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American Pit Bull Terrier Dog Breed: Info, Pictures, Care, Traits & More

Written by: Kristin Hitchcock

Last Updated on April 5, 2024 by Dogster Team

pitbull wearing red collar

American Pit Bull Terrier Dog Breed: Info, Pictures, Care, Traits & More

The American Pit Bull Terrier is a dog most people know of. They’re short-haired, medium-sized dogs that are exceptionally stocky. They’re also very friendly—in most cases. These dogs have a bad reputation, though.

Some American Pit Bull Terriers can be dangerous. They may act aggressively towards humans and animals. In many cases, this is due to bad genes or improper raising. As you might guess, Pit Bulls can be aggressive if they are abused, just like any other canine. This doesn’t mean that the breed as a whole is aggressive, though.

Instead, many of these dogs are sweethearts. Despite being purely bred or even abused, many Pit Bulls never lose their trust in humans.

Breed Overview


17–21 inches


30–60 pounds


8–15 years


Brindle, fawn, black, white, tri-color, blue, red, etc.

Suitable for:

Active families with children


Playful, gentle, affectionate, strong-willed

American Pit Bull Terriers require moderate exercise, but they tend to vary more than other breeds, so some require a lot more exercise. They’re also very mentally active, so you can’t just leave them in a yard all day.

Many people adore these dogs because they have a soft, gentle heart. They’re exceptionally friendly when properly raised. However, many are aggressive towards other canines. They’re a no-nonsense type of dog who won’t like to be challenged by other dogs.

American Pit Bull Terrier Characteristics

High-energy dogs will need a lot of mental and physical stimulation to stay happy and healthy, while low-energy dogs require minimal physical activity. It’s important when choosing a dog to make sure their energy levels match your lifestyle or vice versa.
Easy-to-train dogs are more skilled at learning prompts and actions quickly with minimal training. Dogs that are harder to train will require a bit more patience and practice.
Some breeds, due to their size or their breeds potential genetic health issues, have shorter lifespans than others. Proper exercise, nutrition, and hygiene also play an important role in the lifespan of your pet.
Some dog breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, and some more than others. This doesn’t mean that every dog will have these issues, but they have an increased risk, so it’s important to understand and prepare for any additional needs they may require.
Some dog breeds are more social than others, both towards humans and other dogs. More social dogs have a tendency to run up to strangers for pets and scratches, while less social dogs shy away and are more cautious, even potentially aggressive. No matter the breed, it’s important to socialize your dog and expose them to lots of different situations.

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American Pit Bull Terrier Puppies

Curios pitbull puppy sitting and looking up at camera
Image Credit: sophiecat, Shutterstock

As you might guess, American Pit Bull Terrier puppies are adorable. They have a lot of energy, so expect a lot of running around and bouncing. They have endless reserves of energy, so they will spend much of their awake time running around. However, like most puppies, they also need to sleep a lot. Expect their day to be naps interspersed by lots of running around.

Properly socialized Pit Bulls are known for their love of people. They need attention and socialization from a very young age. You should also start training them at a young age. They’re eager to please, but they’re also very mentally active. They’ll take to training quickly and easily, so take advantage of this from a young age.

When looking for a Pit Bull puppy, finding a reputable breeder is crucial. Sadly, these dogs are still illegally bred for dog-fighting. Therefore, it’s vital to choose a breeder that is producing family-friendly puppies. Be wary of pet stores and backyard breeders and ask about temperament testing.

You can find these dogs commonly at shelters, too. However, it’s important to ask about temperament testing. Many amazing Pit Bulls end up in shelters and rescues. Plus, when you get an adult Pit Bull, you can test their temperament and know what you’re getting.

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Temperament & Intelligence of the American Pit Bull Terrier

American Pit Bull Terriers are complex dogs with varying temperaments. This varying temperament has led to lots of misunderstandings over the years. Genes play a role in how a dog acts, but how you raise your dog also matters.

In many cases, Pit Bulls are affectionate and friendly. They love people and can make great family dogs for those with kids. In fact, they were once nicknamed “nanny dogs” due to their devotion to their families. Pit Bulls are also exceptionally active. They have boundless energy and love to play. They can be a bit goofy, but this often makes them get along well with children.

American Pit Bull Terriers were once bred as fighting dogs, though. This past has mostly been bred out of them today, but they still remain very self-assured and confident. They’re great watchdogs for this reason. However, they can be territorial and aggressive if not properly socialized and managed.

Pit Bulls require consistent training and socialization from an early age. You should be particularly careful to socialize them with dogs, as they’re naturally aloof or even aggressive towards other canines. In many cases, these dogs aren’t a great choice for multi-dog households, even with a lot of socialization.

Despite being somewhat independent, Pit Bulls are also very intelligent. Their people-oriented nature also makes them eager to please. They often want to make their humans happy, which makes them easier to train. However, as we’ve stated, consistency is key.

white pitbull close up
Image Credit: Chris Anabalon, Shutterstock

Are These Dogs Good for Families? 👪

American Pit Bull Terriers can be a good fit for certain families. As high-energy dogs, they do best in active families. Providing them exercise is vital to ensure they’re well-behaved and a good fit for your canine. We also recommend them for experienced dog owners only.

These dogs can be loving and devoted to children. However, they can also be unaware of their size. It isn’t odd for them to accidentally knock children over, especially younger dogs. Keep this in mind when deciding if this breed is a good choice for your family. As always, we recommend complete supervision when Pit Bulls are around children.

Does This Breed Get Along with Other Pets? 🐶 😽 

American Pit Bull Terriers are not particularly known for getting along with other pets. In fact, some are particularly aggressive towards other dogs, especially dogs of the same gender, which is a common trait in guarding breeds. Responsible breeders are looking to make these dogs less aggressive, so some puppies are far less aggressive than others.

Pit Bulls also don’t get along well with cats and other small animals. They have a strong chase drive, so they will often chase cats. Like most terriers, their chase drive cannot be “trained out.”

Plus, they’re plenty big enough to seriously injure a cat, unlike some smaller terrier breeds.

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Things to Know When Owning an American Pit Bull Terrier

Food & Diet Requirements 🦴

American Pit Bull Terriers do well on just about any quality dog food. They don’t have any special nutritional needs beyond what your typical dog needs.

Because these dogs are very active, they may need higher-calorie food in some circumstances. They often do well on extra protein and fat, too. Younger dogs tend to be more active, but older dogs may calm down a little bit. You’ll need to keep an eye on your dog’s body condition and adjust their food accordingly.

Puppies require puppy food, as they require different nutrients. For proper development, it’s vital that your puppy eats puppy food the whole time they are growing.

Sometimes, dogs may develop health conditions that require a specific diet. Pit Bulls tend to be pretty healthy, but that doesn’t mean they won’t get any health issues. In these cases, you’ll need to work with your vet to find the best dog food for your canine.

pitbull wearing dog collar
Image Credit: Lunja, Shutterstock

Exercise 🐕

These dogs are terriers, meaning that they’re pretty active in many cases. If you want them to be happy and healthy, exercise is essential. Ideally, you’ll need to provide 1–2 hours of activities per day. Of course, this should be broken up into several different sessions—not all at one time.

Puppies will have different exercise needs from adults. Puppies typically require less exercise broken into even smaller sessions. Too much exercise can make your dog’s joints and bones develop improperly. You should always watch your puppy when exercising them—don’t force your dog to exercise when they are tired.

Senior dogs may continue to be just as active as adults, or they may be less active. It all depends on how they age. It’s important to prevent obesity in senior dogs, but they may not need quite as much exercise as they did when they were younger.

Pit Bulls often love just about any kind of exercise. Walks and runs are a great option, but the walks should be brisk. You shouldn’t just walk your Pit Bull, though, as they can get bored easily. Fetch, swimming, and practically any playtime are also important. As long as the dog is with their family, they typically enjoy doing just about everything.

Don’t forget about their mental exercise, too. Puzzle toys and training sessions can help keep their mind busy and engaged. Otherwise, Pit Bulls can become very destructive due to boredom.

Training 🎾

It’s essential that Pit Bulls are trained consistently. They’re intelligent dogs, so they pick up on training easily. They also love attention and positive reinforcement. Therefore, they’re often very easy to train, though they can be independent and stubborn in some cases. Harsh training methods should be avoided (as with all dogs). Pit Bulls can be very sensitive, so they tend to react badly to any corrections. Too much can lead to them checking out from training or becoming aggressive themselves.

Puppyhood is the best time to start training these dogs. Puppies are learning about training and obedience overall, so it’s important to start slow and early. Be consistent with house rules so that your dog learns what is expected of them early.

Short, frequent training sessions are best. Aim for 5 minutes at first, expanding to about 10 minutes in adulthood. Always end the session on a positive note before your dog gets tired, or you get frustrated.

Group classes are a great way to add some socialization to your dog’s life in a controlled manner. As soon as your puppy is vaccinated, you can sign them up for puppy group classes. Because these dogs are so active, it’s important to exercise them before you start training them. Otherwise, they may be a bit too energetic and unfocused for training.

Grooming ✂️

A Pit Bull doesn’t require much grooming. Their very short fur does shed, but it’s so short that they don’t produce that much fur. We do recommend brushing them at least once a week—or even daily if they are shedding profusely. A slicker brush is often the best choice for deshedding. However, if your dog isn’t shedding that much, you can use a soft bristle brush instead.

Brushing your dog regularly helps prevent them from becoming overly dirty, too. Their coats are pretty good at staying clean, and a weekly brushing session can help remove any dust and dirt that might have accumulated over the week. They may need a bath every 2–4 months, depending on how dirty they get outside. Don’t bathe them too much, or you can irritate their skin.

Like all dogs, you’ll need to trim their nails regularly. More active dogs may not need their nails to be trimmed all that much. Overgrown nails can be very painful and even splinter, which can cause infections and even more pain. You’ll also need to brush your dog’s teeth regularly. A few times a week is best, but more is even better. Use a dog-friendly toothbrush and toothpaste, and human toothpaste often isn’t safe.

Start grooming early, even if your dog doesn’t need much as a puppy. Starting early helps desensitize them to grooming, making your job much easier later on.

american pit bull dog playing in the park
Image Credit: Diego Thomazini, Shutterstock

Health and Conditions 🏥

American Pit Bull Terriers are pretty healthy dogs. They can live for up to 14 years easily, and many live for even longer than that. However, like all dogs, they can develop health issues.

The most common one is hip dysplasia. Pit Bulls have a hip dysplasia rate of around 15%. While there are many dogs with a much higher rate, 15% is still not a small number. Responsible breeders will screen their dogs for hip dysplasia before any breeding occurs.

They may also develop luxating patella, which occurs when their kneecap slips out of place. It can cause pain and difficulty walking. In some cases, there may be long-lasting effects. Surgery is sometimes required, but other dogs may not need to.

Thyroid disorders can occur, too. Their thyroid gland may not produce enough hormones, which can cause weight gain and lethargy. It can be treated with medication to replace the missing hormone.

Dilated cardiomyopathy is a type of heart disease that’s common in many breeds, including Pit Bulls. Regular vet checkups can help catch this condition early, allowing it to be treated. While it often isn’t curable, it can be controlled.

Minor Conditions
  • Allergies
  • Luxating patella
  • Thyroid disorder
Serious Conditions
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Dilated cardiomyopathy

Male vs. Female

Male Pit Bulls are often a bit bigger than females. They tend to be both taller and heavier. However, this isn’t always true. Males also have more muscle mass, and they tend to be rather stocky. Females are also stocky, though some have less muscle mass than males.

Beyond that, there are no major differences between male and female Pit Bulls. Some claim that females are eager to please, while males may be more aggressive. However, this is not scientifically proven, and individual dogs can vary a lot. Gender is not a great way to determine a dog’s temperament.

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3 Little-Known Facts About the American Pit Bull Terrier

1. They aren’t legal everywhere.

Because these dogs have a bad reputation and are often poorly raised, these dogs are banned in many different areas. Be sure to check your local laws before you adopt one. Even if they are legal, you may come up against future breed bans and insurance problems.

2. Temperament testing is available if you’re worried about a Pit Bull’s aggression.

Many people are understandably worried about a Pit Bull’s potential aggression, even if you’re drawn to the breed for other reasons. Luckily, breeders often perform temperament testing before breeding, and some may even offer it for puppies.

3. They’re often easy to train.

Pit Bulls are often pretty easy to train. They are very eager to please and tend to be very aware of their owner’s feelings. Therefore, they often behave well when they’re older. Juvenile Pit Bulls can be exceptionally active and may not listen quite as well.

american pitbull terrier dog
Image Credit: Anna Krivitskaya, Shutterstock

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Final Thoughts

Pit Bulls have a poor reputation, largely due to media prejudice. However, when properly bred and raised, these dogs can be surprisingly affectionate and loving. They’re often dubbed “nanny dogs” due to their loving nature with children.

Like with most dogs, Pit Bulls are affected greatly by how they are raised. Sadly, Pit Bulls are notoriously raised incorrectly. Plus, they are plenty large enough to do real damage if they are aggressive.

Featured Image Credit: Mary Swift, Shutterstock

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