They come from a tragic and violent past of dog-fighting. This history has given the American Pit Bull Terrier, recognized by the American Kennel Club as the American Staffordshire Terrier, the reputation of a tough and aggressive dog that should be feared. In many places within the United States and Europe, breed-specific legislation has made it illegal to own pit bulls. Much of the breed's reputation is based in myth, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), but potential owners should research the breed's behavior before deciding if a pit bull is the right pet for them.
Pit bulls are not aggressive by default. They are no longer bred to fight, and even fighting lines were bred to be tolerant and friendly with humans. Unless they are abused or taught to be aggressive, pit bulls are by nature affectionate toward their family and friendly to strangers. They can have a genetic tendency to show aggression toward other dogs. They can also become aggressive when they are provoked, and their genetic lack of bite inhibition can lead to more serious injury than other breeds. Because of this, it is essential for pit bull owners to socialize their dogs and teach them to respond to new or potentially frightening situations in positive ways.
On the opposite end of the scale is a pit bull's natural desire for affection. The breed enjoys being part of a family and want to be involved in family activities. In the past they were known as "nursemaids" dogs, notes the ASPCA, because of their patience and tolerance for children. A well-trained and socialized pit bull can make an ideal family pet for families with children. In addition, pit bulls that have been socialized are friendly with strangers when their owners are present.
In general, pit bulls are loyal to their human families. They are friendly with strangers but eager to protect their families and their territories if they feel threatened. Because of this, pit bulls are capable guard dogs. They are fearless and won't back down if they feel that they or their families are in danger. Some pit bulls are willing to fight to the death and will tolerate injury and pain to protect their families.
Pit bulls are energetic dogs that require frequent and strenuous exercise, including at least two 20- to 30-minute walks every day. You can also take your dog jogging or hiking with you, and some pit bulls may enjoy swimming. While they are playful and enjoy a game of fetch or tug-of-war, pit bulls that have too much energy can become destructive. They can develop habits such as destructive chewing, digging or whining and barking for attention. Even a well-trained pit bull will get into trouble if it is bored.
Despite a stubborn streak, pit bulls are eager to please and are obedient dogs. They respond well to positive reinforcement training techniques and are intelligent enough to learn commands quickly. They enjoy learning and will learn basic obedience commands and tricks with ease. Pit bulls excel at canine sports such as weight pull or disc dog. Avoid using harsh training techniques and punishments. These can lead to resentment, fear, confusion and aggression. Reward your pit bull for obeying its rules and your commands, and it will respond eagerly.