I have a pit bull…

Since adopting Fred, I’ve noticed a change in the way people react to seeing me walking my dogs. People we encounter on the sidewalk or along the trail have always had mixed reactions to seeing me coming with a big black dog, but now that I have two with me I feel like a higher percentage of people are more wary of our presence than before.

Most people who have dogs of their own immediately see that Fred is a puppy and is friendly by the way he furiously wags his tail and bounces around trying to play with their dog. But it’s the people who don’t have dogs with them that I’m trying to figure out.

Some people just glare and sneer at us and steer completely clear of my dogs. One theory is that they see my dogs pulling and excited and think that I don’t have proper control over them. That or they must absolutely despise dogs or be so deathly afraid of them that they can’t function in our presence. If so, then why are you out walking where there are tons of dogs around?!?

There is one woman we encounter walking every once in a while on the path near our house who is never friendly and just sideways glances at my dogs as she hurries past. This morning there was another dog owner who lets her dog run off leash while she bikes. The dog is very friendly and well behaved (although I still don’t think any dog should be off leash on such a high traffic path like that, ever. Good thing my dogs are friendly as well.) When this lady passed, that dog went up to her and sniffed her leg. Didn’t even touch her, just paused for a moment to sniff with a slight swish of the tail. The woman froze and closed her eyes tight until he trotted on.  This is a grown woman! When we passed she looked like she absolutely despised my dogs. Obviously I knew enough to keep them reined in.

Other people have really annoyed me when they voice their conviction that my dogs are going to bite them or attack them. Here are Fred and Cocoa, with their ears back and relaxed, heads low, tails wagging furiously, tugging at the leash to get close enough to sniff. Their body language reads loud and clear that they are extremely friendly and very happy – they just want to say hi! But I guess all these people see is two big black dogs coming at them and that’s all they can process. Even though I am there holding the leash… it’s this part that gets me even more – sure, so you don’t know how to read a dog’s body language – fine, but really you’re also going to insult my judgment and handling of my dogs by assuming that I would let them bite you? I can see clearly that you are recoiling from them so no, I’m not going to let them come up to you. Jeez.

Finally, there are the people who initially want to greet my dogs but then after they find out that Fred is a pit bull mix, they suddenly recoil. That drives me nuts. In the beginning, I’d just say “they’re both lab mixes” because I didn’t want to deal with people’s reactions. But I’m getting better at saying it straight, that Cocoa is a lab mix and Fred is a pit bull mix. I haven’t yet mastered the follow up when people say “oh” and decide to move on and stop petting him, because I don’t want to be rude… but what I really want to say is, ” do you judge other people by their race the same way?” or, “you seemed perfectly happy petting him before, what happened?” It sure does annoy me. And yet, once there was one women came across the Petco parking lot one day after Fred’s puppy class to greet us and told me that she was “one of the people who understands that pit bulls are great dogs.” How can I get more people to be like her? Fred and I have a mission to be ambassadors of the breed. I’m still getting used to how to go about that, and be proud of it.

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