There are few dogs that are more misunderstood than the pitbull. In some areas of the country, simply acting aggressively is enough for a dog to be labeled part of the breed. Everyone is likely to have heard or read stories of just how strong and vicious pits can be. This is due to a series of misconceptions surrounding them. In truth, there are few breeds of canine that are less likely to attack a human, but understanding that requires you to understand their behavior.
A pitbull is a utility animal. It was bred for specific traits related to the jobs that it was given. Its original use was as a herdsman’s dog. It would latch onto a bull’s nose and subdue it, which made it easier for the farmer to control. A sport arose around the training of the animals, which evolved into the bloodsport known as bull baiting where bulls would be subdued by multiple dogs while spectators waged bets. Since then, the breed has been used for a wide range of utility and sport and is even used to hunt boar, catching rather than killing the animal. Being bred for such tasks also means that they can get frustrated when not given enough exercise.
When it comes to pitbull characteristics, gameness stands out as a breed universal. This trait means that they are fearless animals that will continue to pursue their prey until it, or they, have perished. This feature, also known as game drive, is what makes them so strong and full of energy. It also means that pitbulls do not get along well with other dogs, which is often equated to generalized aggression. However, for dogs, aggression is not simply about being vicious in general.
There are two types of aggression in dogs, and they can be broken down into human and animal categories. They are separated because of how the animals arrive at their respective aggressive tendencies. Some breeds, like the Doberman, Rottweiler, and Chow were all bred to be exceptional guard dogs that would attack humans without hesitation. Pitbulls were bred to act aggressively towards other animals, but not to humans. This was an especially important trait, since a handler needed to be able to reach in and dislodge or take control of a dog without risk of being bitten.
Being natural service animals, pits are driven by a need to please their human companions. For those unfamiliar with the breed, the degree to which this is true can be a surprise. Physical redirection, such as swatting with a rolled up newspaper, is unnecessary and may even be counterproductive. Verbal redirection is generally enough to correct negative behavior. Applying the amount of force necessary to let a pitbull know you are not trying to play is just as likely to make them fear humans as it is to aid in training. Positive reinforcement where you use treats or rewards to promote good behavior is generally the most effective method.
Sports & Exercise
If you yourself are not the type of person that likes to be on the move, exercise, and keep their dog moving, then this may not be the breed for you. When pitbulls are kept in doors or in kennels for long periods of time, they will build up pent up energy. This energy need to be released on a daily basis to maintain a healthy build and mental state. If you fail to exercise your dogs for long periods of time, they will find ways to release this energy in negative ways. The most common way is barking, chewing on anything they can find, or even in some cases turning aggressive and fighting other dogs.
Dog sports are fantastic way to release this pent up energy and keep your dog in a healthy and happy mind state. Weight pulling, dock jumping, and spring poles are some of the best ways to build muscle and exercise your dog.
Treadmills may be used as well, however if you have the option to run them outdoors it would be best. Just like birds need to fly, dogs need to run out side. The sense of exploring new territory is a great way to keep your dog’s mind happy and body healthily. If dog sports aren’t your cup of tea, at least a 30 minuet walk per day is recommended.
A pitbull that grows up in a loving household is one of the least likely dogs to become aggressive with its handler. Their breeding alone makes them excellent companion and family dogs. They are entirely undeserving of the reputation they have garnered as vicious animals. If you are considering welcoming a pitbull into your home, you should not let modern myths dissuade you. Get to understand the breed and the individual animal, and you are sure to have a loving companion for years to come.