Jambo: Can you give us a little bit of background information about yourself?
Fit For A Pit: Sure! I’m a native Philadelphian with a background in visual art, I spent many years as a picture framer and had my own framing business from 2004-11. But that’s boring so I’ll skip to my DOG background! I had Rottweilers in the early 90s, which I wanted because I thought they looked like snuggly little bears. Back then I had no idea that breed bans even existed, let alone that I’d spend the next decade struggling to find places to live and working so hard to convince people that my dogs weren’t vicious monsters!
Fast forward to 2008, through lots of moves due to my husband’s job…we’d lost our last Rottie to cancer and were ready for a new buddy. While searching petfinder, I noticed that so many of the photos looked like mug shots! I wondered how any of the dogs could get adopted, having such awful photos. I also noted that pit bulls seemed to have the worst photos of them all…some even had catch poles still attached to their necks. I immediately called our local kill shelter to ask if I could come over and take pictures of the dogs. I guess my experiences there, along with the Michael Vick case, was what set me on a mission to help these dogs in as many ways as I could.
Jambo: Where did the idea of Fit For A Pit come from?
Fit For A Pit: Well, I’ve got 2 high-energy athletes on my hands here, so from the get go, I was constantly looking for new ways to burn some of their excess energy. I bought a lot of toys and equipment, puzzles, games, but only found a few things that worked and lasted.
These guys are always cold, too, so I looked everywhere for dog clothes. Everything was tight or too long, or the leg holes were too close together. Or all three of the above! A lot of cheap clothes from big box stores would only last through a couple of washings and then they’d fall apart.
Did I mention that the dogs are also “blessed” with a host of bizarre allergies that manifest via skin issues? That brought about a quest for natural foods and products that wouldn’t make them break out in scary hives. I wanted to find things that could potentially prevent disease ,too, since we’d lost our Rotties to cancer and complications from Addison’s. So, from 2009 to 2013, I wasted money on a bunch of, for lack of a better word, crap! Some things were so bad that I couldn’t bear to donate them and they went straight into the waste basket. When I did find something good, I’d buy several, keeping a few for our dogs and donating the rest, so I could share my discoveries. Everyone was always so thrilled to find out about the new stuff! That’s when it occurred to me that I wasn’t the only one having this problem. I figured maybe I could help keep other people from having to waste hard-earned money on garbage like I did.
Jambo: You donate a portion of every sale, plus all your manufacturers’ samples and overstock items to pit bull rescues across America as well as spending much of your free time participating in Pit Bull rescue, education, training and spay/neuter efforts. Can you tell us why this is important to you?
Fit For A Pit: Obviously, my time at the kill shelter in Vegas was pivotal. I was there almost every day, not just taking photos and walking dogs, but also talking to people in the intake line. I wanted to know what drove people to this decision. I thought if I knew the main reason, that maybe there was something we could do to help them keep their dogs. What I found was pretty interesting: while there were some who just couldn’t afford to feed and vet a dog, most people I talked to were turning dogs in because of behavioural issues. Things like house soiling, separation anxiety, fence jumping/digging/escaping, fighting with their other dogs and even a simple lack of basic obedience skills. All pretty fixable stuff. I realized that people weren’t exercising their dogs and they weren’t training them. Not because they were lazy or stupid, but because they had no idea what to do or how to do it.
Of course I also saw a ton of pregnant dogs coming in to the shelter, so I knew that spay & neuter was really important. I watched so many of my little friends being walked over to the veterinary building to be euthanized all because they weren’t adopted fast enough. I knew then that rescue was only one piece of the puzzle, and that we needed to get to the root of the problem in order to make any real impact.
Jambo: Tell me about the DFW Pit Crew.
Fit For A Pit: When I was in Vegas, I co-founded a group for pit owners and we’d meet once a week to walk dogs out in public, hang out on patios, etc…let people interact with our dogs. Eventually we had a trainer join the group, so we added classes on anything from basic obedience to agility. Members asked questions about training, health, feeding, socializing, what products to use etc. so I was always researching things and referring people to professionals when needed.
After moving to Dallas in 2012, I noticed we didn’t have a group here yet, so I contacted North Texas Pit Bull Alliance and asked them to co-found one with me. We opened it in 2013 and now have 333 members.
The group has weekly walks and we hold classes, go to rescue events, etc. All members have access to a database of links and pdfs about everything from training to health to info. on BSL. We also have a lot of rescues in the crew and because so many of our members are fosters, I sometimes network dogs to the group and find homes for them. We’re currently working on planning this year’s North Texas Pit Bull Pride event in October. It’s a great group of people and a great group of dogs. We love hanging out together!
Jambo: Do you think Fit For A Pit is helping to break the negative stereotype of Pit Bull type dogs?
Fit For A Pit: I think we’re doing our small part, yes. I mean, who can be afraid of a dog wearing a sweater with bunny ears? All kidding aside, I know how much positive attention a dog wearing clothes can attract… this often prompts interaction with strangers, giving us a chance to educate. I make sure to strongly encourage exercise and force-free training for all dogs, because well-behaved, happy dogs speak for themselves, don’t they? Our dogs’ behaviour has the potential to change a lot of minds.
Jambo: Who is your target market?
Fit For A Pit: Pit bull types are our main focus, just because there’s so little out there that’s specifically geared towards them. But really everything we carry is all-breed, even the clothes. I might only list a few sizes on the site (those that fit bully breed dogs the best) but I have access to both smaller and larger sizes. Many of our customers have mixed-breed dogs at home, so I do a lot of custom orders for pit bulls’ roommates who can be teacup Chihuahuas, Great Pyrenees, you name it!
Jambo: How do you choose which products to stock?
Fit For A Pit: I read about or hear of new things all the time and if something looks or sounds like it could work well, I order a sample or two. I test things with our dogs first and then I’ll pass it around to friends, family, meetup members and often to a rescue. I’ll give it a few weeks and collect feedback from everyone, see if the product is still holding up. With apparel, I wash things several times. Then I decide if it’s made the cut or not. I’ll tell you something you’ve probably already figured out: most things don’t make the cut. I’m pretty tough! There are even quite a few very well-known items or brands that are beloved by pit bull owners but I won’t carry them because they failed my testing! (These shall remain nameless but go to the website and you can figure it out by process of elimination. If you don’t see it, it FAILED!)
Jambo: Do you have a favorite product that is available on your website?
Fit For A Pit: I love everything on the website and I really mean it! The Finnish dog outfitter Hurtta is a stand-out, though, I think I’m their #1 fan haha!! Their sizing is perfection and since the clothes were created for dogs working in extreme conditions, they’re well-made and will really take a beating. Acadia Antlers moose antlers—we order a specific weight and cut of moose antler that I found the dogs seemed to prefer over others and this size and cut also lasts the longest. Oh and anything from Squishy Face Studios. Everyone needs a flirt pole!
Jambo: Does Fit For A Pit ship internationally?
Fit For A Pit: Absolutely! We have customers all over the world!
Jambo: What plans do you have for Fit For A Pit?
Fit For A Pit: Actually, there is something really big on the horizon! For the past couple of years, I’ve been working gathering intel for a line of dog tees and hoodies that will be 100% made in the USA, right here in Dallas, TX. America’s Dog is our brand name and we’ve created a few styles, had patterns made, ordered a few of each and have just completed testing on those samples. The style is really sporty and the fit is super comfy for broad-chested, short-bodied dogs. We were set to produce these a few months ago but our fabric supplier shut down and iiquidated their inventory. That was a huge setback! Sourcing American-made fabrics is really time-consuming and difficult, so it’s taken me a few months to get back to where we were before in the process. The launch date is now scheduled for sometime in the spring of this year. I’ll be posting updates via social media and those subscribed to our newsletter will get the news first!
Jambo: A very big thank you to Fit For A Pit for taking the time to answer all of my questions and for being largely responsible for my ever expanding wardrobe of clothes that feel great, look great and fit great!
You can find Fit For A Pit at : www.fit4apit.com.
Make sure to “like” their Facebook Page!: www.facebook.com/fit4apit
They are also on Twitter, Google+ and Instagram!:
If you would like to get involved with the DFW Pit Crew, you can find out more here: www.meetup.com/dfw-pit-crew
Jambo will only recommend companies whose products he has used (and loves) and who share the same commitment we have to training dogs in a humane manner, using up-to-date, science based, force-free methods; who support breed neutral laws and help to shine a positive light on the “Bully” breeds.
You can find Jambo on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/StaffyChampion.