Pit Bull Terriers as Nanny Dogs

Pit Bull Terriers as Nanny Dogs

The American Pit Bull Terrier is a well established breed in America, although its origins are British. These dogs were used as fighting dogs until the prohibition of dogfights in 1976 and they are currently considered a potentially dangerous breed in some countries. This is in a large part due to their muscular frame and strong bite. However, this is a reactionary misconception which goes against the findings of the RSPCA, ASPCA and the AVMA. In truth, they are very affectionate, loving and particularly protective over those they consider family.

This is not the only misconception about Pit Bull Terriers and their history. This is why AnimalWised investigates whether Pit Bull Terriers were used a nanny dogs and what this means for the breed's reputation.

What is a nanny dog?

Nanny dogs are simply dogs which are great with children. They protect the children as if they were blood related, just as a nanny would do for their charge. They show particular affection towards children, understanding their vulnerability and being a warmhearted companion to them.

The character ‘Nana’ in JM Barrie’s famous stage play ‘Peter Pan’ was a dog. Although played by a man in a costume, this dog was intended to be a Newfoundland. This is because Newfoundland Dogs are also said to be nanny dogs in that they meet these requirements of being particularly protective and affectionate towards children.

Nanny breeds are not dogs which can look after children without adult accompaniment. These dogs do not exist. As friendly as any dog is, young children can often be unaware of how their actions can affect the dog. Dogs are not capable of making the considerations humans need to make for their offspring. This doesn't even mean intentionally hurting a child. This was the case with a Siberian Husky in Alberta Canada who killed a days old baby by biting it on the head. It was a well-trained dog which likely meant to simply pick up the baby to carry it to their parents[1].

Dogs and young children, regardless of breed and age need to be supervised. You cannot predict every reaction of an animal, even if they are nanny dogs usually well-suited to interacting with children.

Are Pit Bulls ‘Nanny Dogs’

American Pit Bull Terriers are affectionate, cheerful and family-oriented dogs, although they are often sociable with strangers. The reason they used to be left alone with children is because this breed is especially attached to its family and is also patient with the little ones.

However, are Pit Bulls really ‘Nanny Dogs’? The answer is difficult. Some claim that the nickname or label of ‘Nanny Dogs’ was first given to Pit Bull Terriers in the United States at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th. However, there is some controversy as the source for this is someone called Lillian Rant who was interviewed in a 1971 article. She told the story that Pit Bulls were kept as nanny dogs, but has been accused by anti-Pit Bull propagandists of fabricating this story to move their public image away from the dog fighting brutes they have been made out to be.

It is true there is little evidence to support how official the term nanny dog is when it is used in terms of Pit Bull type dogs. However, this is because being a nanny dog isn't an official thing. It isn't recognized by kennel clubs or governments as a dog type group, unlike the sporting dog or working dog groups which are recognized by the American Kennel Club[2].

However, this doesn't mean that Pit Bulls are not great with kids. While there is little evidence to support the terminology of Pit Bulls as nanny dogs, there is plenty to support them as being a wonderful family pet. Perhaps the belief in the origin of the term in the 19th Century is due to the many pictures of children with their pet Pit Bull (as can be seen above). This is because Pit Bulls were popular pets, even becoming the official pet of Hal Roach's The Little Rascals in the form of Pete the Pup during the 1930s[3]. In fact, according to the United Kennel Club, American Pit Bull Terriers are consider poor guard dogs thanks to their relative friendliness towards strangers[4].

Pit Bulls may not necessarily be officially considered nanny dogs, but this is because there is no official consideration of nanny dogs. Instead, they are loyal, protective and loving family pets which have garnered a bad reputation for the wrong reasons.

The Pit Bull Terrier - an excellent family dog

The American Pit Bull Terrier is the second calmest dog after the Golden Retriever[5]. This breed is often used for protection, search and rescue. A Pit Bull is devoted to its family, and will be an excellent playmate and a friend for life, the reason why many consider it a nanny dog, i.e. a dog that is good with children.

Today, many associations and animal rights associations are debating the stereotypes about this loyal pet. In Spain, for instance, it is only permitted to have a Pit Bull Terrier if the adopting party has a license, insurance and puts a muzzle on their pet when they walk it down the street.

However, the reason for this breed's bad reputation is due to misinformation. Due to the popularity of this dog, unfortunately among people who mistreat animals for ‘sport’, they have been involved in instances of attacking people. However, all of the evidence as to why they may attack points to problems with their rearing, not from the breed itself. An important study released in 2013 showed that considerations such as poor socialization, lack of neutering or abuse are the most important reasons for a dog attack[6]. The reason for aggression in Pit Bulls is largely due to preventable factors, with breed not being one of these. To read more about Pit Bulls, their reputation and the facts, take a look at this article on different Pit Bull breeds and types.

Are you're thinking of adopting a Pit Bull? Some spend many years living in kennels because nobody wants to waste time getting licenses and following procedures. However, you should know that these are sweet and affectionate dogs who are perfectly worthy of being adopted, since they offer an endless amount of advantages and deserve all our love. If you want to call one Nanny you can, but here are some ideas for other names for Pit Bull dogs.

If you want to read similar articles to Pit Bull Terriers as Nanny Dogs, we recommend you visit our Facts about the animal kingdom category.


1 https://www.ctvnews.ca/pet-husky-that-killed-newborn-baby-was-trained-1.772906

2 https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/lifestyle/did-you-know/what-are-breed-groups/

3 https://archive.org/details/ourgang00leon

4 https://www.ukcdogs.com/american-pit-bull-terrier

5 https://atts.org/breed-statistics/statistics-page1/

6 https://avmajournals.avma.org/doi/abs/10.2460/javma.243.12.1726