“Pit bull” is a generic term as there is no proper definition for pit bull. Recent research including DNA analysis by Dr. Victoria Voith and others has proven that dogs commonly identified as “pit bulls” are quite often a mix of multiple breeds, so breed identification by appearance alone is now considered to be inaccurate and misleading.
All dogs, including pit bulls, are individuals. Treating them as such, providing them with the care, training and supervision they require, and judging them by their actions and not by their DNA or their physical appearance is the best way to ensure that dogs and people can continue to share safe and happy lives together. – Excerpt from ASPCA Position Statement on Pit Bulls
Pit bulls are chosen for this short introduction to canine body language because they have a beautiful structure and their facial expressions are often pronounced making their outwards signs of things like happiness or anxiety somewhat easier to see.
Five photos are included as just a sample of what dogs show with their bodies. The reader is challenged to look at the photo for what it is, but carry the idea that there may be things outside of the picture – things in the environment and are influencing the pet to behave in a certain way. Can you tell if the dog is either inviting your hand for a pet, or are they telling you to stay away? For more information and some helpful guides on how to talk about dog safety especially with your children see DoggoneSafe.com.
Mother with her pups
This mother and her pups do not want, nor do they welcome your touch. The dog not only does not have an alternative exit to escape as she may be in a kennel situation, she would certainly not leave her pups behind. So if you are so bold to reach in and touch her or her babies be prepared for a bite. Her ears are low and drawn back. Considering just what we can see in this picture I would not bother this momma.
Happy Pitbull III
This is one very happy bully! Open, relaxed mouth, tongue hanging out, bright, open eyes and playful ears. Again, not knowing the context under which this photo was taken or who he is with, we can safely take clues from this bully’s relaxed and happy demeanor that he would love a pet or some play.
This is my yard
Is this pitty suspicious of who is photographing him? We can make some assumptions based on his body language. He is standing firm, body in a c-shape looking back, ears lowered and flat, his forehead is wrinkled up and his tail is low and frozen. This pitty is not wanting you to get any closer. We can also gather that he doesn’t have an alternative way to escape from what stresses him, so beware and back off.
This pitty is showing a classic sign of anxiety that we often miss. Lip licking, unless it is just after a dog has eaten or drank, is more often than not a displacement activity that dog’s do when stressed. Lip licking can be something as simple as some quick tongue flicks, or something more grand like pictured her. If you were in this photo and decided to reach down to give her a scratch she may wonder what else she could do to say “stay away!” If not already, she may have growled. Respect the tongue flicks and stay safe.
Pit bulls and ball games
How do you know this pitty is ready to play? Pitty’s are full of personality and can be affectionate, attentive and even funny. A pitty needs to be trained with positive reinforcement methods where you recognize and reward all the great behaviors he is offering and capable of doing. They also need lots of physical exercise. You may even try his paw at dog sports like agility, flyball, dock diving or Frisbee. “Pit Bulls” are a very special mix of dog that in particular will give back 100 times the affection and care you give for the good of them. Keep calm and love a pit bull.