We’re not worried about our Pit bulls being around our baby

Guest post by Julie
Photo courtesy of mediavida.com
Photo courtesy of mediavida.com

Through the course of becoming a mom I have experienced my fair share of raised eyebrows and well-meaning unsolicited advice sessions. Our choice to have a homebirth, to skip purees and head straight for solids, our stance on vaccines — all of it and more, important and not, has been held under a microscope. I mean it’s just what we all go through as parents, right? Everyone else has done it before, or at least their cousin has, and now they know better and want me to know better, too. It’s understandable really and mostly forgivable. But sometimes concern crosses into uninformed hysteria and that’s where I get a little stabby.

The most persisting hot topic in my life as a mom is the fact that we have two Pit bulls. Well, an American Staffordshire Terrier and a Pit mix extraordinaire to be exact, but really we all know regardless of what I call them they’ll always just be Pit bulls. Are you nervous? Oh please don’t be!

Photo by maplegirlie, used under Creative Commons license.
People we know and people we don’t know get really concerned about our housing two strong dogs next to such a tiny, tasty little babe. Even Google is sending out its fair share of warnings! Do a quick search of CUTE Pit bulls and you’re guaranteed to come up with an image of a poor baby missing its face on the first few pages. It’s awful! And definitely something I don’t want for my kid, just for the record.

Look, I get it. Strong dogs are intimidating, especially when they’re widely portrayed as unfriendly and violent. I’ve never tried to pet a bear for that very same reason! (But I must say, if a bear licked my hand while being all consumed with happy wiggles I might reconsider.) If someone doesn’t feel safe around my dogs by all means don’t interact with them, I certainly won’t be offended. That being said, last week I didn’t see the necessity in a woman’s pressing herself against a building and exclaiming, “I have roast beef in my bag! And WHY would you have a baby with THOSE dogs??” Oh, I see. The old Pit bull roast beef blood lust…

I’m not here to say my dogs are just like puggles or cockapoos. They are clearly not. Having them in our family means that there isn’t any unsupervised play between the dogs and our son. There are also regular lessons on animal/baby kindness for all involved. But these things happen not because it’s in my dogs’ nature to attack. (Pit bulls were long called nanny dogs because of how great they are with children!) The supervision and the boundaries I set happen simply because we aim to be responsible parents and dog owners.

When I change my son’s diaper, Blueberry, our AmStaff, sits on the threshold of the door with her back to us as gatekeeper. My son’s first real word, aside from the babbling hi’s and mama’s, was the name of our dog, Sassy. The kid even calls me Sassy, which I certainly won’t put an end to if he decides to keep it up. Watching the bond between all my little creatures unfold is one of the greatest things I get to be a part of. There is a mutual understanding of shared love and food spoken in a language I’m clearly not privy to. When people ask me if I’m scared having two Pit bulls and a baby it takes everything in me to not say, “No, friend, you are!”

Comments on We’re not worried about our Pit bulls being around our baby

  1. I’ve had a really wonderful pit bull in my life who sat by my side and babied me during a miscarriage… and another literally rip my face off, and I had to have my eyebrow and jaw bone skin reconstructed. While I will never write them off the way so many people do, I will also never be able to own one again because the latter experience has made me very nervous around them. That said, working as a vet tech, the highest proportion of bites I got were from Labs and other “family dogs.” I’m in the “don’t leave the baby alone with ANY DOG” camp!

    • Absolutely agreed. Dogs are dogs, and should NEVER be left alone with a child, no matter what breed they are. The reason pit bulls (and Shepherds, and other big strong dogs) are a little scarier is because the potential for real damage is higher, but the potential for a bite is the same with my neighbor’s golden retriever as it is with my shepherd mix.

    • Thank you for this comment. It’s so true. A Lab can rip off a face as easily as a Pit bull or a German Shorthair Pointer or a Border Collie or … you get the idea. A dog is a dog and supervision should be a must with *all* dogs and babies/kids, don’t get lax because you have a dog that is “good with kids”. Great resources: http://familypaws.com/

  2. great post! we love our pit mix and he is in absolute love with our babies. i love your point about supervision as a form of responsible parenting and dog ownership (and it having nothing to do with having a pit). I’m going to have to use that the next time someone at the park makes a comment about how i let me babies nap next to our pit bull.

  3. Totally agree about the “be careful around any dog” comment. Cocker spaniel, pit bull, Newfoundland — you should be right there with your baby, because it’s the responsible thing to do.

    • Absolutely. I do not allow my cocker spaniel around children, because he is not used to them, and I don’t want them to get hurt. Making sure your children are safe around ANY dog – and that your dog is safe around ANY children – is responsible parenting and dog ownership.

      • The only dogs I was afraid of as a child were the aggressive, semi-feral rumored wolf mix down the street… and a grandmother-figure’s miniature poodle.

        Guess which one actually bit me.

  4. Yay for this post! I have a pit bull, and I often tell people that he’s one of the main reasons I feel guilty for being child-free! Jackson (the pit) LOOOOVES babies and children. You should see the way his eyes light up when he sees a baby enter the room. And there ain’t NOTHING coming between him and that kid. He’ll lay at (on!) the feet of the person holding ’em, sit there as their diapers are changed, and even cry with them. Oh! And you should see how gentle he is when he’s offered food by a child. I’ve never seen a dog take food so gingerly. I have no idea how he knows to do that! It’s adorable … and weird — so weird — since you’d think he’d pick up on my feelings of unease around kids. Though, once I read up on their history as nanny dogs, it all makes sense now.

    Anyway, I’ll calm the fuck down now. Just loved reading this post, and any post that tries to shine a better light on our often maligned fur babies. Thanks, Julie. 🙂

  5. My husband and I have a very codependant and loving pit bull (who has her share of issues, attacking NOT being one of them). When I was pregnant I was slightly worried (but not too much) about her around my baby only because I didn’t have her around children in a one on one setting. My mother who raised the 3 of us around a German Shepard/Doberman mix, her baby who was part Husky, and then another German Shepard mix was far from concerned. She had learned from professional nannies how to handle the first meeting and how to show the dog that giving it love is still a main concern.

    When I brought my daughter home (after having the dog baby sat by my mother and sleep with the first blanket they wrapped my baby in, and my mother holding my daughter so we can give my dog the “I know I’ve been gone” love) she gave me a scare when my daughter moved in the car seat and scared my pittie. That’s the only time (so far, knock on wood) in the over 3 months since I brought her home that I’ve had concern. My dog loves my daughter. Of course it is true that any dog is capable of anything, but I hardly live my life in fear of my dog hurting my baby. Unlike other people who are terrified, and have never met my dog…

  6. It’s really hard for me to believe that pit bulls have these horrible reputations when I have a snuggly, loving, uber-submissive goofball of a pit bull sleeping on my lap. I’m pregnant and other than worrying that my dog will drown my baby in slobbery kisses, I have no worries about her around the baby (though I agree that you should never leave a baby and any dog alone.) There are so many misconceptions regarding pit bulls, but it really comes down to the individual dog and owner. Every pit bull I’ve met has been a lovable goof and while there are certainly bad owners who teach their dogs to be vicious and mean, can you really blame the dog for that? Especially when there is so much confusion about what a pit bull is (This page exhibits the confusion nicely: http://www.pitbullsontheweb.com/petbull/findpit.html.)
    Basically, if someone doesn’t like pit bulls, they shouldn’t own one, but spreading misconceptions or acting like my dog is a terrible beast, or worse, enacting breed specific legislation, is a horrible thing to do to these wonderful dogs.

  7. Thanks for this! I am a HUGE dog lover, and have worked with many different breeds. Honestly I trust so called “bully” breeds around kids far more then I trust my miniature dachshund, she’d be a lot more difficult to pull away from a kid. Thankfully she’s never bitten anyone, but she’s not great around kids (with the exception of differently abled children, she’s very good with the children at my mothers group home) so we worry about bringing a human baby into the mix. She’s been our furbaby since we rescued her from a violent caregiver 5 years ago and she’s my soul mate. She’s incredibly bonded to us and we worry about how she would feel about having our attention split. Before trying to get pregnant we discussed what we would do if she started to show signs of aggression towards a baby, and in the worst case scenario that she needs to be placed with a new family we agreed that it would still be our responsibility to visit with her regularly. I hope it doesn’t get to that point and we’ve done a lot of research on how to make the transition smooth for our whole family. I’m confidant in her adaptability and hope she still feels loved and protected with a new member added to our pack. Now if I could just get parents to stop sending their toddlers over to pet her without asking me first…

  8. This could almost be my family. We have a 12 year old AmStaff and a 5 year old pitbull mix (a rescue) and they’re the best dogs in the world. I myself have been bit twice by German Shepherds, but I will never write off any breed of dog just b/c of a couple of “bad seeds”. It takes a responsible owner to have a strong breed of dog and to bring them up to be obedient and gentle. My dogs are very gentle with our 2-year-old, in fact, often times we have to “save” our pitbulls from our toddler!

  9. I was a little nervous with my boston terrier and happy-go-lucky lab being around my son (he’s 3 months), only because they are both high energy, and love people. I was afraid they would try to love my son “too much”. But, they have been GREAT. They listen to “leave it” so well, and they really only try to sniff his toes. Other than that, they’re not interested. They just seem to know to not mess with him, and they even leave his toys alone. I thought his toys would all become dog toys at some point (although my Boston DESPERATELY wants to sink his teeth into Sophie the Giraffe), but they are doing really well. The main thing is that they’ve gotten even more cuddly because they miss the attention. We try to give them as much as we can, but they’re not the center of attention anymore, and they know it. Even with my good natured and well-behaved dogs, I still don’t leave my son alone with them. It’s better to be proactive about your pets, because you just never know. Why risk it?

    • Haha…my Boston is obsessed with Sophie the Giraffe, too! I guess the squeak sounds delish. I was also worried about the high energy factor, too…but somehow the dog knows to be very gentle around my son. He has always been very careful and patient. Now my son is 11 months old and he absolutely adores the dog…his first word was “Doggy!!” He loves to give his doggy big hugs and kisses and gentle pets.

    • My wiener dog tried to make a trade with my friend’s 6 month old, who was playing with her Sophie the Giraffe. He kept bringing his bone over and presenting it to her by laying it at her feet, then looking longingly at the giraffe. She didn’t go for it, but they had a pleasant afternoon anyway- each sitting on the couch and chewing on their own toy.

  10. I’m nervous around dogs in general, yet my friend has a pit bull that I adore. I remember lying on her couch one night with the dog standing on my chest, licking my neck. I was giggling like crazy because it tickled. Never in a million years would I have imagined allowing a pit bull’s mouth anywhere near my throat. But that pup is the absolute happiest dog I’ve ever seen, and I love her.

    I hope to hear more stories like yours in the future. Those dogs get a bad rap because of people that don’t know how to treat them. Kudos.

  11. Doxies (of which I have two) are supposed to be some of the worst for biting. Mine haven’t ever actually gone for anyone, but we watch them VERY closely around babies and small children and remove them from the room if it looks like anyone is getting anxious. Pitbulls scare me, but then so do all large dogs–and I think a lot depends on the individual’s temperment and training. In our case, I’m just glad they’re small enough to pick up if necessary…

  12. We have 7 dogs all together in our extended family and I’m not concerned about any of them harming my son. I would never leave him alone with any animal no matter how much I trusted them.

  13. We brought our newborn son home to 2 ferrets and an extremely loving Norwegian Ridgeback/Pit mix puppy. We definitely got our fair share of well meaning but completely misguided ‘advice.’ It’s pretty simple – don’t leave your baby alone with any pet, EVER. And as the kiddo gets older, pets are wonderful ways to teach your child about love, kindness, gentleness and in the case of my son, respecting people’s (and animals) personal space. Hooray for you and your sweet family!

    • They are great to teach your kids! I read something a few years ago that suggested kids raised with dogs had more empathy than those raised without. I can’t wait to teach our son how to care for our animals!

  14. Cute! I wouldn’t be worried about them being violent or anything like that, but all (seriously, all) of the pit bulls I have ever met have been SO friendly and SO full of energy, I’d worry about having such a happy, bouncy dog around my baby! Granted, I think the same thing about my neighbor’s puggle – and I don’t even have kids yet!

    • Ditto! It’s the energy and strength that worries me – I fostered a boxer for a while and when she got excited her wagging tail would bruise my legs and knock vases off the table.

  15. I’ve only been bitten by a dog once. It was a GOLDEN RETRIEVER! It had never bitten anyone before, and it never did again. I was the unlucky 7 year old.

    Moral of the story- ANY DOG can bite.

    Hence, you take the same precautions with all dogs- and you mention- no unsupervised play (or time at all), and teaching both the dog and the baby how to be gentle and nice.

    We have a black lab mix. While we have no reason to be suspicious, we take universal dog precautions- to protect our baby from the dog, and to protect our dog from the baby!

    • Yes to protecting the dog from the baby! I feel that this is something so often left out of the conversation. I’m not at all worried about my girl around kids. She’s a very gentle giant and is wonderful with toddlers and puppies and babies alike, but I would worry that a kid would do something weird to her and she’d react in self-defense. One of the things that I like most about kids is their awesome sense of adventure and curiosity and weirdness, but those exact qualities are what might make a kid try something strange. In any case, for me, leaving them alone together just isn’t a part of responsible parenting or dog ownership.

      • Absolutely pets need to be protected from kids lol. I also agree that that is something looked over by people. I worked in a Humane Society for 8 years and the shelters policy was no pets under 4 months went into households with children under the age of 6 years.
        That is a veeeeeery difficult thing to explain to parents who want a cute and snuggly little puppy or kitten. However, those cute little guys have sharp little baby teeth and claws and no way to say ‘stop!’ to a overly excited but well meaning child who doesn’t know their own strength. Likewise the puppy and kitten don’t know manners yet either.
        Anyway, kinda off topic. Sorry!
        Moral of story, supervision is important. For any breed, for any age also.

  16. Some friends of mine recently had to make the difficult decision to place their dog (a Golden Retriever) with a family friend because he bit their one-year-old son, apparently without any provocation. Just goes to show that you need to be careful with *any* dog, and supports your “always supervise small children and dogs when they play together” assertion. Any dog can be great with kids, just like any dog can be terrible with kids. I’ve always heard great things about Pits, though I’ve never owned one myself.

    • Our vet told us a few years ago that Golden Retrievers bite more children than any other dog. Whether that has to do with their nature regarding children or just their prevalence as THE family dog I don’t know, but I wish people would talk more openly about other breeds biting children. Biting and aggression towards kids happens in a lot of breeds (kids are loud, unpredictable, and grabby!) and has more to do with the parents/dog owners poor supervision and less to do with the dogs themselves.

  17. I have a pit bull and a 7 month old. My daughter was 6 wks premature but only spent 2 weeks in the NICU. One day my mom and I were doing dishes. My dog had been running around outside. We noticed everytime she came in she would sniff my daughters nose/mouth and chest as if to check her vital signs. My daughter had trouble nursing. My pit would lick her head to encourage her and when I would change my girl my pit would stand gaurd too! Only she would press her back right up against mine. I love love love seeing pittie positive articles. Of course I’m careful about my two babies interacting together but I would be even if one of them was a pug or Pomeranian.

    • my pit does the same exact thing to my two little preemies. He sniffs their mouth and chest when ever he comes into the room with them, like he’s checking for vitals. they also have a lot of feeding problems and our dog licks their head when ever they were strugging to eat.

  18. We have 3 deaf dogs, 1 of which is a staffordshire pitbull, Lucky. He and my baby (14 mos) are best friends… They do everything together… eat,sleep, play, and I am pretty sure that if we let him Lucky would even bathe with his boy! We will never have a home without a pitbull.

    • Ohmygod! I’m so, so happy reading about all these families with young children and multiple dogs that include pits! Our AmStaff sits as close as she can to the tub during my son’s bath. Licks the water off his face and hands, he gives her drinks of (dirty bath) water.. It’s too much for me sometimes. They are such loves.

  19. Our pit bull Friggle loves my 9 month old son Jule 🙂 I have to tell him “stop licking my baby!” all the time 🙂 I absolutely agree. Any ANIMAL should be supervised with children period. I’m happy to change people’s conceptions and do my part to end breed discrimination by my dog’s side 😀

  20. I LOVE THIS ARTICLE!!!! We have a pit bull/boxer mix and he is the sweetest dog ever! He loves, loves, loves people and other dogs. It’s always wonderful to find great reviews about this breed! We don’t have children yet (we’ll start trying in the summer) but I know Atreyu will be good with a baby. We’ll just have to make sure he holds his licker!

  21. I wish people would stop making generalizations about all breeds. I’ve been around MANY pit/pit mixes that are great with kids.

    I have a doppy lab hound mix that was rescued from a very rough situation. As a result she is afraid of everything, especially loud noises and unexpected movements toward her head, all things kids do. Parents just assume because she looks like Scooby Do she’s great with kids. They get upset when I tell their kids things like “No no hun, Roxy doesn’t like kids” and shoo them away from her at the dog park. However when my sister’s pit mix is there (he LOVES kids and is the biggest snuggle bunny ever) parents scoop their kids up like an alligator just walked in the gate.

    I guess my point is never just assume a dogs personality based on breed. As a parent you should always ask a dog’s owner if it’s OK for your kids to pet him before you let the kidlet approach. Don’t make your kids afraid of dogs, just explain that some dogs, like some people are grumpy and others are great!

    • So true! We have a shih tzu and she hates kids. She tolerates our baby and we definitely keep her safe from his toddler grabby hands, but other kids? HATES. Sometimes people don’t believe us because she’s so tiny and adorable like a wee Ewok but really, she will bit your kid if you don’t listen to us! (At least because she’s tiny she can’t cause too much damage and she’s really only trying to get away, but a bite on a little one still hurts!)

    • My pack is a perfect example of this too! My husband and I have three dogs, a female border collie mix (Bella), a female boxer/pit mix (Leia) and a male shepherd mix (Murphy). People always love Bella and children run up to her all the time, but she is a super nervous dog and has growled at kids before. But Leia, who ADORES children and people in general, is usually the one they’re scared of. Poor Murphy usually gets ignored even though all he ever wants is love!

      • omg I had the same problem with my beagle/spaniel mix and pit. The pit loved small dogs and children but no one would come near him and he’d look so sad and dejected. The beagle is truly a territorial bi**h but kids go running to her because she’s so cute. She hasn’t bitten, but her hackles fly up and she snarls like a hyena.

  22. I agree with all the above posters saying all dogs should be supervised with children, and all dogs of all breeds can bite if the circumstances are right.

    We’re currently deciding what to do with our German Shepherd mix. The place we adopted him from was less than honest about his issues, but by the time we figured them out, we were too attached to send him back. He’s got dominance issues with other dogs and he has a large prey drive for small animals and cats. I wouldn’t trust him with a baby, though he was fine with my 3 yr. old nephew. We love him dearly, but we’re thinking of finding him a more suitable home as we’re expecting a child in 6 months.

    • We have an English Pointer rescue with nearly the same issues, but he is very protective of our little family and great (if a little nervous) with other people’s children. It’s really other dogs and cats that we worry about! We of course never left him and the baby alone together – in fact we baby-gated our bedroom to protect HIM and allow him to have his “safe space” when our daughter began crawling and walking and constantly wanting to touch him. She’s nearly 3 and they basically just do their own thing.

  23. I totally agree with everything this article just said. I own a wonderful, gentle giant shepherd/husky mix. She’s wonderful with kids and toddlers and I’m so excited to see her bond with my future hypothetical children.

    I am nervous, however, about my housemate’s dog (the people who rent the other half of our house are close friends). He’s shown some aggressive tendencies and while he loves my husband and I, I wouldn’t trust him with a child. My friends/housemates are completely in denial about the dog and not in any way willing to listen to anyone about it. So, I’m probably going to have to find a new place to live when we have a kid.

    As confident as I am about my girl, I understand if I knew someone with a kid who wasn’t willing to have them around my dog. I’d be upset and pissed off on her behalf in private but I get it, because while my neighbours might think their dog is good around kids, I completely disagree, which would probably offend and anger them if they knew.

  24. Thank you. We don’t have a pit or pit mix because we rent and surprise surprise we can’t but I’ve done a lot of shelter work. The sweetest dogs are always the bully breeds. They are the ones that literally lean into your touch.

  25. Pit bulls used to be “nanny dogs” because they are very sweet and loving toward families and children and protective against outsiders. It’s a shame that some bad apples, and bad owners, have ruined the public’s view of the breed! I have always found them to be sweet and gentle (though incredible strong!)

    • My Doberman Pinscher is exactly like that. As soon as we let her know somebody is OK suddenly that is her new best friend.
      I’m due in June and honestly more worried about my fat cat being around the baby than the dobey.

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