Monday, November 21, 2011

Pit Bulls :: The Nanny Dog

Rich or poor, American parents used to know exactly what pit bulls were famous for. Being great with kids.

Our sweet Pit Bull, Emmaline, is nothing short of amazing. When I decided to adopt her from the Humane Society, boy did I hear about what a terrible idea it was. From friends, from family, you name it, everyone had an opinion on her: How could I? I was about to have a child, and to bring such a vicious dog breed into our home? Was I crazy? Here she goes again, going against the grain. As always, I did my research, made my own decision, and adopted her anyway despite the negative feedback I was getting from every angle. I cannot ever imagine having another dog for the rest of my life. Below is a great, short article that gives a brief history of Pit Bulls and brings to attention that the breed has become very misunderstood and misrepresented. Please, please read in order to educate yourself on this wonderful dog, a breed that used to be known as the Nanny Dog. 

There are few things quite as obnoxious as rich parents. Be it a $3000 stroller or Louis Vuitton diaper bag, the well off don't want their little angels to be seen with anything average middle class rug rats might have, let alone a child who might be, gasp, POOR! So is it now, so ever has it been in America. 


In America, one dog breed historically became known as the dog for people who are afraid of dogs. One dog breed achieved such a rock solid reputation with children that for 150 years it was known as America's "Nanny Dog." One dog breed became so trusted that despite the fact that no Kennel Club or Association recognized it, despite the fact that it could be found on the poorest farms and bleakest city neighborhoods with kids who didn't know where their next meal was coming from, the super-wealthy acquired them in droves because they were simply the safest, most tolerant breed to have around their progeny.

Rich, poor, and everything in between, until recently, Americans agreed that there were only a CERTAIN TYPE of people who owned a Pit Bull...


America's Nanny Dog is the victim of a smear campaign that has turned common sense upside-down and robbed us of our historical memory. The dogs that we trusted with our children's lives are now deemed too vicious to live among us. The dogs that in two World Wars were the symbol of the United States military itself are now ordered off its bases.* The Pit Bulls haven't changed at all. Only the owners have.
By Y.W. Grossman, June 2, 2011

*FYI: Sgt. Stubby, a Pit Bull, was the first decorated American war dog. He served in 17 battles during WWI and was given rank in the United States Armed Forces. Sgt. Stubby was the inspiration for the U.S. Military K-9 Corps. 

 Our darling Emmaline.

Emmaline loved being next to my stomach when I was pregnant with Squish, and once he was born she would hardly let him out of her site. She is the exact same way with Munchkin now.

The truth of the matter is this: any animals can be dangerous. Dogs can be dangerous. Big dogs can be more dangerous. Big dogs owned by bad people are SUPER DANGEROUS. Period. It is not the dog - it is the human. When I was speaking with the Humane Society about Emmaline, {her name was actually Prayer when I adopted her}, they said something that really stuck with me. Pit Bulls were known as Nanny Dogs because they can be trained to do anything to the max. Families trained them to LOVE to the max. But they can also be trained to FIGHT to the max... Until death. These days they are bred for "gameness," a quality akin to bravery, which, unfortunately, makes them the best for fighting. I won't get overly graphic because the stories are heart-breaking and beyond disgusting, but in my research, I came across Pit Bulls that had ammonia poured in their eyes or in their wounds to instill anger and aggression, or some with four broken legs still trying to fight, because they were simply obeying their owners and doing what they were trained to do. 

I don't know if any of you watch the Dog Whisperer, but Cesar Millan used to take his Pit Bull Big Daddy everywhere he went. Daddy died in 2010. He helped Cesar train whatever dog was in question. As he says, "Aggression is not a breed issue. IT IS A HUMAN ISSUE." Search both National Geographic and YouTube for wonderful videos of Cesar Millan rehabilitating aggressively trained Pit Bulls.

The loyalty of one Pit lover at a time, one day at a time, can change the minds of many and erase the myth that they are inherently vicious. 


  1. Now I want a "Nanny Dog" of my own. You've changed my view of the breed. Thanks!

  2. So glad you wrote this! I'm the proud mother of a 6 year old pit bull and he is the best dog I have ever known. Extremely gentle with me (a petite girl) and also loving towards the munchkins in my family (toddler aged nieces). I absolutely agree with everything you have written above and the world needs more canine advocates like you!

  3. What a great post Sheridan. I had no idea Pits used to have such a starkly different reputation.

  4. Such a great post. I am forever an adopter of rescue dogs and this touched my heart! Have you watched Pitbulls & Parolees? Amazing work they are doing on that show!

  5. I love this post! My sweet girl Penny is a pit, and she is amazing - so gentle and calm. I can't wait for my (currently hypothetical) children to meet her.

  6. Beautiful post! It's amazing how often things get blamed on dogs or certain breeds when really it is just the owners.

  7. I love this! The stereotype definitely needs to be broken!

  8. I'm so glad you posted about this, Sheridan! You completely changed my perception about pitbulls... Emmaline looks so loving and it's very clear that you and your family love, love her tons. It's absolutely horrific to see what some people to do animals - can't thank you enough - I really love reading all of your "soap box" posts because they are such eye openers and you NEVER come accross as judgemental!

  9. Thanks for this post! Pits get a bad rap here in Chicago. Mainly because of the way gangs use and abuse them here. But, all the rescues I've meet have been kind and gentle.

  10. Great post. I've written about big dogs and pit bulls in the past on my blog as well. Having grown up with huge dogs, I have found that big dogs are the ones with the calmest personalities. :) It's too bad that breed profiling happens all the time. Any dog has potential to be aggressive - even my little chihuahuas. My sister's pit bull is a great example of what pit bulls are - sweet, happy pups that love kids.

  11. Sheridan, Do you get Garden & Gun... if not, you need to pick up the new issue {must be Dec/Jan} and see the fabulous article about pits in there! We've never had one but I would. My parents had one that wandered up to their farm house a few years ago. We called him Pitty and he was the sweetest dog I've ever known. He would come up and lean against you and was so sweet and gentle!

  12. Thank you so much for this great post! Pits are inherently so sweet (I too have 2 young babies and I happily let them crawl around with my dad's rescued pit) she is the most protective and lovable dog in the world. She would jump in front of a car to protect my kids. Thank you for recognizing the bad name they've been given. Loved all the pics.

  13. So glad to see you post this. In college my roommates had a pit pull, I can not tell you the number of times people would ask me doesn't that scare you. Forget about when I'd mention that I myself had raised a 6lb yorkie while living with them. Your article is so true to the experience I had its amazing. That pit pull was the most loving dog there was, in fact she treated my little one as if she were one of her own. The little one (Elizabeth) would jump inside Mina's month nipping at her jowls with all her glorious puppy energy and Mina would simply let her have at it.

  14. P.S have you ever caught Emmaline running/dreaming in her sleep? If you have the time YouTube it, you'll get a great laugh out of it!

  15. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post. Ali

  16. Can I get an AMEN?!?!

    It is so sad that this breed got a bad reputation because of OWNERS.

    ANY dog can be aggressive, it depends on how they were raised, and treated, and personality.

    Many of my extended family has had pit bulls.

    My grandmother had a boxer/pit bull mix name weezer, and he was the SWEETEST dog. I basically grew up with him :)

    nice post :)


  17. Thank you for this. I wish more people recognized the fact that humans ARE the reason these beautiful creatures are receiving the reputation that they have. It's beyond sad and disgusting what sick, heartless people will do to these innocent animals -- it truly breaks my heart. I wish everyone would educate themselves so that the breed would stop suffering and getting such a bad reputation!

  18. What a wonderful post! Thanks for shedding more light on this issue; I, too, have had pits--two to be exact--and have known many that have all been incredibly well-trained, obedient, LOVING dogs. So many people don't do their own research, and blindly believe the opines of the masses when scare tactics are used. So nice to see yet another gorgeous, loving pit being loved right back! xo

  19. wow, i had no idea! thanks for enlightening us.

  20. Congratulations on this post Sheridan! I was raised with the most beautiful Staffordshire Bull Terrier as a Nanny dog, and hope to one day offer the same experience to my own children. It's great to see some sense and balance brought in to the 'breed' debate.

  21. This was a fantastic post! I have sent the link to so many people because I love the bond between a dog and child.

  22. I love your post, people judge these animals when they should judge owners' behaviors and training. Since you like pitbulls there is an amazing group in facebook, The dog files, they are making a documentary about this breed and it's going to be amazing.
    Thank you for loving Emmaline.

  23. Love this post! My family has a huge German Shepherd and they often get the same rep of being super agressive, etc.
    Our Boone is the most looooving dog. We would be lost without him.
    Ya'lls Emmaline looks like a sweetie!

  24. Fabulous post - thank you so much!!

    We've always had labs, but recently discovered pit bulls & their wonderful personalities while volunteering at a shelter.

    Rescue pitties make the world's BEST companion.

  25. I am so glad you posted this information! I love the photo montage of the Emmaline. ;-)

  26. Frankly i think you all all kidding is in their bloodline to lock when they bite and they are bred to have super large and muscular heads. You are just lucky so far. In NC a child was killed by a pit, and in NY a woman was mauled to death and a childs face was bitten, all within the past two weeks. I would NEVER let a pit near my baby or small child. What are you trying to prove? Wake up!

  27. Anonymous - you missed the point completely. A dog is not bred to have a super large head - they just do. A rabbit is not bred to have large ears - they just do. Should German Shepherds be removed as police dogs because they kill children when treated incorrectly and are also trained to fight? What about the poodle last year that attacked and killed a 3 month old? Have you done research into other dog breeds that are supposedly malicious yet their attacks go unreported by the media? Just last week a Pit saved three children in Dallas dragging them out of a fire, some dear friends of ours, and you know what the news team said? Life savior stories of Pits don't go over well, we will not report it.

    Again, you missed the point *completely." YOU need to wake up and quit listening to the media hype, and go do some research for yourself before commenting on a topic you know nothing about nor have personal experience with, but rather base all your information on second hand sources.

    Blaming a pit bull for an attack is like blaming the gun for killing a person. The gun doesn't kill, the person that pulls the trigger does.


    Also, next time you post a comment like that with no basis in facts and all media hype and hide behind Anonymous, the comment will not be published.

  28. Thank you so much for this post!! I'm in full agreement that it is the owner, not the breed. We have a Rottweiler and he is the sweetest, 100 lb loverboy. However, so many people think we're nuts for having him and give us bad looks when we are on walks.

    **Also, great response to Anonymous. Chicken!

  29. I love this post Sheridan. I am going to show it to one of my clients, who is trying to educate our community about pit bulls.

    I love seeing the loving pictures of your other family members: your doggies.

  30. Haha out of their SITE instead of SIGHT. minor typo.
    But I'm so glad you put up this article! I am a huge animal lover, considering veterinary medicine and I never understood why people were afraid of pit bulls!
    I have a Boston Terrier, people always think he's a Boxer. Some people also seem to have a fear of boxers...

  31. Sheridan, thank you for positing this - I am going to share it with my two boys. You have most definitely opened my mind - I am going to do some of my own research on the Nanny Dog. We are considering getting another dog, and although we may not get a Nanny Dog, at least we will not be ignorent about this breed any longer. BTW, LOVE Caesar and Daddy.

  32. Thank you for writing about this, Sheridan! There was a great editorial piece in this month's Garden and Gun magazine about a young couple that adopted a pit bull. They named her Nola, and she has proven to be such a joy in their lives! I think it was an especially important to piece to include in that magazine (do you know of it? It's kind of an up-scale Southern hunting magazne which features ad's for things like Gucci horse riding boots)as I assume most of the readers prefer the pure-bred type of dog, and might shy away from pit bulls.
    I really admire your posts and how you openly share what is truly in your heart. I think it is so admirable and I appreciate the time and effort you put into them. They are all so well composed.
    If you ever do decide to put your line on hold, I think you'd make a fabulous fashion writer or editor. I bet you could easily manage that from home while juggling 3 kids! :)
    And maybe 10 or 15 years down the road when your line is up and running again, we can all look forward to Sheridan French for Target.
    Wishing all the best for you!

  33. Funny, I was just about to mention the Garden and Gun piece too then happened to read Lucy's post... that article was great! It's called Licked to Death by a PitBull. Here's the link:

    Thank you for posting this!


  34. This is so great. Every pit bull I've ever met is adorably sweet. I never knew they were called the nanny's dog, so interesting.

  35. Loved this post! Thank God someone is speaking the truth about this amazing breed! We had the same response when we rescued our pit bull and now my parents and brother both own or want one. Wish more people knew how amazing they are!

  36. The Terrier Group includes those small but lively terrier breeds that were developed (mainly in Great Britain) to hunt small burrowing animals such as badgers, foxes, otters, rabbits and rats. The terrier often had to follow the prey underground and therefore, except for the Bull and Airedale Terriers, most terriers are small and stocky with short legs.



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