Frequently Asked Questions about "Pit Bull" Dogs

All facts. No myths.

“Pit bull” dogs don’t have locking jaws, but they do bite differently, right?

No. This is a myth. There is nothing anatomically unique about the jaws of “pit bull” dogs.

Do "pit bull” dogs have a higher tolerance for pain?

There is nothing unique about the neurological system of a “pit bull” dog. All dogs, regardless of breed label, experience pain. How each dog responds to that pain will vary but the response cannot be predicted by breed.

Are “pit bull” dogs more likely to cause serious attacks than other breeds?

No. An American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) exhaustive review of dog bite studies conducted in North America and elsewhere concludes “pit bull” dog specific regulations are not helpful in preventing dog bites. Those authors concluded that “serious bites occur due to a range of factors.”

If so many dogs are involved in dog bites, why do we only hear about “pit bull” dogs?

Sensationalized reporting equals big ratings for the media. Publishing and broadcasting stories about dog bites that are perceived to involve “pit bull” dogs – even if those dogs are not correctly identified – results in ratings. The fact is that with more than 78 million dogs in this country, many of them “pit bull” dogs, dog bites are at historic lows and we’ve never been safer.

For more information on dogs bites, please visit the National Canine Research Council.

If “pit bull” dogs are such good dogs, why are they filling up the shelters

There are many reasons for the high numbers of dogs label “pit bulls” in shelters. For example, local breed specific policies may make it difficult for families to keep their dogs. This is a particularly difficult issue for renters in areas where landlords aren’t welcoming to large dogs or certain breeds. However, this is not a reflection on the “pit bull” dogs themselves, rather the reactionary policies that affect them.

Weren’t “pit bull” dogs bred to fight?

Historically, some American Pit Bull Terriers (APBTs) were bred for that purpose, but they were also bred to be family dogs and farm help. To look at the APBT through the narrow scope of dog fighting is to miss out on their long and positive history in our country as cherished companions.

Plus, we can’t isolate the history of “pit bull” dogs from the history of dogs in general. If we use “historically bred for” as an indicator of future behavior, for any kind of dog, we are showing an unsophisticated understanding of dog breeding, dog genetics, and dog behavior. Breeding, conditioning, and training a dog for a specific purpose, no matter what that task may be, is a complex process.

If we look at modern “pit bull” dogs, the idea of them being “historically bred for” anything is irrelevant. We can’t possibly know what these dogs were historically bred for because the modern “pit bull” dog is made up of a diverse group of dogs with no agreed upon pedigree or phenotype. Many dogs labeled “pit bulls” are mixed breed dogs of unknown pedigree or other pure bred dogs.

We have no idea how a dog will behave simply because we’ve guessed at their ancestry, nor can we know what purpose-bred specific role or tasks (if any) might present themselves in an individual dog’s behavior.

Rather than rely on “historically bred for” to make determinations about an individual dog, look at the dog in front of you.

Are “pit bull” dogs bred to fight differently?

There is no behavior that is unique to one breed or type of dog. There is no valid scientific evidence that one breed or type of dog is uniquely capable of inflicting serious injury to humans or other animals.

What’s the deal with bait dogs?

The term bait dog is a label people use to describe dogs used in dog fighting. Bait dogs do exist, but you won’t typically find them in shelters. Sadly, according to law enforcement professionals, these dogs are rarely found alive during dog fighting investigations. However, an unusually large number of dogs end up with the label “bait dog” based on nothing more than speculation about the dog’s past and appearance.

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