Whether or not you're interested in adopting a pit bull, there's important information you need to know about these dogs. Irresponsible owners and the media have contributed to grossly inaccurate information about them. We hope the following factual information about breed history and temperament standards will help alleviate the fear and misinformation associated with pit bulls.
'Pit Bull' is a general term used to describe 4 breeds of dogs: the American Pit Bull Terrier (APBT), the American Staffordshire Terrier (AmStaff), the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and the Bull Terrier. All 4 breeds have a common ancestor, the Bull-and-Terrier. The Bull-and-Terrier and its descendants were all originally bred for bull-baiting and dog fighting as entertainment, even though it was illegal. The Staffordshire Bull Terrier and the Bull Terrier were developed first in the British Isles. The Staffordshire Bull Terrier was brought to the US in the late 1800s to fight, and became known as the pit bull terrier. Americans favored a slightly bigger dog than the English, and over time the two diverged. The American Kennel Club (AKC) recognizes the Bull Terrier, the AmStaff, and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. The American Pit Bull Terrier is recognized by the United Kennel Club (UKC). Although technically different breeds, the APBT, the AmStaff and the Staffordshire Bull terrier are essentially the same in both appearance and temperament. The Bull Terrier, however, has a much more distinct egg-shaped head.
Dog aggression and human aggression are two distinctly separate traits and should never be confused. Because of their history as a fighting dog, pit bulls are prone to dog aggression. However, care can and should be taken to modify this tendency since pit bulls can often learn how to be dog tolerant or even dog friendly. It is quite common for a pit bull to be wonderful with people, while at the same time not 100% trustworthy around other dogs. Human aggression, however, is not a normal trait in pit bulls and should not be taken lightly. The official UKC breed temperament standard is the following: "the essential characteristics of the American Pit Bull Terrier are strength, confidence, and zest for life. This breed is eager to please and brimming over with enthusiasm. APBTs make excellent family companions and have always been noted for their love of children. Because most APBTs exhibit some level of dog aggression and because of its powerful physique, the APBT requires an owner who will carefully socialize and obedience train the dog… The APBT is not the best choice for a guard dog since they are extremely friendly, even with strangers. Aggressive behavior toward humans is uncharacteristic of the breed and highly undesirable." If poorly bred, mishandled, abused, or unsocialized then a pit bull, like ANY other breed, can develop behavior problems or aggression that is atypical of the breed.
Due to misinformation and lack of education, certain breeds have been incorrectly labeled "dangerous." Dogs of all breeds can and will mature into well tempered adults if raised properly. A large part of raising any breed properly includes socializing and training them starting at a young age. If you're interested in learning more about whether a pit bull would be right for you, it's important to research the breed. The websites badrap.org and realpitbull.com have large amounts of quality information.