Pet Articles

Pit Bull Information

By the Positive Pitbull Awareness Society

NOTE: Throughout discussions of the Pit Bull breed, you will notice two words repeated over and over again: Responsible Ownership. With media hysteria and BSL (Breed specific legislation), we good owners, find ourselves endlessly having to defend our breed. Every bad story and headline damage our dogs even further. Irresponsible and ignorant owners have done almost as much damage to these dogs as dogfighters have. The Pit Bull is an exceptional breed that requires exceptional dedication and ownership. This page may seem to paint a grim picture of Pit Bull ownership, but the breed’s very survival depends on new owners knowing what they are getting into, and ALL owners being responsible and protecting the breed’s reputation.


In the following sections I will discuss aggression in the American Pit Bull Terrier. It is VERY important to note that, in dogs, and especially with this particular breed, aggression toward humans (called human aggression) is a COMPLETELY separate trait from aggression toward dogs (dog aggression) and/or other animals (animal aggression). While a dog may be both human and animal aggressive, the presence of one kind of aggression DOES NOT mandate or exclude the presence of the other.

Temperament, What Is It?

Simply put, temperament is those behavioral traits and mental attitudes shared by canines and combined with the special characteristics proper to a certain dog breed. Newfoundlands for example, like water and love children, that is part of the breed’s temperament. A Newfoundland that hates to swim or growls at a child is showing improper temperament for the breed. When a person talks about the temperament of their chosen breed, they are describing those traits which most good examples of the breed will have, rather than describing a specific dog. A dog who posses all or most of the characteristics expected for their breed is said to have a proper temperament. This is why it is very important to know about your chosen breed’s temperament and research its specific traits, preferably before you commit to a dog. You may find out that even though you like the “look” of a certain breed, the temperament is not for you.

A Word About Breed History

Much of a dog’s temperament relates to its breed history and genetic inheritance. I won’t go too deep into the history of the Pit Bull as there are many good books and websites that cover the origin and history of the breed. It is common knowledge however, that the Pit Bull breed was developed for blood sports: Bull baiting, bear baiting, and later, dogfighting. What is not common knowledge is that in the days of organized dogfighting, the handlers of the combatants were habitually IN THE PIT with the dogs for the duration of the fight. They were required to pick up and separate the dogs several times while the dogs were in full fight frenzy. Before the fight, the handlers were required to wash each other’s dogs, and after the fight, the badly injured dogs were often treated at ringside by strangers. Any dog that attacked or bit a handler (even if it was the other dog’s handler) or anyone else at any time was culled, often on the spot, and would never have been bred.

So, What Is the Proper Pit Bull Temperament?

As with all breeds, the Pit Bull has positive and negative traits in their temperament. Their breed history has led to a dog unlike any other in the history of purebred dogs. What can you expect from an APBT? First and foremost, memorize the following: THE GOLDEN RULE OF PIT BULL OWNERSHIP – NEVER TRUST YOUR PIT BULL NOT TO FIGHT! This breed is descended from pit dogs one way or another, and, given the right circumstances, most Pit Bulls will fight and against any other breed, they will win (you really don’t want to see that!). Scared yet? You should be. Remember, as the owner of a Pit Bull everything you or your dog do will affect all members of the breed and their families. Pit Bull owners have to be extra vigilant 24/7, period. You need to be receptive, have strong leadership, and be able to read canine body language to recognize signs of tension between housemates. You need to be prepared to separate the dogs if tensions develop. You need to know when your dog may become aggressive and you need to have control of your dog under any circumstances. Sound like a lot of work and hassle? It is. So, what’s the payoff? The payoff is: A well-raised pit bull of proper temperament is the most loyal and loving dog in the world, bar none. This is a dog that truly LOVES people, especially children. Pits are notorious clowns, and will Always make you laugh, even in spite of yourself. They are intelligent, and will often “invent” games to keep themselves amused. They seem to subsist on love and attention, and will do almost anything for a little special “loves n hugs” time. They tolerate the rough play of children, loving every minute of it, and, although poor “guard dogs” for property, they will willingly give their lives to save the people they love. Thousands of responsible owners have dedicated themselves to this breed for it’s positive traits and willingly deal with the negatives.

To Summarize the Proper Pit Bull Temperament

1. Pit Bulls are often dog-aggressive to one extent or another (this often shows up at or near sexual maturity). A dog that was previously non-dog aggressive may “turn-on” and suddenly doesn’t like other dogs of the same sex, or, for that matter, any dogs at all, even housemates they have been raised with. Adult Pit Bulls should NEVER be left alone with other dogs and require proper supervision. 2. Pit Bulls may exhibit intense “prey drive”, leading them to “stalk” small animals such as cats, rats, chickens, livestock, or other pets. 3. Pit Bulls are precocious and incomparable escape artists, who will often seem to squirt right out of a supposedly secure yard or enclosure. When coupled with # 1 and # 2, you can see why a responsible Pit Bull owner is a vigilant pit bull owner.4. Pit bulls are intelligent, and most enjoy training, if it is done properly. This makes them excellent prospects for dog sports such as agility, obedience, weight pull, and Frisbee competitions. .5. Pit Bulls tend to LOVE people. All people. This makes them a poor choice for a “guardian breed”. Most of them are simply too friendly to protect a house against strangers. A Pit Bull that shows unprovoked human aggression (puppy play nips do NOT count) is showing BAD temperament and in most cases should be put to sleep. Such a dog should obviously NEVER be bred under any circumstances. The breeding of dogs with bad temperaments is one of the largest problems the breed faces today and fuels the fire of breed specific legislation.6. Pit bulls tend to be very “soft” with their family, meaning that they are eager to please their humans. They should not have to be “shown who’s boss”, but will thrive under “positive leadership”. A Pit Bull of proper temperament is a devoted and loving family member, inspiring immense loyalty to the breed. You will often hear a Pit Bull’s owner tell you that after owning one, they will never own any other breed.

Pitbull Appearance

Built for performance, the pit bull is a medium sized, very muscular, short coated breed. The head is bricklike, the jaws strong and wide, the ears may be cropped or not (I prefer uncropped dogs for several reasons). The body is typically very strong, with a deep chest, powerful and proportionate hind end and solid legs. The overall impression should be of power and athleticism. This is not a dog for couch potatoes, as it requires A LOT of training and exercise. With this breed it is important to remember to exercise both the dog’s body and mind. Remember, a tired pit bull is a happy pit bull and a bored pit bull is NOT a good thing! They will find some very inventive ways to entertain themselves that the owner may not like (often involving the garbage can, kitchen counter and cabinets, feather pillows, dirty laundry and various items of furniture). Remember also, that this is a VERY enthusiastic breed that may very well overwhelm young children or older people with it’s affection. This breed needs to be taught to sit and greet people calmly as it’s natural inclination will probably be to climb into their lap, put a paw on each of their shoulders, and attempt to wipe their face off with it’s tongue. Attempts to convince a full grown pit bull that it is too big to be a “lap dog” will, more often than not, fall on deaf ears if it was not taught “manners” as a puppy. Do not allow your puppy to do anything you don’t want your adult dog to do (eg climb on the couch, sleep in the bed, invade your lap, etc.).

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12 Responses to this Article, So Far

  1. Avatar MARIA says:

    Great information, we are looking into getting a pit pup and hearing all of the bad press i thought twice. This colum has given me a different insight, i’m leaning more towards getting the pup.

    Thank You.

  2. Avatar Leigh Anne says:

    You won’t have any luck getting a Pit Bull in Ontario,Canada ! They were banned here a few years ago by our Attorney General. Existing Pit Bulls had to be neutered, as no breeding is allowed with existing dogs. Heavy fines are the penalty.

    This action was taken after there were many many nasty incidents in Ontario of unprovoked Pit Bull attacks on humans, causing injury, severe injury and permanent physical scarring or disability.
    There were also several incidents of Pit Bulls attacking and killing other domestic dogs, unprovoked. A Pit Bull’s natural instinct is to stalk, attack , and maim or kill it’s prey….which has been babies and children and other dogs.
    I wouldn’t trust a Pit Bull in the same house with any child or animal belonging to my family.
    If you have thoroughly researched the breed and still believe this is a good family dog, and you don’t live in Ontario or some other place where Pit Bulls are banned, then the choice is up to you.
    Info I read said Pit Bulls should never be left alone with other dogs or small children.
    If you choose to have one you will also have to accept full responsibility if your dog’s natural instincts and temperment lead it to attack, maim or kill another dog or animal or a baby / child/ person. You will have to live with your choice of dog and whatever the consequences are, if any, for the rest of your lives.

    • Avatar Marko says:

      I could not disagree with you more Leigh Anne.

      Pit bulls are beautiful gentle dogs in the hands of nice people. I have walked hundreds of them, all strangers to me.
      I have seen MANY MANY docile Pit bulls that are AMAZING family dogs….all it they need is an amazing family.
      Unfortunately, in the hands of an abusive/neglectful owner that WANTS an aggressive dog, they can indeed train their pit bulls (and German shepherds etc) to be aggressive….

      German Shepherds kill kids too but they are not the flavour of the day so they get no press. Smaller dogs kill and maim WAY MORE often than large dogs but they get no press.

      and it goes without saying that you NEVER leave ANY BREED OF DOG alone with a child. Not a pit bull, German Shepherd, Rottweiler or even a Jack Russel etc. That’s right – THEY kill kids too. All these breeds have killed children. A decade or so the Doberman Pinscher was the devil’s dog – now it’s the pit bull.

      What i will say is that Pitbulls sometimes aren’t great with other dogs they have not been raised with…but even this can be overcome with good training and socialization.

      Bad parents help create bad children – they also help create bad dogs.

      Punish the deed not the breed.

      Here’s a list of other dog breeds that kill and wound people.

  3. Avatar Dawn says:

    Maria I hope you are as lucky and happy with your choice as I have been with my dog, Honey. She was dumped in our yard not even knowing how to eat. I taught her and then she got ill and she recovered. My now ex mother in law cancelled my home owners insurance and I am now divorced but Honey is the most loving and gentle animal I could ever ask for. I do allow her on the furniture –mainly my bed–but she will not get there until the lights go out or I specifically tell her it is okay. At two years old she loves me when I do get the walks in daily but is not destructive if I don’t. She can play soccer with a rawhide bone until my laughing gets her attention. She will throw a tennis ball up in the air and play catch with herself.

    I have two kids now 14 and 18 and we have kids in and out of my house constantly she has never hurt anyone. I do struggle with her jumping up on them they allow it unless I am around. I do have to stay vigilant on this rule because my mom is 80. She has never been a digger or an escape artist from my fence so that was something new for me to see.

    She is kenneled trained and has also been around a 12 pound older male dog and a 6 pound cat and never any problems. I am incredibly blessed with my dog. She is 65+ pounds of love who wants to please.

  4. Avatar rhonna says:

    I used to be one of the worst ones about saying the only good pit is a dead one. That wad until my fiance talked me into one. Now I say its the only breed I want!!! I have two pits and a shihtzu in my house and the one that gets in trouble for being mean is the shihtzu. I had to bottle feed kittens and my female pit would clean them for me. The only dangerous thing about my pits are their tails! I love my dogs and they are the sweetest breed of dog I have ever owned.

  5. Avatar Gila says:

    The owner of the pitbull is the biggest thing!
    I also have a pitbull and he is the most loving dog ! He was easily trained and listens very well. He gets along excellent with my Chiwachaua* he is excellent around kids and other people. loves to meet new dogs and is very playful! If your going to have any kind of dog and not pay attention to it then yes you well have a bad tempered dog! people give pitbulls such a bad rep… but until you have had the chance to own one and trian them properly, dont give them a bad name! they are one of the best dogs you can own and as long as you train and treat them right they well be your best friend.

  6. Avatar Tania says:

    I have a pitbull crossed with a boxer/mastiff. She is an amazing dog and an excellent family companion. Very loving and intelligent. She’s 2yrs old and I am not sure if her temperment is pitbull, boxer or mastiff. But, she does have some of the traits mentioned above: Plays catch, sits, shakes paws, gives high fives, walks well on or off leash (but, I keep her on leash to stay safe). She will act like a lap dog and likes to rest her paw or head on you and sometimes she will sit on my husbands lap (very affectionate). We allow her on the couches and on our bed but, that’s because we allow it and haven’t trained her otherwise. We also have a 3yr old Giant Alaskan Malamute and our pitbull cross has never been agressive with him. She’s very well behaved and goes in her kennel when asked. She loves attention whether it’s from an animal or a person (she’s been socialized with kids, dogs, puppies, cats, horses and we have had only positive behaviour from her). Her only bad habits that we’ve noticed is that sometimes she digs holes to hide her toys outside and she will bark at night if we don’t let her inside to sleep. Also, if someone is at the door she will bark to alert us but, she is not agressive in her tone. She simply is letting us know that someone is at the door. I have volunteered at animal shelters and I would have to agree that responsible training and ownership are the key with any breed. It’s good to research temperment and understand how to train your dog accordingly. You definitely cannot judge a breed by only one dog’s actions and I find breed bans to be very depressing and unnecessary. It’s canine genocide or racial profiling on a canine level. Breed Bans are not a solution… Responsible ownership and socialization of all dogs of all breeds is a solution.

  7. Avatar Jodie says:

    I have a pitbull and i must say they are teriffic, loyal and gental with children dogs :) The pitty i have had ive had for 8 years now and not once has he attacted someone or another animal. Im tired of hearing people say that pitbulls are dangerous and visious dogs when its all about how you raise the dog.. Im 16 and if i can raise a dog right anyone can. Im doing a SAC (school assesed corsework) in english and the information you have given me is quite useful. :)
    If you raise the dog with respect and show it love it will do the same for you.
    If you have never had a pitbull before please dont judge them, there amazing dogs. If you had one you would no.

  8. Avatar Leigh Anne says:

    There is no doubt that many Pit Bull owners have a close relationship with their dogs, and that the dogs behave well when in their own home and on their property. I am sure they are and can be very gentle and nice dogs, good around kids and little creatures, however the deal breaker is that Pit Bulls ”have the capability to maim or kill another animal or a child or adult human, and they have done so”.

    A friend of mine had to watch in horror a few years ago ,at our local dog park, as her little Pomeranian-Shi Tzu was torn apart by a Pit Bull cross that was brought into the dog park by a friend of the owner, who had agreed to feed and walk the dog while the dog’s owners were away. The dog was supposed to wear a muzzle when out in public as the owners had directed but this ‘ dog sitter ‘ had forgotten the muzzle in her car and didn’t bother to go back to get it..

    As a result a loving dog owner had to watch helplessly as the Pit Bull tore her dog apart and no person onsite was able to make the Pit Bull ”let go” of the little dog it was killing, despite the efforts of several other dog owners. I believe it is a well known fact that once a Pit Bull latches on to another animal with it’s strong jaw and teeth there is nothing that can be done to make it let go.
    Ontario now has a law that Pit Bull Terriers are not allowed to be bred in Ontario.

    Not only do Pit Bull Terriers ” have the ability to kill” , they also were originally bred with the ”instinct to kill” and were used in dog fights for that reason. Certainly a Pomeranian does not have the ability to kill a Pit Bull, nor the instinct to kill. Pit Bulls and Pit Bull crosses “are capable “of severely injuring or killing another dog or a small child or baby, therefore they should definitely be muzzled anytime they are off their own property.

    Would you really want to be walking your dog or young child or baby along a road, or a park pathway knowing a Pit Bull Terrier or part Pit Bull was being walked on the same path but was NOT wearing a muzzle ? I think not !

  9. Avatar what what says:

    So since the dog sitter didnt put a muzzle on the pitbull its the pitbulls fault it killed another dog? A golden retriever could go to a dog park and kill another dog. its not uncommon for dogs of any breed to be aggressive towards other dogs. just because a pitbull or any breed of dog gets in a fight or kills another dog doesnt mean they are aggressive towards human. if i was walking down the street and a person was walking their pitbull on a leash without a muzzle i would not be the least bit scared to walk by that person. as a responsible pet owner you should always keep you dog on a leash no matter what breed it is. i had a yorkie and wouldnt trust him around another dog because he was so aggressive. not only would he attack other dogs he would bite me in an aggressive behavior and he especially HATED little kids. i didnt give him away because of these reason i had to put him to sleep because of old age. he was 15. i would never give up on a dog because they may have a few behavior problems. my point is pitbulls arent bad and every dog has their pros and cons.

    • Avatar Ariane says:

      Pitbulls were also used for nanny dogs back in the day :) people just put a bad name to pittys yet any dog breed has intentions to be vicious !!! I’ve seen ugly rat dogs be crazy … Little ankle bitters lol

  10. Avatar caroline says:

    I live in the uk and I have an irish blue Staffordshire bull terrier. apparently according to the kennel club uk this is not a recognised breed, and many people say that the term irish blue Staffordshire bull terrier is a name give to pitbulls to bypass laws in the uk banning their ownership. my dog looks exactly like cesar millan’s dog junior he weighs 27kg (60lb). so I don’t know exactly what breed he is. he is a very boisterous dog, but he quickly settles down. I have teenage children and he is fine with them. I do however put him into the back garden when visitors call, not because of aggression issues but because he is so enthusiastic in greeting people, he would knock them of their feet.but I would do this with any dog regardless of their breed. he has never shown any signs of aggression to another dog or human. yet I am aware that people tend to tense up when they see him and I am also aware that because of the way he looks and the fact that he is a powerful dog I do take extra precautions with him. I never let him off the lead (leash) in fact I use two leads when walking him just in case one fails as he does tend to pull when I only use one lead. I place one on the D ring of his harness and one on the O ring that sits on top of his shoulder blades. this has not completely stopped his pulling but limited enough that i can work on training him without my arms being pulled out of their sockets. this is a common problem with a lot of dogs not just pitbull type dogs. I do feel that these types of dogs get a really bad press. my dog is affectionate and a perfect family dog for those with older children. but I wouldn’t have any dog with young children

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