Information About Pitbull Terriers

by Betty Lewis
    Your pit bull needs to understand he's not the leader of the pack.

    Your pit bull needs to understand he's not the leader of the pack.

    George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images

    Pit bulls, or pitbull terriers, are beautiful, athletic dogs with an intimidating presence and their share of detractors and enthusiastic supporters. Long ago they were bred to fight other dogs and, unfortunately, they still carry the fighting reputation. However, a strong, loving, consistent owner can have a long, happy relationship with this dog.

    One look at a pit bull and you get the sense he's a powerful pooch. Underneath that brawny body is a friend who's eager to please. Though he can be aggressive with other dogs and animals, he's generally very people-friendly. A good family pet, the pit bull is obedient, loyal and affectionate, and good with people, big and small. If this guy feels his family is threatened, he's willing to take on anyone or anything to protect it. Because he's a strong, protective fellow, he requires a seasoned dog owner. This dog responds well to firm, confident, consistent training, doing best when the owner is clear that he -- not the dog -- is pack leader.

    Pit bulls can vary widely in size, standing as low as 14 inches to the shoulder to almost 2 feet tall. There's a large variation in weight as well, ranging from 22 to 78 pounds. Though some are lean and muscular and others are bulky, they're all strong, athletic dogs, making them great at agility, Frisbee and fly-ball dog activities. They have thick, short, shiny coats of varying colors.

    You've probably heard many stories about pit bulls, some from people who are fans of the breed and others from people afraid of them. One myth is that this guy has locking jaws. Though he has strong jaw muscles that allow him to hang on for dear life, a pit bull's jaws are the same as any other terrier's and don't lock. If a pit bull bites another dog, it's not a stepping stone to biting people. There's no evidence that dog-aggressive dogs transfer their aggression to people. On the flip side, not every pit bull is a gentleman who will peacefully babysit your other dogs and cats. Pit bulls aren't crazed monsters, but they were originally bred to fight other dogs. According to the ASPCA, the pit bull may not give warning before he becomes aggressive and he's less likely to back down from a fight. Because of their fighting heritage, it's important that pit bull puppies receive positive socialization with other dogs early and often.

    If you're interested in a pit bull, you need to be honest with yourself about your willingness to take on one of these guys. Yes, he's smart, obedient and loyal, but he's also a lot of work. This guy's a whole lot of dog, possessing intelligence and high energy. Every dog should be trained, but it's especially true of a pit bull, whose owner should use positive reinforcement and consistency to set up his new pup for success. If you're a couch potato and want a lounging partner, reconsider your choice of a pit bull because he'll need regular exercise to channel his energy in a positive way.

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    About the Author

    Betty Lewis is a writer and editor specializing in pet care, animals, careers and emergency management. She previously ran an animal shelter, where she also served as a kennel attendant and dog trainer. Lewis holds a bachelor's degree in journalism, an M.B.A. and a master's degree in professional studies.

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