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Did you know that there are several related breeds that are all colloquially called the “pit bull”? When we talk about the pit bull today, we most often mean the American Pit Bull Terrier – but other dogs that could fall under this term are the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, the Bulldog Terrier, and more. This breed comes from a cross between the English Bulldog and various terrier breeds. The AKC recognizes the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, while many breeders and dog lovers prefer the term American Pit Bull Terrier. Whatever term or specific breed cross you prefer, the pit bull is a highly misunderstood dog that has a lot to offer.
Last update on 2018-07-20 at 14:45 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
We’ve talked before about dogs that get mistaken for pit bulls, and I mentioned a few of the various breeds, like the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, that could fall under this umbrella. For the purposes of this post, I’m talking about the American Pit Bull Terrier. This is the dog that most breeders will point to when someone asks for a pit bull, and it’s the one that is the most recognizable by people who are afraid of this misunderstood breed. So let’s take a close look at this dog. Be sure to stick around the blog for the next few weeks. We’ll be diving into this breed in general to hopefully shed some light on the truth.
The American Pit Bull Terrier actually has a very unique and adventurous history. When we try to find out where the pit bull comes from, we are essentially reading the history of America developing as a country. Today, the Labrador is the most often thought of as being the All-American dog, but if we’re talking history, the pit bull may have more of a claim to that title.
It started in the mid-1800s, when dog fighting was a popular sport in Europe and the U.S. There was a particular breed of dog that was being trained to fight for the entertainment of the wealthy. This dog was often called the Yankee Terrier, or the “half and half”, because it was half bull dog, half terrier.
But at the same time, not every puppy from every litter of this breed was being trained to fight. So, the dog also became a working dog for farmers, helping keep away rats and wild pigs. Because the dog inherited the bulldog’s naturally friendly attitude, they also gained an early reputation as being great with kids. These dogs were even used in the military during World War I. But the time the 1930s rolled around, the pit bull was a comic strip character, an advertisement character, a trademark of the RCA, and a common family pet.
The breed was recognized by the United Kennel Club in the 1890s, but the AKC has never recognized this breed.
So why is it that we think pit bulls are dangerous if they were such great family dogs early on? Well, as we entered the Great Depression, only the very wealthy could afford pets. And the very wealthy didn’t use this breed as family pets. They used them to fight. So, in modern times, we associated the breed with dog fighting for a very long time. However, this is something that is trained into the dog, not bred into them. Pit bulls, when not trained to fight, are very friendly and fun dogs. Let’s take a closer look.
The pit bull is a dog that stands about 14 to 16 inches tall, that weighs between 24 and 38 pounds. They have smooth, short coats, but their most recognized feature is their very broad heads. They have very wide, flat heads, with pronounced cheek muscles, and small ears. The mouth does look pretty powerful and wide, due to being part of the bulldog family.
Their bodies are very muscular and stocky. They have medium length tails that hang low on the body, and very broad, muscular chests. They also have powerful-looking legs. They come in a variety of colors, ranging from red, fawn, white, black, and blue, to various brindles and combinations with white.
Because these dogs started as fighting dogs and farm helpers, they are very energetic. They have playful natures, with enthusiastic spirits that can be pretty funny at times. They love toys and play time. In order to be trained to fight, a dog has to be very, very willing to please humans – this leads to a great companion that will be very loyal.
Pit bulls are very resilient dogs that have the ability to bounce back that is nearly legendary. A pit bull that had a rough start in life can go on to have an amazingly happy life because they are just so good at directing their energy towards being loving and loyal. That being said, all that energy does mean that they can grow destructive if they aren’t given plenty of playtime and toys that keep them busy.
These dogs also tend to be very vocal. They will “talk” to you, making whines, moans, huffs, barks, and many other noises to communicate. Because these dogs look kind of muscular and a bit scary, and because they do tend to bark and be loud, their energetic natures can come across as a little scary. This may be where a lot of the misconception that pit bulls are dangerous comes from. However, one thing that owners of pit bulls learn quickly is that they aren’t very good guard dogs. They just love people so much that they are more likely to make friends with a burglar, rather than try to prevent them from entering the home.
This is a dog that thinks he is a lap dog, no matter how big he is. They are very, very smart, and can be trained to do all sorts of things. Pit bulls are often used as service animals because of their loving natures and ability to be trained so easily. However, they just want so much affection that you may find it hard to break them of the habit of shadowing you.
Like most dogs that are bordering on being a large breed, pit bulls live somewhere between 12 and 14 years. They don’t tend to suffer from that many health concerns, however. They can be prone to allergies, especially of the skin, so watch for excessive itching or licking. They can also be prone to hip dysplasia, as well as hypothyroidism.
However, beyond that, the pit bull is a true testament to the fact that mixed breeds are often the healthiest. They had the bulldog’s flat nose bred out of them, so they don’t offer suffer from breathing issues. Be sure that your pit bull puppy has been screened for all the usual things, such as deafness, and you likely won’t have too much to worry about.
Grooming a pit bull is one of the easiest things you can do with this breed. Pit bulls don’t tend to shed, because the hair of their coats is so short. They just need to be brushed a couple of times per week to keep what little shedding they do have down. Otherwise, you’ll just need to check their nails and keep them trimmed, keep their ears clean and dry as needed, and brush their teeth about once per week.
They do need a lot of daily exercise to stay happy and to keep them from becoming bored and destructive. However, these dogs may not be welcome in dog parks because of their reputation, so you’ll need to make sure that you are able to take your pit bull for nice long walks. They do better in homes with fenced-in yards where they can play and run around, but as long as you are truly dedicated to getting them plenty of exercise, they can adapt to living in apartments. Remember that they are very vocal though!
Like all dogs, pit bulls need high quality dog food. Look for one made for larger breeds, or one made for athletic dogs, to give a pit bull the energy he needs. However, don’t overfeed this dog – weight gain is an issue they can have.
Be sure to consider a harness or a quality no-pull leash and collar for your pit bull. They are excitable and may try to tear off after a squirrel if the mood strikes. You need to have good control when you walk.
Pit bulls have a reputation of being fantastic with kids. Their fun-loving spirits match a kid’s energy, and they love playing. If you teach the dog to be gentle with kids, they will be. If you let the two run amok together, be prepared for a few scrapes – the dog just gets a little excited about play time.
However, pit bulls aren’t always the best dog if you have other pets. Because they are terriers, they have a strong territorial instinct. They are prone to getting into spats with other dogs, especially if they are both intact and of the same sex. Pit bulls can be taught to live with other pets, but it’s often better to keep them in single-pet homes.
There are many cities and towns across the United States that have actually banned this dog. You cannot have a pit bull on any military base in the United States. New York City does not allow pit bulls in any city housing project, along with Dobermans and Rottweilers. Quire a lot of cities in Iowa, Kansas, and Missouri have outright banned this breed. Other states that have cities with pit bull bans include Wisconsin, Ohio, Montana, Washington, and Oklahoma, just to name a few.
The best thing to do if you are considering adopting a pit bull is to check your local laws first, as well as your lease or mortgage. Many property owners and lenders will have clauses that exclude this breed from living on a specific property.
Why is this happening? Well, once again, the pit bull has a reputation of being dangerous. Is the pit bull really dangerous? Not by nature, no. As terriers, they can be territorial against other dogs – but that doesn’t lead to outright fighting. Only dogs that have been trained by a human to fight are going to viciously attack each other.
In some of these places, the pit bull ban has resulted in very sad consequences. One town in Missouri seized 164 pit bull dogs in 2011 and had all of them euthanized. However, many of these places have begun to lift their bans on the breed and make specific laws about dog behavior rather than breed.
Last update on 2018-07-20 at 14:45 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
So, would you and a pit bull be a good fit? Are you an active person that loves to play around? Do you have a good handle on training dogs and getting them to obey you? Do you love the “lovable baddie” that this dog offers? Are you able to own a pit bull in your home?
If you answered yes to all of that, then you would be a great owner for a pit bull. These loving creatures deserve all the second chances they can get, especially when you consider just how big a part they have played in our country’s history. One tip for adopting a pit bull: head to a local shelter. This breed is often one of the most common found in shelters, because of their energy and need for training. You can find a great dog without paying breeder prices, and you’ll be saving an animal’s life as well.
Stick around for more about pit bulls in the coming weeks!