Now we will work about debunking the pitbull nanny dog myth.
Pitbull. The mere utterance of the word evokes the image a ferocious fighting dog, bred for the sole purpose of fighting for entertainment and gambling purposes. It’s with little wonder that this breed of dog, renowned as the supreme fighting dog breed, has a fearsome reputation. But fighting among other dogs is only part of its terrible reputation. Another, far more disturbing part, is its sparse, but ferocious attacks on humans.
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In several jurisdictions around the world, the dog breed has come under close scrutiny following numerous lethal and nonlethal attacks on people. Due to their size, purpose and reputation, several governments have made it illegal to breed the dog, and in some instances, even own a dog of this particular breed. This is regardless of whether or not a dog has caused any harm to anything at all. Laws such as these are sometimes known as breed specific legislation. The purpose is to prevent unprovoked attacks on the public by breeds of dogs deemed to be at a higher risk of being savage. But breed specific laws are fraught with problems, and fans of certain outlawed breeds can always find a way to oppose the laws. Be it with legal methods, or crowd support. Enter the pitbull nanny dog myth.
To combat these spates of new breed specific laws, a “fact” about the original use of these sometimes savage dogs began to pop up online. It was stated that during the 19th century that pitbulls were used as nanny dogs. In other words, they were used to care for the children of the family due to their gentle nature. The aim of the campaign was to garner enough public support by spreading a rumor that this specific breed of dog was in fact gentle by nature. This is of course not true, and has absolutely no reference at all. Surely even Charles Dickens, who even wrote about the Bull Terrier briefly failed to mention a gentle nature, preferring to mention its more menacing side. So where did this pitbull nanny dog myth begin?
It’s not an internet age myth itself, first appearing in a New York Times article in 1971, a century late. But that wasn’t the only problem with the article. The interviewees for the piece were William R. Daniels and Mrs. Lilian Rant. They were the president and magazine editor of the Staffordshire Bull Terrier Club of America. Clearly fans of the dog breed, and a one sided view designed to clean up its image. It was in this article that Rant said ” The Stafford we know today quickly becomes a member of the family circle. He loves children and is often referred to as a ‘nursemaid dog.” It took another 16 years for the first ever recorded use of the phrase nanny dog.
In 1987 when there was a move to outlaw the dog in several cities in Canada, the Toronto Star ran a story in which a woman used the phrase for the first time. Again, there was no reliable reference for the claim. And 4 years later Lilian Rant once again decided to bring up the claim in a book citing her own words once more.
Today the claim continues to be circulated online, and it’s especially potent with the help of social media. On social networks the myth is often accompanied with an image of a pitbull, presumably the family pet, with a small child. Although the pitbull nanny dog myth is exactly that, a myth, it has not stopped those who support the dog breed from bringing it up and circulating it. Thankfully though, as pointed out in our source, one advocate for the breed no longer supports the false claim due to safety concerns.