Adopting a Pit Bull

The American Pit Bull Terrier and Pit Bull mixes are frequently available for adoption at PAWS. In fact some Pit Bulls and mixes of the breed often account for 20 percent or more of the dogs available for adoption at area shelters. Many embody the best qualities of our favorite canine friends – lovable, loyal, eager to learn, friendly and great with families. Unfortunately, they are often overlooked by potential adopters because of misconceptions about the breed.

PAWS staff work diligently to dispel the most common myths and answer important questions potential adopters should consider before adding a Pit Bull Terrier or mix to their home. Adopters are encouraged to ask lots of questions and do research online with organizations that deal specifically with Pit Bulls and their mixes.

Question: What are Pit Bulls?

Answer: The Pit Bull Rescue Central Network explains: "Pit Bull" is not a breed. It's a generic term often used to describe all dogs with similar traits and characteristics known to the public as Pit Bulls. When we use the term Pit Bull here, it should be understood to encompass American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, and Staffordshire Bull Terriers as well as dogs who are mixes of these breeds.

All dog breeds were created by humans to emphasize desirable traits. In general, Pit Bulls were raised to be very people friendly and form strong bonds with their families. They were designed to have lots of energy and be athletically built which means they require lots of exercise and usually excel at activities like agility and fly ball.

Question: Can Pit Bulls be untrustworthy around people?

Answer: A well-socialized Pit Bull is likely to earn the nickname "social butterfly" as he/she seeks attention from anyone and everyone. Nearly all of these dogs enjoy getting out, visiting with your friends, family and even most people they don't know. All dogs, no matter the breed, need to be socialized and have confidence in their guardian in order to feel the most comfortable in new situations, especially when meeting new people. Pit Bulls are no different – just like any other dog they need guidance from their person and will require proper training.

Question: Can Pit Bulls be untrustworthy around other dogs?

Answer: Any breed of dog can be pushed to defend himself, and some dogs easily escalate from playing to fighting behavior. Bad Rap, a leading Pit Bull awareness and adoption group in the San Francisco Bay Area, reminds us that, "As in many breeds, dog tolerance levels can range from very dog social to very dog aggressive. Most Pit Bulls fall somewhere in between. Even with the big help of socialization and obedience training, this confident breed can be pushed to fight if sufficiently challenged by another dog."

PAWS evaluates each Pit Bull we place to gain insight into his tolerance level with other dogs and to identify the dog's play style. While the shelter setting is different from what an adopted dog will be exposed to after going home, adopters can use these insights to better understand what kind of dog friends their new companion would be best suited to play with as dog buddies. PAWS adoption advisors also discuss proper dog-to-dog introduction techniques to assist with that step in their on-going socialization.

Question: If I adopt a Pit Bull, how do I respond to the negative comments people might say to me about my dog?

Answer: There are people who've had bad experiences with Pit Bulls or Pit Bull-type dogs, and it can be challenging to help them and others understand that your new dog is an individual and should not be categorized with all other dogs. During the pre-adoption counseling, PAWS asks adopters to think about what it will mean to be an ambassador for a breed that has often been misunderstood and in many cases abused.

Ambassadors will ensure their dog is well-mannered, obedience trained, spayed or neutered (which is included with adoption at PAWS), wears identification, avoids off-leash dog parks, and understands the nature and characteristics of the breed and general dog behavior.

Question: My Pit Bull likes to play with other dogs and has lots of energy, is it okay for me to take him to an off-leash park?

Answer: While it is important to properly exercise all dogs and keep them well-socialized, off-leash parks are not good environments for Pit Bulls. While off-leash parks have many benefits for dogs, being surrounded by other dogs who are off-leash and have unknown behaviors and play styles can be asking too much of many dogs, not just Pit Bulls. If a disagreement or fight occurs, you can be almost sure the Pit Bull will be blamed no matter who started it or how much your dog was provoked.

Instead, PAWS suggests you match your Pit Bull with a few dog buddies for play sessions; take your athletic companion on long runs or hikes; participate in an obedience or agility class; and look for appropriate parks where dogs are on-leash and you can do controlled introductions.

Other Resources

While American Pit Bull Terriers and their mixes are not the right fit for all families, if you are considering one of these dogs as a companion for yours, PAWS encourages you to do more research. Here are some great organizations:

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