True or false: A pit bull's age in human years is seven times its age in dog years. The answer is: kind of but not really. Calculating the human equivalent of your dog's age is a lot more complicated than that.
Dogs mature at faster rates when they are very young and then level off as they grow older. Different breeds age at varied rates. They also move through canine life cycles at different times.
The pit bull life cycle
Your pit bull's life cycle consists of four major stages—puppyhood, adolescence, adulthood, and senior citizen. There are no set ages at which your pit bull will graduate from one phase to the next, and all phases are fluid. Sometimes they overlap, especially when your pit bull is young.
How long your pit bull spends in each stage, and how long she spends progressing from one to the next depends on some factors that you have control over and some that you don't. The best we can do is approximate the pit bull's ages that correspond to each phase.
Factors over which you have no control are your dog's breed and breeding. Her breed, a pit bull, is a given. Her breeding is about who her mom and dad are. Factors over which you do have control include diet, exercise, training, and socialization.
The newborn pit bull puppy
Brand-new pit bull puppies are so delicate and vulnerable that it's hard to imagine them growing into the strong, imposing adult dogs that we know. Your pit bull puppy will engage in exactly four activities during his first two weeks of life—eating, sleeping, pooping, and peeing.
For those first two weeks, he's blind, deaf, and unable to regulate his own body temperature. As he nurses and snoozes, he's already starting to grow.
The infant pit bull puppy
During weeks two to four, the pit bull puppy will gradually open his eyes and begin to hear. He'll also start standing up and walking around a bit. You may catch him gazing with wonder at his new-found world.
By week four he will have begun checking out his world. This is a time to begin early socialization. Puppies can be introduced to all of the humans and any other animals in the house. With pit bulls, early and ongoing socialization is critically important.
The toddler pit bull puppy
Keep a camera handy because as a pit bull puppy learns to navigate her world, she will do things that are beyond cute. She'll delight you as she slips and slides on your tile floors, tumbles headfirst into her food bowl, and shows utter shock and bewilderment at her own sneeze.
As she becomes better acquainted with everyday life, she'll begin exploring more—also known as looking for trouble. Just like human toddlers, this is when you'll want to keep out of her reach things that could hurt her as well as things you cherish.
Training your young pit bull
Basic training can start as early as eight weeks. At that point, you'll want to focus on just teaching no and come. You'll have a major advantage with come because, until he's several months old, he'll prefer to be near you all the time anyway.
Never, ever punish your pit bull—this goes for any dog. Make training fun. In addition to having very short training sessions (5 to 15 minutes tops), incorporate basic commands with play time and hanging-out time. Immediate treats and lots of enthusiastic praise are a must.
Don't bombard your young pit bull with commands throughout the day, just practice the basics a handful of random times outside of training sessions. Set him up for success. Pick up a toy and ask him to come or say "sit" before you put his food bowl down. He'll have two speeds at this stage in his life cycle—full throttle and sound asleep.
The adolescent pit bull
As a very general rule, dogs are considered adults when they're 18 months old. However, this can vary considerably from one breed to another. Pit bulls take more like two to three years to fully mature into adulthood. In the meantime, from about four to six months until she's an adult, she'll be in her adolescent phase.
She'll become more adventurous and independent every day, so it's very important to continue training and socialization. Expose her to new sights, sounds, and situations by taking her with you whenever you can—always on a leash, of course.
Pit bulls are smart and funny. You may think that the puppy stage is the cutest, but pit bulls have a delightful sense of humor. They'll continue to entertain you with their sheer goofiness as they mature.
The teenage adolescent pit bull
As your pit bull continues to grow in size, so will his mind and personality but not necessarily in that order. Before your pup approaches his third year, he may earn a nickname like "ball of fire Bailey" or "silly Sammy." Your dog will begin looking like a grown up but won't act much like one.
This is when hormones are kicking in. Like a human teen, you may find your pit bull acting completely oblivious when you ask him to do something. Do not punish him. Use treats and lavish praise to positively reinforce what you've already taught him.
Fortunately, pit bulls are not prone to acne, and they won't try to buy beer at the nearest convenience store. However, to keep the potential for sofa eating and accent pillow shredding to a minimum, you'll need to increase his exercise to correspond with his energy level. That's going to entail a lot of exercise.
Remember, it doesn’t last forever
Sadly, the adolescent stage is a time when unprepared owners tend to give up on their "problem dogs." However, this is a perfectly normal passage in your pit bull's life cycle. It can be challenging, but it's temporary.
It can also be a lot of fun. Be creative. If your pit bull teenager likes to ferret out your most-loved shoes and chew them to bits, put all shoes out of reach and hide toys and treats for her to find and devour.
If you've reached your limit with her rowdiness, get help. Hire a dog walker to double up on her exercise, enroll her in agility or rally sports, or enlist the help of a professional trainer. Believe it or not, this period will give you some fond memories and hilarious stories to tell when your pit bull is a senior.
The adult pit bull
This stage is the longest in your pit bull's life cycle. By 3 years of age, your pit bull will officially be an adult. Similar to when we become adults, his personality, likes, and dislikes are pretty well set by this time.
Some of his youthful exuberance should have waned. He'll still need regular exercise, but if you take a day off here and there, he probably won't bounce off the walls the way he used to. If you were responsible about training and socializing him, the fruits of your labor will be evident, but don't stop now.
Pit bulls are smart dogs. Adults still need regular exercise and stimulation for their busy minds. In other words, your dog needs a job. Consider advanced obedience training or a challenging new sport.
The senior pit bull
A pit bull's life expectancy is 12 to 14 years. By the time she reaches 8 or 9, she's becoming a senior. You'll notice her moving more carefully, and she may sleep more. As the years pass, you'll want to pay close attention to her increasing limitations and shorten walks and other activities accordingly.
This does not mean you should let her become a couch potato. Inactivity and resulting obesity will shorten her life considerably. Just don't throw the ball quite so far, and give her a gentle massage while you're watching TV.
Your aging pit bull may need some extra care in the form of a revised diet, dietary supplements, and/or medication to help her through the normal aches and pains of her senior years. Fortunately, there are many good options. Talk to your vet to find out what's best for your "silly slowing-down Sammy" or "not such a ball of fire Bailey."
- American Animal Hospital Association: 8 Things You Need to Know About AAHA’s Canine Life Stage Guidelines
- American Kennel Club: American Staffordshire Terrier
- Daily Dog Discoveries: Six Interesting Facts About a Dog’s Life Cycle
- Paws: Developmental Stages of Puppy Behavior
- Planet Pet Society: Life Stages
- Villalobos Rescue Center: Pit Bull Facts