What It's Like To Adopt A Pit Bull

What its like to rescue a pit bull

Our rescue Pit Bull, Cooper

When my wife and I were first married, we wanted a dog in our new family and at the time we chose to get a puppy to fill that want. We had thought about adopting a rescue, but we opted for a puppy. Sasha was a 9-week old purebred Boxer when we picked her up. Fast forward about four years later, we wanted another four-legged family member. This time, we wanted to adopt.

Along Came Cooper

We had been following a few local animal shelters and we came across a certain Pit Bull out of the Smithfield Animal Shelter. He was a tan colored Pit Bull mix. They found him on Douglas Pike near the Smithfield / North Providence town line. At the time they thought he had mange because of his skin condition but upon examination they discovered he was suffering from a severe case of flea infestation, which had led to a bad infection. They estimated that he was about six months old at that time, which was in June of 2014. They took him for weekly baths at a nearby groomer, and finally the skin issues cleared up and his beautiful tan coat appeared.

When we caught sight of him it was December 2014 by this point. Poor Cooper had been in there for six months already. He spent half of his first year of life in a shelter. That really struck us. We wondered how a six-month old puppy with such a bad skin infection could be in a shelter for six months and no one called in to claim him missing. We’ll never know for sure why he went astray, but whoever didn’t want him, they’re really missing out on a great dog.

The Initial Visit

I stopped by the shelter one day and visited Cooper. It was amazing. There was about a dozen or so other dogs in there at the time, all constantly barking. Cooper though, was different. I walked up to his cage and he was sitting, almost so proper like a gentleman - and he was silent. Not a peep out of him. I couldn’t believe it. Why was this dog so quiet. Either way, I loved him already. My wife went and visited him separately and she felt the same way.

The next step was to arrange a visit with our current dog, Sasha. She had always been good with other dogs, but as a responsible adopter, we needed to make sure both dogs were a good fit for each other. We brought her by the shelter and took them out for a short walk. Of course he pulled a lot, but wouldn’t you after being in there for six months! They seemed to get along just fine, plus the ACO (Animal Control Officer) had mentioned that Cooper had no issues with other dogs. Now that they met each other, we wanted to see Cooper in an environment other than the shelter. We took him home for a “trial” kind of basis. All of us, between the two ACO’s and my wife and I were very confident in taking him home.

We picked Cooper up on Sunday, December 14th, 2014. I can barely put into words how excited he was to jump in our car and come home with us. I lost count how many times his long tail kept whacking me in the face as I sat in the back seat with him. We first brought him over to my in-laws home as they had a nice large, fenced in yard where he could run for a bit. We let him and Sasha run free in the yard area. They played well with each other, just running around and chasing each other. No signs of aggression. It was a little muddy out, and he was getting a little dirty, but that didn’t matter, he was free at last.

Coming To His Furever Home

After Cooper expended some energy, it was time to take him home. We took Cooper to our home and it was amazing to see him transition from a cage into a loving home. We encouraged him to come up on the couch with us, but he seemed very afraid to do so. Now, I’m sure there are pet owners that don’t believe in dogs on the couch… personally I think those people are crazy. We baited him with a couple of treats to show him it was OK to get on the couch. He loved it. I wonder what it must have felt like to have been sleeping on a concrete slab for the past six months and then to suddenly be able to relax on a nice comfy couch. I know he enjoyed this, because he snuggled right up next to me on the couch the very first night. He knew he belonged here, and we were thrilled to have him.

Like with any dog, he did need a bit of house training, but we had been through this before. We used bells on the door to train Sasha when she was a pup. Since Cooper was still so young, these worked well for him. The basic concept is that you take his paw and ring the bell on the door when you want him to go out. Do this enough times and he’ll get the idea to ring the bells when he’s ready to go outside.

We quickly found out that he likes to chew. He didn’t really get destructive in the house, but we recognized that he had an insatiable need to chew. We got him a few toys and some trusty deer antlers, a favorite of Sasha’s which would become a favorite for him as well. We also grabbed a couple of tugging-style toys that both he and Sasha could play with. Although, it turns out, they’ll play tug with just about any toy. Their favorite tug toy became a small mesh rubber ball about 4” diameter. I really don’t know how they both could tug on such a small object, but they did. It was really a pleasure seeing them bond together.

How close was the bond between them? Since the first night, they were napping on the couch together. From this day forth, they would become inseparable. The bond these two share is indescribable. Unfortunately, she is no longer with us, or her brother.

Our boxer dog Sasha playing with her adopted Pit Bull brother Cooper

Sasha (Boxer, right) playing with her adopted brother Cooper (Pit Bull, left)

In The Years Since Adopting Our Pit Bull

Other than pure ignorance, I'll yet to understand why people just can't simply fall in love with Pit Bulls they way I have. I've seen nothing but love from Cooper. When my wife and I had our first child back last summer, we were definitely cautious of how Cooper would be. As up until this point, he has not had a baby near him since being with us. We do not know his prior home situation if there were young ones. We took a class on introducing your pet to your baby, which we found very helpful.

One of the ways we did this was first bringing home an article of the newborn to let Cooper just kind of sniff it until he was bored with it. Next, we separately had my wife visit him alone without the baby, as he would obviously be excited to see her after a few days apart! Lastly, we brought the baby outside when Cooper was nice and tired, and we sat down with the baby in our arms in a rocking chair. While leashed, we let Cooper find his way over.

You know what happened?

Something amazing.

Cooper made his way over, sniffed baby, gave him a couple licks and then went the other way. He did this a couple times, but that was basically it.

Two weeks later? I'm on the couch with baby and Cooper has his head on me and baby. Yes, I'm sure there are some that will say "Bad habits." "Shouldn't allow a dog up on the couch with the baby, or at all".... Well listen, that's your rules. I won't tell you where your dog can go.

In my house, he's perfectly fine with our son. We never let the two of them be alone, like at all. Now that's dumb and setting them up for failure. Cooper has yet to show any sort of aggression toward baby, if anything the complete opposite.

Our son, who is now one, loves to cuddle up next to him and has learned how to pet him appropriately.

What to do if you're thinking about adopting a Pit Bull (or any dog)

The first step, like anything else, is to do your research.

Truthfully, not every dog will fit into every household. Some dogs based on their previous circumstances might be best as an only dog. Some might better only WITH another dog. So, you really have to take some responsibility and do some homework to find out if adopting is right for you and your family.

Talk with your local shelters or rescue groups. One such group in Rhode Island is the Handsome Dan Rescue. They are a passionate group of people who are laser focused on getting pit bull type dogs their forever homes. You can check out some photos in our portfolio gallery.

You'll obviously want to, but really need to arranges some visits. Make sure you are comfortable with the adoptable dog, and you'll quickly know if they're comfortable with you. (Look out for kisses!)

If you're going to take the plunge and adopt, prepare your house. If this will be the only dog, make sure you have plenty of activities and schedule for your rescue. It's possible that your rescue might have been in a shelter for months (just like Cooper was for 6 months) - so he will likely be eager to start expending energy once he's in your home. Make sure that energy is expended properly.

Have some play toys ready and something to chew on. If you are able, set a schedule to take him for walks.

Perhaps you're not in a position to adopt, but love dogs anyway? See if you're able to help out and volunteer at a shelter or donate needed supplies. Doing this will help set the adoptable dogs up for better success.

Have you previously adopted any dogs or are considering?

We'd love to hear what you have to say below in the comments!

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