I began walking Pit Bull dogs in a shelter, and I knew nothing about Pit Bulls at all! After walking about 5,000 dogs (many breeds) in 6 years, I look back at my relationships with Pit Bull dogs.
I really was a Labrador guy, never even saw a Pit Bull in my life until I volunteered at a shelter. I knew they were different and they were strong but friendly. After about a year of successful dog walks (and one attack by a Shar Pei), I began walking and interacting with Pit Bulls.
There were about 20 Pit Bulls in a row of cages and they were not getting walked in the middle of winter; so I opened the cage and said, "Here I go." Although I was not familiar with the breed and never heard of news stories of "dangerous dog attacks," I probably was in better shape in not hearing any bad news. To me, if I heard bad things about them I probably would have backed off and not walked them-- but I decided they were wagging their tails and were smiling... so I walked all 20 dogs.
To me, that is pretty suprising that dogs that hardly knew me would let me in their cage and allow me to be their friend. BUT, I read, is the other way around. They decide IF I am their friend. The dog makes the decision, but I did too.
FORGET BEING NERVOUS
I decided to take on my role and just walk the dogs, and I was avoiding the bad press and paranoia one could fall into easily. Some volunteers avoided the Pit Bulls but I just acted as if they were, "Like any other dog." They did not make me nervous right away, meaning, later I had a couple incidents that startled me.
I decided to take on the "Tough Guy Mentality" and show I was the boss. I really believe my alpha or leadership of the dog walk, helped me be the main dog. He or she had to follow me. Just like any other dog, German Shepherd or Poodle.
ALSO WALK THE PUPPIES
By walking the puppies (of any breed), you can become very confident in working with the breed. You get to see how they act, their personalities, etc.
HAVE AN ESCAPE PLAN
While working with the Pit Bulls, I decided (like all dogs) to have an escape plan or plan of action in case of emergency. How far from the building I would walk the dog, having others know I was out there walking in the winter snow, you keep tabs on one another, just like a family. For safety or for no safety, you always build an escape plan in your mind and it helps.
Mind over matter, I guess.
FOCUS ON THE WORK
You cannot get ahead with Pit Bulls if you are worried about negative confrontations with the dogs. Focus on the dog walk, focus on giving dog treats, focus on walking them in and out of the cage. You keep the dog focused if you are focused.
EXPERIENCE IS THE KEY
By walking many dog breeds, you will get very confident in how similar the Pit Bull dog is to all dogs. Just keep walking all dogs until you can be sure, you are a Pit Bull guy or girl.
ONE GOOD RELATIONSHIP OR TWO
By having one or too good relationships with Pit Bulls, it could change the way you work with them, or want to own a Pit Bull. My relationships went very smooth. I had 100 pound Pit Bulls sitting on my lap, giving me kisses, and I gave them kisses. I got into brushing the dogs, bathing them and close interaction with them. I believe it was the total experience of working with small toy dogs and the Bully Breeds, a good feeling for the animals altogether. Even working with the cats, gave me confidence in working with ALL animals.
FOCUS ON WINNING
I would say, "Focus on winning," while working with Pit Bulls. I would always say a little prayer, as to guide my work with the dog(s). I saw in my mind, a win, a score, a trophy! I was going to be the best Pit Bull dog volunteer I could be, without any professional training. And nobody ever gave me any tips, I just did a lot of dog walking and interaction with them.
DO MANY PIT BULL TASKS
I would go in their cages after a walk and talk to the dogs, brush them, later-- I became a dog bather, rub their bellies, close interaction with them, just like all the other dogs. Handing them food biscuits, and giving them their food, also helps in bonding with them. Playing games and using dog toys also helped. Study the way they look at you and other dogs. See how their tails are positioned. Are they friendly? Or happy? You will find out, by constant interaction with them.
AFTER A WHILE THEY ARE NOT PIT BULLS ANYMORE
After a while, they are not Pit Bulls anymore, and you can remove the label. This is how you can feel abou them, if you get comfortable with them. They can tell if you are nervous. One time, I was fighting a Pit Bull on its leash, and I shook like a leaf, and it was very scary. I learned to fight many dogs on the leash and finally would not panic, if it was a Pit Bull. Sometimes the dog(s) will try and grab the leash or back out of their collars. You have to be very confident and not be afraid to control the situation, or they will control it. That is why you develop a safety plan and strategy in working with very strong dogs.
If you are afraid of Pit Bulls, that is allright, but don't work with them until you are comfortable with them. They can sense your anxiety, there is no way to hide it. After a few tries and maybe with friendly Pit Bulls (family and friends), it will be an easy task to handle the strong dogs. Anybody can work with dogs, as long as you are honest to yourself and want to help the Pit Bulls. Why not volunteer today with your local dog pound or shelter?
About Author / Additional Info:
I have worked with dogs for about 7 years, and graduated from a veterinary assistant program.