Five Questions to Ask Before Adopting a Pit Bull

Pit bull myths and reality

For me, Pit Bulls are the best dogs in the world. However, no one breed is right for everyone and certainly Pit Bull-type dogs are not right for every home. Unfortunately, too many people adopt a Pit Bull for the wrong reasons, or have little understanding of the common traits of the breed. Here are some questions to ask before you adopt a Pit Bull-type dog:

  1. What are the federal, state, or local laws pertaining to pets in general and Pit Bulls specifically? Research the laws of your state and city or township to ensure Pit Bull-type dogs are not banned. Unfortunately some areas have breed discriminatory legislation that bans dogs who look like certain breeds, including Pit Bulls, regardless of their actual background or behavior. Check if you meet any statutory requirements in regards to adopting a Pit Bull. If you rent or have a Homeowners Association, make sure a Pit Bull-type dog is allowed under the terms of your lease or association rules. Additionally, you should verify that your homeowner's or renter's insurance does not prohibit you from adopting a Pit Bull. If there is a problem, consider whether you are open to changing insurance companies since there are companies that cover all breeds of dogs.
  2. Are you willing to protect your Pit Bull? If you are looking for a guard dog, pick another breed. In general, Pit Bulls are terrible guard dogs because they love people so much. In fact, you need to be the "guard dog" when you parent this breed. You'll need to protect your dog from others who may unjustly fear your dog based on his appearance. Laws and landlords can change so you will need to be your dog's advocate.
  1. Are you willing to (peacefully and patiently) combat the negative Pit Bull stigma that is believed by many people? Sadly, many people believe that Pit Bulls are all unpredictably vicious killing machines and, as a Pit Bull parent, you may also be unfairly stigmatized by these adverse public perceptions. Your neighbors may run the other way when they see you walking a Pit Bull, and your family may question your sanity when they hear you are welcoming a Pit Bull into your home. Be prepared to counter negative reactions with the truth about the Pit Bull temperament and history.
  2. Are you willing to keep your dog if she becomes dog intolerant or dog aggressive as she gets older? Any dog's temperament could change and become less tolerant toward other dogs as they get older. Some Pit Bulls love all other dogs, but this is something you should be prepared for no matter what breed you adopt. Early socialization with other dogs is not a guarantee that any dog will not become dog aggressive or dog intolerant at some point. Dog sensitivity may rise as a dog matures, and they may not show their true temperament toward other dogs until they are approximately three years old. If your dog does become aggressive toward other dogs, you must always take precautions to keep your dog (and other dogs) safe, no matter the breed.
  3. Are you willing to be a responsible Pit Bull parent? Note: This is not a comprehensive list of how to be a responsible parent, just a few important points.
    • First, spay or neuter your dog. The ASPCA strongly encourages pet parents to spay or neuter their pets. In their article "Top 10 reasons to spay or neuter your pet" the ASPCA notes that altered dogs enjoy a reduced risk of certain health conditions, and are often better behaved. In addition, because of stigmas around the breed and irresponsible Pit Bull parenthood, Pit Bulls are one of the breeds most commonly seen in shelters and rescue groups today. Pit Bulls are also some of the hardest dogs to find adoptive homes for the same reasons. Ensure that your Pit Bull won't contribute to the overpopulation problem: spay or neuter.
    • Control your dog and keep him on a leash except in a secure and safe enclosed area. Like many dogs, Pit Bull-type dogs may be inclined to jump up on people to greet them, but their muscularity and size could potentially knock a child down. You also want to be sure that you protect your dog from accusations of causing fights when another dog is responsible. Be careful at dog parks. All it takes is one dog-aggressive dog causing an issue for which your Pit Bull could (unfairly) be blamed because of his breed.
    • Socialize your Pit Bull with people and attend obedience training that uses positive-reinforcement techniques. Ongoing socialization and training will help your Pit Bull be a Breed Ambassador, the best possible rebuttal to negative stereotypes and fears.

Robin Rock is the founder and director of Measle's Animal Haven Pit Bull Rescue, a 501(c)(3) non-profit rescue and sanctuary consisting of foster homes in Central Ohio. Robin has been rescuing, rehabilitating and advocating for Pit Bulls for over 10 years, and she has worked with thousands of Pit Bulls. She lives with her husband Joe, their five children, adopted dogs and cats and various foster dogs.