Friday, March 20, 2015

American Pit Bull Terrier

There’s no such breed as the ‘pit bull’. This is a general name most common for the American Pit Bull Terrier (APBT), American Staffordshire terrier (AmStaff), and the Staffordshire bull terrier (Staffie). However other ‘bully’ type of dogs are sometimes referred to as ‘pit bulls’ such as Bull Terriers,  Boxers, American Bulldog just to name a few.

Dogs are social animals and the ‘pit bull’ is no different. Neglect and isolation can prevent a dog’s cheerful personality from thriving. They may become aloof, ornery, and timid. An APBT that doesn’t interact with humans may feel threatened and become defensive when in the company of them. Unreasonable harsh discipline can also spark anxiety causing a dog to bite out of fear. Knowing this it’s recommended that only positive reinforcement be used when training or during discipline. It’s important to gain your dog’s trust no matter the breed or type.

Human aggression is rare in the APBT. Some unscrupulous members of society like the ‘bad’ image and status that owning a ‘dangerous’ or ‘vicious’ dog brings. Unfortunately friendly puppies and dogs are often trained by these types of people to show aggressive behavior to others – including humans. This taught behavior goes against the true nature of the ‘pit bull’. However, being people pleasers that will literally do anything for their owners and being the easily trainable dog they are they can and often do become as ‘dangerous’ as their owners train them to be. This and sensationalized stories by the media don’t help the reputation of the dogs.

These beautiful dogs are accused of biting more people than any other type or breed of dog. The truth is accurate records are seldom kept to prove such a theory. In the ‘80s a suburb in Texas concluded that from 1980-1987 out of 1593 dog bites only 30 were caused by ‘pit bulls.’ Of course it’s quite likely that this stat is even lower than that due to the many ‘bully breeds’ that look like the ‘pit bull.’

Though often compact dogs they are strong. Not only are they physically strong but mentally as well. Once their minds are set on something they seem to put their all into it. Another reason these dogs have been exploited and misused through the years. The APBT as a whole generally carries the gameness trait. Over the years and through various breeding sadly this characteristic has been somewhat diluted and usually only seen in certain lines now. Gameness is the willingness to continue its task no matter the stress, pain, or even ultimate death, whether it’s fighting, pulling, hunting, or even defending its human. This has nothing to do with the bravery or viciousness of the dog but more to do with its heart and its determination to keep on no matter what it encounters. The ‘pit bull’ is often known for its do or die attitude. This a trait that its fans and owners often admire and yes sometimes exploits.

Myth – APBT have locking jaws – sometimes even to the death.
Truth – This is simply untrue. They do not have any physical characteristics that would cause such a phenomenon. However, their stubbornness, determination, and tenacity may be the reason they ‘lock’ on and don’t let go.

Myth – All ‘pit bulls’ and ‘bully breeds’ should be banned because they’re all dangerous.
Truth – Any dog type or breed that isn’t properly socialized, bred, or trained has the potential to be a problem in society. Sadly Dobermans, German Shepherds, Rottweiler, and now the ‘pit bull’ are just some of the dogs that are often thought of as dangerous or bad. Banning a specific type of dog doesn’t work because it doesn’t focus on the dog owners and responsible dog ownership instead it focuses only on dog types, breeds, and in most cases stereotypes.


Desire to please
Protect family
Protective toward family
Good with kids
Center of attention
Highly trainable
Play for hours
Loves humans
Discerns when to rough house
High pain tolerance
Doesn’t misdirect aggression
Tolerate of kid’s rough play
Least human aggressive
Competent guardian
Devote life
Discerns when to show affection

Disclaimer – In no way am I claiming to be an expert on these topics. These are only informational articles written to help dog owners. It’s recommended that you always do your own research and consult with your veterinarian for more detailed information.

Reference: The American Pit Bull Terrier –
Cynthia P. Gallagher & Consulting Veterinary Editor – Wayne Hunthausen, D.M.V.,          


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