First off, there is no such breed as a “Pitbull”, or Pit Bull, this is a generic term used to describe any dog that appears to match a general description. As much as these dogs are feared they are also sought after. In some areas the description of a dog being a “pitbull” is enough to have it exterminated when cities pass laws such what occurred when Denver passed its BSL legislation.
Breeds of Pit Bull
Dogs that fit into this generic category also are part of the dog group known as the Molosser Breeds, a much larger group which includes Mastiffs, and even Pugs.
The term “Pit Bull” is a blanket term used for the American Pit Bull Terrier, the Staffordshire Terrier, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, as well as any unregistered dog that fits the physical description of those listed. A few areas have other laws in regards to what is, and what isn't a “pit bull” dog.
Each breed had different origins, most coming from breeding terriers, dogs bred to hunt and kill, to bulldogs. Of course this occurred hundreds of years ago and the Bulldog of that time was built much different than it is now, it had a full muzzle and was actively used to work with bulls. However as dog fighting was becoming popular the traits of the terrier, and the bulldog, were combined to make a more effective fighting dog, or a dog that could be used in sport – bear baiting, bull baiting, and the like.
Origin of the Name Pit Bull Terrier
The name can be derived from many sources, indeed the dogs were used to “pit bulls” that is to fight bulls in a contained area, they were used in sport often pitted against larger animals such as donkeys. Dogs of this type were also put into “pits” to fight each other – like bulls.
painting source - Staffordshire Terriers used in Donkey Baiting
Myths about Pitbulls
There are several myths, the most popular being that the dogs have a “Lock Jaw”. This is not entirely correct, their jaw does not “lock” as such, however they do have a powerful bite and will hold on for a long time when they are playing or fighting.
The other myth is that they are more likely to bite than other dog breeds. In truth smaller dogs often are not socialized correctly and more likely to bite, however bites by smaller dogs are often not reported, where as (in part because they can do more damage) bites by pit bulls tend to be reported and the media really enjoys sensationalizing them.
Pit Bull Terrier dogs are also reported to be more aggressive and not good family dogs. This is often brought about by owners who encourage aggression. In truth a well cared for, and well trained, Pit Bull Terrier is just as likely to be a good family pet as most other breeds. In fact they are more family oriented than some breeds of the Spitz type. As a general rule no dog (regardless of breed) should be left alone with children.
Facts about the Pitbull Terrier Dog
Owners who are selecting to get a dog of this type should be aware of the importance of Obedience training (as should any dog owner). In particular group obedience training helps the dog learn not only manners, but social skills too, and owners learn a lot of information on correct dog handling.
Games of dominance, such as tug of war, should always be avoided with stronger breeds of dogs, such as this. Nor should these dogs be kept on a chain in the backyard as this tends to make dogs more aggressive.
In 2008, Animal shelters in the United States euthanized 1.7 million dogs, 58% (roughly 980,000) of these dogs were of the Pit Bull type. There may be many reasons for this, one being laws restricting the breed, and thus forcing people to get rid of them. This dog also tends to have large litters, meaning many unwanted pups. Additionally as owning a “Pit bull” had been a bit of a status symbol, but not always practical, people got rid of dogs they were not properly prepared to own, or care for, thus leaving them at the shelter, or turning them loose to be picked up by the shelter as 'strays'.
Anyone wishing to get this, or any kind of dog, should do a lot of research making sure the temperament of the breed fits with their lifestyle. Pit bull type dogs can make wonderful pets, but should never be selected for the wrong reasons, such as “coolness”, prestige, or to “impress”.