- 1 Why Pitbulls are stereotyped as dangerous
- 2 Do Pitbulls make a good service dog?
- 3 Pitbulls and their role as service dogs
- 4 The problem about BSL (Breed Specific Legislation)
- 5 The rights of service dog handlers
- 6 How to prepare a Pitbull to become a service dog
- 7 Public Access Test
- 8 Performing tasks
- 9 Warning about fake service dogs
- 10 Conclusion
Vicious, aggressive, rabid – these are just some of the sick stereotypes toward Pitbulls. These dogs are discriminated and some states even passed BSL (Breed-Specific Legislation) banning the ownership of what it calls “dangerous” breeds – with Pitties on top of the list. But contrary to their harmful image, Pitbulls are loving, safe, and affectionate pets. In fact, they can be trained to become working dogs. So can Pitbulls be service dogs? Can you own one for such a purpose?
I myself have a Pittie/Chocolate Lab Cross named Mr. Big for my service dog. He is not the first Pittie I have ever had in my life, I had one growing up as well as having one many years ago as an adult. My children were raised with them.
I have friends who are proud pawrents to Pitties. And you know what, they are unscathed, their children still have 10 fingers in both hands, and their household has never been happier. Pitbulls are good boys with a heart of gold. But how come they are tagged as dangerous? We have the reckless breeders and dog fighting rings to blame for that moniker.
Why Pitbulls are stereotyped as dangerous
Pitbulls are direct descendants of English bull-baiting dogs. These doggos were bred to bite and hold large animals for the sake of public entertainment. But when bull baiting was penalized in the 1800s, Pitbulls are being used for bloodsports against another dog. Breeders and owners will raise them to be aggressive so they can defeat the “enemy” in front of them.
Thanks to the efforts of the authorities, there has been a continuous crackdown against dog fighting. Remember Michael Vick, a former quarterback in the NFL, pleaded guilty to dogfighting back in 2007? Dozens of Pitbulls were rescued in his property in Virginia. Right now, dog fighting is already a felony offense in all of 50 U.S. states.
If we are to look at the biological nature of Pitbulls, they have a hard-wired tendency to fight other dogs. This is due to the decades of reckless breeding for the sake of dogfighting. But nowadays, Pitties are being tested for its bloodline to ensure that they have a lower chance of aggression.
Do Pitbulls make a good service dog?
A Pitbull is actually an umbrella breed for several breeds including the American Staffordshire Terrier, American Pitbull Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and American Bully. Only the American Pitbull Terrier is what the American Kennel Club recognizes as a pure and true Pitbull breed.
Far from their bad reputation, Pitbulls can grow to be disciplined dogs. Like raising a child, your Pitty will imbibe the environment you expose them to. If you get a well-bred Pitty and raise them with enough socialization and obedience training, they would be clingy pooches. In fact, they forget that they are large breeds and act like a lap dog.
Pitbulls are known to be eager and stocky dogs. They can get really yappy and strong which can be misinterpreted as aggression. Pitties are also big chewers and you have to ensure that your precious belongings are tucked in a safe place. Also, Pitbulls can develop intense separation anxiety if left alone. This can result in destructive behavior.
Can Pitbulls be service dogs? Here are some of the notable characteristics of a well-bred Pitbull:
🐾Affectionate to families, especially to kids
🐾Friendly to strangers but not with other dogs
🐾Intelligent and easy to train
🐾High tendency to mouth and chew
🐾Playful and naturally active
🐾Not likely to howl or bark unless threatened
🐾Low chance of drooling but a bit of a shedder
Considering that Pitbulls are affectionate, extremely loyal, a people-pleaser, and intelligent, there’s no reason why they can’t pass as a service dog. It’s just important that they are socialized growing up to dampen any possibility of aggression.
Pitbulls and their role as service dogs
Although they look imposing, Pitbulls suck as guard dogs. They are too friendly to strangers and they would only bark to alert their owner if the doorbell rings to meet their visitor. But with proper training, they are one of the best breeds for mobility, psychological, psychiatric tasks.
Not just that, Pitbulls can be subjected to intense training so they can become Medical Alert Service Dogs. This type of service canine can react whenever the handler has a low oxygen level, shooting blood sugar levels, and other biochemical changes in the body. Pitties can also learn how to retrieve medication or remind their handlers to take it. Do Pitbulls make a good service dog? YES! As you see, Pitbulls can be lifesavers too!
The problem about BSL (Breed Specific Legislation)
Many U.S. states and countries have BSL which prohibits or limits the ownership of Pitbulls and other breeds. This could be a problem for those who want to have a Pitbull service dog. Some of these states are Arizona, Oregon, Kentucky, Alabama, Montana, Ohio, and Michigan among others.
On the flipside, there are some states that prohibit any efforts to pass a BSL law. These welcoming states are California, Texas, New Jersey, Virginia, New York, Maine, Minnesota, and more.
For states and municipalities with BSL, there would be a total ban or strict rules to follow. For example, a dog owner can only own a Pitbull if s/he’s at least 18, the dog would wear a muzzle cover, and a ton of paperwork. Some states are more unforgiving with its total ban with no conditions. So can Pitbulls be service dogs? It would be difficult on these states.
What happens if you own a Pitbull service dog and moving into a BSL state? Let’s see what Ahmeah Simmons who has Asperger syndrome and her dog Edith had to go to through:
Ahmeah’s doctor recommended to her parents that she will benefit from an emotional support dog. Edith, a Pitbull, came to their life and since then, the two became kindred spirits.
However, things are about to test their bond when the family decided to move to Jacksonville from their home in Minnesota. Since the family doesn’t know about BSL, animal control officers showed up to their home one day and took Edith away. Ahmeah’s mom had to pay $260 to bring Edith back home. However, a neighbor complained which caused Edith to be taken away the second time.
Ahmeah’s mother appealed for an exception, made online petitions, and rallied for support but it fell on deaf ears. They then decided to move back to Minnesota and gave up everything that they had in Jacksonville.
The rights of service dog handlers
When it comes to lawfully certified service dogs, the Fair Housing Act serves as their protection. This legislation states that it’s illegal to discriminate dog breeds if it’s a duly certified service dog. Landlords and local codes can’t deny the handler to own a service dog Pitty since they are protected by the ADA too.
In the case of Ahmeah, she only has Edith as an emotional support dog with no certifications or special training.
Official service dogs, regardless of breed, should be allowed to enter restaurants, hotels, stores, and other establishments together with their owners. Also, no apartment or accommodation should discriminate or ban the entry of a service dog in their premises. But do Pitbulls make a good service dog? Regardless of breed, training would be the defining factor.
But what if an establishment denied my dog to enter? All private establishments are expected to comply with the ADA rules. If you and your dog are discriminated in the grounds of bringing a pet, you can file an ADA complaint to the Department of Justice.
However, make sure that your dog wears a service dog vest or you have legal proof that the doggo is indeed a working canine.
How to prepare a Pitbull to become a service dog
First, forget about the stereotypes and ensure that your doggo has a clean bloodline. Next, you should socialize them incessantly to dampen any negative behavior and stigma within your locality. Socialization should start from puppyhood up to the adult years of your Pitbull. This way, you’re assured of their behavior.
The next thing is obedience training. Pitbulls can become imposing and stubborn if you let them get their way. And since they are stocky breeds, it would be hard to control their tugging and pulling in public.
Next, you need to have your dog trained for the job. It’s a long process to ensure that your pooch will past the test. Make sure that your Pitty has the majority of the following traits:
🐾Calm and friendly
🐾Eager to please attitude
🐾Alert but not reactive
🐾Follows you around
🐾Okay with being touched even by strangers
It’s best for you & your doggo go to the AKC Good Canine Citizen program so the pooch will learn how to behave around dogs, respond to commands, walk on a leash, and more skills. As the handler, you’ll be taught proper dog grooming and more. Remember, the AKC program is made to strengthen the skills of both the dog and the owner.
Public Access Test
Can Pitbulls be service dogs? Your Pitty should pass the Assistance Dogs International Public Access Test (ADIPAT) to become a service dog. You and your dog will be tested as a team. It’s important that your pooch knows how to follow your commands and that he can respond well to supervised separation.
To give you an idea, here are some of the tests that your Pitbull should ace:
🐾Self-control when you drop the leash. The doggo shouldn’t dart off the moment it sees you drop the leash.
🐾Control over unloading and loading from a vehicle. No yappy entrances or rowdy exits.
🐾Discipline inside a restaurant. With all the food, your Pitbull should have control over his senses.
🐾Entry and exit on a doorway. This is a basic task which your Pitty should pass without getting tangled on the leash.
🐾Sit and down on command. Your Pitty should sit the moment you say the cue word.
🐾Heeling. Your doggo should know how to walk with you side by side inside a building. No distractions.
🐾Six-foot recall. In times when the Pitbull will be on lead, it should have a steady recall from six feet away.
The aforementioned skills are general tasks your doggo should master. If you need special assistance, say medical alert, tactile stimulation, or medication retrieval, there would be added tasking skills to the test.
If you’re a blind individual, your Pitty should pass as a consistent guide. The same goes for deaf and immobile handlers who need to be alerted about sounds and falling objects.
Pitbulls can also be trained as medical alert canines for people with diabetes, seizures, and asthma. When it comes to psychological and psychiatric purposes, your Pitty should pass the test for PTSD, depression, and anxiety service dogs.
Warning about fake service dogs
Over the years, the proliferation of fake service dogs has become rampant. Dog owners who want to enjoy the perks of taking their dogs in an in-cabin flight or establishments resort to fake IDs and documents. Some shady websites send fake IDs and certificates which is harmful in many ways.
First, the dog is untrained. If it’s a Pitty, you won’t know how the doggo will react to its environment. If there are other service dogs in the room, an untrained Pitbull may cause trouble. This will put you in tangles with the law. Worse, you’ll be charged and your dog might be taken away from you.
Most of all, resorting to fake service dog documents poses harm to other people. Pitties have the tendency to wander, chase, and bite if not socialized well. If you bring them in public in this situation and with fake documents, you’re holding a time bomb on a leash.
If you want to be sure with your doggo’s certification, it pays to contact the Assistance Dogs International. It’s a coalition of programs that train and place service and assistance dogs. ADI doesn’t train or place dogs directly, but they promote service dog standards. You can also inquire about a recommendation for service dog training.
Can Pitbulls be service dogs? These sweethearts definitely can! With the right upbringing, socialization, and necessary training, they can become working dogs. The stereotypes may try to refute, but the experts have proven that Pitbulls are great assistance pals. They can save lives with their service, love, and loyalty. Do we even deserve them?