There are many myths circulating about pit bulls, most notably that they are aggressive towards humans. Once bred for dogfighting, pit bulls do demonstrate a potential for dog aggression, which might be mistaken for human aggression. However, with the proper care, pit bulls make loyal, lovable pets. To decide if a pit bull is the right pet for you, separate myth from fact.
Pit bulls are not a breed of dog. The term refers to three different breeds of dogs that share similar traits and characteristics: the American Pit Bull Terrier, the American Staffordshire Terrier and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. They were first bred as fighter dogs as well as companion dogs. In 19th century, pit bulls served as family pets of people settling across U.S. and often watched over children as parents worked in the field. The British refer to the Staffordshire Bull Terrier as the nanny dog because of its nurturing manner towards children. As of 2011 pit bulls serve as family pets, search and rescue dogs, therapy dogs, narcotic and bomb-sniffing dogs and educational dogs. Unfortunately, some people still illegally breed and use these animals for dogfighting.
Strong, muscular animals, pit bulls have a brick-like head with prominent, wrinkle-less cheeks. Some pit bull owners crop the animal’s ears, which sit high on the head. Their muzzles take on a wide, square shape with wide nostrils. Bulky, solid legs support the animal’s deep chest and athletic, medium-size body. Their hair grows in short and in a variety of colors: white, black, brown and tan.
Pit bulls display a keen intelligence and an eagerness to please, which makes them very responsive to obedience training. As members of the terrier breed, immature pit bulls can come across rambunctious and energetic, needing lots of exercise. As they mature — between 2 and 3 years old — they tend to calm down, making them great pets for urban settings. Once one of these muscular animals sets its mind to a task, it follows through with determination and resourcefulness, whether escaping a fenced-in yard or jumping into your lap to lick your face. While these dogs socialize well with people, they do not socialize well with other animals.
Pit bulls tend to be vulnerable to certain medical conditions such as the parvovirus, hip dysplasia, hereditary cataracts and allergies. They also require a lot of attention. When they don’t receive the attention or exercise they need, they can become destructive, chewing and destroying furniture. If you adopt a rescue dog from a dogfighting bloodline or an unknown bloodline, the pit bull may display extreme aggression towards other dogs. If so, talk to your veterinarian about rehabilitating the animal.