Why are Pitbulls so Aggressive

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Have you ever been on a walk and been startled by a leashed pit bull that lunges at you aggressively? After that encounter, have you wondered why pit bulls have the reputation they do as fierce dogs?

The pit bull has a long history of being used as an aggressive dog and was specifically bred for dogfighting.

Although pit bulls historically were bred for aggression, there are other reasons why they are so fierce. Below we will discuss those reasons and how to train your pit bull not to be so aggressive.

Four reasons why your Pit bull is aggressive

History of dogfighting: 

For centuries, the pit bull has been selectively bred for dogfighting. It’s been known that even in dogfighting, owners will take the most aggressive pit bulls and breed them specifically to keep that aggressive bloodline. This has led to generations of hard-wired litters of pit bulls that can be tough to train.

Dating back a couple of thousand years, pit bulls were used in Europe for several aggressive reasons, including bull-baiting, ratting, and dogfighting.

Unfit owners

Several decades of media stories and attention surrounding pit bulls, specifically regarding dog fighting and attacks on humans that result in significant bodily injury or death, have cast a reputation on pit bulls.

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

When these dog owners get pit bulls, they only exacerbate the problem because they are trained improperly, encourage aggressive behavior, and are not closely monitored around other dogs and people. 

Mental, emotional, or physical issues:

Pit bulls are dogs that respond to positive reinforcement as opposed to negative. Positive reinforcement has been shown to be effective on pit bulls.

Another reason for pit bulls acting up is the lack of human contact. Pit bulls don’t do well spending a lot of time alone. Being alone more than usual can cause a pit bull to misbehave.

If your pit bull is acting unusually aggressive out of nowhere, they may have a physical issue bothering them. Whether your pit bull is sick or has a physical ailment, like an injured leg, this could cause your pit bull to become aggressive.

Other aggressive breeds labeled as pit bulls: 

While the pit bull is not actually considered a breed, several types of breeds are considered pit bulls today. All of them can be put under the umbrella term “bully breeds.” 

  • American pit bull terrier
  • American Staffordshire bull terrier
  • The Staffordshire bull terrier
  • The American bulldog

These breeds listed above, along with others, don’t have hereditary links to each other necessarily. They are on this list primarily for physical features, such as muscular, athletic frame, broad head, and stocky body. 

This bully breed system has been somewhat controversial, specifically regarding pit bulls. Because pit bulls are not an actual breed of dog, rather a collaboration of different breeds, pit bulls have been misidentified and, in quite a few stated cases, blamed for aggressiveness when the actual breed of the dog is not a pit bull. We will dive further into this below.

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

Seven Tips to train an aggressive Pit bull

Nature vs. Nurture

You’ve undoubtedly heard this phrase regarding raising children. Well, raising dogs is no different! While pit bulls have an aggressive genetic history, being diligent in raising your pit bull not to be aggressive can go a long way to help.

Early learning habits: 

Being able to raise your pit bull as young as possible is critical. The sooner you can teach your pit bull how to behave around other people and other dogs, the easier it will be to acclimate. 

Practice makes perfect: 

We talked about teaching your pit bulls 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 pit bulls’ tolerance.

Get formal/personal training: 

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

Knowing your Pit bulls triggers: 

When raising pit bulls, or any other dog for that matter, having a good idea of bad triggers for them is vital. If your pit bull is very territorial over his food bowl, don’t put your pit bull in the same room with another dog while eating.

Prior knowledge of your Pit bull needs: 

Before adopting and or raising a pit bull, it is crucial to understand what kind of dog you are bringing into your home. 

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

Spay or Neuter your dogs: 

One of the best ways to handle pit bull aggression is by controlling the population. By helping maintain the pit bull population, you are not bringing any unexpected dogs into the world that you are too busy to care for. 

These puppies that are given up often end up in the wrong hands of an owner that doesn’t properly train and care for the puppy. This inevitably repeats the cycle of aggressive pit bulls.


How to know when a pit bull is becoming aggressive

How to know when a pit bull is becoming aggressive

When dealing with any dog, it’s always important to understand dogs’ body language. Pit bulls are no different. They give off plenty of visual cues to let their owner, strange dogs, or other people know when they’re uncomfortable. 

After all, being uncomfortable and unsure is one of the big keys to why a pit bull becomes aggressive in the first place.

  • Showing teeth is an indicator that a pit bull is showing aggression. 
  • Puffed out chest Pit bulls will often do this to make themselves look more prominent, which is a sign that 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 content. 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) that a dog is not happy with the current situation.
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It is important to remember that visual cues are not universal for every pit bull. Some pit bulls have better patience and are willing to give off the visual cues mentioned above. 

However, pit bulls may not give any visual cues, so it’s essential to know your pit bull well. The best way to avoid these aggressive situations is not to put your pit bull in situations it is not comfortable with or has not been adequately trained for.


Comparing aggressive traits from the Pit bull vs. other breeds

When understanding pit bull statistics regarding aggression, it’s important to realize several factors come into play that can skew public perception one way or the other.

Misidentification: 

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

In fact, one study has shown that in shelters, dogs have been mislabeled as pit bulls 60% of the time. So, it can be easy to see why dogs that don’t have any pit bull DNA and are blamed for aggressiveness or verified attacks can unfairly hurt the pit bull’s reputation.

Strong athletic genes: 

Pit bulls are indeed extremely powerful dogs. However, when there is an attack involving a pit bull, because of the sheer power of the dog, the damage done to the victim (human or another dog) will always be more significant than, say an attack by a chihuahua.

Because of the seriousness of injuries that pit bulls can inflict on humans, these attacks are more prevalent to make the nightly news or article in a paper. After all, you don’t see many news segments about a corgi that nipped at a neighbors ankles.

This constant barrage of negative news clips has also played a role in the public view of pit bulls.

Historical Studies: 

Numerous studies have had varied results. The American Temperament Test Society, for example, published studied results that showed many other breeds of dogs are more aggressive than a pit bull, including chihuahuas, German shepherds, poodles, and even corgis.

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

Pit bulls attacking unfamiliar dogs: 

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

When pit bull owners have discussed their own pit bulls’ aggression, usually a consistent theme is aggression towards other dogs mainly, not humans. 

In fact, daily interactive activities for owners such as taking their pit bulls for walks or taking their pit bulls 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.