Thursday, March 8, 2012

Seeing Double

A couple of days ago, Two Pitties in the City shared this ridiculously adorable photo on their facebook page.

I know most of you are familiar with the antics of this snuggly pair so you're going to wonder how the sight of these two smooshfaces could bring anything other than a smile. Unfortunately, I guess my brain hadn't turned off for the night and the photo's caption really got me thinking:

Whenever we're walking our dogs, people always ask if they're twins. They're actually different types of pitbull-type dogs, but I think they've grown to look alike just by living together.

I'm afraid it just makes me sad that, even with two such fabulous breed ambassadors, people on the street do not see past the broad "pitbull-type" look of the dogs to see just how very different they are (check out their blog for lots of great photos of this pair). Though in this case the commenters were probably delighted to meet Miss M and Mr B, can you think of any other group of dogs that we generalize about so much?

I remember taking Billy to Petco with a foster dog, Pickle (formerly Amelia). They made a wonderful, albeit exhausting duo, and people enjoyed meeting them when we were out and about.

Billy & Pickle

While we were in the checkout line, a woman asked me if they were both pitbulls. As dogs go, there weren't that many glaring similarities between Billy and Pickle. She weighed less than 40lbs, he clocks in at a solid 70+, her batty ears were always on the alert, while Billy's floppy ears and flappy jowls were a contrast to her almond eyes and more refined little snout.


Size aside, Pickle had a much more wiry physique and of course her tuxedo style markings were similar to Billy's cowspots only in their color.

Where am I going with all this? Well, while I'm definitely as guilty as the next man of doing this, does it really make sense that we label such huge swathes of the canine (and especially rescue) population with this loaded name? If that label had the same connotations as "lab-mix" or "Yorkipoo" maybe it wouldn't be such a problem, but when dogs as different as Bilbo (who we believe to be an American Bulldog) and Pickle can both be tagged with the same name, we should probably think twice before using one that can amount to a death sentence in the shelter system, exclusion from countries, cities and condos or insurance refusals.

Do I have an alternative to offer? Well, not really. Especially when I'm talking to people "in-the-know" I'm sure I'll keep using the tag (see the title of my last post, I even lumped Franklin in under the umbrella!). However, it's something to think about and I'd certainly love to see some changes in the rescue community - maybe we'll eventually just call these mystery mixed breeds "all-american-shelter-mutts."

Or maybe pooches like Miss M, Mr B and someday my Bilbo-in-training, will just change enough minds that we won't have to worry about labels or looks.

Wouldn't that be nice?

Billy and Pickle


  1. Franklin is a pittie at heart (and that made me laugh out loud!). I totally agree with the dangers of painting with such a broad brush. And I suspect that Lola and Bilbo are from a similar strain of AASM.

  2. Animal Behavior College refers to all mixed breeds as All-American Dogs. i love that!

  3. Interesting take! I know I heard one group calling them all 'American Shelter Dogs'. On the other side, we are proud our dogs are pitbull-type dogs (though technically we suspect Miss M is American Bulldog/Boxer), but then again, it doesn't always work in the shelter system.

  4. It is a tough cycle to break. I like the term 'pitbull type dogs' as a between step. It seems silly to deny the similarities between our short furred, big headed pups, and it bothers me that some rescues use other terms as a way to disguise the dog. If a family is adopting a pit bull mix, it won't do them any favors to trick them until their neighbor points it out (this happened to a client of mine). I think it all comes down to educating people and putting ourselves (and our dogs) out there.

  5. What a great and thought-provoking post! Also, the photo of Billy and Pickle spooning is awesome.:)

  6. There have been times that people ask if my 2 dogs are litter mates (we call them brother and sister). One is a foxhound/beagle mix and the other is a pit bull beagle mix.

  7. As you know, we have a brindle (70 lbs.), a blond red-nose (50 lbs.) and a blue (80 lbs.). At least two of them are mixes, though there's no denying that they're all pit bull type dogs of some sort. But the number of times we get asked if they're siblings is kind of...well, it makes me question the intelligence level of our neighbors.


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