If people were asked to name a dangerous breed of dog, most of them would almost certainly name the Pit Bull Terrier. These dogs have one of the worst reputations of any breed, and are often thought of as violent, aggressive dogs that should not be kept as pets, with some people even going as far as campaigning to ban the breed.
However, is this reputation deserved? Most people familiar with the breed would say that it is definitely not. Pit Bulls can be some of the most sociable and affectionate dogs, and like any breed the owner is more at fault for their behaviour than the pet. If you see a violent Pit Bull, the odds are that they have been raised by an irresponsible owner.
However, the dogs would not have a violent image if there was no truth to it at all. Some Pit Bulls have been known to bite other dogs, or even humans. This is a worrying prospect, but it is not one that a responsible owner would ever have to worry about. With good training, Pit Bulls are gentle and caring.
A lot of the breed's reputation comes from its origins. Pit Bulls were originally bred for bull baiting. This barbaric sport from the past pitted dogs against an angry bull, and is where the breed gets its name.
Later, in the 19th century, the dogs were used to fight one another. This horrible activity was rightly banned long ago, but it resurfaced in America in the 1980s, and this is where the trouble started for the Pit Bull. The fighting dogs became a symbol of power and masculinity in certain communities, and these owners typically encouraged aggression in their pets.
This made people think that the dogs themselves were inherently violent, rather than blaming the owners. Ironically, the Pit Bull's history is one of the reasons why the breed makes such a good pet. The dogs that were originally used for fighting needed to be handled often by humans, so they were bred specifically not to be aggressive to people.
This actually gained them the nickname of 'nanny dog' in the UK, as the dogs were so acclimatised to humans that they would act as nursemaids to young children. The breed is very loyal and loving; a far cry from the violent image many people have of them.
Of course, the dogs can become aggressive towards other canines if not trained properly. However, respectable breeders almost always begin socialisation training when the puppies are very young, and this usually negates this tendency.
So, can you keep a Pit Bull safely? Absolutely. Make sure you get one from a responsible breeder though. You will also need to bear a number of things in mind when it comes to caring for the dog, as just like any breed, Pit Bulls have special considerations that need to be remembered.
The dogs are quite energetic, and their naturally muscular bodies mean they will need a fair amount of exercise. If you are not able to provide this for your Pit Bull, you will need to think about putting them on a responsible diet. Something like the BARF diet will ensure the dogs do not end up becoming obese.
You should also remember not to try and train Pit Bulls as guard dogs. Contrary to popular thought, the breed is terrible at this job. Pit Bulls are simply too affectionate and comfortable around humans, so training them to guard you will be useless at best, and at worse can cause the breed to become aggressive to other dogs.
Training a Pit Bull in general, however, can be incredibly easy. The breed is so people-oriented that typically the dogs are eager to please their humans. They respond extremely well to positive reinforcement and treats, and love to show off in front of you. This includes learning new tricks to make you happy.
Pit Bulls, therefore, are excellent dogs to keep and definitely not deserving of the bad reputation they have managed to gain over the years. If you are considering getting a dog that will be good with children and keen to learn tricks, choosing a Pit Bull is one of the best options for you.
Written by: Hannah Dyball