Are pit bulls safe around children?
The past few years have seen this topic hotly debated. Advocates on both sides feel passionately about their position and defend it strongly. A Google search on the topic does little to clear up any confusion. Stories and photos illustrating both points of view are abundant.
Last week, my sister decided to stay with me for a few days, bringing her two-year-old daughter. One of my dogs, Sandy, is a pit mix, which brought the subject to light for me once again. I was not concerned about my other two dogs. Ladybugg, my border collie mix, was raised in a house full of children, so I was confident she would be friendly and behave appropriately around my niece. Chloe, my English hound mix, had little experience with children, however, not the social butterfly, I reasoned she would likely be uninterested in Kayla. Sandy, however, going on six years old, is as rambunctious, playful, and dramatic as she was at six months. I have never experience any aggression issues with her, either towards humans or other dogs, so I did not believe Sandy would hurt Kayla intentionally, however, I was concerned that she may nip or jump on her like she does me. Sandy
weighs over fifty pounds and is strong enough to nearly knock me over if she catches me off guard, even though I weigh significantly more than that. She is prone to sudden outbursts of excitement whenever anything out of the ordinary happens, such as the approaching of the mail carrier, school bus (she nearly had a heart attack the day they both arrived at once), a pedestrian walking in the street near our house, food (whether it’s offered to her or not), the cats running, other neighborhood dogs barking, or, well, just about anything else. On a typical day, Sandy is off in her own little world doing Sandy things that make Chloe roll her eyes at her. Having recently read an article outlining the changing viewpoint of pits over the last century, I had a hard time imagining my Sandy as a “nanny dog.” My collie, Ladybugg, seemed much more suited to that duty. She has a strong herding instinct and loves to watch me care for my kittens (or, as my niece Kayla called them, my “mice”), never barking or nipping, only watching and occasionally licking. Convinced I was right, I set myself up for quite a surprise.
When Kayla first arrived, all three dogs barked, as dogs normally do, but Ladybugg was immediately friendly towards her, as I suspected. Chloe was a little afraid but mostly avoided her, also as I suspected, but Sandy was so terrified, she was shaking. Kayla, not having grown up with a dog in the house, but being a natural-born animal lover (it’s hereditary- she gets it from her aunt), was a little cautious but not afraid. Once my sister and mother calmed the dogs down a bit, Kayla was able to start petting Ladybugg (pat them gently!) and loving every minute! Chloe stayed outdoors most of the time they were here, part of which was during a thunderstorm, which caused quite a dilemma in Chloe’s mind. Sandy, however, quickly learned something dogs have been realizing about toddlers for centuries: they drop food. In the blink of an eye, Sandy and Kayla were best friends.
For the next three days, Kayla did very well with Sandy (and all the others). I watched in amazement as this dog who was normally so hyper and dramatic follow Kayla around the house, licking her, letting herself be petted, pushed, and pulled, taking direction, all while her tail was wagging. Sandy never tried to jump on Kayla, although once she ran past her a little quickly and Kayla lost footing for a second. She did not lean on her. She did not take food away from her unless Kayla offered it to her. She even allowed Kayla to take BACK food she’d already given her. Sandy was calm and under control the entire visit, with no direction from me or any of the other adults present. The videos on this page were taken less than twenty-four hours after Sandy and Kayla first met.
I cannot speak for everybody, but my conclusion from this is experience is that the “nanny dog” reputation the pits used to have is completely warranted. Perhaps they need to fire their PR rep.