Before You Purchase or Adopt A Pit Bull

Copied and revised from an article by Pam Green (copyright 1992), titled "Don't Buy a Bouvier." Pam writes:


"I first wrote this article nearly 10 years ago. Since then it has become a classic of Bouvier literature, reprinted many times. Since then I have spent nearly 5 years in Bouvier Rescue, personally rescuing, rehabilitating, and placing 3 or 4 per year and assisting in the placement of others. Very little has needed revision in this new addition.....I give my permission freely to all who wish to reprint and distribute it in hopes of saving innocent Bouviers (note: it is Pit Bulls here!) from neglect and abandonment by those who should never have acquired them in the first place."


Interested in getting a Pit Bull? You must be or you wouldn't be reading this. You've already heard how marvelous the Pit Bull is. Well, I think you should also hear, before it's too late, that:


THE PIT BULL IS NOT THE PERFECT BREED FOR EVERYONE.

First and Foremost – let’s get Breed Id out of the way.  Pit bull is not technically a breed but a nickname.  It’s a nickname for the American Pit Bull Terrier but also the slang term for a group of three related breeds (see breed info) the American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier.  For all intents and purposes, this page is written with the American Pit Bull Terrier in mind.  The American Staffordshire is similar (and in some cases can be dual registered as an APBT) so the following may also apply.


As a breed there are features that some people find charming, but that some people find mildly unpleasant and some people find downright intolerable.  There are different breeds for different needs. There are over 200 purebred breeds of dogs in the world. Maybe you'd be better off with some other breed. Maybe you'd be better off with a cat. Maybe you'd be better off with goldfish, a parakeet, a hamster, or some house plants.


DON'T GET A PIT BULL IF YOU...


  1. Are attracted to the breed by appearance

  2. Don't intend to train your dog

  3. Lack leadership and an assertive personality

  4. Are looking for a protective or guarding dog

  5. Want a completely docile and animal friendly dog to take to the dog park

  6. Looking for a yard dog or lawn ornament, not a house pet

  7. Don't want a happy, goofy, extremely loving dog

  8. Dislike daily physical exercise

  9. Believe that dogs should run "free"

  10. Can't afford basic medical care on a dog

  11. Are not willing to commit yourself to the next 15 years of owning this dog

 

DON'T GET A PIT BULL  if you are attracted to the breed chiefly by its appearance. Once they grow out of their "cute" puppy stage, the Pit bull is an average sized dog, generally between 40-60 lbs, with lots of energy and larger than life personality.  They require a lot of work from their owners.  Most pit bulls tend to be people soft so dominant behaviors towards their owners are  generally not an issue.  They are however a lot of dog to own in many other ways.  Because they are the most legislated against dog in the country, they require owners who are going to be extra responsible and work hard to maintain their dog’s place in society.  Finding places to rent can be very hard and sometimes finding homeowner’s insurance can be a real challenge.  These are thing to work out BEFORE you get the dog. These aren’t shelties or labs, they are a performance breed prone to interspecies aggression.


DON'T GET A PIT BULL  if you don't intend to educate (train) your dog. Basic obedience and household rules training is not optional for the pit bull. As an absolute minimum, you must teach him to reliably respond to commands to come, to lie down, to stay, and to walk at your side, on leash and regardless of temptations. You must also teach him to respect your household rules: e.g., is he allowed to get on the furniture? Is he allowed to beg at the table? What you allow or forbid is unimportant; but it is critical that you, not the dog, make these choices and that you enforce your rules consistently. You must commit yourself to attending an 8 to 10 week series of weekly lessons at a local obedience club or professional trainer and to doing one or two short (5 to 20 minutes) homework sessions per day. As commands are learned, they must be integrated into your daily life by being used whenever appropriate and enforced consistently.  Having a well trained pit bull at your side is the least you can do for your dog.


Young PB puppies are relatively easy to train: they are eager to please, intelligent, with a relatively good attention span but have a lot of desire to play and have fun. Once a PB has learned something, he tends to retain it well. Your cute, sweet little pit bull puppy will grow up to be a powerful dog with a goofy, mischievous personality and the determination to finish whatever he starts. If he has grown up respecting you and your rules, then all his physical and mental strength will work for you. But if he has grown up without rules and guidance from you,  he will make his own rules, and his physical and mental powers will often act in opposition to your needs and desires. For example: he may tow you down the street as if competing in a weight pull trial; he may grab food off the table; he may climb all over the furniture, jump on your guests (who may be frightened of a pit bull), bolt out the door. This training should not be delegated to someone else, e.g., by sending the dog away to "boarding school," because the relationship of respect and obedience is personal between the dog and the individual who does the training. This is true of all dogs to a greater or lesser degree. While you definitely may want the help of an experienced trainer to teach you how to train your dog, you yourself should actually train your pit bull. As each lesson is well learned, then the rest of the household must also work with the dog, insisting he obey them as well.  Using positive reinforcement is EXTREMELY important.


Many of the PB's that are rescued from pounds and shelters show clearly that they have received little or no basic training, neither in obedience nor in household department; yet these same dogs respond well to such training by the rescuer or the adopter. It seems likely that a failure to train the dog is a significant cause of PB abandonment. If you don't intend to educate your dog, preferably during puppy hood, you would be better off with a breed that is both small and socially submissive, e.g., a Shetland Sheepdog. Such a dog does require training, but a little bit goes further than with a PB. PB's can, with adequate training, excel at such working competitions as field trials and hunt tests, obedience, agility, and tracking.  You can check out dog activities at (www.workingpitbull.com)

DON'T GET A PIT BULL  if you lack leadership (self-assertive) personality. Dogs do not believe in social equality. They live in a social hierarchy led by a pack-leader (Alpha). The alpha dog is generally benevolent, affectionate, and non-bullying towards his subordinates; but there is never any doubt in his mind or in theirs that the alpha is the boss and makes the rules. Whatever the breed, if you do not assume the leadership, the dog will do so sooner or later, and with more or less unpleasant consequences for the abdicating owner. Like the untrained dog, the pack leader dog makes his own rules and enforces them against other members of the household by means of a dominant physical posture and a hard-eyed stare, followed by a snarl, then a knockdown blow or at the worst bite. Breeds differ in tendencies towards social dominance; and individuals within a breed differ considerably.


Generally PB’s are a breed that has a tendency towards being people soft, meaning that they do not have a socially dominant personality...TOWARDS PEOPLE.  This will vary to a certain degree and some breeders out there are not breeding for people soft dogs so it is very important to address this issue. Having a strong leadership role with your PB will also help you with training and management of any potential aggression towards other animals. PBs tend to be very dominant with other animals and this is where your leadership is important. You do not have to have the personality or mannerisms of a Marine boot camp Sergeant, but you do have to have the calm, quiet self-assurance and self assertion of the successful parent ("Because I'm your mother, that's why.") or successful grade-school teacher. If you think you might have difficulty asserting yourself calmly and confidently to exercise leadership, then choose a breed known for its socially subordinate disposition, such as a Golden Retriever or a Shetland Sheepdog, and be sure to ask the breeder to select one of the more submissive pups in the litter for you. If the whole idea of "being the boss" frightens or repels you, don't get a dog at all. Cats don't expect leadership. A caged bird or hamster, or fish doesn't need leadership or household rules. Leadership and training are inextricably intertwined: leadership personality enables you to train your dog, and being trained by you reinforces your dog's perception of you as the alpha.

DON'T GET A PIT BULL if you want an aggressive, guarding or protective dog.  Pit bulls were simply not designed for this activity and to encourage it is WRONG.  PB’s generally have a very people soft disposition and do whatever they can to please.  They love to make new friends and are not naturally aggressive towards people.  These dogs are often targets for theft and are stolen right out of their owner’s yards; cars and sometimes people break into your home just to steal your dog.


DON’T GET A PIT BULL if you have a bunch of other pets and want a dog that will get along with all other animals.  This is a breed that is GENETICALLY PREDISPOSED to animal aggression.  This is a FACT!  This breed was originally designed first for Bull baiting and then dog fighting.  Dog fighting was LEGAL until very recently in history and unfortunately is still alive and well.  It is illegal in all 50 states but remains legal in other countries.  Generally a pit bull WILL develop some degree of intolerance towards other dogs – especially same sex dogs. Even in pit bulls that are not generally considered dog aggressive, they will still have a "low crap threshold" or the inability to turn down what is perceived as a challenge by another dog. This comes from hundreds of years of manipulating the "fight or flight" mechanism of stress coping into a fight mechanism. When challenged by other dogs, a different breed may simply posture or run away, a pit bull will stand its ground regardless of the odds.  This can not be loved or trained away, it must be responsibly managed.  You may be the one lucky person who has never had a problem [yet] but pit bulls will get along with other dogs…until they don’t.  So just because it hasn’t happened [yet] doesn’t mean it won’t.  Pit bulls may not start the fight but they will be more than happy to help finish it.  Being a pit bull also means they will get the blame and may end up paying for any altercation with their life.  For this reason alone, an adult pit bull or a pit bull over 12 months does not belong in a dog park. A dog park is not the same as a well controlled playgroup with dogs known to each other.  A dogpark is a random grouping of dogs, known to each other or not and has a dynamic all of it’s own.


Dog tolerances change in all breeds around the time of social maturity and pit bulls are no exception.  Contrary to what many believe, it is not all in how you raise them. A good amount of a dog’s disposition comes from it’s parents, nature combined with nurture.  Controlled socialization with other dogs is always a good thing but is no guarantee that your dog will continue to like other dogs as a mature adult.  You can not counter 100s of years of breeding for the willingness to engage other dogs and challenge more powerful animals with trips to the dog park as a puppy.  Annabelle's Second Chance also does not support the use of Dog parks for appropriate exercise or socialization.  Your pit bull requires training and supervision around other animals.


The “Am Staff” was the pit bull prior to the AKC design in 1936.  The first “Am Staffs” registered were American Pit Bull Terriers that fit the newly designed standard.  The Staffy Bull is believed to be the original UK breed that sprouted the APBT.  Aggression towards animals runs very real in these breeds as well.  Don’t fool yourself by thinking you don’t have to worry about animal aggression if you buy or rescue one of the “other bully breeds”.


A pit bull is also a TERRIER and can be very prey driven towards small furry animals, like squirrels, ferrets……cats and small dogs.  Combine a high prey drive with strength, determination and potential animal aggression means NEVER HAVE YOUR PIT BULL OFF LEASH PERIOD.


If you have a mixed breed pit bull, please understand that your dog will act on either side of its pedigree. It may act like a pit bull and it may act like the other breeds that have been included in its genetic history.  Being mixed may or may not have any affect on whether or not the dog will become dog aggressive as an adult.

DON'T GET A PIT BULL  if you are unwilling to share your house and your life with your dog. PB's thrive in close companionship with their families. They want to be wherever you are. They are happiest living with you in your house and going with you when you go out. While they usually tolerate being left at home by themselves, they should not be relegated to the backyard or kennel. A puppy exiled from the house is likely to grow up to be unsociable (fearful and/or potentially aggressive), unruly, and unhappy. He may well develop pastimes, such as digging or barking, that will displease you and/or your neighbors. An adult so exiled will be miserable too. If you don't strongly prefer to have your dog's companionship as much as possible, enjoying having him sleep in your bedroom at night and sharing many of your activities by day, you should choose a breed less oriented to human companionship. Likewise, if your job or other obligations prevent you from spending much time with your dog. No dog is really happy without companionship, but the pack hounds are more tolerant of being kenneled or yarded so long as it is in groups of 2 or more. A better choice would be a cat, as they are solitary by nature.

DON'T GET A PIT BULL  if you don't value affection and loyalty.  Pit bulls are extremely affectionate dogs. A PB becomes deeply attached and devoted to his own family.  They are equally gregarious with strangers and are always happy to meet new people and go places where they can be the center of attention getting rubbed and patted.  They are usually exuberantly demonstrative of their affection. They make remarkable eye contact with their favorite people. They like to be near you, usually in the same room, preferably on a comfortable pad or cushion in a corner or under a table, just "keeping you company." They enjoy conversation, petting and cuddling when you offer it. They are clownish and goofy and live to make you smile.  Having a pit bull is having your own adoring fan club.   PB's are famous for their butt tucking zoomies around the house, yard or where ever they can get going.  A pit bull can seem downright giddy and clingingly dependent.  They stay puppyish for a long time and remain just as joyful and playful well into old age.


DON'T GET A PIT BULL  if you are fastidious about the neatness of your home. Although it is technically true that they do not require professional grooming, they do "shed" at least twice a year and your house will be full of short slick hairs that have a tendency to stick in fabric.   I don't mean to imply that you must be a slob or slattern to live happily with a Pit bull, but you do have to have the attitude that your dog's company means more to you than neatness and you do have to be comfortable with a less than immaculate house. All dogs, like all children, create a greater or lesser degree of household mess. The Basenji is perhaps the cleanest, due to its cat-like habits; but cats are cleaner yet, and goldfish hardly ever mess up the house.


DON'T GET A PIT BULL  if you dislike daily physical exercise. PB's need exercise to maintain the health of heart and lungs and to maintain muscle tone. Most young pit bulls need at least (AT LEAST) 20-30 minutes of hard exercise on a daily basis.  This is a hardy, energetic, performance type dog that loves physical activity.  If you do not provide a physical outlet for your dog’s excessive energy, behavior problems most likely will occur.  They can show up as anxiety, destructive behaviors.  PB’s are a performance breed and are not couch potato dogs.  Anyone who owns one should be able to devote at least 20 minutes a day, working, training, retrieving, jogging, or playing with them. PB's that are not worked - both physically and mentally - are prone to mischief and will not "think." These active, intelligent dogs need jobs and responsibilities - it is best if you designate what these jobs are - you might not agree with what your Pit bull decides it wants to do with all of its “free time”. Young adolescent pit bulls have a seemingly endless supply of energy.  During those "terrible teens" period, expect to be involved in a lot of physical activity with your dog.


All dogs need daily exercise of greater or lesser length and vigor. If providing this exercise and work is beyond you, physically or temperamentally, then choose one of the many small and breeds that can exercise itself within your fenced yard. Most of the Toys and Terriers fit this description, but don't be surprised if a Terrier is inclined to dig in the earth since digging out critters is the job that they were bred to do. Cats can be exercised indoors with mouse-on-a-string toys. Hamsters will exercise themselves on a wire wheel. House plants don't need exercise.  You may be able to find an older settled pit bull in rescue with less exercise requirements.

DON'T GET A PIT BULL if you believe that dogs should run "free."  Whether you live in town or country, no dog can safely be left to run "free" outside your fenced property and without your direct supervision and control. The price of such "freedom" is inevitably injury or death: from dogfights, from automobiles, from the Pound or from justifiably irate neighbors. An unfenced, uncontrolled, or uncontained Pit Bull is destined for disaster. A pit bull should never be off leash or outside of a fenced yard.  If you don't want the responsibility of confining and supervising your pet, then no breed of dog is suitable for you. A neutered cat will survive such irresponsibly given "freedom" somewhat longer than a dog, but will eventually come to grief. A better answer for those who crave a "free" pet is to set out feeding stations for some of the indigenous wildlife, such as raccoons, squirrels or birds, which will visit for handouts and which may eventually tolerate your close observation.


DON'T GET A PIT BULL if you can't afford to buy, feed, and provide health care for one. PB’s can be an inexpensive breed to buy and they are everywhere... but you get what you pay for.  Running a careful breeding program is expensive. The time the breeder should put into each puppy's "pre-school" and socialization is also costly. The "bargain" puppy from a "back-yard breeder" who unselectively mates any two dogs who happen to be of opposite sex may well prove to be extremely costly in terms of bad temperament, bad health, and lack of essential socialization. In contrast, the occasional adult or older pup is available at modest price from a disenchanted owner or from a breeder, shelter, or rescuer to whom the dog was abandoned; most of these "used" PB's are capable of becoming a marvelous dog for you if you can provide training, leadership, and understanding. Whatever the initial cost of your pit bull, the upkeep will not be cheap.

All dogs deserve a quality diet so make sure you read labels on dog foods to find a meat based food.  This will vary in cost, this is a case where cheaper is not always better but the most expensive may also be the wrong choice for your particular dog.  Cheap food will be reflected in the dog’s overall health and appearance. Large dogs tend to have larger veterinary bills, as the amount of anesthesia and of most medications is proportional to body weight. Spaying or neutering, which costs more for larger dogs, is an essential expense for all pet PB's,  as it prevents serious health problems in later life, and makes the dog a more pleasant companion. PB's have generally been a very healthy breed but more and more are becoming subject to hip dysplasia and skin problems because if indiscriminate breeding.  Hip Dysplasia along with luxating patellas can be costly to treat. (Your best insurance against dysplasia is to buy only from a litter bred from OFA-certified parents and (if possible), grandparents, or find a healthy adult rescue dog). Finally, the modest fee for participation in a series of basic obedience training classes is an essential investment in harmonious living with your dog; such fees are the same for all breeds, although conceivably you will need to travel a bit further from home to find a training class teacher who pit bull friendly. The modest annual outlays for immunizations and for local licensing are generally the same for all breeds, although some counties have a lower license fee for spayed/neutered dogs. All dogs, of whatever breed and however cheaply acquired, require significant upkeep costs, and all are subject to highly expensive veterinary emergencies. Likewise all cats.


DON'T GET A PIT BULL  if you are not willing to commit yourself for the dog's entire lifetime. No dog deserves to be cast out because his owners want to move to a no-pet apartment or because he is no longer a cute puppy or didn't grow up to be a beauty contest winner or because his owners through lack of leadership and training have allowed him to become an unruly juvenile delinquent with a repertoire of undesirable behaviors. The prospects of a responsible and affectionate second home for a "used" dog are never very bright, but they are especially dim for a large, poorly mannered dog. A Pit bull dumped into a Pound or Shelter has almost no chance of survival unless he has the great good fortune to be spotted by someone dedicated to Pit Bull Rescue and even then, the odds are stacked against him as there are an overwhelming number of purebred pit bulls already in shelters. The prospects for adoption for a youngish, well-trained PB whose owner seeks the assistance of the nearest Pit Bull friendly rescue group are fairly good, provided that time is not an issue and the owner is willing to retain the dog while a home is being searched.  An older PB has diminishing prospects. Be sure to contact your breeder, breed organization or Rescue group if you are diagnosed as terminally ill or have other equally valid reason for seeking an adoptive home. Be sure to contact your breeder or rescuer if you are beginning to have difficulties in training your PB, so these can be resolved. Be sure to make arrangements in your will or with your family to ensure continued care or adoptive home for your PB if you should pre-decease him.


The life span of a Pit Bull is from 12 to 16 years. If that seems too long a time for you to give an unequivocal loyalty to your pit bull, then please do not get one! Indeed, as most dogs have a life expectancy that is as long or longer, please do not get any dog!


DON'T GET A PIT BULL if you are thin skinned, or easily offended.  As a pit bull owner, you will be constantly required to defend your choice of pet. You will have friends, family members, co-workers who will not understand and pointedly tell you all they know about "those dogs" and what "those dogs" will do.  God forbid you raise your children around "those dogs"........"don't you know what they could do?", "don't you read the papers".  Every move you make as a pit bull owner will affect your ability and everyone else's ability to own this breed of dog.  Whether you like it or not, your dog is a breed ambassador and you will be forced to educate others on an almost daily basis.  People will walk to the other side of the street as you walk your dog.  Some people will happily meet your dog and tell you how pretty he is and when you tell them your dog is a pit bull, they will recoil in fear and act as though they have been struck by a bolt of electricity.  Some will refuse to let their children play at your house.  Your only defense is a well trained, well socialized companion pet that shows them how wonderful these dogs can be in the right hands and homes.


CONCLUSION: If all the preceding "bad news" about PB's hasn't turned you away from the breed, then by all means DO GET A PIT BULL! They are every bit as wonderful as you have heard!


If buying a puppy, be sure to shop carefully for a responsible and knowledgeable breeder who places high priority on breeding for sound temperament and trainability and good health in all mating. Such a breeder will interrogate and educate potential buyers very carefully. Such a breeder will continue to be available for advice and consultation for the rest of the puppy's life and will insist on receiving the dog back if ever you are unable to keep it.  Pet quality puppies will be sold already spayed or neutered or on a limited registration requiring the dog to be spayed or neutered.


However as an alternative to buying a Pit Bull puppy, you may want to give some serious consideration to adopting a rescued Pit bull, they come in all ages. Most rescued PB’s make superb family companions for responsible and affectionate owners despite the irresponsibility of their previous owner. Breed rescues provide temperament evaluation and provide remedial training before offering dogs for placement and will continue to provide advisory support afterwards.


If you are interested in adopting a purebred spayed/neutered pit bull terrier, we invite you to view our adoptable dogs.