American Pit Bull Terrier Temperament
What's Good About 'Em,
What's Bad About 'Em
American Pit Bull Terrier Temperament, Personality, Behavior, Traits, and Characteristics, by Michele Welton. Copyright © 2000-2013
It often surprises people to learn that this extremely muscular dog with the impressive, confident presence is so easygoing.
A well-bred American Pit Bull Terrier is a dependable, good-natured, loyal companion.
Athletic and agile, with finely tuned reflexes, he must have moderate daily exercise to maintain his splendid muscle tone.
Companionship is even more important, and extensive ongoing socialization is paramount. His attitude toward strangers varies from exuberant face kissing to polite reserve, and guarding instincts vary from high to nil, with some lines being much stronger tempered than others.
His attitude toward other canines, however, is another story. His dog fighting ancestry dictates a strong-willed, no-nonsense kind of dog who does not take kindly to being challenged by other assertive dogs. If confronted, he will readily engage. Though some individuals live peacefully in a house full of pets, there is always the risk that dormant animal prey instincts may suddenly flare into deadly combat.
Pit Bulls can be stubborn, yet they respond well to confident owners who know how to establish and enforce rules of expected behavior.
Because of public/media prejudice, every American Pit Bull Terrier should be trained through at least basic obedience and always leashed outside of his yard. Every well-behaved Pit Bull seen on the street can help counteract anti-breed sentiment.
If you want a dog who...
- Is medium to large, muscular and powerful
- Looks imposing, so makes an effective deterrent, but is usually non-aggressive with people
- Has a sleek, easy-groom coat that comes in many colors
An American Pit Bull Terrier may be right for you.
If you don't want to deal with...
- Legal liabilities (public perception, future breed bans, insurance problems, increased chance of lawsuits)
- An extremely careful search to be sure you're acquiring a stable-tempered individual
- Providing extra socialization and training to make sure your dog turns out well
- Aggression toward other animals
- Rowdiness and exuberant jumping, especially when young
- Destructiveness when bored
- Strong-willed mind of his own, requiring a confident owner who can take charge
An American Pit Bull Terrier may not be right for you.
- choosing the RIGHT breeder and the RIGHT puppy
- or choosing an ADULT dog from your animal shelter or rescue group – a dog who has already proven that he doesn't have negative traits
- training your dog to respect you
- avoiding health problems by following my daily care program in 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy
More traits and characteristics of the American Pit Bull Terrier
If I was considering an American Pit Bull Terrier, I would be most concerned about...
- Unstable temperaments. American Pit Bull Terriers are everywhere today, and many of them are bred and offered for sale by people who don't have the slightest idea of how to breed good-tempered dogs who can function in our society. Obedience instructors and behavioral consultants see LOTS of Pit Bulls with flat-out dangerous temperaments. With this breed more than many others, it is so important to see through the hype from "macho" breeders who boast about their dogs' "massive heads" or "invincibility."
- Animal aggression. Most Pit Bull Terriers are aggressive toward other dogs. Many have strong instincts to chase and seize cats and other fleeing creatures, including deer and livestock. If anything goes wrong in the breeding, socializing, training, handling, or management of this breed, it is capable of seriously injuring or killing other animals.
To keep your Pit Bull in, and to keep other animals out, fences should be at least six feet high, with wire sunk into the ground along the fence line to thwart digging. Gates should have the highest quality locks.
- Providing enough socialization. Most American Pit Bull Terriers are friendly, but some have protective instincts toward strangers, so they need extensive socialization at an early age so they learn to recognize the normal behaviors of "good guys." Then they can recognize the difference when someone really does act abnormally.
- Providing enough exercise and mental stimulation. American Pit Bull Terriers are powerful dogs who MUST have regular opportunities to vent their energy and do interesting things. Otherwise they will become rambunctious and bored -- which they usually express by barking and destructive chewing. Bored Pit Bulls are famous for chewing through drywall, ripping the stuffing out of sofas, and turning your yard into a moonscape of craters.
- The strong temperament. The best Pit Bulls are versatile working dogs, capable of learning a great deal, but they have an independent mind of their own and are not pushovers to raise and train. They can be manipulative, and many are willful, obstinate, and dominant (they want to be the boss) and will make you prove that you can make them do things. You must show them, through absolute consistency, that you mean what you say.
To teach your Pit Bull to listen to you, "Respect Training" is mandatory. My American Pit Bull Terrier Training Page discusses the program you need.
- Bounciness Young Pit Bull Terriers (up to about two years old) can be bulls in a china shop. When they romp and jump, they do so with great vigor, and things can go flying, including people. If you have small children, or if you or anyone who lives with you is elderly or infirm, I do not recommend Pit Bull Terrier puppies. The temptation to play roughly is too strong in many young Pit Bulls.
- Legal liabilities. American Pit Bull Terriers are already targeted for "banning" in certain areas. Homeowners' insurance policies may be refused or revoked if you are discovered to own a Pit Bull Terrier. Your friends and neighbors may be very uncomfortable around this breed. In this day and age, the legal liabilities of owning any breed that looks intimidating and has a fighting heritage should be seriously considered. People are quicker to sue if such a dog does anything even remotely questionable.
Frankly, most American Pit Bull Terriers are "too much dog" for the average household. Very few people really have the knowledge or skills necessary to manage this breed, or to provide the type of activities that keep him satisfied.
To learn more about training American Pit Bull Terriers to be calm and well-behaved, consider my dog training book,
Teach Your Dog 100 English Words.
It's a unique Vocabulary and Respect Training Program that will make your American Pit Bull Terrier the smartest, most well-behaved companion you've ever had.
Teaches your dog to listen to you, to pay attention to you, and to do whatever you ask him to do.
My dog buying guide, Dog Quest: Find The Dog Of Your Dreams, will teach you everything you need to know about finding a healthy American Pit Bull Terrier puppy. Health problems have become so widespread in dogs today that this book is required reading for ANYONE who is thinking of getting a purebred, crossbred, or mixed breed dog.
If you'd like to consult with me personally about whether the American Pit Bull Terrier might be a good dog breed for your family, I offer a Dog Breed Consulting Service.
Once you have your American Pit Bull Terrier home, you need to KEEP him healthy -- or if he's having any current health problems, you need to get him back on the road to good health.
My dog health care book, 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy is the book you need.
Raise your dog the right way and you will be helping him live a longer, healthier life while avoiding health problems and unnecessary veterinary expenses.
Please consider adopting an ADULT American Pit Bull Terrier...
When you're acquiring an American Pit Bull Terrier PUPPY, you're acquiring potential -- what he one day will be. So "typical breed characteristics" are very important.
But when you acquire an adult dog, you're acquiring what he already IS and you can decide whether he is the right dog for you based on that reality. There are plenty of adult American Pit Bull Terriers who have already proven themselves NOT to have negative characteristics that are "typical" for their breed. If you find such an adult dog, don't let "typical breed negatives" worry you. Just be happy that you found an atypical individual -- and enjoy!
Save a life. Adopt a dog.
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Copyright © 2000-2013 by Michele Welton. All rights reserved.
No part of this website may be copied, displayed on another website,
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