I had a Pit Bull once…

The Pit Bull

We’ve had several PitBulls and have loved every one of them.  I think they are the best dogs and that is a result of having lived with them over a large span of years.  I’ve seen them as puppies, I’ve rescued them as adults, I’ve seen them born and I’ve seen them die.  End to end, start to finish, I’ve loved every Pit Bull I’ve had.  They are the sweetest lapdogs, show ridiculous amounts of loyalty, provide excellent deterrent to burglars, and when the need arises, are simply the best protectors you can find.  It’s cliche these days to say that the news has presented them in a bad light but I’ll say it again.

So what do you get with a Pit Bull?  What can you expect of your Pittie? A faithful companion who is wonderful with kids and adults alike and who will become the a peerless watchdog.

Jake and Rocket - two pitbulls sleepingFirst, lets talk about the name…

You hear them referred to as “Pit Bull”, “PitBull”, “Pibble”, “Pittie”, etc.  To be completely accurate, any of these name are more accurate described as a type of dog rather than a breed.  You refer to Shepherds or Spaniels as a given type of dog, but the specific breed would be a German Shepherd or an Australian Shepherd.

By definition, there are actually two distinct breeds most often referred to as Pit Bulls:

  • American Pit Bull Terrier (you’ll see this as APBT quite often)
  • American Staffordshire Terrier

You’ll also find a couple of breeds that look very similar but aren’t quite the same. These include the Staffordshire Bull Terrier and the Bull Terrier.  Looks similar but not the same.   And we are only talking about pure breeds here – mix up one of the above with a Boxer or perhaps a Lab and the results get confusing very quickly.  The problem in the media is that any time a large aggressive dog does something bad, it is labeled as a Pit Bull and the stories start.

But where does the term Pit Bull come from?  There’s a good bit of discussion on this and nothing is certain but the most likely dates back about a thousand years when they were used as “bull baiters”. This was a time when they were called in to bite a bull on the nose and hold on for dear life until the humans could regain control of the bull.  Whenever humans needed a helping hand with an ornery bull, they would call on the “soon to be named Pit Bull” for help.  As time went by, folks thought this was an interesting sport and ended up pitting riled up bulls against these dogs with bets to see which dog could hold on the longest or even bring the bull down.  Imagine the 60 pound dog besting a 2,000 pound angry bull.  They are tough dogs, to be sure.  More time passed, dog fighting became popular and people started blaming every aggressive event by any dog anywhere on Pit Bulls.  The rest, as they say, is history.

Famous Pit Bulls through history

I love to talk to folks about the history of the Pit Bulls – most don’t realize they have a long and quite distinguished history.

Of particular note, they used to be called “nanny dogs” because they were so very good at…and trusted to…take care of small children!  If you wanted a dog that was good with kids and adults alike, you got yourself a Pit Bull.

Remember the Little Rascals…that silly dog with the circle around it’s eye?  Pit Bull.

Sergeant Stubby, the most decorated dog in the World War I actually captured a German spy and held him until American Soldiers could take him.  Stubby was promoted to Sergeant for this gallantry

Miscellaneous facts about Pit Bulls

  • Their jaws do not actually lock, they are just very strong (second only to the German Shepherd with respect to jaw strength)
  • In temperance tests, where dogs are rated based on how much abuse or irritation they can take before they lash out at a human, Golden Retrievers rank as the most tolerant of all breeds…any guesses as what is the second most tolerant?  Yep, the dreaded Pit Bull.
  • PitBull puppies prefer the company of humans over their parents a full two weeks earlier than any other breed.  Yes, this is a test of some sort…
  • Aggressiveness towards humans was an undesirable fate and was bred out of the Pit Bull. Their history often put them into circumstances where fights had to be broken up by humans – they are bred to allow that without inclination to attack humans.
  • PitBulls are some of the best fence climbers around…yes, that is a competitive event.  Keep this in mind when building your fence.
  • Due to their sensitive natures, many Pit Bulls find themselves employed as Therapy Dogs
  • PitBull puppies are the cutest of all canine breeds.  This is a scientific fact and cannot be disputed.

Is a Pit Bull a good watchdog?

Undoubtedly…yes, a very good watchdog.  First, they are a great deterrent.  Nobody in their right minds and most in their wrong minds are not going to willingly mess with a PitBull.  Just seeing a Pit Bull in a window or playing in the yard is enough to incent even the toughest criminal to move down the street to the next house.  So they look the part but can the play the part as well?

We’ve had quite a few and none were afraid of a tense situation….they leaned into it rather than away from it.  When strangers do come to the door (very sorry Mr. UPS man), they are greeted with either vicious barking or, even worse, that low toned growl.  Once those people are welcomed into the home, however, the PitBulls will be their best friends.  We like to say that as long as they are on the right side of the door, they’re OK.  As long as they are, their biggest concern will be how to get that 65 pound PitBull out of their lap.

Is the Pit Bull a good companion?

Rusty the PitBull with reading glasses.

Again…yes, they are.  As with any dog, how it is raised will go a long way to determining what kind of companion it will be. But, even when raised badly, there are numerous accounts of Pit Bulls becoming the very best of companions.  The stories of the dogs that were caught up in the Michael Vick crap are heartwarming to read.  It’s titled “The Lost Dogs” and can be found on Amazon here.

Pit Bulls are high energy dogs so love a good romp in the yard, a thrown frisbee, or a walk down the road.  They’ll reward you along the way with crazy antics, silly expressions, and lots of love.


The PitBull as a protector

We have never been in a position to need actual protection from any of our PitBulls but I have absolutely zero doubt they would have done so if needed.  When playing with the kids, for example, they usually stood guard and if the laughing or the yelling got a little too intense, they’d let me know I needed to tone it down a bit. Never dangerous to me, but the message was clear.  I cannot imagine what they would have done to anybody that actually may have tried to hurt anybody in the family.  Would I consider them good protectors?  Yes, absolutely.

Do Pit Bulls drool?

Not really…they’re pretty easy in this respect.  One of our PitBulls, Rusty, gets a bit drooly during feeding time but that’s about it. If you find yourself with one that drools, a neckerchief is a great remedy.  All of our dogs wear them, even the ones that don’t drool.  It’s gotten to be a bit of a contest to see who looks the best and has the coolest neckerchief.

Are Pit Bulls good with kids?

Yes, exceptionally good.  We have a 3 year old granddaughter and often have numerous other kids around the house.  The PitBulls love it when company comes over so they can get some extra exercise.  They’ll run the kids ragged…or the other way around sometimes…with nary an aggressive tone or raised hackle to be found.  We’ve not seen a single instance where we thought any of the kids were in danger around any of our PitBulls. I know, I know, I’ve read the papers and seen the news footage…they can “snap” with no warning.  Well, so can people, so can poodles, so can birds.  It’s just not something we spend time worrying about.

Are Pit Bulls good with other dogs?

We have a lot of dogs…we’ve had more in the past (as many as 22 at one time) but we have always had PitBulls mixed into that crowd of dogs.  In all of this time, we’ve only had one that has been aggressive to other dogs and that is only when food is involved.  We’ve found he’s food aggressive, but not aggressive to other dogs as a normal thing.  As long as we keep them separated when feeding, there is no problem.  They sleep piled up on each other, they play in the yard together, everything is fine.

One of my favorite pictures shows two of our PitBulls and our Rottie sleeping together on a couch.  One of those PitBulls is Rusty, the food aggressive one.  Rusty is the one on the right, that’s his sister Rocket in the middle and Cody is on the left. They look pretty comfy and friendly to me. The real problem, as I see it, is where am I supposed to sit?

Pitbulls and Rottweiler together

Another important point about the picture above is that they were sleeping like this. Rusty loves a good photo op so he posed, but they were all sleeping before I took the picture.  Dogs will not sleep when stressed out or nervous.  They only sleep when they are fully content.  This is a picture of three typically very strong Alpha dogs all completely comfortable with each other.  It’s kind of amazing.

So are PitBulls good with other dogs? I’d have to answer that with a bit of caution and say “usually”.  They are known to be aggressive towards other dogs but often that is a result of their upbringing or just plain old abuse.  I would take this on a dog-by-dog basis to make that determination…I would not give a universal thumbs up or thumbs down on this one.

Are Pit Bulls aggressive

I’d say no more than other dogs and, as I’ve said many times now, this depends heavily on how the dog was raised.  There are several types of aggression…towards other dogs, towards humans, around food, when afraid, etc.  Each dog will react differently so it’s hard to nail down any breed and say “yeah, that’s an aggressive breed”.  That being said, however, PitBulls are powerful dogs so even a slight bit of aggression is too much.  We’ve had quite a few PitBulls and since they were all rescues we can guess that they probably had reasons for being aggressive and yet they are not.  I’m not saying a PitBull can’t be aggressive or won’t fight, of course.  It happens and it’s damned scary when it does.  Just that in my experience, for the most part, they are not.

What is the average lifespan of a Pit Bulls

We’ve had several, as I’ve mentioned and in our experience, with good care and a loving home, PitBulls can comfortably make it to about 12 years or so.  After that, we start to see problems and they can go downhill fast.  And there’s nothing worse than seeing a once active PitBull sliding downhill.  Still, as they grow older, they tend to calm down a bit and become more and more loving…they grow old gracefully in this respect.

Are Pit Bulls good dogs?

Yes.  Sorry, not much more to say that that.  Yes, they are good dogs.  Wonderful dogs.

What’s it like living with a Pit Bull?

In our experience, it’s a joy to live with a Pit Bull. Of  all the dog breeds we have had living with us, PitBulls remain our favorite. As long as you remember that you have a big, powerful dog that can be aggressive…and you take steps to minimize that aggression,…you’ll be fine and you’ll have a companion that simply cannot be beat.  Although I have so many dogs, I still envy the new PitBull owner that gets to explore these fascinating breeds for the first time – they are in for some very pleasant surprises.