Pit Bulls: A Misunderstood Breed

Here are some of the basics to give you an idea of how Pit Bulls really are when in a loving home with responsible owners.


Pit Bulls are a very misunderstood breed of dog; the first things that come to mind for most people are dog fighting and very aggressive personality traits.  But, for the few irresponsible owners who abuse their Pit Bulls in this way, there are many more responsible owners and well-behaved, loving dogs which are unfortunately overshadowed by this negativity. 


A perfect example of a dog that breaks this stigma by being a very well behaved and loving Pit Bull mix would be our very own, Ralphie.  Ralphie is currently available for adoption at the Wayne Township Animal Shelter and he is a very handsome boy with the sweetest personality, but because he has a large and muscular appearance sometimes people are intimidated by this.  Make no mistake about it though, Ralphie is a very kind soul and you can see this when you look into his sweet eyes.  Learn more about Ralphie and read his very sad story of abandonment here: 


Want to learn more about the breed’s true personality?  Here are some of the basics to give you an idea of how Pit Bulls really are when in a loving home with responsible owners.  Discover how rewarding owning a Pit Bull or a Pit Bull mix can be and how much love they have to offer their families.  These dogs are constantly battling a bad reputation in our society, but the breed handles the challenge well by overcompensating with extreme affection, loyalty and playfulness toward their owners.


Breed Overview

The term “Pit Bull” can refer to the following breeds: American Pitt Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier and Staffordshire Bull Terrier.  Pit Bulls have physical and mental characteristics that make them excellent partners for responsible, active and caring owners. These same outstanding qualities can, however, be challenging for people who don't have a lot of experience with dog ownership or have limited understanding of the breed. Luckily, Pit Bulls are intelligent, very responsive to training, and, above all, eager to please. Therefore, Pit Bulls should be enrolled in obedience classes as soon as they are up-to-date on their shots. (Pit Bulls are susceptible to parvovirus, so it is important that they receive all their vaccinations before coming into contact with other dogs or entering areas of high canine traffic.) A well-behaved Pit Bull is the best way to fight breed prejudice and misconceptions.

Pit Bulls can do well in an urban environment, provided they have enough exercise and other positive outlets for their energy. Many Pit Bulls are easygoing couch potatoes, but like all terriers, they can also be somewhat rambunctious until they mature. Maturity can come relatively late with this breed (two to three years old in some cases). Pit Bulls remain playful throughout their lives and have a great sense of humor. True clowns at heart, these dogs will make you laugh like no other.  Pit Bulls are energetic, agile, and strong. They are also very resourceful and driven. Determination is one of their most notable traits: They put their heart and soul into whatever they set out to do.


Pit Bulls and People

Perhaps the most important characteristic of Pit Bulls is their amazing love of people. Many people are surprised by the loving personality of these dogs the first time they meet one. Pit Bulls are remarkably affectionate and truly enjoy human attention. They are wonderful cuddlers and love nothing more than a belly rub. In fact, most Pit Bulls think they are lap dogs!

Traits like human aggression, severe shyness and instability are not typically found in the breed.  Those who wish to label these breeds as “dangerous” are often quick to insist that the dogfighting aspect of their history somehow means that they are inclined to “fight” humans. This is simply wrong. A central fact of Pit Bulls’ history is that their lineage actually makes them less inclined to be aggressive toward humans. For over 160 years, they have been systematically bred away from human aggressiveness.  So while human aggressive Pit Bulls were actively culled from bloodlines, traits such as gentleness, temperamental stability, and the desire to be handled by humans were emphasized. These qualities are the foundation of the “Pit Bull” breeds. It explains why footage of Pit Bulls being rescued from horrific and abusive circumstances usually features skinny, scarred-up dogs with wagging tails and happy tongues joyfully greeting law enforcement officers.

Pit Bulls have a constant desire to be close to humans, even if that means lying by your feet as you use the computer; they are not overly independent dogs and want nothing more than to be active members of your family. Pit Bulls are truly in their element when snuggling on the couch, hopping in the bed on a cold morning, getting rubbed on the belly or scratched behind the ears, showing off a trick, going for a car ride with their family, or playing a fun game.

Contrary to myths propagated by the media, human aggression occurs in all dog breeds. Canines can exhibit many kinds of aggression: human, dog, territory, and food-aggression, to name a few. These are independent behaviors. For example, feral dogs can be good with other dogs but highly aggressive toward humans. By the same token, a dog with dog aggression isn't by default also human aggressive. Pit Bulls test well above average in temperament evaluations. To date, every shred of empirical evidence suggests that Pit Bulls are the same as, if not better than, other breeds when it comes to human interaction.

Each year, the American Temperament Testing Society holds evaluations across the country for dog breeds and gives a passing score for the entire breed based on the percentage of passed over failed within total number of the particular breed tested. As of 2011, Pit Bull breeds achieved a combined passing score of 86.7 percent. To put these figures into context, the combined passing rate of all breeds was 83 percent. The Collie, an icon of obedience, passed at a rate of 79.9 percent, and the beloved Golden Retriever scored at 84.9 percent.

Pit Bulls are wonderful, loving, and very loyal companions; however, it is important to understand the breeds’ nature, to provide a structured environment, and to establish a positive leadership role. In order to do so, Pit Bull owners must understand the original purpose of the breed, respect its limits, and help it fulfill its tremendous potential. This is sound advice for dog owners of any breed.


Pit Bulls and Other Dogs

Never trust a dog not to fight. Dogs of any breed can exhibit intolerance toward other dogs.  Dogs may fight over hierarchic status, food or toys. External stimulus or excitement can also trigger a fight. Remember that any canine can fight, regardless of breed. If you frequent a dog park, you’ve surely seen a fight occur among a pack of dogs for reasons not discernible to humans. Owners should separate their dogs if they cannot closely supervise them.

Dog aggression (that is, aggression shown by dogs towards other dogs) is a complicated matter. Like most things in life, it is not a black-and-white issue. We should not think of dog aggression as a binary (dog aggressive/not dog aggressive) but as a spectrum: dogs can exhibit zero dog aggression, dog aggression only in some situations, a high level of dog aggression, or dog aggression that falls somewhere in between these points.

Given their historical circumstances, Pit Bulls can be less tolerant of dogs than other breeds. Pit Bull owners must understand that their dogs may not get along with all other dogs. There are several levels of dog tolerance. Many dogs are great with other dogs and enjoy the company of fellow canines. Some dogs do well only with dogs of the opposite sex. Some are fine with dogs they were raised with but intolerant of new dogs. Some dogs are tolerant of other dogs except for in limited circumstances, such as when greeting a new person. Others cannot accept any other dogs. All of this should suggest that dogs are individuals and should be treated as such. Owners need to understand their particular dog’s acceptance level of other dogs and manage their dog appropriately when around other animals.

Regardless of breed, there are many dogs that do not like other dogs, and all dog owners need to be responsible. This means following the basic rules of dog ownership: keeping your dog on leash at all times, not letting your dog charge unfamiliar dogs, and supervising your valued companion at all times (i.e. not leaving your dog in the backyard without supervision).

For Pit Bull owners, the stakes are always higher. While Pit Bulls may not instigate a fight, they often won’t back down from a challenge. Inevitably, no matter who “started it,” no matter what the circumstances, the Pit Bull will always be blamed. Each incident in which a Pit Bull gets blamed jeopardizes our right to own these great dogs. Be a responsible dog owner and keep your dog out of trouble!

That said, many Pit Bulls get along great with other pets and may live happily with other dogs without incident. We simply cannot assume that this is true for all of them. We also cannot take for granted that Pit Bulls who get along with other pets today will do so tomorrow. None of this should suggest that, in the language of popular myth, Pit Bulls are more likely to “snap” or “turn.” It only means that their attitude toward other dogs may change as they mature, as can also be the case with any other breed of dog.

Pit Bull owners must show common sense by ensuring that they don't set their dogs up to fail by putting them in inappropriate situations. It is every dog owner’s responsibility to ensure that they are managing their dog’s needs and looking out for their dog’s safety at all times.


Considering a Pit Bull to call your own?

If you decide to adopt a Pit Bull or Pit Bull mix into your heart and home, please check out the friendly furry faces just waiting to meet you at the Wayne Township Animal Shelter!  Besides Ralphie, we also have more Pit Bull mixes available for adoption, check out Scooby, Blu, Lola, Betty and Trigger who will greet you with a loving personality and a tail wag!




201 Pompton Plains Crossroads

Wayne, NJ 07470

(Located off Route 23 North; take the Jackson Avenue exit)

Website:  www.petfinder.com/shelters/NJ516.html

Phone: 973-694-0767

Fax: 973-616-1270

Email: animalshelter@waynetownship.com




Check out the link below to see the many loveable furry friends awaiting adoption at the Wayne Township Animal Shelter!  Many of these animals have very sad stories of abandonment and have been waiting at the shelter for a long time, but they still hold out hope for a second chance to get out of their shelter cage one day.  At the Wayne Township Animal Shelter we are committed to finding our dogs and cats loving forever homes which means matching them with the right owner. 



CHECK OUT ALL OF OUR ADOPTABLE ANIMALS HERE:  www.petfinder.com/shelters/NJ516.html  

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

anthony j. popola June 15, 2012 at 08:45 PM
you know i understand everything you are saying, i had two large shepherds and a royal poodle as a young man...recently a maltese and currently a morkie(3.6 lbs.) i have had a lot of experience with other breeds also. but; every incident i see or read about involves either a pit, a rottweiler or an akita..usually a mauling or occaisonally a death. hard to look past these things..
Colleen O'Neill June 16, 2012 at 01:00 AM
Thanks for your comment Anthony. And I know its hard for a lot of people to look past the image for many reasons and I agree with the fact that these breeds are usually in the news. Mainly the reason is because its rare to hear of a mauling or death by a small or medium sized dog because they are simply not as powerful as larger breed dogs and the damage is far less when they attack. But any breed of dog can attack, that is a fact. When it comes to Pitt Bulls unfortunately there are some irresponsible dog owners which can taint the image of the breed itself and those are the dogs which you usually hear about in the news. The message I am conveying is that there are also very sweet Pitt Bulls that were raised properly and deserve a second chance to be adopted. Ralphie inspired me to write this article since he is as sweet as they come and totally opposite of what most people assume a large Pitt Bull mix would be like and I know his breed image probably intimidates a lot of people. But he has so much potential to be a great pet for someone and I really hope this article inspires someone to adopt him soon!
mona wieland November 17, 2012 at 02:04 PM
I have a Pitt/RR and a Rotti. They are the gentalist, sweetest, most well behaved, most loveable dogs I have ever had and I have had a German Sheppard, poodle (with attitude :)), Samoyans, Maltese,...My Rotti (our family dog, my girl) is 12yrs old NEVER any propblem of any kind. My Pitt/RR is such a gentleman! My son was recently "attacked" by two of four of our neighbors dogs that broke through their fence to "attack" my son on our property. It doesn't matter what kind of dog someone has, it's all about how they are raised. Mine are in a loving household.
mona wieland November 17, 2012 at 02:09 PM
They were Bull Dogs NOT Pitts or Rottis
Colleen O'Neill November 19, 2012 at 03:39 PM
Mona, THANK YOU SO MUCH for commenting with your personal experience with Pit Bulls, this will help readers understand even more. Also, you sound like a very responsible, dedicated and loving dog owner, would you please forward Ralphie's link (in blog above) to any of your Pitt Bull loving friends and family that might be looking to adopt? He really is a great dog and deserves a chance at finding a loving forever home and he's been at the shelter for so long, along with another pitt named Scooby. They both could really use a lot of help with finding a home. Thanks again!


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