Why Is My Pit Bull Becoming Aggressive?

By Ameera Mills. Updated: September 2, 2018
Why Is My Pit Bull Becoming Aggressive?

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Unfortunately, the mishandling of Pit Bulls by some dog owners has caused pit bull dogs and their fellow friends to suffer an unjustified bad reputation around the world. Although it is true that genetic inheritance does influence the temperament of a dog, its behavior will depend fundamentally on its education, socialization and the environment that surrounds it.

Therefore, it is not appropriate to talk about aggressive or dangerous breeds, since aggression is not an inherent characteristic or exclusive of certain breeds. It is in fact, a serious behavioral problem that must be treated adequately to preserve the safety of the dog and those around him.

If your pit bull dog is becoming aggressive, you should not believe in the 10 false myths about a pit bull and other liabilities that accompany these dogs. Dogs are very intelligent and can learn to relate positively with people, with other animals and with their own environment. However, it is important to be aware of some key aspects of their routine and education to prevent these behaviors from remaining or increasing. In this AnimalWised article we aim to tell you why your Pit Bull is becoming aggressive and what you can do to stop it.

You may also be interested in: Why Is My Dog Aggressive Towards Other Dogs?

Legal measures for responsible possession of Potentially Dangerous dogs

Pit Bull dogs (american pit bull terrier) have very strong bodies, with widely developed musculature structures and extremely powerful jaws. Because of these morphological characteristics, they are classified as a potentially dangerous breed in most countries, such as the PPP (Potentially dangerous dogs in Spain) and the British dangerous dogs act of 1991.

Although strength and physical appearance are not determinants of character in any animal, the truth is that we must adopt preventive measures to ensure the legal and safe possession of these blacklisted dangerous dog breeds. These prevention measures are especially important when talking about aggression problems.

Therefore, even if your Pit Bull is very sociable and kind to you, remember to comply with the legal regulations when walking with your dog. Depending on the country the rules may differ. In Spain for example, according to the PPP, pit bulls always have to wear a muzzle and leash (if it is extendable, not exceeding 2m in length) in public spaces. When it comes to dangerous breeds there are many details that need to be understood. If you still do not know them all, we recommend that you consult the regulations of potentially dangerous dogs in your country and others.

Why Is My Pit Bull Becoming Aggressive? - Legal measures for responsible possession of Potentially Dangerous dogs

Why is my Pit Bull aggressive?

Many people ask whether a Pit Bull is a dangerous dog because of the alarming events that have appeared in the media. As we have already mentioned, this aggression isn't completely separate from genetics, but in most cases it is due to:

  • lack of sufficient education
  • lack of socialization
  • Past lived experiences (including trauma)
  • pathologies

We will extend on each of these in the following sections, however, it is important to highlight first that a Pit Bull is a very intelligent and surprisingly sensitive dog. This breed shows great devotion and affection to its relatives, especially the children of its family.

However, it is also true that a pit bull can be considered dangerous when it presents aggressive behavior. This is also due to its incredible strength, jaw and great physical resistance. This, however, is not an exclusive fact of this breed, but applies to any aggressive dog that represents a potential danger to himself, other dogs and people around him.

Are you wondering why your pit bull is becoming aggressive? Aggression in dogs can result because of many causes and there is no single explanation of why a pit bull can develop aggressive behavior. Therefore, it is essential to be aware of your pit bull’s routine. This awareness will aid to identify the explanation of this behavioral change and help to know what to do in this situation.

What to do with an aggressive pit bull?

If your pit bull is aggressive with other dogs or towards people, it is vital that you do not ignore this behavior or put off treatment for later. If you do not consult the situation immediately, it may be too late to control the situation effectively: aggressiveness is a serious behavioral problem that must be treated promptly. In fact, it should be addressed from the first moment you notice any signs, even if they are slight.

In fact, it is important to start training your dog from when it is a puppy. All puppies, especially pit bull puppies need to be trained adequately in socialization and proper management. We suggest always using positive reinforcement, as this from of training has proved to be very successful.

Why Is My Pit Bull Becoming Aggressive? - What to do with an aggressive pit bull?

Pathological causes - why your pit bull might be aggressive

Some pathologies and/or hormonal problems may be able to explain why a pit bull is becoming aggressive. These diseases directly affect the dog’s behavior of our and promote aggressive development. A fairly common example of this would be canine hypothyroidism. This disease can be detected with a simple veterinary test.

A dog can appear and act aggressive when experiencing high levels of pain or weakness. Therefore, if your pit bull presents any sudden behavioral alteration , do not hesitate to go to your veterinarian immediately. A vet will be able to analyze the dog’s state of health and rule out any possible pathological causes.

In addition, we must emphasize that offering adequate preventive medicine to your dog is essential to avoid all types of diseases and behavioral problems. Therefore, remember to visit your vet every 6 months and respect your animal’s vaccination and deworming schedules.

Training and socialization to avoid an aggressive pit bull

One of the main fears of people adopting a pit bull is that their dog might be aggressive with other animals. The cohabitation of pit bulls with other dogs will depend fundamentally on their education and socialization. Education and socialization are the pillars of good behavior in dogs. The education of pit bull puppies dogs should start at the exact time that they arrive at their new home. However, their optimal weaning age needs to be respected. From its childhood, you will need to transmit basic rules that you want your dog to respect throughout its life, so as not to have to correct bad behaviors when it is an adult.

Once a puppy has completed his vaccination schedule and can begin to walk, you can start to dedicate yourself exclusively to the socialization of the dog. If you have decided to adopt an adult pit bull dog, you should know that it is also possible to carry out socialization of an adult dog, although it will be a much longer and complete process. When training an adult dog it also often requires supervision and guide from canine behavior modification specialist.

Regardless of the dog’s age, you must remember the importance of positive reinforcement as a form of recognition and stimulation for learning. Physical punishment, violent behavior and the use of accessories such as chokes or antiladrid collars can hurt an animal. This intended pain can also prove to be counterproductive in their education. By submitting a dog high stress situations, as well as physical and/or emotional abuse, it favors the development of aggressive behaviors and can damage an animal’s emotional well-being.

Why Is My Pit Bull Becoming Aggressive? - Training and socialization to avoid an aggressive pit bull

Recommended exercise routine for pit bulls

A pit bull has a lot of energy and it must learn to channel it in a positive way in order to maintain a balanced temperament. A sedentary routine is dangerous and very detrimental to the physical and mental health of these dogs. A pit bull that does not practice enough physical activity can develop numerous behavioral and health problems such as obesity and elbow or hip dysplaxia. By not exerting its energy, a dog can accumulates anxiety and will often show several symptoms of stress. Among these symptoms are aggressiveness, hyperactivity or repetitive behavior.

Therefore, always make sure that your pit bull is receiving the adequate amount of physical activity it needs. You may also want to consider the possibility of starting your dog on a canine sport.

Teach your pit bull to inhibit the bite and release objects

Another myth about dangerous breeds is that tug-of-war games can encourage aggressive behaviors, such as biting people and other dogs. Nothing is further from the truth! In fact you need to work on a pit bull’s bite inhibition and teach it to release objects. It is important to note that pit bulls are dogs that need to nibble, so avoiding these games and not providing them with toys encourages unwanted behavior (not always related to aggression) such as destructiveness.

The risk in the games, such as tug of war, appear when we do not play them correctly. It is important to make sure your hand is out of the way of the dogs mouth at all times. If we observe that it is too close to one of our hands, we must let go and ask for a "release". If the dog does not want to release the object, ask to exchange it for a prize. Repeat this exercise as much as possible to make sure you are in power. The most important thing in your relationship with a potentially dangerous dog is that it knows you are the pack leader, so that it therefore listens to your commands.

It is also essential to understand that during a game you must yield and sometimes let the dog win. At other times, you as the owner must also retain the toy, this way, you will prevent your dog from starting to generate possessiveness with its toys and other objects.

In the event that our dog growls at us, shows negative body language or bites us, we must stop the game and in no way reinforce the dog. You can ask for a "loose" and keep the object. This action will teach your dog that bad behavior results in the end of the game. On the contrary, if your dog does not release the object, you will wait for it until you receive it, and when you do, stop playing with the dog and keep the object.

Why Is My Pit Bull Becoming Aggressive? - Teach your pit bull to inhibit the bite and release objects

How do you mentally stimulate a pit bull?

Unlike other smarter dogs, such as a border collies, pit bull dogs are somewhat slower in their learning. This slowness does not however mean that they cannot learn order, skills or varied tricks. And most importantly, it does not mean that they should not receive mental stimulation.

The pit bull is an intelligent and sensitive dog that must exercise its mind and smell daily. To do this, you can make or buy some: interactive toys, intelligence toys, food vending toys or, directly, carry out activities with him.

Does your pitbull spend a lot of time alone?

Are pit bulls bad? Absolutely not! In spite of their bad reputation, the pit bull is a very sociable dog and relishes time spent with its family. They do not usually deal very well with loneliness and can develop behavior problems if they spend too much time alone or are ignored by their guardians. In general, a healthy adult dog should not spend more than 6 or 8 hours a day alone.

If you want your pit bull to maintain a balanced temperament, remember to reserve time to play with it, share leisure time and exercise with your best friend.

Food for a pit bull

Dog nutrition is a key aspect to ensure good health and balanced behavior. A diet deficient and poor in essential nutrients may reflected negatively in the behavior of our dogs. In addition, the dogs must have a complete and balanced diet in order to develop their physical, cognitive, emotional and social capabilities.

We recommend that you seek the guidance of a veterinarian to ensure that your pit bull's diet is of high quality and meets its basic nutritional requirements.

Why Is My Pit Bull Becoming Aggressive? - Food for a pit bull

Create a positive relationship with your pit bull

Even though we mentioned that it is necessary for your dog to know you are the ‘‘pack leader’’, this does not mean that you must be dictatorial. The relationship between you and your pit bull needs to be build off a base of respect for each other.Unfortunately, many people still believe that to educate a strong and powerful dog like the pit bull it is necessary to establish irrational and aggressive patterns. These patterns however can cause frustration, stress and anxiety in a dog.

The link between a dog and its owner is vital in order to make sure your dog remains calm.

If you want your dog to obey you and demonstrate a balanced behavior, you must invest in a healthy bond and train your dog through positive reinforcement, excluding any type of physical or emotional abuse. You can not expect your dog to obey you if you do not spend time educating him or teaching him how to do things.

In addition, an animal needs to keep learning. Investing in quality time, dedicate 10 minutes daily to review commands and obedience, is essential for your best friend to trust and obey you.

What to do if my pit bull dog is very aggressive?

Sometimes, despite providing the best care for a dog and/or devoting time to its education and training, a dog can still present aggressiveness. If this is the case, since it is a serious problem, we always recommend going to a specialist, such as an ethologist, a canine educator or a trainer.

A professional in behavior modification can help you evaluate the case, offer a diagnosis and provide management guidelines. They can also carry out sessions with you and your dog. It is important to highlight that the prognosis is variable according to the case. Either way however, detection and beginning of treatment as soon as possible are key to avoid further problems.

Why Is My Pit Bull Becoming Aggressive? - What to do if my pit bull dog is very aggressive?

If you want to read similar articles to Why Is My Pit Bull Becoming Aggressive?, we recommend you visit our Behavioral problems category.

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Thanks, really struggling with this atm
Valerie Messer
I live alone and I decided to get a pit , but the thing is she is already pretty much grown and set in her own ways. I want to teach her to protect my things and myself but she is very aggressive even before I got her. No one at all even down to my dad can come over she scares me sometimes. How do I go about on calming her down but still be aggressive when the right time comes or someone or something is hurting me not every single time someone pulls up or comes over?
sara ayres
Just recently my pitt bull started growling and barking at my kids she never has before like is it possible she has ptsd?
What to do if my pit bull dog is very aggressive?
Sometimes, despite providing the best care for a dog and/or devoting time to its education and training, a dog can still present aggressiveness. If this is the case, since it is a serious problem, we always recommend going to a specialist, such as an ethologist, a canine educator or a trainer.

A professional in behavior modification can help you evaluate the case, offer a diagnosis and provide management guidelines. They can also carry out sessions with you and your dog. It is important to highlight that the prognosis is variable according to the case. Either way however, detection and beginning of treatment as soon as possible are key to avoid further problems.
Steph - Diploma L3 in canine behaviour.
Your situation fall's within the regular pattern meaning the majority of Pitbull attacks are on children, and there's a very good reason for that! First if they were as aggressive as there made out to be and they just 'switch' for no reason then statistics on who they bite would be more equal between children and adults, but as we all no it isn't.
The reason is simple, WE bred these dogs to fight other dogs and to fight to the death in doing so, in order to excel in there job WE bred them to have sharp, quick reactions and lower tolerance levels for there characteristics. It's this that can clash with children, who don't no the consequences of there actions, don't respect boundaries, don't want to listen to any adults, will poke, prod, brush there coat the wrong way, drive toy cars all over them, follow them around and are loud and can scream suddenly for no apparent reason other than because there parents are saying 'no' to something. On top of that most owners/ parents fail to understand what a dogs warnings are that they have had enough, so they end up being ignored or worse the parents discipline the dog when they see them lip curl or growl thinking that there being aggressive when they are not, there doing the right thing.
Then going back to what I said before about there characteristics, compared to most other breeds lets say a spaniel who's tolerance to irritants is higher may give 15 warnings before they snap, where as a Pitbull may only give 5 warnings before they reach there limit. Unfortunately from then on they will no longer give warnings at all as they have learnt that they don't work or there disciplined for them, so they just got straight to biting, which is undoable you can't re teach a dog to give warnings again and thats why they have to be put to sleep.
In your personal case what you might be calling aggression will ,more than likely be your dog giving your children which are annoying him a warning to stop! You need to listen to this and remove your kids out the way, the dog is doing exactly what he's suppose to, like iv just explained if you don't listen to him he will snap as he feels like he has no choice!
This article helped me very much but still I am wondering why my pit puppy always crinkles her nose and nips towards me and others. Most of the time she doesn’t come to close but she does make the nipping action excessively and towards your face the most. Any suggestions or advice is helpful!
Lindsay cruz
I Have a Pitbull who I had from 6 months to about 3 years then we had to we home him to what to seemed to be like a great home. We recently gotten him back. And he is aggressive when it comes to his food bowl toys and even growls at kids who get close to him. What should I do???
i love pit bull they are cute and kind
m. edmund howse
good article, did not address my dogs particular issue but it is reassuring, thanks
I have 4 pitbulls, Peanut 2 yrs, Layla 3yrs, Sophie 3yrs, and Noah 5 yrs, they have all been together since puppies and have always had a very close bond. All my dogs are fixed, I have 2 girls and 2 boys, the girls just got fixed this January 2019. My dogs have never been aggressive to each other or any people or animals, then about a month ago they all went after each other outside and got into a fight, we broke it up immediately and separated them. It has happened 2 times after that as well and it's getting worse every time, so we now no longer allow them outside to play together. They have never attacked each other in the house or outside before, I don't understand why they are all of sudden becoming extremely aggressive towards each other outside now all of sudden and it only happens outside. I have a fenced in backyard and walked the whole yard to make sure nothing is out there and theres nothing. We have taken them all to the Vets to rule out any medical conditions and they are all completely healthy and the Vet is just as baffled as we are. Is there any advice or reason why my dogs could be doing this now.
Hi Pamela. I feel your pain. The reason i stumbled across this is because my daughter is facing the same thing. Its annoying to see people like authors of this artickecti respond "dogs need a good loving hone" as if its an automatic copout. Her dog was raised iin a loving home, as one of their own children. All the things they list the dog needs were provided. Now he is trying to lunge at children for no reason. I tried to tell my daughter not to get a pit because this would eventually happen. I know because me and her father raised 2 who ended up being put down for attacking children for no reason. They were raised in a loving enviornment with all their needs met too. Raised with children. I dont care what these people say read the histiry of why pits were bred to begin with. To take down bulls in a pit. They cant help it. Its so sad for the dog and in my opinion should be banned from breeding. As dangerous as it becomes for others its even more sad for the dog. They cant help it.
I also stumbled upon this same article because i have a pitbull mixed (his dad was an american pit) just over a year. We showered him with love and also fulfilled everything the article talked about. he is now showing signs of aggression with no provocation at all. As much as socialization is important, I think it has become to politically correct to DENY biological history about pits that we don't even want to consider it. That's the stupidity of it all. I am not saying that all pits will wind up like this. But the nature part IS THERE. That is why Golden Retrievers are rarely as crazy aggressive because their nature was BRED into them. For pits, we have to work harder to keep it down the aggression. We need to stop over-psychologizing and over-sociologizing the discussion. Biology pays a part. That is why some people are prone to certain diseases more than others. We can't socialize that away entirely.
Pamela. Andrus
My pit bull is really getting in a bad place he growls lunges has opened his mouth to bite me but didnt bite down with my arm in his mouth .he is alittle over 1 yr. I dont know what to do i dont want him to attack me .but i love him please help
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Pamela,

The adolescence of any dog (or any living organism) is vital in determining the rest of their lives. They need adequate socialization, the right kind of education and an environment which is loving and positive. If your dog is acting up at this age, it is possible they are missing some important element.

Pit Bulls are wonderful dogs and have a very loving personality, but they can also be a handful if they are not properly cared for. As they are a muscular dog, they can cause damage if they become aggressive. They may only be playing without realizing they are causing harm, but the outcome is the same and it needs to be stopped. If you don't feel like you are capable of providing the right kind of training, then speak to your vet and ask them to recommended a good trainer or canine ethologist. They will teach you the skills to best look after your dog. Good luck and let us know how it goes!
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