Traits About American Pit Bull Terrier Temperament

Traits About American Pit Bull Terrier Temperament

Author WDF Staff | Last updated: May 02 2023


The American Pit Bull Terrier’s temperament is one of the most discussed dog temperaments in the world. There are many theories and misinformation regarding these dogs, and sometimes, it is hard to know what the actual truth is. It seems as if there is no grey area when it comes to Pit Bulls; you either adore them or you don’t like them.

The American Pit Bull Terrier is a breed created by crossbreeding the Old English Bulldog. This extinct breed was widely used in England for bull and bear-baiting. OEB was a powerful breed whose primary purpose was to fight in pits and arenas across Great Britain. Once bloodsports were outlawed, dog owners and breeders started crossbreeding the Old English Bulldog with other dogs to find them a new purpose.

One of these crossbreeds ended up being a fantastic dog pit fighter. Dog fighting took a turn and moved to illegal fighting pits, where one breed stood above the others. There, the Pit Bull Terrier’s ancestors were bred and fought. After a bit more selective breeding and “fine-tuning,” the Pit Bull Terrier was born.

pit bull terrier


The American Pit Bull Terrier’s temperament is very complex and diverse. It is a breed of extremes; individual dogs can be aggressive and dangerous. Others are sweet, wonderful, and fantastic family pets. The problem is differentiating these dogs and spotting specific traits in the American Pit Bull Terrier’s temperament. Let’s start with general Pit Bull temperament traits.

If you want to learn more about Pitties, check out this article - Pit Bull fun facts.

General traits

To understand the drama surrounding these dogs, we need to fully understand their temperament. American Pit Bull Terrier’s temperament is somewhat similar to other Terriers. The main difference is that a Pit Bull is a lot more powerful, and if they bite someone, the damage is far more significant than the bite of a Cairn Terrier.

Confidence and energy

The Pit Bull temperament is defined by their confidence and energy. They are active dogs, which is not surprising since they are Terriers. They need plenty of daily activities, and if those activities are not met, they can develop problematic behavior. This is a part of Pit Bulls’ temperament that they share with every other breed on the planet.

These dogs are confident and curious; they have a zest for life and will want to enjoy it with their owners. Pitties are interested in people and other dogs, so don’t be surprised if a Pit Bull approaches you and your dog with friendly intentions.

A popular Pittie mix is gaining popularity - Pocket Pit Bull.

american pit bull terrier

Willingness to please

Another excellent characteristic associated with the American Pit Bull Terrier’s temperament is the willingness to please their owners. Properly bred and trained Pit Bulls are willing to please and do whatever their owners want from them. They can be amazing workers capable of performing different tasks of various difficulties.

Some Pit Bulls have such great temperaments that they are used as service dogs. Police and military forces use these dogs in their K9 units, and some Pit Bulls’ temperament suits better as therapy dogs. The first time these dogs came to the US, they were used as catch dogs, personal protection dogs, and some served in the military. Of course, the most noticeable use of these dogs was illegal dog fights.

Despite many beautiful characteristics Pitties have, the general public usually focuses on learning the answer to one question;

Are Pit Bulls dangerous?

The truth is, this is not a question that is easy to answer. If we were forced to answer it as a yes or no question, our answer would be - yes. Luckily, this is not a yes or no question, and there are many more things to unpack to learn the real answer to that question.

Check out the full list of dangerous breeds - Most dangerous dog breed.

Why are Pit Bulls considered dangerous?

The main reason these dogs are considered dangerous is their strength. They are powerful dogs, and in the wrong hands, they can be very dangerous. Because of their temperaments, American Pit Bull Terriers were the breed of choice for many owners involved with dog fighting. Pitties are athletic, powerful, trainable, and have a powerful jaw. Those are all qualities those people wanted in their dogs.

two pit bull dogs

In that sense, yes - Pit Bulls are dangerous. They are capable of inflicting loads of pain and severe damage, and tears. To this day, many American Pit Bull Terriers are used in illegal fighting pits, and people often forget that the primary victim of those rings is this exact breed.

Pit Bulls with milder temperaments are usually discarded, killed, or used as bait dogs. Many gangs like the American Pit Bull Terrier’s temperament because it enables them to become fantastic guard dogs. Pitties are used for protecting safe houses, drugs, and even gang members against their rivals and police. It is no wonder these dogs are responsible for most dog-related fatalities.

If you want to know more about the bloody dog fighting history, check out this article - Dog fighting through history.

However, imagine if those people used a different breed instead of Pit Bulls. The results would probably be the same. That breed would have all statistics that Pit Bulls are currently responsible for. The situation is the same if you reverse it to people. You can ask the question, “Are MMA fighters dangerous?” - and the answer would be - Yes, they can be. A professional fighter will probably win in a street fight. Still, if nobody challenges them, they have no reason to fight. They are probably fun, friendly, confident people that are really pleasant to be around.

pit bull

Luckily, the American Pit Bull Terrier’s temperament can be heavily influenced by training and socialization.

Training and socialization

Arguably the most important parts of every dog’s life are training and socialization. Even if the dog is naturally aggressive or dominant, intense socialization when they are puppies can teach them how to behave. The same situation is with the American Pit Bull Terrier’s temperament. If you start training your dog from a young age that they don’t have to be aggressive and they can be friendly, not afraid, and curious, there is no reason a Pit Bull’s temperament won’t develop into a friendly and mild one.

Every dog should go through basic obedience training, and Pitties even more so. They have to listen to their owners, and if you work with them from a young age, they can become incredibly obedient dogs. They will thrive in dog sports such as weight pulling, obedience, or agility. The American Pit Bull Terrier’s temperament is impressionable. It is up to the owners to decide how they will develop it.

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