Known as the “bad boys” of the dog world, American Pitbull Terriers have garnered a rather fearsome reputation over the years. But did you know that they are also nicknamed the “nanny dogs” for their gentle disposition toward children?
At one point, they even served as mascots for the U.S. Army. The American Pit Bull Terrier’s complex history goes to show that you can’t base your opinion on a breed just through misconceptions and stereotypes.
People who are looking for a strong, sturdy dog are destined to fall in love with the American Pit Bull Terrier and its formidable built.
But don’t be fooled by its imposing stature, as it can actually be quite goofy.
If you are already sure that you want to bring an American Pit Bull Terrier into your home — great! But if you are uncertain as to whether or not this breed would be a good fit for your unique lifestyle, then you should further familiarize yourself with it by checking out the rest of this guide on American Pit Bull Terriers.
American Pit Bull Terriers were originally bred as bait dogs for bears and bulls. Under this controversial practice, the young terrier would attack and bite a chained animal.
After bull and bear baiting were prohibited under the Cruelty to Animals Act of 1835 in the UK, British owners turned to “ratting”.
Owners would place rats inside a pit where they would time the pit bull terrier to see how many rats it could kill within a short time period. Owners eventually used the breed for dog fighting, as it was easier to engage in outside the eyes of the law.
Pit bull Terriers weren’t given the “American” part of their name until immigrants from the British Isles brought them along with them to the United States.
They took on the role of “frontier dogs”, where they herd cattle and sheep while guarding livestock and families against thieves and wild animals.
Sometimes they would even act as hog catchers during hunts.
During this time, they became more known for their companion work rather than their past role as fighting dogs.
However, after the passing of the Animal Welfare Act of 19, which prohibited dog fighting in all 50 states, criminals began to seek out pit bull terriers to use for underground fighting rings.
As a result, they garnered an unsavory reputation among the general public. Since then, advocacy organizations have fought to save the breed’s reputation by attempting to promote a more positive image.
Are American Pitbull Terriers Good Family Dogs?
American Pitbull Terriers who have been well trained and socialized can mostly be trusted around children and pets.
Pitbull terriers who were rescued from a fighting background will need to be evaluated in order for handlers to determine whether or not they are suitable for homes with children and pets.
They do not do well when left alone for long periods of time, so they are not the best fit for people with long work hours.
Households with young children should practice caution when allowing their Pitbull to interact with them, as it can become extremely exuberant and energetic when excited.
At the end of the day, it is your responsibility to properly train your Pitbull to ensure its obedience and the safety of others, including yourself.
The best dog food for Pitbulls is a high-protein, low-grain diet.
If you decide to feed your pit bull store-bought food (as opposed to raw dog food), make sure the first ingredient listed on the label is a named meat source.
i.e., lamb, chicken, salmon, turkey, etc.
Avoid foods that contain wheat, corn, and potatoes as most dogs are allergic to these ingredients.
Feed your Pitbull two to three times a day while it is still a puppy.
Once it is an adult, you can feed it once or twice a day.
Most dogs will become restless if they are only fed once a day, so most owners choose to feed them twice a day. However, if your Pitbull is currently struggling with obesity or weight gain, your vet might recommend that you feed it only once a day.
Because they are gifted with a short coat that lies flat against their bodies, Pitbull grooming is relatively easy.
That doesn’t mean your Pit will groom himself though!
Daily brushing with a rubber curry brush will keep your pit bull’s coat healthy and shiny by removing dead hair and flaky skin cells.
If you notice your Pitbull’s coat becoming dry or dull and that your dog has started to scratch and bite at it, he may be suffering from allergies. Dry skin and a dull coat may also be symptoms of systemic illness. If you’re unsure if your dog is suffering from a serious illness, you should consult your veterinarian for a diagnosis and treatment plan.
You don’t need to bathe your Pitbull frequently:
Pitbulls need baths about once per quarter, or about four times per year. Pits are generally not dirty dogs and should not get bathed more than once every three months.
This breed is notorious for skin problems, so get the best Pitbull shampoo.
Shampoos that contain alcohol, coal tar, or sulfur-based products will also irritate your dog’s skin. Adding in conditioner after you shampoo your pit bull will help enhance the shine of its coat.
American Pitbull Terriers are excitable bundles of energy that require extensive physical and mental stimulation.
A daily walk along with a few energy-burning activities will keep your pit bull happy and healthy.
Walk your Pitty for a minimum of 30 minutes a day while also finding fun, yet challenging games for them.
Activities such as fetch or backyard obstacle courses are perfect for high-energy dogs.
Mentally stimulating activities like puzzle toys and scent and nose games are perfect for keeping your dog’s mind sharp and for preventing boredom.
While they don’t have the best reputation among the general public, Pitbulls can actually make great companions if they are trained and socialized starting from an early age.
In fact, they are highly intelligent canines that often excel at obedience training.
You need to socialize your Pitbull puppy by introducing it to a variety of men, women, children, and other animals. These should be positive and relaxed hang out sessions.
Positive reinforcement is vital when you start training your puppy various obedience commands, as it is proven to be the most effective training technique.
Aside from “sit,” “stay,” and “come,” you need to teach your dog to “look.” This command will come in handy with helping your dog focus and remain calm while there are other dogs around.
American Pitbull Terrier Health Issues
Most Pitbulls live long and healthy lives. The average lifespan of the American Pit Bull Terrier is 8 to 15 years.
They are still prone to developing health problems, such as hip dysplasia, cataracts, and heart disease.
Hip dysplasia, the abnormal formation of the hip socket, often causes pain and discomfort in dogs. Cataracts cloud the lens of the eye and often lead to blindness. Most of the time, there is a genetic cause behind the formation of cataracts.
Common heart conditions experienced among Pitbull Terriers include:
- Valve malformations of the heart
- Irregularities in heart rhythm
- Aortic stenosis, which occurs when the left ventricle and aorta are narrowed
Allergies are also a common health issue among American Pit Bull Terriers. Environmental allergens such as fleas, pollen, and dust as well as food allergens from beef, rice, wheat, and corn usually affect Pits.
Keep an eye out for symptoms of allergies in your Pitbull, as severe allergies may lead to secondary infections that develop into tissue damage if left untreated.
Luckily, removing the items and foods that cause less severe allergies is usually enough to help alleviate your dog’s allergies.
American Pit Bull Terrier Information and Facts
1. They Have Played a Variety of Roles Over the Years
American Pit Bull Terriers may be best known for their time as dog fighters and baiters, but they have played a diverse number of roles throughout their existence.
During the days of early America, they served as frontier dogs and were responsible for herding cattle and sheep.
They also guarded livestock and families against thieves and predators. You could even spot them running alongside their masters on hunts.
Sometimes, they were simply kept as companion pets by adoring owners. Nowadays, you may spot them on television shows or films.
One of the most famous pit bulls, Petey, was featured on the show “Little Rascals”.
Many companies have also used them for commercials and on product labels.
2. Media Outlets are Complicit in Painting a Negative Picture of the Breed
In 1987, Time Magazine published a cover story titled “The Pit Bull Friend and Killer”. The article mentioned several horrifying pit bull attacks, including the mauling of two-year-old James Soto. According to paramedics, the child was “unrecognizable as a human being” after the attack. He died after succumbing to his injuries.
Sports Illustrated published a photo of a menacing pit bull with its teeth bared under the line “BEWARE OF THIS DOG”.
While media outlets are not the sole cause of the pit bull’s tainted reputation, they did play a hand in portraying them as animals that are to be feared rather than welcomed into homes.
Interestingly enough, this bad publicity ended up encouraging seedy people to seek out pit bulls in the hopes of obtaining a menacing and aggressive dog. They would then enter their pit bulls into dog fighting rings. Gangs would also use pit bulls to assist them in their operations and would torture them by beating, electrocuting, and starving them in order to make them tougher and more aggressive.
3. The AKC Does Not Officially Recognize Them
The AKC does not recognize the “pit bull”.
It does, however, recognize a similar breed called the Staffordshire terrier. The distinction was made in order to separate the “pit bull” breed from its negative past.
Some experts even argue that purebred pit bulls don’t exist. This is because dogs that appear to be pit bulls are typically either a mix of different breeds or are an American Staffordshire Terrier or Staffordshire Bull Terrier.
4. They Went Through Various Re-Branding Efforts Over the Years
It’s not fun to be known as the bad guy. That’s why various organizations have attempted to rename the breed in an effort to pull it away from its unflattering reputation.
During the ’90s, the city of San Francisco tried to change its name to St. Francis terriers.
Then, in 2014, New York City Animal Care and Control attempted to rename them “New Yorkies”.
Unfortunately, neither of these rebranding efforts were successful. So, for now, American Pit Bull Terriers are keeping their names.
5. They Served as the Nation’s Mascot During WWI and WWII
Propaganda posters were a dime a dozen throughout WWI and WWII. Anytime you saw a dog in American colors and regalia, it was most likely a pit bull.
Back then, pit bulls were renowned for their loyalty, bravery, and determination. In an effort to align the country with these principles, artists would use pit bulls to represent it in posters.
6. Despite Their Formidable Reputation, They Don’t Make Good Guard Dogs
Contrary to popular belief, pit bulls are too loving toward people to act as effective guard dogs.
That being said, they will protect their loved ones if they believe they are being threatened.
So while your pit bull will likely wag its tail and attempt to receive a nice petting from a stranger that has found his way into your house, it will still be ready to spring into action if the stranger begins to act aggressively toward you and they realize that you are in immediate danger.
7. There is a Myth That They Have Special Locking Jaws
Due to their unsavory reputation, people have been led to believe that American Pit Bull Terriers have special jaws that allow them to lock down on whatever they bite.
But if you compare a pit bull’s skull to the skull of any other breed, you will see that their structures are extremely similar to each other.
However, pit bulls are highly enthusiastic animals, so when they do bite down on something, they will give it their all and hold onto it for dear life.
8. An American Pit Bull Terrier Named Sergeant Stubby Was the Most Decorated Dog of WWI
During WWI, Sergeant Stubby served in the 26th Yankee Division while working as the official mascot of the 102nd Infantry Regiment.
The brave dog accomplished heroic deeds throughout his service, most notably saving his regiment from surprise mustard gas attacks.
He would also comfort the wounded from time to time. According to legend, he once caught a German soldier by the seat of his pants and held him hostage until his fellow American soldiers were able to catch up to him.
9. A Variety of Celebrities Have Owned American Pitbull Terriers Over the Years
Pit bulls are a fan favorite among celebrities.
Snoop Dogg is one of the most recent celebrities to welcome a pit bull into his household. The award-winning rapper adopted a pit bull named “Snoop” after he was abandoned. The celebrity stated when he announced his decision to adopt Snoop:
“There is always room for another dog in Casa de Snoop.”
– Snoop Dogg
Other well-known celeb Pitbull owners:
- Jessica Biel
- Orlando Bloom
- Ashley Olsen
- Jennifer Aniston
- Jamie Foxx
- Michael J. Fox
- John Steinbeck
- Theodore Roosevelt
- Woodrow Wilson
10. They are Outlawed in Various U.S. Cities
While they don’t always explicitly outlaw pit bulls, Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) is usually used to target pit bulls. States that are most likely not going to welcome your Pitbull with open arms:
11. American Pit Bull Terriers Ranked #4 in Passing Rate for the American Temperament Test Society
The American Temperament Testing Society conducted a test in which they evaluated the temperaments of various breeds. According to the organization’s website:
“The ATTS Temperament Test focuses on and measures different aspects of temperament such as stability, shyness, aggressiveness, and friendliness as well as the dog’s instinct for protectiveness toward its handler and/or self-preservation in the face of a threat.”
– American Temperament Testing Society
Out of the 870 pit bulls that were evaluated, 86% passed the test.
In comparison, 85.2% of the Golden Retrievers that were tested passed.
Testers also found that Pitbullswere less likely to show aggression than breeds with “friendlier” reputations, including Corgis, Poodles, and Beagles.
American Pitbull Terrier FAQ
Maybe. There is no breed called a “Pitbull” that is officially recognized by any kennel club. The term “pitbull” has taken on a life of its own, generally referring to any “bully breed”. American Pitbull Terriers and American Staffordshire Terrier are the 2 official dog breeds mostly aligned with the term “pitbull”.
No. Just take a look at American Pitbull Terrier temperament: affectionate, clownish, friendly, intelligent, loyal, obedient. Misinformation surrounding the ambiguous “pitbull” term is the likely reason people incorrectly think American Pitbull Terriers are aggressive.
Yes. American Pitbull Terriers who have been well trained and socialized can mostly be trusted around children and other pets. However, Pitbull Terriers who were rescued from a fighting background need to be seriously evaluated and rehabilitated before being placed in a home.