedic Foundation for Animals.

Most bulldogs are fairly easy to train, though they may tend to be a little more stubborn than traditional obedience breeds. Their determination and athletic ability makes them capable of incredible feats of strength and agility, for instance, many bulldogs can climb ladders, fences, and even trees! An American Pit Bull Terrier makes a great companion tor someone who wants a dog to take hiking or jogging (on a leash of course!) or for long walks.

A game bred bulldog raised as a house pet usually makes a good watchdog. What has often impressed us about these dogs is that, unlike many dogs of traditionally ‘protective’ breeds (and we are speaking here of your average pet, not a dog which has had any formal training) quite a few bulldogs we know of seem to be capable of discerning between a visitor and someone who is not supposed to be on your property.

We know of people who have man-aggressive dogs (including some bulldogs) that they have to lock up or tie out when visitors come. Such a dog may be useless if you ever should actually be attacked in your home by someone who was initially invited in-a lot of help your ninety pound killer will be if he’s locked in your basement! But we know of several bulldogs that are quite friendly with visitors, but will go after a trespasser or someone who behaves in a threatening manner.

Our house dog “Lilly” has established her own ‘Tules’ about who is allowed in the house; if we bring in visitors, she’ll come up and sniff them and be perfectly friendly-in fact she’ll usually be in someone’s lap within ten minutes. How-ever, if we are all out on the yard and a visitor has to use the phone or bathroom, they have to be escorted in by one of us; if someone just walks into our house on their own Lilly will run them right back out the door!

A well-bred bulldog makes a good family pet if the dog-and the children are taught how to behave; kids can be very rough on a dog, even downright cruel, and need to be supervised and shown how to properly treat a pet. Children should not be allowed to walk the family bulldog alone unless they are old enough and big enough to physical control a dog.

Bulldogs, because of their stable nature with people and their pain tolerance, may actually be safer than most breeds around kids. Most will good-naturedly accept being stepped on, sat on, and having their ears and tails pulled by small children in the family, which is not to say that a dog should have to endure this sort of torment.

We once saw an old pit veteran that was lying asleep in front of his owner’s couch and had a toddler in running shoes step on his genitals while trying to climb over him to get onto the couch. The dog yelped, sat up, and licked the little boy’s face. Many dogs, even ones that were normally very friendly, would have attacked the child or at least snapped at him under these circumstances.

The Humane Societies and media like to depict fighting dogs as animals whose only ambition and purpose in life is to kill, and imply that they aren’t good for anything else. In our opinion, that is a very unfair characterisation made by people who know nothing about the true nature of our breed, and don’t care to learn.

Actually, we ourselves have al ways been amazed at the intelligence and personality these dogs show. Each one of our own dogs is an individual – we believe we could probably still tell them all apart if they were all the same colour! They play elaborate little games with each other and with us; for instance we have several dogs that will, every time they see us coming, sneak along and hide behind a tree or their doghouse and crouch there waiting for us to walk by, at which point they leap out of their hiding place as if to say “Surprise!”

One thing that often amazes people about bulldogs is that some fully schooled out pit dogs are very tolerant of other animals, so long as they do not challenge them. We know of many bulldogs kept as pets with dogs, cats, and other small animals that get along fine with them.

Our old “Pete” dog, who is as game as any dog we’ve owned, grew up with an assortment of cats, ferrets, pet rats, horses and goats. He never showed any inclination to harm any of them, even after having been in several fights-in fact he used to play and wrestle with one of the cats (who liked to play rough) and was always careful to use just enough strength not to hurt the cat. The cat, however, had no such reservations; he punched holes in Pete with his claws and teeth on a regular basis. Pete never lost his temper with the cat, even when the cat got his claws stuck in Pete’s face once and had to be pried off!

We also know of many match dogs, including at least one champion, that could be allowed to run loose on the yard and would not bother any of the other dogs. Our own dogs make ‘friends’ with the dogs chained next to them and race back and forth playing. One of our landlord’s collie puppies once wandered up onto our yard, and we found one of the grown dogs playing with him. Most of ours have gotten used to our house dog and won’t attack her if she’s walked up to them on a leash, even some of the dogs that would hit any other dog.

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