How do Pitbulls Show Affection?

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Unfortunately, Pitbulls have an undeserved negative reputation with far too many people. They are often wrongly believed to be unpredictable and aggressive.

However, anyone who knows a Pitbull knows that for the average Pitbull, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Pitbulls are extremely loving and affectionate dogs with a steady temperament, but how do Pitbulls show their affection?

Pitbulls typically show affection by being as close to you as possible. They love to lean, cuddle, and climb into your lap. They are also prone to jumping up and licking your face, wagging their tail with intensity, and gazing lovingly at you while sticking by your side as much as they possibly can.

Here’s what you need to know about the other ways that Pitbulls show their affection, why this breed might be so affectionate and cuddly, and how to train the over-enthusiastically affectionate Pitbull.

Why Are Pitbulls so Affectionate?

Pitbulls have long been known for being gentle, loyal, and very affectionate. They are especially noted for their love of children. Even those that may have aggression towards other dogs are typically no more likely to be aggressive towards people and are generally very affectionate with human beings.

There are a number of key reasons that Pitbulls may be especially affectionate:

  • They have been bred to have bite inhibition. In the 1800s, Pitbulls were developed to fight with other dogs or dispatch rats in a ring. Dog handlers needed to be able to go into the ring to restrain their dog without being bitten, so Pitbulls were bred to be even less likely to bite than most other breeds of dogs. 
  • All-purpose workers. As the Pitbulls role evolved in the United States, they were used as all-purpose herders, farm dogs, service dogs, guardians, and even for hunting hogs. They worked side-by-side with people and became very affectionate towards the entire family both as a working dog and as a companion. 
  • They may be grateful. Many of the Pitbulls kept as companion dogs today have been rescued from shelters. These dogs may have faced cruelty or neglect in their past, and many owners swear that their dogs seem to understand that they have been saved and express their gratefulness with affection.

Why Are Pitbulls So Cuddly?

While many breeds of dogs may express their affection with a gentle lick on the hand or just a desire to be near their people, Pitbulls tend to be a bit more exuberant in their expression of affection. A Pitbull is more likely to want to be on top of you than next to you if at all possible. 

Pitbulls tend to be oversized lap dogs, loving nothing more than to put as much of their body in contact with their favorite person as possible. Pitbulls are likely so cuddly in part because they are such physical dogs. In their history as herding and hunting dogs, they have used their body to physically control animals. 

Pitbulls also tend to be a bit less sensitive physically than some other breeds, and don’t mind an occasional accidental elbow to the head or being stepped on, which makes them more willing to be on top of you than other breeds. 

Who Do Pitbulls Tend To Be Affectionate With?

The average Pitbull will be extremely affectionate with everybody they meet. Most of the time, a Pitbull’s affection doesn’t just extend to their family, but to just about any human they encounter. These dogs are people lovers that will climb into just about any lap that will have them. They are especially noted for their love of children, and may be more likely to show affection to kids than to anybody else.

The exception to this rule is Pitbulls that may have come from an abusive or neglectful past. Pitbulls that have been abused by a particular group of people, such as men, children, or an older person, may be less likely to show affection towards this group. Some Pitbulls who have suffered abuse in the past may be very affectionate towards family members or a couple of people in the family and reserved or fearful around other people.

How Do Pitbulls Show Affection?

Pitbulls tend to be some of the most affectionate dogs you can find. This makes them a great pick for not only family pets but also as service and emotional support dogs. But exactly how can you expect your Pitbull to show affection towards you, your family, and anyone else you might meet? Here are ten common ways that Pitbulls show affection. 

1. Leaning on You

Pitbulls are prone to throwing their weight around, and this extends to how they show affection as well. Most Pitbulls like to lean against a person while they get scratched. Many Pitbulls even enjoy squeezing between your legs while you are standing or going underneath your legs while you are sitting and putting as much weight on you as possible. 

Your Pitbull may lean on you so much that they actually fall over if you take a step backwards, so be sure to warn your leaning Pitbull that you are about to move to spare them a fall.

All this leaning and cuddling can mean a lot of shedding so make sure you’re up to speed on how to manage your Pittie’s coat.

2. Jumping on You

The average Pitbull doesn’t have much concern with personal space. They want to be as close to your face as possible and will jump on you to get there. Many Pitbulls show their affection by leaping towards your face, tongue outstretched. Many people find it best to bend down when a Pitbull comes up so that they can reach your face and slather you with affection without having to jump for it.

3. Licking You

Pitbulls are among the most licky of dog breeds. Most Pitbulls won’t just stop with a gentle lick to the hand. They’d rather wash your entire arm with their tongue. Pitbulls will lick your hands, your legs, your face, your hair, and anything else that they can reach. 

Many Pitbulls express their affection upon greeting you after an absence by enthusiastically licking as much as possible. Pitbulls may also offer quick licks throughout the day to reassure themselves of the affection between you.

4. Flea Biting

Many Pitbulls may express their affection with you by “flea biting”, or gently nibbling along your skin or hair. If you don’t know what they are doing, it can be a bit intimidating to see those big teeth against your skin, but rest assured that this is an expression of love, affection, and a desire to groom you. Many Pitbulls will alternate between licking and flea biting.

5. Being Your shadow

If you can’t seem to get any privacy from your Pitbull, even when you try to go to the bathroom, your Pitbull is very likely showing affection. Your Pitbull may seem to love you so much that they can’t stand even to be in a separate room from you for even a moment. 

Most Pitbulls go a step further than just wanting to be in the room. They want to be making physical contact with you as much as they possibly can. You may find that you are constantly stepping on your Pitbull or that your Pitbull is always bumping up against you. It is important that you train your Pitbull to tolerate being apart from you from an early age so that they do not develop separation anxiety.

6. Contented Grunts and Moans

Pitbulls aren’t affectionately called the pigs of the dog world for no reason. They are often grunting, snorting, and making a bunch of other sounds that do not immediately seem dog-like. It is very common for Pitbulls to moan and grunt, especially when you are petting them. These sounds are a sign of the Pitbull’s complete happiness with being paid attention to and are a clear sign of affection.

7. Tail Wagging

Like most dogs, Pitbulls wag their tails when they are happy, affectionate, or excited. However, many Pitbull owners find that when Pitbulls wag their tails, it is more like beating the air around them with their tails than it is like wagging. 

Being hit by an enthusiastic Pitbull tail can even leave a mark. This is one of the reasons that some people choose to dock their Pitbull’s tail rather than leave it long. The muscular, powerful tale of a Pitbull can hurt your legs and knock down anything that is left on a low table. To mediate the damage, you can ask your Pitbull to sit or lie down when they are wagging their tail with their affection and excitement.

8. Showing Their Belly

A Pitbull that rolls over for belly rubs is not only seeking out affection from you but showing their trust and affection towards you. You’ll often find that Pitbulls like to lick you or nibble you while you are rubbing their belly. 

If your Pitbull rolls over for you when they see you approaching, especially if it is paired with a comfortable stretch and yawn, you can be confident that your Pitbull is very comfortable around you and has a lot of affection for you.

9. Giving You a Toy

Many Pitbulls place a lot of value on their toys, so the willingness to hand one over to you is a clear sign of how much affection they have for you. Many Pitbulls like to pick up a toy and parade around before presenting it to you when you first come home or when you are reunited after an absence. 

Many people seem to perform this behavior as a way to keep themselves from jumping all over you, licking too much, or doing other behavior to express their affection that you would rather they not do.

10. Gazing at You

If you’ve ever had the feeling that you are being watched, only to look over and see your Pitbull staring lovingly at you, you are seeing a clear sign of affection. Pitbulls often blink slowly as well as gazing at you. 

They may also tend to have a dopey, happy smile on their face and wag their tail and put their ears back and forth when you look at them. All of these signs indicate that your Pitbull is feeling very affectionate towards you, but may not feel that you would be happy with them coming over to seek affection at this moment. 

What Isn’t a Sign of Affection in Pitbulls?

Your Pitbull loves you a lot, and much of what they do indicates their affection for you. However, not everything that your Pitbull does is an indication of their affection level. Here is some behavior that may be mistaken for affection but in fact indicates something else:

Aggression Towards Other Animals Or People

Some people believe that when their Pitbull shows aggression towards other people or animals, especially while keeping their back to their favorite person, it may be a sign that their Pitbull loves them and is trying to protect them. However, a confident, well-balanced Pitbull will not feel the need to protect you from friendly people and animals. 

Aggressive behavior like this much more likely comes from possessiveness or jealousy. It has now been well established in scientific research that dogs appear to feel and act on jealousy much like what people experience. Pushing other animals or people away or showing aggression towards them may be a clear sign of jealousy. Possessiveness causes high levels of jealousy. 

Some Pitbulls are simply aggressive towards other animals or people and it has nothing to do with you. Regardless, shows of aggression from your Pitbull do not indicate their affection towards you. 

Continuous Licking

Licking is a sign of affection in Pitbulls, but if your Pitbull licks you continuously, and seems obsessive about it, this may be a different behavior than showing affection. Constant licking may be an attempt from your anxious Pitbull to self soothe or it may show compulsive behavior. 

If your Pitbull doesn’t just lick you in moments when you are showing affection to each other or when you are reunited, but constantly tries to lick you even when you are both just relaxing, it may be a sign of problem behavior. A bitter spray like this one on Amazon can be very helpful in discouraging obsessive licking in your Pitbull. 

What To Do If Your Pitbull Is Too Affectionate?

When it comes to affection, the typical Pitbull serves up plenty, often more than the average person always wants. Your Pitbull must learn how to express affection in ways that work well for you and be able to control themselves so that they are not overly exuberant, especially around children or when meeting new people.

Typically, the best way to reduce overly affectionate displays from a Pitbull is to leave the room when they are being too affectionate. Your Pitbull will quickly learn that their overabundant affection resulted in the opposite of what they wanted. 

However, there is also a lot you can do to teach your Pitbull how to express their affection more appropriately. If your Pitbull can’t seem to stop licking you when they first see you after a separation, encourage them to pick up a toy and carry it around so they have something to do with their mouth other than lick you. 

If your Pitbull keeps jumping up, turn around and only reward them with affection when they are on the ground so that they will learn to stay firmly planted on the ground and express affection from that level. Pitbulls that wag their tail too intensely can be taught to sit or lie down when they are very excited with affection to reduce the damage that their tail can cause.

Do Pitbull Puppies and Adults Show Affection in The Same Way?

In many ways, both Pitbull puppies and grown Pitbulls show affection similarly. For the most part, puppies will simply show expression more intensely that adults. For instance, Pitbull puppies tend to lick more, jump more, and wag more vigorously than adult dogs. However, there are a few things that Pitbull puppies do to express affection that are less likely in adult dogs, although certainly still possible:

Chewing on Your Things

Chewing is one of the most frustrating behaviors in all dogs, but it can be an especially difficult problem in Pitbulls thanks to their powerful jaws. Many Pitbull tend to go through a more intense teething stage than other breeds. 

Even though you are surely training your Pitbull puppy to focus their chewing on appropriate puppy toys it is very common for Pitbull puppies to want to chew on your things, especially when you aren’t there. This is very likely because they want to surround themselves with your smell and therefore seek out your possessions for their chewing. It can be helpful to remember that this chewing is a sign of affection when you’re Pit Puppy has just destroyed your best shoes. 

Play Biting

Pitbull puppies don’t just chew on your stuff, they also like to chew on you. Play is one way that Pitbull puppies express affection, and play biting is one of the most common ways for them to express this playful affection towards you. After all, this is how they would have shown affection to their mother and littermates, so it makes sense that they would show it to you as well. 

Are Male or Female Pitbulls More Affectionate?

Typically, there is very little difference in how male and female Pitbulls express affection or how much affection they express. Pitbulls are not one of the breeds that shows a lot of diversity in behavior between the genders. Both male and female Pitbulls tend to be gregarious, outgoing, and very affectionate.

Are Pitbulls Affectionate with Other Animals?

Some Pitbulls are dog-selective or may be aggressive towards all other dogs, but many Pitbulls enjoy the company of other dogs very much. Some Pitbulls get along better with dogs in their own family then they do with strange dogs.

When Pitbulls get along well together, they tend to be very affectionate with each other. It is very normal to see two Pitbulls lying very close together or even on top of one another. They often walk bumping into each other and typically want to be in the same space as the other one.

Pitbulls can also be very affectionate to other sorts of pets. Some Pitbulls get along extremely well with household cats, small animals, and birds. Other Pitbulls experience prey drive, which can interfere with the relationship they may have with other pets in the household.

When Pitbulls get along well with other species, they tend to be very affectionate, be very tolerant of other pets, and show their affection by trying to be close to them and licking them.

How to Show Affection to Your Pitbull

Surely you don’t want the affection between you and your Pitbull to be one-sided. You want to show affection to your Pitbull as well. Here are some good techniques to show your affection with your Pitbull and increase the bond between you:

  • Pets and cuddles. The vast majority of Pitbulls love being pet and cuddled. They are usually happy to take affection like this whenever you’re willing to give it. Pitbulls are especially excited to get affection after they haven’t seen you for a while or when they are seeking out affection from you.
  • Training. Many people don’t think about training as a way of showing affection, but in fact, giving your Pitbull opportunities to focus on you and please you shows them that you care about them and what they do and can dramatically increase the bond between you.
  • Go places together. Pitbulls tend to be very adventurous, bold, and fearless, which can make them great companions wherever you want to go. Going places together shows your Pitbull that you enjoy their company and want them with you and also builds up to the bond between you. 

Enjoy Your Affectionate Pitbull

Pitbulls are among the most affectionate breeds of dogs you can find. If you want a dog that will be your constant cuddle buddy and leave no doubt in your mind that you are loved, the Pitbull may be the breed for you. Be sure to train your Pitbull and take steps to curb their overwhelming affection if it is too much for you and you will likely be very happy with the relationship you have with your Pitbull.