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Things I Learned From the Stereotypes Surrounding Pit Bulls

Hobbyist writer who tries to look at things from an unbiased perspective and who likes to write about interesting things she's learned.

You have most likely heard many stereotypes surrounding pit bulls, and because of this, have either decided to hate these dogs, defend these dogs, or just be somewhere in the middle. I did some research to see just how much weight a few of these stereotypes actually held.

The American Bulldog and Bull Terrier are often miscategorized as pit bulls.

The American Bulldog and Bull Terrier are often miscategorized as pit bulls.

Stereotype: The Pit Bull Is a Breed of Dog

Pit bulls are not a breed of dog as some think. They are, in fact, a grouping of a few different dogs. The pit bull term mainly consists of dogs that are a mix between a Bull Dog and a Terrier. Some of those include the American Pit Bull Terrier (the original Pit Bull), American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and the American Bully. These are the only dogs that the AKC and/or UKC recognize as "pit bulls."

The term "pit bull" is most commonly used to refer to the following dogs that originate from combining bulldogs with terriers.

— United Kennel Club


Dogs Mistaken for Pit Bulls

Even though you may sometimes see the American Bulldog (different from English Bulldogs) and Bull Terrier included in this list; they are not pit bulls. Other notable dog breeds that are sometimes mistaken for pit bulls are the:

Stereotype: Pit Bulls Are Vicious Because of Genetics

What are genetics? Genetics is the longer version of genes, which, are the blueprints for the body. This means your genes (or DNA) are how you will look and develop based on the DNA from your parents and previous ancestry. So, how does this work in dogs? Well, it does what you would imagine. It gives them certain fur color, eye color, size, and surprisingly enough, their behavior.

Trick Question: Which Dog Breed Is Most Aggressive?

It is true that some dogs are naturally more aggressive than other dogs, which is partially due to their genetics. For instance, German Shepherd, Rottweiler, and Doberman may be aggressive breeds. However, so are the Dachshund, Chihuahua, and Jack Russell Terrier. Yet, because those are small breeds and don't do as much damage as their larger counterparts; they are often overlooked.

One of the largest problems with the pit bull grouping is inbreeding. A dog that was once able to be a companion was irresponsibly bred multiple times to the point that aggression was one of the defining characteristics of the dog today. This resulted in the dog having abnormalities that cause it to randomly snap, since its genetics is all haywire. So what does this mean for the pit bull? Well, it brings out the old debate...

Now that we know exactly which brain abnormalities the breeders of fighting dogs have been selecting, the assertion that this aggression is not heritable is no longer tenable. It is also not tenable to assert that not all the dogs of these breeds will carry the genes that make them dangerous.

— Merritt Clifton - Animals 24/7

Nature vs. Nurture

Nature vs. Nurture. This dog's gene may say it is supposed to be aggressive and mean but its environment says it is to be loving and good. As long as the dog is raised in an environment that reduces or negates the need for snapping, then this dog has no more chance of attacking you than any other dog. Take pit bulls as someone with anger issues for example. Sure, any person has the ability to flip out but a person with anger issues has a shorter fuse. Pit bulls are the same in a way. However, unlike humans, they can get mad at the drop of a hat.

A dog can only get mad at so much. So as long as you reduce the risk of agitation for this or any aggressive dog. They should be just as loving and caring as any other breed/group. Mainly, if you know what makes your dog tick—stay away from it! If your dog hates other dogs then the best thing to do is not take it to a dog park with other dogs. It is only a recipe for disaster. Responsible pet ownership is always important.

Stereotype: Pit Bulls Are Bred for Fighting and You Can't Change That

It is true the original pit bull, the American Pit Bull Terrier, was bred for fighting. In fact, this dog is a cross between a bulldog and a terrier, which were both used for fighting. The Bulldog was used as a bull-bait dog and would attack bulls or bears for sport. The terrier on the other hand, because of its small size and agility, was good for hunting and killing vermin.

So when someone says a pit bull is bred for fighting, they are right in that assumption because its ancestors were bred for such a thing, while later the pit bull itself was made for the same sports. However, there were some pit bulls that were bred for companionship or work over fighting.

Some pit bulls were selected and bred for their fighting ability. That means that they may be more likely than other breeds to fight with dogs. It doesn’t mean that they can’t be around other dogs or that they’re unpredictably aggressive. Other pit bulls were specifically bred for work and companionship.

— Jacob Silverman - How Stuff Works

Dogs Are a Product of Their Raising and Environment

Some dogs (not just pit bulls) live a life where they are forced to fight and when someone says you can't change them, to an extent, you are right. You can't change what happened to them in the past. Whatever life they lived is now part of them, just like a human's past sticks with them.

Fighting pit dogs live terrible lives where they are given small spaces, chains, and drugs, and are exhausted, starved, and physically beaten in order to be trained to fight for money. Money that won't better their lives but lines the pockets of others.


Bred for Fighting or Companionship?

So, we have established that:

  • It IS true these dogs were bred for fighting.
  • It IS true that you can't change them in terms of each individual past.
  • It IS also true that you can't change the genetics of the current living dogs.

So, in essence, the statement "they can't change they ARE vicious" should be correct, right? Well, not really.

On the one side, you have the news reporting on pit bull maulings almost daily. Yet you also have these dogs becoming police dogs and service dogs so something must be happening to them to make some of them companions and some of them killers. If you want an explanation; look back to my previous statement.

"However there were some pit bulls that were bred for companionship or work over fighting."

So with that being said, it explains why there are vicious pits, lovable pits, and working pits. It's because their genetics say they can fall into any category. Now don't get me wrong ANY pit bull can still be aggressive due to inbreeding that gives them brain anomalies. Just like improper handling and training can make them aggressive; but, that being said, most pit bulls are fairly normal and as long as you socialize and train them well you will, more than likely, have a decent dog on your hands.

Stereotype: Pit Bulls Have the Strongest Bite of All Dogs

Do pit bulls have the strongest bite out of all dog? Apparently, so the rumor goes. This rumor stated that, at one point, the pit bull had a 1,600 PSI in dog pressure. Which would mean that this dog could bite you harder than a bear, a shark, and a jaguar. It also means that if the rumor was true; a pit bull could bite your arm off in one bite. Or at the very least almost take it clean off in one bite.


PSI Reference

After looking through some information about PSI (pounds per square inch) that different: wild animals, domesticated dogs, and even humans put out on average. I compiled a list to see just where the American Pit Bull Terrier ranked in all this. Going by the rumor that a pit has a 1,600 psi bite; it would rank right above the jaguar. Making it #5 on the list. However, in reality, in a grouping of 20 dogs, the pit bull only comes in at #14.

For context, I also added humans to the list so you could see what the average PSI was for us. There was one study though that conducted an experiment to see just how hard a human could bite. The record? 270, meaning that man could bite even harder than the average pit bull psi.


When measuring bite PSI, most can agree that the size of the animal's head determines how hard it can bite. Though even the largest of dogs can still bite with practically no force. That is determined by HOW they want to bite. If you were playing around and having fun, a dog, will probably just nip you. However, if it was attacking or defending itself; it would bite as hard as it could.

Trained dogs though bite harder than your everyday dog because it has a strengthened jaw. Which is one thing dogfighters and police do with their dogs to increase damage. Mainly, just know that with any dog you get you have to remember that they can do serious damage to you. Not just pit bulls.

Stereotype: Pit Bulls Are Not Good With Kids

These dogs can be good with kids of any age. However, you should NEVER leave a small child unsupervised with ANY dog. One of the biggest misconceptions with pit bulls and dogs that look like them is that they were once "Nanny Dogs". That, I am sorry to inform you, is a myth. When people started taking pictures of their kids and pit bulls the myth got started that these were "nanny dogs" when they are not.


So because they are not nanny dogs does that mean they are bad with children? No, with good training a pit bull can handle and a lot of roughhousing from a child. Because of their very energetic nature; these dogs will love to play with any child that can play the day away with them. Just watch out since, once these dogs get going, it can be hard for them to stop.

Most importantly, make sure you teach your child how to treat a dog respectfully (this goes for any breed) and also know if your dog is the type of dog to deal with children. Pit bulls can deal with them normally, but, not all dogs are the same. So mind the subtle hints your dog gives you if they want to be left alone.

Did you know that there was never such thing as a 'Nanny's Dog'? This term was a recent invention created to describe the myriad of vintage photos of children enjoying their family pit bulls.

— Bad Rap

Stereotype: Pit Bull Banning Saves Lives and Is Better for Society

There are only four types of dogs that count as actual pit bulls, yet, so many are grouped in and sent to be euthanized because people don't know what a pit bull actually is. It is actually pretty often that people mistake other types of dogs for pit bulls. In fact like the picture below shows; you can mix together a boxer and a bull mastiff and it ends up looking almost exactly like an American Pit Bull Terrier, when in fact, it isn't. (Study was conducted by The Blade)


If the pit bull was banned to the extent that someone people want in today's age you would practically see a culling of any dog that even remotely looks like them. While you would definitely take out the pit bull. You would also, inadvertently, wipe or almost wipe out other breeds as well. That being said not all bans are bad. The ban that declared pit fighting in all 50 states as illegal was a good thing.


Potentially, a regulation on breeding itself wouldn't be too bad; as long as you weren't going around mindlessly killing these dogs. If you regulated who could safely breed them so they no longer had brain anomalies and to keep the breed at a stable level that would possibly help. Plus spaying and neutering would help prevent these dogs from just running around breeding to their heart's content.

Doing either has the potential to cause a healthy drop in breeding and also cause the overfilling of shelters to start dwindling down in pit bull-looking dogs so they have a chance to get adopted. If a regulation is done right it could be helpful to the pit bull and dogs that look similar to them.

Forming an Educated Opinion About Pit Bulls

The pit bull is a good grouping of dogs when given the chance, and, with the right changes, they could become more accepted in society. While it would be great if this could all be solved right now the main problem is—people. When you live in a society whose one side says these dogs are vicious, mindless, killers and nothing else and the other side says these dogs are loving, amazing, and just misunderstood. Both become a problem.

You at this point have two extremes. The negatives vs the positives. Instead of looking at the dogs realistically and admitting that they can be vicious but they can be good. Or that their genetics do play a part in it but it is also how you raise them. When you don't admit to both sides you leave a path of blindness to the issues and misleading information that causes the dog to get an even worse rap than it already has, and, in all honesty, the pit bull deserves more than that.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

Question: Why should anyone who has children choose a pit bull as opposed to, say, a Labrador retriever? Can you give me one valid reason?

Answer: I can't really give you a reason as to adopting/buying one breed of dog over another.

At the end of the day, it comes down to the dog's previous life experiences as well as how you raise them.

That being said, I, PERSONALLY, don't suggest this type of dog for small children. I know there are people who have them around their children and they are completely fine. It's just that I don't trust this type of dog around smaller kids.

This being said, at least with one of mine, she is EXTREMELY strong. She honestly has no idea she is as strong as she is and can do some damage, unintentionally, if you are not watching her. Likewise, she has a fierce loyalty to me. Pits can form attachments to people very easily and, through that loyalty, it can at times make them unpredictable.

Honestly, if considering getting a pit it's best to ask about where they came from. From there you can determine which, if any, fit what you feel comfortable being able to handle.

These dogs are just the type that you have to have the right mentality to be able to raise correctly.

I apologize for not giving you a straight answer to your question. There are just a lot of factors to consider with these dogs that are not prominent in some other breeds.

© 2017 Ashley Hamilton


bestchinchillacage on December 31, 2019:

I found your article exceptionally enlightening and un-one-sided! That is exceptionally uncommon nowadays! I found a Staffordshire Terrior on my front doorstep 2 weeks back, to make a long story short, I have settled that she has been forsake. Never considered having a bull canine of any kind. The entirety of the marks of disgrace joined, the dangers, and I have 2 older mutts that are simply easily experienced their brilliant years with us, and it is tranquil. The staffy is sly as a fox, VERY KIND, persistent with the other 2 puppies, and lives for a certain something and one thing just, acknowledgment (LOVE) from others. Much thanks to you such a great amount for your article, in the event that I were the main individual to understand it, I accept your work of adoration would have been justified, despite all the trouble. On the off chance that nobody guarantees her, gratitude to you she presently has a home.

Mickey Johnson on September 05, 2017:

I found your article very informative and un-biased! That is very rare these days! I found a Staffordshire Terrior on my front doorstep 2 weeks ago, to make a long story short, I have come to terms that she has been abandon. Never considered having a bull dog of any sort. All of the stigmas attached, the risks, and I have 2 elderly dogs that are just comfortably living out their golden years with us, and it is peaceful. The staffy is smart as a whip, VERY KIND, patient with the other 2 pups, and lives for one thing and one thing only, acceptance (LOVE) from others. Thank you so much for your article, if I were the only person to read it, I believe your labor of love would have been worth it. If no one claims her, thanks to you she now has a home. Many Thanks. Mickey