By Jason Flatt
If you are reading this, you follow Friends to the Forlorn, love pitbulls, and want to help them. Unfortunately, we are in the minority. Most of the world doesn’t feel the same. People are naturally very afraid of what they don’t know and what they don’t understand. Many folks, thanks to the media and hysteria, have formulated such strong opinions of these dogs without any firsthand knowledge or experience with them. They are gunning for our breed; waiting for the next unfortunate situation involving a pitbull to try and ban them. I know this seems harsh, but it’s a reality we face. It is our job to keep both our dogs and the community safe; to prove that pitbulls do have a place in our society.
In an effort to support you in that journey, I am going to give you a few suggestions on how to NOT set your pitbull up to fail. This is my opinion based on my experiences.
1. Avoid Dog Parks
On paper, dog parks look amazing. It seems to be a great place; your dog can play, get exercise, socialize, and everything appears magical. However, if your dog is a pitbull I recommend you avoid dog parks. Here are the reasons why:
- Many dog parks don’t separate the little guys from the big dogs.
- Many people don’t deworm their dogs, use flea/tick prevention, or even spay/neuter their pet. All of these could become problematic for you if your dog has visited a dog park.
- People don’t watch their pups and tend to just let them run wild.
- Most dog park users don’t understand dog behavior and can’t regulate the activity that occurs.
- There are dogs, children, snacks, toys, and treats. These are all objects of desire for pups and it doesn’t take much for a dog fight to break out over these items. With multiple dogs, this could easily turn into a pack fight and result in injury to other dogs or the people who try to intervene to break up the fight. If your dog bites someone else who is trying to break up a fight, your dog will now have a bite history.
A good alternative to dog parks are controlled play dates with dogs you know pup gets along well with. This will help socialize your dog with minimal triggers for negative behavior. It also lets you control which dogs interact with your dog. You can ensure they are healthy and pose no risks to your pet. Another option for exercising your pitbull is the good, old fashioned long walk or jog. Walks will help alleviate boredom or frustration your pup may be experiencing. It is also good for both physical health and mental stimulation, for your dog and you too.
2. Ensure the Use of Proper Leashes and Collars
I often see people with pitbulls or other large dogs using leashes and collars that are not suitable for strong, powerful breeds. Retractable leashes and collars with plastic buckles allow you ZERO control over your dog. These dogs can snap a retractable leash or a weak collar at the sight of squirrel that needs chasing, another dog, or even just a suspicious leaf. I prefer slip leads myself and supply them to all of our foster homes for their FTTF foster dogs. Martingale collars and harnesses are also good options that give you a little more control over your pup. I don’t love training/prong collars, but if you know how to use it and it’s necessary for you to be able to control your dog, that’s fine. I am not against them if they are used in the proper context.
Using a leash or collar that is not designed for a large, strong breed is a disaster waiting to happen. You are setting your dog up to fail. Please ensure your dog’s collar fits properly as well. All too often we see dogs out in public who could easily back out of their collar. Collars that are too loose allow your pup the ability to slip them by backing their head out. This is not just a potential danger for the nearby public but also your own dog, who could end up getting injured by another animal or hit by a car, for example, if it ran off.
One more suggestion regarding the use of leashes and collars: please do not let your pets off leash outside of your home. It is not safe for your pet and it’s disrespectful to other people and their pets, which are on leashes. It’s also important to note most counties have leash ordinances on the books. By allowing your dog to be off leash in public, you could be subject to the punishments for violating those laws. Pitbull owners should allow their pups to be ambassadors for the breed and that starts with abiding all state and local laws regarding pet ownership.
3. Avoid the “Stranger Danger”
If you are having large group of people or strangers at your home, it is a good idea to crate your dog. Put your dog in a safe place while you have guests visiting. This allows your dog to avoid the stressors that can accompany strangers in their space. Contractors make noises that are unfamiliar and often scary for your pets. Visitors can also often linger in doorways and allow your pup the opportunity to slip out of your house. A missing pet would be devastating to both you and your pup. Giving your pup a treat or toy and putting them in their designated space will allow them to enjoy the surprise and will allow you to relax and enjoy your guest’s visit.
4. Managing Multiple Dogs at Home
If you have multiple pets in your home, please separate them when they are unsupervised. You can crate them, use pens, or utilize different rooms, depending on the needs and behaviors of your dog. I understand they are fine together when you are home. I know that they may be best friends. But, it doesn’t take much for a fight to break out. The simple act of ringing the door bell or voices outside has the potential to stir them and cause a fight. If you are not home to break this up, you could come home to a devastating situation. I want the best for your pups and that sometimes means doing things that you may not necessary love to do, but are in the best interests of your dog.
You can make the crate a positive place for your pups. I suggest using the crate as a place in which they receive their food, get their treats, and have their own toys. Your pup will soon associate their crate with good things and you will have prevented possible dog fights over “high value” items.
5. Never Leave Your Dog Outdoors Unattended
As I mentioned above, the crate can be a positive place for your pup. Please never leave your dog outdoors when you aren’t home. A plethora of things can go wrong if your dog is outside with no supervision. There are so many factors that are causes for concern about leaving pets outside unattended.
Three major reasons why you should not leave unsupervised dogs outside are:
- Health and Injury
Being left unattended outdoors can pose a risk to your dog health and they can risk injuring themselves. Dogs can be stung by bees or bitten by insects and have allergic reactions just like people do. If you are not home to catch this, it could cause severe harm to your dog. They could also eat things such as rocks, mushrooms, etc. that will also have adverse health repercussions. If your dog were to have an accident and injure him or herself – say, from falling off a deck or down stairs – it could be hours before someone found your dog. At the least your dog could be in serious pain for a while without help, but your dog could even make the injury worse if it is not attended to quickly or the injury is serious
- Lost Pets
Unfortunately, we hear time and time again of people having their dogs stolen from their own backyard. A person being home is often a deterrent for this criminal behavior. Not only can dogs be stolen, they can also dig or escape out of their fenced backyards due to boredom or interest in something on the other side of the fence. The result of each of these situations could be tragic as a pet owner. To avoid such an outcome, please place pets securely indoors when you need to leave.
Here in Georgia, the weather changes at the drop of a hat. While it may be perfectly sunny when you leave, it could be a torrential downpour or worse later in the day. Leaving your dogs outside in high temperatures can cause pups to experience heat exhaustion. We have been hearing more and more about heat impacts our dogs due to the rash of stories regarding people leaving their pets in cars alone. Storms can also cause damage to fencing which allow your dogs to escape or they could be injured by falling limbs and debris.
6. Don’t Use Electric Fences
Electric fences seem like a good solution if a traditional wood or chain link fence isn’t an option, but they come with many risks which could put your dog in danger. I don’t believe electric fences to be a good option in any situation, but they are especially troublesome if your dog is left unsupervised. Here are some reasons why you should avoid using an electric fence:
- The batteries in your dog’s collar could die, making the fence obsolete without a working collar. The power connection to the fence could get disrupted, essentially making the fence non-existent causing containment to fail. This means your dog could leave your yard and get lost, injured, or worse.
- Even with a working system, if a dog’s desire is strong enough to get to something on the other side of the fence there is nothing physical stopping him or her from running right through, except a temporary shock.
- There is nothing keeping other animals or people from entering your yard. Even if your dog is relatively secure, other animals – wild or domestic – can easily enter your yard, which could mean danger for your dog or that animal. Furthermore, it allows people to come into your yard with your dog, maybe even with malicious intent of stealing or injuring your dog.
I hope that you find these tips helpful and consider implementing them into your daily lives if you don’t practice them already. Friends to the Forlorn truly cares about you and your pets, and want the best for you both. We believe good rescue starts with preventing dogs from needing to be rescued. These tips are meant to help set your dog up for success in your home. Pitbulls already have the scales stacked against them. We just want to balance those scales back out by helping families adopt good habits and practices in their homes.