A dog lover may view the fierce reputation of the American Pit Bull Terrier (APBT), with a good deal of skepticism.
Having a love of the canine world can either cloud your judgment or allow you to be better educated.
At a time, the thought of Pit Bulls as nanny dogs was commonplace in many homes worldwide.
Many a dog owner will believe that a dog's behavior is often down to the training from its owner.
But is a dog's behavior also affected by his genetics?
Are some dogs predisposed to aggressive behavior or dogs that do not do well around children because of their DNA?
In this article, you will learn how the Pitbull nanny dog myth started and how other misconceptions about this dog breed are debunked.
Pit Bulls Nanny Dogs: Why this Dog Breed Is in The Overly Aggressive Category
You may feel ever more anxious at the thought of a Pit Bull dog and children in the same room together.
A good deal of that anxiety could be due to constant media hype.
As with all stories, the media tends to focus on the horror stories.
They typically choose to show the stories portraying that this particular dog is not a breed we can trust.
The media has helped to create a frenzy of fear around the Pit Bull dog.
Of course, there are horrific stories that involve Pit Bulls. There are horrific stories involving virtually every dog breed – you just need to look for them.
Here at Top Dog Tips, we enjoy sharing positive stories about Pit Bulls to prove that the negative stigma isn't true for every Pitty.
While these stories may not be about Pit Bulls nanny dogs, some of these heartwarming stories include:
- Heroic Pit Bull Saves Child From Being Murdered by His Own Mother
- Rescued Pit Bull Spends Life Helping Other Dogs In Need
- Abused and Abandoned, Kiah Becomes New York's First Pit Bull Police Dog
- You'll Never Guess What These Pit Bulls Did To Avoid Euthanasia
Debunking the Pit Bulls Nanny Dogs Myth
The idea of a nanny dog was first introduced in a New York Times article in 1971 titled “A Breed That Came Up the Hard Way.”
It talks about how a Staffordshire bull terrier has become part of the family and did an excellent job as a “nanny dog” or a ‘nursemaid dog' as stated in the article.
People assumed that the Stafford was a Pitbull, which presumably started the nanny dog myth.
Ancestry of the Pit Bull
The Pit Bull owes its ancestry to a dog breed based in the UK, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier (Staffie).
Although the Pit Bull is larger and more bulkier than a Staffie, they do look similar.
The Staffie came about, as a result of breeding an Old English Terrier with A Bull Dog.
The APBT, was bred to be powerful and athletic.
As with the Staffie, these dogs made for good bloodsports – used in bull baiting, bear baiting and pit dog fighting.
Other uses, in the past, have been as working dogs for driving livestock and as family pets.
Despite bloodsports being illegal in the USA, some Pit Bulls are still bred for their fighting abilities.
Even today, this breed will take part in clandestine dog fights.
In spite of these fearsome characteristics, the Pit Bulls nanny dogs also gained recognition.
Considering the Pit Bull is a descendant of a dog that was mainly bred to fight, how exactly did it get the reputation as a Nanny Dog?
RECOMMENDED: How Fighting Dogs Are Trained – The Grim Reality
Is a Pitbull Nanny Dog or Not?
They depict the Pit Bull dog, posing alongside family members and children. It seems that our great grand parents had no problem with Pit Bulls around their kids.
They also gain the reputation of nanny dog based on their positive characteristics.
This breed is known to be strong but loyal and devoted to their family.
Their loyalty to the pack makes them protective of young children.
The Kennel Club of the UK named the Staffie as one of the top three best dogs, for being around children.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) also has praise for this breed (PDF).
They describe a well trained Pit Bull as, “One of the most delightful, intelligent and gentle dogs imaginable.”
Negative Reputation of a Pit Bull
Some negative opinions may be due to the Pit Bull breed bias as well as the fact that Pit Bulls are often viewed as muscle-heavy aggressive dogs.
Furthermore, some blame can be placed on the media, which often paints this breed in a negative light.
It is a common belief that Pit Bulls are inherently aggressive and violent dogs.
In general, most people believe them to be dangerous dogs, even when there are breeds that are genetically far more aggressive and “more dangerous” than Pit Bulls based on incidences of dog bites (such as Rottweilers, for example).
Because of its muscle power, status, and the image that the media portrays them in, the Pit Bull breed attracts ownership from the criminal element in society, and most are well-aware of this.
The ASPCA informs us that:
Pit Bulls often attract the worst kind of dog owners… People who are only interested in these dogs, for fighting or protection. They are so often used as a status symbol, and even to intimidate rival gangs.
Their use in bloodsports, such as dog fighting, continues today. These dogs are often trained to be purposefully aggressive and hostile, to other people.
Some studies support this evidence, and, of course, these are not the dogs that grow to be Pit Bulls nanny dogs.
In 2009, the Journal of Forensic Science gave us some interesting results from their studies.
They showed that owners of potentially vicious dogs were more likely to be criminally active than other dog owners. This was not a surprise to most.
Laws Stipulated for Dangerous Dogs like Pitbulls
These beliefs are so popular, that legislation in the UK, The Dangerous Dogs Act, has made it illegal to own one.
Yet, despite this bias, Pit Bulls are still owned by millions of American families.
Including families with children, and many have no problems at all.
The Nature of a Pit Bull
Understanding the behavior of Pit Bulls nanny dogs is much the same as with any breed dog.
A dog is a domesticated descendant of a wild animal, a shared common ancestor to the wolf.
Although this was around 34,000 years ago, a dog still has many innate deep routed instincts.
ALL dogs are natural pack animals.
Pit Bulls are powerful in stature and strength, and a single dog could soon overcome a full grown adult, let alone a small child. Sometimes spaying or neutering a dog, can help reduce its levels of aggression.
In all fairness, if you have a dog that shows aggression to people, then they are not the ideal family pet.
This is most especially true if children are present in your home.
Statistics Debunking the Nanny Dog Myth
While Pitbulls are commonly stereotyped as aggressive and dangerous, that's not exactly the 100% truth.
Here are some facts that you should know about this dog breed that contributes to the nanny dog myth.
Pit Bull Attacks
There is no denying that Pit Bulls are responsible for many attacks on people, some even fatal.
The website DogsBite.org claims to be a public education website.
They collect statistics on fatal dog attacks from news reports.
According to this site:
- In the US, in 2016, the last year of completed records, there were 31 fatal attacks by dogs.
- 22 of those attacks, or 71%, were by Pit Bulls.
- Between the period 2005 and 2016, Pit Bulls were responsible for killing 254 people in the US.
Some argue that these statistics are unreliable.
More so, the means of recording the dogs responsible for the attacks are not reliable.
Other sources argue that fatalities by Pit Bulls are the result of poor breeding, bad training, and un-socialized males.
They say that many aggressive Pit Bull dogs are often owned by irresponsible owners.
Whatever the true statistics are, they make frightening reading.
Such reports make every parent wary about this powerful breed.
Statistics like these DO show how dangerous a powerful dog can be in the wrong hands.
Pitbull Nanny Dog Myth & Stereotypes: False Stigma to Facts!
Because of the figures mentioned above, around 2,800 Pitbulls are put to death every single day.
However, if you look at the true statistics about Pitbulls, they can pretty much pass as a nanny dog.
Rottweilers were considered to be the most aggressive dog breed before Pitbulls were stereotyped.
According to the American Temperament Test Society, a Pitbull nanny dog was ranked as the second-most tolerant dog breed next to the Golden Retriever.
If that's the case, it's no surprise the Pitbull nanny dog myth gained popularity over time.
Still, there's no such thing as a nanny dog, and no dog of any breed should be left alone with your children.
Pit Bulls and Children
Dog behavior can be very unpredictable, no matter the breed or nature of the animal.
We've previously looked at the science behind dog aggression. Studies are very clear on the subject.
If a dog feels threatened or uncomfortable, its animalistic survival instincts will kick in.
That could mean it will attack any who stands in its way.
The belief that a dog can attack without warning is perhaps misleading.
There is always some sort of sign. Growling, especially baring its teeth, hackles raised, and other signs.
An experienced dog owner will understand such body language, before the dog attacks. This, of course, is no consolation.
An infant left alone with a dog would never understand such a threat.
Plus, a small child is unlikely to be able to escape anyway.
Dogs and Humans
No two dogs are alike, as no two humans are the same.
Dogs, as with humans, have characters with innate feelings.
A healthy dog is one that has a good balance of discipline, exercise, food, and love.
While it may seem obvious, bear in mind that dogs are animals.
All too many dog owners, treat them as if they were human.
This is wrong, and will only serve to cause confusion for the dog.
A dog is a pack animal and does need to know where it stands in the pack.
This ensures that it feels a part of the pack and knows its place.
With the balance we mentioned, a dog should remain calm and happy.
It will never lose its instinctual behavior should it feel threatened.
Were Pitbulls Nanny Dogs in Reality?
The simple answer to that is a definitive NO.
In all fairness to the Pit Bull breed, no dog is suitable as a nanny dog.
Any animal can behave unpredictably.
Especially if it feels threatened.
What threatens a dog is not something a human would understand.
It is a testament to the breed though, that many families own Pit Bulls without any problems whatsoever.
This shows that it can be a good companion dog.
If you keep a dog as a pet, never leave it unattended with children around.
Pit Bulls may not be nanny dogs as the popular myth may lead you to believe, but they're a breed like any other.
Proper socialization, care, and training are what make a good dog.
Which Dog is a Nanny Dog?
The Staffordshire Bull Terrier is often called the “nanny dog” because of its reputation for being friendly and attentive to kids.
However, you must remember that this dog breed is different from a Pitbull.
But just like Pitbulls, they have a fierce appearance.
Still, this breed is actually quite tame and gentle and does very well with small children.
Is a Pitbull a Good Family Dog?
Despite the common stigma of a Pitbulls, they are reserved and gentle dogs.
Some pet owners would that the Pitbull breed is a great nanny dog for their children.
Still, it pays to be extra careful when socializing with Pitbulls.
Make sure they have enough training and petting since they can get aggressive towards other dogs in the room.
Can You Leave a Young Child Alone with a Pit Bull?
You shouldn't leave the two alone if your child is with a Pitbull or any other breed. Some dogs can be playful and gentle with children, but both of them may not always know the boundaries.
Even if a Pitbull nanny dog is “looking after” your kid, a child may either be petting him too hard or playing too rough that often leads to potential problems.
Still, it doesn't mean that Pitbulls are aggressive dogs since it's a misconception similar to the Pitbull nanny dog myth. The bottom line is that you shouldn't leave toddlers or young children with dogs of any breed.
Were Pit Bulls Nanny Dogs – Conclusion
There are many misconceptions about pit bulls. For instance, they have been regarded as nursemaids which later started the nanny dog myth.
It seems hard to believe that an aggressive and dangerous dog breed like the Pitbull can be a nanny dog.
However, the stigma about their temperament is a myth itself.
Pitbulls are not really aggressive and are actually gentle and docile. They do well with children which probably gave them the ‘Pitbull nanny dog' title.
Still, you shouldn't leave your children alone with a Pitbull or any dog breed, for that matter.
Both dogs and children are unaware of their actions and may upset each other, leading to more serious problems.
READ NEXT: How To Teach Kids To Behave Around Dogs