The Truth About Pit Bulls


Photo by Jayme Dukart |

Every dog has their own set of personality traits that make them unique, so you cannot predict a dog’s behavior solely on its breed type. There are many myths surrounding bully breed dogs or 'bullies,' that instill fear in the general public and can cause devastating misunderstandings.

Bully breed dogs, such as pit bull type dogs, have many personality and behavior traits that not only make them the fun-loving comedians of the dog world, but also require a responsible and knowledgeable owner.

Their range of behavior defies any label and is as complex and variable as any other breed, crossing the spectrum from the gentle and even tempered therapy dog used in school programs to help children read more fluently, to the dog labeled a liability for biting or even causing a human fatality.

What Makes Bully Breeds Unique?

  • Although there are always exceptions, bully breeds generally tend to mature earlier and demonstrate controlling behaviors from a very young age, engaging in rough play and muzzle punching. They often get overly aroused during play, which causes problems for other dogs. As the puppy matures, play can become rougher, with adolescent and adult dogs becoming less tolerant and more reactive. Rude play can provoke a negative response in other dogs’, which in turn causes the bully to respond, sometimes aggressively.
  • Bullies enjoy a zest for life that is incomparable to other breed types, but they can offend other dogs or scare people with their enthusiasm. Body slamming, jumping and sometimes grabbing an arm or piece of clothing is an exuberant (but non-violent) way of greeting, and can be interpreted or perceived as threatening or even aggressive. There seems to be no parameters for some bullies when it comes to invading body space.
  • Bully pups need to be well-socializedfrom a young age and taught self-control. Teaching a pup to greet a person by sitting rather than jumping up is a good way to start, and a pup should be removed when play gets too rough, or when his greeting is too energetic. This will help set boundaries that guide the puppy into making better choices.
  • Bully breeds tend to be highly demonstrative and emotional dogs that think with their hearts rather than their heads. Some find it hard to control their impulses and have a tendency to overreact in different situations. Teaching a bully to think before acting helps to focus an over- emotional brain into one that is actively thinking and problem solving. For example, asking a dog to wait while his food bowl is put down and eat only when given a release cue, teaches valuable impulse control that helps focus attention. Bullies are exceptionally quick learners when given the right motivators.
  • There are countless stories of bully breed type dogs 'suddenly exploding'. This seems to be the explanation whenever there has been a bad bite or a fatality, but the incidents of true explosive rage are very rare. Many bites are a result of a combination of environment and circumstance. The signs of discomfort might be subtle and easily misunderstood, ignored, or go unnoticed until they come together in a perfect storm that ends in a bite.
  • The key to reducing the number of these bites is to hold people more responsible for their dogs’ behavior, encourage them to only use positive training methods, which are less confrontational and therefore safer, and create mandatory education in schools to empower children with a clearer understanding of canine body language as well as educating parents and caregivers to be more aware when mixing children and dogs.
  • Many bully breeds are not for the first time dog owner, unless the person is willing to educate themselves and understand what to expect. People get these highly intelligent dogs and fail to give them the outlets they need, or worse, extend their tendencies and turn them into loaded weapons. They are a breed type that tends to attract the wrong kinds of people, who use these dogs to enhance their own image and status or to protect themselves or their families. This has led to disaster on many occasions.

Bully breed dogs account for half of all dogs that end up in shelters in the United States, and it is a devastating reality that very few make it out alive. People have damaged and abandoned these dogs to the point where re-homing becomes impossible, and it is human irresponsibility along with media hype that the pit bull and other bully types are now a breed type many people fear.

Instead of breed specific legislation and breed bans, however, the bully needs to be better understood and raised by responsible owners who must be held accountable for their dogs’ behavior. In the right hands, the bully is the best of all family dogs, but with a reckless or clueless person, the bully can become an out-of-control liability that ends up either hurting somebody or on a shelter’s euthanasia list.

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