An Owner’s Tale About Owning a Pit Bull Terrier

Frikkie with his Pit Bull Tjoppie
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The introduction of Tjoppie

There are so many misconceptions about owning a Pit Bull. Many families have avoided adopting a Pit Bull in fear of pre-conceived misperceptions created by the mass media.

A Quick History

For decades Pit Bulls have been used as part of the brutal dogfighting underworld. If you didn’t know the origin of this muscular being – they were created through the crossbreeding of terriers and bulldogs.

The combination of terrier and bulldog traits produced a dog that had the strength of a bulldog and the speed and agility of a terrier, making them perfect pawns in the brutal game of bull-baiting and bear-baiting in the United Kingdom. Therefore, Pit Bulls aren’t a breed of their own but rather an appearance associated with the strength, aggression, and viciousness.

Pit Bull breeds are American Pit Bull Terriers, Boxers, Bull Terriers, Bull dogs, and Mastiffs.

In the 1920s Pit Bull owners would use inhumane methods, like starvation and electric shocks, to trigger the Pit Bull into fighting mode. Since then Pit Bulls have been associated with this inhumane and brutal sport. Organizing or taking part in Pit Bull fighting is now seen as a felony offense.

The grim reality of the Pit Bull’s bad rap is that it causes fewer people to adopt their puppies. Pit Bull puppies are regularly left in kennels and dog shelters without any hope of being adopted.

Pit Bulls are loving animals with great personalities and interesting characteristics. Some Pit Bulls are unsung heroes and their presence in a home can be extremely fulfilling.

The contradictory statements from Pit Bull owners vs media and historical facts make it difficult to know exactly what is the truth. I decided to find out for myself. Whether or not Pit Bulls make great pets or if they live up to their bad reputation.

A Surprise

While browsing through my social media, I came across a photograph posted by one of my childhood friends. This South African friend of mine, Frikkie Enslin, was lounging on his couch with a Pit Bull on his lap.

By the way, Frikkie is one of the smartest guys I know. He was a straight-A student and is currently employed as a successful chemical engineer. It can be assumed that he wouldn’t make any dumb mistakes when it comes to purchasing a dog.

I had to ask him to share the story of this friendly-looking Pit Bull.

Frikkie with his Pit Bull Tjoppie

Before owning Tjoppie, did you have any preconceived ideas or misconceptions about the Pit Bull? 

“The very first thing that came to our minds when we thought about Pit Bulls was that they are these vicious, ferocious, dangerous dogs that can’t be trusted around children.”  (Frikkie is married, sorry ladies, and he has two boys)

I didn’t expect this answer but then he added, “Boy-oh-boy, were we in for a surprise…”

Why did you decide on getting a Pit Bull Terrier?

“We decided that it is time for our eldest son (3 years old) to get a dog companion/friend of his own and at the same time teach him some responsibilities by taking care of the dog.” Pretty smart move from these two parents, I would say.

“As typical millennials, my wife and I started doing some research on Google and Pit Bull Terriers came up as a suggested dog breed.  There are a number of very contradicting articles available on the internet.

On the one side of the spectrum, you come across articles that report Pit Bulls mutilating / mauling their owners or their children. On the other side of the spectrum, you come across articles referring to Pit Bulls as ‘Nanny dogs’ because of their loyalty to owners.

The issue with internet articles is that there’s no way to check the credibility of the author or have the opportunity to communicate with the source.   Fortunately, I have two colleagues who are also the owners of Pitt Bulls. I decided to listen to real advice from people who actually own Pit Bulls.

It was very important that we could consult friends and be informed by first-hand experienced Pit Bull owners. Especially on how Pit Bulls act around their children.

One of my colleagues even went so far as stating that in the unfortunate event of a breaking and entering situation, that she would send her two toddlers to their two Pit Bulls for protection.  The other colleague mentioned that his daughter frequently painted their Pit Bull’s nails with her mother’s nail polish. He showed me a photo where the dog patiently sits while the toddler softly holds on to his right paw.”

And so, Frikkie and his wife decided that they definitely want a Pit Bull Terrier.

Tjoppie as a puppy

Did you buy or adopt Tjoppie?

“We bought Tjoppie from one of my colleagues whose dogs recently had pups.  She was great throughout the whole process. When we got Tjoppie, she had a package put together for our family and for Tjoppie.
It contained:
his mom and dad’s certification,
his Vet card,
a custom made birth certificate with the date and time of his birth,
as well as his very first photo. 
She also gave us his “blankie”, his favorite toy and dog food.

I want to interject here and comment on the amazing job this lady has done. Buying a puppy from an owner who truly cares about the mommy dog’s puppies are quite special.

Tell us a little bit more about Tjoppie, what is his personality like?

Tjoppie is the most loving being I know.  He frequently forgets how big he actually is and doesn’t miss a chance to cuddle. He loves any kind of ball, and his favorite pass time, apart from cuddling, is playing fetch.

After a doggy walk, he likes to stand in the kid’s swimming pool with all four his paws covered in cool water.  He seems to love water as well, he takes a shower every Saturday morning and afterward, he gets a handful of biltong.

(*Biltong is a South African meaty snack, it consists of cured meat that has been hung and dried)

When you first introduced Tjoppie into your household, how did he react to his new environment?

“He loves the outdoors and hiding in the shade of the shrubs in the garden.  He quickly identified his favorite spots for taking naps – in our kitchen, the living room and our boy’s bedroom (mostly with him on his bed).”

Tjoppie and Frikkie’s son enjoying a nap
Tjoppie and Frikkie’s son enjoying a nap

Tjoppie with his favorite toys

Did Tjoppie have to interact with any pets that were already in your home? How was that experience?

“We already had two Yorkshire Terriers when we got Tjoppie.  Lizzy, Rambo, and Tjoppie spend hours playing tug of war with their toys or chasing birds from our lawn. 

Even though Tjoppie is much bigger than the two Yorkies, he respects their seniority and gets reprimanded by Lizzy whenever she thinks he is out of line.  We are fortunate that Tjoppie is not only a buddy for our two boys but for our Yorkies as well.”

Would you ever describe Tjoppie as aggressive, uncontrollable or temperamental?

“We’ve never seen Tjoppie snarl or bark at any one of our family members or guests.  He does, however, warn us when a stranger is at our house’s gate by barking. Without being aggressive he tries to be as intimidating as possible to the stranger until we comfort him, and he sees that the stranger doesn’t pose any danger.”

Tjoppie wants to come inside and play with Lizzy the Yorkie

You have two beautiful boys – How does Tjoppie interact with them? What are their feelings towards Tjoppie?

“During the winter months, Tjoppie enjoys cuddling and sleeping in my eldest son’s bed. Our youngest feeds Tjoppie peas one-by-one whenever he thinks we are not watching.  Before they go to school in the morning and when they return in the afternoon, Tjoppie is greeted with a big hug and a ‘bye-bye Tjoppie, love you’. 

The eldest isn’t too fond of Tjoppie’s bad habit of pooping on the lawn immediately after we’ve cleaned up the previous day’s poop.”

I’m sure we can all relate to that last statement.

How does Tjoppie interact with guests who visit your home?

“Once we show him that they are friendly and don’t pose any harm, he will sniff at them and then either lick them or bring a ball to them wanting to play fetch.”

Does Tjoppie have a favorite owner? You, your wife, the boys?

“This depends entirely on the time of day and Tjoppie’s mood.  When he wants to play he will approach or my oldest son. When he is tired/sleepy he will find our youngest son and lie right next to him, begging for a scratch between his ears.  When he wants a treat, he will find my wife wherever she is in the house, sit in front of her and make funny puppy sounds until she gives him some biltong.”

Tjoppie with Frikkie’s eldest son and his favorite blankie

Can Tjoppie do any tricks? Was it easy to teach him these tricks?

“We were surprised when we noticed how intelligent Tjoppie is, he is like a sponge. We took him to obedience school and within the first two lessons, he was able to sit, lie down, rollover, circle and fetch on demand.”

Was he easily house trained?

“This took some time and patience, but after about 3 to 4 weeks he was fully house trained.  The secret is to take him out frequently to the same spot in the garden and to have a door open where he can exit if and when needed.”

Frikkie added that Tjoppie really enjoys watching sports especially rugby. Perhaps it is because he loves balls so much.

I would like to thank Frikkie and his family for sharing this really special story with us.

Before you make up your mind about Pit Bulls, it is advisable that you consult with Pit Bull owners themselves. Be informed by credible sources. The story of Tjoppie is inspiring and it is a great example that Pit Bull Terriers are excellent pets to introduce into the home.

We would always recommend adopting a Pit Bull from a kennel to give them a second chance. But if you can buy a Pit Bull puppy from someone who isn’t running a puppy mill and really cares for the Pit Bull mother and pups then you might just end up with an amazing new four-legged addition to the family, like Tjoppie.

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