Pit bulls have long received bad press, and are seen by most as an aggressive dog.
While this may be true based on personal experience, they are no more aggressive than other breeds, and their behavior will be down to ineffective training.
If treated right, pit bulls are incredibly friendly, well behaved, and are some of the most loyal dogs in existence.
Even in the face of bad press, pit bull breeds remain a popular dog across the world.
They are great to have around children (if appropriately raised) and are good with other dogs.
This article looks at the reason pit bulls are a popular dog, including their history and breed overview.
Where Do Pit Bulls Come From?
Pit bulls were created in America and the United Kingdom by breeding together terriers and bulldogs.
The purpose of a pit bull was to combine the agility and speed of a terrier with the strength of a bulldog.
In the UK, pit bulls were used in “blood sports,” namely bull-baiting and bear-baiting.
This is part of the reason why they’re thought of as aggressive dogs, but the same logic applies to breeds such as bloodhounds, Retrievers, and standard bulldogs.
After these blood sports were banned, dog fighting became a popular underground sport, as it was easy to organize and cheap to hold.
This is where the pit bull became more popular, as it could be easily forced to fight other dogs, and would usually win.
These dogfights continued across America and Britain well into the 20th Century. Pit bulls were also used as herders of livestock, and hunting dogs.
Pit bulls continue to be a popular choice for dog owners across the world, but many end up in shelters once owners find out about the breed’s reputation.
If you’re adopting a dog from a shelter and you see a pit bull, go over and say hello.
Most of the time they’re aggressive because they’re scared or anxious, but will open up quite quickly if treated in a friendly way.
What Breeds Count As Pit Bulls?
Different countries recognize different breeds as pit bulls, which may have an impact on their popularity.
For example, a breed considered a pit bull might not be as popular in that country due to the label attached. However, these are the breeds commonly recognized as pit bulls:
- American Pit Bull Terrier
- American Staffordshire Terrier
- American Bully
- Staffordshire Bull Terrier
- American Bulldog (sometimes included)
All dogs classed as pit bulls share similar appearances, the most notable factor being their short, stocky bodies. Some other common characteristics are:
- Floppy, pointy or cropped ears
- Short, coarse fur
- Wide shoulders
- Muscular body
Due to the wide variety of breeds that come under the pit bull umbrella, not every one of these markers can be identified in every kind of dog.
Also, some dogs that match this description don’t count as pit bulls because they weren’t bred from a terrier/bulldog mix.
It’s not particularly easy to identify a pit bull based on appearance alone, but these markers can help.
What Makes Them Good Dogs?
Just as with any breed of dog, temperament and behavior will vary massively between individual dogs. Some will be incredibly friendly, but others may be aggressive.
As mentioned, aggressiveness is usually dependent on how the dog was raised and its previous experience around humans and other animals.
If you’re looking to adopt a pit bull, spend as much time as possible with the dog first in order to get the best feel for its behavior.
Saying that even the friendliest dogs can snap, so always be wary. This isn’t just true for pit bulls, but for every dog ever. They are still animals, after all.
To help you get a better understanding of why pit bulls make such great companions, here is a list of their main behaviors:
Pit bulls are very friendly, and sometimes very goofy dogs.
With the right training, a pit bull will be the most loyal companion you can have.
Be aware of the signs of aggression, though, as pit bulls do have a high prey drive.
This means there’s a chance they can go for a smaller animal, but the right training will minimize this risk. They always enjoy playing and do need quite a bit of attention.
This might not make them the best choice if you work long hours, as pit bulls will get depressed if not properly socialized.
Pit bulls can show aggression towards other dogs, but this is true for most breeds. The key is to train them properly and socialize them from an early age.
The more time they spend around dogs in a controlled environment, the less chance you have of something going wrong.
If possible, take them to training classes, as this is the perfect environment for controlling dog-to-dog interaction
This is quite similar to temperament, but it’s important to note the difference. A pit bull’s behavior will be based both on the dog’s personality, but also on external factors.
Pit bulls like to play and can be very silly and funny. They are incredibly intelligent dogs, and so pick up training quickly.
Saying that you can’t train away temperament issues, but you can learn ways to manage them instead.
Contrary to popular opinion, not only are pit bulls not aggressive, they make rubbish guard dogs.
This is because they’re so friendly to people they’ll happily let an intruder walk in, mainly because they think it means more belly rubs!
Also, owners should do everything they cannot to instill this kind of behavior in a dog. There are much more efficient alarm systems than a dog, after all.
The best thing about pit bulls is that, with the right training, they can be kept well with other dogs.
Pit bulls are a very sociable breed, and so keeping them with other dogs would be beneficial, plus it means you don’t have to devote as much of your attention to them.
They’re also great around kids, and will happily play games with young children. Again, if you’re looking to adopt a pit bull, do everything you can to test the situation first.
If you have kids, introduce them to the dog in a familiar environment to minimize the animal’s stress.
Pit bulls, possibly more than any other breed, have been on the receiving end of decades of bad press. This has led to them ending up in shelters with no one wanting them.
So to help with this, here are some of the most common misconceptions about pit bulls, and why they’re wrong.
- “Pit Bulls Bite Down, And Their Jaws Lock.”
Essentially, pit bulls are the same as any other dog. Although they’re very muscular, their morphology is fundamentally identical to any other dog. The reason people believe the jaws lock is because pit bulls are strong.
Their ability to bite down is much greater than our ability to prize their jaws open. Dogs are proportionately much stronger than humans, and this is especially true of breeds such as pit bulls.
- “Pit Bulls Attack More People Than Any Other Breed.”
This statistic is hard to prove, but also hard to disprove. It’s not easy to keep track of biting figures, but there’s no evidence of this being the case.
One thing that affects statistics is that many breeds of dog come under the umbrella of pit bulls, so if someone were to look at a list it would seem as though pit bulls come out on top. So this one is down to inaccurate statistics, and not the dog.
- “Pit Bulls Are Known To Attack Their Owners.”
No dog will ever turn on a person for no reason; it’s not in their nature. Aggression towards humans can be due to so many factors, but the most important one is the dog’s previous experience with people.
If they’ve been badly treated by previous owners, or have anxiety, then they are much more likely to be aggressive. Also, a dog will never attack on a whim; there’s always a build up.
The first warning signs are growling and teeth baring, and so if you ignore these signs, then you can’t blame the dog.
- “Pit Bulls Are Fighting Dogs.”
This one technically isn’t a myth, as this is why pit bulls were bred. However, the breeding was mainly for physical traits, as it’s impossible to pass on a mental habit realistically. So with the right training, a pit bull will be a very friendly dog.
The important thing to remember about pit bulls is that they’ve received a lot of negative press.
Among owners and breeders, they’re known to be friendly, loyal dogs that just want love.
They make great companions and are excellent around children and other animals.
However, no dog is risk-free, and so always be aware of potential issues.
Pit bulls have been a popular dog for centuries and will be for centuries to come.