Pit bulls are dogs that receive a lot of attention, often not for the right reasons. Unfortunately, pit bulls have been stereotyped as aggressive and dangerous dogs. But are pit bulls aggressive for real?
You’ll be pleased to know pit bulls aren’t inherently aggressive but can be if they aren’t properly trained and socialized. Their reputation as violent and vicious dogs is mostly unfounded.
Ask anyone who lives with a pit bull; they’ll attest to the loyal and loving nature of the breed.
Let’s understand how pit bulls came to possess this reputation and what you can do to help manage your pit bull’s aggression.
Understanding Pit Bull Aggression
Firstly, you must understand that pit bulls aren’t a single dog breed. In fact, “pit bull” encompasses different breeds of dogs with similar physical appearance but widely varying personalities and temperaments.
Generally, the American Staffordshire Terrier, American Pit Bull Terrier, and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier are classified as pit bulls or pit bull-type dogs. The common characteristics include medium-to-large size, a smooth coat, a deep chest, and a square head.
With bulky bodies, pit bulls are also muscular and powerful. And while they show significantly less aggression toward their owners, they’re more aggressive towards other dogs, yet, don’t rank very high as aggressive dogs.
Due to their strong prey drive, pit bulls may be more likely to attack small animals or people who run away from them.
Unfortunately, pit bulls get a bad reputation because of the media. Pitbull attacks are made into sensationalized news stories. Such reports focus on the breed rather than the circumstances surrounding the attack.
In most of the reports of attacks, they say the dog was unprovoked and attacked unexpectedly. More often than not, a dog attacks because they’ve likely been provoked by something that made them uncomfortable and anxious or if they are in pain.
Such a wrong portrayal extends the myth that pit bulls are aggressive and dangerous; this isn’t true at all. Pit bulls aren’t any more or less unpredictable than other breeds.
In reality, pit bulls are primarily friendly and well-behaved pets. They’re loving and affectionate towards their owners and aren’t inherently aggressive; neither should they be judged based on their breed.
Why Do Pit Bulls Have a Reputation for Being Aggressive?
The reason lies in their history. Pit bulls are believed to be descendants of the British bull and terrier – a breed of dog developed in the United Kingdom in the early 19th century.
Originally, pit bulls were bred for bear and bull baiting. With the wild animals chained up, the trained dogs were sent to attack them. What followed after these sports was the breeding of pit bulls for rat baiting. It involved placing several rats in a pit and sending dogs out to kill the rats.
After these events were ended, dogfighting continued for a while. Dogfighting – an illegal sport, involves two dogs pitted against each other in a brutal fight to the death. Such fights would showcase the dog’s courage, stamina, and strength.
Thankfully, the mid-1800s saw the United States banning such barbaric sports. It also continues to be illegal in several countries. You won’t see a responsible pit bull owner participating in dog fighting.
Once these dangerous sports were discontinued, most pit bulls began to be raised as family pets. Modern-day pit bulls were transformed to be gentler, more affectionate, and more friendly toward people.
Another reason why pit bulls have a reputation for being aggressive is that they’re often used as guard dogs. Their strong instinct to defend their territory and their naturally-protective nature for their families make them excellent guard dogs.
With proper training and socialization, pit bulls can help guard your property well. However, if mistreated or not appropriately trained, they tend to get aggressive toward humans and other animals.
Are Pit Bulls Aggressive With Other Dogs?
Given the history of pit bulls being bred to fight bears and bulls, kill rats, and fight dogs, it’s common to assume the breed is vicious.
While pit bulls were used for dog fighting, modern pit bulls are mostly more evolved from their ancestors. It’s easily assumed that it’s in their nature to be aggressive toward dogs. This might be true only to a certain extent.
A certain level of aggression is characteristic of pit bulls. But then, it has nothing to do with their genetics. To think of it, other breeds like poodles, Chihuahuas, Yorkies, and Labradors are mostly intolerant of other dogs but without a history of dog fighting.
It shows that dogs can be aggressive toward other dogs regardless of breed or genetics.
Pit bull attacks tend to cause more damage due to their strength, size, and determination. They clamp their incredibly strong jaws onto their target, making the victim feel the dog wouldn’t let go.
On the other hand, a Chihuahua attack isn’t likely to cause much damage or injuries owing to its small size.
As with any breed, your pit bull’s tolerance to other dogs results from genetics, socialization, training, and resilience, among other factors.
Managing Pit Bull Aggression
Raising a well-behaved pit bull, or any other breed of dog, involves two key factors – training and socialization. You must expose your pit bull to strangers, animals, and environments from the young puppy stage.
They’re less likely to become fearful or aggressive with controlled socialization and positive training. They’ll also learn how to behave appropriately in different situations.
Training is highly essential for pit bulls. In reality, these intelligent dogs are also eager to please their owners. Use positive reinforcement techniques when training your pit bull to help them respond well to commands and behave appropriately in different situations.
This involves rewarding them for good behavior and correcting them gently yet consistently. Training helps in more ways than one; it helps prevent aggressive behavior and also helps strengthen your bond with your dog.
Remember, apart from pit bulls, any dog breed can be aggressive if not properly trained, socialized, and treated kindly. Other breeds rate higher on the aggression level scale than pit bulls. Modern pit bulls make loyal, affectionate, and friendly pets.
Pit bulls need plenty of exercise and mental stimulation to stay happy and healthy. Getting your pitbull to socialize with people and other animals early is essential to prevent aggression.
Pit bulls have a strong prey drive, so keeping them on a leash in public or around other animals is important.
It’s important to understand your pit bull’s body language so you can recognize signs of stress or fear before they escalate into aggression. Intervening at the right time might help prevent any unpredictable attacks.
If you notice your pet displaying signs of aggression out of the blue, consider consulting with your veterinarian or a professional trainer. They’ll help put a stop to the behavior before it progresses.
Pit bulls can make excellent family pets when given the proper care and attention needed for their breed type.
It’s important to remember that any dog has the potential to be aggressive, regardless of breed. However, with proper training and socialization, you can significantly minimize this risk for all dog breeds, including pit bulls.
All dogs require responsible ownership to remain safe and well-behaved members of society. If you’re considering bringing home a pit bull, thoroughly research the breed. This will help you decide whether or not this type of dog would suit your lifestyle and home environment.