5 Questions to Ask Before Adopting a Pit Bull

By Robin Rock

For me, Pit Bulls are the best dogs in the world. However, no one breed is right for everyone and certainly Pit Bulls 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:

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 the breed is not banned. 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 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.

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 being stolen by criminals who want to use Pit Bulls for negative functions (including dog fighting) or harmed by someone who fears your dog based on his appearance.

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.

Are you willing to keep your Pit Bull if she becomes dog intolerant or dog aggressive as she gets older? Some Pit Bulls love all other dogs, but others are dog aggressive or dog intolerant, especially with same-sex  dogs. Pit Bulls were initially bred for the sport of dog-fighting and they have a genetic predisposition for dog-aggression. Early socialization with other dogs is not a guarantee that a Pit Bull will not become dog aggressive or dog intolerant at some point. Dog sensitivity may rise as a Pit Bull matures, and they may not show their true temperament toward  other dogs until they are approximately three years old. This behavior can be managed but not "trained" or "socialized" out of  the Pit Bull. You can curb the behavior and often control it, but you cannot stop it completely. You must always take precautions to keep your Pit Bull (and other dogs) safe.

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 most commonly seen in shelters and rescue groups today. Pit Bulls are also some of the hardest dogs to find adoptive homes for because of 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 Bulls are often inclined to jump up on people to greet them, but their muscularity and size can intimidate even an adult, and could potentially knock a child down. Never take your Pit Bull to a dog park; even if he likes other dogs, all it takes is one dog-aggressive dog causing an issue for which your Pit Bull will inevitably 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.