In 2010 I met Zouk, an American pit bull terrier. He was 2, had been abandoned and was living on the street before I adopted him.

At the time, I decided to do extensive research on the breed, and that is how I came across a sport called “gameness.” I realized that this sport was, in many countries, the solution to end, or at least reduce, dog fighting. The sport consists of physical tests that assess a dog’s potential, without resorting to a physical confrontation between them. It focuses the dogs’ energy and capabilities toward something enjoyable for the animals and their owners.

The word “gameness” or “game” started to be used to determine a set of characteristics in certain types of dogs or breeds. A game dog or breed would be the one that showed a willingness to continue a specific action, no matter how tired, worn out, discouraged or injured it was.

Gameness is a sport that combines several elements. It incorporates different obstacles that provide challenges for the dog, forcing it to think about how to overcome them. On average, the most frequent obstacles are long jump, palisade, vertical or wall climb, free jump, suspension and weight pull. The reward, the positioning of the dog toward the obstacle, and the training as a whole (before, during and after having managed or not to overcome the task) depends entirely on its owner.

Nowadays, this type of sport is not exclusive to pit bulls. Despite this type of dog being the majority at competitions, the sport is open to all breeds.

With my work, I hope to encourage others to steer away from the stigma that exists around pit bulls and show that these are dogs with enormous potential. With good owners, they can achieve incredible feats and be dogs just like any others.

João Silva is a photographer based in Braga, Portugal.

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