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Dog trainer tries to change perception of pit bulls

Posted January 14, 2011
Updated January 15, 2011

— Dog lovers often blame the media for making pit bulls out to be vicious, mean dogs, and certified dog trainers and even animal control officers say there are no bad dogs – just bad owners.

“To judge a whole entire breed on one dog’s actions is discrimination. Just like judging a whole race in the human world on one person’s actions,” certified dog trainer pit bull owner Paige Burris said Friday.

Burris said the media hype on dog attacks only makes it worse for the dogs.

The latest North Carolina victim was 5-year-old Makayla Woodard, who died after being attacked by two pit bulls in Union County on Wednesday. Her grandmother was injured while trying to save her. 

“My heart goes out to that family. It’s terrible, but that can happen to any breed,” Burris said.

In a lot of these attacks, “the owners are negligent and never commit to training the dog,” Burris said.

Burris said pit bulls are like any other dogs. They need room to run and want to be included in the family. Owners should also enroll the dogs in obedience training and encourage socialization.

Trainer tries to change image of pit bulls Trainer tries to change image of pit bulls

Burris started a non-profit called The Positive Pit Bull, offering pit bull education seminars and organizing weekly dog meet-ups.

“That’s what we’re trying to fight, trying to change perception of these dogs because they really are fantastic family dogs,” she said.

Cary Animal Control Supervisor Shelly Davis said potential pet owners need to do their homework.

“Pet owners basically, bottom-line, need to do research before getting any kind of animal, and that also means before you purchase a pit bull,” Davis said.


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  • landoawd Jan 20, 2011

    I wrote to the editor a few months back after seeing another "Pit Bull Attack" story mentioned on the website. This one was a young girl in Florida. I asked the editor why they choose to sensationalize the misguided premise that Pitties are "evil" and didn't get a response that was to my satisfaction. I'm glad they chose to run a positive story, though I disagree with the tone in the story.

  • paigeburris Jan 19, 2011

    Today I had the pleasure of taking Cricket into several classrooms of students to talk about dog safety and what kind of dogs pit bulls are. I first spoke to 25 3-6 yr olds, and then to 100 fifth graders in Fayetteville, an area in NC known for heavy dogfighting. We talked about the safest way to meet a dog you don't know, and then we talked about pit bulls and whether the kids knew any pit bulls. What type of personalities pit bulls have. One kid asked about the locking jaws. I explained that the locking jaws idea is a myth and that pit bulls have exactly the same jaw structure as any other dog. We talked about dog fighting and we all imagined ourselves in the dog's position. Not wanting to fight, but with our best trait being wanting so much to please your owner, that we'd be forced to and how it would make us feel. The kids all said they'd feel terrible if put in that position. We ended with having the kids some up and how to meet a dog you don't know. A great day!

  • moonlite31 Jan 19, 2011

    To tell you the truth any breed of dog that has teeth can attach! It does not matter how small or how big the dog is! You get out of your dog what you put into your dog, have you as a responsible pet owner and socialized your dog today with people and other animals? Have you worked on daily commands like sit, stay, lay, or come ??? Not all pits are bad, just like not all chihuahuas are bad!

  • arteking Jan 19, 2011

    For the past year I have had the pleasure of sharing my home and life with what we were told is a pit bull mix. She has shown herself to be one of the most loving, loyal, and precious pups it has been our pleasure to live with. Before owning her I was inclined to believe the hype, but thanks to her and other owners of pit bulls we have met I now know differently.

  • 4YourConsideration Jan 19, 2011

    rlembo: I genuinely appreciate your posts! First and foremost: There is no intention on my part to bash anyone. Like you, I appreciate and respect opinions that are different from my own. And since you've pointed it out, my wording certainly could have been MUCH better! It's easy to see in retrospect how a reader could take the "foolish" and "foolhardy" comments in a way they were not intended.
    Also, thanks for clarifying the "misunderstood" and "misaligned" comments. I took them out of context. (I just KNEW I should have paid closer attention in my Composition and Comprehension classes! lol)

    I was remiss in failing to mention one topic in my previous posts that will sound contradictory to some: There are a LOT of people out there that dislike & distrust all PB's on sight and assume each are dangerous dogs. It's my hope that Paige's group can help to correct this very extreme and incorrect belief.

  • rlembo Jan 19, 2011

    4YourConsideration: I am only taking the time to address your comments to me (rLembo) since you have misunderstood them as an attack on you, which they are not, and I wish to clarify:
    1. The points in the article are valid but you are "bashing" the other posters' comments by using the terms "foolish", "foolhardy" etc. Everyone is entitled to his/her own opinion, and I completely respect that. My posts here are just an attempt to show a different point of view, knowing that my perspective may in fact not change anyone's opinion.
    2. Paige, and other PB advocates, are helping those (e.g. Pit Bulls), that are "misunderstand" and "maligned", not "and those that disagree "misunderstand" or are "maligned".
    Please accept my apologies if you believed that this was an attack on you, and I hope that it's clear now that it was not.

    Again, I thank Paige and all other animal rescuers for the heroic work that they do, and it's terrific that WRAL chose to spotlight this!

  • 4YourConsideration Jan 19, 2011

    Wow…….Nice, civil discussion by folks with very divergent viewpoints. It is noted and appreciated that personal attacks have been avoided. Alas, we are going to have to ‘agree to disagree’ here. I took the time to read through a good deal of material on links provided by other posters before formulating this response. The NCRC site was especially interesting. I am prepared to concede that: 1. Breeds involved in attacks are sometimes misidentified 2. There have been killings by breeds other than Pit Bulls 3. Hysteria and bias makes ANY kind of reporting less reliable. 4. People die far more commonly from things other than dog attacks (which is not at all the point of this discussion, by the way) 5. Dogsbite.org is run by someone with “an ax to grind” against Pit Bulls and its content should be considered biased.
    Part 1A follows.........

  • 4YourConsideration Jan 19, 2011

    But, I will not concede my contention that Pit Bulls have a dangerous predilection. The websites provided contain reports indicating breed identification is suspect in some dog/human attacks and therefore cannot be used as proof that a particular breed kills more often than others. 100% agreement! Some people that can’t tell the difference between a Beagle and an Irish Wolfhound! LOL
    Part 2 follows...........

  • 4YourConsideration Jan 19, 2011

    What the websites do NOT say is that Pit Bulls are not involved in a higher percentage of killings than other breeds. It’s just not in there, folks.

    I’m a “numbers” guy. For me, there are far too many times that Pit Bulls – purebred or mixed – are involved in deadly attacks to ignore. I think my fellow posters in this forum agree that each breed has their own unique characteristics. Occasional deadly attacks on humans is one very unfortunate characteristic of PB’s. (Along with other traits which are quite endearing; by the way) A killing by 2 Dachshunds and another by a Pomeranian (10 years ago) are cited by other posters. Which bolsters my entire point: It doesn’t happen as frequently with other breeds.

    Part 3 follows....

  • 4YourConsideration Jan 19, 2011

    What follows here is absolutely not intended as an attack in any way, shape or form. Above, I conceded that statistics on DogsBite.org should not be considered because the site owner was the victim of a PB attack. (Something I did not know previously – thanks for bringing this to light) Several posters have vehemently argued this point. Doesn’t it then follow that claims from each of you that own, train and advocate for Pit Bulls also be rejected as biased? What’s good for the goose………

    This will be my final post on this topic. Let me wish each of you and your 4-legged friends well. I will close by once again asking the question roundly ignored by all:

    Ummmmm, where did that name Pit Bull come from; anyway?