As one of the most misunderstood dogs of our time, it’s a little heart-breaking to see these loyal canines get a bad name from poor owners. Yet, Pitbulls have been able to stand the test of time- their strong stance and wrinkly faces have left a pawprint on our hearts for hundreds of years and remain one of the most popular breeds in America, to date.
A History Of The Pitbulls
Unfortunately, the Pitbull breed types were initially used as a means of blood sport, taking part in a cruel “game” known as Bull and Bear Baiting. This is where the name of the Pitbull initially comes from, as the games took part in a pit, where onlookers would watch as the dog tired out their contestant to the point of absolute exhaustion.
Thankfully, in 1835, the Cruelty to Animals Act passed and prohibited these practices. Of course, this then led to a loophole- ratting. The Pitbulls were then made to work against each other in a race against the clock, to see whose Pitbull could kill the most rats in a set amount of time. The dogs were also taught to attack each other, which brought about another issue for these cruel owners: they now needed a dog with more speed and agility.
Eventually, the Pitbulls were crossed with terriers, who were more agile and faster at catching their prey. Thus, the Pitbull Terrier was bred. This new breed was also taught to be gentler toward their masters, as the game keeper needed to be able to fetch their pets without fear of being harmed, themselves. A friendly characteristic that stays with them to this day.
As such, the Pitbull has an ability to work with hunters, farmers and family members in equal measure. Their obedience made them great companions for many a sport- and that ability to stand by their masters side has not gone unnoticed, even today. They also began to travel the globe along with their owners, meaning that more breed types began to appear as the dogs evolved to meet their new environments, whilst being bred to meet new needs.
Characteristics Of Pitbulls
Pitbulls are known for being intelligent, easy to care for and very loving toward their owners. They can, however, come with a very high prey drive, which is a result of their breeding. Naturally, this means that they are the result of their owners- the more socialization a Pitbull receives at a young age, and the more training they receive as they grow older, the better behaved the Pitbull becomes.
All Pitbulls breed types are stocky, strong and very stubborn! They require a lot of direction, although their intelligence makes them easy to train. They also have wide-set eyes and distinctive, muscular features, with high cheekbones and a shorter, stubby nose. Being short-haired, they are easy to groom and require very little maintenance, in terms of their looks.
Should you decide to become a parent to a Pitbull, you might notice that your new pet will face a lot of stigma, thanks to the background of the Pitbull. Don’t let this dissuade you- a Pitbull makes for an engaging, loving and very sweet fur baby, as long as they are raised well. That said, the desire to hunt will stay with them, for as long as they live- after all, it’s one of the reasons they make for such amazing guard dogs!
Pitbulls tend to have a “bouncy” gait, as their wide-set legs and muscular build make for powerful dogs. This can also lead to some health problems, especially if the dog has been bought from a disreputable source. To avoid issues with the hips and various joints, try to adopt or buy from a breeder who has done the appropriate testing, to ensure a long, happy and healthy life with your new Pitbull.
Generally, Pitbulls are best suited to those who are confident with dogs and are more attuned to the high needs that come with a standard Pitbull. That said, with a little help and a firm Alpha position, you shouldn’t have too many issues when it comes to training your new canine companion.
Type of Pitbulls
Staffordshire Pitbull Terrier
Renowned for their kind natures, they were once referred to as “Nanny Dogs”, as they were so gentle around children and great in family environments. The main difference that sets the apart from other Pitbulls is that their bloodline includes a little Collie, which softens their appearance and gives them a slightly lazier nature, when compared to their cousins.
Despite their general eagerness to please, Staffies (as they are affectionately known) need a strong hand and to be shown who the Alpha of the pack is, with confidence. Their strong personalities are still malleable to the way they are raised. Thus, an aggressive owner will create an aggressive Staffie, while a friendly-but-firm owner will have a dog that fits within the household perfectly.
Staffordshire Pitbull Terrier facts:
- They are a great option for first-time owners, as they are so eager to please and people-oriented
- They are very intelligent dogs and therefore easy to train
- They are extremely playful and require lots of attention
- They suffer with separation anxiety as they long to be near their owners, full-time.
- They can become destructive when bored
American Pitbull Terrier
The American Pitbull is known for it’s fearlessness yet fairly dozy temperament. Banned in the UK, thanks to the aforementioned dog-fighting practices, this breed can still remain a friendly family pet, if cared for properly. They have a high prey drive which needs to be weaned out through effective training- but they are very caring and loving toward children.
They are a very energetic breed and need lots of exercise and mental stimulation to keep them from acting out- in this case, that can be via showing aggression toward other dogs. However, an American Pitbull Terrier that has been well cared-for will be unlikely to show this. Put simply, the more active they are, the better pets they become. This also means that those with commitments that take up a lot of the owners time, will probably not be suited to owning an American Pitbull.
American Pitbull Terrier facts:
- Can weigh up to 90lbs
- They are fearless and protective
- Banned in the UK and New Zealand
- The US Army used them as mascots
- Used in multiple PR campaigns as they were known as the American Family Dog.
Taller and more agile than their English cousins, the American Bulldog is intelligent, loyal and devoted to their family. They can, however, be very strong-minded and therefore aren’t the best choice for first time owners. They are very boisterous but respond very well to the right training. With a good amount of exercise and a firm hand, when it comes to obedience, these can be ideal family dogs.
They are excellent watchdogs as they are naturally very loyal and can be amazing with children. Unfortunately, the are known for having frequent health issues, which can easily run up vet bills. The best way to avoid this is by going to a reputable breeder, who has been able to “breed out” as many of the typical issues as possible.
American Bulldog facts
- They thrive on social interaction, training and exercise
- Require a steady and firm hand with obedience training
- Not ideal for first-time dog owners
- Can have high vet bills
- They have an extremely high prey drive
American Staffordshire Terrier
Acting somewhat as a cross between the American Bulldog and a Staffie, the American Staffordshire Terrier has a little more height and agility than the average Staffie, while remaining stocky and people-oriented. This is a breed that thrives on being given a specific job and, as with all Pitbulls, requires lots of training- particularly in obedience- in order to feel fulfilled.
They are generally a low-maintenance breed, although they will still require a lot of exercise (and love!). They are a very confident breed, which can sometimes get a little out of control, if training isn’t utilized. That said, they make for great companions and retain the eager-to-please quality that makes them such a great addition to any home.
American Staffordshire Terrier facts
- They are the heaviest breed of the ones mentioned
- They love to dig and chew
- They make for excellent guardians
- They should always be bought from reputable breeders, as pedigrees can have many issues with their health
- Unlike other Pitbull types, they commonly have their ears erect, and pulled slightly back.