JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — When most people think of a pit bull dog, the images are not usually pleasant.
A group working to change the perception of the dogs held a show recently at the Jefferson City Jaycees Fairgrounds.
The Mid-Missouri American Pit Bull Terrier Club hosted owners and their dogs in from several states, as well as Canada.
“There is a general misconception that most people get in the media that these are attack dogs,” club President Brian Willibrand said. “What most people think of are large dogs, but the dogs we show are around 35-50 pounds. That’s what they’re supposed to look like.”
This is the club’s sixth year doing the show, and Willibrand hopes they can keep holding it around Labor Day.
“Last year, we weren’t on Labor Day and only had 68 registered. But this year, we’re going to end up with around 160 for the two days,” he said. “When we did it on Labor Day weekend in 2015, we had 137 so that seems to work best. We’re only a few years old, and the only way we can keep doing the show is by getting a big turnout. The only way we make money is through the registration fees, and it’s expensive to run. So if we break even, we’re pretty happy. I think, though, we’ve shown we can bring in some economic revenue for Jefferson City with the people we’ve brought in for these shows.”
The dogs shown range in age from puppies to five years, and children and adults both show the dogs. Just like the dogs coming from out of state, this year’s judges came from North Carolina and Texas, as well as Kansas City.
“Basically, what they are looking for in the junior classes is ‘if I could take a dog home today which would I choose,’ ” Willibrand said. “It doesn’t need to necessarily be a pretty dog.”
Willibrand said they teach kids how to handle and control their dogs when they show them. Sometimes if they’re really small they require a parent to be with them.
“When we get into the professional class, the judges are looking for how the body looks,” he said. “Points are assigned to the neck, body, etc. There’s a lot of different things they take into account — are the toes nice and tight, is the tail all right. So much goes into it. I thought of becoming a judge, but there’s so much involved to be qualified.”
Willibrand said terrier owners feel the dogs are part of their families and hope shows like this one can take away the breed’s stigma.
“The only side most people see about pit bulls is the bad and not the good like you see here,” he said. “We just want to get out with our dogs and show what a loving breed they are.”