Tips for Pit Bull Owners

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Pros and Cons of Owning a Pit Bull

Pit Bulls Form Very Strong Bonds with Their Owners.
  You will have a devoted friend for life, but this friendship comes with a price tag.  You will have to honor your dog's loyalty and devotion and be ready to commit LOTS of quality time (at least 2 hours a day) to your pet for life.  To banish your dog to the backyard or leave him alone for long periods of time for weeks on end can cause him to become depressed, and/or destructive. The more time you spend with your Pit Bull, the more you will enjoy him. 

Pit Bulls are Agile, Athletic and FUN.
Pit Bulls can be escape artists!  Many can climb tall fences, dig underneath, or Houdini their way out of the most secure yards.  Many are forever lost or stolen once they are out.  A Pit Bull running loose is likely to get into the kind of trouble that gives this breed a bad rap.  Owners should provide a very secure set-up, supervise all play when the dog is outdoors and keep him indoors when no one's home.  If indoor accommodations are not possible, we recommend an outdoor kennel run with a good lock, or a well designed cable tie-out.  Always have a collar and tags on your dog in case they do get lost.  Microchip your pet too!  On behalf of all the lost Pit Bullies who never make it safely back to their home, LCAS asks you to PLEASE be extra safe with your dog!  Shelters are filled with Pit Bulls and Pit mixes even though they account for less than a third of the dogs impounded.  Fewer are returned to their owners and they are much harder to adopt into good homes. 

Pit Bulls have impressive athletic talents! You can have a great time with your pooch while showing off their great agility work, playing fly ball and other exciting dog sports.

Pit Bulls Love to Swim, Run, Play Frisbee & Romp in the Great Outdoors.
Finding places where your dog can run off-lead can be very difficult, if not impossible!  If your dog gets in a fight with another dog things could go very bad very fast.  You may be the one to get into trouble and your dog could end up impounded, even if he wasn't the one that started the fight.  There tends to be some current prejudice against Pit Bulls because your Pit Bull can cause a lot of damage to another dog. It is impossible to completely avoid poorly managed loose and aggressive dogs in dog parks. This includes YOUR dog if you are not on top of his dog aggression potential, so play it safe and steer clear of these places in favor of safer options.

Many Pit Bulls tend to be happier around dogs that they know. Finding or creating 'play groups' where your dog can regularly visit with other dog 'friends' is a fun way to exercise.  Both you and your dog will benefit from the extra socialization.

Pit Bulls are very active dogs that need a LOT of run around time and exercise, but are generally not compatible with off-leash dog parks.  Don't get a young Pit Bull if you live your life in the slow lane.

Pit Bulls Love Kids.  Its a well known fact - Well managed, responsibly owned Pit Bulls are some of the best family dogs.  The American Canine Temperament Test Society lists this breed as having one of the most stable temperaments of any of the purebreds, right up there with golden retrievers.

Pit Bulls are Social Butterflies - Your dog will LOVE to go places with you to see the sights and visit with your friends, family, and strangers on the street.  Over the last 20 years or so, the Pit Bull has fallen victim to the careless deeds of unethical breeders, irresponsible and even shady owners.  This bad combination, along with the handiwork of sensationalistic media, has created a terrible thing for our beloved breed.  As a result, myths, misdeeds, misunderstanding and hysteria abound!  When you walk around with your Pit Bull, you'll no doubt encounter people who'll be afraid or who may give you trouble for having a Pit Bull.  When taking your well behaved bully out into the world, you will have the pleasant opportunity to talk to lots of folks that you meet. Proudly showing off your well behaved bully will allow you the opportunity to engage in interesting conversations and help dispel the myths about Pit Bulls.  Undoubtedly, you will be making friends while you are busy changing minds. Enjoy!

Pit Bulls are Clean Animals with Short Coats

These handsome hunks have few grooming needs and are generally easy to care for.  They do not like to be left out in the cold and will want to be inside with you where it is warm!  Most likely they will keep you warm while trying to keep themselves warm.  They look great in groovy little winter dog jackets and sweaters.

Top 15 Tips for Being a Responsible Dog Owner

1.  Obedience - Train your dog so he/she is a star in all situations.

2.  Neuter/Spay your dog - This will curb territorial aggression, prevent more (and more and more) unwanted puppies and prevent your dog from roaming.  All dogs are MUCH nicer to be around when they have been fixed!

3.  Socialization - Encourage your dog to be a Social Butterfly. Socialize him/her with as many different people as possible, such as kids, seniors, disabled folks, and people of all  ethnic groups.

4.  Socialize your dog with other dogs at a level that is GOOD for your dog. 

5.  Become a dedicated student of 'dog body language' and get to know your dog like the back of your hand. This will help you be able to anticipate and prevent potential dog to dog conflicts.  Learn about behaviors that indicate a dog is raising the stakes during a play session. Be ready to intervene and watch for other triggers that could excite your dog into conflict.  Pay careful attention to the behavioral changes that develop as your dog moves through the changes in its life. Particularly any anticipated 'shift' from a social dog to a dog that has less tolerance.  This is common and normal in the terrier breeds, so keep your eye out.

6.  Respect the leash laws - Leash laws are a dog owners best friend.  They help you navigate situations where another dog may provoke your dog into a fight. Know your rights as a dog owner.

7.  Understand aggression, as any sign of aggression towards a human is a major red flag and should be dealt with immediately. Enlist the help of a BREED EXPERIENCED trainer or behaviorist.  Dogs that show an inability to improve should be safeguarded from the public (in secure housings for example) or in some cases, humanely euthanized.  Pit Bulls were bred to be exceedingly friendly with people. 

8.  Exercise - Your dog needs regular exercise so he/she can burn off that famous bulldog energy.  Pit bulls are intelligent athletes. Young dogs need at least 2 hours of your time each day.  A well exercised Pit Bull is a happy Pit Bull, which makes a happy owner!

9.  Understand fear - Many people have had negative experiences with dogs and are sincerely afraid of them.  Give them reassurance when you can rather than allow them to be unnecessarily frightened.  Pit Bull owners have to go above and beyond the call of duty sometimes to help some people get over their fear and prejudice. What Pit Bull lovers see as ADORABLE - others may see as scary.

10.  Try to develop a thick skin to help you endure rude or hurtful comments about your pet. 

11.  When out with your dog, pay attention to your surroundings and balance the needs of the public with your dogs needs.  This means picking up dog messes, not letting your dog jump on or annoy others, and avoid off-leash dogs that may run up and instigate a fight.

12.  If worse comes to worse and you have to break up a dogfight, stay calm, take a deep breath and be prepared to do it quickly and safely.  Pit Bull owners should know exactly how to do this with as little fuss as possible. You may want to carry a parting stick with you in areas where you might encounter loose running dogs that may harass or attack your leashed dog. 

13.  Research your dogs breed - Your research should include the history and original purpose of terriers so you can understand Pit Bull behavior.  It's no secret that Pit Bulls can show dog intolerance when challenged. Becoming familiar with canine behavior will prove to be a big help so that you can enjoy a great success with your pet.  Spread the word to other Pit Bull owners and be a responsible example for others.

14.  License and microchip - Licensing and microchip your Pit Bull so that if he/she gets lost, your beloved friend can be returned to you.

15.  Enjoy your dog - Despite all the work, enjoy your dog!  Whether your buddy loves a long hike, a fast swim or just a rip snoring power nap, you and your friend deserve to enjoy all the good bully love!

Understanding Different Dog Tolerance Levels

A Normal Trait that is as Flexible as it is Manageable.  This information is designed to help demystify the common trait of dog to dog aggression.  Dog aggression shows up in numerous breeds, and it is generally "no big deal" ...unless you deny it, misunderstand it or exploit it.  Like so many dog owners, we expect that our dogs have the potential to show some degree of dog aggression in select situations.  Our job as responsible stewards is to keep our pets out of those situations by reading their body signals and understanding their individual limits.  At the same time, we work to improve the tolerance of each dog through appropriate socializing opportunities.  Because dog aggression is not a "one size fits all" trait, there are four very common levels of dog-tolerance outlined below that we have come to recognize in our work with the dogs.

1.  Dog Social - A dog that truly enjoys the company of other dogs, including housemate dogs.  Very easy going; forgives even the rudest dog manners.  Dog-social dogs include most puppies and a percentage of socially mature (14 months and older) Pit Bulls.  Some call these dogs 'cold' Pit Bulls.

2.  Dog Tolerant - Typically non-reactive on leash and either indifferent or friendly to other dogs.  Is well socialized and shows relaxed, easy body language in the presence of new dogs.  May not 'love' dogs that he does not know, but has decent tolerance for rude behavior; a long fuse.  Enjoys known dog friends and, in general, succeeds with housemate dogs.

3.  Dog Selective - Has dog friends but is more selective.  May dislike certain 'types' of dogs and/or is easily offended by rude dog manners. Likes to dictate the rules during dog-play.  Can succeed with housemate dogs with supervision.

4.  Dog Aggressive - Has a very limited number of dog friends; sometimes, no dog friends.  May be opportunistically leash reactive with a weak handler and/or no training.  May have a short fuse during play, even with dogs that it knows.  Needs heavy supervision during play and a good leader when out on leash.  Many live successfully with housemate dogs (usually opposite sex) with proper supervision and safe management protocol.

The Bell Curve of Dog Aggression - 
Dog tolerance levels are flexible and are determined as much by environmental factors (handler influence, training and socializing efforts) as they are by genetics.  Dog social dogs can become less social as they come into their maturity, and dog aggressive dogs can become much more tolerant with good direction and proper socialization.  With the combined factors of maturity, socialization, good leadership and training, most Pit Bulls fall comfortably in the middle spectrum of this bell curve.

Socializing Your Pit Bull
  There are many ways to socialize your Pit Bull.  The age of your dog as well as his/her individual personality will help you determine which methods are appropriate for socializing your dog.

Pit Bulls under six months of age should be enrolled in a puppy class.  Many obedience training facilities have classes specifically for puppies, and often part of the class time is devoted to off-leash play with other puppies.  When seeking out a training facility, it is often helpful to observe the classes prior to attending. this will allow you to get a feel for how class will be conducted and see if it is a good match for you and your dog.  Off-leash play can be an important feature of a puppy class, but it should be done properly. Does the instructor factor in age, size and play style of puppies when organizing play groups?

To socialize adult dogs, owners should first carefully introduce their Pit Bulls to other adult dogs.  A great way to introduce adult dogs is to take a nice long walk on leash together.

Some ways that adult dogs can interact with other dogs are:

  • Taking long leash walks with appropriately matched dogs of good temperament and good social skills and with known, responsible owners.
  • Organized play dates with friends' dogs in a fenced area.
  • Taking an obedience or agility class where your dog can learn to focus on you and receive positive reinforcement in the presence of other dogs.

We do not recommend dog parks or dog daycare providers:

  • While dogs can learn good social skills at a daycare or park, they can just as easily learn poor social skills in these largely unsupervised situations. 
  • Dogs in a pack act very differently than they do individually; even a well-socialized dog of good temperament can be drawn into "pack behavior."
  • There is no way to predict or know the behavior of the other dogs at a park or daycare. Many people take their dogs to daycare providers or dog parks with little understanding of their own dogs' tolerance for other dogs. There is often an expectation that "dogs will work it out" however this can occur in a way that results in injury.
  • Dogs playing together for long periods of time in large groups with unstructured time or activities can result in inappropriate behavior.
  • Dog playgrounds need to be carefully selected by competent readers of dog body language who have an understanding of social canine behavior. There are many well-intentioned people operating doggie day cares with very little experience with dogs and, in particular, with very little Pit Bull experience.
  • If something does go wrong, whether or not the Pit Bull instigates it, the Pit Bull is usually blamed. Every negative incident can result in future problems during dog to dog interactions.

Recommendations for Dog Introductions - Introductions with other dogs can be a bit tricky with Pit Bulls.  Some Pit Bulls simply will not get along with other dogs.  Others may only get along with dogs of the opposite sex or may get along with a few select dogs.  There are some Pit Bulls who have poor greeting behavior, but when carefully introduced they may end up doing fine with other dogs.  Then there are Pit Bulls who are very dog friendly.  It is important to recognize your Pit Bull's level of tolerance for other dogs.

When considering introductions, remember that some Pit Bulls do not enjoy the company of other dogs. It may not be advisable in some situations to introduce dogs at all.  Respect each dog's personality and do not push dogs to 'be friends."

How to Introduce your Pit Bull to Another Dog
Parallel leash-walking, on neutral territory with two handlers is a great way to introduce dogs.  Neutral territory means an area where neither dog has been or where neither dog resides.  An unfamiliar, neutral territory is best to avoid territorial behavior in either dog.  Both dogs should be wearing properly fitted collars and be on nylon or leather leashes.  Prong collars, choke chains, and flex-leads should not be used when introducing Pit Bulls.

While taking a short walk, allow the dogs to curve around in a natural manner.  Both handlers should have a firm hold of their leashes, however, they should try to maintain a U-shaped bend in the lead.  Taut, tight leashes may communicate tension to the dogs and should be avoided if possible.  Avoid face-face, head-on introductions between the dogs.  Instead, walk parallel to each other, a few feet apart, and alternate which dog is ahead of the other.  Also, do not allow a dog to greet another dog if he/she is dragging you towards the other dog or is misbehaving in any way (pulling, jumping, or lunging).  Doing so will result in training the dog to misbehave to gain access to the other dogs!  The dog does not make the decision as to whom he will meet and when.  You do!

If the dogs appear to be friendly to each other, allow brief sniffing with one dog perpendicular or "T-shaped" to the other. After a brief sniffing, each dog should be called away by the handlers.  If either dog stiffens, stands up on its toes, or shows any aggressive posturing, call the dogs away immediately and interrupt the interaction.  It is important to interrupt before things go wrong so that you can preserve the possibility of a successful interaction at a later time.  It might be necessary to take several walks, in different locations, over time.  Multiple introductions in this manner give you a better read for how the dogs will do.  Do not rush this process if the introductions seem 'iffy' in any way.  Stop the introduction if either dog is showing signs of fear or aggression.  Signs of fear or aggression can include: raised hackles, stiff posturing, lip curling, growling, air snapping, tail tucked between legs, one dog avoiding the other or wanting to hide behind the handler, lunging, or freezing.

If the leash walking is successful, it may then be appropriate to go to a fenced area and have one dog on leash, and one off.  One handler might work obedience with the leashed dog, while letting the other dog roam around, allowing them to get used to each other's presence and scent.  Usually in this scenario, the resident dog is loose, and the new dog is leashed.  This gives one dog the ability to safely check things out and move away as needed while you maintain control of the other dog.  Make sure the yard or fenced area is free of items that may possibly trigger a fight such as high-value toys, bones, rawhides, etc.

When introducing dogs on leash, make sure that the leashes do not become tangled.  Entangled leashes can increase tension and result in a conflict between dogs.

Off-Leash Play:  Keeping it Safe and Fun!
If the dogs appear to be getting along and your leash walks have been successful, then you might try both dogs off leash.  This should ONLY be done in a fenced, fully enclosed area.  Always make sure that both dogs are wearing appropriately fitted collars and that there are two handlers present in case there is a conflict between dogs.  Also keep in mind that Pit Bull play can be rough and that it is important to periodically interrupt the play before it escalates into a conflict.  The handlers can interrupt the play simply by doing some recalls and then releasing the dogs to go play again.  What a great opportunity to practice an important obedience skill - the recall - amid distraction!

We recommended having two handlers present when introducing a Pit Bull dog to another dog.  A squirt bottle can be handy to deter inappropriate behavior, however, keep in mind that it will not stop a fight if one ensues.  A water squirt bottle can be used as a mild deterrent for mouthy, mounting, or other inappropriate behaviors.  Handlers of Pit Bull dogs should be prepared if a fight occurs.  For more information on how to prevent a fight and how to break one up if it occurs visit

What if My Pit Bull Doesn't Play Well With Others?
Some Pit Bulls will not play well with other dogs, particularly in an off-leash situation.  If you find that your dog gets too aroused during off-leash play, you might limit the time the dogs are off-leash together.  For example: if you observe that your dog gets over stimulated after about 15 minutes of playtime, then stop the play after 5 or 10 minutes, before the dog gets over stimulated.  Make sure you are praising your dog for appropriate play skills when he demonstrates them.  In addition, make sure you select dogs with very good social skills for your Pit Bull to interact with!

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