Chances are you have an opinion about pit bulls. Maybe they're your favorite breed. Or maybe you think legislation should be passed to ban the dangerous "bully breed" like some cities are attempting to do. Whatever your feelings are about these dogs, you probably don't have all the facts.
Fido, a professional dog training studio in Ferndale, wants to shed some light on the breed that's been getting so much press lately. The studio's Laura Witkowski and Felicia Asher have put together a special seminar that they hope will break the cycle of lies they feel the media has spread about pit bulls.
On Saturday, April 11, they'll hold a seminar called, "Facts over fear: Breaking the cycle of pit bull stigma." They hope to educate the public on the facts about pits and correct the public perception of the breed.
"Pit bulls are just dogs," says Witkowski, noting that aggressive behavior can be exhibited by any dog of any breed. "There's a bigger stigma attached to pits than any other breed, but any decently sized dog can do damage."
Witkowski, a dog trainer, and Asher, a veterinary technician, have different approaches to the breed. Witkowski, who's currently caring for three rescue pits including a foster, prefers to look at all dogs as individuals, like you would people. Asher grew up in a house that always had pit bulls and really celebrates the breed. Both are passionate that the dogs have gotten a bad rep thanks to a few sensationalized cases.
"I couldn't have asked for two more brilliant women to head this seminar," says Fido owner Tammy Crenshaw.
They're not glossing over the fact that the breed does face some predilections to bad behavior. It all has to do with genetics, they say. If a nervous mother gives birth to some pups, chances are the pups will exhibit nervous behavior. Or they might be totally normal, cuddly, energetic dogs. If dogs live together, dogs of any breed, there's a chance there will be a scuffle from time to time.
"Any house with multiple dogs needs good management," says Asher.
Witkowski says the key is to look at each dog as an individual. And most times attacks happen in what she refers to as "powder keg situations," where tensions have mounted to a point where the dog explodes. In these situations, there's a human element that aids in causing the attacks. Perhaps the dog has been chained outside for a long period of time with little food and water. Perhaps it's been forced to fight other dogs. Whatever the case, there were probably signs the dog might attack, and people chose to ignore them.
"A lot of dogs who are involved in bite and attack instances tend to be chained outside, malnourished, and not treated like a family member," says Witkowski.
As much as pit bull's alleged bad qualities are extolled, their better attributes often go unmentioned. The breed is known for being cuddly and loving human interaction. Trainers also love working with pit bulls because of their tenacity, tirelessness, and intelligence. At one point in time, they were known as "nanny dogs" because of the gentleness toward children.
Witkowski says the seminar will discuss training specifically as well as other aspects of having a pit bull, including the stigma that comes along with owning a "bully breed."
Witkowski and Asher hope everyone from those with a mild curiosity in the breed to those who've been lifelong pit bull owners will attend the talk.
The seminar takes place at 703 Livernois St., Ferndale on Saturday, April 11 from 1-3:30 p.m. It costs $25 and comes with a packet of information and resources. Seating and space is limited, so pre-registration is strongly suggested. Call 313-204-6154 or email [email protected]