American Pit Bull Terrier

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The American Pit Bull Terrier is a fiercely loyal and loving companion for life. Learn more about this breed in our guide.

Breed Snapshot

Life Expectancy:
12 to 14 years
Size:

Medium

Maintenance Level:

Medium

Shed Level:

Low

Temperament:
ActiveLoyalEager To Please
Coat Color:
WhiteBlackBrownGrayBrindleFawnTanBlueRed

Best For

The American Pit Bull Terrier breed is best for active, experienced pet parents and families with older children. These dogs generally do well in larger homes with high fences as they can be climbers.

American Pit Bull Terrier Traits

What makes the American Pit Bull Terrier an American Pit Bull Terrier? Let's find out how they stack up.

American Pit Bull Terrier Temperament

Your American Pit Bull Terrier would take a bullet for you but would still be a lousy guard dog. That’s because they tend to become BFFs with everyone they meet when they’re properly trained and socialized. Contrary to what you may have heard, this friendly—even goofy—breed brims over with enthusiasm for humans (even strangers), and one of their strongest desires is to please their families.

With one of these pups at your side, you should be prepared for lots of sloppy kisses and a constant shadow following you everywhere you go. You couldn’t ask for a better family companion, and their well-noted love of children is a definite plus. While untrained Pitties can have a tendency to chase after small animals like cats or squirrels, aggression towards humans is uncharacteristic of the breed, and biting is no more prevalent than among any other type of dog. With the right amount of patience and training, your pet can live peacefully with any four-legged sibling at home, once you make the proper introductions.

Thanks to their high intelligence, energy and stamina, the American Pit Bull Terrier breed makes a great service or therapy dog. They’ve also been used for border patrol, detecting drugs and explosives and search and rescue functions.

How to Care for a American Pit Bull Terrier

The athletic, high-energy American Pit Bull Terrier loves to play and needs a lot of mental and physical stimulation. Don’t even think about leaving them with a dog toy in your living room and calling it a day unless you want a chewed-up sofa. Boredom is lethal for this breed—these pups really want to hang out with you while also working their mind and body. The good news? The time you’ll be putting into their daily exercise and training is nicely balanced out by their relatively low-maintenance grooming needs.

American Pit Bull Terrier Health

The American Pit Bull Terrier has a life expectancy of 12 to 14 years and can be susceptible to a range of health issues. It’s important to be aware of potential health problems, so you can help your pup live their healthiest life possible.

  • Hip Dysplasia: This inherited disease is common in American Pit Bull Terriers. It causes their hip joints to form improperly and can lead to arthritis. If your pup has a hard time getting up or seems to be limping in their hind legs, bring them to the vet to get X-rays of their joints and have their arthritis treated with medication. In severe cases, surgery can be an option.
  • Knee Problems: If your Pittie’s kneecap keeps popping out of place, you may need to bring them to the vet for arthritis medication or even surgery to realign their kneecaps.
  • Thyroid Disease: If your pup doesn’t make enough thyroid hormone, you may notice symptoms like weight gain, excessive hair loss, dry skin and behavioral changes. An annual blood test can screen your Pittie for this disease. If it turns out they have it, they’ll be treated with replacement hormones.
  • Skin Infections: A lack of zinc or an inability to absorb it could make your American Pit Bull Terrier prone to zinc-responsive dermatosis, a type of skin infection. To treat the symptoms, which can include lesions on the nose and foot pads or red, oozing skin around the face, vets can prescribe a regimen of zinc to add to your dog’s diet.
  • Blindness: American Pit Bull Terriers are slightly more likely to develop an inherited genetic disease called Progressive Retinal Atrophy, which causes them to go blind. Early symptoms such as dilated pupils or night blindness begin when they are between 3 to 5 years old. While it’s not a painful condition, it’s also not curable, though a genetic test can be done.

Search for Adoptable American Pit Bull Terriers Near You

American Pit Bull Terrier History

The American Pit Bull Terrier is one of several breeds who can trace their origin all the way back to the now-extinct Old English Bulldog and Old English Terriers. They were crossbred to create the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, who was trained to fight in the awful sport of bull baiting in the pits of England.

In the late 19th century, European immigrants brought this breed to the US. While all these types of dogs fall under the umbrella term of “pitbull,” the American Kennel Club does not recognize the American Pit Bull Terrier. In an attempt to separate the breed from their negative past as a fighter, the AKC decided to acknowledge a highly genetically similar breed instead, called the American Staffordshire Terrier.

While the AKC doesn’t register them, two breed clubs do: the United Kennel Club, which recognized the breed in 1898, and the American Dog Breeders Association, which recognized them in 1909.

After this terrier breed came to the US, they were used to hunt hogs, drive livestock and act as family companions. Because of the Pittie’s clownish temperament, Hollywood loved casting them as comic sidekick dogs, and they can be seen in such cult classics as Our Gang/Little Rascals comedies and Buster Keaton and Fatty Arbuckle films. Sadly, some people continued to use these sweet dogs as fighters until 1976 when doing so was outlawed in all 50 states.

Are you looking to add an American Pit Bull Terrier to your home as a pet? You can find a list of reputable breeders on the United Kennel Club website. The average American Pit Bull Terrier cost is anywhere from $1,300 to $2,500 for a pup who’s been screened for health and temperament issues and may even come with pedigree papers. You can also reach out to American Pit Bull Terrier rescue organizations or your local animal shelter to adopt one.

FAQs

Do American Pit Bull Terriers shed?

Yes, American Pit Bull Terriers shed, although less than other breeds due to their single coat. They shed a little throughout the year and a bit more when the seasons change in fall and spring.

Are American Pit Bull Terriers aggressive or dangerous?

No, American Pit Bull Terriers are not naturally aggressive or dangerous, though like any other type of dog, they can become that way due to neglect, abuse, lack of training and irresponsible pet parents. With proper training and socialization, Pitties will not exhibit these traits.

How long do American Pit Bull Terriers live?

American Pit Bull Terriers may live, on average, between 12 to 14 years.

How big do American Pit Bull Terriers get?

American Pit Bull Terriers may grow as tall as 21 inches and their weight may go up to 65 pounds.

What are the most common American Pit Bull Terrier mixes?

The most common American Pit Bull Terrier mixes are:

  • American Pit Bull Terrier -Labrador mix (Labrabull)
  • American Pit Bull Terrier-American Bulldog mix (Pitbull Bulldog)
  • American Pit Bull Terrier-Doberman mix (Dober Pit or Pit Pinscher)
  • American Pit Bull Terrier-Jack Russell Terrier mix (Jack Pit)
  • American Pit Bull Terrier-Mastiff mix (Pit Mastiff or an American Masti-Bull)
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Top Takeaways

American Pit Bull Terriers are known equally for their brawn as well as for their brains, but they need some love and help to reach their full potential. But seriously, don’t we all? Exceptionally energetic and friendly, these dogs require daily exercise for their mind and body and don’t like to be left alone for long periods. These loyal companions are teammates for life and will do anything to please their humans, but they do best with experienced pet parents who have the patience and time to keep them focused. Since they do love to engage in rough play, they should be supervised around young children.

Expert input provided by certified dog trainer and behavior consultant Ivan M. Petersen, founder of Dog Wizardry, and veterinarian Dr. Corey Shagensky, DVM, founder and owner of Progressive Animal Wellness in Avon, Conn.

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