All About: Pit Bulls


What is a Pit Bull? Unfortunately, there really isn’t a firm definition, and many agree that “Pit Bull” is the umbrella term for several bully breeds. The name can be given to Staffordshire Terriers and Bull Terriers, as well as any mutt that has a square-shaped head. Even though it is hard to pinpoint exactly what a Pit Bull is, we know exactly why they are called “Pits.” Bully breeds were mixed together to create the ideal fighting dog with extreme strength and unwavering determination. And, tragically, that’s how many people still view Pit Bulls. Since Pit Bulls aren’t actually a breed, claiming that a dog attack was instigated by a “Pit Bull” is misleading and can contribute to panic. They are mixed breeds, designated mostly by their large heads and body shape. They can be mixed with the lovable Labrador and still be labeled as Pits. Many people agree that past prejudices should not influence how we view other humans, but why is it okay when it comes to dogs?  More and more people are voicing their outrage over Breed-Specific Legislation (BSL) that bans bully breeds in counties, cities, and housing areas. Dogs labeled as “Pit Bulls” are the most likely to be put down in shelters and the least likely to be adopted after six months of age. Instead of accepting the labels of society, let’s take a closer look at possibly the most misunderstood dog in history.

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While we cannot specifically pinpoint all of the characteristics that make a Pit Bull, we can determine the guidelines used by most shelters. As you will see, these traits vary widely as they do for most mutts. Pit Bulls weigh between 25 and 80 pounds, usually depending on the sex of the dog and muscle mass. It is less common today, but many Pit Bulls have been characterized by cropped ears and docked tails. When they have not been altered, ears are floppy and tails are strong. The fur is usually short, making these dogs more comfortable in warmer climates. They can come in a variety of colors including white, black, brown, brindle, tan (red-nose), and gray (blue-nose). They can be short and stocky or taller and leaner, but generally they have barrel chests and large heads. Their jaws (that do NOT lock) are strong and ideal for playing tug-o-war or chewing on a Nylabone. They are considered high-energy dogs who love long walks. Pit Bulls are also characterized as intelligent and emotionally receptive to humans. For these reasons, they are commonly trained to be service dogs and emotional support animals. Like many Terriers, Pit Bulls generally get along better with humans than other dogs; however, all dogs will behave differently based on socialization and training. They are not considered the most stubborn of dogs, so they are relatively easy to train. Be extra aware of your dog’s behavior as they have a very high tolerance for pain. While protective, they are strongly devoted and enjoy pleasing their owners. With proper training, Pit Bulls are loyal, loving dogs that truly do not deserve such a bad rap.

Is a Pit Bull the right dog for you? Be prepared for lots of walks, cuddles, and protecting your decision and right to be a pet parent. Not everyone will be understanding and supportive. If you recognize that the reputation is not justified, your dog can be an example of a happy, healthy doggy citizen. Getting these dogs out of the shelters and off of the streets will help erase the stigma and reshape our view of what being a Pit Bull really means. Shelters and rescue organization will gladly help you find a Pit Bull dog that is right for your home. Stay up-to-date on legislation and continue to educate yourself and others. The only way to make a change in our world is to take action, and this is a change to save lives.

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