Are Pits Good With Kids?
Pit bulls are usually very good with kids. Their natural love of people extends to children as well. Some dogs will have difficulty responding to kids because they view them as inferior to themselves.
Dogs from shelters often have difficulty adjusting to life with children, especially if they have not grown up with any. But many pit bulls will take commands from a 5 year old. Make sure you know your dog. Pit bulls are bred to be impervious to pain; a perfect quality for the pinching, poking, and prodding hands of small children. They are naturally protective as well.
Most pits, although not out of control crazy (think Jack Russell Terrier) have a high energy level. Pit bulls need exercise or something to capture that energy. If they are just left alone out in the yard, they will make their own entertainment, which is often, digging giant holes in the garden, scaling 6-foot tall fences to chase a squirrel, or chewing off siding from the garage.
Pit bulls need a substantial about of exercise each day, but they also follow the motto, “Play hard, rest hard.” The good news is that pit bulls are built for quick, intense workouts, and are not so good at endurance activities. So, after a brisk workout, they will sleep like a log for many hours. If you are an avid runner or walker, perfect! Pit bulls are great at obedience and love the mental and physical stimulation of training.
Agility is great for pits. Their body-type is built for the courses. Weight pulling is another way to expend energy. There are increasingly common competitions all around the country. If you just want to romp around in the yard with your pit, he/she would love that too. Being with their humans is the best part of exercise for pit bulls. Without their person, they get bored and tend to get into things they shouldn’t.
This is the one trait that is of most concern to people. Just as Labrador retrievers have a high drive to retrieve, pits have a high drive to fight with other dogs. Dog aggression is something that was bred into pit bulls for many generations. Now they are bred for companionship, but not necessarily to be ok with other dogs. Aggression with other dogs starts early. Fighting female dogs teach their puppies fight holds at 3 weeks of age.
Pits will then spend about 18 months growing up, playing harmlessly with other dogs. Once they reach approximately 2 years of age, they turn a corner. Many people call this “turning,” meaning that all pits suddenly become aggressive, but in actuality, that is when pit bulls reach adulthood. They start seeing the world differently. They are more aware and alert to potential dangers. They have molded themselves into what you let them become.
They will start to respond differently to other dogs. Some may still be fine with dogs, but others may show more dominance, and more interest in females for breeding, rather than playmates. Jazz and Roby, 2001 The way to prevent dog aggression is to NEVER let your dog get into a fight. Unfortunately, dog fighting is somewhat self-rewarding for pit bulls. Once they have experienced it, they will be ready for the next one.
There are signals for owners that pit bulls are fighting for play or for real. Dogs that are playing will do a play-bow and their tails will be wagging. Sometimes they bark and their ears may be natural or pricked. Pit bulls play hard by nature. For the novice owner, it may be scary at first. But over time it is easy to tell if your dog is ready for play, or if you should avoid certain situations. Pits that want to fight usually posture themselves to appear bigger.
The tail will be stiff and the hackles, raised. However, I caution you from using these descriptions as telltale signs. My pit does all of the characteristics of being ready to fight with his companion dog that he’s been with for over a year. They both play hard, but it rarely ever escalates and if it does, my shepherd/husky wins every time. Once you get to know your pit bull, you can tell if he/she will play appropriate with other dogs.
My pit bull had the opportunity to go to work with me many days and play in the “dog pen” with other shelter dogs at the Humane Society. This not only reinforced appropriate play with dogs, but also kept him stimulated and entertained. This option is probably not open to many people, but the emergence of dog parks is an option to socialize pits at a young age to play with other dogs.
The biggest key to this trait is to be aware. Never let your dog approach another dog that you don’t know. Your dog may be great, but the new dog may spark something and the next thing you know, it’s an all-out dogfight. I’m not saying pits should never meet other dogs. On the contrary, I think it’s great for them to meet other dogs, but in a controlled manner.
Somewhere where there are no territories, when the dogs are leashed, and when the owners are in-tune with their dog’s behavior to recognize signs. Because most people are waiting to blame pit bulls for anything bad they do, you have to be a responsible owner to not let these situations arise.