If you’ve ever considered adopting a shelter dog, you may have noticed that the facilities contain a disproportionate number of pit bulls. Many dog owners find after the initial puppy cuteness wears off, that they just aren’t up to the challenges of owning these animals. But is that because the dogs themselves are inherently bad, or did something go wrong in the course of their training (or lack thereof)? Let’s explore the possibilities.
First of all, understand that “pit bull” is an umbrella term. It refers to two breeds, the American Pit Bull Terrier and the American Staffordshire Terrier. Several other “satellite breeds” or similar-looking animals might also be described as pit bulls, but this information isn’t always accurate. These two core breeds are known for their confidence, loyalty, and fearlessness. While they were bred to be aggressive towards other dogs in the past, aggression towards humans was rarely tolerated. The same holds true in the dogs we recognize as pit bulls today.
Media coverage often casts pit bulls in a negative light. If a dog bites a person, and the dog happens to have some of the typical physical characteristics of a pit bull breed, the stories are quick to play up that angle. However, the truth is often more complex—it boils down to how the dog is raised. The CDC stated that it’s practically impossible to calculate specific rates of dog bites by breed based on twenty years of dog bite data from around the US, suggesting that how a dog is raised and trained has more to do with it than the specific breed. While pit bulls are indeed capable of inflicting great harm through their bite, the same is true of many other breeds. With highly protective and energetic dogs, it’s imperative to keep them well-socialized, in addition to providing them with plenty of exercise and attention. An owner who isn’t prepared to provide these things will wind up with a lot of problems on their hands.
That brings us to the final point: Pit bull breeds are loyal and protective, which means their inherent physical power could be problematic without proper socialization. As with any other breed, you should train them to regard strangers with enthusiasm rather than distrust and keep them under tight control if they tend to get nervous in certain situations.
The bottom line? There’s no such thing as a truly bad dog, only insufficient training. As long as you’re educated about the breeds and prepared to take on the challenges of raising them well, pit bulls can make a worthy addition to any household.
If you need help training your pit bull, try one of our obedience courses!