Skip to main content

PawTracks may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site.

What can you expect from your pit bull’s temperament?

Throughout history, no dog breed has ever been vilified quite like the pit bull. Often depicted as violent, aggressive animals who will turn on their owners in the blink of an eye, pit bulls are actually banned in cities in over 40 states. In fact, many people fear pit bulls so much they refuse to adopt them. Unfortunately, pit bulls have one of the highest euthanasia rates of any breed. But we have some good news: With the rise of pit bull advocacy groups, this controversial breed is finally gaining public support. Is a pit bull the right dog for you? Here’s what you need to know before you consider adopting a pit.  

A closeup shot of a pit bull wearing a pink hoodie.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

What is a pit bull?

With so much fuss being made over pit bulls, it might surprise you to learn that a “pit bull” isn’t actually a breed at all. Instead, pit bull is an umbrella term used to describe pit bull-type dog breeds. American pit bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers, Staffordshire bull terriers, and even the tiny French bulldog are all “bully breeds.” (For clarification, we’re talking about the larger, more intimidating bully breeds this time around.)

Pit bull history

Originating in the United Kingdom in the 1800s, the first pit bulls were bred to compete in a horrific sport called bull baiting. While the 1835 Cruelty to Animals Act made bull baiting illegal, the pit bull was also used in a practice called “ratting,” which helped inspire their name. In ratting, rats were dropped into a pit, and dogs were released to capture and kill them. The dog who killed the most rats in the shortest amount of time was crowned the winner, and the breed became known as “pit bulls.” During this time, many pit bulls were also used as fighting dogs.

Fortunately, not all humans saw pit bulls as potential fighting dogs. Pit bulls affectionately called “pibbles” by aficionados worked on farms herding cattle. Known for their gentle, watchful nature, pit bulls became known as a “nanny breed” because of their dedication to their family, particularly young children. 

A tan and white pit bull wears a teddy bear hat.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Are pit bulls aggressive?

When it comes to pit bull characteristics, the first word that springs to mind is often “aggression.” Authors of pit bull-centric breed-specific legislation (BSL) would have you believe pit bulls are ticking time bombs. According to the experts at the ASPCA, the myth that all pit bulls are aggressive is not only a false narrative, but it’s one that doesn’t even make sense. 

From the ASPCA’s official position statement on pit bulls: “These dogs have long been popular family pets, noted for their gentleness, affection, and loyalty. And even those pit bulls bred to fight other animals were not prone to aggressiveness toward people. Dogs used for fighting needed to be routinely handled by people; therefore aggression toward people was not tolerated.” 

That being said, if you adopt a pit bull rescued from a fighting ring, you may want to refrain from adopting other animals. Cats, smaller dogs, and rabbits are frequently used as bait animals in dogfighting rings, so there’s a chance your pit bull will instinctively chase a small animal. 

What can you expect from your pit bull’s temperament?

According to the American Temperament Test Society (ATTS) Temperament Test, which focuses on various aspects of a dog’s temperament including traits like shyness and aggression, the pit bull had an 86 percent pass rate. Meanwhile, golden retrievers, a breed renowned for its friendliness, had a pass rate of 85.2 percent. If the ATTS Temperament Test is correct, that means pit bulls are actually less aggressive than one of the world’s most popular dog breeds. 

When raised in a loving home and properly socialized, pit bulls are friendly, affectionate, and clownish. Pit bulls can be prone to separation anxiety, so you’ll want to train your dog properly from a young age. Crate training your pibble can help him feel safe and secure while you’re away from home. Pits also require plenty of exercise to burn off excess energy, so make sure to take your pup for frequent walks. (Exercise will help reduce his separation anxiety, too.)

A brown and white pit bull snuggles a gray blanket on a leather sofa.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Here at Pawtracks, we believe there are no bad dogs; there are only bad owners. While the pit bull has been maligned by the press for over a century, these friendly, intelligent pups are so inherently gentle they’re often used as therapy dogs. With early socialization, consistent training, and spending lots of quality time together, a pit bull can easily become a cherished member of your family.  

Editors' Recommendations

Mary Johnson
Mary Johnson is a writer and photographer from New Orleans, Louisiana. Her work has been published in PawTracks and…
Is a puppy playpen better than a crate? Here’s what to consider before you buy one for your dog
Stuck between a puppy playpen or a crate for your dog? This guide will help
A beige Akita puppy stands on their back legs inside a pink wire playpen

Keeping your fur baby out of trouble around the house can be trickier than you might think. Tiny dogs can make big messes. Crates and playpens are just two ways pet parents keep their puppies safe and teach them where to sleep, play, and use the restroom; but these two helpful tools actually have quite different purposes. At first glance, however, crates look awfully small and more enclosed compared with pens. This may leave many pet owners wondering: Is a puppy playpen better than a crate?

Spoiler alert: Nope. While a plastic dog playpen leaves room for pups to run around and play, a canine-specific crate certainly has its time and place. However, what’s the difference between a crate and a playpen for your puppy?

Read more
Video: This Great Dane proves dogs can be better seatmates on a plane than people
Flying with a dog may be stressful but this Great Dane proves it can be fun
A great dane lies in the grass

One of life's great joys is seeing dogs all around us as we go about the day, even in unexpected places. This particular airline passenger was surprised and thrilled to spot a Great Dane in the airport and subsequently on the plane. While it seems like such a big guy might have trouble fitting into the small seats, he managed to pull off his whole travel in style.

The video on TikTok posted by lovimals went viral for showing a pup totally in his element, even though it seems so unusual. It opens with the sweet Great Dane lying on the floor of the airport, waiting for his plane to board. He then travels into the aircraft and gives a peek into the cockpit, just to check on things, which is why it's appropriately titled "He was checking the pilots were qualified." The pup pup then takes his seat, or should we say, his two seats since he takes up nearly a whole row. Fido seems to spend the flight chilling just like everyone else, sometimes sniffing in the air and others lying down for a nap. Finally, we get to watch him deplane happily at his destination.

Read more
5 easy-to-make DIY dog treats that you can make for your pup this fall
Fall-inspired DIY dog treats you can whip up
A marble countertop with miniature pumpkins and fall-themed dog treats

There are so many festive fall foods, but finding the perfect homemade dog treat recipe for your autumn gathering can be trickier than you think. Luckily, many of this season’s freshest crops and ingredients are healthy, nutritious autumn additions to your dog’s diet. Pumpkin, apple, even cinnamon … these flavors practically scream "fall."
Even if you don’t have any big plans, baking up some cute and healthy homemade dog treats is a great way to bond with your dog when the weather gets cozy. Food-motivated pups will especially appreciate these DIY dog treats, and you’ll love the sweet, cozy vibes you’ll get from cooking for your fur baby. It’s the perfect night in!

How to prepare pumpkin spice for dogs -- because even dogs should get a taste of this autumn delicacy
While you're sipping on a pumpkin spice latte, there's no reason your furry friend should miss out. Luckily, there's a dog-safe recipe for pumpkin spice that you can make from home.
However you want to prepare these autumnal ingredients, you should know a few things about pumpkin spice for dogs. Pumpkin on its own is full of nutrients, such as vitamins and iron; plus, its high fiber content can regulate finicky digestive systems (via American Kennel Club). Just ensure your dog doesn’t get added sugars with her pumpkin, as this isn’t good for her.
When preparing your spice mix, remember to avoid nutmeg. This ingredient isn’t healthy for pups, and it can easily be substituted for a similar flavor. Instead, a mix of cinnamon, ginger, allspice, clove, and a dash of vanilla extract will do. Use these ingredients to spice up nearly any biscuit, yogurt, or pumpkin-flavored dog treat--for you or your pup!

Read more