No such thing as a "nanny dog"

I have been wanting to write about this topic for quite some time and am finally getting to it. Let's get into it. No, the American Pit Bull Terrier, Staffordshire Terrier, American Bully or any other breed is not a "nanny dog" and it is counter productive to a dog to refer to it as such. Let me begin by saying I too used to perpetuate this myth, thinking that it was beneficial to do so. As I continue to grow, learn, research and have real life experiences I have changed my understanding of this term and now see the harm that it does to the dogs categorized as such. Owners of bull breeds often feel like they have much to prove and that their dogs are stereotyped and treated unfairly simply because of the way they look. Because of this, owners and advocates of bull breeds often end up overcompensating in their quest to prove others wrong and show what wonderful companions these dogs can make. Herein lies the problem. American Pit Bull Terriers (APBT) seem to get this the most, so I will use them as the example. It is worth noting that this is a separate breed both in appearance and temperament than the American Bully. Over the years of owning bull breeds I have run into many people who stop to comment on what great dogs they are and how amazing they are with children. Many like to boast of how tolerant they are with their own children. One day a few years back I was out with one of my dogs and something really clicked for me. A woman approached us saying that my dog reminded her of her "pitty". She then carried on about how amazing they are with kids and that her own kids climb all over, pull on and mess with her dog all the time, clearly trying to further prove her point, but all I could think was how irresponsible she sounded. Another more recent example is from a Facebook mom group I am part of. Someone posted a couple days ago asking for suggestions on what dog breed to add to her family. I scrolled through a few comments and here are a couple direct quotes from them, "Our pits are so good with my daughter. She will climb all over them and pull on their ears and faces and they don't even flinch. They are the best of friends." "Pitty! Ours is amazing with our kids! They can literally take his food out of his dish while he eats and he is always so patient when they mess with him, I don't think twice about leaving them alone together." While I did not read every comment, I can tell you the only ones I saw mentioning a dog's willingness to allow young children to harass it were one speaking of "pit bulls". Here's the deal, it is in my very strong opinion no dog should have to tolerate a young child riding on it, pulling its ears, stepping all over it, messing with its food while it eats or otherwise tormenting it, even if the dog doesn't outwardly appear bothered. It is true that different dogs have different comfort levels and boundaries that an owner should be aware of, but none should be forced to have that tolerance pushed in order to further "prove" their temperament or further an agenda. In fact, this exact behavior is what often leads to bites. A dog will show its discomfort in many ways, some may be missed if you're not paying close attention or not fully aware of all the signs. If a dog feels its cues are not being respected it will escalate, which could lead to a child (or adult) being bit. A young child is certainly not aware of such cues. Then a bite occurs and you hear all about how the family "never saw it coming, he/she was always so great with kids." Because so many want to perpetuate the myth of the nanny dog and prove just how tolerant their "pit bull" is, they become negligent and set their dogs up to fail. When we are honest about a dog, its history, what it was bred for and that it should not have to tolerate mistreatment from children, we can set them up for success. Children should always be monitored around any breed of dog and they should not be allowed to climb, ride, pull, poke, etc. It is so important to teach them respect and proper handling from day one, to allow a dog space away when needed and to monitor cues of discomfort. Dogmeets_baby is a great resource on Instagram on this subject. So, in closing, this is how the nanny dog myth is not only false (google it) but also harmful to the very breed it intends to help while also leading to increase bite risk. Any dog can bite, don't push a dog's boundaries and comfort to prove a point. It is not fair to the dog and creates a very dangerous situation.

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