Pit bulls have a bad reputation because they’re one of the most misunderstood dog breeds out there. Many associate them with dog fights and thus consider them inherently aggressive.
As a result, too many pitties who deserve loving homes end up spending their days in shelters.
This hasn’t always been the case. In the 19th century, they used to be common family dogs.
Some even believe they were bred as nanny dogs. While there’s no proof to back up this claim, pit bulls do have many traits that make them a great choice for families with children.
They’re natural caretakers and they’re gentle, patient, and loving with even the youngest family members.
What are some other wholesome facts you don’t know about this wonderful breed, and what makes them great children’s companions?
1. Pit Bulls Are Lovers, Not Fighters
Pit bulls are controversial because they have a history of being used as bull-baiting and fighting dogs. There are two main misconceptions about bully breeds that have led to their exploitation as fighting dogs:
- The lockjaw myth
- The innate aggression myth
Lockjaw refers to a dog “locking” its jaw in place after a bite. However, no healthy dog has this ability—bully breeds included.
Locked jaw is a medical condition commonly caused by infection. Dogs that suffer from it struggle to close or open their mouths and thus have difficulty eating and breathing. Any dog that suffers from locked jaw syndrome needs immediate medical treatment.
What about aggression?
Bully breeds aren’t inherently aggressive. Some pitties that are bred for fights don’t even end up fighting other dogs. For example, in a litter of six pit bulls, only one or two dogs might display enough aggression to take part in fights.
Regardless of how mistreated pitties are, they’re not aggressive towards their owners. If you ask pit bulls, they would rather curl up on the couch next to you and cuddle. They’re a loving and social breed that thrives among humans.
The results of temperament tests confirm this too.
2. Pit Bulls Pass the Temperament Test With Flying Colors
When the American Temperament Test Society (ATTS) tested pit bulls, they were surprised to find that 87.4% of pitties passed the test. What’s more, they scored higher than golden retrievers!
The table below compares the results of temperament testing of pit bulls and several popular family dogs.
|Dog Breed||Number of Dogs Tested||Passed the Test||Failed the Test||Percentage That Passed|
|American Pit Bull Terrier||931||814||117||87.4%|
|Cavalier King Charles Spaniel||62||53||9||85.5%|
What does the non-profit organization ATTS test, exactly?
ATTS tests different aspects of a dog’s temperament including shyness, friendliness, stability, and protective instincts towards their owners.
The temperament test lasts 12 minutes, during which they walk the dog on a loose leash. Dogs who fail the test are those who display unprovoked aggressive behavior, avoidance, or panic.
What are pit bulls really like? Pit bulls are:
- Energetic—they are athletic dogs that require a lot of activity and playtime. Pit bulls are ideal for active people who love to exercise and do sports.
- Affectionate—they are extremely affectionate dogs with a dominant cuddle gene. Expect a lot of hugs, cuddles, and kisses. (this is why they’re also called nanny dogs)
- Intelligent—it’s easy to teach them tricks because they’re fast learners. With proper training, they can pick up a new skill in no time.
These are general traits common among pit bulls, but every dog is different. Your pittie will have more or less of these traits. Every dog has a unique mix of genetics and environment that shapes its personality. But most can be excellent nanny dogs!
3. Pit Bulls Set Records as Work Dogs
Pit bulls are intelligent, highly trainable, and social dogs. With training, socialization, and structure, they have a lot of potential. Record-setting bully dogs that proved this include drug-sniffing dog Popsicle, military dog Stubby, and rescue dog Dacota.
Popsicle broke the record for the largest single drug find in Texas—his strong nose alerted the police to 3000 pounds of cocaine. He was dubbed Popsicle because he was rescued from an old freezer.
Sergeant Stubby set the record as the most decorated dog in military history. Stubby served in 17 battles during World War I and returned home with medals and dog tags. He would warn the soldiers of poison gas early on and find wounded soldiers.
Dacota took part in over 200 life-saving search missions as a member of the Search and Rescue (SAR) team of pit bulls. One mission even included locating NASA astronauts following the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster.
Soft and hard skills that make pitties amazing therapy, guide, and rescue dogs include being:
- Great with children—they’re known as nanny dogs because they get along with children. Pit bulls are protective, gentle, and playful with children.
- Obedient—they’re great listeners, which makes them highly trainable.
- Friendly—”You’ve Got a Friend in Me” (as if you couldn’t tell from that big signature pit bull smile) is the unofficial soundtrack of every pittie’s life. They’re social butterflies that easily trust others and effortlessly make new friends. If they see you trust someone, it won’t take long until they approach your friends for pets and kisses.
- Amazing entertainers—they have big personalities and like to make their humans laugh by being goofy and playful.
Why were they fired from their last positions as guard dogs? They were too friendly and trusting towards humans.
4. Pit Bulls Are Retired Children’s Comedy Stars
Children who grew up in the 1930s had a favorite TV dog named Petey—a pit bull with a black circle around his eye. He starred in a children’s comedy called Our Gang (AKA The Little Rascals). In the series, he was the children’s best friend ( best nanny dog) and a loyal, goofy companion.
Petey showed audiences not only that bully breeds (AKA nanny dogs) are great with children, but that they can be trained like any other dog breed. Sit, turn around, shake a paw, play hide and seek—the pit bulls that portrayed Petey could do it all and more.
That wasn’t the last time pitties graced the screen in a positive light either. Here are some recent films that have starred pit bulls:
- The Little Rascals—1994 film featuring a dog similar to an iconic 1930s Petey with the ring around the eye.
- John Wick 1 & John Wick 2—starring a rescue pit bull named “Boy,” protected by Keanu Reeves since 2014.
- Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero—2018 animated film about the most decorated pit bulls in military history.
- Flashdance—1983 cult classic starring loyal and gentle pit bull terrier named Gunt.
The debate around pit bulls has been so polarizing and heated. Therefore, it’s important to portray them positively on the big screen.
The media tends to highlight pit bulls that have been mistreated by their handlers. This perpetuates the image of bully breeds as aggressive and dangerous.
Stories that remind people that pit bulls are lovable and affectionate family dogs help to remove the stigma from these good dogs who have received quite a lot of bad press.
Dog-Tired of Hearing Pit Bulls Are Aggressive? Me Too
Pitties don’t have any innate traits that make them dangerous. They’re lovable tail-wagging dogs if you give them a chance.
They’re predisposed to make extraordinary working dogs. They aced the temperament test, they are highly trainable, caring, and loyal dogs.
Misinformation has been hurting their adoption chances for a long time. Families that give pit bulls a chance are even shamed for choosing a bully breed.
I recognized the abilities of this incredible breed and produced a short story video about how pit bulls and their handlers are treated today.
Check out this video and consider a pittie if you’re looking for a new family member.