Welcome to the BarkPost guide to dog breeds where we belly flop straight into the depths of dog breed origin, evolution, and purpose. Follow along each week as we publish new guides that highlight the strangest, most interesting, and most surprising stuff about these creatures who have been our best buds the last 30,000 years.
Intro / Overview
(All dogs are individuals, which means any single dog from any breed can be any number of ways, both good and not so good. Keep that in mind as we discuss breed generalities!)
The American Pit Bull Terrier may be the most stigmatized dog breed in history. They are often confused with any number of blocky-headed mixed breeds.
Sadly, this breed is subject to mislabeling, unfair stereotypes, and life-threatening breed restrictions. American Pit Bull Terriers are more likely to end up in shelters than any other breed. Apartment complexes (even entire cities) ban their presence, and they suffer widespread exploitation and abuse.
Despite all the hate and misunderstanding, APBTs also have staunch advocates in their corner. Determined owners and rescuers devote their lives to giving mistreated Pitties a second chance.
While the American Kennel Club (AKC) fails to recognize them, the United Kennel Club (UKC) and the American Dog Breeders Association (ADBA) consider the APBT an official breed. Therefore, we will defer to them for breed standards and characteristics.
Also Known As…
Pit Bulls, Pit Bull-type dogs, Pitties, Pibbles, Velvet Hippos, Furry Potatoes, Land Seals, Wigglebutts. “Holy moly, that dog is incredible. What kind is it?” “That there’s an American Pit Bull Terrier, sir.” “I LOVE THEM ALREADY.”
According to the UKC, the ancestors of the modern American Pit Bull Terrier can be traced back to nineteenth century England, Ireland and Scotland. Dog farriers began breeding powerful Bulldogs with intelligent, energetic Terriers. Not only were the resulting dogs strong, athletic and courageous, they were also fiercely loyal.
Sadly, even the earliest Pit Bulls faced exploitation at the hands of humans. When Britain passed the Cruelty to Animals Act of 1835, bear and bull-baiting – too difficult to hide from authorities – become a thing of the past, replaced instead by dogfighting. Unscrupulous owners forced these early Pit Bulls to take part.
Immigrants heading to the U.S. brought along their dogs where the breed was sought out by farmers and ranchers. Early APBTs served as driving dogs for livestock, helped catch semi-wild cattle and hogs, and became family pets.
True American Pit Bull Terriers are considered medium-sized dogs, although many blocky-headed pups labelled as Pit Bulls grow to be much larger. They should be stocky, muscular, and slightly longer than they are tall.
The desirable height range for males is from 18 to 21 inches at the withers; for females it is from 17 to 20 inches at the withers.
The UKC lists the desirable weight range for adult males as 35 to 60 pounds. Females should be slightly smaller and fall between 30 and 50 pounds.
American Pit Bull Terriers are strong, confident and enthusiastic. They are fiercely loyal and go out of their way to please their humans – even if it means acting goofy! Despite their history of exploitation, APBTs are known for their love of children.
Stories abound of Pitties defending their families from peril. They drag them from fiery infernos, alert them to intruders, and even take bullets for the ones they love.
While APBTs will gladly lay down their lives for their people, they may not make the best guard dogs. If they do not sense a threat, this breed tends to be extremely friendly, even towards strangers.
Intelligence / Trainability
APBTs are intelligent and eager to learn, qualities that date back to their early breeding as working and blood sport dogs. They excel at obedience training and canine sports such as Tracking, Agility, Lure Coursing, Dock Jumping, Weight Pulls and Conformation.
Due to their strength, high-energy, and need for strong leadership, training a Pit Bull can be challenging. Contact a qualified trainer if you need help.
Best Training Techniques For American Pit Bull Terriers
1. Start Socializing Your Dog Early
Like most breeds, early socialization is best. Whther you purchase a puppy from a reputable American Pit Bull Terrier breeder or rescue an adult from a shelter, exposure to a wide variety of adults, kids, and other pets should be at the top of your training list.
2. Use Positive Reinforcement
Pit Bulls live to please so positive reinforcement techniques and reward-based training work best. Since these “Velvet Hippos” also love to eat, a handful of tempting treats go a long way towards an obedient pup!
3. Consider Canine Good Citizen Certification
In order to earn certification from the Canine Good Citizen Program, dogs must demonstrate basic obedience skills, manners around people and other dogs, composure in public, and more.
While any dog can benefit from the program, having your Pit Bull certified may help put the minds of your neighbors or landlords at ease.
American Pit Bull Terriers are diverse enough to thrive in just about any environment as long as their needs are met. It doesn’t matter if you have a studio apartment or a 20,000 square foot mansion as long as you provide your Pibble with plenty of exercise and tons of love and praise.
Besides, no matter how big your home, chances are your APBT is going to be glued to your side anyway!
Good For Families & Kids?
As mentioned above, American Pit Bull Terriers love children and make wonderful family pets. However, this does not mean you can bring home a new dog and simply toss it in the yard with the kids.
Just as dogs receive obedience training, little ones should learn the proper ways to interact with pets. Also, as with any dog, interactions between APBTs and children should be monitored at all times.
Kids can be loud, grabby, and unpredictable. Pit Bulls are big, boisterous, and excitable. These traits can be a recipe for disaster without adult supervision.
12 – 14 years.
American Pit Bull Terriers tend to be quite hardy when compared to breeds of similar size and their average lifespan of 12 to 14 years reflects this. Despite their overall health and vitality, Pitties are predisposed to some genetic orthopedic disorders such as hip dysplasia, degenerative myelopathy, and luxating patella.
They are also at risk for skin allergies, thyroid conditions, and certain congenital heart defects.
The American Pit Bull Terrier is considered an active, high-energy breed. They require daily exercise to stave off boredom and prevent destructive behavior.
Friendly With Dogs/Strangers/Cats & Other Pets?
The UKC notes, “Because Pit Bulls have a history of being bred as fighting dogs, they are not always tolerant of other dogs.”
However, just like humans, every dog is different. Many adore other dogs and thrive in multi-dog households while others need behavioral training to reduce dog aggression. Keep in mind, aggression towards other dogs does not mean a Pibble will be aggressive towards people!
Be sure your APBT masters basic obedience commands including Look, Stay, Come and Emergency Recall. If you do not have experience training Pit Bulls you may want to hire a professional.
Believe it or not, Pit Bulls are more likely to pass temperament tests than the general dog population – including favorite breeds like Labs, Shih Tzus, and even Golden Retrievers!
The trials involve a series of situations including interactions with strangers.
Cats & Other Pets
Pit Bulls have a particularly strong prey drive and may chase cats, small pets, and wild animals like squirrels. However, the breed is intelligent and eager to please so the right training can help curb this behavior.
Coat & Grooming
Pit Bulls have short, smooth glossy coats that require only minimal care. They can come in any color, color pattern, or combination of colors except for merle.
Since they are prone to allergies and skin irritations, it is important not to over-bathe your Pit Bull. Once a month with a soap-free hypoallergenic shampoo should do unless your veterinarian recommends otherwise. Be sure to clean the ears after bathing to prevent overproduction of yeast and bacteria.
Pibbles are under the impression that they are lap dogs. Whether they are petite pups or heavyweights, you can expect some very invasive snuggles!
Toys American Pit Bull Terriers Would Like Best
APBTs are master chewers and often make short work of their toys. But never fear! BarkShop has just what you need to keep your Pibble’s jaws happy and busy. We have durable Fetch Toys for playing fetch, delicious flavored Benebones for gnawing, hardy Super Chewer Toys for endlessly chewing, and Tug Toys for playing tug-o-war.
If you’re looking for a more extensive list, check out the following post: What Are The Best Toys For Pit Bulls?
Recommended Diet Or Supplements
American Pit Bull Terriers are muscular, large-boned and energetic. In order to maintain optimal health, they need a diet with a protein content of at least 30%.
You may want to choose a protein source such as Salmon that is rich in the fatty acids DHA and EPA which help reduce inflammatory conditions such as skin allergies. Pit Bulls that do not get enough Omega Fatty Acids from their diet may benefit from a fish oil supplement.
These delicious, vet-formulated chews are made with all-natural ingredients including Omega 3, 6, 9, and Vitamin E. They are designed to support immune health, provide relief from itchy allergic skin, and promote a healthy coat. ($19.99)
This joint supplement is veterinarian-formulated, made with all natural ingredients (glucosamine, MSM, chondroitin, and hyaluronic acid), and comes in the form of 150 soft chews. Basically, it looks and tastes just like delicious treats, and it could really help your Pit Bull with their hip and joint issues. ($32.99.)
This ultra plush orthopedic dog bed provides support for even the meatiest of Pibbles! The combination ergonomic memory foam and gel foam relieves pressure points, and helps ease body aches caused by hip dysplasia, arthritis and other orthopedic issues. It offers the best therapeutic support for your APBT. ($27.99-64.99.)
Notable Rescues To Find The Pit Bull Of Your Dreams
- American Pit Bull Terrier Rescue
- Northwest Dog Project
- Pit Bull Rescue Central
- New York Bully Crew
- Detroit Pit Crew
- Angel City Pit Bulls
- Villalobos Rescue Center
- BADRAP Blocky Dog Rescue
- Any local rescue, probably
- Adoptable Pit Bulls on Petfinder
Notable Instagram Pit Bulls
(Not all of these famous pups are purebred APBTs, but we believe rescue Pibbles deserve love, too!)
Pibbling With Theodore @Pibbling
Noelani & Her Pit Bull Pack @NoelaniIG
Hans Gruber & Guybrush @HansyAndBrush
Sookie & Ivy @SookieAndIvy
Roofus, Kilo & Company @RoofusAndKilo
Princess Gracie @IHeartPGracie
Stevie Nicks The Pit Bull @StevieNicksBull
Titus, Lexy & Shelby @TitusAndHailey
Destiny the Pibble @DestinyThePibble
Clyde The Bully @ClydeTheBully_
Brinks The Famous Smiling Pit Bull @SmilingBrinks
Brady & Louie @BradyAndLouie
Macie Grey @Oh Macie
***Looking for a gift to blow your Pit Bull’s mind? Spoil them with a Super Chewer BarkBox! Every month Super Chewer delivers 2 super-durable toys, designed in-house, 2 full bags of all-natural treats, and 2 (!!!) meaty chews. Sign up here and receive a free extra toy every month.
Featured image via HansyAndBrush/Instagram