Pit Bulls as therapy dogs

The Plan for Arnie, since Day 1, was for him to be a therapy dog. I love volunteering for hospitals/hospice/retirement homes, I live right next to a VA/childrens/regular hospitals, and Arnie is an incredibly happy, social dog. Its a natural fit.

But when Arnie was a puppy, it became clear that he wasnt just social. He is SOCIAAAAAAALLLLAAAAAHHHHH!!!



So, when Arnie was a puppy, I assumed he would mellow out a bit as he aged, and trained him to be a therapy dog anyway. He did fantastic– not afraid of loud noises or wheelchairs or crutches or anything… but… four years later, Im still waiting for him to mellow out :-/

Even though I cant take him to hospitals (yet) one of his bestest buddies in the neighborhood is a girl with Downs Syndrome who lives next door. When we are coming back from our walkies, I know before I can see her in her front yard playing, cause Arnie will be pulling on his leash, NEIGHBOR IS OUT! NEIGHBOR IS OUT!!!! SHE GIVES ME LUVIES!!! NEEEEEEEEEEIGHBOOOOOOOR!!!!! KISSIES FOR NEIGHBOR!!!!

‘The Today Show’ just did a bit on an organization that uses pits as therapy dogs. I wanna know where the hell they got those mellow puppies, LOL! But I do think its funny how the anchor lady was like “I CANT BELIEVE THEY USE PITS! PITS ARE MEAN! THESE DOGS ARENT MEAN! I CANT BELIEVE THEY USE PITS! MY PRECONCEPTIONS ARE TOTALLY VALID, RITE??” the whole damn clip. Im pretty sure her mind was blown.

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  1. #1 Martin
    December 3, 2010

    I’ve been told that this breed’s background as a fighting dog actually makes it a good candidate for training as a therapy dog or a kid’s dog. Apparently pits will ignore moderately painful things – a pulled ear or tail, getting a paw stepped on – in a way that many other breeds won’t. They’ll tolerate rough handling from kids, or from people with motor control issues, without being distracted from their primary purpose.

    Also, where’s the obligatory picture of Arnie? Nice video, but we want to see Arnie.

  2. #2 khops
    December 3, 2010

    I’m waiting for our pitt mix Gus to mellow out too. We’re at about year three, and he still acts EXACTLY as you describe Arnie. One thing I will say though is that he seems to have an intrinsic idea about being more gentle with certain people (ie women, children, the elderly) when playing than he is with my boyfriend for example. My one year old nephew can poke his eyes and pull his ears and tail (while supervised of course) and Gus just wags his tail, which gives me hope that we might get to therapy dog status one day. I’ve had labs, greyhounds, german shepherds and other mixes, but I’ve never had a dog as affectionate or as emotional as my pitt mix. I may never get another breed again.

    And I agree with Martin; I love the Arnie pics.

  3. #3 Tommykey
    December 3, 2010

    He didnt just like and appreciate some attention from people. He was more like, LUUUUUUUVIES!!! PEEEEEOPLE!!!! I LOVE YOU PEOPLE!!!! I LOVE YOU PEOPLE!!! LUUUUUUUVIEEEEEEEEEEESSSSSSICLIMBINYOURLAPNAUIFITSEE!

    Heck, Arnie might even like playing with Rho! 🙂

  4. #4 reed
    December 3, 2010

    Your description of arni reminds me a lot of the pit my family had when I was a kid. Her dad was mellower (or maybe mellowed with age ?) and probably would have made a better therapy dog…

  5. #5 German Santanilla
    December 3, 2010

    We have two large pit mixes, boy and girl. They both love children, but Tungusa, the girl LLLLLLOOOOOOOOVEEEEEEESSS to jump and cavort and roll around. She loves everyone. Our boy, Wolfie, likes children and old people. He made me cry twice, once when he picked out a kid in a crowd whose big dog had died a couple odays before and sat and commiserated with him. The other time was when he was even younger and an old Filipino neghber slipped and fell. I had to let Wolfie go to catch her and he was new from the shelter, so I was hoping he wouldn’t run off and go wild, but all he did was kis the lady and sit by her until her famiy came. He kissed her, too, but she looked a little worried.

  6. #6 Jason Dick
    December 3, 2010

    Haha, fantastic, sounds so much like my dog (which I left at home when I went off to college…). He’s not a pit (he’s a herding dog), but he is big: around 100-110lbs or so. He finally started to mellow out at about 8 years old or so, but can still get excited when he meets new people.

    And yes, when I go home to Mom’s, he wants to get in my lap. And I let him. For a little while 🙂

  7. #7 Improbable Joe
    December 4, 2010

    I already love your Arnie.

    I’ve got a dog who is totally unfit for any sort of therapy because she starts barking really loudly at strangers. In our house, she quickly transitions from barking to wanting to climb on top of you or maybe inside you. They get excited but they don’t mean any harm.

    Point is, there’s no such thing as a bad dog, only bad owners who hurt a dog so they can’t trust people.

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