Pit Bulls n' Other
Animals
"Help! My Pit Bull keeps attacking my other dog!"

Almost weekly RPB receives emails or frantic calls from people whose Pit Bulls
have attacked their other dog. The story usually
goes like this:

"I have had this Pit Bull since he was a puppy, he is now a year old. He has
suddenly started attacking my other male dog and I don't know what to do
about it. They have always gotten along in the past! Now I am worried my
Pit Bull will start attacking me or my spouse or my children!"

Worried caregivers, not knowing what to do, panic. The Pit Bull is oftentimes
on the verge of losing his home and family. The truly sad thing about such
events is that they never would have happened in the first place had the
guardian had a good overview of breed temperament and good multi-dog
management skills.  

The good news is, MANY canine war-zones can be turned
peaceful after some things are changed about how the dogs are managed,
and the human in the equation changes some of their own behavior (see:
Maintaining Harmony).

Pit Bulls tend to show dog-directed aggression.
That means that they have a tendency to be defensive towards or fight with
other dogs. This sort of behavior will often begin to
manifest itself at about a year of age. Sometimes sooner, sometimes later.
But in most Pit Bulls, dog-directed aggression is going to be
at least a minor issue for the guardian to contend with throughout the dog's
life.

Aggression directed at other dogs does not turn into
aggression directed towards humans. The "taste of blood" does not turn a
dog into a bloodthirsty lunatic (it's a myth). Aggression is learned behavior,
set off by very specific environmental stimuli. Just because a Pit Bull gets
snarky with another dog doesn’t mean he will next begin to go after people.
Dogs relate to other dogs in a way they do not relate to humans.  Behavior
that is directed at other dogs is very context-specific; it tends not to be
generalized to other species.

In general, RPB does not recommend first time guardians bringing a Pit
Bull into a home that already has other dogs, or adding other dogs to a
home that has just one dog that happens to be a Pit Bull. If a novice
chooses to have a Pit Bull in a multi-dog home, it is ESSENTIAL that the dogs
are kept separated, unless someone is around (and that
means "in the same room") to supervise them, 100% of the time. This goes
whether there has ever been any exhibited dog-directed aggression or not.

It's also imperative to note that some Pit Bulls can never do well with other
dogs unless they are under strict, on-leash control. Does this include
dogs that have been raised with other dogs in the same household? YES!
Once a dog matures, his whole attitude towards other dogs may change.
This is why it is important that novice guardians only bring adult, properly
evaluated Pit Bulls into a home with already-established dogs.

What if you are already having problems with fights?

The first and most important thing you can
do is separate the dogs (at the very least, separate them when you are
not there to watch over them). Next,
contact a trainer with experience in the
breed (this is important), and have them assess the situation so that you
can decide what the next, best step is to ensure that your dogs will be
healthy, happy and safe in their own home.

It is SO important to research your breed before bringing one into your
home. What you may think is the perfect breed for you, may end up being a
disaster if you have not properly prepared yourself and your home and
family. Knowledge is your best weapon.

Terrier - or 'terrior-ist'?

Pit Bulls are bred down not only from bulldogs, but also
from fiesty hunting and ratting terriers. Ya know, those
frisky, tenacious little dogs that chase everything that and
meaner than they, and have larger than life attitude. These
are the relatives of Jack Russels, Fox Terriers, Patterdales,
and other similar breeds.  Because this type of dog was
bred for high prey drive - the intrinsic drive all dogs possess
to one degree or another - they often end up in hot pursuit
of small animals, unable to help themselves because it's
just so darn fun (well, not for the animal being chased).  
Because Pit Bulls retain this high prey drive, a
hand-me-down from their terrier ancestors, this breed may
often prove problematic in a home that also keeps cats, or
similar small critters.  Sometimes a chase is just a chase -
other times, a dog in the heat of the moment may actual
catch and do harm to the animal it was after.

A home with cats that is bringing a Pit Bull into its midst
should consider carefully the ramifications of adding a dog
which tends to hit the high end of the prey drive scale.  
Choose an adult dog that's lived with cats peacefully, and
be sure to always keep dog and cat seperated when no
one is able to supervise.  Remember, cats are quick, but
dogs who have ancestors whose original job it was to hunt
lithe, tricky, wild game will oftentimes be faster.  Don't
assume your cat will be able to hold its own in an
altercation.

The bulldog side of the coin:

At the heart of the APBT breed is a bulldog: bold, loyal,
courageous beyond all compare.  These dogs were bred to
catch and hold bulls for the butchers of England-past.  Not
only were they used for this job, but also for the gruesome
'sport' of bull and bear baiting. That means these dogs
were used to catch and hold animals many hundreds of
times heavier than they, much stronger, and much meaner.  
Pit Bulls can be savvy around farm animals, and some have
even been known to make herding dogs!  However, let's
not forget - dogs will be dogs!  And for that reason, don't
expect your Pit Bull to necessarily view a horse or a cow as
a friendly, over-sized playmate.  Keep your Pit Bull on leash
when around new types of animals, introduce him slowly to
the concept of large-smelly-prey-animal (which is essentially
all horses and cows are to dogs), and remember that not
only could your Pit Bull potentially hurt one of these
animals, these hoofed critters could potentially seriously
harm your Pit Bull as well.