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Why are Pitbulls so Aggressive? (4 reasons!)

Have you ever been on a walk and startled by a leashed pitbull that lunges at you aggressively? Do you wonder why pitbulls have a reputation as fierce dogs?

The pitbull has a long history of being used as an aggressive dog and was bred explicitly for dog fighting. However, there can be other causes for why this breed can be aggressive.

Below we will discuss those reasons, how to identify an aggressive pitbull, and how to train your pitbull to be less aggressive.

Why is your Pitbull so aggressive (4 reasons)

#1 Aggressive bloodline

For centuries, the pitbull has been selectively bred for dogfighting. Owners take the most aggressive pitbulls and breed them to keep that aggressive bloodline.

This has led to generations of hard-wired pitbulls that can be tough to train.

Dating back a couple of thousand years, pitbulls were used in Europe for several aggressive reasons, including bull-baiting, ratting, and dog fighting.

Some might disagree, but for many pitbulls, aggressiveness might simply be in their DNA.

#2 Bad owners

Several decades of media stories and attention surrounding pitbulls, specifically regarding dogfighting and attacks on humans, have cast a bad reputation on pitbulls.

This reputation has attracted a segment of pet owners that seek out pitbulls specifically for their aggressiveness, sheer muscle, and power. 

When these dog owners get pitbulls, they only exacerbate the problem because they train the dogs improperly, encourage aggressive behavior, and do not closely monitor pitbulls around other dogs and people. 

#3 Mental, emotional, or physical issues

Pitbulls are dogs that respond to positive reinforcement as opposed to negative ones. So if you have been rewarding them for doing the wrong thing, they will keep repeating that undesired behavior.

Another reason for pitbulls acting up is the lack of human contact. pitbulls don’t do well spending a lot of time alone because boredom can cause a pitbull to misbehave.

If your pitbull is acting unusually aggressive out of nowhere, they may have a physical issue bothering them. Sickness or a physical ailment, like an injured leg, can cause your pitbull to become aggressive.

#4 Other aggressive breeds labeled as Pitbulls

While the pitbull is not actually considered a breed, several types of breeds are considered pitbulls today.

All of them can be put under the umbrella term “bully breeds.” 

  • American Pitbull Terrier
  • American Staffordshire Bull Terrier
  • Staffordshire Bull Terrier
  • American Bulldog

These breeds listed above, along with others, don’t necessarily have hereditary links to each other. Yet, they are on this list primarily due to physical features, such as muscular, athletic frames, broad heads, and stocky bodies. 

This bully breed system has been somewhat controversial, specifically regarding pitbulls.

Because pitbulls are not an actual breed of dog but rather a collaboration of different breeds, they have been misidentified and blamed for aggressiveness when the actual breed of the dog is not a pitbull.

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We will dive further into this below.

pit bulls have a long history of dogfighting
pit bulls have a long history of dogfighting

How to train an aggressive pitbull (7 tips)

Tip 1: Nature vs. Nurture

You’ve undoubtedly heard this phrase regarding raising children. Well, raising dogs is no different!

While pitbulls have an aggressive genetic history, being diligent in raising your pitbull to be less aggressive can go a long way to help. Pitbulls can be sweet too!

Also, check out “How to Calm A Dog Down in Every Situation–The Right Way!”

Tip 2: Early learning habits

Being able to raise your pitbull as young as possible is critical.

The sooner you teach your Pitbull how to behave around other people and dogs, the easier it will be to acclimate.

Tip 3: Practice makes perfect

We talked about teaching your pitbulls young. Another critical factor is having them around other dogs and people consistently when they are puppies.

Normalizing the different behaviors of other dogs and people at a young age can enhance your pitbull’s tolerance.

Tip 4: Get proper personal training

Having your pitbull receive training from a professional trainer can be positive. However, don’t forget to train your pitbull yourself regularly.

Learning to obey specific commands, such as “come,” can ensure they don’t get into uncertain environments that might lead to aggressive behavior. 

Tip 5: Knowing your pitbulls triggers

When raising pitbulls, or any other fierce dogs, it is vital to have a good idea of their bad triggers.

If your pitbull is very territorial over his food bowl, don’t put your pitbull in the same room with another dog while eating.

For more training tips, check out “How to Teach Your Dog to Wait for Permission Before Eating.”

Tip 6: Prior knowledge of your pitbull’s needs

Before adopting or raising a pitbull, you must understand what kind of dog you bring into your home.

For instance, pitbulls are highly energetic dogs; they need daily exercise. Without this daily routine, pitbulls (or any other active dog) can be prone to unruly behavior.

Tip 7: Spay or neuter your dogs

One of the best ways to handle pitbull aggression is by controlling the population.

By helping maintain the pitbull population, you are not bringing any unexpected dogs into the world that you are too busy to care for. 

These surrendered puppies often end up in the wrong hands of an owner who doesn’t properly train and care for the puppy. This inevitably repeats the cycle of aggressive pitbulls.

Besides, a “fixed” dog is usually a more gentle dog.

Signs of aggression in pitbulls

How to know when a pit bull is becoming aggressive

When dealing with any dog, it’s always important to understand its body language. Pitbulls are no different.

They give off plenty of visual cues to let their owner, stranger dogs, or other people know when they’re uncomfortable.

After all, being uncomfortable and unsure is one of the big reasons a pitbull becomes aggressive in the first place.

  • Showing teeth is an indicator that a pitbull is showing aggression. 
  • Puffed-out chest Pitbulls will often do this to make themselves look more prominent, which is a sign they are in an aggressive state of mind.
  • Wagging tail/Sticking straight up This is a tricky indicator because, like most dogs, a wagging tail indicates happiness or contentment. However, it can also mean high energy or stress, which can be a prelude to being uncomfortable.
  • Growling is a universal indicator (outside of roughhousing) a dog is not happy with the current situation.
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It is important to remember visual cues are not universal for every pitbull. Some pitbulls have better patience and are willing to give off the visual cues mentioned above. 

However, some pitbulls may not give any visual cues at all, so it’s essential to know your pitbull well.

Avoid putting your pitbull in situations where it is uncomfortable with or has not been adequately trained for.

Comparing Pitbull vs. other breeds

When understanding pitbull aggression statistics, it’s important to realize several factors can come into play, which skews public perception one way or the other.


As stated above, pitbulls are not an actual breed, so when dog attack statistics are published, many dogs often get lumped in as pitbulls through misidentification.

One study has shown that in shelters, dogs have been mislabeled as pitbulls 60% of the time.

So, it can be easy to see why dogs with no Pitbull DNA are blamed for aggressiveness. Unverified attacks can unfairly hurt the pitbull’s reputation.

Strong athletic genes

Pitbulls are indeed extremely powerful dogs. That is to say, when there is an attack involving a pitbull, the damage done to the victim will always be more significant than, say, an attack by a chihuahua.

Because of the serious injuries pitbulls can inflict on humans, these attacks are more prevalent to make the nightly news or newspaper.

After all, you don’t see many news segments about a corgi that nipped at a neighbor’s ankles. This constant barrage of negative news clips plays a role in the public view of pitbulls.

Historical studies

Numerous studies have had varied results. For example, the American Temperament Test Society published study results that showed many other breeds of dogs are more aggressive than pitbulls, including chihuahuas, German Shepherds, poodles, and even corgis.

Peta, meanwhile, has supported a ban on breeding pitbulls. However, they have also supported the same ban for other dog breeds.

Pitbulls attacking unfamiliar dogs

When discussing pitbull aggressiveness, it’s also essential to understand what your pitbull will be most aggressive towards. 

When pitbull owners discussed their own pitbulls’ aggression, a consistent theme is aggression towards other dogs, rather than humans.

Daily interactive activities for owners such as taking their pitbulls for walks or taking them to dog parks have seen higher rates of aggression because they are in an unfamiliar venue with strange dogs.

These examples are primary reasons for turning your untrained and unpredictable pit bull into a calmer, more experienced dog through training.

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Wednesday 24th of August 2022

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