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American Pit Bull Terrier

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The American Pit Bull Terrier is a dog with quite a reputation for aggression and is also called the Pit Bull or American Bull Terrier. It often gets mixed up with the American Staffordshire Terrier but in fact while connected they are now two different dogs, which at least the UKC recognizes. As well as its aggressive side though there is more to this breed. With the right owners and raising it can be affectionate, protective, loyal and be good family dogs and companions. Their athleticism, tenacity and strength make them also successful in some dog sports like agility, weight pulling and obedience.

The American Pit Bull Terrier at A Glance
Name American Pit Bull Terrier
Other names Pit Bull, Pitbull, Pit Terrier, Half and Half, Bull Baiter Dogs
Nicknames Pit, Pitties, APBT
Origin United Kingdom and United States
Average size Medium to large
Average weight 30 to 85 pounds
Average height 16 to 24 inches
Life span 12 to 16 years
Coat type Short and smooth
Hypoallergenic No
Color Red, blue, brown, grey, black and white, and brindle
Popularity Not a registered member of the AKC
Intelligence High – this is a smart breed
Tolerance to heat Moderate – needs monitoring in especially warm weather
Tolerance to cold Moderate – just single coated
Shedding Low to average – will be some hair around the home
Drooling Moderate to average
Obesity Moderate to average – make sure you measure its food and give it enough exercise and it should not gain weight
Grooming/brushing Moderate – brush once or twice a week
Barking Rare to occasional – some barking but should not be constant
Exercise needs High – very active breed and needs active owners
Trainability Easy for those with experience
Friendliness Good
Good first dog No – needs firm and experienced handling
Good family pet Good to very good with socialization
Good with children Good but needs good socialization
Good with other dogs Low – not only is socialization and training essential it also needs you to be a firm owner and to supervise contact
Good with other pets Low to moderate – socialization is essential but is best in homes where there are no other pets
Good with strangers Good with socialization but is wary and is an aggressive dog
Good apartment dog No – needs space and a yard
Handles alone time well Low – can suffer from separation anxiety
Health issues Somewhat healthy but a few issues include Hip dysplasia, heart problems, allergies, eye problems, Demodex Mange
Medical expenses $485 a year for pet insurance and basic health care
Food expenses $270 a year for high quality dry dog food and dog treats
Miscellaneous expenses $245 a year for toys, miscellaneous items, license and basic training
Average annual expenses $1000 as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $800
Rescue organizations Prairie Pit Bull Rescue, American Pit Bull Terrier Rescue, Pit Bull Rescue Central, Hugabull
Biting Statistics Attacks doing bodily harm: 3397 Child Victims: 1355 Deaths: 295

The American Pit Bull Terrier's Beginnings

The American Pit Bull Terrier's beginnings is in the UK in the 1800s where its ancestor was developed by crossing terrier breeds and bulldogs to create a dog suited to bull and bear baiting, both popular spectator blood sports at the time. When those sports were banned the dogs were then used for dog fighting so there is certainly a lot of aggression in its origins.

Some time in the late 19th century the dog came to the US and Canada and were developed to be farm dogs becoming larger than their English counterparts. They were used to hunt with, to drive livestock and as catch dogs. They were also used in illegal dog fighting and as guard dogs and attack dogs. Breeders worked on the dog to soften it, take out a lot of the aggression and make it a more successful family dog. As a result the dog received the nickname from some of a nanny dog, because it was gentle and protective of children.

New Lease on Life

The AKC does not recognize the American Pit Bull Terrier as a breed, because of the reputation it has. It does however recognize the American Staffordshire Terrier. This happened because in 1898 the UKC were the first to name the dog American Pit Bull Terriers but because of its bad reputation the AKC recognized it under a different name, the American Staffordshire Terrier. So at that time the two dogs were the same, but since then there has been a divergence with the latter being bred specifically for show purposes.

There have been several attempts at renaming the dog in an attempt to move away from their violent past. In 1996 the San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals called their pit rescues St Francis Terriers to get them adopted. However despite careful screening, several of those dogs attacked pets in the home. In New York a similar thing was tried, the center called the pits New Yorkies but had huge public opposition so were forced to drop it. Between 1979 and 2000 over 12 countries banned the breed because analysis results said it was a breed that was aggressive towards people more than any other breed and that they are far more likely to bite than other breeds, and can do more damage with those bites.

The Dog You See Today

The American Pit Bull Terrier is a medium to large sized dog that weighs 30 to 85 pounds and stands 16 to 24 inches tall. It has a muscular body, deep chest, thick and strong neck and is very solidly built. This stocky dog is powerful with a long body and a tail that is short and tapers to the tip. Its single coat is short, glossy and smooth and stiff. Can be any color apart from Merle, some are solid colored and some have patches. The Pit has a brick like broad large head with round to almond shaped eyes that can be any color apart from blue. Its ears are small to medium sized and in some cases are cropped where this practice is still allowed. Ears can be semi pricked or rose in shape. There is some wrinkling on the forehead and its jaws are wide and strong.


The Inner American Pit Bull Terrier


There is some controversy about the American Pit Bull Terrier's temperament. Some argue it is aggressive and that any other sides to it cannot overcome that aggression. Some say the media attention has skewed people's view of the dog to assume they are dangerous and evil when that is not the case at all. More than any other breed it is vital you get your dog from a very good breeder, you socialize, train and supervise and you only get one if you have the dominance and experience to handle them.

With the right factors lined up it can be friendly, playful, affectionate and very eager to please. It can be a good family dog who enjoys being a part of family life and activity and can be dependable. It does have strong protective instincts and a confident and fearless nature. It has a great joy for life and in fact can be puppy like well into being a mature dog. It is intelligent and is full of enthusiasm and a lot of well raised Pitties are actually easy going, kind, loyal and good natured. It becomes very attached to its family and can suffer from separation anxiety when left for long periods. When used as a working dog it is hard working and committed.

Living with an American Pit Bull Terrier

What will training look like?

The Pit needs an experienced and strong willed owner able to be commanding, consistent, firm and authoritative. It is essential to start socialization and obedience training from a young age, and it would be a good idea to take the obedience training beyond just the basics. It is your responsibility to be able to handle this dog if this is the one you choose to own. Make sure you introduce it to different people, animals, places, situations and so on so it known how to react to them appropriately. Be calm and positive with it, avoid scolding or using physical correction. As this dog does have a short attention span training sessions should be kept short and engaging. It would be best to do several short fun sessions than one long session a day. Be prepared for the dog to test boundaries and to do that even when older. Your dominance needs to be sure for the entire period of dog ownership.

How active is the American Pit Bull Terrier?

The APBT needs regular daily exercise as it is very energetic and it needs active owners happy with that. Take it for at least two long walks a day keeping them brisk, and enjoy some vigorous play with it outside too. Keep it leashed when walking and in fact make sure to check any local laws about owning this dog. Let it have off leash run time somewhere safe, think carefully though before releasing it in a dog park. If it does not get enough activity it gets bored, very destructive, neurotic and even aggressive so make sure that does not happen. It does not do well when it is too cold or too hot so look after it and take it out at mild times of the day. It should an hour or more a day of physical exercise but also some mental stimulation too. It is not an apartment dog, it needs somewhere to play.

Caring for the American Pit Bull Terrier

Grooming needs

Grooming the American Pit Bull Terrier is easy as its coat short and smooth. Brush it once or twice a week to keep it looking glossy and clean. It does shed an average amount so expect some hair around the home. Give it a bath just when it needs one, in between you can easily give it a wipe down with a damp cloth. When a proper bath is needed only use a dog shampoo to avoid damaging the natural oils in the skin.


Its teeth should be brushed at least a couple of times a week to keep them healthy, though if it will let you daily is better. Use a proper dog toothpaste and dog toothbrush. Check its ears once a week for infection looking for things like irritation, redness or swelling, or a bad odor. You can also clean them weekly using a cotton ball and ear cleanser or just a damp cloth. Make sure you do not insert anything into the ear canal, this can hurt them and do real damage. Its nails should be trimmed if they are not worn down naturally. Take care not to cut too far down where the blood vessels and nerves are as this will hurt the dog and cause bleeding.

Feeding Time

A dog of this size will eat about 1½ to 4 cups of a good quality dry dog food a day, split into two meals. How much exactly depends on how big it is, how active it is, its age, health and metabolism. Also ensure it gets access to water that is changed often.

How is the American Pit Bull Terrier with children and other animals?

With a good owner and proper socialization this dog can live fine with children and other pets. But without that proper socialization and with an inexperienced and too weak willed owner this is not a dog to bring home to them. Its inbred instincts are to protect and to use aggression and it takes the right people and breeding to change that. When you do, you have a dog that is gentle and affectionate with children but strange children visiting should not be left alone with it. It does have a high prey drive so it may be best to have it in a home without other pets, but it can be socialized to leave them alone with commitment. Some can be aggressive with other dogs so care should taken.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

The APBT has a life span of 12 to 14 years and is somewhat healthy but there are a number of issues it can be affected by. They include joint dysplasia, patellar luxation, heart problems, eye problems, skin problems, allergies, bloat, cancer, von Willebrand's disease, parvovirus and hypothyroidism.

Biting Statistics

When looking at reports of dogs attacking people and doing bodily harm in the US and Canada over the last 35 years the dog with the most worrying stat is not surprisingly the APBT. It has been responsible for over 3397 attacks against people. 1355 or more were children and out of those 3397 attacks 2110 were maimings, meaning the victim was left with permanent scarring, loss of limb or disfigurement. Unfortunately there were also at least 295 deaths. As stressed, socialization, training, good breeding, exercise, attention and strong leadership and supervision are essential. There are numerous laws about this dog, some outright bans and you will face judgments from others for owning it.

Your Pup’s Price Tag

A puppy American Pit Bull Terrier will cost about $800 from a decent breeder or possibly even more. There are plenty of rescues in shelters that do not outright euthanize them, but keep in mind it is harder to socialize and train a mature dog. Adoption fees run $200 to $400 and some medical needs will be taken care of for you too. Do not buy from less scrupulous options like puppy mills, pet stores or backyard breeders. It is possible if people used only decent breeders there would be less aggressive dogs out there.


When you have found the right dog there are some initial items and health costs to take care of. A crate, carrier, collar and leash, muzzle, bedding and such will cost about $220. Health needs like micro chipping, deworming, shots, spaying or neutering, blood tests and a physical exam will come to a cost of $290.

Then yearly costs will come to about $1000 as a starting figure. That covers $485 for health costs like pet insurance, check ups, shots and flea and tick prevention. $245 a year for miscellaneous items, license, toys and training. And then $270 a year for a good quality food and dog treats.


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There is no doubt this dog comes with some serious issues to deal with. It needs experienced owners with strong wills, ones who are absolutely committed to training and socialization. There are also more rules to follow, and it may be you are not even allowed to own one where you live. With all that said when the American Pit Bull Terrier has someone who accepts all of that, raises it well and it has come from a decent breeder it can be a great dog. Affectionate, gentle, protective and loyal, easy to groom and very active.

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