Follow Us

Petco on FacebookPetco on TwitterPetco on YouTubePetco on LinkedIn

Facebook Activity

Why do Pit Bulls get such a bad rap?

I recently checked out the San Diego Doggie Street Festival, a really cool new annual event in town, and was in doggie-lover heaven the entire time. There were tons of rescue groups on site with all kinds of dogs for adoption, from puppies to older dogs and specific breeds to totally mixed up mutts.  I even caught a performance by the very talented frisbee-chasing Disc Dogs in Southern California.

Not surprisingly, I fell completely in love a few times during the day.  My absolute favorite was an adorable German Shepherd puppy that had just been rescued from the streets of Mexico.  Look at this guy – can you blame me???
German Shepherd puppy

German Shepherd puppy

I was happy to learn that his adoption by a loving family was already pending.

I also couldn’t seem to let go or walk away from three 10-week-old Pit Bull mix puppies.  Their mother was found pregnant somewhere in the desert and they were the only three left from her litter of eight.  The rescue group that brought them, It’s the Pitts Dog Rescue, had named them Callie, Lola  and Harley.  They were as sweet as could be. 
Me and "Callie"

Me and "Callie"

But when I called my dad later to tell him about the event,  I was a little disheartened by his reaction to my excitement over the pit puppies.

My dad is a dog-lover just like me. I’ve never seen him meet one he didn’t love immediately. But one of the first things he said was, “Lisa, don’t you dare come home with a Pit Bull.”

What!? But Daddy, why not?

In talking about it more over the weekend, my step-mom said she probably wouldn’t come to my home if I had a Pit Bull and certainly wouldn’t let my two-year-old niece (her granddaughter) around one either.

Since working at PETCO, I’ve learned a little bit about these so-called “bully breeds” and the extraordinary numbers of them that wind up unwanted and homeless every year.  Clearly, Callie and her sisters are a perfect example. 

I understand they’re strong animals and could be dangerous if they turn aggressive, but isn’t that true of most larger dogs? And can’t proper training, socializatoin, love and care by responsible pet parents make that a less likely thing to worry about? Are the reactions of my parents based on reality, or on misconceptions perpetuated by the media and horror stories like Michael Vick’s?

Pit Bull puppy

Pit Bull puppy

As a future responsible pet parent, I’d like to know the truth: 

Why do Pit Bulls get such a bad rap?

Be Sociable, Share!
  • Laura Rowe

    I have a pittbull -Her name is Abby. She is my child. I have two children and I would leave her alone with them – and feel safer then having a babysitter. My kids are older but still she is the best dog I have ever owned. This past sunday a off duty cop and his wife pulled up to my house while I was outside watching my 9 year old daughter ride her bike. They told me that my dog was out and that they just shot her in her face with pepper spray. My heart sunk- I felt like I was going to pass out. I asked them what happened and he said that Abby attacked him. His wife told me I was trash and that the state should take my kids away from me. He told me he was getting his gone and was going to come back to my home and blow my dogs face off. I was horrified. In the middle of all of this I looked towards my house and there was my precious Abby standing at the door wagging her tail and smiling like she always does. I got confused and said ” is she the dog that you are talking aobut” He said ya that is her – and the wife said ” your dog is dea..I wont stop till that disgusting animal is destroyed and rest assure by the end of this night your dog is going to be DEAD. I called the police and come to find out the dog that “attacked” them was a boxer that lives 2 streets over from us. The dog really does not even look like Abby except maybe the coloring – but the dog they found was much bigger them my Abby. I was horrified. I cannot believe that people are that inhuman – that people are that evil to think just because my dog is a “pittbull” that she is an evil or aggressive dog. She is my baby girl. She is loyal. She sleeps on her own pillow with her own special blanket. There is nothing mean or aggressive about her. It hurts to think that people really do feel this way about people who own pittbulls. I wish that everyone would take time to go to a shelter or to a pittbull rescue and take the time to experience what they are like before making judgement calls like that. I will NEVER own any other kind of Dog again in my life and I will fight for the rights of pittbulls because they are by far the most unfairly judged dog in the world …..

  • Christina

    Laura,

    I can understand your anger as you are one of the owners that has raised your dog with love, care, and obedience. But the reason these “bully breeds” get the bad rep they do is because of “that neighbor” two streets down who isn’t taking car of their dog, who isn’t training them in obedience, who is neglecting them and in all technicality abusing their dog. Which in turn makes the dog out of control.

    These “bully” breeds, Pitts, Shepards, Boxers, Rottweilers, are like children. They need to be taught right from wrong, taught manners, taught to behave and be obedient. They will throw temper tantrums just like children too.

    I currently own a 3 year old rottweiler and am getting my second rottweiler this week. I have never had a problem with my girl and doubt I ever will. I have trained her in German, Italian, and English as well as spent the time giving her the exercise she needs to stay healthy. I can safely take Sadie into a busy crowd at car shows and not have to leash her and she knows how she is to act. This is all because I gave her the time she needed and deserves.

    So Lisa to answer your question on why these dogs have a bad rep. It is because of bad owners. People who don’t take the time to care for the needs this breed has to have. With the proper training and time Pitts are the sweetest and most loyal dogs out there. They have been used as Search & Rescue dogs, Police dogs, Narcotics dogs, therapy dogs, etc. Being mean is not bred into these dogs, it is taught to them by the cruel heartless owners some of these dogs sadly get.

    As for the media, think about it. Are they gonna share a story of how a Cocker Spaniel or Chihuahua bit a new born or are they gonna share a story about how a Pitt or Rottie bit someone for trespassing. Little dogs are known to bite so much more then larger dogs, the only difference is when a large dog bites it naturally does more damage. And media loves making large breed dogs looks bad, and little dogs innocent and cute.

  • http://Pitbulldogsarewonderful Brenda

    I beleive a pitbull dogs got a very bad rap put on them ,sure they can be mean but so can a German Shepard ,or any other big dog ,we had a chow/ pitbull dog mix that was wonderful and a great watch dog that Never bit me !! you also have to know how to handle one …give him space ,love and he will be very loyal to you and your family ,Jake ,our beloved chow/ pitbull dog lived to be 91 years old in human years ,it all about how you raise them also ,if you treat them mean ,they will be mean /if you treat them like a loved pet they will be puty in your hands ….Brenda

  • Shirlene

    I ‘ve had my bit bull since he was 6 weeks old. The only problem is finding a place to live because they have such a bad reputation. He is my big baby and is 9 years old. He loves children. I have to take extra care because of the reputation of bit bull in Rochester. I’m planning on trying to move again and I know this will be a big problem, finding a place. I had to move out of my apartment because one of the tenants was just afraid of bit bulls. She never even ran into the dog she just knew he lived in her building. He is part of the family and I will keep him until is time is up on this earth. I agree it’s not the dog it’s the owners. All dogs can be aggressive. Sometimes it’s just like people get a bad rap for other people so that’s how it is with bit bulls. I can go on and on I’m so tired of it!!

  • Wanda

    My son has 3 adult pit bull dogs and our female has just had a litter of 9 blue pit bull puppies. We have raised pit bull puppies and dogs for over 12 years now. They are one of the best, loving, loyal, and trustworthy breeds to have. We would not want any other breed around. We have had so much controversary over this breed from family and friends to neighbors and cops saying thay are mean and visious animals and that they will attack at any given moment. This is so not true. It is all in how you train them and show them the proper love and affection they deserve. I have seen little breeds like the chiwhawha…sorry for the mispelling of this, bite our fuel oil furnace man. I have been personally bitten on my legs and ankles while I was walking down the road for my nightly walk by a little shitshu dog. It ran right out of its yard and keep following nipping at me for about 1/4 mile. I would stop, yell for help from the owner of the dog, I keep on walking trying to ignore the dog and nothing worked until the owner finally heard my yell and came out and called the dog back to its yard. Needless to say I told the owner it had been biting at my ankles and that they needed to keep it on a leash with it beeing so irate of a dog. If we need to keep our pit bulls on leashes with muzzles, in a 6 ft high fenced in yard with a roof on the top of the fence. And we also have to have all this insurance of these dogs…then I feel all these owners with these other supposed to be better breeds need to do a little more of the same deal. It is not the breed that is bad…It is the owner and the way they are raised. Also Society is so dreadfully wrong to wrongfully accuse these pit bull breeds as mean, vicious, flighty type of dog and look past what the dog may look like and look a little deeper at the caring, affectionate, loving, and loyal breed they really truly are.

  • Matt

    I worked for a vet for two years in high school, and I never saw a mean pit bull. To the contrary, I handled pit bulls that liked me more than they liked their owners, and showed it. on my 18th birthday at work, a guy brought in a pit bull puppy to get her vaccines. I was the only one in the room the puppy paid any attention to, and she could not get enough of me.

    one of my friends has a pit bull that I first saw as a puppy no more than 3 months old. the first time I saw this puppy, she favored me over her owner. she’s an adult now and still favors me over her owner. every time I get back in my car from visiting my friend, she tries to jump in with me.

  • michael

    i have a pitbull he is the nicest thing ever never bitten anybody or anything he is just a big baby i don’t understand why people are so scared of them its all on how u raise them thats my opinion thanks

  • outheregrindin

    I felt the same way, that pitts are a bad breed. untill I fell in love with a rednose, razor edge pitt puppy. My brother in law dogs mated & had the prettiest, most colorful pups I’ve ever seen. I had 2 have reesie! She’s only 10 weeks old in just one week, I’ve taught her no, sit, stay, paw, come here & kiss! 2day im introducing potty training. She’s so bright! Everytime, she does what I tell her 2 do @ 10 weeks! She loves 2 play ! And is one of the sweetiest dogs I’ve ever came across. I look 4ward 2 a long, loving, loyal life 2gether, I can’t imagine not having her in my life, she’s stole my heart

  • Brandon M

    I don’t agree with that pit bulls are a bad breed. every pit Ive ever owned wasn’t aggressive to people unless they are messing with someone that lives in my home. i have five now and the biggest one still acts like a puppy.they sleep with my little sisters or at least lay around where they are. All they want to do is love and be loved. I like to play ruff with the three pups i have but they wont play ruff back unless playing with each other. its the owners fault for turning a breed bad not the dog itself. in the earlier days pits where bred for working and protecting peoples personal things not to fight. that’s just peoples stupidity because any dog can be dangerous.

  • Lou

    I’m having problems with my pit fighting with another dog in our household,they start out playing then a big fight breaks out,my son & daughter in law want me to get rid of her. I’ve had Sally since she was 5 weeks old.I love her so much she is like one of my kids.I don’t know what to do.

  • http://www.teethingnecklaces.com Neil

    My neighbour has one and it’s one of the friendliest dogs around here but then the owner is a dog trainer by profession. My sister in the UK has one in their area and it is a vicious nasty animal. It’s owner bought it just to make himself look more macho and treats the animal very badly. – It’s these owners that get the breed it’s bad rep.

  • Kinzie R.

    I’ve had two pit bulls and not once has it attacked anyone. Both my girls are the sweetest. One I gave away for the move she was a pitbull boxer. I now have a new fourteen week old pit bull hound mix and they are just the sweetest things. They always loved the cats and I’m getting my new one “Baby” used to dogs. You have to be able to give pits a lot of attention and love and the appropriate training to have them turn into greatttt dogs. I have never in my life been attacked by a pit and I’ve been attacks by a LAB that put me in the icu cause I was walking down the street. So the pit bulls mauling people all depends on how people provoke it and how it was raised. The same with EVERY dog!

  • Kinzie R.

    I now have taken the test matt was sayin and I found the pit bull on the first try:) I want one that looks just like that or if anyone knows where I can get an inexpensive blue pit please let me know.

  • kaylin g.

    I think pit bulls are aggressive if their trained that way! I have a pit and he wouldn’t hurt a fly!

  • http://www.hipetusa.com/ Natural Dog Products

    Pit Bulls get a bad rap, because they are encouraged to be aggressive. Okay, it is their natural instinct to be aggressive and they are known fighters, but like all of us they can learn good behaviors. Difficulty with this animal is the trust that they can maintain good behavior and not revert to their known aggression.

  • sarah

    i have a 7yr old pit bull who is the most loveing dog you would ever meet…and i think its so wrong how ppl can judge this gentle animal just by what they heard.. the ppl that have raised there pit bulls to be mean have made it very hard for the ones that are nice and sweet to live a happy life. the ppl that have judge these animals to be vicous need to go onto the interent or even the library and look up pit bulls and see wht they were ment for.. they were ment to be there by ur side thru nething.. my dad is disabled if it wasnt for our pit my dad wuld of died…i even have a 2 yr old son and my dog stays right by his side hes a good protector..i feel ppl tht judge the animal need to be put in a room with one to see the true colors of a pit

  • I am me

    Pittbulls have always been encouraged to be aggressive due to their body shape, pain tolerance and strength. However, these traits have made them the “nanny” dog in the UK. Their pain tolerance, patience and natural affinity for children make them perfect family pets. Pittbulls are always highly receptive to training and have typical black labrador or boxer behaviors (wiggling the butt, parading around his brand new toy…etc.)
    They are fantastic dogs. Anyone who simply beleive what they want to without proof is not worthy of even owning a dog… which surprizes me when you call your father a so-called “dog lover.” He isn’t. If he was, he wouldn’t single out an entire breed.

  • Altonsy

    What happened with the off duty cop?  Did you report him?  Did he come back?

  • Courtney0179

    It’s so important for any bully breed (or any animal, for that matter) to have proper socialization and training.  They need to be challenged and stimulated and always be learning.  They need things to do and toys and things to play with and chew on.  Pitbulls are wonderful with children; why do you think they’re often called “nanny” dogs?  And for the record, they’re used for fighting not only because they’re strong, but because they’re very loyal and trainable.  You can train a dog to be aggressive or train him to be good.  We have a handsome, blue-nosed pitt named Jonesy, and he is the most gentle, friendly goofball.  I trust him with my life!

  • Nancypancy

    Please stop breeding pitts.  Here in AZ, we get over 300 dogs brought in to the county shelter EVERY SINGLE DAY and most of them are pitts and pitt mixes.  And most of them get put down.  They are so overpopulated irrisponsible owners and breeders.  No dog should ever be bred for profit when there are wonderful dogs dying.  Encourage people to save lives and adopt rescue pets!!

  • Nancypancy

    Sorry…”due to” irresponsible owners and breeders…

  • Courtney0179

    Two thumbs up!

  • Dog Lover

    I believed the bad rap the media likes to portray about Pit Bulls until my son was trying to find a home for one for a friend that couldn’t take care of Luna (a Pit Bull). We took her home with us and found out how amazing, loving, and smart Pit Bulls are. I would adopt more if we were able to. Now, I’m an advocate for Pit Bulls and talk about them to everyone. I don’t know what I would do without Luna. We also have a Chihuahua and she and Luna are the best of friends. Once you spend time with a Pit Bull, you find out the truth that they are one of the most wonderful dogs.

  • Sharpe

    You mention the “horror story” of the Micheal Vick dogs…You must not really know their story. Out of over 50 dogs only 2 were put down for aggression. A few more were put down to because of injuries given to the dogs by Vick and his associates. The rest of the dogs passed their Canine Good Citizen Tests and were adopted out or are working as therapy dogs. A few of the dogs still need special care and are living in facilities but they are not vicious or mean, just to scared or nervous to pass the Good Citizen Test which was part of the Rescue’s requirement for them being adopted. You should read “The Lost Dogs” it’s their story. Pitbulls have a bad rep because of bad men. 

  • Elaina

    I am a Pit bull owner and recently I have been looking for an apartment. Many people have stone walled me saying “NO” or claiming my dogs are to aggressive, I am like how do you know, you have never been around my dogs. But all people hear is the bad instead of the good. Personally, I would never take on the challenges of a full grown dog but when I got my babies they were just so sweet, massive, but sweet as they wanted to be. We have set them free in the yard and let them roam around and never got any complaints from anyone. Ever since the Michael Vick Case, Pit bull have been given the title of killer breed. First off I want to say Michael Vick is a celebrity who got caught up in a case like this but he is not the first and he will not be the last. But no one talks about the Pit bull in Ontario who ran out in the busy road way to protect a woman, a stranger, who had passed out from a rare heart condition or the Bremerton woman who died on a sidewalk from a heart attack during which she was being protected by her Pit bull

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/N52VADYJGTMHSDPISTVOGUP55U Bill

    HELLO FELLOW DOG LOVER’S. I HAVE A PITBULL/BOXER NAMED ROCKY WHO IS A BIG BABY. ROCKY WEIGHS ABOUT 90 LBS MY WIFE & I TREAT HIM LIKE OUR SON. WE TALK TO HIM EVEN ASK HIM QUESTIONS LIKE “DID ANYONE CALL WHEN WE WERE OUT” AND HE GOES TO THE PHONE. WE ALSO HAVE A 2 YEAR OLD GRAND DAUGHTER WHO LOVES HIM AS HE DOES HER.WHEN SHE GOES IN FOR HER NAP HE WILL LAY ON THE FLOOR BESIDE THE BED. MY DAUGHTER SAYS THAT WHEN FIONA IS DOING SOMETHING THAT IS NOT CORRECT LIKE CLIMBING ON THE STEPS OR FURNITURE, ROCKY STARTS TO TALK,WITH A MUFFLED BARK
    WITH THIS ALL SAID DO NOT THINK THAT I AM A NIAVE. YOU CAN TRAIN A POODLE TO BE VICIOUS, IT IS THAT THEY ARE NOT AS POWERFUL AS ROCKY. I AM A RETIRED NYC COP WHO HAD MANY DEALINGS WITH GUARD DOGS. THE PEOPLE WHO TRAIN THESE DOGS TO BE VICIOUS ARE THE PROBLEM – JUST LIKE IT IS NOT THE GUNS FAULT WHEN PEOPLE ARE SHOT.

  • Martha Diaz

    I just rescued a pitt/mix 2 year old…from a ‘foster mommy’ friend. I had seen her on FaceBook and knew she needed corrective ‘knee’ surgery on both legs. When I finally saw Hope (fund raiser event) I knew the first thing was to take care of her. 5 months have passed and not only is she almost fully healed, she can now be a (very) HAPPY DOGGIE and run around. She loves me like no body’s business.  She is the sweetest and so mellow.

  • Samjade25

    My husband and I have two pitbulls Slick and Jaxson they are the sweetest dogs we’ve ever had! Their also very nice and friendly with my nephews and nieces they even let my nephew and nieces ride on their backs like their horses. We’ve never had any bad experiences with them what so ever. We treat them like their our children since me and my husband don’t have any they sleep with us every night and they are a bit protective but that’s how my husband trained them to be when he’s at work and it’s just me at home all night by myself so it’s not a bad thing. Also my sister was the same way about bringing her sons around Slick and Jaxson but she changed her mind very quickly. All I can say is that it was worth adopting them I get to prove people wrong every day. And I hope you get her she is very cute!

  • Samjade25

    I wouldn’t get rid of her just try and make sure you keep her away from the dog that she’s always fighting with there may be a reason why she doesn’t like that dog. I had close to the same problem my pit would always bark and growl at the same dog at the dog park I started to make sure my dog didn’t go any where near that dog and it hasn’t happen since.

  • LIGatlaw

    This may be a bit too late, but I want to let you know that I was like your parents and thought all pit bulls were mean by nature. But we ended up reluctantly, very reluctantly, adopting one by the name of Parker. He’s now three years old, and has taught my wife and I a lot. He’s a big boy at 90 pounds, and he’s probably the sweetest, most affectionate creature on the planet. He has a big, playful personality and is as smart as any dog can be. He makes chipmunks look mean. So I hope you adopted Callie. We now know that the breed is fantastic: loyal, affectionate, sweet, even tempered and smart. It’s the people who tend to own them that are the problem – not the dogs.

  • Jaybles

    I don’t have a pitbull, but I do have a rottweiler and, to most people, they are the same thing. It is true, the breeds were created to be fighting dogs, but that doesn’t mean that they are all fighting dogs. They were bred for their physical ability and stature, not their personality. That means that they have the physical capacity to be fighting dogs, but most of them don’t fight because they aren’t aggressive dogs. The same way a person can teach a dog to be nice and stay off the furniture, a dog can be taught to fight. That just the thing, they have to be taught to fight. None of these bully breeds are born fighters, they are taught to act that way and that is how they got their reputation, because they all have the ability to be aggressive fighters, but they have to be taught to act like that otherwise they won’t fight. It’s not natural to them, dogs are social pack animals. Just like if you don’t teach a dog to sit, he won’t sit, if you don’t teach a dog to fight, he WON’T fight.