In the canine world, pit bull dog breeds are always stereotyped as the tough guys. Sure thing, they have stocky bodies and an intimidating gait, but they can be total sweethearts if raised well. In the not-so-distant past, pit bulls get a bad rap as they are branded to be dangerous and vicious breeds. This resulted in localized bans, with some owners being forced to surrender their beloved pooches.
So the question is this: are pit bulls great family dog? Or are they dangerous for kids? Let’s weigh it in.
Overview of the Pit Bull Breed
Pit Bull is actually an umbrella breed for dogs that have descended from Terriers and Bulldogs.
According to experts and the American Kennel Club itself, only the American Pit Bull Terrier is the true pit bull.
Still, other breeds like American Staffordshire Bull Terrier and American Staffordshire Terrier are also considered as pit bull breeds together with dozens more.
The ugly truth behind the origin of pit bulls is that they are bred for bear and bull-baiting. Later on, they were re-bred for dog fighting which is the reason why it’s stereotyped as a fierce and abominable breed. For years, they were reproduced to fight on arenas and underground dog rings. Such reason led the first batch of pit bulls to carry the aggressive behavior of their parents while passing it on to another generation.
Also, in the 1990s, pit bull breeders didn’t pay attention to the behavior and temperament. All they want is to produce scary-looking canines that can deter intruders.
But in 2007, a landmark case shed light to pit bull abuse as a famous football quarterback confessed to running a dogfighting ring. Since then, proper breeding was promoted.
Pit Bull bans and regulations
Before you jump into getting a pit bull pup, you should know that some localities impose bans on this breed. Those who oppose domestication of pit bulls emphasize that these breeds are aggressive, thus imposing harm to the neighborhood. This is the reason why some apartment buildings and subdivisions don’t allow tenants and homeowners to acquire pit bulls. So even if you’re bent to have a Pitty as a pet, you have to check with your locality’s laws.
States like Iowa, Arkansas, Mississippi, Ohio, Wisconsin, Kansas, Michigan, and so on have BSL or Breed Specific Legislation. On these places, your pit bull may not be welcomed due to breed discrimination wherein Pitties are the usual victims. Check the mapping of the BSL states here.
Although these states impose BSL, municipalities can opt out with its own counter-legislation. Of the BSL states, Kentucky is the least strict with only 30 municipalities adhering to BSL.
Iowa is the worst since 90 of its municipalities are unfriendly to pit bulls.
The good news here is that many states prohibit the enactment of any breed specific legislation. Some of these are California, Pennsylvania, Maine, Illinois, New York, New Jersey, Texas, and more. You can access the full list and regulations here.
Make sure that you check the laws and prohibitions first before getting pit bull dog breeds. It would be heartbreaking to surrender your Pitty when you already fell in love with it.
Types of Pit Bull breeds
Like what’s mentioned earlier, there are many breeds that have been socially accepted as pit bulls. If you’re planning to get one, make sure that you have a specific breed in mind. Here, we will focus on five of the most popular pit bull breeds nowadays so you will have an idea of its temperament, behavior, and overall characteristics.
➕American Pit bull Terrier
Let’s start with the true blue pit bull. The American Pit Bull Terrier is athletic, loyal, and strong-willed. They are the product of the breeding between Old English Bulldogs and Old English Terriers. When they arrived in the U.S., they were mainly used as hunters for wild cattle and herding livestock.
Physically, this Pitty type has a medium-build with round or almond eyes with a spotted or patterned coat. They are people pleasers, often trying to make their owners happy through their loyal and affectionate nature.
The American Pit Bull Terrier can be a wonderful family and kid-friendly dog. But beware since they still have a little hint of aggressiveness. So like any herding dogs, socialization and obedience training is imperative.
➕American Staffordshire Terrier
This breed came from the cross-breeding of an English Bulldog to a terrier dog. The American Staffordshire was a very famous dog breed until World War 2. Like the true pit bull, this one is loyal to its owners and usually good-natured given that the pup is raised properly. However, they can also become stubborn.
Take note, though, that the American Staffordshire Terrier was bred for dog fighting purposes. With that, the doggo might react harshly to assertive dogs. If you have another pooch in the house, you should consider if their behavior and temperament will click well.
Given proper training, Staffordshire Terriers can live with another dog. Still, never let your guard down or they will revert to their prey instincts.
➕Staffordshire Bull Terrier
The Staffordshire Bull Terrier was initially bred to join blood sports – bear-baiting, bull-baiting, and dogfighting. This is the reason why many homeowners shy away from domesticating the breed. But as blood sports got penalized, more and more breeders are intended as family pets.
The Staffordshire Bull Terrier has a short gait and a broad skull. It also has a low-set tail with tapered ends.
Remember that this breed can have some of its old habits. It may not be a good idea to let them in the house if you have a small baby. These pit bull dog breeds can be stubborn, strong-willed, and difficult to housebreak. They need constant discipline and training to be affectionate and courteous family dogs. If you’re willing to be the Alpha, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier will thrive on your care.
For some reason, the American Bulldog is accepted by many as a pit bull breed. As one of the closest kin of most Pitties, it’s safe to say that they share the same characteristics. They’ve also been bred for bull-baiting and other blood sports. Anyway, they also thrived as vermin chasers in England.
The American Bulldog is a brave, strong, reliable, and loyal breed. Contrary to stereotypes, they aren’t hostile. In fact, they do well as family pets even with small kids. To be sure, early training and socialization will arrest the potential aggressiveness associated with breeding.
With its oval-shaped head that slopes down to its black nose, it’s easy to spot a Bull Terrier. They are also bred for blood sports but Bull Terriers performed poorly so they are instead used as guard dogs and ratters.
Since it doesn’t really work well as a fighting dog, Bull Terriers are generally gentle breeds. They are fun, polite, brave, and clownish. This breed tends to have a deep attachment to their owners and they thrive really well if their hooman shows consistent leadership.
Bull Terriers are magnificent family pets. They love kids and adults but they always require companionship or else, their boredom will turn destructive.
There are more breeds that fall under the pit bull category. It’s roughly 20-25 other doggos with varying temperament, behavior, and characteristics. Whatever you choose as a family dog, make sure that it suits your ability to own and supervise pets.
Myths and stereotypes
Now, let’s debunk some of the crazy myths associated with the pit bull breed. With their long history of aggressiveness, mainly because of abuse by humans, a lot of people came up with weird ideas. Here are some of it:
Pit bulls lock their jaws when they bite. This myth led a lot of parents to pull their children away in the sight of a Pitty. But anatomically speaking, there’s no mechanism in a pit bull’s mouth that will make it lock. They just like grabbing something and shaking it.
Pit bulls are vicious and aggressive. This one root from their history of being blood sports dogs. This is a stereotype and a bias toward the breed.
Remember this: there are no bad dogs, only bad people.
The aggressiveness of other pit bulls is the result of how their handlers treat them. If you raise your Pitty right, that pooch is going to be polite and affectionate.
Pit bulls have high pain tolerance. This is both a yes and a no. Some pit bulls breeds are more tolerant of pain because of the abuse they’ve gone through. Still, some are too wimpy that they don’t even want to step on a wet grass.
Pit bull dog breeds are dangerous breeds. If they are, I should have been mauled to death by our Pittie back when I was a kid. But no, they can be great buddies as long as you train them early and expose them to other people.
Facts about pit bulls
Behind their intimidating gait is a heart of gold. Pit bulls that are raised in a loving and caring environment will grow up as affectionate and polite pups. If you’re planning to get a pit bull, here are some facts you should know:
They are far from their bull-baiting days. Blood sports have been the thing of the 19th century. Nowadays, pit bulls are even reluctant to bite humans unless their life is in danger. Except if they are taught to attack humans, they are usually good-natured.
They are heart-melting potatoes. Pit bulls are also called “nanny dogs” because they are gentle and affectionate to kids. If you socialize and train them early, Pittie pups would be excellent family pets.
You have to train and socialize them. To be fair, pit bulls may still carry a trace of aggression, especially those who are bred haphazardly. Letting them meet plenty of dogs in their early life will dampen their prey instincts. Since they can be stubborn, you have to socialize them.
Pit bulls face discrimination. With many states still adhering to BSL, pit bulls aren’t welcomed to some places. This discrimination prevents other dog owners from knowing more about the breed and erasing the stereotypes.
Are Pit Bulls great family dogs?
Yes, pit bulls make great family pets. Given that you get them from an accredited breeder, you will have a good start. After that, it’s your responsibility to train them and make them feel loved.
Again, aggression is taught. If you practice patience and instill discipline, you and your pit bull will have a good time together.
For families with little babies, it would be best to subject the doggo to intense training before letting it bond with your baby. Pit bulls may behave differently with adults and kids. Since babies have jerky movements, obedience training is a must.
Tips on raising a pit bull
So you’re considering a pit bull? Make sure you can take on these activities:
Let them socialize. Pit bulls can have a trace of aggressiveness. The good news is you can defeat this by early socialization. If the pup seems friendly to other dogs, maintain this and always set a meet-up with other pooches.
Distract them. If the Pitty starts to be intimidating, distract them with toys or commands. Pit bulls can be very friendly, but they obliviously go roughly since they have strong bodies.
Companionship. Pit bulls aren’t used to being alone. In fact, some of them could be clingy and heartsick of you leave them at home. You can accompany them with another dog if you have to leave for work.
Pit bull dog breeds are great family pets. Also, their dark past is long behind them. Now, they are friendly, loyal, gentle, and smart doggos who can be playful buddies to your whole family.