The Life And Times Of A Pitbull


Aggression is not a breed thing, it’s a state of mind and it comes from how a human is with the dog – Cesar Millan

Despite their fearsome reputation, Pitbulls are loyal loving family dogs who enjoy nothing more than a belly scratch and cuddling up on a couch with their favorite humans.

Like all dogs, the way a Pitbull reacts to people, dogs, and his or her environment is entirely due to the way they’re treated by their owners. And the way a Pitbull is treated can also have a discernible impact on its individual lifespan. 

While it’s something that we never want to think about or dwell on, the inescapable truth is that your best Pitbull pal has a much shorter lifespan than you do.  That’s why it’s important to help him to live each day to the fullest and to understand how long you can expect him to be part of your life so that the time you do get to spend with each other is filled with love, fun, joy, and happiness.  

To help you to do that, we’re going to explain how long you can expect your Pitbull to live for, some of the genetic and other everyday factors that can affect his lifespan, and how you can help your boy to defy expectations and push through the boundaries that nature has set for him. 

From The Cradle To The Grave

Every species has an estimated lifespan, it’s part of the Universes grand design. For humans, our estimated lifespan is around seventy years of age and for Pitbulls, the general median lifespan is between twelve and fifteen years.

But estimated isn’t the same as actual, and there are multiple reasons why, especially in canines, that estimation can be, and is very often wrong. 

For a Pitbull, their lifespan is determined by their health, their familial lineage, and the breeds of their parents, as contrary to popular opinion, there’s no such thing as a pedigree Pitbull. The American Kennel Club doesn’t recognize either the American Pitbull or Pitbulls in general.

The word Pitbull doesn’t actually refer to a specific breed of dog, it’s actually used as a catch-all name to describe mixed breed dogs who share common physical traits with both bulldogs and terriers. 

The Pitbull Lifespan – Size Matters. And So Does The Breed

Because they’re essentially a crossbreed, and a number of different breeds fall within the parameters of the general Pitbull descriptor, pitties come in all shapes and sizes.

They can be small to medium-sized, or they can dwarf their owners and grow to be the same size as a lot of larger breeds such as Dobermans and German Shepherds. And one of nature’s cruelest tricks is her determination to adhere to the rule that size matters. Small and medium dogs tend to live a lot longer than big dogs do. 

We mentioned that Pitbull was a term used to describe a loose grouping of a number of different breeds instead of an actual breed in its own right, and the type of breed that your Pitbull shares the most physical and breed-specific characteristics with can help to determine their lifespan.

Generally speaking, there are five breeds that fall into the Pitbull classification, and they are:

  • Staffordshire Bull Terrier (more commonly known as a “Staffie”) – Most of their owners refer to Staffies as lovebugs, and while they’re the smallest (weighing on average somewhere between thirty and forty pounds) of the Pitbull related breeds, they also tend to live the longest and have an estimated lifespan between twelve and fifteen years. 
  • English Bull Terriers (Or “Bullies” as they’re called in England) – Another cuddle monster, English Bull Terriers tend to weigh in the region of sixty to seventy-five pounds and have a median life expectancy of anywhere between ten to fourteen years. 
  • American Staffordshire Bull Terrier – Slightly bigger than their British cousins, these happy-go-lucky hounds can weigh anywhere between thirty-five and forty-five pounds and have a life expectancy of twelve to fourteen years. 
  • American Pitbull Terrier – The only “breed” in the collective to have the Pitbull moniker in their actual name, these dogs are fiercely loyal and affectionate but can be slightly standoffish with strangers. They usually weigh between forty and seventy pounds and have an average life expectancy of twelve to fourteen years. 
  • American Bulldog The big dog in the Pitbull yard, these loveable scamps adore playing and will do anything for a bit of attention. They’re big dogs and can weigh anywhere between seventy and one hundred and fifteen pounds and have an average life expectancy of ten and fourteen years. 

What Makes A Pitbull A Pitbull? 

All of the breeds that fall under broad classification share a lot of physical traits, and it’s these physical characteristics that make them “Pitbulls”. Originally bred to defend their humans, territory and to fight off other dogs, Pitbulls are strong, muscular dogs with big necks, large heads, and incredibly powerful jaws. 

Pitbulls tend to have wide shoulders, muscular chests, and front legs, and their bag legs should always look as though they’re poised to help the dog spring into action at any given moment. They’re intelligent, energetic dogs and need to feel as though they have a sense of purpose which can be fulfilled by a demanding and rigorous exercise regime. 

If Pitbulls aren’t exercising properly, they can focus their energy elsewhere which can lead to them developing destructive habits that can be costly for your house and home, and can also reduce their lifespan – chewing and swallowing household furniture can wreak havoc on their jaws and digestive systems. 

The Pitbull “Look”

Unfortunately, there are Pittie owners who still subscribe to the idea that Pitbulls were bred to be mean and only have one purpose in life, and that’s to fight.

Neither of those things is true, but it doesn’t stop some owners from having their dog’s ears cropped so they look like they’re a “fighting dog” and actually using them as fighting dogs (any dog forced into a situation where they feel threatened will immediately revert to their fight or flight instinct, and if they can’t flee they’ll fight, so Pitbulls aren’t the exception to the rule.

They don’t like to fight, they only fight because they have no choice), both of which can, and do, greatly reduce the lifespan of a Pitbull. 

The Pitbull Genetic Footprint – The Physical Curse That Can’t Be Escaped 

Due to selective bulldog and terrier breeding, Pitbulls are susceptible to a number of the hereditary conditions that both of their progenitors are prone to, all of which can vastly reduce their quality of life and have a debilitating effect on the duration of their lifespan. 

Pitbulls can suffer from hip dysplasia ( which is a frighteningly common problem among large breed dogs), heart disease, and cardiac problems which are common genetic problems among bull breeds, cataracts, and arthritis which also plague terriers, the other side of their common ancestral lineage and thyroid issues which can make them prone to unhealthy weight gain. 

All of these issues will be picked up by a veterinarian, which is just one of the multiple reasons why you should always ensure that your Pitbull is taken for a regular health check. If any of these issues are identified early enough, they can be handled and managed with medication, and in some cases surgery. However, if they aren’t addressed, any of them can significantly reduce the lifespan of your Pitbull.  

The Long Haul 

 Sometimes you need to hammer a point home, and unfortunately, this is one of those times. Pitbull’s are demanding, high-energy dogs and if you don’t have, or don’t want to devote, the time to them that they need you to, it could have an impact on the length of their life.  

 Because Pitbulls are high-energy dogs who need a lot of exercise and stimulation, it’s up to you to provide both. Pitbull’s need a lot of exercise, and they need something to occupy and reward their inquisitive nature. 

If they don’t get enough exercise, the natural muscle tone and mass can deteriorate and turn to fat, and if they’re not properly stimulated, they can become lethargic and put on a lot of unwanted weight. And the extra pounds that are often a result of not meeting the dog’s needs, can reduce the quality, and length, of its life.  

 The Social Aspects Of Puppy Life 

 Aggressive dogs don’t live as long as placid, well-adjusted dogs do. They pick up injuries when fighting with other dogs and the behavioral problems associated with aggression can become an issue as dogs get older, and lead to them either abandoned or put to sleep unnecessarily. 

Realistically, the only way to address aggression in any dog, especially a Pitbull, and increase both the quality and duration of their life, is through proper socialization.  

 Pitbulls are taught the finer points of pack behavior and their place in it by their mothers, which is why it’s important that they spend at least the first twelve weeks of their lives with their mothers.

As cute as puppies are, if they’re taken from their mother before they’re ready, you could be setting your new best friend up for a life filled with behavioral problems. Which is one of the many reasons why you should always adopt, and never shop for, a Pitbull.  

 Some Pitbull’s, just like other dogs, do have aggression issues, and if your four-legged friend has developed this problem, it’s important that you find the right socialization classes for him to attend so that he can become used to, and even enjoy, the company of other dogs.

Trust us, enrolling an aggressive Pitbull in a socialization and training class might save his life and help him to live longer.  

Helping Your Boy To Subvert Expectation

 

 The expected lifespan of a Pitbull is, unfortunately, based on established medical research and data, but that doesn’t mean that your dog has to be limited by it. And you can easily help to increase the lifespan of your Pitbull and ensure that he lives at least as long as he’s expected to, if not longer.  

 As we’ve already stressed, it’s incredibly important to ensure that you take your Pitbull for a regular health check, to make sure that he’s fit and well.  While he’s in the veterinarian’s office, you should also make sure that he’s up to date with all of his shots and vaccine boosters as even the healthiest of dogs can pick up a virus that might endanger their life. 

 If you’re going to walk and exercise your Pitbull in a park that a lot of other dog’s use, it’s vital that he’s vaccinated against Parvo as the virus can live in soil for anything up to twelve months, and it’s remarkably easy for any hound to catch it.  

 Then there are the parasites that love to make their homes inside and, on your Pitbull. Make sure that you regularly worm your best friend (it’s easy to do, you can just add a dewormer to their food and let it, and nature take care of the rest) and groom and brush him with to get rid of ticks and fleas. 

Some ticks and fleas can be a little more stubborn than others so you might need to use a tick comb or fit him with a flea collar in order to make sure that none of his new “friends” are left behind. Regular grooming and brushing will also help to endear you to and strengthen the bond that you share with your pal, as Pitbulls love being groomed.  

Dogs, just like humans, are prone to tooth decay, and if you don’t take your Pitbull in for a regular dental check-up and teeth cleaning at the vets, it can become the root cause of other health problems that can have a significant impact on his life.

Of course, you can remain dentally diligent by making sure that his teeth are also cleaned with the sort of treat-based dental chews that he’ll not only love but will ensure that his teeth stay clean and his jaws are always healthy and strong.   

Food Is Everything  

 Okay, so maybe the food that you feed your Pitbull isn’t everything, but the right diet can help to prevent him from putting on weight and can help him to get all of the nutrients, vitamins, and protein that he needs to help him to live a long, happy and healthy life.  

Even though dogs love wet and canned food, it can hasten tooth decay, so it’s always worth trying to get your boy to eat a dry food diet as it’ll supply him with everything that he needs and will help to keep his teeth strong and clean.  

Treat Him The Right Way 

 A happy, well-socialized Pitbull who feels like he is an important part of a family will be healthier and a happy dog will live longer than an unhappy dog will.

Make sure you involve him in everything and that he learns, via the right sort of systematic and well thought out training, what you expect from him and what he can expect from you.  

 It might seem like a lot to remember, but really it’s all just dog 101. If you look after your Pitbull properly, you’ll help him to live to a ripe old age, and who knows, he might just shatter his expected lifespan.   

Red Nose And Blue Nose – The Lifespan Differences 

 Believe it or not, the color of your boy’s nose can have an impact on his expected lifespan.

The color of a Pitbull’s nose is a genetic trait that’s directly associated with the breed that your boy is most closely physically aligned to. While both are linked to the American Pitbull Terrier, for some reason, dogs with a red nose live, on average, for around fourteen years, while those with a blue nose tend to have a lifespan of around twelve years.  

The Average Lifespan For A Pitbull  

 There are no absolutes in nature, and even though Pitbulls are saddled with an average lifespan expectancy that lies somewhere between twelve and fifteen years, some have been known to reach the grand old age of eighteen while others have been taken from their families far too soon. 

 On average though, Pitbulls tend to live for around fourteen years, but as anyone who has ever spent a fraction of time around them will happily tell you, the time that you get to spend with a Pitbull will be infinitely rewarding. 

Your days will be filled with affection, fun, and happiness, so whether you get to spend five, ten, or even fifteen years with your boy, make sure that you cherish every single moment with your best friend.  

Kerry White

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.

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