Do Pit Bulls Make Great Family Pets?

Pit bulls behavior is largely driven by genetics, socialization and training.
Jesse DeGraff/iStock/Getty Images

The pit bull is one of the most debatable dogs of late, and it's difficult to know what is truth and what is myth. It's equally hard to separate the fighting pit bull from the lovable nanny of year's past. The decision to make a pit bull a family pet takes consideration and education. What pit bulls share with other breeds is that with proper training and socialization, they make fine family pets.

Origin - From Bull Baiting to Pit Bull

Originating from the English bull-baiting dog, used for baiting and holding large animals such as bears, about the head and neck, pit bulls were later crossed with smaller, quicker terriers, and used for fighting when baiting large animals was outlawed. According to Pamela Reid PhD, vice president of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals's Animal Behavior Center in New York, the pit bull had a reputation for being the ideal family pet, but "the tide turned in the late 1990s, when pit bulls became popular among people who weren’t focused on the positive attributes of the breed -- they were looking for a strong, scary-looking dog," Reid says. Today's pit bull, which is not a breed in itself and is instead a generic name describing dogs presenting with certain traits or characteristics, thrives in the family unit, is loyal and loving, a people pleaser, and adores having a job to do.

The Beginning is Important

The pit bull puppy is sure to evoke squeals of delight from his young human companions. His ultimate demeanor is often determined at this phase, by his human interactions, his housing and training. A dog isolated from humans will have difficulty with human interaction. Pit bulls are family pets, so life on a chain is not for them. They don't thrive as guard dogs. Consider training and obedience class for your pit bull puppy to help integrate him into your family and teach both him and you the methods to help him become a trusted family companion. Your veterinarian, local animal shelter or pet store can recommend dog obedience and training classes.

Safety First

Choosing the right pit bull, or any dog for the matter, is as much about the dog as it is about you and your family. Social media aficionados may ooh and aah over the adorable video of a child tugging his dog's ears, but this behavior is dangerous, regardless of the breed of dog you bring into your family unit. Children especially, need to be taught respect for the family dog. Pulling ears, tugging a tail and teasing with a treat all may be precursors to something going terribly wrong.

Do Your Homework

While pit bulls make great family pets, a pit bull might not be the dog for you. According to Pit Bull Rescue Central, there are some things to consider prior to adoption, such as whether or not you have the time your puppy will need. Pit bulls take great enjoyment in both mental and physical exercise and enjoy a good walk, run or hike with a family member. They also love a good snuggle on the couch at the day's end. If you have other pets, consider how a pit bull might interact with your current companions. Talk to your vet, your shelter and reputable animal rescues to determine if a pit bull is the right dog for your family.