It's difficult to discuss canine traits in generalities because all dogs are individuals. With pit bulls, it's more challenging since few experts agree on what a "pit bull" actually is.
It's a Pitty!
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Though not officially recognized by the AKC, the pit bull has been a part of the American experience for so long the public has come to understand that dogs who share a certain look are known colloquially as pit bulls. Being that pit bulls are terriers, they share many aspects of the terrier personality. Terriers, in general, are slow to mature. While young, most terriers are somewhat rambunctious, happy-go-lucky and energetic. As they mature, terriers become more bonded with their owners and a little less rambunctious, but never really lose that playful, blissful attitude. This is true of most "pitties" as well.
Very Smart, That Pit Bull
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Pit bulls are also very smart. They are quick studies and confident. In training classes, pit bulls tend to pick up on the lessons faster than some of the other breeds. This is a good thing, because pits who are not well trained early on can be a real handful, especially for the novice dog owner. As long as they have plenty of room to exercise and discharge that energy, pitties can focus on their training and become proficient at a variety of activities such as agility, therapy or obedience trials. They should be well socialized early on, especially if they will be living in a family with young children or other household companion animals.
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Pit bulls have some problems inherent in the breed just like any other breeds. It's always worth repeating that all dogs are individuals and so much of what goes into dictating their personalities is upbringing, environmental factors and general health; so what may be a plus or minus trait in one dog may not be present in another. Having said that, pit bulls are surrendered to shelters for a variety of problems many seem to share. They can be aggressive due to their high prey drive. Pit bulls may be destructive if bored or antsy, a result of not having enough exercise. Some may be a little stubborn, a trait many terriers share. Separation anxiety is common.
The Final Word
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The final word on these amazing dogs is that they have suffered greatly due to their reputation as "fighting dogs," but as dog trainers say, "if a dog is bad, look at the other end of the leash." Their determination to please the people they love has been exploited for money, leading to an overabundance of unfair and unreasonable bans, undeserved reputations and alarming euthanasia statistics.
Michelle A. Rivera is the author of many books and articles. She attended the University of Missouri Animal Cruelty School and is certified with the Florida Animal Control Association. She is the executive director of her own nonprofit, Animals 101, Inc. Rivera is an animal-assisted therapist, humane educator, former shelter manager, rescue volunteer coordinator, dog trainer and veterinary technician.