Answer by Victoria Vertuga:
I have two pitbulls that are both rescue dogs. I love them to pieces.
I grew up with golden retrievers and, probably like a lot of people, didn't have a ton of firsthand experience with pitbulls for the first part of my life. Shortly after college I started volunteering at a local shelter. The vast majority of dogs at the shelter were pitbulls. By and large, they were extremely affectionate, sweet, resilient dogs. Many of them were used as bait dogs in dog fighting rings, or turned in by owners who intended to fight the dogs but were disappointed when the dog turned out to not be a bloodthirsty killer.
I noticed that the pits were often times more affectionate, more resilient, more hopelessly optimistic than many other breeds in the shelter. When I would walk the dogs, it amazed me how if I had a pit, people would cross to the other side of the street, give me a very wide bearing, make comments, etc. If I had a German Shepherd or another large dog, this was not the case. The blatant ignorance about them and discrimination toward them began to really upset me. Most of these dogs would simply shower a stranger with kisses when given the opportunity.
In my experiences, these are largely dogs that are affectionate, loving, loyal, and incredibly smart. They score higher in temperament ratings than labs and retrievers. They are known to be incredibly affectionate towards people. Pits are not the crazed aggressive maniacs they are made out to be. They are incredibly strong, yes. And when made to fight by horrible owners intent on making a profit off of the senseless fighting to the death of dogs, they will fight.
Like any breed, every individual dog is different. They should be evaluated as individuals, not judged based on media frenzy. An individual dog can have issues. They can certainly have aggression toward other dogs if they were used to fight or as a bait dog. Or some dogs simply will not be social butterflies and are more selective about the dogs they will play with. Again, this is normal dog behavior and not unique to pitbulls. Rescue dogs of all breeds can tend to be a bit likelier to have some issues and need a little extra TLC because of abuse at the hands of owners, traumatic experiences, or a complete lack of kindness from people at all.
Do not judge the breed because they are strong and therefore ignorant and abusive people decided to make them fight. Do not judge the breed because there may be individual dogs with aggression issues. This is true of any dog breed. My neighbors have a Yorkie that would skin me alive if given the chance.
Bottom line is, pitbulls can be fantastic family pets. In fact, in years past they were known as the "nanny dog" because they are so great with children. The dog from The Little Rascals, Petey, was a pitbull. Sgt Stubby, the first and most highly decorated military working dog, was a pitbull. There are oodles of examples of heroic and awesome dogs that were/are *gasp* pitbulls.
Besides, they snuggle just like people 😉 My pits- Riley and JoJo.