There is no breed of dog that's right for everybody and Pit Bulls are no exception. The media hysteria surrounding Pit Bulls has made them controversial. Lovers of the breed point to their numerous good qualities. So, what's the truth?
Although Pit Bull attacks on humans are headline-makers, it is probably safe to say that randomly bred or fighting line Pit Bulls who are properly raised are not at elevated risk for aggression to humans. It is also safe to say that Pit Bulls, on the whole, are at elevated risk of aggression directed at other dogs. This is not to say that every Pit Bull will become dog aggressive. Far from it, they are simply at greater risk compared to most other breeds of dog. Scores of Pit Bulls and Pit Bull crosses are ridiculously dog-friendly (see photo below, right) or have dog-dog issues that are within the normal range seen by trainers, and are modifiable.
Extensive socialization is therefore an absolute must to stand the best chance of a dog-friendly dog. Well-socialized Pit Bulls will also frequently have an extremely intense dog play-style that is well-known to Pit Bull owners. This can be overwhelming for some dogs, both physically and psychologically, so it's a good idea to be sensitive to this and supervise all play in order to set limits.
The potential for dog-dog issues is one thing to bear in mind when considering adopting a Pit Bull. There are a few other things to know: they are prodigious pullers-on-leash, tend to be immaculately clean, can be impressive escape artists, are very bright and easily bored, can have very strong predatory drive, are often really gregarious with people, are superlative Frisbee dogs and bond very strongly with their owners. This last point can sometimes put them at risk for developing separation anxiety without carefully orchestrated alone-training.
It is a myth that Pit Bulls are genetically programmed to be a menace to kids or babies. There's no doubt they have attracted more than their fair share of terrible owners and backyard breeders, who not only neglected to do the right things, but deliberately did many wrong things. For this reason, it is imperative when considering adopting a Pit Bull to consider the source and upbringing. Pit Bulls are often overlooked by potential adopters because of the "bad rap" that this breed receives in the media.
This article was adapted for use by HAWS from information provided by the San Francisco SPCA.