Although colloquially some dogs of similar stature are called “Pit Pull”, only the American Pit Bull Terrier officially bears the name – and this only in the USA, because European clubs do not recognize the breed as an independent breed. Most of the “Pit Bulls” found in Europe are American Staffordshire Terriers or crossbreeds. Common to all Pit Pulls, however, is that they have a bad reputation as “fighting dogs”.
“Pit Bull”: Race or American Staffordshire variant?
Although most dog lovers know the name “Pit Bull”, it is often not clear which dog is meant. This is also due to the fact that the FCI (Fédération Cynologique Internationale), the largest international umbrella organization for dog breeding, has not yet recognized the breed as an independent breed. To understand this, we look into the past of the Pit Bull, about which its name already tells us a lot: The origin of the breeding efforts lies in the USA, where the breed was created by crossbreeding between British Bulldogs and Terriers. Out of these crossbreeds the breed American Staffordshire Terrier, called “Am Staff” for short. The goal of selective breeding was above all a good four-legged fighter, who should prove himself in the so-called “Pit”, the arena for animal fights. Here “Pit Bulls” were for example chased on rats in order to kill as many rats as possible in a given time. Fights against other dogs were also on the agenda for a long time.
As “Pit Bulls” one finally described above all those American Staffordshire Terriers, which were used in fights, speak: the “working dogs”. With them it was more about the character, which was doubtful from today’s point of view: Other dogs were preferred to aggressive animals with low stimulus threshold, the appearance was secondary. That is why the majority of the American Pit Bull Terrier shows a very great similarity to the American Staffordshire Terrier, but optical differences can also occur. In 1898 the newly founded United Kennel Club (UKC), which has not cooperated with the FCI until today, recognized the American Pit Bull Terrier as a separate breed. For a long time there were also crosses between Am Staffs and Pit Bulls. In the rest of the world as well as colloquially also in the USA, “Pit Bull” developed as a generic term for fighting dogs in general. Unfortunately there are still dog fights in numerous countries and despite prohibitions and accordingly there are still animals which are “bred” especially for the participation in such cruel spectacles.
On Staff Twin
Inevitably, Pit Bulls look very similar to American Staffordshire Terriers: The Pit Bull is a muscular, compact dog that can weigh about 27 kg with a shoulder height of up to 53 cm. The bulky head with the semi-erect hanging ears is conspicuous – so they were not docked in order to give the dog a “more dangerous appearance”: A practice, that fortunately is forbidden in most European countries meanwhile. The short fur can have all colors except the color combination Merle. Since in Europe mostly hybrids of different so-called “fighting dogs” are called Pit Bulls, a closer description is not necessary in these cases. But it is important to know that in some countries already the appearance similar to such a dog is enough to be not allowed to enter the country.
The legacy of cruel dog fights on the one hand, and irresponsible owners on the other, have brought the Pit Bull into disrepute. Correct is: Badly socialized Pit Bulls can show a high degree of aggressiveness towards humans and animals, because they are intrepid and basically just what they were bred for in former times, namely “ready to fight”. In the relationship to humans, however, the breed is generally very submissive, which was already important during the inglorious animal-fighting times, because the four-legged animals always had to be able to be separated from the fight by a human without the two-legged being attacked. Like most of these “fighting dogs”, the Pit Bull shows that the danger comes from the other end of its leash. So carefully socialized Pit Bulls are considered to be gentle and with their intelligent nature and playfulness they are excellent dogs for sporty families and great companions for children. They are not suitable as guardians due to their willingness to subordinate. Basically, origin, socialization and upbringing are always decisive factors for a relaxed living together with this breed – respectively this breed variant. If one of these pillars shakes, the dog can become a danger – dog beginners should not take this risk under any circumstances.
Education is a matter for experts
In any case, a Pit Bull needs dog-experienced and level-headed owners, for whom dog training is no new territory. This should include a thorough and early socialization towards other dogs and humans. Besides it applies with these quadrupeds always a clear and consistent, naturally non-violent guidance to hold, since Pit Bulls otherwise try to take the first place in the ranking. This can have fatal consequences with an animal with the described facilities. In any case, always take a young Pit Bull for a puppy play lesson so that he gets used to handling different dogs. Attending an affiliated dog school can also be very helpful.
American Pit Bull Terriers can have a tendency to hip dysplasia. This risk can be minimized by appropriate breeding examinations and the risk of hip arthrosis can be reduced by maintaining normal weight. The breed also has a disposition for canine demodicosis, a skin disease caused by excessive infestation with the hair follicle mite. Also as skin irritations can show up various allergies, from which the Pit Bull can be affected. All in all, however, it is a robust four-legged friend that can live to be about 12 years old with good care.
Pit Bull nutrition
The health of a dog determines to a large extent also the daily bowl content. Therefore, you should choose a food that is appropriate to the species and contains a high percentage of meat: meat should be at the top of the list of ingredients. If you want to switch from the previous food to another food, never proceed abruptly, but mix a little more of the new food into the already known food every day. This prevents hypersensitivity reactions, especially if the food has different qualities. While a puppy should receive four smaller meals a day, two portions are sufficient for an adult quadruped. Make sure that your pit bull then has a rest period, for example for a digestive nap. It is therefore best to always feed your puppy after a long walk. With regard to the daily amount of food, the manufacturer’s instructions can only provide a rough guide, as the actual energy requirement depends on the constitution and activity of your companion.
The coat of the breed is short and accordingly easy to groom: Brush the coat once a week. Get your puppy used to this ritual – most dogs enjoy the caring strokes. You should only bathe your companion in an absolute emergency and with a mild dog shampoo, because the skin flora of short-haired breeds regenerates only slowly. Check the length of the claws regularly and shorten them with claw scissors if necessary. Often this is only necessary in old age, if at all. Some dog owners brush their four-legged friends’ teeth daily – and for the purpose of getting used to them from puppy age on – with dog toothpaste and a special dog toothbrush to prevent tartar. Alternatively, dental care snacks or dry chewing items such as dried cattle ears can be provided.
Pit Bulls surprise many dog lovers with their versatility: The sporty and persistent dogs are often used in their home country as rescue or search dogs. A Pit Bull needs a lot of exercise and is always available for a common adventure with its caregivers. Dog sports such as agility can also give the American Pit Bull Terrier great pleasure, but frequent jumps should rather be avoided due to the tendency to hip dysplasia. In any case, it is important that your companion does not engage in strenuous sports or climb stairs before he is fully grown. Because of the innate acuity of the breed, protection dog sports should not be practiced with a Pit Bull, as this would tend to increase the undesirable facilities.
Considerations before moving in
Before you prepare for the arrival of a Pit Bull, let me say: If you go to Europe specifically looking for an American Pit Bull Terrier, you will not be able to purchase one from a regular breeder, because the FCI does not recognize the breed. If you like the clichéd “fighting dog call” and like to lead a deterrent dog through the village, you should distance yourself from the attitude of a Pit Bull, because with this attitude you will by no means do justice to the loyal four-legged friend. Serious prospective buyers can switch to the American Staffordshire Terrier in Europe, which naturally has the same demands on its owners: On Staffs as well as Pit Bulls always belong into dog-experienced hands. Regarding the external effect it should be clear to every Pit Bull friend that such a dog on a leash polarizes and negative reactions during the daily walk and in the circle of acquaintances can be expected. With a well-behaved Pit Bull you can of course see this as a chance to let the critics wrap the charm of your own four-legged friend around your paw.
Apart from the critical public perception the keeping of Pit Bulls or Am Staffs is made more difficult in numerous countries and regions: In many federal states of Germany as well as Austria the keeping is connected with strict conditions – from the dog driver’s license to the agreement of the responsible mayor – and partly higher dog taxes. In Switzerland, keeping dogs is completely forbidden in some cantons. A complete entry ban for Pit Bulls and quadrupeds with similar appearance exists in France, Denmark and Great Britain.
Before moving in, ask about any existing regulations and higher dog taxes and take this opportunity to calculate the average costs that regularly arise for dog food, veterinarian and insurance. As a dog-experienced animal lover, you already know the cost-intensive basic equipment for four-legged friends (leash, harness, collar, beds and blankets, transport security for the car, care utensils, toys).