The American Pit Bull Terrier is a bit of a complicated breed. It is recognized by the United Kennel Club (UKC), as well as the American Dog Breeders Association (ADBA). However, it is not registered with the American Kennel Club (AKC), which is the main kennel club in the United States.
The ancestors of this breed came from the British Isles and likely included the Old English Bulldog and Old English Terrier. It is a short-haired dog that falls towards the upper end of the medium-sized category. They are typically quite muscular, with smooth, short fur. They come in all sorts of different colors – all except merle, which is confined to only a few breeds.
17 – 21 inches
30 – 60 pounds
8 – 15 years
Everything but merle
Active families with kids of all ages
People-pleasers Intelligent, Athletic
While the term “pit bull” is often used to describe many different dogs, the American Pit Bull Terrier is the only true pit bull. Often, those in America use the term “pit bull” to describe the American Staffordshire Terrier, which is a completely different breed.
This breed is banned in some parts of the world due to “aggression.” However, it is not actually shown to be any more aggressive than most other breeds. We will discuss this in-depth in the temperament section of this article.
American Pit Bull Terrier Characteristics
American Pit Bull Terrier Puppies
When purchasing an American Pit Bull Terrier, it is important to ensure that this is actually the breed you’re getting. Oftentimes, people will use the term “pit bull” to refer to other breeds as well and may market their puppies as such. Double-check that the puppies are American Pit Bull Terriers before you buy, or you could easily end up with an American Staffordshire Terrier instead.
These puppies cost similarly to other medium-sized dogs. A pet-quality puppy from a decent breeder will likely be more affordable. These dogs have larger litters, so that helps keep the price down somewhat. Show-quality dogs or those from proven bloodlines can cost a lot more. If you’re just looking for a pet, you don’t necessarily need to spend a higher amount of money on a puppy.
Show-quality dogs don’t necessarily make better pets than other dogs. They aren’t more expensive because they have better traits for families. Instead, they simply show physical traits that are more in line with the breed standard, though the average owner likely won’t notice this.
Temperament & Intelligence of the American Pit Bull Terrier
This dog does act a lot like a terrier. They are confident and a bit excitable. They love people and will ask for plenty of attention. American Pit Bull Terriers are known to be good with children and are sometimes called “nurse dogs” for this reason. Their playful personality makes them great companions.
This breed is naturally athletic. They are very good at just about any athletic feat, including climbing. They are actually known for climbing over fences, which can make them somewhat difficult to contain.
The American Pit Bill Terrier does not make a good guard dog, as they are extremely friendly. While they are sometimes seen in popular culture as aggressive canines, this isn’t really the case. They’re more likely to happily greet an intruder than attempt to chase them away. Aggression towards humans is extremely undesirable in the breed and quickly bred out by qualified breeders. This is another reason why it is important to adopt from a good breeder. Backyard breeders don’t always know the genetics their dogs might carry, which can lead to somewhat aggressive dogs.
This breed is quite intelligent, which makes them easy to train, especially since they are quite people-pleasing. They are good at performing as well.
The American Pit Bull Terrier is somewhat controversial because of their perceived aggressiveness. However, this breed is not actually more aggressive, according to practically every scientific study out there. Dog breed misidentification may play a significant role in the confusion. Dogs that aren’t actually American Pit Bull Terriers are often labeled as “pit bulls,” especially by the media after a biting incident. Even dogs at animal shelters do not reliably have their breed label.
Many studies have found that breed is not a good indicator of aggression, including one by the American Veterinary Medical Association.
Are These Dogs Good for Families?👪
Yes. These dogs are extremely good for families. They are gentle with children but also playful enough to keep most children entertained. They do require a bit of work, especially when it comes to exercising. For this reason, we only recommend them for active families or those with plenty of time for exercise.
This dog effectively gets along with people of all ages with ease.
Does This Breed Get Along With Other Pets?
They can, but not reliably in most cases. They are known to have some degree of inter-dog aggression. This basically means that they are commonly aggressive toward other dogs. Socialization can help substantially, so we highly recommend puppy classes for this breed. Take them around other dogs early and often. This will help them know what to expect when they get older. They won’t be automatically scared of other dogs because they will be used to them.
They are a bit excitable and have a decent prey drive. They love to chase things, which is often a problem for cats and other small animals. Again, early socialization can help but doesn’t necessarily guarantee that these dogs will not be aggressive toward cats.
Things to Know When Owning an American Pit Bull Terrier
Food & Diet Requirements 🦴
These canines do not have any particular dietary needs. They aren’t prone to any health problems that are preventable with a specific diet either, so special dietary requirements typically aren’t required. Of course, follow your vet’s advice for your specific dog’s nutritional needs.
We recommend dog food that is full of meat and protein.
The American Pit Bull Terrier is a working dog, which means that they were made to do a specific job. Therefore, they have quite a bit of energy that they need to get rid of every day. They have extremely high endurance and are well-known as high-energy dogs. They are true terriers and will need plenty of exercise to remain happy and healthy.
They excel at just about everything physical. Walks are a suitable way to meet their energy needs, but they are also capable of playing more complicated dog games like hide-and-seek. They also excel at many canine sports, including agility, weight pulling, lure coursing, and flyball. Even if you don’t plan on competing, trying any of these sports is a great way to meet your dog’s mental and physical needs.
This breed is both intelligent and people-pleasing, which makes them quite easy to train. They are more than willing to listen to commands and comply. Many American Pit Bull Terriers have successfully completed advanced obedience competitions and even won.
Their intelligence and physical skills have allowed them to be used as search and rescue dogs, police dogs, and even service dogs.
The American Pit Bull Terrier does not require much grooming. Their short coat needs to be brushed weekly to remove excess hair and help keep it clean. Due to the shortness of their coat, they do not require any trimming or anything of that sort, however.
These dogs have pretty good teeth and are not particularly prone to dental problems. However, regular brushing is important to ensure they stay clean. We recommend brushing at least twice a week, though more is not necessarily a bad thing.
Their ears need to be cleaned regularly, even from puppy days. Check them whenever you brush their teeth to ensure that their ears are clean and free from any debris. If they are dirty, clean them with a wet cotton ball.
Health and Conditions 🏥
Generally, the American Pit Bull Terrier is a healthy breed. As working dogs, they were bred for practicality, not necessarily for looks. Today, they are kept mostly as family dogs.
Despite their overall healthy outlook, they are more prone to hip dysplasia. This is a serious condition that affects the joints in their hips. Basically, the joint does not fit together correctly, which causes wear and tear. Over time, this can cause extreme pain for the dogs and can lead to lameness.
Once, they were also very prone to patella problems, thyroid dysfunction, and congenital heart defects. However, careful breeding over time has led to a decrease in these conditions. Today, they are not particularly prone to them over other canines.
If not vaccinated, this breed is more prone to parvovirus. For this reason, it is essential to vaccinate them as puppies and to continue with their vaccination schedule until they are much older. These dogs are also more prone to Demodex mange, which can be localized or generalized. While this is not a particularly contagious version of mange, it can be difficult to treat.
Generalized Demodex is more serious and can cause severe sickness. The signs include hair loss throughout the body, which may cause the skin to become scabbed and bloody. Usually, generalized diseases are caused by immunodeficiency in the dog, which puts them at risk.
Male vs Female
Male American Pit Bull Terriers are typically larger than females. However, that is the only significant difference between these two breeds.
3 Little-Known Facts About the American Pit Bull Terrier
1. The term “pit bull” doesn’t actually refer to this breed.
The use of the phrase “pit bull” is a bit confusing. It can refer to the American Pit Bull Terrier, the group of breeds known as pit bull-like dogs, or a separate breed altogether. Many people will label the American Staffordshire Terrier as a pit bull, even though it technically isn’t. Be careful when purchasing and researching this breed, as you may end up with a different breed altogether.
2. They are known as “nanny dogs.”
These canines are extremely gentle and understanding with children. They make great family dogs for this reason.
3. They were originally used for “bull-baiting.”
This sport involved the canine fighting both bulls and bears, which were often tied up to a post of some sort. In the 1800s, this sport became illegal in England. The dogs were still often used in illegal dog fights, though many transitioned to being family pets. Due to their purpose as largely a family dog over the last 2,000 years, much of their aggression has been bred out.
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The American Pit Bull Terrier often has an unnecessary reputation of being aggressive. However, they are not much more aggressive than any other canine. In fact, they are quite friendly and sociable. Many love people and get along well with children of all ages. They are often referred to as “nanny dogs” for this reason.
These dogs are extremely good at just about everything physical. They can climb fences, which makes them a bit of an escape artist. They are also quite good at canine sports, including agility and weight pulling. As intelligent people-pleasers, they are also quite easy to train. They can successfully compete in advanced obedience training and have no problem listening to commands when asked.
If you can meet this high-energy dog’s exercise needs, they make extremely good companions – despite their reputation.
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Featured Image Credit: David Robert Perez, Shutterstock