Banned from many apartment complexes, dog parks and even states, the American Pit Bull Terrier is both feared and misunderstood by many. Initially bred as a strong and agile hunting dog, the pit bull terrier was once beloved by the early American public as a loyal companion. Unfortunately, the pit bull terrier became so effective at its task that it then became the leading breed in dog fighting. Even today, many pit bulls are used for illegal dog fighting, and the abuse and training of these animals has led to a bad reputation for the breed itself.
The mistake most often made with the pit bull terrier is the assumption that it is naturally human aggressive. This is due to the higher than average incidences of human attacks by pit bulls. This is not an innate hallmark of the breed, but rather an issue of neglect, abuse and bad breeding. In the sport of dog fighting, the dogs are required to ignore pain and injury in order to pursue their kill. These are the same skills that made the pit bull a skilled hunting dog. However, in both hunting and dog fighting, the dogs must be human friendly. This is because an injured dog should not turn on its handler even though it may be in extreme agony. Well-bred pit bulls are extremely loyal, to the extent that they are often used as service dogs for the disabled.
The problems facing the pit bull breed are social more than genetic. Dogs used in the fighting industry are poorly socialized and abused. Because of the lure of the dog fighting industry in lower class areas, this leads to puppies being bred and adopted by those who do not understand the breed or how to breed for temperament. A properly bred and raised pit bull terrier should actually be less human aggressive than the average dog. Indeed, a proper pit bull terrier should actually be able to be stopped from biting another dog by having a human arm placed in its mouth–though naturally this exercise should not be attempted.
Another common misconception about the pit bull terrier is that they have abnormal, locking jaws that will not release once they achieve a hold, and that this makes them more dangerous than any other dog breed. There is no medical evidence of this. A pit bull terrier will hold on strongly when biting, but can be released using a break stick or capsule of ammonia. It is not advisable to strike or otherwise injure a pit bull terrier that is biting, because it will consider this a good thing. Instinctively, a pit bull terrier is forced to fight against pain, and thus may believe that if it is being hurt, it should continue its current actions.
Pit bull dogs do have increased dog aggression, and all pit bull terrier handlers should be properly trained. Terrier breeds in general are dog aggressive, and thus need to be closely monitored when interacting with other dogs. The terrier class of dogs includes popular breeds such as the Yorkshire Terrier, Scottish Terrier and Boston Terrier. However, with care and love, owning a pit bull terrier can be an extremely rewarding experience. When properly raised, a pit bull terrier is driven, energetic, intelligent and loyal. They excel in endurance trials and their dedicated personalities have made them ideal as general service jobs, police dogs, and search and rescue dogs.