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Are Pitbulls Smarter Than Other Dogs? (Origins & FAQs)

Sarah Psaradelis

By Sarah Psaradelis

pitbull standing on the grass with owner

Pitbulls are one of the more misunderstood dog breeds, but they are both highly affectionate and intelligent dogs. As a loyal dog that is great at performing various tasks and showing the pitbull breed’s excellent obedience, they are undoubtedly smart.

These dogs have some great qualities that make them good pets to own in the right household and environment. However, due to plenty of misinformation about pitbulls, a lot of people don’t know just how intelligent these dogs are.

While pitbulls might not be the smartest dogs in the world, there are plenty of characteristics about them that show just how smart they can be.

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Understanding The Breed


By understanding the history of pitbulls, we can get a closer look at how smart they are and whether they were bred to be intelligent. The origins of the pitbull are quite unfortunate, as they were originally bred in the United Kingdom as bull-baiting dogs in the early 1800s.

Bull baiting was primarily for entertainment purposes in the British Isles. This blood sport became quite popular until it was prohibited by the British Parliament in 1835 for animal cruelty. However, that didn’t stop people from using these dogs for other purposes.  While this was going on, people were using pitbulls as a top choice for dog fighting.

Pitbulls were soon used for “ratting”, a term used for pitbulls who were used to kill rats in a public game. With certain qualities needed to improve the dog for ratting and fighting purposes, the old English bulldog was then bred with terriers leading to the creation of one of the many pitbulls breeds, the Pitbull Terrier.

Even though pitbulls were bred to hunt and kill other animals, they were still selectively bred to not harm humans. This is because the handlers would need a controllable dog that wouldn’t bite them, but also one that would show aggressiveness during these games and blood sports. Many pitbulls that would bite or act aggressively towards the handlers were not bred, thus preventing the temperament from possibly being passed on to future generations.

pitbulls playing
Image Credit: 215646, Pixabay

An All-Purpose Dog Breed

Many years later, the pitbull made its way into the United States. Despite the pitbull’s main purpose at the time for fighting, they were soon used as a working dog breed. Pitbulls were used for herding livestock, hunting hogs, and other wild animals, along with a protective role that involves pitbulls keeping their family safe from harm.

These good qualities of pitbulls made these dogs a favorite at the time. However, when dog fighting became illegal in 1976, pitbulls were still used for fighting and blood sport. This led to the pitbull being misused and bred away from the true nature of the breed.

Now, the pitbull is kept as a regular dog in many homes. Unfortunately, cruelty to pitbulls still runs wild in many underground dog fighting rings, and improper care and conditions that have caused pitbulls to “act out” leading to pitbulls having a bad reputation.

How Smart Are Pitbulls?

Given their history, pitbulls have been domesticated for centuries and have many desirable traits that allow them to be a smart dog breed. One of the many traits of a pitbull is intelligence, and nearly all pitbulls can be considered smart.

These dogs are probably smarter than some other dogs, but that does not make them smarter than all dog breeds. The pitbull’s obedience, adaptability, loyalty, and friendly demeanor have allowed them to be an intelligent multi-purpose dog breed that can only carry out those duties and tasks by being smart.

pitbull walking with his owner
Image Credit: William Perugini, Shutterstock

Contrary to the misinformation about these dogs, pitbulls are not overly aggressive dogs that wait for the opportunity hurt people. Instead, their smartness has allowed them to be great companions for humans and be good working or service dogs.

As a pet, your pitbull will continue to prove their intelligence along with the loyalty that they have towards its family. In essence, all dogs are smart, but certain characteristics of breeds might make them smarter in comparison. The abilities of the pitbull, whether it’s hunting, agility, herding, and protecting can determine whether they are smarter than other dogs who perhaps cannot do those things.

Are Pitbulls The Smartest Dogs?

No, pitbulls are not the smartest dogs out of all the different breeds. The intelligence level amongst pitbulls varies from the individual dog. However, pitbulls are quite smart regardless since it is in their nature to be intelligent.

Whether they are smarter than some other dogs will vary from the individual dog and how they were bred, trained, and raised from a puppy. The environment and care the dog receives will reflect in the dog’s behavior as an adult.

Image Credit: Anna Krivitskaya, Shutterstock

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Can Pitbulls Easily Be Trained?

The pitbull’s eagerness to please and determination to learn new things and carry out tasks proves that pitbulls are smart dogs. With the right methods and motivation, pitbulls can be easily trained. This can be small tasks a household dog should carry out, such as going outside to use the bathroom, or sitting or staying on command.

However, pitbulls can also be trained to carry out more challenging tasks than some dog breeds can. The pitbull has been bred to herd livestock, and protect people and animals, along with working as a service dog. These are things that not many other dog breeds can do, but it is something that the intelligent pit bull can do despite the stigma.

The smartness and trainability of the pitbull have allowed them to become both medical alert and emotional support service dogs who can help the impaired.

As a medical alert dog, pitbulls such as the American Pitbull Terrier can detect low oxygen levels and blood sugar, or any seizures that may happen soon. Their smartness has allowed pitbulls to learn how to remind their owners to take their necessary medications at a certain time of the day.

Furthermore, pitbulls are quite good at understanding our human emotions from a dog’s perspective. Pitbulls are known for comforting and providing endless love to their owners when they are feeling down. In a way, pitbulls can “read” our emotions and determine from our behavior and tone of voice how we are feeling towards them.

pitbull playing with his owner
Image Credit: Piqsels

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In Conclusion

Pitbulls are naturally smart dogs, but that doesn’t necessarily make them smarter than other dogs. Each dog can be smart and show it in different ways, like the pitbull who has a past as a bull baiter, herder, guard dog, and service dog.

Although the origins of pitbulls are quite dark, these dogs can be loving and hardworking dogs for the right families. The pitbull is one of the smarter dog breeds you can get, especially if they have been socialized and trained well from a young age.

Featured Image Credit: Artsiom P, Shutterstock

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