First, if a dog is aggressive to other animals, that does not make the dog aggressive to humans. There are anywhere from five to 32 types of aggression found in dogs. Often, dogs will display several different forms of aggression at the same time. True aggression toward humans and dog-on-dog aggression, however, have not been found to be linked.
Therefore, even though intraspecies aggression is found in the American Pit Bull Terrier, aggression toward humans is rare. Human aggression is not a naturally occurring trait in APBTs, affirms Marcy Setter, education director for the Internet-based Pit Bull Rescue Central and founder of Understand-a-bull.com, another Internet-based organization that educates and fights breed-specific legislation. “Most Pit Bulls are great with people,” Setter says.
No breed is perfect, of course, and the possibility that a pit bull might bite someone stems from the same reasons that any other popular, people-friendly breed might bite. Pit Bulls are terribly overbred, Setter notes, and overbreeding can result in anomalies in the pit bull’s normally gregarious disposition.
When Pit Bull breeders completely disregard temperament, quirks can enter the picture. So, though it is not the norm, there can be ill-tempered Pit Bulls just as there can be (and are) ill-tempered Labrador Retrievers.
Additionally, the Pit Bull can be a dominant dog, Setter relates, and needs consistent leadership from his owner. This can be accomplished by being clear with house rules (i.e., if you don’t want your pit bull on the couch, don’t allow him on the couch the first time) and by training the Pit Bull in a nonconfrontational, reward-based training program (i.e., don’t suddenly collar your pit bull and drag him off the couch. Take a treat and lure him off the couch — and teach the “off” command.) Regular obedience training is not only a great way to bond with your Pit Bull and to give him mental stimulation, it is also a very subtle way of reinforcing your leadership role in the human-canine relationship. Neutering intact males is also advised for all pit bull owners.
And, of course, as with any breed, socializing the Pit Bull with people is critical to developing a friendly dog who is confident around all types and ages of people. Fear biting is the number one cause of dog bites, and though the pit bull is generally a confident, outgoing dog, don’t take this wonderful trait for granted. Environment plays a huge role in how a pit bull develops as he ages. So, raise the well-bred pit bull with people, and you’ll have a terrific “people” dog.