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Do Pit Bulls Make Good Family Pets?

Updated on January 26, 2014

HERE'S WHAT I THINK

Do Pit Bulls Make Good Family Pets?

I had my first experience with a pit bull about seven years ago. My husband had a beautiful red nosed male when I met him. The first question I asked is, "What kind of dog is he?" To which he replied, "He's a pit bull." I had a puzzled look on my face when I looked at the happy, tail wagging dog in front of me. This couldn't be the same breed that everyone said was so vicious. The dog in front of me didn't look like he'd hurt a fly. I bent over to pet him and he licked my face, wagging his tail so hard that it looked like his whole body was wagging. Scooby, the pit bull, changed my views on the American Pit Bull Terrier breed as a whole. From that day on I did my best to find out everything I could on this wonderful, loyal breed.

What's Your Opinion on the Subject?

Do Pit Bulls Make Good Family Pets?

A few positive facts on Pit Bulls

1. Pit Bulls are commonly used as therapy dogs. Whether they are visiting a senior care facility or helping someone recover from an emotional accident, Pit Bulls are making a mark as outstanding therapy dogs.

2. Pit Bulls are used in Search and Rescue work. One example of well known SAR Pit Bulls is Kris Crawford and her dogs. Kris and her dogs have helped save the lives of many people during their efforts. http://www.ForPitsSake.org

3. Pit Bulls serve as narcotic and bomb sniffing dogs. One Pit Bull, Popsicle (named that because he was found in an old freezer) has the largest recorded single drug find in Texas history. Read more about Popsicle here. Including how he found over 3,000 lbs of cocaine in Hildago, Texas.

4. Pit Bulls are great with kids. They weren't referred to as the "nanny's dog" for nothing that's for sure.

5. Pit Bulls are not human aggressive. The American Pit Bull Terrier as a breed is not human aggressive. In fact, quite the opposite is true of the breed. They are gentle and loving dogs. Like any dog individuals can be unsound and have behavior problems.

6. The Pit Bull was so popular in the early 1900s they were our mascot not only in World War One, but World War Two as well. They were featured on recruiting and propaganda posters during this time period.

7. Sgt. Stubby. A Pit Bull war hero. Stubby was wounded in action twice, he saved his entire platoon by warning them of a poison gas attack and he single-handedly captured a German spy.

8. Pete the Pup on the original Little Rascals was a Pit Bull.

9. Pit Bulls score an 83.4% passing rate with the American Temperament Test Society. That's better than the popular Border Collie (a breed who scores 79.6%). View the ATTS stats here.

10. They are dogs not killing machines.

Some Adorable Pitties and Their Families

Click thumbnail to view full-size

Pit Bull Myths

"Pit Bulls have Locking Jaws"

The jaws on a pit bull function exactly the same as any other breed of dog. The few studies which have been conducted of the structure of the skulls, mandibles, and teeth of Pit Bulls show that, in proportion to their size, their jaw structure and thus its inferred functional morphology, is no different than that of any [other] breed of dog. There is absolutely not evidence for the existence of any kind of ’locking mechanism’ unique to the structure of the jaw and/or teeth of the American Pit Bull Terrier, says Dr. I. Lerh Brisbin of the University of Georgia (from the ADBA booklet, “Discover the American Pit Bull Terrier.)

“Pit Bulls have more bite pressure per square inch (PSI) than any other breed.”

This statement is completely false. Studies comparing the bite pressure of different breeds of dogs have shown that the pressure PSI (per square inch) for the pit bull is considerably lower than most wild estimates claimed. Recently, Dr. Brady Barr of National Geographic conducted a study between a Pit Bull, a Rottweiler, and a German Shepherd Dog. The Pit Bull had the lowest PSI of the three! In all actuality the Rottweiler has the highest PSI of any canine on record.

“Pit Bulls attack more people than any other breed.”

Bite statistics are difficult to obtain accurately. Dogs that are referred to as “pit bulls” in statistical reports actually are a variety of breeds and mixes all lumped together under the “pit bull” heading. Also, many people have a difficult time properly identifying a true Pit Bull, so added to the statistics are those dogs that have been misidentified. Considering these factors, the actual number of attacks attributable to American Pit Bull Terriers is considerably lower than represented. Also important to understand is the extreme popularity of the Pit Bull and pit bull-type breeds. By some estimates, numbers-wise they are the most popular of all dog breeds. It is only logical to assume that the breed with the higher number of individual dogs would be represented with a higher number of bites. Viewing older statistical reports for the Center of Disease Control, one will see that trends in breed popularity reflect in the number of bites attributed to a specific breed during a specific period of time.

"Dogs that are aggressive towards other dogs are aggressive towards people."

Human aggression in dogs is entirely different than aggression directed at other animals. Inter-dog aggression is a normal trait of the breed as it is in many terrier breeds, among others). Historically, humans were always in the pit, handling fighting dogs closely, while the animals were in full fight drive. A dog that was a danger to people and prone to biting was not feasible, and therefore carefully selected against.

“Pit Bulls ‘turn’ on their owners.”

Dogs, as a species, do not perform behaviors “just because”. There are always reasons for behavior, and when aggression becomes a problem the reasons can be such things as improper handling, lack of socialization or training, a misreading of dog behavior by the owner, or, rarely, disease. Aggression, when it presents in pet dogs, follows specific patterns. First occur warning signs, then more warning signs, and finally, when those signs are continually ignored or misinterpreted, the dog resorts to using its teeth. When an owner is startled by a sudden, aggressive outburst, it is because they have been unaware of problems that were brewing. This is true of all dogs, not just Pit Bulls. Pit Bulls, indeed no dogs, “turn” on their owners.

Bite Force Competition between Pit Bull, GSD, and Rottweiler

Books on APBT's

A few books on American Pit Bull Terriers. I own both, American Pit Bull Terrier Handbook (Barron's Pet Handbooks) and A New Owner's Guide to the American Pit Bull Terriers (JG Dog). I would highly recommend the books on this list to anyone that is considering purchasing or rescuing an APBT.

Famous Pit Bull Terriers

And Celebrities With Their Pit Bulls

Here is a list of famous pit bulls throughout history and many Celebrities who have chosen the American Pit Bull as their pet of choice.

Petey from "The Little Rascals" was an American Pit Bull Terrier.

Sgt. Stubby, Hero of World War I

Stubby with General John J. Pershing in 1921, after World War I.

Stubby, a Pit Bull Terrier mix, was the most decorated war dog in U.S. history. He was picked up as a stray in 1917, by Private J. Robert Conroy when the homeless dog appeared at the training camp of the 102nd Infantry at Yale University. Conroy and buddies kept Stubby with them through all their drills and training and, in July 1917, when it came time to ship out for France, they smuggled Stubby aboard ship.

After further training, Stubby went with the 102nd Infantry to the front and was in the trenches 5 February 1918. He participated in 17 engagements in four World War I offensives (Aisne-Marne, Champagne-Marne, St. Mihiel, and Meuse Argonne).

There are many stories of heroic deeds by Stubby as well as anecdotes like his ability to salute by putting one paw over his eye. Most of these cannot be confirmed, but nonetheless Stubby became a folk hero, in demand for parades, war bond rallies, hospital visits, and press interviews. Stubby was rewarded for his service with the NCO rank of Sergeant and multiple medals.

Stubby died in 1926, and his remains were preserved with technical assistance from the Smithsonian Institution. Stubby, his medals and personal effects were donated to the Smithsonian by Conroy and can still be seen there.

Cheyenne, Tahoe, and Dakota

Dakota has been deployed on over 200 search missions including such high profile searches as the Laci Peterson search effort and the search for American heroes--Dakota, and her handler/trainer Kristine, were hand-picked by FEMA and NASA for the elite team tasked to search for the remains of the seven astronauts that lost their lives in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster. Dakota has received numerous awards for her work including a Certificate of Appreciation from the FBI and a letter from the Governor of California stating that she 'demonstrates the true strength of California and represents the best of the Golden State'.

Celebrities and Their Pit Bulls

Helen Keller with her Pit Bull

Rachel Bilson with her pit bull Penny Lane

Rachel Ray and her pit bull Isaboo

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