Set Your Pitbull Up to Succeed

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.
  • Weather
    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.

The Cardoso Zoo

By Pamela Cardoso

Until about 9 years ago, I was indifferent to “pitbulls”. That all changed when I met Jason Flatt. At that time, Jason recently founded Friends to the Forlorn and was bringing his newly-rescued dogs to the vet office where I worked. Many dogs came in, but the one who really touched my heart was Quinn.


Pam & Quinny

Quinn was a true “fighting dog”. Highly dog aggressive and shut down to the world, he would cower in his kennel at the vet hospital where he was in boarding. The slightest noise, touch, or tennis ball was just too much for Quinn to handle. After months of building trust, he began to emerge from his shell. He and I would become the best of friends. We would frequently go for walks or hang out in the yard at the Pitbull Palace, where he later went to live. Those tennis balls, that just months before were too scary, became one of his favorite toys. He even gradually began to make a doggie friend: his roommate, Gerrie. This highly dog aggressive, terrified fighting dog was transforming before my very eyes.

I was brought to tears the day I witnessed Quinn interact with another dog outside of his kennel. I was walking him and began to step aside as Jason was walking nearby with Gerrie. Jason called out, “No, stay. Watch this!” Worried but intrigued, I watched as Gerrie, this petite little pittie girl, not only walked straight up to Quinn…but play pounced to him. No aggression from Quinn, just a tail wag and a smile.

To be a part of his transformation was amazing and eye opening. Unfortunately, Quinn passed a few years ago after fighting a hard fight against babesia (a tick-borne infection common in fighting dogs). I was given the honor of giving him in death what I couldn’t in life – a forever home. He remains with us along with all of our other pets who have passed.


Pam at the Pitbull Palace with Adopt-a-Bull Stella

While I was falling in love with Quinn, along came a small, mangy, stinky, smiley girl. She lived in the kennel next to Quinn at the vet hospital. We named her Charlie Girl. I instantly fell in love. The timing was not right for us to take her, but oh how I wanted her. The mange cleared and she was adopted, but a few months later I got a call from Jason. Charlie Girl was coming back to FTTF and had nowhere to go. The circumstances had changed at home and my husband, Tony, reluctantly agreed to foster her. He proceeded to sleep with one eye open as she slept next to his head that first night. He had fallen victim to the media hype and was petrified of her.

It didn’t take long for Tony to realize the media had not been telling the truth and, just a few days later, it was him who said she wasn’t ever leaving our house. She fit and she was home. To this day, Charlie Girl continues to be an amazing, sweet, loving girl who goes everywhere with us. She became our first pitbull foster fail.

It was a few years before we decided to foster again. I spent a good bit of time with the Forlorn Family and all of the dogs who would come and go through the rescue. As my involvement with FTTF progressed, Tony admittedly wanted to join me. We soon discovered we both shared a passion for these dogs and for fostering.

Titan was our second foster and the beginning of the “Cardoso Zoo” (our loving nickname for our ever growing pack). A sickly pup from a bad cruelty case, he joined us in 2013. It was hard letting him go; a mixture of both happiness and sadness. The array of emotion we experienced was so worth watching a pup get his forever home.


Renewing vows with Charlie & Austin

A couple more came and went. Enter a shy 8-week-old pup named Austin. While awaiting a forever home, Tony and Austin developed a strong bond. After a couple of failed attempts at a forever home, we discovered the failures occurred because he has already found his forever home: ours. And, just like Charlie Girl had years before, he fit. Foster fail number two had officially joined the “Cardoso Zoo”. A few more years and a few more pups came and went; each with different personalities and different needs. Each made their own impact on our hearts. Everything was going well with our fostering adventure. Little did we know what was coming next.

About two and a half years ago, two more fosters joined the group: Mio, an 11-week-old “bite dog”, and Fe, a broken 8-month-old pup. We had no intention of keeping these guys as they didn’t get along with our crew. We felt they deserved more due to the crate-and-rotate routine we had to adhere to. We won’t even mention the fact Fe and I had a love/hate relationship. Over the course of their tenure at the “Cardoso Zoo”, Mio and Fe developed a very strong bond. I became Fe’s “person” and both Tony and I fell head over heels for Mio’s goofiness. We developed a system that worked and all pups were happy and content. We made the decision, a couple months ago, that Mio and Fe were home as well. So, they became FTTF foster fails three AND four. Currently, the Zoo is complete, but we know sometime in the future there will be another in need who will join the loving chaos that is the Cardoso Zoo.


Pam with FTTF Alumni Track

Each and every one of the foster dogs who have come to our home have taught us something. Yes, it was hard to let Titan, Brock, Cid, Ortiz, Harry, Track, Cheeto, Draco, TJ, Komodo, Merle, “Voodoo”, Watson, and Whitey go. Without a doubt. Yet, to watch them happy and loved in their respective forever homes is amazing. I am so thankful for a husband who shares my passion, the friends and family we have gained through Friends to the Forlorn, and the four dogs – Charlie, Austin, Fe, and Mio – who now complete our home, and our family. At the end of the day, I’m not sure who gets more out of it: us or the dogs.

It has and continues to be an amazing ride with FTTF, watching it grow into what it is today. I’m proud to be a part of the Forlorn Family. Not only do we raise awareness and find home for some amazing creatures, but we are an invaluable asset to the local community.

Volunteer Spotlight: Ashley Ake

Meet Ashley!

Volunteer & Foster

Current Pets:
Celina, FTTF foster – Celina is a champion snuggler and would love to hold down the couch with you! She is great with kids and cats but prefers to be the only princess in the house. She would do best in a home as the only dog or with a brother who is larger than her. No small dogs. This girl’s bright smile is sure to light up your world!!

*crate trained, house broken, leash trained, up to date on all preventative care!

How long have you been volunteering with FTTF?
Almost 3 months

Were you involved in animal rescue prior to volunteering with FTTF?

What made you decide to volunteer with FTTF?
After losing our furbaby in January, our hearts were broken and we were looking for a rescue dog to share our love with and heal the brokenness.

What are your primary FTTF volunteer roles? Do you have any favorite tasks?
Foster Mom. I also enjoy helping where it’s needed at events, etc.

What do you enjoy about volunteering with FTTF?
These pups and people are incredible. There’s nothing better than doing my part to save the life of a puppy that might otherwise not have the opportunity.

What would you tell someone looking for a place to volunteer who is considering FTTF?
Fostering is the most rewarding experience on the planet for both these dogs in need and their humans too!

Do you have any favorite volunteer stories or events you would like to share?
Bully Bingo is such a blast!! Spending time with friends and FTTF family all while raising money for these precious dogs…it doesn’t get much better than that. Oh, and did I mention drink specials?!

How has being an FTTF volunteer made an impact on your life?
Having Celina in our home has been the greatest blessing. She makes us laugh, keeps us on the move, and most importantly fills our home with joy!

Is there anything else you would like to say about your experience as a FTTF volunteer?
These dogs need every ounce of love, care, and financial support we can offer. I’m honored to be a part of this amazing organization!!


Interested in becoming part of the Forlorn Family?
Visit our
Volunteer page for more information!

Dog of the Week: Matilda

Meet Matilda!

By Stacey Greenwald, Foster Mom

Why did you decide to foster Matilda?
I have fostered for many years and had taken a break from fostering. But, when I saw Mattie’s photo in our fosters group I knew I had to help. Mangey pups are my weakness! Even though her skin looked a bit rough and she needed a few more good meals, she was so goofy and playful. She won me over and I told Jason to go get her!

Does Matilda have any nicknames?
Tillie & Mattie. Being able to call her “Mattie” was actually one of the reasons I named her Matilda, after our favorite QB, Matt Ryan.

How would you describe her in three words?
Energetic, Goofy, Friendly

What is Matilda’s favorite thing?
Food – without a doubt!

Describe Matilda’s perfect day:
It would start out around 7:00am with a big breakfast and a nice, long walk. A hike would be even better! Then, come inside for more treats and playtime with her toys. After a short nap, go play fetch outside and then snack on a bully stick. Matilda LOVES playing fetch and is pretty good at bringing the ball back, though she sometimes will also play keep-away with her ball! Some time relaxing in the sunshine before playing more with her friends, Mattie loves other dogs, and then it’s dinner time! After dinner, we would take another walk around the neighborhood before playing inside and then getting a peanut butter kong at bedtime.

Describe Matilda’s ideal family:
Matilda’s perfect home would be with an active family that is committed to providing her with exercise and continued training to help her become a confident, well-behaved girl. Having a person to take her running or hiking would be amazing! She doesn’t like rain AT ALL but she may like swimming. She would love another happy, playful dog in the family to run and play with so they can wear each other out and then go eat treats. She likes kids and will roll over to get her belly rubbed, but may be a bit too strong and enthusiastic for small children. She is definitely a big puppy and doesn’t know her own strength or size. She hasn’t been around cats but can be tested if an interested home may be a good fit.

Interested in making Matilda part of your family?
Visit our Adopt page to learn more about our adoption process and download our adoption application!