Bull Breed Info
"It is true that Pit Bulls grab
and hold on. But what they most often grab and refuse to let
go of is your heart, not your arm." -Vicki Hearne
Note: Throughout discussions of the
Pit Bull breed, you will notice two words repeated
over and over again: Responsible Ownership .
With media hysteria and BSL looming closer every day,
we good owners, find ourselves endlessly having to
defend our breed. Every bad story and headline damage
our dogs even further. Irresponsible and ignorant owners
have done almost as much damage to these dogs as dogfighters
have. The Pit Bull is an exceptional breed that requires
exceptional dedication and ownership.This page may
seem to paint a grim picture of Pit Bull ownership,
but the breed's very survival depends on new owners
knowing what they are getting into, and ALL owners
being responsible and protecting the breed's reputation.
"What did I get myself
Bull Breed Info
By: Susan Thompson
following information is based on my personal knowledge,
extensive research, and experience in the breed.
It is intended primarily for the first time or potential
pit bull owner who needs to know what to expect from
their dog, both positive and negative. This page
will give information on the proper temperament of
this breed, typical behavior, proper toys, and training
info. This page is intended as a brief overview of
the breed, and should be only one of many sources
the new or potential pit bull owner should investigate
in order to understand the responsibility of owning
this breed. Unlike almost any other breed, pit bull
ownership comes with some unique responsibilities.
As the owner of an American Pit Bull Terrier, your
actions and those of your dog will affect not only
yourself, but EVERY owner and EVERY dog of this breed.
If you are thinking about getting a pit bull, please
think about that before committing yourself to an
American Pit Bull Terrier."
A Word About Aggression
In the following sections I will discuss aggression
in the American Pit Bull Terrier. It is VERY important to note
that, in dogs, and especially with this particular breed, aggression
toward humans (called human aggression) is a COMPLETELY separate
trait from aggression toward dogs (dog aggression) and/or other
animals (animal aggression). While a dog may be both human
and animal aggressive, the presence of one kind of aggression
DOES NOT mandate or exclude the presence of the other.
-What is it?
Simply put, temperament
is those behavioral traits and mental attitudes shared
by canines and combined with the special characteristics
proper to a certain dog breed. Newfoundlands for example,
like water and love children, that is part of the breed's
temperament. A Newfoundland that hates to swim or growls
at a child is showing improper temperament for the breed.
When a person talks about the temperament of their chosen
breed, they are describing those traits which most good
examples of the breed will have, rather than describing
a specific dog. A dog who posses all or most of the characteristics
expected for their breed is said to have a proper temperament.
This is why it is very important to know about your chosen
breed's temperament and research its specific traits, preferably before you
commit to a dog. You may find out that eventhough you like
the "look" of a certain breed, the temperament is not for
A Word About
This bit of history will
help explain much of the apparently
(to novices) common in this breed.
Much of a dog's temperament relates to
it's breed history and genetic inheritance. I won't
go too deep into the history of the Pit Bull as there
are many good books and websites that cover the origin
and history of the breed. It is common knowledge however,
that the Pit Bull breed was developed for blood sports:
Bull baiting, bear baiting, and later, dogfighting.
What is not common knowledge is that in the days of
organized dogfighting, the handlers of the combatants
were habitually IN THE
PIT with the dogs for the duration
of the fight. They were required to pick up and separate
the dogs several times while the dogs were in full
fight frenzy. Before the fight, the handlers were required
to wash each other's dogs, and after the fight, the
badly injured dogs were often treated at ringside by
strangers. Any dog that attacked or bit a handler (even
if it was the other dog's handler) or anyone else at
any time was culled, often on the spot, and would never
have been bred.
So, What is the Proper
Pit Bull Temperament?
with all breeds, the Pit Bull has positive and negative
traits in their temperament. Their breed history
has led to a dog unlike any other in the history
of purebred dogs. What can you expect from an APBT?
First and foremost, memorize the following: THE
GOLDEN RULE OF PIT BULL OWNERSHIP- NEVER TRUST YOUR
PIT BULL NOT TO FIGHT!!!!! This breed is descended
from pit dogs one way or another, and, given the
right circumstances, most Pit Bulls will fight and
against any other breed, they will win (you really
don't want to see that!).
yet? You should be. Remember, as the owner of a
Pit Bull everything you or your dog do will affect
all members of the breed and their families. Pit
Bull owners have to be extra vigilant 24/7, period.
You need to be receptive, have strong leadership,
and be able to read canine body language to recognize
signs of tension between housemates. You need to
be prepared to separate the dogs if tensions develop.
You need to know when your dog may become aggressive
and you need to have control of your dog under
Summarize the Proper Pit Bull Temperament
Bulls are often dog-aggressive to one extent or another
(this often shows up at or near sexual maturity).
A dog that was previously non-dog aggressive may "turn-on" and
suddenly doesn't like other dogs of the same sex,
or, for that matter, any dogs at all, even housemates
they have been raised with. Adult Pit Bulls should
NEVER be left alone with other dogs and require proper
Bulls may exhibit intense "prey drive", leading
them to "stalk" small animals such as cats, rats,
chickens, livestock, or other pets.
Bulls are precocious and incomparable escape artists,
who will often seem to squirt right out of a supposedly
secure yard or enclosure. When coupled with # 1
and # 2, you can see why a responsible Pit Bull
owner is a vigilant pit bull owner.
bulls are intelligent, and most enjoy training,
if it is done properly. This makes them excellent
prospects for dog sports such as agility, obedience,
weight pull, and Frisbee competitions.
Bulls tend to LOVE people. All people. This makes
them a poor choice for a "guardian breed". Most
of them are simply too friendly to protect a
house against strangers. A Pit Bull that shows
unprovoked human aggression (puppy play nips
do NOT count) is showing BAD temperament and
in most cases should be put to sleep. Such a
dog should obviously NEVER be bred under any
circumstances. The breeding of dogs with bad
temperaments is one of the largest problems the
breed faces today and fuels the fire of breed
bulls tend to be very "soft" with their family, meaning
that they are eager to please their humans. They
should not have to be "shown who's boss", but will
thrive under "positive leadership". A Pit Bull
of proper temperament is a devoted and loving family
member, inspiring immense loyalty to the breed.
You will often hear a Pit Bull's owner tell you
that after owning one, they will never own any
Physical Pit Bull
Built for performance, the pit bull is a medium sized, very muscular,
short coated breed. The head is bricklike, the jaws strong and wide,
the ears may be cropped or not (I prefer uncropped dogs for several
The body is typically very strong, with a deep chest, powerful and proportionate
hind end and solid legs. The overall impression should be of power and
athleticism. This is not a dog for couch potatoes, as they require A
LOT of training and exercise.
With this breed
it is important to remember to exercise both the
dog's body and mind. Remember, a tired pit bull
is a happy pit bull and a bored pit bull is NOT
a good thing! They will find some very inventive
ways to entertain themselves that the owner may
not like (often involving the garbage can, kitchen
counter and cabinets, feather pillows, dirty laundry
and various items of furniture).
also, that this is a VERY enthusiastic breed that
may very well overwhelm young children or older people
with it's affection. This breed needs to be taught
to sit and greet people calmly as it's natural inclination
will probably be to climb into their lap, put a paw
on each of their shoulders, and attempt to wipe their
face off with it's tongue. Attempts to convince a
full grown pit bull that it is too big to be a "lap
dog" will, more often than not, fall on deaf ears
if it was not taught "manners" as a puppy. Do not
allow your puppy to do anything you don't want your
adult dog to do (eg climb on the couch, sleep in
the bed, invade your lap, etc.).
First of all, for
anyone asking the question, "Do
I need to train my pit bull?", the answer is a resounding YES! As
with very young children, dogs need guidance and structure,
and should never be left to make decisions on their own.
Training teaches the dog and owner to understand and communicate
with each other and prevents misunderstandings. In the
case of the Pit Bull, training also prevents the kind of
headlines that make all good Pit owners cringe.
How should a pit
bull be trained? The most important thing is to find
a method that works for your dog, and stick with it.
There are almost as many methods for dog training as
there are dog trainers. Most of those methods fit into
one of two categories: Positive training methods or aversive
training methods. Positive methods include using food
rewards, toy rewards, pure praise, gentle leaders, and
clickers. Aversive methods include using praise/correction,
choke chains, prong collars, and/or shock collars. Both
types of training, done correctly, will result in a trained
dog. It is a matter of how you want to get there. As I
said in the temperament section, Pit Bulls tend to be very "soft" with
their families, and it is very possible to ruin a good
dog by "over correcting" with a choke chain, prong collar,
and particularly a shock collar. As a very good positive
trainer I know put it, " Aversive training is something
you do TO your dog, positive training is something you
do WITH your dog ".
Finding a good trainer
can be a bit of a challenge, depending on where you live.
Some things to look for are: Experience with the breed
(or at least no breed prejudice against Pit Bulls and
a good understanding of the breed's nature), what methods
are used (and are you comfortable with them), recommendations
from former students, and, last but not least, take a
look at the trainer's own dogs (are they well behaved).
The best way to assess a trainer's methods is to ask
to "sit in" on a training
session. If the trainer refuses to let you watch, look
As a special note
for Pit Bulls: I would avoid any class that has "forced socialization" between
the dogs, particularly adult dogs. Any trainer that wants
to muzzle a dog-aggressive pit bull and force it to "socialize" with
other dogs is not knowledgeable in the breed , and can
actually make dog aggression worse.
introducing your dog to people, and to a lesser
extent, to dogs and/or other animals. It is extremely
important to socialize a pup of any breed with
people, but be sure that the pup's experiences
are ALWAYS positive. The pup should meet all kinds
of adults and as many respectful children as possible.
Socialization with people should be part of your
dog's training for his/her entire life. Relegating
a dog to the backyard or keeping it chained 24/7
can lead to a real disaster. If you are not willing
to socialize and train a dog, please don't get
one. Socialization with dogs is a little different
for pit bulls.
a puppy with other dogs may reduce the amount of
dog aggression the pup will develop, and many pit
puppies get along with other dogs when they are young.
As the dog matures, ALWAYS be on the lookout for
signs of aggression with other dogs, and be prepared
to break up a spat or fight, should one happen. It
is up to you, the owner, to decide whether or not
to introduce your adult pit bull to other dogs. The
amount of dog aggression in an adult pit bulls varies
from no aggression at all to a dog that sees ANY
other dog as a Happy-Meal with legs, so there are
no hard and fast rules. Just remember that as the
owner of a pit bull, any fight will always be your
fault, no matter who started it.
More about socialization
I feel that to the general public,
socialization = allowing dogs to be off leash together.
Either playing or figuring out the hierarchy themselves.
This is where people get into trouble. It doesn't
have to be this way at all. Being in an obedience
class situation in which a dog does NOT get to 'say
hi' to every dog IS socialization! We have to remember
that it's not normal for adult dogs to come together
and play, be friends and interact. This goes against
dog behavior. (Especially pit bull behavior!)
I feel the definition of 'socialize'
needs to be readdressed. I know that my dogs are
wonderfully socialized because they can be with me
around other dogs and not freak out. I would never
force my guys to be what they are not. They will
never be Golden Retrievers! I would never force my
guys to interact with another dog which is ill mannered
or foul tempered. That's breaking the trust factor.
I'm the leader and protector in my family. My guys
trust me because I would never put them into a situation
in which harm would come to them. There's where the
parenting skills come into play.
When an owner
allows their dog to 'work it out' on it's own in
a dog park, lack of trust is inevitable. That poor
dog is out there all alone with no one to protect
it. Scary stuff! They have to learn pretty quickly
to protect themselves at all costs. They know that
no one will come to save them if something does
happen. These are the same owners who ask me, "But, why doesn't he listen to
me?" Well, it's pretty obvious! That poor dog is
living in a house full of people and still has no
one to trust and believe in. No
one to look up to. No one to make those hard desicions in life. They have no
'pack' to watch out for them. I feel that's very sad. (Also, have you ever
wondered why dogs 'gang up' when at the dog park? They're finally able to have
that pack feeling of safety that they don't get at home.)
My definition of 'well socialized'
is...The dog being able to be with me in what the
dog deems to be scary situations or around other
dogs and not have a panic attack. (Notice I didn't
say off leash with other dogs!)
If you enjoy off-leash dog parks, you don't
want to hear this. But I am going to tell you anyway. If
you choose to become the owner of a Pit Bull, your dog
park days are almost surely over, at least when the dog
is somewhere over 8 months old. Accidental dogfights in
off-leash parks are common, but when a Pit Bull is involved,
they are headlines. Following Pit Bull Golden Rule #1 " NEVER
trust your pit bull not to fight ", you can see
why off-leash parks are a very bad idea for our breed.
As a Pit Bull owner, you have certain responsibilities.
Your responsibility to your dog (to keep him/her out of
trouble), your responsibility to other dog owners (to keep
their dogs safe from your dog), and your responsibility
to your breed (to keep your dog OUT of negative headlines).
Even pit bulls that have never exhibited dog aggression
may fight back if approached by the wrong dog in an aggressive
manner. I will repeat this for you. As the owner of a pit
bull, any fight will always be your fault, no matter who
of Pit Bull Ownership
shalt NEVER trust thy Pit Bull not to fight
shalt contain thy Pit Bull securely when not supervised
by an adult
shalt NEVER leave thy adult Pit Bull alone and unsupervised
with another dog
SHALT attend obedience classes most faithfully with
thy Pit Bull
SHALT keep thy Pit Bull socialized with ALL KINDS
Pit Bull wilt NEVER be allowed off-leash in a public
Pit Bull wilt NEVER be allowed to roam free in thy
SHALT take thy well trained Pit Bull out in public
and show him/her off - on leash for good breed PR!
Pit Bull shalt go forth into the world as an ambassador
of the pit bull breed
THOU ARE RESPONSIBLE
FOR ANY WRONG DONE BY THY DOGS!
For dogs of all
breeds, toys are not "extras", they are essentials.
Chewing on toys allows dogs to relieve stress and
boredom. Dogs who are not given their own toys
to chew on will usually appropriate something of
yours (and it probably will cost more than a whole
BUNCH of dog toys), so save yourself a headache,
and your $110 Nike sneakers, and get your dog some
toys. Which toys should you get for a pit bull?
Well, let's face it. Our pups tend to "kill" toys
much faster than most breeds. They are strong dogs
that require strong toys. I list here several kinds
of dog toys and a few edible chews below with my
personal experiences with them.
1. Kong toys - In my opinion, these
are the best toys on the market for Pit Bulls.
A few Pits will rip them apart, but most just love
them. I get the black ones in the XL size. Kongs
can be stuffed with peanut butter or treats and
a stuffed Kong will often keep a Pit occupied for
at least 2 hours. Be sure to get a real Kong, not
a Rhino toy (which looks like a Kong). The Rhino
is softer rubber and Nala chewed it to bits in
about an hour.
2. Rope tugs/toys/dental ropes - These are good toys, although some are expensive.
The dental ropes can be had at Wal-Mart for about $5.00 and help "floss" the
teeth. You will, however, have little bits of rope all over the house. Should
only be allowed under supervision.
3. Balls -
My favorite kind of balls are the hard plastic
ones called "Best Ball" or "Boomer
Ball". Do not let your Pit chew on them, however,
as they can wear or damage a dog's teeth if gnawed
on. Most Pits will deflate soccer and basket balls,
so get these at thrift stores. Tennis balls, even
the large ones made for dogs don't stand a chance
with an adult Pit Bull.
4. Nylabone Dental Chews - Another good toy for
Pits. Just be sure they are not Gumabones (too
soft) unless you have a young puppy. I get the
largest sizes of most of their dental chews occasionally.
Bone - One of the strongest dog toys made. I recommend
this one, that is, if you can get over the shape........
6. Rawhide - This is one thing my dogs are NOT allowed to
have. If a chunk of rawhide is torn off and swallowed, it will not digest and
can block a dog's intestines. My dogs are allowed to have the chopped rawhide
sticks, and only occasionally since rawhide isn't really that good for them.
It's also an important trigger for conflicts.
7. Bully sticks - This is a smoked, dried bull's penis (really, I swear!).
Since Bully sticks are muscle, they do digest and will not break off in chunks
like rawhide. My dogs love these things. They are a little pricey, but can
be gotten for a decent price at dog shows or pet expos. Always supervise
the dogs if you give these treats to a Pit in a multiple dog household.
8. Ligament chews - These are also OK for Pits to have, but they are crunchy
and will not last as long as a Bully Stick. Again, could cause conflicts.
9. Real Bones - Raw bones are OK for dogs to have, I try to get beef knuckles.
However, in multi-dog households, these bones can also lead to fights, so
be vigilant. I VERY occasionally give the sterilized filled bones from the
pet store (if they have very thick, large ones), but these are somewhat brittle
and can splinter, so I always supervise with those.
NEVER give a dog cooked chicken
or other small cooked bones, as cooked bones can
shatter into sharp shards and perforate various organs
inside the dog, requiring immediate surgery. It is
actually best to avoid cooked bones altogether, stick
with the raw ones.
to Susan Thompson for taking the time to write this
excellent breed information