Pit Bulls » Training » Are Pit Bulls Aggressive?

Are Pit Bulls Aggressive?

Dog aggression is a common issue in pit bulls but, are pitbulls aggressive? Like, actually?

In fact, the UKC’s official breed standard for the American Pit Bull Terrier states that “most APBTs exhibit some level of dog aggression.”

But while dog aggression may be normal in pit bulls, that doesn’t mean it can’t become a problem.

are pitbulls aggressive

look at this aggressive pit bull 🙂

Why Are Pit Bulls Aggressive?

Pit bulls are the only bully dog breeds that are generally misunderstood by the masses due to their tough build and stature. Pit Bull doesn’t just refer to one dog breed but comprises several breeds. Over the past few decades, pit bulls have been termed as bad boys in the mainstream media.

If you look at the pit bull history, you’d be surprised to learn that these dogs were bred keeping in mind the vigilance of the Staffordshire Terrier and the strength of the Bull Dog.

Initially, pit bulls were used in animal sports such as ratting, bull baiting, cock fighting, etc. With the introduction of animal welfare laws, such sports started to phase out.

We’ve seen pit bulls who are well-mannered around other dogs and people, and we’ve also met pit bulls who were quite a handful. Regardless, the animal aggression in pit bulls is not the dog’s fault in itself but is rather a human error.

We humans have continuously bred these dogs to utilize their aggression in sick animal sports, to the point that only an experienced dog owner can deal with them affectionately.

Furthermore, several dog owners have a habit of keeping their pit bulls chained or caged in small premises, which will naturally spark an anxious and neurotic behavior from them.

Are Pit Bull Puppies Aggressive?

A million dollar question that plagues the minds of several pit bull enthusiasts is – are pit bull puppies just as aggressive as the fully grown ones? The answer is, no. Pit bull puppies aren’t aggressive like their fully grown counterparts. But they’re definitely a lot more stubborn than other dogs.

The way your pit bull puppy will behave depends ultimately upon its upbringing. It is harder to rehabilitate older pit bulls because they’ve been raised to act as a fighting dog.

Are Pit Bull Puppies Aggressive

However, pit bull puppies can be trained to be affectionate companions. It totally depends upon how they’re raised.

Some traits of pit bulls are hereditary but that does not mean that these wonderful creatures can’t be trained to become a little more compassionate. There are various factors that can trigger aggressive behavior in dogs and all dog breeds are at an equal risk of acquiring such behavior.

But, if you as a trainer treat your pit bull puppy well and set boundaries from the very beginning, they’ll be less likely to grow up into stubborn adults.

What To Do With An Aggressive Pit Bull?

If your pit bull begins to show signs of aggression against humans or fellow canines, then it is important that you take the necessary measures to mitigate such behavioural issues. Aggression in pit bulls is a serious issue and must be dealt with immediate concern.

In such a case, the best thing to promote healthy behaviour in your pit bull is by providing them with the necessary amount of training by professionals. Search for the best ethnologist or dog trainer in your local area and get your dog’s behaviour evaluated.

What To Do With An Aggressive Pit Bull

The dog trainer will then go on and refer you to certain behaviour management guidelines that will help tone down the stubbornness of your pit bull. In case your pit bull requires additional behavioural management, the dog trainer might recommend a few professional sessions with you and your dog.

The most crucial aspect towards aggression management in pit bulls is detecting it at an early stage and coming up with necessary solutions to alleviate such behaviour.

Dog Aggression vs. Human Aggression

When we talk about aggression in pit bulls, it’s very important to distinguish between aggression toward other dogs and aggression toward humans. PETA propaganda notwithstanding, the two are in no way related.

The former is common in many breeds, including pit bulls, while the latter is extremely unusual in our breed.

A pit bull who displays any aggression toward humans, no matter how slight, is not temperamentally sound and should be spayed or neutered immediately to make sure they don’t reproduce. The owner should also seek out professional help from an experienced canine behaviorist.

Levels Of Dog Aggression In Pit Bulls

Instead of defining dogs as “dog aggressive” or “not dog aggressive,” it helps to think of dog aggression in pit bulls as a continuum. On one end of the spectrum, we have the social butterfly.

This dog gets along with everyone and is always eager to make new canine friends. She is very forgiving of “bad behavior” and seems to tolerate even obnoxious dogs with a relaxed, easygoing demeanor.

Levels Of Dog Aggression In Pit Bulls

On the other end of the spectrum, we have the highly dog aggressive pit bull. This dog must be kept separate from all dogs, all the time. He neither likes, nor accepts other dogs, and taking this dog for a walk is highly stressful because he lunges toward anyone on four legs.

Most adult pit bulls fall somewhere between these two extremes. They may be generally friendly, but quick to put a dog who annoys them in his place. Or they might be fine around all dogs of the other sex, while attacking dogs of their own.

Still others accept the dogs they know or live with, but aren’t trustworthy around strange dogs. Or they may be okay with other dogs as long as the other dogs clearly accept them as the boss. There are countless variations.

Raising Your Pit Bull Puppy To Be Dog-Friendly

Many pit bull puppies are social butterflies, but this frequently begins to change–often to the great surprise of novice owners who prided themselves on their dog-friendly pit bull–as the dog reaches social maturity around age two, though it can happen as early as eight months or as late as three years.

Knowing this, you may wonder if there’s anything you can do to increase the chances that your pit bull puppy will remain dog-friendly as an adult.

The answer is “yes,” but the operative phrase is “increase the chances.” Because the genetic predisposition for dog aggression is strong in some dogs, nothing you do will ensure that your puppy grows up to be a dog-friendly adult.

Raising Pit Bull Puppy Friendly

You can, however, increase the likelihood.

The key is to provide your puppy with frequent socialization opportunities with well-behaved, well-socialized, friendly dogs. It is critical that all the dogs your puppy meets are friendly and non-aggressive.

The #1 reason (other than genetics) that previously friendly dogs become dog aggressive is that they were attacked or threatened by another dog.

That’s why places like dog parks, where you have no control over the type of dogs your puppy will run into, are such a bad idea.

That’s also why it’s up to you to protect your puppy in the event that another dog tries to attack him. You are the pack leader, and your puppy looks to you for protection.

Don’t make the common mistake of encouraging your puppy to “stand up for himself,” no matter how small or non-threatening the attacking dog may seem to you. That type of encouragement has created countless dog aggressive dogs.

In order to be effective, socializing your puppy with other dogs must be an ongoing process. Many people spend a few months actively socializing their puppy and then consider her “socialized,” but that’s not how it works.

You must continue to provide your puppy with regular opportunities to socialize with friendly dogs as she grows up, including new dogs she hasn’t met before.

Joining a training club or dog group in your area is usually the easiest way to accomplish this.

Can Dog Aggressive Adults Become Friendlier?

But what if you have an adult pit bull who is already displaying signs of dog aggression? If you’re committed to putting in the necessary effort, dog aggressive adults can become friendlier or at least more tolerant of other dogs.

Your pit bull’s strong desire to please you works to your advantage here, but it will still take a lot of work to see significant improvements in your pit bull’s interactions with other dogs.

Aggressive Adults Become Friendlier

Begin by getting yourself a copy of Turid Rugaas’ Calming Signals (if possible, get both the book and the DVD). People often say that pit bulls attack without warning, but that’s not entirely correct.

What is correct is that pit bulls may not display the classic warning signs everyone associates with an impending dog fight.

The warning signs they display are more subtle, so the first thing you need to do is become a master of reading your dog’s body language.

For pit bulls who get along with dogs they know and like, but not with strange dogs, you will want to provide increased socialization opportunities with other dogs.

These meetings should be on lead and take place on neutral territory (somewhere neither dog has been before). The first time you and the owner of the other dog get together, you may just want to take the dogs for a walk (try to alternate who’s in front) without letting them sniff each other.

The next time, you can briefly let them check each other out.

If there’s any sign of aggression (this is where knowing how to read canine body language is crucial), pull the dogs away from each other before a fight ensues.

After several more on-lead walks together, you can try again. If all goes well this time, start increasing the amount of time you let the dogs sniff each other. If the two slowly begin to hit it off, you will eventually progress to an off-lead encounter in a fenced area.

For pit bulls who act aggressively if they so much as catch a glimpse of another dog, a desensitization program is in order. A pit bull this dog aggressive may never like other dogs, but that doesn’t mean she can’t become desensitized to their presence.

If you decide to turn to a professional trainer for help, make sure you select someone who doesn’t employ positive punishment and negative reinforcement methods (see this article on clicker training for an explanation of the terminology).

Punishing dogs for acting aggressively toward other dogs is entirely counterproductive, as your pit bull will begin to associate the punishment with the other dog, giving him even more reason for dislike and hostility.

This is not to say that you should reward your dog for displaying aggressive behavior. The key is to begin rewarding before your pit bull’s body language indicates aggression, while teaching him to keep his attention focused entirely on you.

Practice getting and keeping your dog’s focus under increasingly distracting conditions until you are confident in your ability to do so.

Eventually you will attempt walking past a dog he would normally try to attack (on lead, of course), but you’ll get his attention (using praise, body language, treats, toys, or whatever else works for you) before the other dog is in sight and keep him focused on you until the two of you have walked passed the other dog.

Over time, this will require less and less effort and become almost automatic, as your pit bull learns to focus on you and ignore other dogs.

Even the most dog aggressive pit bull can learn to at least tolerate the presence of other dogs (if only by ignoring them), provided you are prepared to put in the necessary time and effort.

Free Training Mistakes Report

Learn the 7 Biggest Training Mistakes Pit Bull owners make for free! Just add your email below and get the free report.

Author: PitBulls.org

We aim to be the premier resource for American Pit Bull Terrier and their humans. Most areticles are wrote by Matt and Tonya, who own a ridiculously adorable Pit Bull/Lab mix.

We’ll also bring attention to the most critical news items of the day that relate to owners.

NOTE: We are not veterinarians or veterinary health care specialists! The articles which appear on PitBulls.org are provided on an “as is” basis and are intended for general consumer understanding and education only. Any access to this information is voluntary and at the sole risk of the user.

Nothing contained in articles and or content is or should be considered, or used as a substitute for, veterinary medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

17 thoughts on “Are Pit Bulls Aggressive?”

  1. We have two Pit Bulls. Both
    We have two Pit Bulls. Both rescue’s. The one we just got was from the ASAP in York,Pa. We were going to foster, but have fallin in love with, and he loves our female Gracie Allen. He shows aggression towards other dogs and small children. We have grand children, and this worries me a lot. He likes the older boys, ages 9 and 12, but the younger girl he liked, but recently started to growl at her. She is 2 1/2 years old, and we try to explain to her how to act around him, but she will do the opposite. He doesn’t like quick moments or flailing arms in the air. She will make little noises and it just get’s him more upset. He is just a little pocket Pit Bull, small in stature, but very strong none the less. He has had surgery done on his bad leg. So we haven’t been able to get him to Obedience classes yet. We know nothing about his past, He is Nutered. He was found along the road in Maryland. Couldn’t walk, and someone brought him to the ASAP in York, Pa. hoping for help. Do you or anyone have any suggestions for me till we can get him classes and get him socialized ? thank you, Joni

    Reply
    • Joni –
      I would recommend

      Joni –

      I would recommend seeking the help of a professional trainer who deals specifically with aggression issues AND uses only positive reinforcement methods. I am a certified trainer and can tell you that positive punishment will likely lead to further agression in your dog. Do not wait to enroll him in obedience because that type of training, while helpful, will not address the aggression issue. The private trainer will also be able to help you while your dog recovers from surgery.

      Your first concern should be with protecting your granddaughter. If your pit is showing aggression towards her and she is not behaving appropriately, this will only lead to disaster. It’s important that you never leave them alone together, and I would hesitate even letting her near the dog until she is older and can understand appropriate behavior.

      Please understand that you have a huge liability on your hands. Do not hesitate to address this issue. Best of luck.

      Reply
    • We have a 19mth old Blue nose

      We have a 19mth old Blue nose Pitt that we got when she was 8weeks old. She was raised around cats and small children her first 8weeks, and when we got her she was around a 15,12,10 yr old kids – and two cats. 

          She nipped my niece once when seemingly going after a cookie (my niece is 4) , and then that monday she killed our family cat. That was devastating to us! When visitors come over that she doesn’t know, we pen Pebbles up for about 10-15 minutes and after that she’s fine. However with small kids we started to worry – and so we leave her penned. Well – the other day a friend stopped by with his 4yr old and when the boy walked past her pen she went a bit nutty – jumping and carrying on. 

         I took her today to be spayed – but she’s having a false pregnancy so we have to wait. Should I want until after she is fixed to have a trainer look at her? Her behavior will change once she is spayed, right? 

         I love her dearly – she’s been spoiled, hugged, loved, taken for car rides, walks – we adore her. And shes great with our kids, not dog aggressive, toy nor food. Is she broken? 🙁

      Reply
    • We have a 19mth old Blue nose

      We have a 19mth old Blue nose Pitt that we got when she was 8weeks old. She was raised around cats and small children her first 8weeks, and when we got her she was around a 15,12,10 yr old kids – and two cats. 

          She nipped my niece once when seemingly going after a cookie (my niece is 4) , and then that monday she killed our family cat. That was devastating to us! When visitors come over that she doesn’t know, we pen Pebbles up for about 10-15 minutes and after that she’s fine. However with small kids we started to worry – and so we leave her penned. Well – the other day a friend stopped by with his 4yr old and when the boy walked past her pen she went a bit nutty – jumping and carrying on. 

         I took her today to be spayed – but she’s having a false pregnancy so we have to wait. Should I want until after she is fixed to have a trainer look at her? Her behavior will change once she is spayed, right? 

         I love her dearly – she’s been spoiled, hugged, loved, taken for car rides, walks – we adore her. And shes great with our kids, not dog aggressive, toy nor food. Is she broken? 🙁

      Reply
  2. Chico starting showing dog
    Chico starting showing dog aggresion at 2 years old, only with big dogs though. I had him in doggy daycare since he was 6 months old thinking this would help but it didn’t. I don’t let him go anymore and we are trying to work on it but he tore his knee back in June and had surgery in July and now all the training is on hold until his recovery is over (one more month).

    Reply
  3. I have a pit that is food
    I have a pit that is food aggressive. She is over 2 yrs old. She was my daughter’s dog but I took over ownership. My daughter could not handle her and her life style is not for a pitbull. So she is mine since 9 months of age. I have tried everything discipline to rewarding. I have been on SPCA sight and try their technique. I can hand feed her and hold the bowl it goes good. I set that bowl down and she growls when I try to take the bowl away. She will hold the bowl down with her nose and mouth. I can get her to back off from the bowl sometimes. It’s very puzzling. I can hold a dog bisquit in my mouth and she will take it gently from me. She is awesome dog but I want to get her good citizen but with the food aggression it not going to help. I talked to a trainer he told me she would turn on me if I don’t go thru his training. $600 for 6 sessions. He never saw the dog we only talked on the phone. I am just stumped…. anyone has any ideas.

    Reply
  4. i want to know if anyone can
    i want to know if anyone can tell me why my 1 year old pitt has become aggressive with me. he only comes towards me but not at my kids or husband. i love my dog and will never hurt him it hurts me that he is like that with me

    Reply
  5. I have just rescued a pit
    I have just rescued a pit bull from the local animal shelter, he is a very beautifull blue brindle male, almost 2 I would say. He is very very people friendly. We show american bulldogs so we are used to dogs becoming unruly. I do feel though that this male might have been a fighter though. He has a couple of scars on his mellon and a scratch across his neck that either came from a prong collar or another dog. The story goes a teenage boy found him in the woods nursed him back to health and turned him in. He does appear to have dog aggression issues. I am not afraid of him as we have 10 other dogs, and it really doesnt matter of the breed they can all be zesty if they take a notion too. Any comments or advice on how to smooth over the transition for this guy would be greatly appreciated. We havent even named him yet. I knew though if someone didnt take him he would be put down. He is quite a lover, I just want to make sure he understands I do not tolerate dog aggression from any of my dogs.

    Reply
  6. People reccomended we not get
    People reccomended we not get two dogs of the same sex, esp. pit bulls. We got a female mix first and a male pit bull second about six months later. The female is somewhat more dominant and they get along fine. I’ve heard of fights happening between two females in many breeds.

    Reply
  7. We recently took our daughter

    We recently took our daughter to the pound where she and Callie (who my daughter calls Callie Sallie) bonded immediatly. Callie was labled pit mix, but the bigger she gets the more pit she looks. Anyway, she is great with my kids, one is 3, one is 8 months, great with us and anyone that comes into our home. She is highly protective of the kids, and gets very upset when any other dog or person she doesn’t know comes anywhere near them. She stays beside the kids growling at the strangers. Other dogs, expecially male dogs she lunges at.

    Reply
    • You know I can’t help but

      You know I can’t help but think that if everyone that had children had pitbulls, maybe there wouldn’t be any children or kids get kidnapped in their own yard.  I was telling someoe the other day that the pit bull actually used to be considered the nana years ago according some of my research. 

      Reply
      • and i can’t help but think

        and i can’t help but think that if everyone that had children had a pitbull with aggression there would be no children.   Pit Bulls were never the Nana dog.  They were bred for one purpose.  

        Reply
  8. Well I noticed Eden doesn’t

    Well I noticed Eden doesn’t like other animals, I ask her vet, whats up with her attitude she likes to play “king of the mountain”  I’m stronger than you syndrome….with other dogs or animals.  When I take her to the park or walking I just keep off to myself.  B/C I already know what shes going to do so I don’t even go there with her.  And shes seems to be ok with people again.  Don’t know what happened that week.  BUT that week somthihng was going on with her.  I still bring her to work every saturday and shes fine, but if a dog comes in “Holy Moly”

     

    Vickie

    Reply
  9. I’m a groomer and I have had

    I’m a groomer and I have had some experience with all different kinds of breeds. First off a toy poodle would bite before a pit, lol. I know first hand from experience. I have a 5 year old Lab and a week ago I rescued a beautiful blue nose pit. The guy I got her from had her eating Kibbles and Bits (Ewww) She would pick through it and only eat certain parts of it. For a pit she is really small. She looks like a 8 month old puppy but is a year and a half. I have her on the best kind of dog food since my Lab is allergic to so many different things (Wheat,Corn, Chicken, List goes on). I was happy that she actually eats the food and doesn’t pick through it like she did with that icky brand. When I got her she weighed 30 pounds and now she is 33 pounds after a week of having her. I also updated all her shots and treated her for worms just in case if the weight issue was due to that. I asked the Vet and my co-workers what would be the best way to up her weight and they told me can food with high fat. Problem is she won’t eat it, She won’t eat table scraps not even treats. She will only eat the hard food. Don’t get me wrong I think that’s awesome, can food is bad for their teeth but she is way under weight. All around she is really sweet. My family loves her to pieces. She is not aggressive towards anything but the dog door. She keeps attacking the flap. I have been training her on leash to go in and out and each time she does it I make her sit. The only reward I can give her is praising her with pets and telling her “Good Nala” Some days she does really well and days like today she tore a chunk from the flap. Does anyone have a suggestion on how I can get her weight up? How to get her to stop attacking the flap on my dog door? She is great with everything else why is that the only thing she attacks?

    Reply
  10. I am the owner of a

    I am the owner of a pit/boxer. His name is bowser and he is about 8 to 9 months old. He is a friendly dog and gets along with other dogs fine. Sometimes new people make him nervous and he will bark but never has he tried to hurt them. In fact if they came close he backs up. Then afterwards he quickly gets used to them and doesnt mind them. He plays with all the dogs in my neighborhood. Which includes two other pitbulls. One of these pitbulls are from the same litter as him. We often let them outside to play. Gunney (bowsers brother owned by my friend) however does not really like other dogs to much. He is either ok with them or he hates them. He took to bowser immediately and he loves him and they play regurally, but Gunney being the slightly more aggressive and bowser being the nicer one bowser seems to play the roughest . Meaning when he plays he always goes for gunneys neck and gunney sometimes squeals at this but I quickly stop this. But they dont seem to get mad at each other for this at all. Today I had let my dog out to play with gunney. They were playing and since my dog always bites on the collar we had to take gunneys collar off. Then they started to play again, however there are other dogs in my neighborhood; one of these dogs is an old and little dog named daisy. She is very friendly and you can pet her all day long. However she does not like to play with other dogs and she has bite at my dog before to let him no that she doesnt want to play. My dog gets the hint and leaves her alone. Today gunney was out and she walked up to them while they are playing. Gunney bites her playfully but she bites at him to let him no that she doesnt want to. However this set gunney off into a blind rage and he started attacking her and biting her. He was shaking her in his mouth violently. My dog typically the non aggressive sits there and watches for about a minute and he jumps in on her and they both start attacking her. No matter how hard my friend and I hit our dogs they would not let her go. We thought they had killed her but they finally let her go and she ran off into the woods. My dog has played with her countless times and she has bite him before and normally he just shrugs it off and doesnt care. What made him want to attack this time? How do I prevent this? I would like for my dog and gunney to continue playing because it is good excercise and he is wired up at night if he doesnt get to play during the day. Please tell me how I can slove this.

    Thanks

    Reply
  11. Hi, I recently found a baby

    Hi, I recently found a baby pit bull who is about 8 weeks old and she is the runt of the litter. But the problem is that my mom isn’t too sure about having a pit. Is there any way I can convince her that all pit bulls aren’t bad and can be trained correctly? She keeps saying that they can still turn on you for no reason.

    Reply

Leave a Comment