American Pitbull Terrier

BREED PROFILE - American Pitbull Terrier

If there was ever a victim of bad publicity, it would be the American Pitbull Terrier. These faithful dogs are often mistakenly blamed for countless dog attacks and are common villains in canine urban legends. In reality, these dogs are loyal companions that were once held in esteem as pets by such figures as Helen Keller, Thomas Edison and Theodore Roosevelt.

Breed History

The terms “pitbull” and “bulldog” have become synonymous with aggression and ferocity. In reality, these two terms historically refer to the uses the dogs were originally bred for. Bulldogs were once used to bait bulls and bears while hunting, and pitbulls were those dogs cross-bred from bulldogs and terriers for use in fighting rings before the activity was outlawed. The original origin of bulldogs is unknown, but solid evidence of its ancestry can be seen in painting from as early as the 16th century. The modern American Pitbull Terrier (commonly known simply as “Pitbull”) is thought to originate from descendent of Britain's fighting dogs brought to the United States before the Civil War. The Staffordshire Bull Terrier is a close cousin to the American Pitbull but comes from pitbulls remaining in Britain.

Physical Description

The American Pitbull Terrier is a medium-sized dog usually weighing between 30 and 60 pounds when full grown. They have a short coat and stocky build which will ideally show good muscular definition. Their ears can be natural or cropped and the muzzle is wide and deep-set. Overall, many people describe American Pitbull Terriers as the canine equivalent of a body builder. Their strong muscles make these dogs very good climbers and escape artists, so all enclosures should be very secure to stop them from slipping out. Originally, they were bred more for their temperament and ability to work than for their appearance so virtually any color genetically possible in dogs can be found in this breed.


Despite the bad press against them, American Pitbull Terriers are very friendly dogs that do exceptionally well with children if properly socialized early. Owners of both the American Pitbull and Staffordshire Bull Terriers have affectionately nicknamed the breeds as “nanny dogs” due to their great empathy skills. These energetic dogs are often medium to high energy and should be walked several times a day. A bored dog is likely to entertain itself by chewing or digging wherever it wants to and can really frustrate their owner. A companion dog may be the solution but start socialization early as pitbulls can become very attached to their owner. The true nature of any dog may not show until the dog is 2 to 4 years old, it may be easier to start with a young adult instead of a puppy to be sure your new dog is the right temperament for you.

Health and Care Considerations

Before you get an American Pitbull Terrier for your next pet, make sure you research your decision completely. Some areas or insurance companies may have rules and restrictions about the ownership of these animals. They also require a huge time commitment to keep them well-behaved and their energy under control. If you decide to adopt one of these terriers, choose wisely. Make sure your breeder or dealer is reputable to get the healthiest possible animal. This breed can be vulnerable to conditions like hip dysplasia, heart disease, cataracts, and allergies, as well as a poor attitude if not properly bred. Perhaps the biggest concern with new pitbull owners is skin allergies which appear as red irritated skin, missing patches of fur, or even stomach upset. A supplement or protein change of fish oil can usually clear these problems up.

If you read this article to find a mean killer of a dog to terrify your neighbors and destroy intruders, this isn't the dog for you (nor is any other, but that advice is for another time). American Pitbull terriers are clowns and companions and workers. They have been employed as search and rescue animals, mascots for countless organizations, and movie stars. These loving dogs will bring new energy into your home and your family.