Breed Overview

Understanding General Characteristics of Pit Bulls

Contrary to popular belief, the term “Pit Bull” does not describe one particular breed; the term is used generically to identify dogs that people often refer to when discussing American Staffordshire Terriers, American Pit Bull Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, and several other breeds.

The term “Pit Bull” is just a pseudonym for these breeds, and many other dogs that possess certain characteristics such as a wide, boxy head, muscular body, and a long, straight tail. The heritage of all of these breeds can be traced back to the “Bull and Terrier,” which was bred in Europe during the early nineteenth century.

In general, Pit Bulls are gentle, intelligent, obedient, courageous, and loving dogs. As of February 2013, Staffordshire Bull Terriers and American Pit Bull Terriers scored a 90.7% and 86.8% pass rate respectively with the American Temperament Test Society, surpassing the popular Border Collie breed which weighed in with a score of 81.5%, as well as the Golden Retriever at 85.2%. The pass/fail rate is a measure of each dog’s ability to interact with humans, human situations, and the environment. Just as with all other canine breeds, individual Pit Bull dogs can have behavioral problems. It would surely be a grave mistake to look at the actions of an individual dog, whether good or bad, and apply the expressed traits to an entire breed.

Pit Bulls can be any color, with solid, particolored, or patched black, brown, tan, brindle (black and brown striped), liver, red, or fawn. Black or blue mask, and brindle or tan points are commonly seen traits in this breed. Ears may also appear different due to cropping. Prone to parvovirus, it is important that Pit Bulls receive all their vaccinations before coming into contact with other dogs or going places that other dogs frequent.

Enjoying dog sports such as agility, flyball, rally, and competitive obedience, Pit Bulls are very responsive to training and eager to please. Because of their superior intellect and physical stamina, Pit Bulls quickly become beloved family members for responsible, active, and caring owners. Each individual Pit Bull is subject to public scrutiny, and those who are well-adjusted, friendly, and obedient demonstrate the Pit Bull’s immeasurable positive characteristics.

Unfortunately, no other canine breed is so closely likened to the threat of violence by the media. Consequently, when an attack on a child is deemed the fault of the family poodle, the incident then is often viewed as an accident. Although the perpetrating dog will most certainly be dealt with, the poodle breed as a whole gets a pardon, as it very well should. The same attitude should extend to all breeds, including the Pit Bull. The truth is that regardless of breed, a well-socialized dog is unlikely to bite.

Most people over 50 remember The Little Rascals, which was a television show that was created based on the 1920’s film shorts of Our Gang, and aired in repeats throughout decades that followed and into the 1970’s. Petey the dog was the constant companion of the child actors, and the role of this dog was played by a series of about a dozen different Pit Bulls over time. By all accounts, these actor Pit Bulls were well loved by their respective owners, as well as the children they worked with.

So where did this negative attitude toward the breed that was, until the last few decades, hailed as loyal, lovable, and heroic come from? Regrettably, the news media has created and perpetuated the false notion that the Pit Bull falls into this dangerous dog category. Many blame the Pit Bull’s negative media image on a sensationalistic 1987 Sports Illustrated issue which they believed to be the catalyst for the Pit Bull hysteria in 1987, and which profoundly impacted the reputation of the breed in a negative way.

Pit Bulls are strong, energetic, agile, and powerful dogs. They are also very bright, resourceful, and driven. Determination and fortitude are two of their most significant traits; they put their heart and soul into all that they do. They are very adaptable and will do well in most environments, provided that they get plenty of exercise and positive outlets for their energy. It is not unusual to see a rambunctious Pit Bull puppy transform over time into a lounging couch potato as he or she matures.

The Real Pit Bull sums it up nicely, saying that “If there was a manual describing ideal Pit Bull temperament, it would probably read something like this: The Pit Bull is goofily friendly towards people – family, friends, and strangers alike.”

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