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Why Do Pit Bulls Have a Bad Reputation?

Updated on August 24, 2017
Fawn Pit Bull Boxer Mix
Fawn Pit Bull Boxer Mix

Are Pit Bulls Responsible for their Reputation?

So who is to blame for the Pit Bull's bad reputation of late? Is it solely due to some ingrained and deeply bred aggression that makes these animals little more than weapons in the hands of babes or idiots? Or, could it be because of the owners they rely on to lead their pack? If something dire isn't done, such as enacting more laws to protect the human race from itself, or even simply exterminating the breed, will this ever change? Read more here to find out the realistic answer to all of those questions

Note: The cute and sad looking pup is my Pit Bull-Boxer Mix Eddie. He is in fact not sad, but preparing, in play of course, to apply a bone crushing bite to my arm. He is the perfect dog for me and my husband as we have no small children anymore, and rarely visitors due to our rural (much loved) lifestyle. However, as much as I LOVE Eddie, and know he is the perfect dog who understands English better than some people, he is also people and other animal aggressive. For this reason, Eddie, and others who have these types of temperaments, should NEVER, I repeat, NEVER, be bred for any reason. To do so would be the most irresponsible thing a Pit Bull owner could do.

Eddie is also an indoor dog, he only goes on a lead for the time it takes him to do his business. He is never allowed to roam at large, and cannot be trusted around neighborhood pets or children for any reason, the Pit Bull in him gives over to his aggressive-territorial nature (that never changed after he was altered) as well as the Boxer in him who are widely known for their "chase" characteristics, that can result in them attacking moving/playing children and/or domesticated animals. If you haven't yet made note, the point of this note, is to remind you to take note of what you have, what you are getting, and what will need to be done, watched out for, and monitored this pets entire life.

Read on for how irresponsible owners may play a part in the issues this breed is currently dealing with.

Pit Bull Behavior
Pit Bull Behavior

The Beginning

In the beginning, Bulldogs and Terriers were cross bred to produce a dog with the tenacity and the physical stamina to be capable of bull baiting, not for dog fighting as some may believe.

The bull baiting dog had the responsibility of grabbing a bull by the nose and holding them down while the bull was being castrated. And just like in this day and age, this dog's job sometimes took on the responsibility of sacrificing its life to save the life of a human, in this instance by preventing the human from being gored by the castrated bull. However, this breed quickly displayed a loyalty and some physical capabilities previously unseen in dogs that had gone before it.

And as always, there was an opportunistic idiot lurking somewhere nearby who decided this was the perfect way to make some quick cash. And just as expected, it was, so there were tons of other associated idiots who thought this was a great idea and ran to support it as quick as they could.

Some may say it is awful judgmental to decide they must be short-sighted idiots since I do not know how hard the 'times' they were living in were, and 'maybe that's all they had' as far as career opportunities. I am as 'live and let die' as just about anyone, and I still think anyone who uses this kind of power over a human or animal is not only a predatory individual, but a complete self-serving idiot.

Brindle Pit Bull
Brindle Pit Bull

Where Things Went Wrong

As if being entirely exploited nearly fresh out of the gate wasn't enough, things really went even more downhill from there. Because of this newly bred dogs incredible desire to please, as well as a its purely amazing physical strength, it quickly became a dog that was pitted against the bull in a fighting match. This is actually where the term "Pit Bull" came from in the first place. Not because they are 'bullheaded' or because they want to fight you in a pit, but back when someone thought watching a 2000 pound bull slam a 70 pound dog around a few times, before it gored it in a mad castrated rage, was a sport.

However, this 'sport' seemed to end two ways, one was where the bull quickly gored the dog to death, the other version ended in owners growing tired of watching this endless, and often sad test of strength and stamina, and either freeing the dog from the pit, or shooting it to save from having to treat its injuries.

With such useless outcomes to these fights, this so called sport was quickly outlawed. But among those who had seen this working dog pitted against the massive bull, there were those opportunist who thought that breeding this dog for fighting against each other would would be a very lucrative substitute for the original Pit Bull baiting game. And thus a gory history and a series of inhumane horrors visited on this breed had begun.

Note. The dog in this picture is in fact NOT attacking anyone. She is playing, so you can see just how difficult it may be to tell the difference between a Pit Bull-at-play, or an angry one. This is my recent rescue Pandora, a brindle Pit Bull mix who until she arrived at my home almost a year ago, had never been inside a home. We picked her up between two of the largest snow storms to hit the East Coast in years. It seems she wasn't "Pit" enough for someone.

Sounds like the stereotypical pot calling the profiling kettles black doesn't it? And now you see how just the idea of a Pit Bull actually perpetuates the exact opposite of what people REALLY need to know about this breed.

Aggressive Pit Bull Behavior
Aggressive Pit Bull Behavior

What's With the Hype?

Lets Talk about Stereotypes

Most people who have heard of Pit Bull attacks or even known of an aggressive Pit Bull in their area may not be aware that this breed was specifically and carefully bred to be friendly, outgoing and never aggressive towards humans. Unfortunately, their breeding can also often result in them being prone to dog aggression. But aggressive to humans? Not naturally.

The biggest problems are actually the humans. Those who have taken an incredibly loyal and protective breed and taught them to attack others, dog or human, are taking advantage of a very deeply ingrained and primitive relationship, one of a dog and its master. Although most dogs aim to please their masters, a Pit Bull most often lives and breathes for it. Indeed most accidents or attacks that involves Pit Bulls are a result of an irresponsible owner.

Since I am not one inclined to be a beater about the bush, let's just get it out there. There is a very open stereotypical idea of a Pit Bull owner. Thugs of all races and class tend to enjoy toting or tugging around a good stout Staffie Pit Bull around with thick tow chains around their necks. Closely, indeed overly, cropped ears are quite common. Pepper that in with a few direct or questionable "Pit Bull Attacks," and you once again have a recipe for disaster on a human, humane, moral and even a constitutional level.

How Are Owners Responsible?

It is in actuality the humans who continue to make a series of hasty or ignorant mistakes that are helping to perpetuate the bad reputation this breed has gained over the last decade or so. So how is this issue created?

  • By pet lovers who adopt or buy a Pit Bull as a puppy or adopt an older dog without being familiar with what it takes to raise this energetic and sometimes stubborn breed.
  • By people who buy or breed this working dog for the purpose of creating a guard dog. Pit Bulls can indeed be taught to be guard dogs, however, their lovable natures may lend itself to them only deciding to attack those who they perceive as dangerous. Others may just be begged for belly rubs.
  • By disreputable individuals that want them for the purpose of dog fighting. Although some Pit Bulls are naturally dog aggressive, others are not, but will do most anything to please their owner, even if it is killing another dog.
  • By owners who may see their family Pit Bull as nothing but a lovable baby that can be trusted with anything in any situation. Dogs are still animals and a Pekingese will also chase and bite a running child. The point is, small children or those who are helpless should not be left with any animal unattended.
  • By irresponsible owners that just don't care and allow their Pit Bull, or worse, Pit Bulls, to roam freely. It is very important to remember that two Pit Bulls that are roaming freely together, regardless of how sensitive and sweet they are inside a home, are still animals roaming and running at large if they are not confined. It one of the pack members decide to attack. Both likely will. Just because your Bully cuddles up at night with your three cats, doesn't mean a neighborhood cat will mean as much to him.

Pit Bull Temperment Scores

Alfons Estelt of the American Temperament Test Society, Inc., stated the following with respect to pit bulls: "The American Pit Bull Terriers participating in our temperament evaluation have thus far shown a passing rate of 95%. The other 121 breeds of dogs in our tests showed the average passing rate of 77%"

How is the Media Responsible?

Remember the 80's? Well, if you weren't around then perhaps you should know that in the mid to late 1980s there were a series of attacks by Doberman Pinchers. For quite a few years after the original attacks there were quick and pointed reports on any dog attacks that involved Dobermans. Unfortunately, not all of them were actually Dobermans. Often they were dogs with similar markings such as Rottweilers. Many times they were just mixed breed dogs that had remotely similar markings and more than once, they were simply just large black dogs.

The point is, because of the hype and the mania associated with those initial Doberman attacks, the media did perpetuate that fear in those who were willing to watch that truly had no idea what an actual Doberman looked like.

This happens daily now and exactly for the same reason. However, with the Pit Bull this is extremely compounded because of the diverse physical aspects of dogs that are considered "Pit Bulls." Everything from Staffordshire Terriers to the breed which is referred to as the American Bully, are quickly labeled in the media as Pit Bulls. Dogs that have not one smidgen of Pit Bull in them, but are clearly mixed breeds of Labradors, Boxers or even Chesapeake Bay retrievers that are all quickly recognized by their respective breeders, but also just as quickly dubbed a Pit Bull when someone is attacked or even just bitten.

Due to some of the irresponsible Pit Bull owners, there are definitely attacks carried out by breeds very strong in a Pit Bull department or two, however, when you think about it, "Pit Bull Attack" sure does draw a lot more attention these days then "Chesapeake Bay Retriever Attacks!" And we all know it sells a lot more newspapers and gets way more hits on a subsequently reporting website.

But remember, twenty years ago, no one knew anything about a Pit Bull attack, but they spent a whole lot of time being scared of the impending 'deadly' Doberman, who has apparently given up attacking folks entirely.

honey pit bull
honey pit bull

Pit Bull Owners

Seriously, Get With It

Although it is easy, and maybe a little bit fun to remind the media how fickle they are when it comes to dog breeds that have attacked, it is still very important to remember that the only true voice this breed has are their human owners. So while it is important to advocate for what you believe in, it is also important to not let ignorance about this breed, or just your pet Pit, continue to perpetuate this ugly trend.

They are all adorable when they are puppies, and of course when you get them as puppies you tend to feel like you know the dog it grows into. It is even likely that you do. However, if you judge the natural instincts of any animal versus how sweet you think YOUR pup is, you are making a dire, and possibly fatal mistake, for your dog, and possibly for any humans nearby.

“Please remember the Do's and Don'ts of Pit Bull Ownership”

  • Don't let your Pit Bull run at large. Ever.
  • Do teach them tricks, lead walking and force them to stop and smell the roses, even if they eat them afterwards.

  • Don't play 'fight' games with them. If you want your Pit Bull to be able to play like a Pit Bull, get another Pit Bull.
  • Do challenge their minds, exerecise them and interact with them as much as possible.

  • Don't leave Pit Bulls alone with small children or animals.
  • Do provide them with toys and treats that stimulate them, such as tug ropes and bully sticks.

  • Don't be ignorant, accidentally or purposesfully, about your Pit Bull's capabilities.
  • Do Spay and Neuter your Pit Bulls.

  • Don't take your grown and never socialized Pit Bull to a dog park.
  • Do build proper confinement areas that make allowances for the 'escape artist' this breed can be.

  • Don't trust your Pit Bull NOT to fight. Ever.
  • Do socialize your dog as much as possible with other people and dogs, most especially when they are young.

Pit Bull Myths Vs Facts

Pit Bull Skull Myth

One myth that has jumped from dog breed to breed involves the size of a pit bull's skull. This myth states that a pit bull's brain can swell to a size that cannot be accommodated by the skull, causing pit bulls to go insane. This myth, which has also been attributed to Dobermans, is completely unfounded and untrue.

Best Treat for Pit Bulls

These are the absolute best treat for Pit Bulls! They are the only treats that will give you a few moments respite. All other rawhides and similarly thick treats will be gone in moments and somewhat dangerous for your dog since they usually gobble them down before they have softened them for digestion enough.

Illegal Dogs?

Should Pit Bulls be Illegal?

Got a bullheaded opinion?

Should pit bulls be illegal?

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How do you feel about pit bulls?

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    • JRLSolutions profile image

      Joy Lynskey 4 years ago from Moneta, Va

      @Lionrhod: Thanks for the comment and linking Lionrhod! I'll check out your lenses too!

    • Lionrhod profile image

      Lionrhod 4 years ago from Orlando, FL

      Great lens! I have three pit mix rescues (Boxer mix, Dane mix and some-kind-of-herd-dog mix.) Like you I'm passionate about educating folks about bullys. Thanks much for your hard work on this lens.

      I'll be linking to you on a lens I'm working on and probably some others!

    • JRLSolutions profile image

      Joy Lynskey 5 years ago from Moneta, Va

      @MeAndMyPitLoki: Thank you for your comment!

    • profile image

      gene-0 lm 5 years ago

      I have a pit bull. I adopted him from a lady that had lost her home. I have allays owned dogs, but was a bit weary because of all the media BS. At the time Kojak was living with them in a small apartment where the dog was not allowed.

      To make a very long story short. I made a point to make sure the dog was well socialized by taking him to dog training, dog park chiropractor and shopping at petsmart. He has been a great dog, friendly and well behave.

      to make a very long story short. I made a point to make sure the dog was well soicalized taking him to dog training and the dog park. He has been a great dog, frendly and well behaved.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      pit bulls are wonderful dogs the owners are to blame when it comes to pittbulls some owners let their guard down wich will happen at some point. their are owners out their that raise their pits for the wrong reasons like for Ex. dog fights and some people don't take being a pit bull owner seriously. i have a brinddle pit and lab mix he is thre sweetist dog their is and is whilling to please me but i take being a pit bull owner seriously and love pits they are my favorite pits and i don't like the comment people post online and i hate irresponsible owners. so for the people out their who are closed mindeed about pits or has never ownd a pit shut the F**ck up you close minded basterds.

    • MeAndMyPitLoki profile image

      MeAndMyPitLoki 5 years ago

      This was a very well written article. I agree with everything you've said. I myself have a pit bull that is the most loving happy puppy, and I've worked (and am working) hard to train him to be a great representative of the pit bull breed. Thank you for your article :]

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      do pit bulls need to be on a lead by law in a park where people take their dogs for a walk

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      pit bulls are not bad dogs its all in the owner...and for all you idiots out there!! i have five full blood ones and they wouldn't hurt a fly....they are amazing dogs if you treat them right... i love pit bulls they are such an amazing dog to have.. i love pit bulls<33

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      pit bulls are not bad dogs its all in the owner...and for all you idiots out there!! i have five full blood ones and they wouldn't hurt a fly....they are amazing dogs if you treat them right... i love pit bulls they are such an amazing dog to have.. i love pit bulls<33

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Kathryn I found a 10 month old pit/ boxer mix alongside a dangerous country road. I tried to find an owner. She had no collar & no chip. She gas stolen everyone's heart. I mean everyone. She likes men women kids all dogs cats . She's the best natured dog I've ever seen. I've never seen a dig who wants to please as much as she dies. She's smart sweet & loving to all. She's mine now. Boy do I feel lucky to find her. She's been spayed & cared for medically. Now she's part if my family. I would have taken her to a rescue group if she showed any sign of meanness. She's so great I could never give her up.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      i personally haven't really spent much time with pit bulls but i have seen pitbulls attacking and i have seen pitbulls loving small children i agree that it is the way they are raised as a kid i was told to stay away from pitbulls(more so if i didn't know them) but i didn't agree with it even from a young age i remember thinking what did they do? its stupid that there has to be such stereotypical shadows over all pit bulls. i think they are beautiful strong dogs with the ability to do serious harm but so can a golden retreiver, or a newfoundlander or any animal.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Very good article. Comprehensive. One thing I wanted to mention is that the tenor of the "Great Pit Bull Debate" has been changing in recent years due to the numerous break throughs in the understanding of genetics. It turns out it does not matter how many centuries an animal is bred from an aggressive line, it only take one or two generations outside a closed gene pool to knock those genes out. Not only that but the environment can actual alter the gene receptors slightly, hence altering genetically influenced behaviors in future generations. Science should never be left out of these debates because science is the only thing that will put an end to using opinions as facts. Check out the work of Dr. Kristopher Irazzary. He is a geneticist who also co-authored the study of Visual Identification in a Shelter Environment with Elizabeth Voith. Enlightening.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Some of this has to do with the show The People's Court. I enjoy watching this show, and have been for about 10 years. All they ever do in the episodes that feature dog attacks all they do is show how "bad", "vicious", and "evil" pitbulls are. They even say that the breed show be banned and eradicated. When a pitbull is in a case it is usually a one sided case against the pitbull.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      pitbulls are absolutely adorable dogs I can't wait to get my own when I move out (when I'm read)

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Another couple of interesting pitbull myths. Pitbulls have "locking jaws" which is also completely unfounded. There is also that myth about pitbulls biting harder than wolves. Tests have actually been done on this one and proven that pitbulls do not in fact bite as hard as wolves. They don't even have the most powerful bite of any domesticated dogs.

    • JRLSolutions profile image

      Joy Lynskey 6 years ago from Moneta, Va

      @anonymous: Thanks so much for your comment pitlove. You are absolutely right and I am glad your experience didn't lead you down a road of hate for the breed. I wish many others were as intelligent and giving as you. You should be a spokesperson for all those who claim that pits are naturally aggressive. They are naturally eager to please, if their owners encourage bad behavior, that is what they will display.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      i was attacked by a pit when i was 2 i had 180 stitches ido not blame the dog one bit but i do blame the owner for how he treated him

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      @JRLSolutions: Excellent response to Wolfepk1!! I saw another one of his comments on a previous lens, funnily enough, he said exactly the same thing about Rachel Ray on his opening statement there too! Obviously he has 1 opinion, a negative one, not based on facts but on bias beliefs he seems hell bent on enforcing on everyone else! Shame. I for one agree with you totally!

    • JRLSolutions profile image

      Joy Lynskey 6 years ago from Moneta, Va

      @WriterJanis2: So glad I could!

    • WriterJanis2 profile image

      WriterJanis2 6 years ago

      Thank you for bringing back so many wonderful memories of a pit bull I used to have.

    • JRLSolutions profile image

      Joy Lynskey 6 years ago from Moneta, Va

      @wolfepk1: I appreciate your comment as I believe it is important for all sides to be heard. However, you indicate that 'People who try to spread misinformation and convince the public these animals are safe' are somehow responsible. If you mean this lens, you apparently didn't read all of it, most especially the 70% of it that warns and explains why this dog isn't for just ANY kind of owner. These dogs are no more 'inherently' dangerous than Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, which by the way are often confused as Pit Bulls, and just as often responsible for attacks on people. (Look it up) I DO agree that people who do not handle their Pit bulls should be subject to fines, but I don't agree with any type of legislation that would ban these animals, or worse yet, begin killing them because the humans who own them aren't aware of their natures and responsible for managing it. It is unfortunate that Rachael Ray has had those issues with her dog, and it is also highly likely that her issues stem from a lack of interaction with her animal. Pit Bulls need an owner, and they need one that does not tolerate any BS from their dog. I have been around large 'dangerous' dogs my entire like that were dubbed 'vicious and often deadly', and have only been bitten by one, a Doberman and not one I owned. I think part of educating people is sharing both sides, however, I do not believe that frenzied freaking out and pushing deathly fear into people is the way to achieve your means. As a matter of fact, history has shown that using scare tactics on ignorant human beings has caused more deaths than any dog ever could, and most of those deaths are actually human beings killing one another. If you want your message taken seriously, you need to address both sides, just as this lens has done. If you want to convince the millions of Pit owners of your message, it would be better accepted, and possibly considered, if you did so with a less biased, and more informed opinion. You are welcome to debate your opinion here, and I mean this with all due respect, but only messages delivered with sincerity and facts will be taken seriously by the powers that be. Messages delivered as if a sermon with plenty of fire and brimstone tactics is only likely to cause you to be dismissed as a fanatic. Again, no insult intended, but think long and hard about the heads in Washington that get things done. Even they are going to need to be approached with all sides vs your opinion, instead of your opinion vs millions of Pit owners who haven't been bitten, attacked, or killed by their animals.

    • JRLSolutions profile image

      Joy Lynskey 6 years ago from Moneta, Va

      @anonymous: Checked it out and a great site you have their too. I plan on adding your links to my other lens about Pit Bulls from Birth to Six weeks. Good work you are doing there and I hope I can help pit bull owners with questions make it to your site.

    • profile image

      wolfepk1 6 years ago

      I see you use Rachel Ray in your defense of these vicious and often deadly animals, lets see her pit has been involved in 5, count them 5 incidents of violence. This is a multi millionaire with trained handlers who still cannot control her Pit Bull. Yet you seem to think the average person can? These dogs are inherently dangerous. Not because they all will go off and attack. rather because when one of them does snap it winds up in a usually serious, life altering injury or death. These animals are not family pets and should be strictly controlled and regulated to prevent the senseless, needless and growing numbers of attacks and deaths they bring about on an unsuspecting public. People who try to spread misinformation and convince the public these animals are safe are just as responsible as the owners or dogs for the attacks and deaths at their hands.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      I am full of Pit Bull Headed opinions, most of them are actually quite friendly though. I run a Pitbull Friends website and Dog Blog you should take the time to go over and check them out sometime.

    • profile image

      RobGrawberger 7 years ago

      I have a pit/rott cross and he is one of the most loving animals I have ever had. When I first got my dog, the family had a litter of six pups. They actually interviewed our family 3 times before they would release him to us... I was appalled at how many people actually wanted these little innocent guys for fighting. Sad but true. Pitts are only as mean as their owners make them. Great Lens with lots of great info.

    • profile image

      JoshK47 7 years ago

      Fantastic lens - I wish more people had the common sense to realize that just because pit bulls are easy to turn into vicious fighting machines due to their musculature, it doesn't mean that they're born that way.

    • RMKK-Marlene profile image

      RMKK-Marlene 7 years ago

      I've never liked Pit Bulls because of their reputations and my experiences with them, (in my neighborhood), as you mentioned. Seems I always have had kids around and wouldn't dream of putting them in harms way. It's hard for me to imagine that they are in any way docile. Nevertheless, you opened my eyes to some new facts I did not know about the breed. Thank you for this informative lens. ~Marlene

    • JRLSolutions profile image

      Joy Lynskey 7 years ago from Moneta, Va

      Thanks so much Darcie for the compliment and the Angel Blessings!

    • darciefrench lm profile image

      darciefrench lm 7 years ago

      Excellent, excellent lens on Pit Bulls- you describe all angles extremely well. Angel Blessed, and to be featured on Blessed Pets, many thanks.

    • WildFacesGallery profile image

      Mona 7 years ago from Iowa

      I love pitbull however when I was a vet tech I came to the conclusion that many of the people who were drawn to this breed were drawn to it for it's dangerous aspects. Powerful dogs need to be handled and raised properly.

      So they will continue to get a bad reputation as long as there are people wanting to own them because of it.


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