If you’ve never owned a dog before, deciding on the perfect breed to match your lifestyle is crucial. While bringing any dog home for the first time is definitely a change of pace, a larger breed can be a big undertaking, especially for first time owners.
If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve been thinking about adding a pitbull to the family! Despite certain misconceptions, pitbulls are wonderful, loving, and loyal dogs that dedicate themselves entirely to their loved ones. However, much like other large breeds, they require a certain understanding to successfully own one.
If you’re about to become a first time dog owner, you may be wondering if a pitbull is right for you.
So, are pitbulls a good choice for a first time owner?
Pitbulls can be great choices for first time dog owners. As long as you take the time to inform and educate yourself on bully breeds, there’s no reason you can’t have one as a first time owner. They make wonderful first dogs once you understand their true natures, history, needs, and any possible health issues.
Here’s everything you need to know about owning a pitbull as a first time dog owner.
Reasons Why Pitbulls Are Good for First Time Owners
Ask any dog owner and they’ll tell you the love of a dog can make life all that much better. After all, dogs are known as man’s best friend. Pitbull breeds, though faced with a lot of unfair stigma, are loved and revered by owners worldwide. They’re known to have personalities larger than life and are fiercely loyal and loving.
Here are some reasons why pitbulls are a good choice for first time owners.
Pitbulls Are Loyal and Affectionate
Pitbulls are big on loyalty and physical affection. Contrary to some beliefs, they are very people-motivated. Pitbulls have a tendency of making their owners feel like they are their whole world – because they are! They are fiercely loyal and would go to the ends of the earth to make you smile. This is why they’re a very popular choice among many.
Their need for physical affection is infectious. In fact, some Pitties tend to have a habit of thinking they’re lap dogs – even when they’re 50 to 70 pounds! Pitbulls are the type to curl up next to you no matter where you are. They want to be wherever you are while giving and receiving love.
If you’re a first time owner looking for loyalty and affection, you will find it with a pitbull. Pitbulls are always ready to snuggle and go to bat for their owners.
Pitbulls Can Be Great With Families
When properly socialized, pitbulls make wonderful family dogs and are known to be great with children! They can also be very friendly when meeting new people and other animals. They can be some of the most gentle, caring, and patient dogs around- so much so that they were referred to as nanny dogs in the past!
Once a pitbull forms a formidable bond with the members of their family, they will love and defend them with all they have. Since they are people-motivated, they are eager to please, which makes them sensitive and patient. They generally have very calm demeanors which is one of the reasons they can be great with children. While all dogs should be supervised around children, a lot of pitbulls do have a natural inclination to love kids.
Pitbulls can also be fabulous with other furry members of their household. There are plenty of pitbulls that relish in the love of their cat and dog brothers and sisters. In fact, they will often take on the role of the protector with smaller animals. When introducing any pet to a multi-pet household, introductions should be slow and controlled. However, if you’re raising a puppy or adopting a pitbull that’s been fostered in a multi-pet household, you can rest assured that they will probably get along famously with your other pets, especially when it comes to compatible breeds.
As a first time owner, pitbulls make great choices for families, due to their patience, dedication, and love for companionship.
Pitbulls Are Highly Intelligent
Many may not know that pitbulls have successfully gone on to be therapy, service, and search and rescue dogs. This is largely due to their emotional intelligence and the fact that they’re relatively easy to train. This is an important factor if you’re a first time owner, since pitbulls crave structure and guidance from their people.
Pitbulls possess many qualities that are expected of stellar working dogs. They’re loyal, courageous, and driven. They’re known to quickly pick up skills, tricks, and routines. Their people-pleasing natures drive them to obey their owners entirely. They are highly receptive to reward-based training, specifically with food and affection.
This is a favorable quality if you’re a first time owner.
Pitbulls Are Relatively Low Maintenance
Thanks to their short coat, a pitbull’s grooming needs are minimal. You will not need to invest in professional grooming services with a pitbull like you would with a pomeranian.
With a pitbull, you can expect the grooming basics as a first time owner. This includes nail clipping, ear cleaning, occasional baths, and brushing their teeth regularly. This makes them low maintenance compared to other breeds. They’re generally known to be healthier and are prone to less health problems, compared to say, brachycephaliac breeds like French Bulldogs.
This is a major bonus if you’re considering a pitbull as a first time owner, since you won’t need to spend an arm and a leg on professional grooming services monthly! Of course, there will still be shedding but often regular vet visits and basic hygiene practices are the most they require in terms of upkeep.
Pitbulls Are the Most Common Dogs in Shelters Which Makes Them Easy to Adopt
Aside from all the wonderful reasons pitbulls make wonderful choices for the first time dog owner, they are also very common in animal shelters. Adopting a pitbull for your first dog is a win-win for multiple reasons.
By adopting a pitbull, they will usually already be spayed or neutered, fully vaccinated, microchipped, and have undergone behavioral and physical wellness examinations by a professional veterinary team. This can save you a lot of money upfront and provide peace of mind. Generally, you can adopt a healthy adult pitbull for anywhere between $50 to $200 in the United States which is much less than the usual (and expensive) cost of a dog.
Price can vary state to state, and by other factors such as age and the shelter’s capacity. Occasionally, some shelters will completely waive the adoption fee for pitbulls in aims to get them into loving homes by reducing the financial barriers to adoption!
When you choose to adopt a pitbull, you choose to save a life. By adopting, you’re helping to break the endless cycle of animal homelessness and overpopulation. It’s unfortunate that they’ve had to face so much scrutiny and discrimination in the last few decades due to misrepresentation in the media. This is mostly because people don’t understand what a pitbull truly is.
Reasons Why Pitbulls May NOT Be a Good Choice for First Time Owners
If you’re thinking about getting a pitbull as a first time dog owner, it’s important to first familiarize yourself with the breed, and the unfortunate stigma surrounding them. Pitbulls have notoriously, and unfairly, faced more stigma in the dog world, arguably more than any other breed.
Like any breed of dog, there are pros and cons. If you’re considering getting a pitbull as a first time owner, they may not be a good choice if you’re not emotionally prepared to deal with the stigma that comes with owning the breed, and the physical power they possess.
Pitbulls Aren’t One Singular Breed, Which Can Cause Confusion and Misconceptions
There’s a lot of misconception about what a pitbull actually is.
‘Pitbull’ is actually considered a blanket term for several types of dogs, even though these are not all the same breed. These include:
- American Pit Bull Terrier
- American Staffordshire Terrier
- Staffordshire Bull Terrier
However, things become even more confusing when you consider that the American Staffordshire Terrier is actually a standalone breed recognized by the AKC. Despite this clear distinction, the broad term pitbull is still used to describe all these breeds, even thought it’s not entirely accurate.
Even though these breeds are different, they share some common ancestors and this video does a great job explaining their history:
When you hear about bans against certain breeds (which aren’t always exclusive to pitbulls), they’re not singling out a ‘pitbull’ but bully breeds in general. Today, several cities across the U.S. and certain countries around the world have banned ‘pitbulls’ even though there are really several breeds that fit under this umbrella.
While a dog may have ‘bully’ characteristics, it might not be a purebred bully. For example, if someone were to report an incident, and the dog had ‘pitbull’ features (like a thicker skull and muscular build, which lots of breeds have), one could say that it was a pitbull responsible, even if it was just a mixed breed.
This can be frustrating as a first time owner, as you see how much love and joy your pitbull has to offer. Dealing with misconceptions that your pitbull is violent or mean can be disheartening. It’s important to understand the scope of responsibility that comes with owning a pitbull, since they are a bigger breed that’s prone to stigma. One of the factors that feeds stigma is their unfortunate history.
Pitbulls Do Have a Darker History Than Other Breeds
It is important to acknowledge that while pitbulls are incredible, loving breeds, they can do damage if there were to be an unfortunate incident, just like most bigger breeds can. It’s essential to familiarize yourself as a first time owner with the pitbull’s history, since this is one of the main reasons they are so heavily stigmatized.
This is mostly due to the fact that the their ancestors, the now extinct Old English Bulldogs, were bred to engage in a barbaric sport called “bull-baiting” in the United Kingdom during the 1800s. This is when two Old English Bulldogs would face a bull in the ring, fighting it until it collapsed from exhaustion, or worse.
When bull-baiting was outlawed with the Cruelty to Animals Act of 1835, Old English Bulldogs were used for “ratting,” a process where the dog would be set loose in a pit to kill as many rats as they could in the least amount of time. Old English Bulldogs didn’t possess as much agility as hoped for the sport, so they were crossbred with terriers, which were used for getting rid of household vermin.
Thus, the Pitbull Terrier was born: “pit” for ratting within a pit, and “bull” for bull-baiting.
Once pitbulls were brought to America, they were used for multiple purposes: herding and guarding livestock, aiding their owners on hunts, and protecting their families against intruders and thieves. As they showed off their love and loyalty, families began to admire and breed them for their companionship and incredible drive as working dogs.
With their dark history, it’s easy to see how the controversy surrounding owning a pitbull has taken on a life of its own in recent decades. While they were bred to bite and hold in combat sports, they don’t bite humans as much as some smaller breeds, like chihuahuas or dachshunds. They also don’t have a ‘lockjaw,’ which is another popular misconception about the breed.
While they do have a strong bite, it pales in comparison to a rottweiler’s. However, they are still powerful breeds that require education on the owner’s part.
Pitbulls Are Very Powerful Breeds
Education and training are essential when owning a pitbull. It’s a fact that some breeds of dogs are much more powerful than others, and ultimately, can absolutely pose a larger threat than a miniature poodle if an incident were to occur. This is true for pitbulls, but it’s also true for dobermans, boxers, and rottweilers.
Some pitbulls are very lazy and can immediately get along with other animals and other dogs. Some pitbulls may need intense physical exercise, may not be fond of strangers, and not like other animals. However, this is the case for plenty of breeds. Temperament varies from to dog to dog, and no two pitbulls are the same.
They are incredibly powerful, and depending on a specific pitbull’s energy level, it could be too much for a first time owner. Some large breeds have the potential to pull their owners on walks or are naturally reactive. This isn’t the case for every pitbull, but because they are powerful, it’s important to take this into account as a first time owner.
Yes, a pitbull can do more damage than a chihuahua or cat, but so can most large dog breeds. Though they have been shrouded with controversy, they are an entirely safe breed to own if you know what you’re getting yourself into, as with any pet. They are powerful dogs but that does not mean their sole purpose is destruction or violence.
Also, just because it’s a bully breed, doesn’t mean it’s a bully! Stigma surrounds multiple dog breeds, from rottweilers to chihuahuas. It’s important to remember that every dog is an individual being and they have so much love to give!
How to Care For a Pitbull As a First Time Owner
Despite the stigma, pitbulls have needs just like any other dog breed. Compared to other dog breeds, as previously mentioned, they are relatively low maintenance and fairly healthy. If you’re thinking about adding a pitbull to the family, it’s important to know what they require, beyond the stigma they face.
A Pitbull’s Physical Needs
Pitbull breeds, much like other large breeds, require regular physical exercise and mental stimulation. While this can vary as you take into account their age and physical abilities, pitbulls generally need anywhere between 45 minutes to an hour of exercise daily.
Pitbulls are classified as terrier breeds. When most think of terriers, they might think of scruffy, fast, inquisitive little pups. Compared to their terrier cousins, some pitbulls may appear to have much less energy!
While some pitbulls are very energetic and can even make great farm dogs, some love being couch potatoes. It’s important to individually assess your pitbull’s physical needs. However, regular exercise is recommended for dog breeds of all sizes and ages for their long-term health.
While a pitbull will suffice with a 45 minute or hour-long walk each day, they’re highly playful as well. Any physical activity incorporating play is sure to keep them both happy and healthy!
Long walks through public parks or even around the neighborhood are great for both mental stimulation and physical exercise. With all the sights, sounds, and smells that come with walking through public spaces, your pitbull willl get to expend their energy and also stop to smell the roses (or scents of other dogs)!
If you don’t have a solid chunk of time to walk or exercise your dog, then breaking it up throughout the day is completely fine. In fact, it provides your dog more opportunities for mental stimulation by smelling and sniffing all the world has to offer. If you’re a first time owner with limited time, aim for two shorter walks daily.
As previously mentioned, physical exercise is essential not just for physical health, but behavioral health. Larger breeds, on average, need more exercise. By investing time into their physical health, you’re also investing in their behavioral health.
Without regular exercise, any dog can become restless and resort to barking or destroying your favorite shoes. As a first time owner, it’s important to keep your pitbull happy and healthy by providing them the exercise and mental stimulation they need to thrive!
A Pitbull’s Nutritional Needs
If you’re a first time owner, you may be wondering what to feed your pitbull. After all, a quality diet is important for any living being. Since they’re a larger breed with natural athleticism and a lot of muscle, they’re going to eat a fair amount of food throughout their life.
Diet plays a large role in a dog’s health. Certain foods can provide support for health problems a breed can be prone to. Although food isn’t a cure-all or foolproof preventative for certain health problems, it can help support vital organ and bone health.
When shopping for food for your pitbull, it’s important to prioritize nutrition. Healthy, whole ingredients, like chicken, salmon, potatoes, carrots, and peas are preferable to artificial additives, by-products, and fillers. Supplements, like glucosamine and omega fatty acids, are also important for your dog’s long-term health.
For a comprehensive list of the best dry foods for pitbulls, check out our list here. Certain dry foods can help maintain your pitbull’s health, since they are prone to certain conditions.
A Pitbull’s Possible Health Concerns
As a first time dog owner, you may not know that most breeds are prone to certain health concerns. For example, German shepherds are prone to hip dysplasia and pugs are prone to skin-fold infections. This is very common in the dog world, but it’s important to educate yourself on possible health problems you may run into with any breed.
Pitbulls are relatively healthy and can live anywhere from 12 to 15 years, which is fairly long compared to other medium and large breeds. Pitbulls generally develop fewer health problems than other breeds. This is largely due to their genetic history of not being purebred dogs, since as we now know, terriers and bulldogs were bred to create modern-day bully breeds.
However, it is possible that a pitbull can develop the following health problems in their lifetime.
Hip dysplasia is a condition related to the bones and joints that make up the hips and back legs. It occurs when the hip socket forms abnormally. Over time, it can cause lameness and arthritis. While it is a genetic condition, certain environmental factors like excessive exercise and weight fluctuation can exacerbate it.
It’s important to remember that hip dysplasia is very common in medium and larger sized breeds. It is not a condition exclusive to pitbulls. German shepherds, rottweilers, golden retrievers, and bulldogs are all prone to developing hip dysplasia as well.
If you’re a first time owner and thinking about getting a pitbull, hip dysplasia can sound scary. Rest assured, it is not a terminal condition and will not shorten a dog’s lifespan.
While there is no cure for it, there are a multitude of successful treatments that can keep your pup pain-free. A quality diet, gentle exercise, joint supplements, and pain relievers can ensure that your pitbull leads a long, happy, and healthy life.
Pitbulls are unfortunately prone to developing skin issues and conditions. They can include allergies, dermatitis, hair loss, and dry skin.
Pitbulls have shorter coats which ultimately means they’re more susceptible to the effects of environmental irritants, compared to dogs with thicker coats, like the Siberian husky. Additionally, since they evolved from bulldogs (who are widely known to have skin issues), there is a hereditary component.
Luckily, skin issues are very easy to spot and treat, especially since bully breeds have shorter coats. Skin issues can look like inflamed skin, flakey skin, or spots with missing fur. Regular veterinary checkups can prevent skin issues from impacting a pitbull’s quality of life. There are a myriad of successful treatments that can keep recurring skin issues at bay, like baths and topical medications.
If you’re a first time owner and considering getting a pitbull, be sure to regularly check their skin and coats.
Pitbulls are prone to heart problems, specifically heart disease and heart defects. These can be more serious since they often show no symptoms. However, lots of pitbulls can live their whole lives without treatment.
As a first time owner, regular veterinary visits are essential to keep your pitbull’s heart happy and healthy!
All in all, pitbulls are a great choice for first time owners as long as you take the time to educate yourself on their history, needs, and the unfair stigma they face. They have become the unfortunate face of controversy in the dog world, but just because it’s a bully breed, doesn’t mean it’s a bully!
If you’re looking for love and companionship as a first time dog owner, then a pitbull is a wonderful choice. Strong, loyal, intelligent, and tender-hearted, you will find the best friend of a lifetime in a pitbull.