The “normal” pit bull
We’ve heard “experts” say that pit bulls are not like other dogs. From the old myths of locking jaws to the breed-confused idea that pit bulls give no warning signs before they bite, pit bulls are too often the victim of misinformation. This is even sometimes true among otherwise dog savvy people.
So what is a “normal pit bull”? I like to call pit bulls “Dog Plus” because they are just a little bit more than your average dog. They exhibit similar behaviors, learn the same way as other breeds and they communicate using the same language as other canines. So what about them is different?
Low arousal threshold:
pit bulls usually have two speeds, “off” and “full on”. The normal pit bull can go from zero to sixty in no time flat. This is not uncommon in terriers. The secret to having dogs who can recover from arousal is very simple -– basic and ongoing obedience training.
Pit bulls tend to be late bloomers. They are highly intelligent and learn quickly, but at a one year old will exhibit the playful nature of a younger pup. Most pit bulls are “puppyish” until 18 month to 3 years.
If you are looking for an exercise buddy, a pit bull may be the one for you. Most pits are brimming with energy. Seniors aside, most pit bulls will do best as part of an active household.
Gameness is something that truly sets pit bulls apart. This piece of pit bull temperament is rooted in an ugly and violent history, but it is something that cannot be ignored. Gameness is the willingness and ability for a pit bull to keep going (fighting) when other dogs will pack it in and go home. It is a determination to “play through the pain”. Pit bulls were created to be game dogs. You cannot take the game out of the dog. At some level, it exists in all pit bulls.
Pit bulls are tenacious and can excel at many things. This tenacity, combined with their athleticism and willingness to please their handlers make pits excellent competitors in agility, obedience, and weight-pull competition. They are also known to be wonderful therapy and service dogs. There are exceptional search and rescue bullies. And of course, they are amazing companion dogs.
This is another aspect of being a terrier. Most pit bulls have a very strong prey drive. They have been known to escape secure yards at the sight of cats and other small animals. They are often squirrel crazy. While there are pit bulls who are happy to share their lives with small animals, most consider them prey.
Highly people friendly:
In the pit bulls world, we like to joke about the “technical term” for this -– the Wiggle Butt. It is the single most important component in pit bull temperament. The sight of a human being should bring about such happiness, that the tail wags the dog. Pit bulls make lousy guard dogs for this reason. When evaluating pit bulls for adoptability, this is the deal breaker. Any pit bull who shows aggression towards people should not be adopted out. It goes against everything pit bulls were created to be. It is a part of the code of ethics of pit bull rescue that pits who are human aggressive should be humanely euthanized. Please note, that the next topic, dog aggression is completely different from human aggression.
All dogs have characteristics that have been bred into them for many years. Just like it is normal for a beagle to track and a Labrador to want to retrieve, it is normal for a pit bull to exhibit at least some degree of dog aggression. Some may exhibit these tendencies openly toward any dog they meet, while others will just not back down when another dog challenges them in some way. The majority of pit bulls will be okay with some dogs but not others. Some can live with another pit bull of the opposite sex, but they must always be crated or separated when they are not supervised. In the right hands, many pit bulls can be social in controlled environments. This is probably 80% of the pit population at varying degrees. About 10% of pit bulls are highly dog aggressive but can live with experienced owners as only dogs. The last 10% splits into two extremes. 5% of pit bulls are so dog aggressive that they are unsafe for adoption and must be euthanized. 5% of pit bulls are highly dog social and are unlikely to ever show aggression towards another dog. Having said that, a key in pit bull ownership is NEVER TRUST YOUR PIT BULL NOT TO FIGHT. Yes, your highly social pit bull is great with other dogs -– until the day that he is not. You can not predict when that day will come.
Owners, please love and respect your dogs for what they are. It’s unfair to try and make them into something they are not.
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