Cesar Millan often says, “A breed is like a suit of clothes, it doesn’t tell you anything about the dog inside.” In Leader of the Pack, Cesar works to rehabilitate dogs and train people, which is the best way to help others understand that it isn’t any particular breed that causes problems, but the way a dog is trained. There is a “good” dog inside of almost every dog. This is certainly true of the most misunderstood breed, the pit bull.
Pit bulls receive horrible press and the internet is full of misconceptions and untruths about this normally sweet and gorgeous breed of dog. They are also a breed with which Cesar has a personal connection. One of the most beloved members of Cesar’s pack, Daddy was a pit bull that originally belonged to rapper Redman. When the pit bull was four months old, Redman didn’t feel he could care for him properly in his environment. He sought a trainer and, through a referral, found Cesar. Daddy became a member of Cesar’s family and helped Cesar educate people on the true nature of his breed. It turned out that the public has a lot to learn about pit bulls!
When Pit Bulls Were America’s Darling
There was a time when reports of pit bull attacks were nonexistent. The sight of a pit bull walking down the street didn’t evoke terror, but rather reminded people of beloved dogs they had seen in the movies and in the media. An American favorite, the pit bull was featured in army recruitment posters during World War I and there were several famous pit bulls that served in the American military. They were a dog that was seen as a protector, a friend and an athlete, the sort of dog Americans aspired to have by their side. In fact, sports teams in the 1930s used the image of the pit bull to depict an admirable competitor and sportsman. To be called a “pit bull” was a compliment!
Pit bulls were also seen as a child’s best friend. On the silver screen the pit bull was a constant companion to the adorable kids in the Our Gang comedies, as well as with Buster Brown. The breed was also the corporate mascot for the Buster Brown shoe company. And who doesn’t think fondly of the pit bull terrier depicted sitting next to a gramophone in the famous RCA Victor image. For a good portion of American history the breed was beloved. Then in the 1980’s the way the public felt about pit bulls changed.
Demonizing the Dog
The big shift in American sentiment toward pit bulls began in earnest in the 1980s. By 1986 over thirty communities had instituted or were considering breed specific legislation that targeted banning pit bulls. It wasn’t the breed itself that had communities in an uproar, but the way humans were choosing to train and work with these dogs. Dog fighting, although illegal, had made a comeback and pit bulls were the fighter of choice. Drug dealers, gang members and other criminals seeking protection began training pit bulls as guard dogs. In 1987 when a pit bull guarding a marijuana crop mauled and killed a two-year-old boy in California, Americans were outraged. Rather than focusing on the real problem, which was any breed of dog trained to be aggressive toward people, the knee-jerk reaction was to strike out at the breeds chosen to be trained to attack. In Tijeras, New Mexico, just outside of Albuquerque, the toughest pit bull ban of the time was instituted, allowing animal control officers to seize and destroy them on sight without compensation to the owner. From darling to demon, how times change!
Today, public perception of pit bulls is starting to shift back, but there is still a great deal of work to do to help people understand the true nature of these dogs. You can help by educating yourself with the truth about the breed and sharing it with others. There is no breed of dog that is inherently bad.
Cesar continues to try to help educate people and tonight on Leader of the Pack he tells the story of Turbo, a misunderstood mutt that never had a chance at freedom. He was chained up for his whole life, and now in the shelter he is aggressive when others pass his cage. Can Cesar rehabilitate him and find a family that is up to the task of learning how encourage Turbo to be a well-adjusted family pet? Tune into Leader of the Pack tonight, Tuesday March 19 at 8pm et/pt and find out!