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Vicious, aggressive, and dangerous – Pitbull dogs have received a bad rap due to the stereotypes thrown at them. These dogs are often seen as a ‘dangerous breed’ and are even banned in some states and cities across the U.S. But, is it safe to own a Pitbull? In this post, we will tackle this hotly debated topic and see if these doggos can become sweethearts outside of the fighting ring where they were initially bred for.
The Pitbull Breed
The Pitbull breed has gone through a lot in terms of criticism, stereotypes, and breeding. Still, they have won the hearts of many pet owners as they slowly shed their dark past.
If you’re not familiar with Pitbulls, allow us to give you a quick rundown of their temperament, nature, behavior, origin, and other critical traits.
In this video, dog expert Zak George tells us more about Pitbulls:
According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), only the American Pitbull Terrier is recognized as the ‘real and true Pitbull’ breed. Still, other similar breeds like the American Staffordshire (AmStaff) and Staffordshire Bull Terrier are also called Pitbulls in general.
Sadly, these dogs are bred initially for bear-baiting and fighting. In the 1990’s, Pitbulls started gaining a bad reputation since they were used for arena fighting and other underground abuse in the United States.
Where It All Started…
Pitbulls can be traced back to the 1800’s in the United Kingdom. They are the descendants of Old English Bulldogs. In the British Isles, these dogs are popular for the bloody sport called bullbaiting. This involves two Pitbulls harassing a bull for long hours until the bull or even the dogs pass out due to fatigue and injuries.
However, the Cruelty to Animals Act of 1835 prohibited this practice, so Britons resorted to ‘ratting’ where they see which Pitbull can kill the most rats while enclosed in a den-like cage.
Coming To America…
When the Civil War erupted, British immigrants arrived in the U.S. together with Pitbulls. Soon enough, they were still being bred on a massive scale for the bloody sport. Nevertheless, some were lucky enough to be tasked to herd livestock and guard family homes.
During the two World Wars, the United States used the image of Pitbulls as they embody loyalty, hard work, and a fearless disposition.
Contrary to the stereotypes, Pitbull dogs can be total sweethearts if raised in a loving and nurturing home. This breed is eager, determined, and fearless, especially if their family is in danger. So, is it safe to own a Pitbull? The answer is yes, under some conditions.
Pitbulls are also alert dogs and make excellent guard dogs for yards and farms. They will not attack unless they have confirmed that a person or object is a source of harm. However, due to their hard-wired tendency to hunt and be on guard, they need early socialization to grow up as well-rounded dogs.
Pitbulls Are Misunderstood…
It’s important to know that Pitbulls are grossly misunderstood. They are not stupid and aggressive dogs, although poorly bred and raised ones could have a bold personality.
In addition, Pitbulls excel in obedience competitions, as well as agility games. If they train early, they will behave well and even become a household companion.
Friendliness And Affection
Is it safe to own a Pitbull? Surprisingly, Pitbull dogs are very affectionate to their families. In fact, experts noticed that this breed has a deep affection for infants, making them an ideal companion for kids.
Also, this breed tends to forget about their stocky build. Pitbulls are affectionate canines and will try to jump into your arms like a lapdog. However, the downside of domestication and being a companion is that Pitbulls may not be the best guards. Domesticated ones are always keen to meet the person at the door with a wagging tail and a smile.
If you’re looking to own a Pitbull, it’s not a good idea to keep them in a multi-dog household. Most Pitbulls are territorial, especially around same-gender canines. With this, we recommend that you get a male Pitbull if you have a female doggo at home and vice versa.
Pitbulls are intelligent dogs that can easily yield to rigorous training. However, Pitbulls need a firm owner who can impose strict rules and put up with their stubbornness during the first phase of the training.
Also, you should be aware that Pitbulls are mouthy dogs. They also have a strong hunting instinct and a strong urge to wander around.
If sourced from a responsible breeder, a Pitbull can be docile. Take note; dogs become who we raise them to be. It’s like raising a child. You mold the dog’s personality, given that their bloodline is clean from any of the bullbaiting ancestors.
Pitbulls are very energetic dogs and they always love to play. This isn’t surprising given their strong bodies.
Also, you have to watch out for their intensity, as they can be quite hefty. Some people tend to misunderstood Pitbulls’ strong bodies.
So when they get overexcited during playtime or while meeting new people, they may appear rude and brash. However, in fact, they are just happy to be around someone.
So is it safe to own a Pitbull? With daily walks and enough playtime, Pitbulls can stay calm around kids.
Common Misconceptions/Myths About Pitbulls
We’ve seen a lot of misconception about Pitbulls and the harm they could possibly bring. In light of erasing the stereotypes, let’s debunk some of the notorious myths here.
Pitbulls Are Always Aggressive
Again, some Pitbulls are aggressive because they were bred and raised to be aggressive. But, if you take care of the dog and raise it well, they can be as affectionate as lapdogs.
Additionally, this myth roots from the dark past of this breed which was molded inside fighting arenas and underground bull baiting scenes.
Pitbulls Have Locking Jaws
According to studies and a simple consultation with a vet, we confirmed that Pitbulls’ mandibles and teeth are no different than other dogs. So, the belief that they have “locking” jaws is unfounded and is yet another product of the stereotypical mindset of those against the domestication of this breed.
Pitbulls From Shelters Are Unsafe
While it’s true that some dogs in rescue shelters don’t have a clear breed history, Pitbulls that come from these places can be reformed to be good pets.
Also, many Pitbulls that are surrendered to shelters are the victims of Breed-Specific Legislation (we discuss it below). Owners who need to move in a BSL state or city will be forced to give up their Pitbull dogs.
Take note that it’s normal for all shelter dogs, not just Pitbulls, to be shy and a bit aggressive when meeting strangers. They’ve been left behind, locked up in a cage, and visited by numerous strangers. Who wouldn’t become stressed in such a situation?
Pitbulls Are Never Safe As Pets
We will fight tooth and nail against this one. We know a lot of Pitbull owners who are happily living with their Pittie for years without even worrying about their safety. In fact, these doggos are loyal companions of their kids. So, when you say Pitbulls are vicious, you probably mean viciously lovable!
Breed Specific Legislation (BSL)
The Breed Specific-Legislation is composed of laws or ordinances banning the ownership of so-called “dangerous breeds”. This is rampantly in effect in many states and cities all over the USA and other countries.
The dangerous breeds often cited in these laws include Pitbulls, Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers, and so on. So, is it safe to own a Pitbull? Read on.
With this law in effect, owners who have to move to a BSL state will be forced to give up their dogs to shelters. Worse, some would end up being euthanized.
History of BSL
BSL first emerged in the 1980s as a response to the recorded dog attacks. It also contributed to the stereotypes among Pitbulls.
Some of the BSL states include Wyoming, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Ohio, South Carolina, and more.
In some states, several cities have home rules that somewhat align with BSL. Some of these states include California, Arizona, Texas, Colorado, Montana, Minnesota, and more.
So far, the only states where Pitbulls can be owned without any limitations are Alaska, Nevada, Utah, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine.
BSL can bring heartbreak to both dogs and their owners. In fact, even actor Patrick Steward was forced to give up his Pitbull, Ginger due to the breed ban in the U.K.
Is It Safe To Own A Pitbull?
Yes, and they can become amazing family pets and companions.
However, you should know that this breed needs a certain type of owner – a person who can handle continuous training and socialization. If it’s your first time owning a dog, a Pitbull isn’t an ideal choice.
You should start with a low maintenance breed to gain experience. After some time, you can consider having a Pitbull. Some shelters and breeders allow taking the dog home for a week or two so you can test how likely you are to handle the demands of owning it for life.
How To Raise A Well-Rounded Pitbull
Pitbulls raised in a loving home will become loving and affectionate dogs. For this to happen, you need to do three major things:
1. Source It From A Responsible Breeder
First of all, you should get the Pitbull from a responsible breeder. This way, you have the guarantee of how pure its breed is or what precisely the breed is.
Responsible breeders only mate Pitbulls from excellent bloodlines or those that aren’t related to bullbaiting dogs. Also, by getting your pet from a professional breeder, you have the guarantee that they are free from any of the common Pitbull conditions like hip dysplasia.
Early socialization is crucial to hamper any aggressive tendencies of a Pitbull. You should start it the moment that you get the dog.
Walking them around and introducing them to new people are some of the great ways to do it. Also, you can take the pooch to dog parks, but make sure that it’s on a leash and you’re prepared to break dog fights.
Take note that a caged and isolated Pitbull will develop negative behavior, just like any other dog in the same situation.
3. Early And Continuous Training
Like socialization, you should train a Pitbull the soonest that they are physically ready for it. Start with basic obedience before proceeding to advanced drills. You can also use the training sessions to socialize the dog.
If you’re having a hard time, you can always get as much help as you need from professional trainers. This way, you can prevent negative behavior associated with training mistakes.
Also, training doesn’t stop when you own a Pitbull. Setting rules and being firm with this breed pays a lot when it comes to their behavior.
Like any breed, Pitbulls can snap if pushed to the limits. For you and the dog’s safety, you should keep the following in mind:
Don’t Let A Child Mingle With An Untrained Pitbull
Any untrained dog should never be allowed to be near a child. This is to prevent any injuries, both for the infant and the dog itself.
Always Keep A Pitbull On A Leash When Walking Outdoors
Pitbulls will likely chase any moving object that catches their attention. That’s why it’s imperative to keep them on a short leash. In some states with moderate BSL rules, leashes and halters are required when bringing Pitbulls outdoors.
Be Cautious About Letting A Pitbull Around Other Dogs
Pitbulls aren’t fond of being around other dogs, especially of the same sex. If you want them to befriend other dogs, you have to introduce them slowly and carefully.
Be Prepared To Handle The Stereotypes
Many people around you will judge your choice of pet. You’ll surely hear something about how harmful or aggressive Pitbulls are. As a pet owner, you know fully about your Pittie’s temperament. Don’t let the judgement of others affect how you treat your dog.
So, is it safe to own a Pitbull? Definitely!
If raised in a nurturing household, Pitbulls will be affectionate and loyal companions. You just have to be patient with training and socialization to make this happen.
Most of all, get a Pitbull from responsible breeders. However, if you decide to adopt, you should focus on training to raise a well-rounded dog that will be a wonderful addition to your life.