There are way too many Pit Bulls that end up in shelters because of ill-prepared and careless owners not knowing what to do once their cute little Pit Bull puppy grows up and starts asserting his personality. Properly trained, exercised and socialized Pit Bulls are wonderful family pets, but there are certain breed characteristics that Pit Bulls often possess which can make them a troublesome breed to deal with for an inexperienced or inattentive owner. You can never do too much research when considering raising a Pit Bull, or any bully breed dog for that manner. While this article is a good place to start, you will want to explore other resources and talk to other owners about their experiences before making any sort of commitment you may not be able to keep.
Me, Me, Me
Pit Bulls require attention, lots of it, and they have ways of showing you pretty quickly and efficiently if they feel as though they are not getting adequate amounts of it – i.e. ripping apart an entire bean bag chair covering the back yard in small white beans, your neighbors will think it snowed even though you live in San Diego. If your job or other committments require you to be gone for 8-10 hours out of the day, a Pit Bull not the dog for you, and you should possibly reconsider getting any type of dog all together. The same holds true if you travel often, your pet will not want to be boarded every other week while you go out of town. It sounds so simple, but making sure you will have enough time to devote to your new pet is essential. You can plan on devoting at least 1-2 hours per day doing activities directly related to your dog such as exercising, feeding, bathing, training and bonding. In return you will have a happy, goofy pet that will make you laugh and show you more love than you thought was possible from a four-legged rascal.
Why Are There Bite Marks On My…
Pits like to chew. They will chew everything and anything, especially during their puppy and adolescent phases. A Pit Bull does not reach full maturity until 3 years of age, so you can expect any pit that is younger than 3 to exhibit this crazy chewing behavior. There are two ways you can go about dealing with this – adopt an older dog that has already grown out of the destructive chewing phase of his life, or make sure your dog has access to ways to burn off this energy – whether it be playing tug of war or hanging from an old tire in the backyard.
Left, Left, Left, Right, Left
Most Pit Bulls are ok with moderate amounts of exercise and even do great in smaller, apartment-style living, but there are others out there that require vigorous amounts of exercise to stay balanced. This can be an instance where adopting a shelter or rescue dog can be great – you can find a dog that meets your exercise wants/needs because oftentimes these dogs are older and have established habits that are known to the agency coordinating the adoption process. This way you can find the perfect marathon-running bully to accompany you on your 10 mile jogs, or pick the perfect little couch potato to go on leisurely walks through the neighborhood with.
Putting Your Foot Down
Assertiveness is a must if you want to live with a happy Pit Bull. This is the type of dog that needs to know his place in the home and does not do well with an owner not willing to make and enforce the rules. This is not a “hands-off” breed of dog, they must be taught how to act around other people and animals. One of the many wonderful things about Pit Bulls is that they are very intelligent animals that are eager to please their owners. They respond very well to positive reinforcement and do not need to be corrected too many times before changing their behavior; this also makes them one of the easier breeds to potty train.
Bye-Bye Dog Park
Dog-aggression is common in Pit Bulls. Please do not get a Pit Bull if you are not prepared to possibly deal with any issues related to aggression toward other dogs and small animals. Also keep in mind dog aggression and human aggression are two completely separate traits. Due to a Pit Bulls’ past in bull baiting and (unfortunately) dog fighting they were bred to harbor aggressive tendencies toward other animals in order to effectively perform these tasks. On the flip side, human aggression was, at the same time, selectively bred out of these dogs due to the need of the handlers to retrieve the dogs at the end of their duty.
Aggressiveness toward other animals is greatly helped by early socialization with other animals, but this is still no guarantee that your dog will grow up adoring your cat, Fluffy. Do not expect to be able to take your pitty to off-leash dog parks and letting him romp around with your neighbors Golden Retrievers and Chihuahuas, because odds are this is not going to be the case. Instead, many bully owners choose to get together in small groups to have their dogs interact in a controlled environment with other experienced owners, this way any signs of aggression can be halted immediately and correction can be given. Dogs of the same sex typically exhibit more aggression toward one another than those of opposite sexes, and the same holds true for altered vs. unaltered dogs – Pit Bulls that have been spayed or neutered are much more less likely to be aggressive than those which are intact. These are important facts to keep in mind when considering a multiple dog household.
Houdini must have been a Pit Bull in his previous life, because these dogs know how to escape. I have heard stories of these dogs scaling 10 foot fences, squirming through 6 inch wide fence slats and jumping on this, that and the other thing just to get on a roof and hide. I personally recommend never leaving your dog outside unattended as you have no control over what goes on in your yard while you are gone – kids could be taunting your dog, the could get taken or they could be developing bad habits, such as digging, which is very hard to correct when you are not around; correction is never as effective after the fact. Not to mention the fact that Pit Bulls are not built to be outside, they have short coats which do not provide much warmth and they crave human companionship by their nature. If there are times when you must leave your dog outside, make sure the place is secure and two-fold protection is your best bet – a topped kennel run with a fenced yard offers the best protection. If you are just looking for a dog to sit outside and look scary to ward off bandits, you should get a burglar alarm, not a Pit Bull.
Does Your Place Accept Pit Bulls?
Consider the housing implications for Pit Bull owners. Most landlords will not rent to someone that owns a Pit Bull because of their concerns for increased liability and/or higher insurance premiums, and if you own your home it may be difficult to get a home owner’s policy if there is a Pit Bull on the property. I will not get into how utterly absurd all of this is, and it is truly a shame that someone has to even consider these things when thinking about getting this wonderful breed, but for right now, this is the reality we find ourselves in. There are already a few places in the US where Pit Bull ownership is illegal and in other places there are regulations set up governing how your dog is walked (leash length, muzzle requirement), where they are welcome and what types of enclosures they may be kept in.
Keep Your Head Up
Be prepared to be scrutinized. You may not want to be a breed ambassador or Pit Bull expert, but I guarantee you will become one if you choose this type of dog as a pet. People will stop you on the street and ask you what kind of dog Dozer is, and once you tell them he is a Pit Bull some people will grab up their children and run the other way, while others will immediately bombard you with exaggerated tales of horror they heard on the nightly news. None of this is easy to deal with, but with a little wit and a positive attitude it is possible to change peoples opinions. There is no better positive press than showing off your well-behaved Pit Bull to everyone you know and encounter.
You have to personally evaluate whether or not some of the sacrifices listed above are worth it for you, I can say with 100% certainty that in my case they are. There is no other breed of dog out there that loves their people the way these dogs do; you can almost feel the love in their eyes when they are sitting and looking up at you. Their intelligence and exuberance for life is also unmatched by most other breeds I have known. These dogs are true companions, while they would probably show a robber your most prized possessions for the taking in your absence, they would also defend you the only way they knew how if you were in true danger. I can not possibly explain to you how excellent my dogs are at judging character, I feel like oftentimes they have someone figured out before we even have a chance to exchange pleasantries.
Every dog is different of course, and Pit Bulls are no exception to this rule. We have been able to have a multiple bully house for years now without any inter-family quarrels, but it will be a cold day in hell when I take my dogs to an off-leash park to have their run of this place. This is not to say my dogs are not well-socialized, in fact, they are and get along with many different types of dogs (all hate cats though), but there is a certain stigma at these places for Pit Bull owners; an idea that no matter who actually started the fight it is always the bully that is at fault. This, to me, is just a matter of responsible ownership, a smart owner will avoid situations like this so as to not bring any unwanted negative attention to their dog and the breed in general.
There are many resources out there dedicated to this very same topic, and while I do not claim for this article to be an exhaustive evaluation of what you can expect as a Pit Bull owner, it is a good place to start. There is no such thing as doing too much reading or being too prepared when thinking about bringing a new dog into your home. So please continue reading and talking to other owners; get involved with a rescue organization if possible! None of the things mentioned above are anything that can not be remedied with a little common sense, a healthy dose of training and a lot of love. Good luck finding your new best friend:)