American Pit Bull Terrier

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Species group:

Other name(s): APBT; Pit; Pit Bull

The basics:
The American Pit Bull Terrier (APBT) is one of the most popular, yet one of the most controversial, dogs. Because this breed was originally developed to fight other dogs in the gambling ring, this dog is powerful, muscular, and somewhat intolerant of other aggressive dogs. Dog-fighting is now banned almost worldwide, but there are still those who have attempted to train these dogs as guard or even attack dogs-- a dangerous practice because of the power of the dog's bite.

A well-trained, well-bred APBT in a single-dog household can be a devoted pet who enjoys regular exercise with its humans. However, the American Pit Bull Terrier isn't right for everyone. If you are not willing or able to train your dog carefully from an early age, or if you have an active household crowded with other dogs, then you may be setting yourself up for a serious problem. You should also be aware that many insurers will drop your homeowner's or rental insurance if you own one of these dogs. Finally, a bored APBT can find a way to make trouble, if only with destructive chewing. If you're too busy to work frequently with your dog, don't choose this breed.

Appearance / health:
The APBT is slightly longer than he is tall; his wedge-shaped head is of medium length, flat, broad, powerful and large; his muzzle is shorter than the length of his skull and is deep and wide and his teeth for a scissors bite. His jaws are powerful and strong, with emphasis on the lower jaw; his cheek muscles are prominent; his nose large. His ears are set high and may be cropped or left natural. His eyes are set low, wide-set, round, and may be any color other than blue. His neck is thick with well-defined muscles and rises from a thick, deep chest. His tail is tapering, should be low-set and short, is never carried over his back, and should never be docked or bobbed. Keep in mind that the American Pit Bull Terrier is often confused with the shorter, stockier, very powerful American Staffordshire Terrier. If you're not sure, ask the breeder.

Though most other Breed Descriptions here in RightPet do not go into such detail, it is worth mentioning that the standards are set more loosely for this breed than for others because the breed was developed for their fighting ability and ability to work, rather than a specific appearance.

The care of the Pit Bulls smooth, short coat is easy; simply brush her with a stiff (not harsh) bristle brush and bathe (or dry shampoo) when needed. A brisk rubdown with a piece of toweling or chamois will make her coat glisten. The APBT breed is an average shedder.

The APBT requires a lot of exercise; they are high energy dogs and, if not allowed to properly burn that energy off, they will find other ways to entertain themselves which typically involve destructive activities. Due to their playful nature, walks, runs, romps with family members in the yard (or even indoors) does a lot to burn off their excess energy.

The APBT is a generally healthy breed, although some possible health issues or complications may include:

  • hip dysplasia
  • hereditary cataracts
  • allergies to grass
  • congenital heart disease.
  • demotectic mange
  • skin acrodermatitis
  • ichthyosis

It is always well within the right of a potential puppy purchaser to ask for the health records and hip certifications of the parent dogs. Any breeder who does not have, or refuses to make available, this information should not be considered a trustworthy, responsible breeder.

Behavior / temperament:
The personality of the APBT is most typically happy, friendly and amusing; they are consistently thrilled to see family, friends and even strangers. She is good-natured with people, obedient, loyal, intelligent, loving and curious. She has a strong desire to please her people and requires a large portion of her time be spent with her human family in order for her to have the maximum good mental health.

Pits are slower to develop maturity in their temperament, sometimes taking 2 – 4 years to fully do so. They have an incredible tolerance of pain, so take care to check her over daily to see if she has any small wounds that need care and watch how hard the kids play with her as she will often not feel them pull her tail or hit her head.

The natural aggressive tendencies of the APBT are toward other dogs and animals, not toward people. However, if you take the time to properly socialize your puppy using firm, but calm, confident, and consistent pack leader skills, their tendencies toward any type of aggression will be substantially less.

The American Pit Bull Terrier is intelligent enough to know when they have a meek owner and she will take advantage of such a person, quickly becoming the ruling force in the household.

Thorough training and intense socialization with people and other dogs and animals, together with proper exercise and a firm but fair owner, will produce a calm, well-behaved APBT. Socialize her very thoroughly when young to curb any natural aggressive tendencies and always keep her under control when other dogs or animals are present. Your objective in training should be to achieve the alpha, or pack leader, position. Without following these recommendations, your chances of achieving a happy, well-adjusted, emotionally healthy APBT will not be high.

The well-bred APBT does very well in a family situation. When properly trained and socialized, she makes a very good dog and a loyal, loving family companion.

If you are thinking about getting an American Pit Bull Terrier puppy, please do all you can to shut down the disreputable breeders of this breed – and there are many – by NOT purchasing from them! Call a few Veterinarian offices and ask if they know any local breeders of the APBT. The Veterinarian isn’t likely to recommend someone to you with dogs he has to muzzle and tie down just to examine. Another great option is to attend a few local dog shows where you will find dogs that have been bred to exemplify the very best of the breed’s characteristics. Ask the owners/handlers about the breeder from which their dogs came; ask if they know of any in the area they are willing to recommend; even ask if they know of any that should be avoided due to poor breeding practices including breeding of mean-natured dogs, involvement in the pit-fighting world, lack of socialization with the puppies, etc.

Take your time in choosing your APBT puppy! Visit as many breeders as you possible can and learn about their foundation and breeding stock. What type of breeding facilities do they have? Will they allow you to see their entire facility? Is there any indication of fight training on their premises? Are they secretive about any portion of their breeding program or their dogs? Are their dogs so separated from one another as to be unable to have interaction with each other? Are any of their dogs badly scarred? Just use your common sense and remember that it is always best to save a little longer, if necessary, in order to pay for a quality dog produced by a loving individual who is concerned about the betterment of the breed – especially in the case of the APBT. Support those APBT breeders who are going above and beyond the call of duty to turn out dogs with excellent character, low prey drive, low natural aggression tendencies, and who take the time to begin the so very vital early socialization processes in their puppies.

Many knowledgeable APBT people advise not owning more than one Pit at a time and never two of the same gender together, especially two females.

The APBT is not considered a good choice for the first time dog owner or for those people who tend to see human characteristics in dogs. The ABPT requires a consistent, experienced dog owner who understands and practices pack dominance.

The APBT is rated high in learning rate, medium in obedience, and medium in problem-solving. Proper training and early, extensive socialization of this breed cannot be emphasized enough. Because of their incredible intelligence, they will get away with whatever they can.

Basic obedience training and thorough socialization in the well-bred APBT will go far toward dispelling the current notion that these dogs are nothing more than blood-thirsty killers.

Training must be consistent and reward based for the APBT and must never involve any physical punishment. A hearty hug and “good boy!” is a great reward when training. The use of a firm voice will create a faster, more appropriate response in them.

The APBT is an excellent candidate for puppy “kindergarten,” followed up by successive obedience training. The APBT is also known to excel in agility training, weight pulling and Schutzhund.

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A superbly loving breed

American Pit Bull Terriers are one of my favorite breeds. Despite lingering prejudice, which is thankfully going away due to advocacy groups, they still find their way into many homes, and for good reason. Pits are one of the friendliest breeds I have ever encountered. They te...

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