Pit Bulls For Dummies
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Both Pit Bull males and females make equally good companions. Pit Bull males are slightly larger than females. Some males mark their territory inside your house by urinating on walls and furniture, a behavior that can be difficult to thwart. Males may fight with other males, especially other male Pit Bulls.

Females, too, can fight with each other, especially other females, but are somewhat less likely to do so. Their main drawback is that they come in estrus (also known as season or heat) twice a year. Estrus lasts for three weeks. Neutering usually solves the marking and estrus problems.

Try to choose the best Pit pup, with the best parents and grandparents, you can find. If looks are important to you, be sure they have the look you like. Consider the essentials of the Pit Bull standard. The Pit Bull is a grand athlete, a combination of lithe movement and rippling musculature. The Pit Bull should give the impression of strength, agility, speed, and stamina, without sacrificing one for another.

If you plan to show your dog, have somebody familiar with the Pit Bull standard come with you and evaluate the ancestors and puppies. If you don’t plan to show, simply go with what pleases your eye.

Pit Bull puppies Photograph courtesy of Cindy Noland

All puppies are cute. Take care to choose the one that’s best for you.

A good temperament is important in any breed, but even more so for Pit Bulls. This is why it’s best if you can meet the family beforehand. The adult Pit Bull should display a great joy of life, enthusiasm for adventure, desire to please, and courage in the face of adversity. Above any of these traits are the abilities to control herself around strange dogs, the ability to calm down when asked to do so, and the ability to demonstrate no signs of aggression whatsoever. Walk away from litters from parents showing any hint of aggression.

These same traits should be evident in the puppy you choose. The puppy who comes to greet you, tends to follow you around, and doesn’t object to being held occasionally is your best choice for a stable companion. Any puppy who shows dog aggression—beyond the typical mild and short skirmish over a toy—should be off your list. Any puppy who shows aggression toward people beyond the typical mouthing and playing should be off your list. Be sure that the breeder interacts with the pups with kindness; early experiences can have lifelong consequences.

Health is another huge factor. Your pup has a better chance of living a long, healthy life if her relatives have also had long and healthy lives. Ask how old the parents are and how long the grandparents or great-grandparents lived. If the breeder doesn’t have this information, it’s a sign he isn’t well versed in the litter’s pedigree.

Ask about hip dysplasia clearances from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) or the University of Pennsylvania Hip Improvement Program (PennHIP). If the breeder has no idea what you’re talking about, it’s a sign that he isn’t well educated about dog breeding.

Pit Bulls have the 26th highest hip dysplasia percentage out of 181 breeds evaluated by the OFA, with 77 percent having normal hips. (For comparison, the American Staffordshire is ranked 24th worst with 71 percent normal hips, and the American Bully is ranked at 20th worst with only 59 percent normal hips.) The good news is that although their X-rays often show them to be severely dysplastic Pit Bull breeds are less likely to be bothered by it. Good hip ratings lessen the chance that your puppy will develop dysplasia, but they’re no guarantee your pup won’t develop hip dysplasia as an adult.

Hip dysplasia isn’t the only issue affecting Pit Bulls. Elbow dysplasia is another concern, with only about 80 percent of Pit Bulls having normal elbows. Similarly, hypothyroidism is a concern, with only about 80 percent having normal thyroid function.

The Canine Health Information Center maintains a list of conditions the various breed parent clubs recommend all prospective parents be tested for. Those suggested for the American Staffordshire Terrier are screenings for hip dysplasia, hereditary heart problems, autoimmune thyroiditis, cerebellar ataxia (neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis), hereditary eye diseases, and optionally, elbow dysplasia.

Even better, they maintain a list of all AmStaffs that have tested clear of these diseases. Access this list, click your breed of interest, and click Search on the breed’s page. This is a great tool to see how involved your potential breeder may be with health testing, and it’s one indication of how much they care about producing healthy dogs.

Even the most carefully bred and chosen pup may not develop as hoped concerning conformation, temperament, or health. Discuss with the breeder what, if any guarantees are provided, and consider whether you can handle returning a pup to whom you’ve become attached if that is part of the bargain. If having a successful competition dog is of vital importance to you, consider buying an adult who has already shown potential.

Most Pit Bulls come from friends and neighbors who have a litter and are either giving them away or selling them for a few hundred dollars to help make ends meet. The breeders have never heard of standards, competitions, health testing or socialization. Others come from local breeders who constantly have puppies available, but, again, think health testing only means the puppy is vaccinated and wormed. Getting a puppy from these people is sort of like having your neighbor fix your airplane because he’s good at fixing cars. It might go well . . . or it might not.

Let’s look at some other very important things good breeders provide: constant advice, mentorship, and a safety net. Bad breeders cash your check, hand you the puppy, and wave good-bye. They’re eager for the little eating machines to be gone. But after all, how much hand-holding did you really expect for $200? Good breeders charge more, but part of that pays for lifelong advice from an expert whenever you need it. And, good breeders will demand that should a problem arise with the dog, they be contacted before you make any major decisions, and especially provide that you must return the dog to them rather than relinquish it to a shelter or give her away. They’re concerned about that puppy’s welfare for the rest of her life.

What sort of questions did the breeder ask you? They should ask at a minimum: why you want a Pit Bull; if you have experience with Pit Bull ownership; what’s your history with other dogs you’ve owned; whether you rent or own your home; and if you rent, if you have the landlord’s permission to own a Pit Bull; what other pets you own; what age children are in the house; if you have a fenced yard; and where you plan to exercise the dog.

If a breeder fails to ask you such questions, they don’t care about the fates of their puppies, and aren’t the kind of breeder you want.

Pit Bull pups require constant attention, careful supervision, and endless work. Consider whether you will have the time and energy to devote to a puppy. If not, consider getting an older dog from a breeder or rescue group.

One of the many Pit Bull perks is that adults maintain their puppy playfulness for many years. If you have children, an older Pit Bull may be less likely to bowl them over with her exuberance. She will either be housebroken or be very easy to housebreak. She will have less tendency to chew. And don’t worry: She’ll bond to you as though she had always owned you. Oops, as if you had always owned her.

You may find that the best way to ensure many years of pleasure is to start with an adult Pit Bull. Of course, you still have to do your part by providing the best care possible. Acquiring an older Pit Bull comes with its own caveats, however.

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