Pitbull temperament has been the subject of much debate over the past few years in light of a lot of negative press on pitbull breed dogs. While the media would like to fear bomb you into believing that all pitbulls are unstable killers that can snap at any moment, nothing could be further from the truth. When bred properly, trained using positive reinforcement and in the hands of experienced owners, pitbulls have proven time and time again that they are well mannered, stable, friendly and loyal family companions.
Persons involved in rescue and rehabilitation of dogs are familiar with the term temperament correct when referring to a dog’s behavior. Simply put, a temperament correct dog will show all the positive traits of that particular breed, and not demonstrate any negative characteristics that may be dangerous to owners or other people the dog may encounter. A pitbull is not considered to be fully matured until the age of 3 years old, although by 12 months certain behavioral tendencies become apparent. By the age of 3 all physical and developmental maturation is completed and the temperament can be accurately gauged.
Specific Pitbull Temperament Characteristics
Pitbulls and Other Animals
Dog aggression is common among pitbulls, and is not thought to be a negative strike against their temperament. Levels of dog aggression in pitbulls occurs in varying degrees, and while not all pitbulls are dog aggressive, it is always something a respsonsible owner needs to keep in mind as the owner of a pitbull. Dog aggression can show up at any time during a pit’s lifespan, but is most often developed by one year of age. Early socialization through puppyhood can be helpful in dealing with dog aggression issues, but is never a guarantee that such issues will never arise.
Pitbulls should always, as a precaution, be treated as dog aggressive, and should be trained to tolerate the company of other dogs in whatever capacity the owner sees fit. As a generally dog aggressive breed, owners need to be vigilant to watch their dog for signs of aggression, as they may aggress at any time under certain circumstances. Pitbulls also tend to have a strong prey drive, and can direct their aggression toward other animals, especially small animals like cats and birds.
Pitbulls and People
One of the most common things you will hear pitbull owners say is, “My dog just loves everyone”. This is the hallmark of a temperamentally sound pitbull. They are 100% people oriented dogs, and are extremely friendly toward all people both inside and outside of the home. This outgoing friendliness is the main reason pitbulls make terrible protection dogs – they would much rather show a robber around your house and let them know where you hide your jewlery then they would attack an intruder.
The proper pitbull temperament is a dog that is mentally sound, despite the environment or circumstance. They never direct aggression toward people by growling, snapping, biting or aggressing toward a human. They are easily handled, enjoy touch (even if it is in a stressful situation such as a veterinary office), and maintain good eye contact when interacting with people. A pitbull of sound temperament is easy to approach, and is accepting of new situations, easily adapting to moves, periods of confinement and kennelling.
Overall, a pitbull with correct temperament is an outgoing, and sometimes overwhelmingly friendly dog. They are often recognized as they type of dog that loves everyone, and they do not show any shyness or fear toward people. A temperament correct pitbull will never show signs of human aggression, and they should be even keeled in their temperament in spite of the situation. Pitbulls are terrible guard dogs, and should not be treated or trained as such. While there have been documented accounts of pitbulls coming to the aid of their owners, this only seems to highlight their intelligence and ability to decipher a true threat vs. a perceived one. A pitbull should never be expected to be a dog park kind of dog, as they do not always get along with other dogs. Owners should be aware that their pitbull can develop dog aggression at any time, and should watch for any signs of aggression towards other animal. By recognizing early aggression issues, an owner can take steps to ensure their dog is able to continue tolerating the presence of other animals.