The Truth About Pit Bulls

The first pit bull I met was at a dog show. He was called Petey, named after the dog from the The Little Rascals. Petey was extremely sweet and wanted to sit in everyone’s lap. He was not much of a fighting dog to say the least.

Sadly many people think of these dogs as dangerous, vicious animals bred only for fighting. Unfortunately there are still people who associate themselves with this horrific sport. One famous case was that of football player, Michael Vick.

He was found guilty of dog fighting several years ago. Disgusting as that is, it does bring these crimes into the public eye and many illegal fighting rings continue to be exposed and the violators arrested.

Many pit bulls end up in shelters discarded by people who not longer have a use for them. At Peaceable Kingdom Shelter where I volunteer, sadly we receive more pit bulls than we can house. It is not unusual for a dog to be tied up outside in the middle of the night and left for a volunteer to find in the early morning. One dog was found abandoned in the nearby park. She had recently had puppies, where those pups ended up I hate to guess. Both of these dogs were as sweet as could be. The good news is, these two dog were quickly adopted. Most are not that lucky.

But what is a pit bull? No, not the bald-headed American rapper from Miami, Armando Christian Pérez, otherwise known by his stage name “Pitbull”. The official name of the canine breed according to The American Kennel Club is the American Staffordshire Terrier. The “Am-Staff,” as show people call them, was accepted into the AKC in 1936.

The history of the breed begins in the early 1800’s. The bull dog was bred with great care in England for the purpose of baiting bulls. It is later believed that these dogs were then cross bred with the more agile Black and Tan Terrier and the White English Terrier to produce what we know today as the American Staffordshire Terrier.

According to The American Kennel Club, “It is not the intention to tag him as a fighting machine or to praise this characteristic…..they are necessary in giving the correct origin and history of the breed.” It goes on to say “These dogs are docile, and with a little training are even tractable around other dogs. They are intelligent, excellent guardians….they easily discriminate between those who mean well and those who do not.”

When well trained and correctly socialized these dogs make excellent family pets.

So before you pass judgement on this breed, learn more. And if you can, consider adopting a “Pittie.”

Zeus is a pit bull from the Peaceable Kingdom Animal Shelter

Zeus is a pit bull from Peaceable Kingdom – an animal shelter in Whitehall, PA.


Tips for Adopting a Pit Bull from the ASPCA

Thinking about adopting a pit bull? Congratulations! Pit bulls can make very sweet and loyal family dogs. Adopting a pit bull should be fun and joyful, so we’ve created a list of handy tips to help you make good choices.

  • Socialization is the key to a happy and confident dog. All puppies should be enrolled in a puppy class where part of the time is devoted to off-leash play with other dogs.
  • Pit bulls are enthusiastic learners. They enjoy trick training and many graduate at the head of their obedience classes. There are many pit bull rescue groups that can recommend training classes.
  • It’s play time! Pits are moderately active indoors and extremely active outdoors—be prepared to spend a minimum of 20 to 30 minutes twice a day engaged in aerobic-level activities with your dog.
    You may experience breed discrimination. Legislation may prohibit you from living in certain communities, and homeowners insurance may be harder to find. Before you adopt, call your local city hall or animal shelter to find out about your local laws.
  • Do your research. Are your neighbors the kind who might get concerned about a pit bull in the community? Bringing home a pit bull may be tough because many people wrongly associate them as being aggressive. Be prepared with breed facts and history to let people know that it’s bad ownership—not bad dogs—that causes pit bulls to be aggressive.
  • Adoption is the best option. By rescuing a pit bull, you are saving a dog that needs a home and family. Adopting a pit from a shelter means that the dog will have had an initial health evaluation and should also have already been vaccinated and spayed or neutered for you. More and more shelters use a standardized evaluation to assess the behavior of their dogs. If the dog you’re interested in has been evaluated, ask to see the results so you can get a more complete picture of the dog’s typical reactions to things.
  • Consider adopting an older pit bull. With an adult dog, what you see is what you get. Their personality is already developed, and you’ll be able to spot the characteristics you’re looking for much more easily than with a puppy.
  • Establish house rules for your new dog that everyone will stick to. Consistency is the key to training. Decide on the behaviors you find acceptable and those that you wish to discourage, such as:
    1. Is she allowed on the furniture?
    2. Is it okay for her to bark in the backyard?
    3. Can she play with toys in the house?
    4. How do you want her to behave when guests come into the home?
  • Set a good example for others. Become a proud parent—be sure to show your pit bull the love and care she deserves. And always let others know what great companions they make!

# # # # # # #

2020 UPDATE:How to Break Up a Dog Fight Safely
A reader suggested a nice companion article for this topic. How to Break Up a Dog Fight Safely. “Seeing a dog fight can be terrifying, especially if one of the animals is your own. And stopping the fight as quickly as possible is of paramount importance because serious injuries can and do occur…. Dogs who are fighting are hyper-focused and instinct-driven, and even the best trained pet will bite you if you are in the wrong place at the wrong time.” Check out the post from

# # # # # # #

please meet Tyrion, an injured pit bull who was rescued from a Los Angeles freeway on-ramp by a volunteer from Hope For Paws.

How Much Money Did You Spend On Your Dog Last Year?
Rosco and Brutus Get New Lease on Life