For most people, a happy American Pit Bull Terrier is easy to spot: The overall appearance of the Pit Bull is often referred to as a “full body wag.” The Pit Bull’s mouth is usually open and panting; his ears are relaxed; his eyes are bright and soft (no hard staring); and depending on how happy he is, the Pit Bull might be bouncing and wiggling, or simply loose and relaxed.
A fearful Pit Bull is also easily recognizable: His body lowers as if trying to shrink; his tail may tuck; and he may try to hide behind the owner or escape. The pit bull may avert his eyes, and his ears will appear to flatten into his neck. The APBT might be trembling or shaking.
The body language of a Pit Bull who is aroused or irritated is quite obvious, too.
“There’s a stiffening of the pit bull’s body, deep stares and a high tail,” says Jason Mann, owner and founder of Top Dog K-9 Training Solutions. The Pit Bull’s ears become alert and strain forward; the eyes become intense and penetrating. The pit bull may emit a low growl or he may begin barking, snarling, lunging and snapping.
With the Pit Bull, the signals and body language are all very clear. The difficult part is in catching the pit bull before he becomes frightened or aroused. For the Pit Bull owner who isn’t paying close attention, the transition “can happen in a nanosecond,” Mann says.
To stay a step ahead of your Pit Bull and to understand his intentions, Mann suggests being alert for the lack of friendly, relaxed body language. The APBT is such an extrovert that if the pit bull suddenly becomes quiet or still, you must assess the situation quickly and remove your dog from whatever is causing him stress. Often this just means putting more distance between your pit bull and another dog (if on leash and walking) or calling a timeout if your Pit Bull is playing with another dog.