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American Pitbull Terrier | Breed Info: Pictures, Traits, Facts

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By Nicole Cosgrove

american pit bull terrier

Height: 17-21 inches
Weight: 30-60 pounds
Lifespan: 10-14 years
Colors: White, red, brown, gray, blue, black
Suitable for: Active families looking for a playful and affectionate dog
Temperament: Fearless, loyal, willful, intelligent

Few breeds evoke so much controversy, misinformation, and fierce devotion by the dog’s enthusiasts as the American Pit Bull Terrier. He is an anomaly in that he is a work-in-progress even though breeders have been establishing the standard since the 19th century. Typically, that is the result of refining it to emphasize desirable qualities, such as a keen scent of smell in Bloodhounds.

The American Pit Bull Terrier has endured a lot of external forces directing the development of this breed. It’s imperative to understand that the term, “pit bull”, describes many dogs that were bred for similar purposes. Unfortunately, many were inhumane. The word, bull, refers to bull baiting. The unfortunate animal was tied to something like a tree, and the dogs released to do the deed.

Thankfully, it is illegal.

However, that history adds to the confusion on many scores. Selective breeding encouraged many undesirable and dangerous traits, like aggression. To its credit, the United Kennel Club (UKC) disqualifies dogs that show it. However, many communities and states have regulations regarding the ownership of these pups. You may also pay more for rental or homeowner insurance if you own one.

We think that conclusion is unfair. Yes, these traits exist. We believe that it boils down to the owner and training. Irresponsible upbringing encourages the things that laws and other restrictions make necessary. It’s especially sad because the American Pit Bull Terrier and many like breeds are sweet dogs by nature. They are affectionate and loyal. Circumstances foster undesirable qualities.

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American Pit Bull Terrier Puppies – Before You Get One…

american pitbull terrier puppy
Image Credit: dezy, Shutterstock

We strongly urge you to research any regulations about owning an American Pit Bull Terrier before you get one. Check local laws as well as those of any homeowner associations. You should also contact your insurance company. We think that it’s unfortunate that a breed has this baggage, but sadly, it’s a fact. Do yourself a favor and find out what obstacles you may face before you buy.

For many people, that puts the American Pit Bull Terrier in the dealbreaker category. Let’s get to the facts. Both the American Dog Breeders Association (ADBA) and the United Kennel Club (UKC) recognize the breed with this name. The American Kennel Club (AKC) does not. Instead, they have the Bull Terrier, which is a different dog altogether, as you’ll see when reviewing the respective standards.

We only raise this point because it can help you determine if you’re getting the right pup. Because of the name and origin confusion, we urge you to buy a puppy from a reputable breeder with the papers that provide details about his sire and dam. That will also give you the information you need to know what to expect from the dog regarding his temperament.

With that background in mind, we also have to address the controversy from the breeders’ perspective. Many people think that the American Staffordshire Terrier and Pit Bull are the same dogs. They are not. The politics around the breed reached a flashpoint when bull baiting became illegal, followed by the predictable public outcry and negative associations.

Enthusiasts wanted to save the American Pit Bull Terrier from extinction. Two camps emerged. One strove to keep the so-called gameness that made him the fighter that he was. Another took a path to distance themselves from this unfortunate past. It’s been a long, hard road for the latter. Suffice to say that these individuals selected for the characteristics that make this pup the lovable pooch he is today.

Today’s American Pit Bull Terrier is affectionate and doesn’t like being alone. He is sensitive and intelligent. However, he is nippy as a pup, a habit that you must curb early. This pooch is playful and needs regular exercise to stay fit and happy. Like other terriers, he has a strong prey drive and is driven to take chase, if given a chance. He also has a high wanderlust potential.

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3 Little-Known Facts About the American Pit Bull Terrier

1. The American Pit Bull Terrier is related to the English Bulldog.

Many dogs share a common history that was fueled by an interest in many cruel sports. The American Pit Bull Terrier is a relative of the English Bulldog and other non-extinct breeds.

2. The AKC’s Bull Terrier and the American Pit Bull Terrier vary a lot.

The UKC’s breed standard calls for a dog of any color, measuring 17–21 inches high. The official Bull Terrier for the AKC is white only with other markings allowed.

3. The UKC recognized the American Pit Bull Terrier early in the game.

The UKC recognized a winner early in the game. The organization granted the breed its status in 1898.

American Pitbull Terrier smiling
Image Credit: PxHere

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Temperament & Intelligence of the American Pit Bull Terrier🧠

The American Pit Bull Terrier is both an independent and intelligent dog, a product of their breeding and upbringing. He is relatively easy to train if you establish yourself as the owner early. Early socialization is essential to encourage the welcome qualities that exist with this breed. He takes things seriously, so expect him to be spirited about anything he does, including play.

Are These Dogs Good for Families?🏡

The American Pit Bull Terrier has the potential to be an excellent family pet. This dog is muscular and strong. Therefore, it’s imperative to build trust and forge strong bonds with him to encourage mutual respect. While he’s not a large dog, we recommend this pup for households with older children or adults. His stubborn nature makes him a poor choice for novice pet owners.

Does This Breed Get Along with Other Pets?🐶 😽

The regrettable history of the American Pit Bull Terrier means that he won’t do well in a home with any other pets, dogs and cats alike. His prey drive, combined with his physical strength, makes it a challenge at best. We recommend this breed only for single-pet households. While he’s affectionate with people, we can’t say the same about other animals in the home.

pitbull terrier
Image Credit: Eve Photography, Shutterstock

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Things to Know When Owning an American Pit Bull Terrier:

The cautions about owning an American Pit Bull Terrier also apply to any muscular dog. Statistics show that small or medium-sized dogs are more aggressive than larger ones. However, that doesn’t give the American PIt Bull Terrier or others of its kind a pass. There are two factors to consider. First, is the strength of the dog and the severity of a bite that he can inflict. This pup has both.

The second and some would argue the more important consideration is upbringing and the behavior of the owner. The sad thing about the American Pit Bull Terrier is how his past continues to haunt him with this deplorable stereotype that is not characteristic of the entire breed. Many individuals get an American Pit Bull Terrier with the goal to educate others and quell the misinformation.

Food & Diet Requirements🦴

A medium-sized dog like the American Pit Bull Terrier needs food meant for a pup of this weight. Different breeds mature at various rates, with smaller ones growing up first. Therefore, their foods are more calorie-dense to support their metabolism. This pooch grows slower and needs a diet that supplies enough nutrients with fewer calories to keep his weight in check.

Puppies should get two to three meals a day, evenly spaced apart. That will ensure that their blood sugar levels remain stable, despite his energetic nature. As they grow older, you can dial it back to two meals. This breed has a moderate tendency for weight gain. We suggest monitoring his size and shape and adjusting his intake accordingly.


The American Pit Bull Terrier is an active dog, thanks to his history. While bull-baiting was a part of it, this pup also has other more suitable jobs in law enforcement, search and rescue, and sports. These are all intense activities, which accounts for his personality and engagement in play. We suggest daily walks to reinforce socialization and strengthen your bond with your pet.

As you’ve like surmised, bringing your American Pit Bull Terrier to the doggie park is probably not a wise move. Some dogs learn how to socialize without any issues. However, as we’ve mentioned, this breed has a reputation that may offend other pet owners, albeit, not deserved in many cases. Exercise is just as essential for your pup’s mental health, something that any intelligent dog needs.

american pitbull terrier
Image Credit: Voltgroup, Shutterstock


The intelligence of the American Pit Bull Terrier gives you a head start for training. This pup will learn new things quickly. Your challenges are his stubbornness and prey drive. You’ll have to work to keep him focused on the tasks at hand. Consistent training is the key. Also, this pooch is sensitive to stern reprimands, despite his bravado. Use positive reinforcement to nurture acceptable behavior.

Early socialization is imperative, too. Remember that it’s all about training with this dog. It’ll keep some of those bad habits under control. Many behaviors are set while a puppy is still young, meaning that you have a narrow window. Treats are an excellent training aid to convince your pooch that obeying is in his best interests.

Grooming ✂️

Grooming an American Pit Bull Terrier is easy-peasy. While this pup sheds, he only needs a weekly session with a curry brush to keep his coat healthy. You’ll likely find that he enjoys this treatment. It’ll stimulate blood circulation and give you a chance to check his skin for any issues. Be sure to trim his nails regularly and peek inside his ears for any signs of infection.

Health and Conditions❤️

Unfortunately, the breed’s history and inbreeding have worked against the American Pit Bull Terrier. Many health issues are inherent with dogs of his size. We suggest only purchasing a pup from a breeder who does these simple tests. It’s a win-win for people who love dogs and want to stem the incidence of these conditions.

Minor Conditions
  • Deafness
  • Allergies
Serious Conditions
  • Elbow dysplasia
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA)
  • Heart issues

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Male vs Female

The most significant consideration when choosing between a male and female American Pit Bull Terrier is size. The two vary quite a bit. Bear in mind the pup’s strength, which becomes more of an issue with how big the dog is. If you don’t have a preference, let breeding and the cost of altering the pooch decide it for you.

Spaying a female is considerably more costly than neutering a male. Also, it’s worth mentioning that laws regarding ownership of an American Pit Bull Terrier might involve having an intact male. Our advice is to investigate this issue thoroughly with all of the conditions.

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The American Pit Bull Terrier comes with a lot of baggage that many breeds lack. It’s a vital consideration because it may determine whether you can even have this dog where you live. We think it’s unfair. This pup is a loving pet that isn’t worth the criticism. He is a sweetheart when given the proper training and upbringing. We applaud anyone who takes up the challenge.

Owners of the American Pit Bull Terrier get it. You are more than pet owners. You are an ambassador for the breed. There is a lot of work to be done to undo the damage of decades of disparagement and misinformation. To know this dog is to love him. He is sweet and loyal. In many ways, he has tried to rise above the tide as those who know his true nature. It’s been a joy to watch.

Featured Image Credit: Pxfuel

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