Very few dogs have been as unfairly maligned as the Pit Bull. Believe what you read, and it’d be easy to think the breed was the biggest, baddest thing on four legs. But forget the horror stories. As the saying goes, there’s no such thing as bad dogs, just bad owners. While Pit Bulls can and do attack, so can all dogs in the right circumstances. Most instances of aggression can be traced to neglectful owners, poor training, and abuse. Raised in a loving, supportive environment, Pit Bulls are amazing companions – loving, loyal, intelligent, cheerful…. everything, in fact, that you could want from a pet. Sure, they can be stubborn and thick-hearted, and they need an owner who’s got the patience and time to dedicate to their training. If you fit the bill on both counts, the rewards will be more than worth the effort. If you’ve been bowled over by the breed enough to consider bringing home a pup, here’s everything you need to know about caring for Pit Bull puppies.
Do Your Homework
Introducing a new pup to your home is an incredibly rewarding experience, but it’s also a big move, especially when you’re dealing with a breed with such extensive requirements as the Pit Bull. Before you get swept away by the excitement, take a moment to consider what you’re letting yourself in for. While it’s true that Pit Bulls have been very unfairly maligned over the years, it’s also true that they have extensive needs that need to be catered to. Fail to meet those needs, and not only will you be doing your dog a massive deserve, but you’ll also be putting yourself in a potentially risky situation. As simplyfordogs.com says, Pit Bulls may be smart and eager to please, but they also have a ton of energy and a lot of physical strength. They’ll need to be socialized from a young age, trained consistently throughout their life, and receive plenty of exercise and stimulation on a daily basis. Make sure you have the time, energy, and knowledge to devote to their care before you make any further moves. If you’re an inexperienced dog owner or have limited time or interest in training, you might need to put your plans on hold and consider whether another, less demanding breed may suit you better.
Research, Research, Research
If, after careful consideration, you’ve decided that a Pit Bull is the dog for you, the next step is to decide on which type of Pit Bull will fit best into your life. Technically, the Pit Bull isn’t a breed at all, but rather a class of dogs made up of several different breeds. Some of those breeds have been recognized by the American Kennel Club, while others still have some work to do before they are. As The Spruce Pets notes, there are five different types of Pit Bull in total. These include:
The American Bully was developed relatively recently in the ’80s and ’90s by breeding the American Pit Bull with other Pit Bull type breeds. It was recognized by the United Kennel Club in 2013 but hasn’t yet been formally recognized by the American Kennel Club. It’s a compact, broad dog with a gentle and affectionate temperament, but big exercise needs. If you choose this type of breed, make sure you’ve got enough time for long walks and extensive play sessions.
American Pit Bull Terrier
Like the American Bully, the American Pit Bull Terrier has been recognized by the United Kennel Club but not the American Kennel Club. Developed in the late 19th century, it has a long and unfortunate history of being used for dogfighting. Like most Pit Bulls, American Pit Bull Terriers are loyal and affectionate, but their strong prey drive and reluctance to make friends with other dogs requires careful management.
American Staffordshire Terrier
The American Staffordshire Terrier was developed in the later 19th century in the US. It tends to be mellower than many other Pit Bull types and is known for its loyal, playful nature and family-friendly appeal. However, like most Pit Bulls, American Staffordshire Terriers have a strong prey drive and tend to fare better as the only pet in the house.
Staffordshire Bull Terrier
The Staffordshire Bull Terrier was developed in the 19th century for dogfighting, but these days the breed is better known for its gentle, patient disposition and loving nature than its fighting skills. Staffies prefer people over other dogs and, as they’re prone to separation anxiety, do best in a home where they’ll have company throughout the day.
Despite being related to English Bulldogs, a breed that was developed primarily for bull baiting, American Bulldogs are friendly companions with extremely affectionate personalities. They might not be lap dogs, but that won’t stop them from trying to snuggle up on your lap. They’re gentle with children but their protective instincts need to be carefully managed with training and socialization.
Lay the Groundwork
So, you’ve done your homework, decided on which type of Pit Bull is best suited to your home, and are ready to take the next steps. Before you arrange to pick up your pup, there are a few extra things to do first. Namely:
Find a Veterinary Hospital
As pawtracks.com recommends, begin your veterinary research before you bring your puppy home. Check out some local veterinary hospitals so you can find a practice that suits your needs. It’s likely you’ll be visiting them several times over the next year, whether for vaccinations or for routine check-ups, so make sure you choose a clinic that’s as safe and comfortable as it can be to ease what can sometimes be a stressful experience for your pup.
Puppies might be tiny, but their needs are big. Get prepared for their arrival by investing in everything you’ll need to get the next few months off to a flying start. There are toys to consider, leashes to think about, and food choices to be made. It’s also worth considering investing in a crate to give your pup a safe, comfortable spot to call their own. As an added perk, crates can also be a great tool to help with potty training. As rspca.org.uk recommends, look for a crate that’s big enough for your pup to grow into. Don’t, however, be tempted to travel with them in an adult-sized crate, as it won’t offer the protection they need. Once you have it, set it up in a quiet, calm area of the house that’s close to where the family spends most of their time, but not in the direct line of traffic. It should be away from any direct heat or cooling sources and preferably not in direct sunlight. Add some chew-proof, waterproof blankets for them to snuggle up in – a few toys won’t go amiss either.
Stock Up On Food
Pit Bull pups don’t require a specific brand or type of food, but they do need a specific variety of nutrients to support muscle growth, joint development, and energy requirements. Many brands now make breed-specific formulas that make the process of choosing your pet’s food much easier. However, if you’re in any doubt, speak to your vet about the best options available to suit your budget.
The Next Steps
Once you’ve bought your pup home, prepare for some teething issues. It takes a while for new pups to feel comfortable and safe in a new environment, and there may be some sleepless nights before they adapt. Be patient and give them lots of love and affection to ease the adjustment period. Once they have, it’s time for the fun to begin.
No dog is born mean, but some dogs can be made mean if they aren’t raised correctly. Provided they’re raised in the correct environment for their needs, Pit Bulls are no more likely to become menaces to society than any other dog. As a starting step towards raising a well-adjusted, friendly dog, socialization is a must.. and the earlier you start the process, the better. The Kennel Club describes socialization as “the learning process that a puppy must undergo to learn key life skills which ensure that they are happy and confident in their environment, and can communicate effectively within their social group.” It involves gently introducing your puppy to all the people, noises, situations, environments, and animals they might come across as part of their regular routine. The more accustomed they become to those things, the less likely they are to become fearful or even aggressive towards them in later life. It’s never too early to start socializing your pup, although be mindful that their interactions with potentially unvaccinated dogs should be limited until they receive all their shots. Make it your mission to take your pup wherever you go so they can experience as much as possible. A well-run puppy class is also a great way to get your pup to socialize with other dogs. Keep introductions gentle and friendly, and be sure to grease the wheels with plenty of positive praise and treats.
When you first bring your puppy home, prepare to spend a lot of time in the yard. Water runs through puppies like, well, water, meaning they’ll need to take frequent bathroom breaks throughout both the day and night. Although accidents can and will happen, you can help keep them to a minimum by sticking to a schedule. Puppies tend to need to eliminate within 15 minutes of eating and drinking, and will also need to go after a nap or a game. Keep to set times for set activities and schedule bathroom breaks around them. By the age of about 12 weeks old, most puppies will be able to exercise enough bladder control to ‘hold it’ for around four hours, meaning you can now start formally potty training them. But remember – all puppies mature at different rates. Some might take just a few days to become fully housetrained. Others will take weeks or even months. Bend your expectations to suit your pup’s development, rather than the other way around. Crates can be an incredibly effective tool for potty training, but be wary of continuing to use pee pads after you begin training your dog to go outside, as they can simply make them confused about where they should and shouldn’t go to the bathroom. Keep the training upbeat and positive, using treats and praise to mark progress. Accidents are inevitable, but never punish or scold your dog if they happen. Simply clean it up with an enzyme-based cleaner and keep going.
Pit Bulls are energetic dogs, and even as puppies, they need to be provided with plenty of outlets to burn off some steam. However, as barkercise.com notes, be mindful that your pup’s bones, muscles, and joints are still growing and developing. Strenuous walks aren’t necessary when they’re small, and could even do more harm than good. Similarly, any high-impact activity that places strain on their joints should be avoided. Instead, encourage free play with age-appropriate toys at first, before moving on to short, informal walks to get them used to the leash. If your pup hasn’t yet had its full set of vaccinations, keep their adventures to the yard. As a general guide, pups can be walked for around 5 minutes for every month of age. If they start to tire, end the walk early.
If you encounter an unhappy, dangerous dog, there’s a good chance that dog has either never been trained or has been trained using old-fashioned, counterproductive punishment-based methods. If you want your pup to grow into a well-adjusted, obedient, and good-natured dog, start investing in their training from an early age. Basic commands like sit, stay, come, and down are easy enough to teach, although if you’re at all uncertain about your technique, it’s worth signing up for an obedience class. According to pitbulllovers.com, training can start as young as 8 weeks old, so as soon as your pup has settled into their new home, it’s time to get the ball moving. Remember that training should be firm but loving: avoid any form of punishment and use positive reinforcement only.