First things first: the term “Pit Bull” refers to a wide range of breeds descended from Terrier and Bulldog breeds. When most people hear “Pit Bull”, they probably picture the American Pit Bull Terrier. Other Pit Bull breeds include the American Staffordshire Terrier, the American Bully, and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier.

No discussion of Pit Bull puppies is complete without addressing the stigma associated with this breed group. Some believe their tragic history as fighting dogs justifies the fearful attitudes and breed laws against them. The good news is, several non-profit organizations are working tirelessly to educate the public and destigmatize representations of Pit Bull breeds in the media.

Ready to welcome a new four-legged family member into your pack? Our complete guide to Pit Bull puppies covers some fast facts about the breed group, as well as their history, temperament, grooming needs, and more.

Pit Bulls: fast facts about the breed group

Male American Pit Bull Terriers range in height from 17 to 22 inches and in weight from 35 to 65 pounds. Females aren’t far behind at the same height range and a weight range of 30 to 60 pounds. Male Staffordshire Bull Terriers are usually between 16 and 19 inches tall and 28 to 38 pounds. Females are 14 to 16 inches tall and 24 to 34 pounds. Both male and female American Staffordshire Terriers are “ruffly” the same height as Staffordshire Bull Terriers but a little heavier at 40 to 50 pounds. Finally, the American Bully comes in all shapes and sizes at 14 to 23 inches tall and 66 to 120 pounds.

A brief history of the Pit Bull group

The very first Pit Bull puppies were known as bull-and-terriers. Tragically, their ancestor, the Old English Bulldog, was used to bait bulls as entertainment for impoverished Britons in the 18th and 19th centuries. After bull baiting was outlawed in the mid-1830s, breeders began crossing Old English Bulldogs with Terriers for dogfighting and “ratting”. This cruel competition involved setting Pit Bulls loose in a pit to see which dog killed the most rats in the shortest amount of time. (Hence the name “Pit” Bull.) However, regular civilians had recognized the Pit Bull as a strong yet gentle, lovable companion. In the mid-19th century, immigrants to the U.S. arrived with their beloved Pitties in tow. The Pit Bull quickly became a treasured icon of American patriotism and culture. Pit Bulls remained one of the top dogs in the U.S. until TIME published an article entitled “The Pit Bull Friend and Killer” in 1987. From then on, the media added fuel to the fire and contributed to this harmful stereotype with provocative headlines.

Pit Bull temperament

Many doting pet parents of Pitties will attest that their dogs have a heart of gold. They’re incredibly affectionate and loyal to their humans. Pit Bulls earned a reputation as “nanny dogs” in the early 1900s due to their gentleness around children. However, Pit Bulls are determined, somewhat energetic, and have a high prey drive. Start obedience training as soon as possible. Pit Bulls can also be a bit wary around other dogs, so early socialization training is a must. Destructive behaviors like excessive chewing and digging can be an issue. Adequate stimulation is essential for preventing bad behaviors.

Diet and exercise

Once your Pit Bull puppy is fully weaned, choose a high-quality puppy food that’s full of protein, vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats. Switch to adult food when your dog has reached their maximum height. As for exercise, Pit Bulls require at least an hour of activity per day. Staffordshire Bull Terriers are a little more hyperactive and require 90 minutes of exercise per day. Keep walks short and low-impact until your puppy’s body is fully developed. Apart from walks, Pit Bulls excel at agility and rally obedience. Mix things up with a variety of activities that stimulate your dog’s mind and body to prevent boredom.

Training your Pit Bull puppy

You’ll need to start socialization and obedience training immediately after acquiring your Pit Bull puppy. Generally, Pit Bulls are highly intelligent, eager to please, and responsive to training. However, it’s important to stay firm and consistent to gain your Pitty’s respect and establish yourself as the alpha. Remember, every dog is unique, so their training plan should be personalized for their individual temperament. Use positive reinforcement training; never punish your dog. Stay consistent, practice often, and work with an experienced dog trainer if you need a helping paw.

Grooming your Pit Bull puppy

When it comes to grooming, Pit Bulls aren’t especially high-maintenance. Just brush them once a week with a slicker brush and trim their claws as needed with a normal clipper. They won’t need bathing too often unless they’ve rolled around in the dirt or mud. That said, Pit Bulls are more prone to developing skin conditions like zinc-responsive dermatosis, so keep an eye out for redness, swelling, and hair loss.

Buying a Pit Bull puppy

Planning to welcome a Pitty into your pack? There are a few things you should know before buying a Pit Bull puppy. First, consider adopting instead. Pit Bulls are one of the most commonly euthanized breeds in the U.S. If you're going to buy, avoid pet stores and online retailers, which usually source their puppies from inhumane puppy mills. It’s a good idea to ask for a referral from your veterinarian to a responsible breeder. If you’re collaborating directly with the breeder, they should allow you to tour their facilities to see where their puppies are born and reared. For more information on finding a responsible breeder, check out the Humane Society’s “Finding a Reputable Breeder” checklist.

Is a Pit Bull the right dog for you?

Pit Bull puppies grow into brawny, brainy dogs who love their humans. However, these highly intelligent dogs need a firm, consistent training regimen to thrive. They’re best suited for experienced pet parents who have previously raised and trained puppies. Pit Bulls are happiest when they’re the only four-legged family member in the household. Even well-trained Pit Bulls who seem to get along well with other dogs in the house may suddenly succumb to the urge to fight. This is a heartbreaking result of their origins as fighting dogs. Too often, Pit Bulls are abandoned by inexperienced and ill-educated owners. At the time of writing, Pit Bull breeds are among the most commonly euthanized dogs in the U.S. They’re also 3 times more likely to be euthanized immediately upon intake. Before getting a Pit Bull puppy, pet parents must do their homework and learn as much as possible about this breed group.
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