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A Misunderstood Breed: The Truth About Pit Bulls

Eric Bittman dogs pit bull pitt bulls

If you took a survey asking people what they thought was the most dangerous dog breed, pit bull would probably top the list. "Pit bull" is a term that encompasses a number of breeds including the American pit bull terrier, Staffordshire bull terrier and American bulldog. These athletic dogs are known for aggressiveness and a defensive nature, but that doesn't mean all pit bulls are an imminent threat to your safety. Despite a history of breed violence, many pit bulls can be safe and loyal companions, even with children. These energetic canines thrive in an active environment. When properly socialized, pit bulls learn to curb their energy in healthy ways.

Decades of misinformation and stereotyping have given pit bulls a bad rap. It's time to set the record straight on these amiable animals.

A Checkered Past

Bred from bulldogs, pit bulls were first used to help control livestock. Their collective fate took a turn for the worse when breeders began to train them for the inhumane blood sport known as baiting. Humans would watch these dogs fight bears, bulls and other large animals. When governments came to their senses and banned baiting, spectators turned the animals loose on each other. Much of the perception of these dogs is based on this violent history. In some cases, pit bulls were bred and trained to fight. Dogs from those bloodlines are sometimes more likely to lash out, but that doesn't mean they're automatically dangerous. While they may boast strong jaws and ripped muscles, pit bulls can be just as loving and safe as any other breed. Dogfighting gives pits a bad name; every pit bull you see is not a trained killer.

The Right Environment

Like any other dog, a pit bull's behavior is largely dependent on the environment in which he or she grows up. Take your pit bull to a dog park after locking him in a crate for the first part of his life and he may display aggression or shyness toward other dogs and humans. Provide an active lifestyle where your pit bull can socialize from a young age, on the other hand, and your pit bull will likely be as intelligent and gentle as any other dog.

If you have a young pit bull, get him around other people and dogs as much as possible. ASPCA.org notes that a dog's most important sensitive development period takes place between 7 and 16 weeks of age. If your dog has early experience with others, he'll be able to curb aggression as he gets older. If you adopt an older pit bull who displays aggression, take baby steps toward interaction with others. Keep your pit bull on a leash near the dog park, for example. As he learns to cooperate with other dogs, you can take additional measures to assimilate him. Training is paramount with pit bulls, especially those that grew up in unstable environments. Devote time to establishing commands. Dogs need to know they must listen to their master and behave, but also that they are cared for.

Spay and Neuter

Like all dogs, pit bulls deserve the dedication and commitment of loving owners. That means keeping these hounds off the street and out of the pound. Have your pit bull spayed or neutered by a well-known animal center to control the animal population. According to Davis Country Animal Care and Control, dogs who are fixed are less likely to attack or bite someone. It's one more reason to do the responsible thing for your pit bull.



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