Spend a short time in a tree-lined Philly neighborhood, and you’ll likely cross paths with a hipster-chic 20- or 30-something walking a pittie. Pit bulls — not just purebred terriers, but the athletic, mixed “bully” breeds most people refer to as pits — have quickly become the most-adopted dogs in Philadelphia. Makes sense: These hearty canines comprise 80 to 85 percent of all city shelter dogs, and thanks to advocates like Jen, Chase and Jack (pictured) Utley, are slowly changing minds and winning hearts.
Not everyone can adopt right now. But most anyone can take a pittie for a walk. “The PSPCA just completed a new dog park with private runs and a walking area,” says board member Jen Utley. “Just 15 minutes with one of these guys absolutely improves their day.”
For pups who pull, use an Easy Walk harness or a Gentle Leader. Local pittie owner-activist Kim Wolf recommends “something that’s secure, because the person on the end of the leash is responsible.” For her non-pulling pit mix, Wolf prefers a regular leash attached to a preppy collar, to coordinate with her closet full of Lilly Pulitzer.
City dwellers swear by Society Hill Veterinary Hospital. 501 South 2nd Street, 215-627-5955, shvh.vetsuite.com.
Knotted ropes to pull, Frisbees to catch, Buster Cubes and Kongs, indestructible puzzles that double as dinner bowls, because, says trainer Siegfried, “These dogs are so friggin’ smart.”
The Erie Avenue PSPCA offers free classes to all adoptees. But higher-maintenance dogs (and owners) might benefit from one-on-one training with a certified professional dog trainer, like Bucks-based Leigh Siegfried of Opportunity Barks (888-672-2757, opbarks.com) or Center City’s Marisa Scully (267-253-9273, phillydogtraining.com). Both women are pittie owners, travel for consults and cost about $100 an hour. (DIYers: Try a clicker.)
Pit bull terriers score above 90 percent on the American Dog Temperament test, ranking higher than beagles, sheepdogs, cocker spaniels, dalmatians, Jack Russells and dozens more breeds.