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American Pitbull Terrier: The Ultimate Guide

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Some dogs want to chase balls and sample every sniff and follow every scent, but the American Pitbull Terrier just wants to curl up on the couch with his family.

Vilified by the media and exploited by a minority of unscrupulous owners, the American Pitbull Terrier is an affectionate, loyal and loving companion that’s driven by a desire to please his owners.

American pitbull terrier

They were made for family life, and, somewhere down the line, earned the nickname “nanny dogs” because they’re so good with, and protective of, the small people in the pack. 

The term American Pitbull means different things to different people, with some (such as the American Dog Breeders Association and the United Kennel Club) arguing that it refers to a specific breed of dog, while others (namely the American Kennel Club who don’t’ recognize the breed) think that it’s merely an umbrella, catch-all term that’s used to describe four different breeds, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, the American Bull Terrier, the Bull Terrier, and the American Staffordshire Bull Terrier. 

That said, it’s pretty hard to deny that the American Pitbull Terrier is a dog in its own right, that comes with its own set of rules, and we’re going to explore all of them in this no-holds-barred, complete guide to the cuddle monster who only wants to please his chosen people, and spend his evenings sleeping, and snoring on a couch. Want to find out more about this much-misunderstood dog?

Then you’ve come to the right place…

American Pitbull Terrier Key Facts

Anyone thinking about adding one of these sofa-hugging, loveable lumps to their family needs to know a few things before heading out to choose their dog.

As an American Pitbull makes it his, or her business to become the center of family life, it’s important to understand that while they’re hardy, strong dogs they won’t live forever and that to help them to make the most of the time that they do spend with their families, they’ll need to be exercised and groomed. 

And it’s also crucial to know that when an American Pitbull is welcomed into a family, it becomes that families responsibility to care for the dog and that comes with an economic, as well as an emotional, burden both of which are a price that ninety-nine point nine percent of owners willingly pay in order to share their lives with these incredible dogs…

Average Lifespan

They’re hardy and healthy dogs, but unfortunately American Pitbulls don’t live forever. Most American Pitbulls tend to live anywhere between twelve and sixteen years. 

Minimum Exercise (per day)

It’s time for a little good news, as American Pitbulls need about an hour of intensive exercise a day, which means that exercising and walking an American Pitbull can help to keep you fit, as well as ensuring that they’re healthy and happy.  

Coat Length

Even though they can come in a wide variety of colors, American Pitbull Terriers are always short-haired dogs.  

Minimum Cost Per Month

After you’ve factored in and allowed for additional expenses such as insurance and a couple of squeaky toys to keep them entertained, as well as food and everything else that your boy will need, an American Pitbull usually costs a minimum of around one hundred and one hundred and twenty-five dollars a month. 


American Pitbulls are medium-sized, muscular dogs that have large, wide heads, short muzzles, and powerfully built shoulders. Their ears and coats are both short, and they can be white, brown, black, tan, brindle, grey, or a combination of all those colors.

No two American Pitbulls look the same but share the same physical characteristics. 


They are, without exception, described by every kennel club and breeders association as medium-sized dogs. And their average height and weight would tend to lead credence to that overused, but nonetheless true, description. 

Average Height

American Pitbulls are always between seventeen and nineteen inches tall at the shoulder, but their larger than average size heads can make them seem much taller than they actually are.  

Average Weight

Depending on its build, a fit, healthy American Pitbull can weigh between thirty-five and eighty pounds. 


They have an immutable passion for life and their families and are strong, confident dogs.

They’re affectionate, loyal, and have an innate desire to please their owners, and are famous for their love of children. In other words, they’re perfect family dogs. 

Apartment Living

As long as there’s somewhere within easy traveling distance where you give your American Pitbull all the exercise that he needs, they’re pretty suited to living in an apartment. They’re not loud, or very vocal and are content to sit and lie wherever you are, which means that they don’t take up too much space. 

Good For Novice Owners

 They’re not an ideal dog for first-time owners, as they’re strong, and the time and effort you’ll need to ensure that they’re properly trained, socialized, and taken to obedience classes can shock many people who aren’t used to owning dogs.

They will reward the time and effort you put into looking after them with endless loyalty, devotion, and affection. 

Sensitivity Level

Despite their willingness to trust and need to be around people, American Pitbulls are susceptible dogs who are easily hurt but will also easily forgive anyone who does hurt them.

All their training should be based on positive reinforcement, and you should never chastise a dog or physically punish it for failing to do what you want it to. Learn to communicate with your dog properly, and he will listen. 

Tolerates Being Alone

American Pitbulls are notoriously clingy and want to be around their owners all the time. They are prone to separation anxiety and don’t like or cope well with being left alone

Tolerates Cold Weather

As they’re short-haired dogs with relatively thin coats, they’re not designed for cold weather.

They’re fine if they’re just running around and enjoying an hour or two of exercise on a crisp winter morning, but if they’re going to be outside in the cold weather for much longer than that, they’ll need a coat to keep them warm. 

Tolerates Hot Weather

When it gets too hot, Pitties don’t do very well. They like warm weather, but as they have short noses, they can experience difficulty breathing when it gets too hot, making them susceptible to heatstroke. If it gets too hot, keep them inside. 

Affectionate With Family

American Pitbulls are incredibly affectionate with their family and love being around them.

They were bred to be around people, adore their company, and love to be smoothed, stroked, and petted, and will attempt on numerous occasions to drown their families in an unending bombardment of slobbery pittie licks and kisses. 


The American Pitbull was given the nickname “the nanny dog” for a reason. They love children and can be trusted never to hurt or harm them.  

Dog Friendly

Unfortunately, they’re not quite as friendly toward other dogs, and can be extremely aggressive with them.

That’s why it’s important to socialize an American Pitbull with other dogs from an early age, to help combat any potential aggression toward strange dogs, and to make sure that they’re comfortable in the company of other canines. 

Friendly Toward Strangers

Pitbulls love people, and one of the reasons why they make terrible guard dogs is that they just want to be petted all the time. Providing the stranger isn’t accompanied by a strange dog, an American Pitbull will get along just fine with them. 

Health & GroomingAmerican pitbull terrier

While it’s true that they’re hardy, fun-loving dogs and have even been referred to as being “bulletproof”, there are some breed-specific issues that their long-term wellbeing can be affected by, and we’ll talk about them in a minute.

But just because the breed as a whole can have some problems, it doesn’t mean that your dog will be affected by them. 


They shed all the time, regardless of what season it is. That’s the bad news. The good news is that because they’re a single-coated breed, they shed excessively, so you won’t end up wading around your house knee-deep in Pittie fur. 


Pitbulls drool. They don’t drool much, but they do more than most dogs do. They drool because they have short muzzles, which don’t help them to keep their drool inside their mouths rather than outside.

And as they’re more than a little crazy about dinner time and food in general, they tend to drool more around mealtime than at any point during the day. 


Because they’re short-haired dogs who love to be stroked and made a fuss of, American Pitbull Terriers are incredibly easy to groom. Just grab a brush, start grooming, and you’ll be finished in next to no time. 

General Health

They tend to be hearty, healthy dogs and aren’t plagued by any general health issues. 

Common Health Problems

There are a few health problems that can trouble the breed, namely hip dysplasia (a joint malformation that can also lead to the development of arthritis), skin and food allergies, hyperthyroidism (which can lead to excessive weight gain in middle age but can be treated with medicine), heart disease and cancer.

Remember, just because your dog could suffer from any of these issues doesn’t mean he will. 

Potential For Weight Gain

American Pitbull Terriers love food, and they love to eat. That means that the breed is prone to putting on weight, so you’ll have to monitor your dog’s diet carefully to ensure that they don’t pile on any unwanted pounds. 


Because they’re such strong dogs who can be aggressive toward other members of their species, it’s important to ensure that you begin to train your American Pitbull as soon as possible and enroll him in obedience and socialization classes as soon as possible bring him home. 

Easy To Train

They’re bright, receptive dogs who love to please their owners, which means that they’re relatively easy to train. They are incredibly strong, so it might take a while to find your rhythm while training your dog, but stick with it as he will respond to what you want him to do sooner rather than later. 


American Pitbulls are brilliant dogs and learn quickly and easily and because they’re so eager to please their families, they’ll adapt to any change in circumstances and can be taught to do new things at any stage in their life.

This dispels the notion that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, you can. As long as the dog in question is an American Pitbull Terrier.

Potential To Bite

They can, and will bite, but they’re doubtful to bite their owners or any member of their family.

In most cases, when an American Pitbull has bitten someone, they perceive them to be a threat or danger to their immediate family and are protecting those nearest and dearest to them.

Their natural aggression toward other dogs is a problem though, and if it isn’t curbed with proper socialization, can be problematic when they’re being exercised and walked. 

Tendency To Bark Or Howl

 They’re not a very vocal breed and only bark when excited, warning strangers to stay away from their home or at other dogs they don’t know. 


Originally bred as bear and bull-baiting dogs in England in the early eighteenth century, the purpose of the Bull Terrier nearly became obsolete when these “sports” were finally outlawed during the industrial revolution.

Their owners then turned their attention to the equally barbaric pastime of dogfighting and used their faithful hounds as participants. To increase their chances of success in the ring, breeders made the dogs more aggressive, a trait that has become part and parcel of the American Pitbull’s genetic make-up. 

The Pitbull (as it became known after the United Kennel Club officially recognized it in eighteen nineteen eight), made its way to America where it was also used as a fighting dog until the “sport” was finally outlawed in all States in nineteen seventy-six.

American Pitbulls have also been used as herding dogs, police dogs, companion dogs, and therapy dogs, all of which have served to prove how intelligent this versatile working dog really is. 

Their long-standing reputation as fighting dogs has driven the media frenzy surrounding the breed into overload, which has, in turn, fueled the public misconception that American Pitbulls are vicious animals who can’t be trusted as family pets.

Nothing could be further from the truth, as the breed has shown that time and time again, there’s no canine more suited to life in the family home than a permanently happy “nanny dog”. 


American Pitbull Terriers can be an eye wateringly expensive investment. While most breeders charge between eight hundred and fifteen hundred dollars for a puppy, depending on the lineage of the dog, some puppies can cost anywhere up to twenty thousand dollars.

But while people are willing to pay these prices, breeders will continue to charge them. It is, however, a ridiculous sum of money to pay for a dog when there are so many American Pitbull Terriers in rescue centers and shelters. 

A lot of would-be owners don’t do their homework or due diligence before buying puppies, and after finding themselves unable to cope with the demands of their new dog, ultimately end up abandoning them.

Their loss though is your potential gain, as your new best friend and addition to your family could be waiting for you at your local shelter.

And as they’ll only charge you around two hundred bucks to take an American Pitbull Terrier home with you, it’s also a course of action that your bank balance will thank you for taking. 

Before you start shopping for an American Pitbull, think about adopting instead. Call your local centers and rescues and visit them and their residents. With so many dogs desperately needing new homes, it’s the best way to find your perfect American Pitbull Terrier. 

American Pitbull Terrier Fun Facts 

Despite the fact that it’s named after the nation that eventually became its home, the American Pitbull Terrier is actually older than America, having originally been bred in England in the early eighteenth century. 

American Pitbull Terriers have appeared on the cover of Life magazine three times since it was first published, which means that they’ve appeared on the cover of the magazine more times than any other breed of dog. 

Whether the American Pitbull is an actual breed of dog or not remains a bone of contention in certain Kennel Club circles. Some claim it is, while others claim it isn’t, and the American Kennel Club refuses to verify the Pittie as an official breed of dog. 

Despite its fearsome reputation, the American Pitbull Terrier has been nicknamed “the nanny dog” because of its inherent love for children.

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About the author


Kerry White is an avid dog lover and writer, knowing all there is to know about our furry friends. Kerry has been writing for PetDT for three years now, wanting to use her knowledge for good and share everything she can with new dog owners.Kerry has two dogs herself - a German shepherd called Banjo and a chocolate labrador called Buttons. Kerry knows more than anyone how adjusting to new life with a puppy can turn your life upside down, and she wants to ease some of the burdens through her articles.