American Pit Bull Terrier

Part One: History
Complete text copyright ©Marji Beach.

The modern American Pit Bull Terrier (APBT) can trace its roots back to England and the early 19th century. Crosses between “bully” type dogs and terriers eventually produced the modern APBT. Although not recognized as a “breed” and much smaller than the modern APBT, the early “bulldogs” were used as working dogs, controlling unruly bulls for butchers as well as farmers.
These “bulldogs” resembled, phenotypically, the modern APBT but were considerably smaller, weighing in at 15-30lbs. The courage and tenacity that made these dogs good at corralling dangerous bulls made them great at the blood sport of bull baiting.

The year 1835 saw the end of deadly bull baiting (countless thousands of dogs lost their lives to this “sport”) and the emergence of an even more sinister blood sport - dog fighting.

To understand the American Pit Bull Terrier, it is imperative to understand the breed’s fighting origins.

The lower class had used blood sports as an outlet for their frustration and aggression towards the monarchy - pit fighting was, in essence, an outcry and an outlet for that aggression.
Dogs were bred to be courageous, utterly devoid of pain sensations (they, no doubt, felt pain but were bred and encouraged not to express that pain), tenacious and determined.

A quality that was never bred into them was human aggression. Human “aggressive” (aggression may not be the most appropriate term, it is more likely that these dogs simply had a lower bite threshold) dogs were undesirable as these dogs required extensive handling prior and during their fights - most of theses dogs were also family pets so no human “aggression” was ever tolerated.
Dogs that exhibited human “aggression” were typically killed, meaning that only human friendly lines were perpetuated and desired. It is highly unlikely, however, that these culled dogs were naturally more aggressive towards humans than their bred counterparts but their bite threshold may have been much lower meaning that it did not take much for them to turn around and bite their handler. Animals were bred for an increased bite threshold, as far as humans and only humans were concerned, which decreased the likelihood of humans becoming victims of dog bites
In 1898, Chauncy Bennet formed the UKC, a breed registry aimed solely at the registration and acceptance of pitbulls. The AKC had wanted nothing to do with pitbulls, so Bennet sought to create an organization that would represent the breed as performance dogs. Mr. Bennet added “American” and initially dropped “Pit” from the APBT’s name but public outcry let to “Pit” being added back to the name - thus the American Pit Bull Terrier.
For a pitbull to be accepted into the UKC the dog had to have won three fights - a requirement that was later dropped. Another registry that was started solely for APBT’s, the American Dog Breeders Association was born in 1909. The ADBA was started by Guy McCord who was a close friend of one of the founding fathers of the modern APBT, John P. Colby. The ADBA was created to test the performance quality of a APBT without actual pit fighting; the ADBA’s main focus was on weight pulling competitions with a spattering of conformation shows.
The AKC decided to register Pit Bulls but under a different name - the Staffordshire Terrier, which was later changed to the American Staffordshire Terrier in 1972, or AST. Up until 1936, Pit Bulls and AST’s were physically identical. After 1936, AST’s were bred solely for conformation and their breed requirements became much more stringent. APBT’s were being bred for both performance (fighting) as well as conformation shows and the breed’s standard became much more lenient. The AST’s, phenotypically, became “flashier” with blockier heads, larger chests and a thicker jaw while the APBT’s varied phenotypically from lanky to stocky. Although the phenotypic expression varied in the APBT, relative weight, size and proportion remained constant and dogs over 60lbs were rarely seen. Both AST’s and APBT’s were bred to be exceptionally sturdy and extremely human friendly, not to mention athletic, courageous, and tenacious.

American Pit Bull Terrier

Part Two: Yesterday and Today
Complete text copyright ©Marji Beach.

The 1980’s saw an upsurge in the popularity of American Pit Bull Terriers as “guard” dogs for drug dealers and also as an expression of ego or “manhood” for street kids. Thus, it began - the production of disproportionately large “Pit Bulls”. For all intensive purposes, these were not (and still are not!) true American Pit Bull Terriers - lines of American Bulldog, Cane Corso’s and other molosser breeds were incorporated into the APBT’s lineage to produce massive brutes. In some cases, a large APBT pup was born and was overused as a stock breeder, thus producing highly inbred dogs with serious behavioral issues. It is a myth that an APBT can weigh 80lbs or more - those are not true Pit Bulls and if a pedigree was attained, at some point, there would be molosser (mastiff) blood added or the dog would have come from highly inbred lines.The majority of APBT breeders scoffed at these “bigger but not necessarily better” lines of dogs (I say majority as the minority would be the people who are actually breeding larger dogs).
Even “professional” (I use that term loosely) dogmen/women (those who fight dogs) were horrified to see the onslaught of massive hulks, for in the pit ring/box, bigger does not mean better performance.

Today, the vast majority of APBT’s do not get over 60lbs (and this is true for AST’s) and the vast majority are household pets. Unfortunately, a minority of Pit Bulls are poorly socialized, chained, abused, neglected or allowed to roam free and inevitably attack a living creature, typically a child. As with any breed of dog, it is imperative for owners to properly socialize their dogs and that means exposing them to everything imaginable: from young to old children, from the elderly to the wheelchair bound, from umbrellas to kites, etc.
Dogs should never be chained outside or left outside in the backyard for most of the day as that is simply creating a dangerous dog by circumstance. The APBT’s that have attacked have ALL been poorly socialized, under trained, and neglected - they never learned appropriate behavioral skills to cope with the outside world. All that these dogs had were the poor social skills that only a chained or neglected dog can receive; since they were never taught to suppress some of their predatory instincts, these dogs inevitably hear a screaming child and see the child running and instinct takes over.

APBT’s are no more or less difficult than any other dog to train or socialize. Owners most certainly need to understand the dog fighting history and take necessary precautions by ensuring early socialization with other dogs and monitoring of their interactions with other dogs. And even with extensive socialization, some APBT’s may never become comfortable around other dogs, so each dog should be treated as an individual with careful consideration. By their very nature, APBT’s strive to be around humans - centuries of breeding have seen to that. They need a kind heart AND a kind hand - physical reprimands are useless and ineffective for any dog and should rarely, if ever, be employed.

APBT’s have been used by the FDA and USDA for sniffing out bombs and drugs and have been used by the military as well as police forces. APBT’s have also been used as therapy and service dogs; in fact, the first certified hearing dog in Alaska was an APBT. APBT’s are great at weight pulling as well as agility, schutzhund, obedience and carting. As far as temperament is concerned, APBT’s have consistently scored an 82% and higher on the American Temperament Test Society’s evaluation, higher than Goldens, German Shepherds and most other breeds. With socialization, training and a kind hand - APBT’s are wonderful companions for all walks of life: from families to single individuals, from joggers to apartment dwellers, and onward.

American Pit Bull Terrier

Part Three: Frequently Asked Questions

Complete text copyright ©Marji Beach.
Photos copyright ©their original owners.

Do American Pit Bull Terriers or American Staffordshire Terriers have locking jaws?

Hopefully, this myth has been relegated to an urban legend where it belongs. No canine has a locking jaw - it is a physical impossibility for dogs.

Do American Pit Bull Terriers have incredible bite pressure, greater than any other breed of dog?

No! No! No! There is no accurate test to measure the PSI (pressure per square inch) of a Pit Bull or any other breed of dog. It has been shown that other breeds of dogs actually may (as there still is no conclusive test) have a harder bite. So, then why is it sometimes difficult to get a Pit Bull off of another creature? Well, the short answer - that is what they were bred for.The breed was bred to hold on, at all costs. Imagine if a bull-baiting dog suddenly let go of the bull’s nose (which immobilizes the bull) that would leave the bull free to kill the dog and kill the dog the bull would.American Pit Bull Terriers do have muscular neck and shoulder muscles but so do American Bulldogs, Boxers, Jack Russell Terriers, Dogo’s and a variety of other breeds of dogs. It is not the neck muscles that determine the strength of a dogs bite - 75% of that bite is coming from the rear legs, and by immobilizing the rear portion of the dog’s body, a person can take away 75% of that bite from the dog! Certainly a bite from a Pit Bull is more devastating than, say a teacup poodle, but no more devastating than a well placed bite from a Beagle that hits a key nerve in the face of a child, rendering that child’sface paralyzed. 
The take home point is this - ANY dog can inflict serious damage to a human being, especially a child and it is the responsibility of ALL dog owners to socialize and prepare their dogs for the “real” world.

Can Pit Bulls do well around cats and other smaller animals?

Yes and no. A dog is a predator, and it is nave for any dog owner to think that Rex will get along with cats because Rex gets along with the housecat, Mittens. Yes, Pit Bulls can get along with cats and some can get along with smaller animals. Some Pit Bulls get along with the house cat but not with the neighborhood cats - that is because the dog owners have taught the dog to be accepting of the housecat but no such training occurred for any other cat.

It is not aggression when a dog chases a cat or smaller animal or even a child - it is predatory instinct and should be taken as such. Proper socialization and training will curb that behavior and can create Pit Bulls who may want to chase a cat but has been socialized and trained not to chase a cat. But, as a responsible APBT owner (or dog owner for that matter!), no APBT should be left alone with a smaller animal, especially rabbits and rodents.

How do I get a APBT to stop fighting?

At some point, in every dog owner’s life, one of their dogs will either initiate or be subject to an attack by another dog. If that dog is an APBT, one of two things will happen. The APBT will walk away (my dog does this) and “play for another day”. The more likely reaction is to defend itself, which can lead to an APBT literally hanging on for dear life. This method of separating a dog fight can be used for ANY dog fight and is not particular for any breed of dog.

This is assuming that spraying water has been ineffective. Although yelling may sometimes break up a fight, yelling can actually encourage the combatants to continue and hitting or kicking the dogs is a surefire way to escalate the fight into a full-blown “war” between the two dogs. Each owner should have a break stick or a comparable piece of wood or pole available. Okay - each dog owner straddles the rear end of his or her dog. As stated earlier, 75% of that bite hold is coming from the rear of the dog. At the same time, each owner grabs the skin on the neck (near the shoulders) of his or her dog - now the dogs ability to bite effectively has been eliminated as well as the chance that the dog will turn around and bite the handler. With the other hand, simply insert the break stick (or wood piece, etc) into the gap in the dog’s mouth (this is easy to see when your dog as a toy or rawhide in their mouth, if your dogs have been properly trained around toys/rawhides and are not possessive practice the break stick maneuver at that time). Pry the dog’s mouth open. This should take no more than five seconds!! Voila! The dogs are separated. The break stick is NOT PAINFUL, no teeth are ever chipped and the jaw is never strained or injured in any way. Most dogfights never escalate to the point of “kill or be killed” but every APBT owner should know the break stick maneuver

American Pit Bull Terrier

Part Four: What About Other Dogs?
Complete text copyright ©Marji Beach.

Can Pit Bulls get along with other dogs and can I take them to the dog park?

There are some Pit Bull owners out there who answer a vehement NO!!!!! I happen to disagree. Any dog can be trained to tolerate the presence of another dog and ALL dogs should be socialized around other dogs. All well socialized dogs should be comfortable meeting and interacting with new dogs. Owners of multiple dogs should never leave their dogs unattended and alone together as behavioral cues may escalate causing a full-blown fight while the owner is gone. Understanding the cues of other dogs is imperative for an APBT to learn and that should be provided as often and as much as an owner can.

If a dog is left intact (not neutered), male-male aggression may be inevitable but this is not unique to the APBT. A male, unneutered APBT would do best with females or neutered male dogs and a male, un-neutered dog APBT (and most other male, un-neutered dogs!) should not be brought to the dog park or allowed around other un-neutered males.

Unspayed females tend to be more aggressive to other unspayed females, learn the behavior of the dog and avoid the dog park where there is a chance of other un-neutered males or unspayed females being present. Some APBT’s are only aggressive towards same sized, same sexed dogs while others are only aggressive towards other APBT’s - again, intense training can teach the dog how to tolerate other dogs; however, even with the tolerance level increased, this APBT should not be brought to the dog park as it can be even more stressful for the dog to be forced around other dogs.
My Pit Bull goes to the dog park and does fine - the dog park is a great way for a dog to learn proper social interactions and generally have a fun time. If a dog park feels unsafe (or you, the owner, feels uncomfortable), find some doggie friends and let them go off leash in a safe environment (like an enclosed backyard - NEVER let your APBT’s off leash in an unenclosed area if they are not comfortable around unknown dogs).

Every Pit Bull owner’s motto should be “My Pit Bull may not start a fight, but will not hesitate to finish it”. This simply means that, as a responsible dog owner, all of your dog’s interactions should be monitored and if things seem to be getting out of hand, simply leash your dog and have others do the same, giving every dog a timeout. This has never happened with my APBT but I always keep a close eye on her antics, so to speak. I also have spent considerable time intensely socializing and training her.

I think the biggest problem with many Pit Bull owners is that they hide their dogs away from the world - it should never be shocking, then, that these poorly socialized dogs end up attacking another dog. The owner goes away thinking, “I knew he was dog aggressive” when it was really the owners fault for not properly socializing their dog. Every APBT owner should be responsible with their dog and take every precaution to prevent any type of agonistic encounter, but hiding the dog away will not help. The dog park may not be the best place for every APBT out there and each individual dog’s personality and tolerance level should be taken into consideration
However, this is true of ANY and all dogs - there are plenty of Jack Russell Terriers who are also more than willing to “end” a fight as well as start one, that makes them no more or less aggressive than an APBT. Those who would argue that the APBT has a stronger bite are treading on thin ice - a puncture wound, regardless of how big or large, can kill a dog and the vast majority of breeds out there are much larger, some even more muscular, than an APBT and can inflict just as much, if not more, damage than an APBT ever could.

Cautious, not anal retentive or restrictive, is how every Pit Bull owner should be. Owners should be cautious around new dogs and new situations but should also allow their dog time to adjust and investigate. Owners should also be cautious around the ages of 1-3 as that is when hormones are at their peak and the likelihood of dog-dog aggression is highest. If a dog cannot properly interact with other dogs - that dog needs remedial training and socialization to at least tolerate other dogs; this does not mean the APBT has to like other dogs but must act in an appropriate manner

American Pit Bull Terrier

Part Five: Pit Bits
Complete text copyright ©Marji Beach.

Physical Appearance

General Appearance - the APBT is a medium sized breed with a solid build, sleek and short coat and with appropriate muscling.

Color - any color and pattern is acceptable.

Weight: Bitches - 30-50lbs Dogs - 35-60lbs. Larger and smaller dogs are accepted as long as they are not disproportionately large or small (so those 100lb brutes would definitely be disproportionate and inadmissible to a UKC show ring).

Height: 17-23 inches (for both dogs and bitches).

Ears: both cropped and uncropped are accepted by the UKC and ADBA.

The following people have all had Pit Bulls in their lives: Linda Blair, Rosie Perez, Alicia Silverstone, Sinbad, Kelli Williams, Usher, Jon Stewart, Helen Keller loved the breed and had one, as did Fred Astaire, and James Thurber
Some famous Pit Bulls

- the famous “black” eyed pooch from The Little Rascals
Stubby - a famous WWI canine hero who also became Georgetown’s first mascot
RCA - Alaska’s first certified hearing dog
Cheyenne and Dakota - true ambassadors of the breed, became two of the first search and rescue dogs as well as some of the first therapy dogs - Pit Bull Rescue Central (PBRC) offers an online venue for available Pit Bulls from a variety of sources: owners who no longer can care for their dogs to Pit Bull rescues to shelters and SPCA’s.
There is plenty of breed information, happy and sad stories as well as rescue information. There is also a resource for basic training ideas. Just an overall wonderful site promoting this wonderful breed! - Villalobos Rescue Center is a wonderful rescue facility with some beautiful Pit Bulls. - Positive Pit Bull Press provides wonderful stories and articles about the wonderful and positive influence Pit Bulls have had on many people’s lives. - For Pits Sake is an organization set up to not only dispel the myths surrounding the APBT but also provide valuable services via therapy and search and rescue as well as community programs. - The United Kennel Club’s site, although devoted to all recognized breeds, was founded for the registration of American Pit Bull Terriers and has the standard for the APBT. - This is the website for the American Dog Breeders Association, another registry founded specifically for American Pit Bull Terriers. This is a great resource for weight pulling information and for finding local clubs. - This is the site for an organization known as Dog Holocaust which works to provide information for possible BSL (Breed Specific Legislation) across the world. American Pit Bull Terriers are always on the “hit list” for proposed banning in many countries (not to mention the several countries that currently ban the breed). This is not a site devoted to the APBT but devoted to preventing the ill-advised, inappropriate and ineffective BSL that is becoming as common as bread and butter - all dog lovers should be painfully aware that their chosen breed could be next, no breed is truly safe. - Domino Dogs is another organization geared towards preventing BSL. - This is the American Dog Owners Association, they work to promote responsible dog ownership as well as condemn unnecessary breed bans.

American Pit Bull Terrier

Part Six: What is BSL?
Complete text copyright ©Marji Beach.

BSL is Breed Specific Legislation and with the intense coverage of any all dog attacks (particularly those by bully breeds), bans and restrictions have been enacted all across the world.

Here is a short list of some banned breeds (banned in certain areas, that is):
  • American Pit Bull Terrier
  • American Bulldog
  • Doberman Pinscher
  • Rottweiler
  • German Shepherd
  • Tosa Inu
  • American Staffordshire Terrier
  • Bull Terrier
  • Staffordshire Terrier
  • Staffordshire Bull Terrier
  • Mastiff
  • Bullmastiff
  • Presa Canario
  • Cane Corso 
  • Europe is the hotbed of Breed Specific Legislation with six or seven countries having active BSL - Germany, Netherlands, France and Spain being the worst places to have a banned breed. There are some states in the US, some provinces in Canada and Australia that all have BSL strongly enforced.

    Why is BSL ineffective? If an individual has a strong desire to train a dog to attack, no amount of BSL will stop that person. Golden Retrievers have been trained to seek out and attack human beings - the breed is not an issue, rather it is the lack of proper training/socialization and the dangerous practice of training dogs to be guard dogs (as opposed to watch dogs who are not trained to attack but merely “watch”, as their name implies). Why are certain breeds more prevalent in dog attack statistics? Not because there are somehow more of those particular dogs existing but that more of the dogs are being owned by abusive or simply neglectful individuals who do not neuter their dogs, allow their animals to roam free and never socialize their animals, or who purchase their animal for the wrong reasons (ego).

    The banning of specific breeds has been shown NOT to decrease the number of attacks or maulings. Why? Well, those same individuals who would have owned a Rottweiler or a Pit Bull are simply turning other breeds of dogs into killers. Other breeds simply replace the banned breeds as top maulers. Any dog can be trained to be aggressive towards humans and any dog that is not properly socialized can become dangerous. The list of organizations that are against BSL is staggering - they are reputable agencies and groups who realize that owners of dangerous dogs need to be held responsible but that no particular breed is more or less likely to possibly attack. Some of the agencies/organizations are: AKC (American Kennel Club), UKC (United Kennel Club), AVMA, CDC (Centers for Disease Control), ASPCA, SPCA’s, most Human Societies, most Animal Control Facilities, ADBA (American Dog Breeders Association), ADOA (American Dog Owners Association), most breeders and rescue groups as well as reconstructive surgeons for children whose groups have stated that a bite to the face of a child can be devastating REGARDLESS of the breed of dog who inflicted the wound.

    What is the solution? There are several dangerous dog laws out there that are geared towards owners and individual dogs with no mention of any breed. Owners need to be held responsible for their dog’s behavior - if an owner cannot properly train or socialize a dog, let alone an APBT, then that person should not have a dog. It is high time that dogs stopped being killed after biting another dog or a person, it is not hard to reform a biter and why should the dog have to suffer for the idiocy of their owner. Unless the dog has an irreversible medical condition causing the aggression, every and all biting dogs should be given a second chance. Humans need to step back and realize that dogs do not go out and seek little children to gnaw on, there is no feeling of malice being expressed by these dogs - in fact, MOST bites occur because of miscommunication between humans and dogs, why should the dogs be killed and not the people? If both made a mistake, both need to learn what is proper and appropriate and a dog is more than capable of being taught discrimination (say between a squeaky toy and a screaming child) and proper behaviors. 

American Pitbull Terrier



I'm sorry you are frightened of my dogs and are trying to have them killed because they are pitbulls.

I'm sorry you lack the understanding of this breed's
true history, gentleness with people,
wonderful temperament, intelligence and behavioral

I'm sorry you won't read
the ATTS stats regarding our breed's true
temperament, putting it in the top four
for temperament, scoring better than breeds like
Golden Retrievers, and cocker spaniels.

I'm sorry that you side with and protect animal
abusers by marking the breed of dog, and not the
irresponsibility of the owner.

I'm sorry that by your logic I could steal a car,
run some people over with it, and then you can blame
the make of car for the accident, as I walk free.

I'm sorry you generalize one breed of dog with one group of people.

I'm sorry you can't see the love and determination
that many often highly educated, non-criminal and "normal" types of people show towards this breed and
the great personal sacrifices that they make to take care of their dog responsibly.

I'm sorry you cannot go into the shelters and see
the hundreds of abandoned and abused pitbulls, dying
only for the inane "crime" of being born the breed
they are.

I'm sorry you cannot see the look of disappointment in their eyesas someone walks by their kennel, and
refuses to consider adopting them based on an
ill-educated, fear-mongering reporter.

I'm sorry that you cannot be there when the animal
looks at a human for the last time, and in
spite of betrayed by all humans they have met, their
tail still wags as someone approaches with the
syringe of Euthinol.

I'm sorry you cannot be there when law enforcement
shoots one of your dogs dead inside it's own home in
front of the children it mutually loves for simply
getting off the dog bed and walking over to say
hello with it's tail wagging.

I'm sorry you cannot be there to rescue pitbull
puppies from a plastic bag in a dumpster,
dumped there by someone switching their illegal and inhumane activities to another, more lucrative breed.

I'm sorry you cannot understand the difference
between canine and human aggression, in the way that
this breed can.
Yes, I'm saying my pitbull is smarter then you.

I'm sorry that the medieval witchhunting genetics of
intolerance, generalization, and racism make you
feel the need to vilify a breed of dog.

I'm sorry that justice, equality,
tolerance, common sense are all things you hold dear
as a fellow Canadian, and expect from
others, but do not yourself offer them towards a
pitbull or its caregiver.

I'm sorry that you don't take the constructive time
to petition changes in the Canadian animal cruelty
act, and in the criminal code that would deal out
serious punishment to the real
animal abusers.

I'm sorry you cannot see the disappointed look on a
puppy's face when the people petting it quickly
frown and walk away when you tell them it is a pitbull.

I'm sorry you feel the need to terrorize my family and my dogs for crimes we never have and never will commit.

I'm sorry you don't have to live in fear of your
dog's safety from hysterical and mentally unstable people trying to inflict allmanner of evil upon your dogs.

I'm sorry that you cannot see my breed working in some of the best Search and Rescue groups in the world, saving countless lives each year

I'm sorry our media censors and refuses to print the breed name "pitbull' when in connection with a positive act such as saving a person or child from a burning house, drowning, wild attacking animals, etc.

I'm sorry you cannot see the many pitbulls
registered as therapy dogs and bringing so much joy to another misunderstood, neglected demographic inour society, the senior citizen.

I am sorry you can't see a pitbull kiss a child, step carefully over a kitten,or play in a sunbeam.

I'm sorry you cannot wake in the morning to feel a
warm pitbull cuddled next to you in bed, and know
that you are their total world, and even if the house caught fire and trapped you they would stay with you to the end.

But, now that I really think about it, I'm not at
all sorry you don't own a pitbull--you do not
deserve one.

Rob MacBean
The Mongrel Hordes
Lake Cowichan BC (Permission granted by me the author to crosspost as long as it stays
intact, and with my name on it.

There are two sides to every story, before "you" make a decission get the facts learn the truth.