Are American Pit Bull Terriers as dangerous as people think?

American Pit Bull Terrier

American Pit Bull Terriers ~ American Staffordshire Terrier, is there a difference and if so, What’s the difference?

American Staffordshire Terriers and American Pit Bull Terriers?  Same Breed Just Different Names?

To someone who doesn’t know much about these dogs, they would just call them pit bulls, but are they truly different breeds? 

Some say yes and some no…

An American Pit Bull Terrier sitting down, against a white background
American Pit Bull Terrier
An American Staffordshire Terrier sitting down against a white background
American Staffordshire Terrier

Do not get confused by the ears, both breeds can get their ears cropped in the United States.

Both the American Pit Bull Terrier (APBT) and the American Staffordshire Terrier (AST) descended from a group of old style Bulldogs and old style terriers that were present in the 1800s both in the UK and in the United States. 

Both breeds were originally developed for bull baiting, dog fighting, farm work and to serve as a guardian of people and property in their respective countries.

Both breeds look similar to each other, but the differences lie in the dog registries that recognized the breeds at the time.

American Pit Bull Terriers were acknowledged by the United Kennel Club in 1898 as their very first breed.  At that point in the history of the U.S., dog fighting was considered a sport and in the dog world, to receive their “championship” they had to win three fights.

The United Kennel Club was formed to provide some guidelines on this newly emerging “sport.”

Dog Registration in the Nineteenth Century

As time marched on, feelings about dog fighting changed and so did the UKC (United Kennel Club), by abandoning and condemning this vicious sport. 

The American Pit Bull Terrier (APBT)’s reputation was forever associated with dog fighting, so the American Kennel Club (AKC) whose mission was to recognize purebred show type dogs would not acknowledge that breed. 

The American Kennel Club, however, was willing to accept the American Staffordshire Terrier, and did so in 1936, calling them the Staffordshire Terrier. Essentially they were the same breed, but they each retained different names. 

The Staffordshire Terrier’s name was changed in 1972 to the American Staffordshire Terrier, to distinguish them from the English Staffordshire Bull Terrier, another bull and terrier breed that was developed in the U.K.  for virtually the same purposes.

Since then, the AKC would not register any APBT as an American Staffordshire, stating that the two breeds were isolated for enough time to be considered different breeds. 

Is this the same with the United Kennel Club? 

No, the UKC will accept AKC registered American Staffordshire Terriers as American Pit Bull Terriers. 

Enough about politics of the dog world.

As far as I can discern from researching both breeds, they are essentially the same dog.  With that said, however, there may be big differences within the breeds’ lines.

It is clear that not all “Pit Bull” type dogs were developed, trained, and destined to fight other dogs.  The majority of them were simple farm dogs that had important jobs to do on the farms of the late 1800s and early 1900s. 

There was nothing to suggest that these dogs knew anything about fighting other dogs. These lines remained clear of dog fighting, but still maintained their heritage of farm dog, protector, hard worker, and livestock protector. 

Early Twentieth Century Dog Debates

Fast forward about a hundred years or so.

Today’s Staffordshire Bull Terriers and American Pit Bull Terriers are unique because of their registration statistics.  But more importantly, they differ because of their heritage and not because of their name.

There are some lines of both breeds that had little if anything to do with dog fighting.  Then again, some have evolved from a long line of fighters of this questionable sport.

If you think this is a breed you want to consider, the best advice we can give is to research breeders thoroughly.  Ask questions, visit their homes, and interact with their moms and dads.

American Pit Bull Terriers

There are some respectable breeders who love the breeds and want nothing to do with their breed’s dark history.  There are other breeders, who don’t care and still others who find the fighting heritage of their dogs alluring and want to continue in this venue.

If you are looking for a loving, sensitive family dog, you will need to research breeders carefully, as some irresponsible breeders do little to breed out some of the most dangerous characteristics of the breed. 

Modern reputable breeders, however, work very hard to produce puppies that are perfect for family life.

Both breeds can make excellent pets for the right type of owner, but that owner needs to do their homework.

To avoid the negative stereotyping of these dogs, owners and breed enthusiasts need to work tirelessly to dispel myths, and to act as ambassadors for the breed.

Best Type of  APBT Owner

This is not a breed for everyone, so who are the best owners for these dogs:

  • Someone who wants a family pet and companion, not someone just looking for a dog to live outside and guard the property.
  • An experienced dog owner;  Not the best breed for someone who has never had a dog before.
  • Someone willing to take the time to socialize and train from the day the new puppy arrives and throughout the dog’s live span
  • If adopting an adult dog from a shelter, the owner should have older children or no children at all.*

*If you are considering one of these dogs and have small children, or are planning to have children soon, consider getting a puppy rather than an adult dog so that the puppy and your children can grow up together.

Hope for Pit Bulls in the Twenty-First Century

Who would think that dog owners would need to become political when it comes to their dogs?

With as much negative legislation and public outcry to band these breeds, in certain municipalities, the only advocates still standing are the owners themselves.

Owners need to show that their dogs are well trained, well socialized and their owners willing to defend the bad press.

Only then will the general public begin to understand the true nature of these amazing dogs. If you love these dogs, are you willing to stand up to those that oppose them?

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