Yesterday I was at a one-year-old birthday party with my wife and two daughters. About an hour into it I found myself sitting down watch my girls wait to get balloon animals (that would pop in the not so distant future causing a meltdown of three-year-old proportions), when a woman seating close by asked me a question.
“Is there some kind of pit bull support group I can join?” she asked with an undertone of frustration. “I’m so sick of people avoiding me on walks or refusing to come into my house because I have a pit bull. He’s the sweetest, friendliest dog you’ll ever meet but no one will go near him.”
She went on to say that even family members were scared to come into her home because of her pit bull. Everyone was fine with her other three large dogs, but not the big, mean pit bull. This is something that everyone with a bully breed has experienced to some degree and it can be a very annoying thing for those of us who know and love these great dogs.
I have experienced this type of prejudice often throughout the ten years with my pit bull Hayley. And as many others I’ve tried to reason with people, telling them how wrong they are about the breed, and how nice a dog Hayley is, but it usually falls on deaf ears.
What I’ve learned is that you can’t change someone’s mind if they have made a decision based on an irrational fear. Just about all the people I’ve encountered who are afraid of my dog because she’s a pit bull have never had a bad experience with one and usually have never even met one in person. They are afraid for no good reason – it’s irrational.
I have, however, discovered a great way to break down their walls and open their mind up to experience what a bully breed is really like. One thing you have to remember is that sometimes the more you push someone to change their opinion, the more they will resist (especially with an irrational fear).
The most effective way to change someone’s perception is to passively let them experience something in a new light.
So, my advice to the woman at the party was to dress up her big, scary 90lb pit bull in a t-shirt, puffy pink collar or costume. I’ve noticed if I just put a t-shirt on Hayley, everyone smiles and wants to come meet her, where normally they would run to the other side of the street. It’s really amazing how a simple t-shirt could change locked gazes of anxiety to cheerful, welcoming smiles.
One of my clients with a big pit told me she was walking through a farmers market and was tired of the fearful looks she was getting so she put her sunglasses on him and everything changed. People were immediately coming up by the handful to pet him.
The public perception of bully breeds, especially pit bulls, is so bad that most people are already too frightened to be reasoned with. So I would recommend that you skip the attempt at verbal persuasion and go right into showing the world how goofy and fun these dogs are. Don’t try to hard sell them on how great our dogs are. Instead, bring them to the public in a new light – paint a different picture for them of what pit bulls are really like. I’ve seen this work time and time again.
The best way to change someone’s mind is to show them a new reality.
To all my bully breed friends out there, my homework for you is to dress up your pooch and take him to some public places and let me know what kind of reaction you got.
You can post your experiences in the comments section below or better yet, go over to my Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/abetterlifewithyourdog) and post a picture of your dressed up dog on my wall.
Together we can show the world the real pit bull.