Pit Bulls stand out in the world of dog breeds like perhaps no other. People tend to either love them or are afraid of them. As a dog trainer I can understand both perspectives. They can be very intense dogs. When I think of Pit Bulls, I think of not just the American Pit Bull Terrier but a number of similar breeds like the American Staffordshire Terrier and the American Bull dog. One of the interesting things about Pit Bulls is that although most of them have no papers, they are still bred with great intentionality, and so the breed survives and even thrives. In fact many of the rescue dogs that people refer to as pit mixes, look to me to be pure bred in the sense that their ancestors are likely all from the (pit) bull breeds.
I think the first Pit Bull I ever met was Scooby. He was jet black, weighed about 65 pounds had been abandoned at a kennel by his owners who were moving to Canada. They simply never came back to pick him up. By the time I met him he had been living at Silver Trails Kennels in Westbrook for nearly two years. Fortunately, the wonderful owners of that facility just kept him and looked after him.
My mentor Vicki Hearne, from whom I originally learned dog training, had me train Scooby as part of my introduction to dog training. Talk about trial by fire! This was a very geared, very strong dog who was cooped up in a kennel all day (and had been for a long time), so you can imagine that he was a dynamo once I got him outside on a leash. The only time I seriously hurt my back was working Scooby. Working him around livestock was a worrisome experience, and I had to have several serious “conversations” with him about not going after horses and cows.
For all that, Scooby was a favorite at the kennel and his story did have a happy ending. He got trained and eventually somebody adopted him and took him home. Later my wife and I adopted a beautiful little brindle and white Pit Bull who we named Vicki. She also was one wonderful and intense dog. I remember once working her on a retrieving exercise. I tossed the dumbbell onto a pile of firewood in the yard and sent her to get it. As she scaled the pile, the wood moved and the dumbbell fell down between the pieces of wood. I was afraid I had asked her for the impossible—until Vicki began picking up pieces of firewood in her mouth and moving them aside so she could get to the dumbbell. That kind of intensity can be a bit intimidating, but you gotta love it!