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Pit Bull Terriers: Should You Own One? Bill Knell

Most people choose a dog with their heart, not their brain. Adopting a dog is a long term and very serious decision which should never be made lightly. That is especially true if the dog you decide to adopt happens to be a ‘Pit Bull’ Terrier. Terriers of all sorts are known for chewing, biting and tearing. While those behaviors can be controlled to some extent, instinct is a powerful force in the lives of dogs and often takes over when an animal is confused, upset or feels that a person or another animal is threatening or trying to dominate them.

A dog commonly referred to as a ‘Pit Bull’ can be a purebred American Pit Bull Terrier, a purebred American Staffordshire Terrier, a hybrid of both called the American Bully, or a mix of various dog breeds with a Pit Bull being dominate in the mix. American Pit Bull and Staffordshire Terriers were bred primarily as fighting and hunting dogs from a careful mix of English Bull Dogs and large Terriers. Although most pure bred ‘Pit Bull’ owners claim they have excellent temperaments, they are known to display naturally aggressive behavior towards strangers and other animals.

A new and allegedly less aggressive hybrid version of the Pit Bull known as the American Bully appeared in the 1990s. Despite attempts to control breeding of the American Bully and limited it to just a few kennels, backyard breeding began and is considered responsible for throwback versions of this hybrid which are now largely responsible for many of the ‘Pit Bull’ dog attacks that occur in the USA each year. Knowing the background of any dog you adopt can be extremely helpful in making any adoption decision and deciding how to proceed with training and care once the puppy or adult dog becomes a part of your household.

Also known as Fighting dogs, Half and Halfs, Bull Baiter Dogs, Yankee Terriers and Rebel Terriers, the breed standard for American Pit Bull Terriers is that they should be about fourteen and twenty-four inches in height and weigh between twenty-two and seventy-eight pounds. That is quite a variance which includes a height and weight difference between males and females. Potential owners should know that the only way to make an educated guess on how big a puppy will get is by looking at its lineage (if that is available) or parents. The lifespan of this breed ranges from nine to twelve years and these dogs suffer from a myriad of genetically transmitted health problems. Females which are allowed to breed will typically have five to ten puppies per litter. It is not recommended that this dog breed be adopted by people with young children or other dogs in their home. These animals require substantial daily exercise and good social interaction with their owners. This breed is not accepted for registration by the American Kennel Club, but can be registered with the NAPDR, UKC, NKC, ADBA, CKC, APBR, APRI, ACR, PBFSA, DRA, BBC and NAPR.

The American Staffordshire Terrier is also called a Stafford, Staffie, Staff or Am Staff. The breed standard for these dogs is that they should be sixteen to nineteen inches in height and weigh between fifty-seven to sixty-seven pounds. Their lifespan ranges from nine to fifteen years and females generally have five to ten puppies per litter if they are allowed to breed. Prominent and documented health problems include heart murmurs, thyroid conditions, skin allergies, tumors, hip dysplasia, hereditary cataracts and congenital heart disease. This dog breed requires substantial daily exercise and is not recommended for households with young children or other dog breeds. American Staffordshire Terriers are accepted for purebred registration by the American Kennel Club and other dog registries including the American Purebred Association.

American Bully dogs are considered to be handsome animals with diverse coat colors, patterns and a glossy tint. The typical height of females ranges from seventeen to twenty inches with a weight variance of seventy to one hundred pounds. Males share the same weight variance and are typically eighteen to twenty-one inches in height. The American Bully hybrid is not currently accepted for registration with the American Kennel Club, but is accepted by dog registries which include the ABKC, UCA, DRA, EBKC, BBC and the American Purebred Association. Because this hybrid is so new, there are no properly documented health problem studies available apart from a list of maladies suffered by the breeds that make up this hybrid. Although actual American Bully hybrids adopted from legitimate and licensed kennels are known for having good temperaments, I would not recommend that this hybrid be adopted by people with young children until further behavioral studies are available and the origin of the puppy or dog being adopted can be certified as from kennels which specialize in this new hybrid.

All large dogs require a substantial commitment of time, energy and resources from their owners. Pit Bulls need exercise and are known to be very social animals. Leaving them alone for extended periods of time may cause these dogs to experience frustration and confusion, which can lead to aggressive and even dangerous behavior. Remember, dogs cannot talk. They communicate with their actions. Because of the overall health concerns, veterinary bills will tend to pile up for these animals as they age. If you are not prepared to deal with the realities and responsibilities of adopting a ‘Pit Bull’ type pure bred, hybrid or mix, do not proceed with it.


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