Good Life: The It Dog

Once maligned, pit bulls and pit mixes — a.k.a. pitties — are the dogs du jour. Here’s how to adopt yours — and keep him healthy, happy and hip

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,

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, or Center City’s Marisa Scully (267-253-9273, 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.