Understanding the APBT Temperment
Temperament is the most important trait of the American Pit Bull Terrier. When adopting or buying a new puppy the first thing you should look for is a pup with a good temperament. This is why adopting is so popular today because you know the temperament of an adult or young adolescent dog up front. Puppies are always a gamble, even if the pup seems to have a solid temperament we can't forget it's still a puppy and experiences can effect the pup as it grows.
You can buy a pup that seems to have a good temperament and end up with a nervy, scarred, fear biter. I'm not saying this is always the case, but it does happen quite often.
How do I know if a dog/puppy has a good temperament?
When looking for a puppy or getting a dog from a rescue you should look for a confident and enthusiastic dog that enjoys all people. Puppies that shy away or aggressively attack your leg should be avoided. Adult and adolescent dogs that are fearful of people should also be avoided.
Extreme shyness or people aggressive APBT's are, in my opinion, not representative of the breed and should not be placed or bought from a breeder. Sadly, we do not live in a perfect world and many dogs with behavior problems are adopted and sold to first time APBT owners.
Bottom line: a dog that is curious, confident, playful, and doesn't freak out and shake to death at the site of new experiences is a dog with a good temperament.
A Word on human aggressive dogs.
While other breeds display human aggression and their owner's let them get away with it. The American Pit Bull Terrier should never be human aggressive. They are not guard dogs and biting people is completely unacceptable.
American Pit Bull Terriers with quality of character would never bite a human being for any reason.
A word on dog aggression
American Pit Bull Terriers are a dog aggressive breed. This is not a bad thing, but it is something we as owners must understand. Dog aggression is expected in this breed. Extreme dog aggression (i.e. over the top, tries to kill everything it sees) should not be tolerated however. Centuries of selective breeding have engrained this trait into the DNA of the breed. They are fighters by nature and their genes tell them to do this. This can not be trained out of them and in recent years "doggy shrinks" have lead people to believe it can be. This is complete BS
Bottom line: Dog aggression is not a bad thing and a dog should not be punished for being what it is. The American Pit Bull Terrier is a fighting breed. To expect it not to fight is to expect a lab not to retrieve. We need to teach people about dog aggression, effective ways to manage this trait, and allow our dogs to live happy lives.
Are Pit Bulls are dominant by nature?
In a word, no. Contrary to popular and misguided belief the APBT is not dominant by nature. You will find individual dogs within the breed that do display dominate behavior but as a rule they are not dominant. I have ran into several people who say something along the lines of, "they are great dogs once you show'em who the boss is." They don't need to be shown who the boss is because they know. More times than not you will find them be quite submissive and happy to take their place in your home.
One reason people say they need to be shown who the boss is, is that these people lack the skills to communicate to their dog what they want. They think the dog is being dominant when they don't listen or pee in the house. Which is not the case. Dominant behavior towards people is very rare in the APBT and if you find yourself thinking you have a dominant dog, consult a professional who is extremely knowledgeable about the APBT.
The American Pit Bull Terrier is an outgoing, confident, enthusiastic, dog that will have dog aggression to varying degrees. When selecting a puppy or accessing a young/adult dog, look for a dog that has these traits and characteristics. Spotting them isn't hard once you see them.
As owners we need to rethink our impact on the breed. Are you helping the breed by your actions? Or are you hurting the breed by your lack of actions? Does your dog represent the breed and it's traits? If it does, get out there and show your dog off. We will only change the public's view of the breed by showing them our dogs and their wonderful temperaments!
Additional information on temperament
* UKC Breed standard
* APBT temperament information
* The Working Pit Bull