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

Written by: Kristin Hitchcock

Last Updated on June 18, 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 short-haired, medium-sized dog that is exceptionally stocky. They are also very friendly—in most cases. However, they have a bad reputation. Some American Pit Bull Terriers can be aggressive. In many cases, this is due to bad genes or improper raising. As you might guess, Pit Bulls can be undisciplined if they are abused, just like any other canine. That doesn’t mean that the breed as a whole is aggressive, however.

Instead, most American Pit Bull Terriers are sweethearts. Despite their reputation, many Pit Bulls never lose their trust in humans.

Breed Overview

Height:

17–21 inches

Weight:

30–60 pounds

Lifespan:

8–15 years

Colors:

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

Suitable for:

Active families with children

Temperament:

Playful, gentle, affectionate, strong-willed

American Pit Bull Terriers require daily exercise, but since their energy levels can vary, some need more exercise than others. They’re also mentally active, so you can’t just leave them in a yard all day.

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

American Pit Bull Terrier Characteristics

Energy
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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.
Trainability
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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.
Health
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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.
Lifespan
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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.
Sociability
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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 energy reserves, 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.

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

You can also find American Pit Bull Terriers at shelters. However, it’s essential to ask about temperament testing. Many excellent 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, which have led to many misunderstandings over the years. Genes affect 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. 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, which helps them get along well with children.

American Pit Bull Terriers were once bred as fighting dogs. This has been bred out of them, but they remain very self-assured and confident. For this reason, they’re excellent watchdogs. 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 aggressive toward other canines. In many cases, they aren’t a great choice for multi-dog households, even with a lot of socialization.

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

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 some 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 home. We also recommend them for experienced dog owners only.

American Pit Bull Terriers 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. Remember this when deciding if this breed is a good choice for your family. As always, we recommend supervision when Pit Bulls are around children.

Does This Breed Get Along with Other Pets?

American Pit Bull Terriers are not known for getting along with other pets. Some are particularly aggressive toward other dogs, especially dogs of the same gender, which is a common trait in guarding breeds. Responsible breeders try to make their 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 often chase cats. Like most Terriers, their chase drive cannot be “trained out.” They’re big enough to injure a cat, unlike other Terriers.

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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 high-quality dog food and don’t have special nutritional needs. Because they’re active, they may need higher-calorie food in some circumstances. Younger dogs are more active, but older dogs may calm down slightly. You’ll need to monitor your dog’s body condition and adjust their food accordingly.

Puppies require puppy food because they need different nutrients. For proper development, your puppy must eat puppy food until it matures into adulthood. Sometimes, dogs develop health conditions that require a specific diet. Pit Bulls are pretty healthy, but that doesn’t mean they won’t get any health issues. In some 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 🐕

Ideally, you must provide 1–2 hours of daily exercise. Of course, this should be broken up into several sessions. Puppies have different exercise needs than adults. Puppies typically require less exercise broken into even smaller sessions. Too much exercise can cause your dog’s joints and bones to develop improperly.

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 essential to prevent obesity in senior dogs, but they may not need as much exercise as they did when they were younger. Walks and runs are a great option, and you can play games like fetch and teach them how to swim.  However, their mental health is also important. Puzzle toys and training sessions can keep their mind busy and engaged. Otherwise, Pit Bulls can become very destructive due to boredom.

Training 🎾

Pit Bulls must be trained consistently. They’re intelligent dogs, so they pick up on training quickly. They also love attention and positive reinforcement. Therefore, they’re very easy to train, though they can sometimes be stubborn. Harsh training methods should be avoided (as with all dogs). Pit Bulls are very sensitive, and they react badly to harsh corrections. Too much can lead to them checking out from training or becoming aggressive.

Puppyhood is the best time to start training Pit Bulls. Puppies are learning about training and obedience overall, so it’s essential to start slow and early. Be consistent with your 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 socialization to your dog’s life in a controlled manner. You can sign up for group classes as soon as your puppy is vaccinated. Because Pit Bulls 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 short fur sheds, but it’s so short that they don’t produce that much fur. We recommend brushing them at least once a week or daily if they are shedding profusely. A slicker brush is often the best choice for deshedding. However, if your dog isn’t shedding much, you can use a soft bristle brush instead.

Brushing your dog regularly keeps their fur and skin healthy. Their coats are pretty good at staying clean, and a weekly brushing session can 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 trimmed as often. Overgrown nails can be very painful and even splinter, which can cause infections and 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 since human toothpaste contains harmful ingredients.

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, 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 many dogs have a much higher rate, 15% is still not a small number. Responsible breeders will screen their dogs for hip dysplasia before 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, and surgery is sometimes required. 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 common in many breeds, including Pit Bulls. Regular vet checkups can help catch this condition early, allowing it to be treated. Although it isn’t curable, it can be controlled.

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

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Male vs. Female

Male Pit Bulls are a bit taller and heavier than females. 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 significant 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 greatly. 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 American Pit Bull Terriers have a bad reputation and are often poorly raised, they are banned in many regions. Be sure to check your local laws before you adopt one. Even if they are legal, you may face 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 aggression, even if they’re drawn to the breed for other reasons. Luckily, breeders can 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 eager to please and aware of their owner’s feelings. Therefore, they behave well when they’re older. Juvenile Pit Bulls can be exceptionally active and may not listen as well.

american pitbull terrier dog
Image Credit: Anna Krivitskaya, Shutterstock

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Final Thoughts

Pit Bulls have a poor reputation, primarily due to media prejudice. However, they can be surprisingly affectionate and loving when properly bred and raised. They’re called “nanny dogs” due to their loving nature with children. Like most dogs, Pit Bulls are greatly affected by how they are raised. Sadly, Pit Bulls are notoriously raised incorrectly. Plus, they are large enough to do real damage if they are aggressive.


Featured Image Credit: Mary Swift, Shutterstock

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