Although National Pit Bull Awareness Month (October) has ended, we’re celebrating this loyal and loving breed here at the SF SPCA all year. With their broad, smiley faces and floppy ears, anyone who’s ever loved one of these dogs knows how affectionate, playful, and goofy they can be.
The term “Pit Bull” officially applies to three breeds: the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, the American Staffordshire Terrier, and the American Pit Bull Terrier. Any dog with such heritage or appearance can be labeled a “Pit Bull.” And unfortunately, mainly due to the behavior of humans, this “breed” is also viewed as dangerous and aggressive.
Here, we push back on some of the most common stereotypes about Pit Bull-type dogs.
Myth #1: Pit Bulls are more dangerous than other dogs
Peer-reviewed studies examining “dog-bite-related fatalities” (DBRF) conclude that most DBRFs are owed to preventable factors like mistreatment, poor handling, and isolation—not breed. Additionally, in German state-regulated temperament tests, dogs deemed “dangerous” by the public responded similarly to dogs viewed as “friendly,” contradicting breed-based biases.
Myth #2: Pit Bulls are more aggressive than most dogs
Also unrelated to breed, aggression is a “context-dependent behavior and most often fear-based,” according to the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior. Identifying triggers and needs, ruling out medical contributors, and positive behavioral training are proven effective treatments for aggression in any dog breed.
Myth #3: Pit Bulls have locking jaws
There’s no evidence a Pit Bull’s jaws are anatomically different from other dog breeds,’ and peer-reviewed studies reveal the power of a dog’s bite is related to its overall size and strength. A locked jaw in any animal is a physical ailment that requires veterinary medical intervention and cannot be engaged and released at will.
Myth #4: Pit Bull specific legislation keeps people safe
Breed-specific laws do nothing to keep people safer—even the CDC opposes them. In areas where bans are in place, Pit Bull guardians tend to restrict dogs’ outdoor time and socialization, which can ultimately worsen or even create behavior issues. Furthermore, labeling certain dog breeds can create a false sense of safety with other types. All dogs, regardless of their breed, if unknown, should be handled with as much care and caution as any other dog.
Myth #5: If adopting a Pit Bull, choose a puppy so you can shape its personality
A dog’s personality is as individual as ours and is innate. A dog’s character and traits don’t fully reveal themselves until adulthood. Suppose a would-be Pit Bull (or any dog breed) guardian has a particular personality in mind. In that case, it’s best to adopt a grown dog whose traits like energy level, degree of submissiveness to humans, or dog aggression is easily determined.
For information about adopting a Pit Bull-type dog at SF SPCA, contact firstname.lastname@example.org And, if your dog of any breed displays behavior that concerns you, reach out to our Behavior team at email@example.com.