Are Pit Bulls Naturally Aggressive?

By Ruth Nix

While pit bulls have a reputation for being aggressive, the reality is that aggression is not an innate or "natural" personality trait in these dogs. However, due in part to unorganized, questionable and sometimes illegal breeding practices, a dramatically large and growing number of pit bull and pit bull mixes are finding their ways into shelters.

Don't Believe the Hype

Not only are pit bulls not innately aggressive, but many pit bulls, in fact, behave exceptionally well with children, making them fine family companions. Others are licensed therapy dogs. What is innate in the pit bull character seems to be loyalty, valor and stability. However, those same traits can be twisted to make the dogs into what seem like monsters. Ironically, the aggressive tendencies that cause so many pit bulls to become homeless are a result of conditioning by owners and trainers who want their loyal, brave and unwavering dogs to become vicious and frightening.

The Pit Bull Problem

Due, in part, to unorganized, questionable and sometimes illegal breeding practices, a dramatically growing number of pit bull and pit bull mixes are finding their ways into shelters. Furthermore, an increase in negative media attention regarding pit bulls has caused many apartment complexes, neighborhoods associations and even entire counties to impose bans on the breed, which is often seen as inherently dangerous. In turn, many individuals are forced to relinquish the pit bulls they already own or are deterred from adopting those in need of homes.

Nowhere to Go

Once inside a shelter, pit bulls become difficult to place with responsible owners, since many of the individuals looking to adopt pit bulls desire not their companionship but their supposed viciousness, which is seen as a useful trait in guard and fighting dogs. Shelters often make it policy not to approve adoption applications from apparently irresponsible individuals, which means the people who are most likely to seek pit bulls are also most likely to be turned away.

By Ruth Nix

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About the Author
Ruth Nix began her career teaching a variety of writing classes at the University of Florida. She also worked as a columnist and editorial fellow for "Esquire" magazine. In 2012, Nix was featured in the annual "Best New Poets" anthology and received the Calvin A. VanderWerf Award for excellence in teaching from the University of Florida.