The Nanny Myth Kills

That blasted myth is killing the things that we love most, our children and our dogs. The sad thing, it’s not a myth created out of ill intention. It’s a myth that took a statement, twisted it, was retold and retold again. Advertised, promoted and became this huge belief that gets repeated over and over and over again. I’ll be honest, the idea of taking on the Nanny dog myth is daunting and intimidating.  Have you googled “Nanny dog”?

“But not so long ago, pit bulls were brought in as “nanny dogs,” the trusted caretaker pups to watch over kids”-Claudine Zap, 2011

I can’t even count how many times I’ve come across that quote… God bless her, even Martha Stewart quoted it in her 2014 article written by Dr. Pia Salk.  What’s that quote? The road to hell is paved with good intentions? That is exactly what the promotion of the Nanny myth is among pit bull owners.  I get it, our dogs are AMAZING. Our dogs can do AMAZING things. Our dogs can clear a room with one single fart and lay there like nothing just happened. Our dogs can save lives, our dogs can make people laugh, our dogs can comfort us and others when we are ill, our dogs can somehow morph into these blobs that can over take furniture.  They come in different colors, shapes, sizes, from different backgrounds, personalities and temperaments.  Some are athletic, some are lazy, some like water, some hate water, some are the very best dogs we will ever have and sadly, some will be the worst dogs they might ever have.  Our dogs are many things but the one thing they will never be is a “Nanny Dog.”

The best way that we can honestly help our dogs and our advocacy (not to mention shut down the steam behind the BSL advocacy) is to clear the air. A dogs purpose from way back to now are completely different UNLESS it comes from a specific line. Back in the old days, dogs had jobs, they had work to do unless you were rich enough to be able to afford the well known lap dog and many families from that era were not that lucky.  A working dog that wouldn’t/couldn’t work would be culled. It’s a harsh reality.  In the past, our beloved breed type (and the multiple breeds that fall under the “pit bull” breed label) had multiple jobs, none of them very pleasant and none of those jobs were to be a babysitter.

The Birth of a Myth

At some point, according to the myth,  at the start of the 20th century (allegedly), “pit bulls” are declared as the famous Nanny Dog.  That these dogs (who had some of the most brutal of jobs) were somehow AMAZING with children and possessed the delicate nature and intelligence to “care” for children. The point of the campaign was simple: garner public support for these dogs after the era of dog fighting was losing favor, transitioning the breed of dogs from that era into another role. Even Charles Dickens, who wrote about a bull terrier in his famous Oliver Twist failed to bring that label into the story.

Fast forward and the myth grows. In 1971 “Nursemaid” hits print for the first time thanks to an article written in the New York Times by Walter Fletcher.



It wasn’t until 1987, that the term was printed again in an archived Toronto Star article entitled, Move to Outlaw Pit Bulls Under Study in Several Cities, that breeder Kathy Thomas, president of the Staffordshire Bull Terrier Association, mother of two young children, said her eight Staffordshires are “wonderful with children. In England, our Staffies were called the nanny-dog because they were gentle with kids.” Fast forward 4 more years when Lillian Rant uses the term “nursemaid dog” three times in her book Staffordshire Bull Terriers: Owner’s Companion : “He has a great affection for children, having earned the title ‘nursemaid dog’ many years ago.” In this instance, “many years ago” means about 20 years when she first used the term in regards to her own dogs.

Look to the Future

At the end of the day, we know our flaws and our strengths in our dogs. There is no hiding the fact that MANY (not all) of our dogs are amazing with kids. The tolerance that MANY (not all) have for kids is amazing and what makes them great family pets, but they are still dogs that don’t have the reasoning capability as we do. They don’t look at the world like we do and we can’t expect them to fulfill a role that they were never meant to be. No animal, dog or not was ever made to babysit our children. Our dogs are super stars, our dogs are our companions, our best friends and family members, they deserve to be defined by what they do today not what a handful of people labeled them years ago.  


11 thoughts on “#StoptheMyth

  1. If people take a decades old figurative moniker literally, they are to dangerously stupid to have dogs OR children. The Victorian era also recommended morohine and librium for colucky infants. Who is still stupud enough to believe it?for

    Liked by 2 people

  2. My dogs are great with my grandson, but I would never allow them to be alone together. Not because I don’t trust them, but because my grandson isn’t old enough to recognize the subtle signals a dog uses to tell us he is uncomfortable. My dogs deserve to feel safe and secure without being mishandled by a child.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. While there are those who long ago proudly called staffies “nanny dogs”, there was no way to know there would come a time when hysteria and fear mongering would overrun social media. There is more than one dog claiming ‘nanny dog’ status. Peter Pan’s dog, Nana was the children’s nanny dog, too. She was a Newfoundland…http://nannydog.info/nanny-dog-breeds/newfoundland/ . Of course, adults shouldn’t leave children unsupervised with dogs, mostly because children do stupid things


  4. Coke (coca cola) used to have cocaine in it also. Hopefully most people realize it doesnt anymore. Trepanning was an often prescribed surgical procedure to remove evil spirits.
    It is 2016. We should be educated enough by now to know the reality is dogs are NOT babysitters and nannies.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Honestly, if a person actually believes that a dog was bred, or intended to “babysit” your child, then they know nothing about animals, or children. And in my opinion, should never have either. But this idea, was years, and years ago, that it started. Because, that is what my 81yr old father said to me, at one time. And my dad is no canine expert, and he doesn’t continually research stuff like this. This is what he heard as a child, and what he has been told. So, in my opinion, it started like an “old wives tale”, and there will always be those who will believe it, and those who know better. I am honestly tired of hearing about it. There are only so many times you can refute it, and some people will still believe it. We basically need to go a different route, and not mention it so much, or give it so much attention. And those of us who own pitties, just need to start teaching, by example, and helping others who are less fortunate, or educated on canine education. I seriously think, if we drop it, and redirect everything into proper supervision of children and dogs, it will eventually die down.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Well I should have noted carefully where i was, that little trickster. But regardless of Ms. Desires’ internet posing, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier’s affinity for children and position as family dogs is part of the breed’s standard and THAT’S not going anywhere.


  7. Thank you for mentioning not ALL of our amazing dogs are great with kids. I love that bully breeds tend to be family oriented, but sadly some dogs like mine were not socialized properly and by the time they are rescued and adopted may not be comfortable with or understand children. My dog adores everyone over the age of 15 but has made it known she prefers not to interact with kids. Sometimes bully breed advocates make me feel like I own the spawn of the devil! But she’s really an amazing dog who had a rough start to life and is 1000% in control in public, can pass by families with a bunch of kids running past without batting an eyelash because she trusts me to manage the situation. I don’t have any kids in my life so she’s happy and everyone is safe! Not all great dogs are in love with kids!

    Liked by 1 person

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