Misconceptions about pit bulls abound. For instance, even though it’s common to refer to pit bulls as one group, they are not a single breed. Instead, several types of dogs comprise the category of pit bull, including English bull terriers, American bulldogs, boxers, American Staffordshire terriers and American pit bull terriers.
Pit bulls also have a somewhat unfair reputation as aggressive, so it’s natural to have questions about their suitability for families and beginners, their aggressiveness and whether it’s safe to own them. The answers are nuanced, but overall, pit bulls can be great dogs.
Should My Family Get a Pit Bull?
People who believe pit bulls are violent may be hesitant to bring one into the family. However, the Animal Foundation advises that pit bulls actually perform very well on temperament tests and that they make “great family pets.” Additionally, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) describes these dogs as often displaying “gentleness, affection and loyalty.” Both sources advise viewing pit bulls as individuals, many of whom are well-suited for families, rather than as a collective group with antisocial traits.
Are Pit Bulls Naturally Aggressive?
No domesticated dog types, including pit bulls, are aggressive by default. However, certain fighting-focused breeding practices have produced some pit bull lines that are more predisposed toward fighting with other dogs.
On the flip side, some breeders have focused on creating lines of gentle, companionable pit bulls. And beyond dedicated breeding efforts, random breeding has produced great variation in dogs’ temperamental predispositions. Treatment plays a huge role as well. Good socialization, supervision and training from an early age can help produce safe, pleasant adult pit bulls, while abuse and neglect will negatively affect any dog’s behavior—pit bull or otherwise.
Are Pit Bulls Good for Beginners?
If you’ve never owned a dog before and are considering a pit bull, you should be aware that pit bulls are determined and powerful. They also have high attention needs, require supervision when socializing and do best with lots of exercise. That combination can present challenges, especially for novice dog owners.
Regardless of your experience level, before adopting, it’s important to thoroughly research pit bull care and socialization best practices to make sure you can meet their needs. You can also learn about pit bulls through volunteering at a pit bull rescue and talking to current pit bull owners. Dog trainers and behaviorists may be good resources, too. Always check on local regulations and insurance-policy provisions regarding pit bulls before adopting one. Additionally, if you have children, investigate what it takes to create safe interactions between them and a new dog. Finally, spaying or neutering is advisable, no matter the type of dog you choose.
Is It Safe to Own a Pit Bull?
Safety comes down to the individual dog. As the ASPCA puts it, pit bulls should be judged “by their actions and not by their DNA or physical appearance.”
Pit bulls are strong, energetic dogs. Owners who go in with that knowledge—and who have a good understanding of their dog’s temperament—can reap the benefits of a loyal pit bull companion.