Robust, quick, and brimming with vigor, today's American Pit Bull Terrier is an intelligent roughneck who wants to please and is ever hopeful of being a lap dog. Supremely confident, he views the world as a giant playhouse created especially for his amusement and is something of a perennial puppy: He enjoys playing tug, catch, and other games well into old age. Good-natured with children, the APBT has the sturdiness not to mind if his tail or toe is accidentally stepped on, and can play for hours. Some APBTs even seem to sense which children enjoy rough-and-tumble games and which ones are too tiny for such shenanigans. The APBT also enjoys training sessions and learns quickly as long as his trainer is fair, firm, and praises a job well done.
But the APBT is not the right dog for everyone. Many people wish to have a dog who is more compliant, or calmer, or less animated. Other people are worried about the breed's fighting history.
Are You Ready for a Dog?
Adding a dog to your household should be a well-thought-out decision. You are taking on responsibility for a living, thinking, caring creature who would be willing to give his life for you. A dog should never be acquired as an impulse; there is too much at stake. It's always best to think through what's involved in owning a dog and be honest with yourself. So let's take a look at dog ownership and see if you can do what's needed for any dog, and then think specifically about an APBT.
First of all, do you have time for a dog? Dogs need time. They need your companionship and affection, which requires that you spend time with them. Dashing in the door, tossing down some dog food, and taking off again are not enough.
Do you live in a place where a dog can live happily? Are dogs allowed? Will your neighbor complain? Is there a place where a dog can run and play? Not all neighborhoods are dog friendly.
Will you be living alone with the dog or are there roommates or other family members? Does everyone want a dog? If you want the dog but someone else does not, that can be very difficult for all concerned.
Is there someone in the household who might have trouble with the dog? Perhaps a baby, young kids, or a senior citizen? Although these people might enjoy life with the dog, they may need to be taken into consideration when you choose the right dog for your home.
Do you have any other pets in the home? Many dogs will live quite nicely with other pets, but other dogs are not at all safe with them.
Have you lived with a dog before? Do you know what to expect? You may want to borrow a friend's dog for a weekend and see if this lifestyle change is going to be something you'll be happy with.
Are you a meticulous housekeeper? Do you have white carpet? It's tough to be happy with a dog in the house if you're worried about dirt being tracked inside. Dogs do track in dirt, and they shed, and sometimes drool. A wagging tail can knock over knickknacks, and puppies chew on everything.
This last point may seem politically incorrect and it's certainly not something most people want to talk about, but it needs to be addressed: Can you afford a dog? Yes, you can adopt or buy a dog relatively inexpensively, but that's just the beginning of the costs you'll face. You will need to go shopping before you bring home your dog so that you'll have all the necessary supplies on hand. You'll need dog toys, chew bones, a leash and collar, grooming supplies, and more. Your dog will need nutritious food every day. Plus, he will need to be seen by a vet shortly after you bring him home so that you know he's healthy, and he will need regular check-ups. You will also want to set aside some money for emergencies; the emergency veterinary clinic is not cheap!
Dog ownership is wonderful. A dog can definitely be a person's best friend. But make sure you're ready for a dog. If you are, keep reading.
Even though the APBT's history was often one of fighting bulls, bears, and other dogs, he was never allowed to be aggressive toward people. Fighting dogs had to be handled by people all the time, even when they were overstimulated for a fight. In fact, because they were handled in all sorts of circumstances, fighting dogs had to be especially friendly, steady, and reliable around people. During the era of bullbaiting, when the bull tossed a dog, his owner tried to break his fall by catching the dog on his own shoulders.
Today, a properly bred APBT is so exuberantly happy upon meeting his owner's friends (or even friendly strangers) that new owners sometimes worry their dog is too sweet and fun-loving to protect their home and family. Never fear: The joyous tail thumper who greets a friendly stranger without hesitation is the same dog who will steadfastly stop an unfriendly stranger. In fact, one of the attributes of the APBT is his ability to tell the difference between friend and foe.
The protective instinct of the American Pit Bull Terrier usually surfaces when the dog is around ten months old, although this time can vary by three months or so. An APBT with the correct temperament will not threaten to attack a human without a very good reason, but will begin becoming alert to the doorbell or the sight of a stranger approaching the house. There have been numerous cases that prove the exceptional ability of the family APBT to sense, and signal to his family, when a person or a situation could be dangerous. (Exceptions to letting a APBT guard at will should be made if the dog is overly aggressive, or if he is destined to be used in a specific type of protection work.)
Some APBTs of either sex are maternal with baby animals of almost any species, and females have been known to nurse almost anything, from orphaned kittens to potbellied pigs. Although most APBTs dislike unfamiliar cats, they will live peacefully with the family cat.
APBTs exude self-confidence, not only at home but in the park or on a noisy city street as well. They don't respect territorial rights as so many other breeds do, but act as if whatever property they happen to be standing on is theirs. While the degree of aggression toward other dogs varies among individuals, APBTs are often so self-assured that they ignore dogs of other breeds rather than pick fights to prove themselves. But this is not always the case. You should be aware that during adolescence (from about nine to fourteen months of age), your APBT could suddenly develop a desire to test his strength against other dogs. That's one of the reasons why training is so important. When an APBT is out for a walk on a leash and is eyed menacingly by another dog, the APBT's immediate reaction might be to face the other dog, ready to take him on. If the APBT is trained, however, and his owner corrects this breech of manners and redirects the dog's attention, the APBT will often ignore the other dog.
The Dog's Senses
The dog's eyes are designed so that he can see well in relative darkness, has excellent peripheral vision, and is very good at tracking moving objects—all skills that are important to a carnivore. Dogs also have good depth perception. Those advantages come at a price, though: Dogs are nearsighted and are slow to change the focus of their vision. It's a myth that dogs are colorblind. However, while they can see some (but not all) colors, their eyes were designed to most clearly perceive subtle shades of gray—an advantage when they are hunting in low light.
Dogs have about six times fewer taste buds on their tongue than humans do. They can taste sweet, sour, bitter, and salty tastes, but with so few taste buds it's likely that their sense of taste is not very refined.
A dog's ears can swivel independently, like radar dishes, to pick up sounds and pinpoint their location. Dogs can locate a sound in M00 of a second and hear sound four times farther away than we can (which is why there is no reason to yell at your dog). They can also hear sounds at far higher pitches than we can.
In their first few days of life, puppies primarily use their sense of touch to navigate their world. Whiskers on the face, above the eyes, and below the jaws are sensitive enough to detect changes in airflow. Dogs also have touch-sensitive nerve endings all over their bodies, including on their paws.
Smell may be a dog's most remarkable sense. Dogs have about 220 million scent receptors in their nose, compared to about 5 million in humans, and a large part of the canine brain is devoted to interpreting scent. Not only can dogs smell scents that are very faint, but they can also accurately distinguish between those scents. In other words, when you smell a pot of spaghetti sauce cooking, your dog probably smells tomatoes and onions and garlic and oregano and whatever else is in the pot.
If you feel the desire to do volunteer work, you may just decide to have your dog volunteer with you. An APBT thrives with a job to do and will be happy to work by your side.
APBTs enjoy being the center of attention, are confident enough to adapt to unusual surroundings, and have a higher than usual tolerance for pain. These traits place them among the top breeds in canine therapy work. They gleefully show off their obedience training and their favorite tricks at children's hospitals, senior centers, and schools for the mentally and physically challenged. Petting sessions often follow the programs, and APBTs excel at giving affection in institutions because they aren't bothered by an occasional bump from a cane or a walker. Laying their heads in the laps of the elderly in rockers and children in wheelchairs, they look up lovingly and grunt happily, even when petted or poked a little too hard.
APBTs are also serving as search and rescue dogs. Again, their high pain tolerance enables them to work in urban rubble that might intimidate other dogs. Although some breeds are known to have keener senses of smell (Bloodhounds, German Shepherds, and Doberman Pinschers, for example), APBTs are well able to learn air-scenting and tracking techniques and learn it quite proficiently.
American Pit Bull Terriers with temperament problems used to be the rare exceptions, but unfortunately they have become more common. This must be mentioned because a dangerous disposition is a menace to your family, your neighbors, and the breed itself. Every breed produces occasional problem dogs who never become enjoyable companions, but the APBT is simply too strong and capable to be allowed any mental instability.
Beware of the extremes—dogs who are either aggressive or extremely timid around people. APBTs who are aggressive toward people are not representative of the breed and are far too dangerous to be pets. Painfully shy dogs are also atypical and may bite out of fear.
Characteristics of the APBT
Strong desire to please Intelligent and trainable Protective and watchful Energetic, strong, robust Enjoys being the center of attention
Good breeders are careful to choose animals of fine character for breeding stock but, infrequently, a bad pup may still emerge. Even with the best breeding pair, rare problems, such as too little oxygen during birth or a tumor on the brain, can destroy what would have been a delightful disposition.
The primary cause of bad temperament, though, is bad breeding. Breeding is an art, and those who decide to breed must educate themselves about genetics and about the breed.
Unfortunately, bad dogs can also be created. Some people delight in owning a dangerous dog. Such people might acquire a friendly little puppy and encourage him to become mean. Eager to please, the dog will grow up to be just as bad as his owner desires. In addition, unfair and overly harsh discipline can reduce an outgoing pup to a cowering bundle of nerves—the first step on the way to biting out of fear.
Finally, neglect probably negates more happy-go-lucky puppy personalities than any other error of dog ownership. Seldom done on purpose, it just seems to happen when the novelty of having a puppy wears off. Soon the young dog is constantly confined to a crate, tied out on a chain, or left alone in the kennel or yard with no human contact except at feeding time. Lonely, bored, and isolated from his human family, the puppy will be unable to develop his unique character and could become aloof, shy, cranky, or aggressive.
If dogs could choose their owners instead of the other way around, APBTs would probably look for owners who are blessed with high spirits and the joy of living. This dog sometimes romps around and around the room simply to convey his own delight in life. In fact, many people consider the breed's perennial puppiness an endearing plus!
The APBT still wants to frolic long after his muzzle turns gray, and most owners enjoy playing with their dogs. A dog owner can be silly, laugh a lot, and yet still maintain control of both the dog and the situation. Play is wonderful—for both dog and owner—and should happen every single day.
APBT owners must be willing to take the time to train their dogs, because all APBTs must be trained. A breed as strong and robust as this one, especially with instincts to fight, must be well trained and that training must begin in puppy-hood and continue throughout the dog's life. Successful owners know this and are willing to take on the responsibility and fun of training their dog.
Above all, the best APBT owner loves their dog.
rour new dog will be a vital part of your life for the next twelve to fourteen years. It's important, then, to make sure you choose your new best friend wisely. Although any dog may be able to fit into your life, when you make a well-researched, educated choice your chances are much better of that dog being "the perfect one."
You can find an APBT in many places: from a breeder, from an APBT rescue group, at your local shelter, or even in a cardboard box outside the local grocery store. Although the puppy outside the grocery store will be the cheapest and you may get a sense of satisfaction from saving the life of a dog facing death at the shelter, is one of these dogs really the right choice for you? Let's take a look at the pros and cons of each.
The process of choosing the right puppy for you should begin long before you set eyes on fat, wiggling, adorable APBT babies. If you wait until you see those puppies, you won't do any research at all! But if you want a well-bred, healthy, mentally sound APBT, you'll need to do some research.
A breeder is someone who breeds dogs of a specific breed. In the terminology of dog fanciers, a reputable breeder is someone who knows his breed well, has studied the genetics of the breed, and chooses the sire and dam of each litter carefully.
Breeder, Rescue, Shelter, or Free?
Reputable breeders usually show their dogs in conformation competition so that judges (who are often also breeders) can evaluate the dogs in their breeding program. Many breeders also compete in other canine sports (obedience, agility, herding, carting, or weight pulling) so their dogs can use their minds and bodies. Reputable breeders keep up on health issues in the breed, too, and have the necessary health tests done before breeding any dogs.
A reputable breeder screens the people who come to buy one of their puppies because they're concerned about the puppies' future. The breeder may ask you to fill out an application, may ask for references, and will certainly ask you if you've owned dogs before. If you don't sound like an ideal APBT owner, they will not sell you one. Don't take this personally. The breeder is not saying you're a bad person; they're just saying you aren't the right person for their puppy. Many reputable breeders have waiting lists for future litters and if you want one of their puppies, you may have to pay a small deposit and put your name on the waiting list.
If you decide to buy an APBT from a reputable breeder, you will be getting a puppy from someone who will be there for you in the future. He will answer questions for you as your puppy grows up. You will have been able to see the mother of the litter, and hopefully the father, too. This will give you a good idea of your future puppy's temperament and size. Your puppy will have been introduced to friendly people and will have heard a variety of household sounds. Your puppy will have had her first worming and first set of shots. You will not be allowed to bring her home before 8 weeks of age and often not until 10 weeks old. And although it's impossible to predict the future, you will be able to take some comfort that the breeder has done everything possible to make sure you have a strong, healthy, well-adjusted puppy.
A backyard breeder is someone who has bred their dog but does not have the knowledge (or desire, or energy, or finances) to do what is necessary to produce
the best dogs possible. This could be someone who has a female APBT and, because they want puppies, they breed their female to a friend's male down the street. No health checks were done, no studies of genetics or background checks were done, and in many instances the dogs may not have been registered, either.
A backyard breeder may also be someone who hasn't spayed their female APBT and then doesn't keep her safe when she comes into season and is bred by a wandering male. The puppies may or may not be purebred; the male (or males) may not even be known.
With APBTs, unfortunately, the term backyard breeder also applies to those people who hope to breed bad dogs—dogs with aggressive, violent temperaments. These dogs are used for illegal dogfighting or as accessories (or weapons) in other illegal activities.
Backyard breeders may produce some nice puppies. It has happened, and the smart backyard breeder will ask for help from an experienced, reputable breeder. But they are just as likely to produce dogs with problems. In addition, once the puppies are born, the backyard breeder rarely knows what the puppies need to grow up well, so the pups may not be handled enough or correctly, may not have the socialization they need, and may not have their first sets of shots. Backyard breeders often sell their puppies as soon as they are weaned, which may be between 5 and 6 weeks of age; this is much too soon for the pups to leave their mother and littermates.
Not everyone wants or needs a puppy. Many times the best choice is an APBT past puppyhood. After all, puppies are a lot of work. They are babies and need constant supervision and guidance, and it takes two to three years before an APBT is grown up. If you think a half-grown puppy, a young adult, or even an older APBT might be the best dog for you, you may want to contact a local APBT rescue group.
Purebred rescue groups are organized by local breed clubs or simply by groups of people who love their breed. These people wish to save homeless dogs of their breed from death at local shelters and find these dogs permanent, loving, educated homes.
Some rescue groups will take in dogs from the local shelters, while others only take in dogs from owners who can no longer keep them. The homeless dogs are usually kept in foster homes where they are evaluated for temperament and physical health, are spayed or neutered, vaccinated, and trained. People who wish to adopt a dog go through an application process much like that for a reputable breeder. An application is required, as are references. A home inspection is usually required also, as is a securely fenced yard.
Although the adopter of a rescue dog may not know as much about the background of their dog as they would if they bought a dog from a reputable breeder, the evaluation process is usually very thorough. APBT rescue groups are careful not to adopt out dogs who are aggressive toward people or overly aggressive toward other dogs. Rescue groups are also very good about following up after the adoption. If you need help or simply have questions, the group will be there for you.
Dogs end up in animal shelters for many reasons. Some people buy an APBT without researching the breed, and when the puppy is half grown they find they are in over their head and cannot handle this powerful, exuberant young dog. Other APBTs have not been spayed or neutered and escape from their yard and are picked up as strays. Sometimes an owner passes away and other family members do not want the grieving dog. Because APBTs are often the status symbol pet for some people involved in unscrupulous activities, some APBTs end up in the shelter when their owner has gone to jail.
Shelters are as good or bad as the community that supports them. Some shelters are wonderful. The dogs are housed well, kept clean, and get a lot of attention. Other shelters are horrible.
An APBT in a shelter is basically an unknown. With the dog kept in a run, you won't know whether she is good with kids, other animals, or different people. You may be able to take the dog out for a walk to see if she's had any training, but the dog will be so excited to get out that the walk may not show you anything except how strong she is. You won't know anything about the APBTs breeding, health, or how she was treated.
A dog from a good shelter will have had a health checkup, will be spayed or neutered, will be microchipped (for identification), and will be up to date on all vaccinations. She may also have been evaluated for temperament. But shelter evaluations of scared dogs in stressful conditions are not always accurate.
Many people like to adopt a dog from a shelter because they like the feeling of saving a dog's life. And that's wonderful, as long as you understand that you are getting an unknown.
My grandpa had a saying: "If you get something for free, that's exactly what it's worth." Although a free dog may seem like a bargain (and sometimes she is), she may also be a very expensive mistake. The APBT puppy in the box outside the grocery store may not be an APBT—she may be something totally different. It's hard to tell many breeds apart when they're young. Or the puppy may be an
APBT mix; who knows what the daddy was? The chances are also pretty good that the puppy was never wormed (momma dog probably never saw the inside of a veterinarian's office!) nor received any vaccinations. Waiting in the box for a new owner, the puppy was petted by many people, many of whom have dogs at home. What diseases was that puppy exposed to?
You will also never know what the parents of that puppy are like, and you should be extremely skeptical of anything the person with the puppies says. After all, if the mom and dad are so wonderful, why are the puppies in a box outside the grocery store? Hmmm?
Free APBTs are not a bargain. Those puppies in a box and dogs offered free through classified ads are not the best APBTs you can find. With a breed as robust and powerful as APBTs are, and with the potential for damage they can have, you need to choose the best companion possible.
It's not hard to find an APBT; they are very popular. It may be more difficult, however, to find the right APBT for you. But many resources are available to you.
Tell people you're looking for a nice APBT puppy (or adult). Ask if they know someone who has bought one from a good breeder and is happy with the dog. If you see a handsome, well-behaved APBT, talk to the owners. Ask where they got their dog.
APBT clubs can also be a good place to find a dog. Do an Internet search for a club in your area (for example, on a search engine such as Google, type in "APBT club + [your city or county, state]"). Go to a club meeting or two, or an event, and introduce yourself to people. When they learn you're serious about finding a good pet and companion, they will be more than happy to help you. Don't be insulted if people are standoffish initially, however, because APBTs sometimes attract the wrong crowd of people.
Once you get a few referrals to some breeders or rescue groups, call and ask if you can set up an appointment to talk with them. Some may prefer to talk on the telephone, while others may want to meet face to face. Ask a few questions: How long have you been breeding? Do you show your dogs? Do you compete in any dog sports? What health screening do you do? What kind of sales contract and guarantee do you offer with a puppy?
You can ask questions of the rescue group volunteer, too: Where do the dogs come from? How much do you know about the dogs you foster? How long do the dogs stay with a foster home? Do you know whether the dogs are good with kids, other dogs, or other pets? Are the dogs spayed or neutered? Vaccinated? Microchipped?
The breeder and rescue volunteer will ask you some questions, too. Why do you want an APBT? What are your goals for the dog? What kind of training will you do with her? Where do you live? Do you own your home or rent? If you rent, do you have a written okay from the landlord to have an APBT? Do you have a securely fenced yard? Will the dog live in the house or outside? Have you owned dogs before? What happened to them? The answers to these and other questions will determine whether the breeder will sell you a dog, or the rescue group will let you adopt one.
Breeders, dog trainers, and service dog experts have developed puppy tests that enable people to evaluate puppies' responses to specific stimuli and, as a result, choose puppies for certain situations. Service dog trainers are then able to train only those dogs who are best suited for their work, for example, without wasting their time and efforts on dogs who could not do the work. Puppy tests can help pet dog owners, too, because you can then choose the best dog for you, your personality, and your goals for your dog. If you want to do obedience competition in the future, for example, or therapy dog work, you can find the puppy best suited for that work.
The puppy tests are best done when the puppies are 6 to 7 weeks old. Many breeders do puppy tests, so if your dog's breeder does, just ask if you can watch. If the breeder doesn't, ask if they'll let you do it. Many will allow it.
On a sheet of paper, list all the puppies. With an APBT litter, many have different markings, so you can use that to differentiate them. If the puppies are marked alike, put colored ribbons around their necks to tell them apart.
Without getting involved, watch the litter as a group. By 6 weeks of age, the puppies will be playing with one another, bouncing around clumsily, mock fighting, growling, and barking. Make notes about their behavior. The boldest puppy (who is often also the biggest, but not always) is the first to do everything. She is usually the first to the food, the first to the toys, and the first to investigate something new. This puppy is usually a great search and rescue dog—a super working dog because she is so bold. This would not be the best dog for someone who lives alone and works long hours, or for a person with a less than dominant personality, or for a senior citizen who wants a calmer dog.
The fearful puppy is the one sitting in the corner by herself, just watching what's going on. Her tail will be tight to her hindquarters and she may duck her head. Although some fearful puppies can come out of their shell with a calm, caring, knowledgeable owner, these dogs will always have the tendency to be afraid. These dogs are not good for active, noisy families, families with children, or people who have never owned a dog before.
Most puppies will fall between these two extremes. In one situation the puppy will be bold and outgoing, while in another situation she may fall back and watch. While you're watching, see who's the crybaby, who is more outgoing, who always gets the toy, and who wants to investigate everything. Take notes.
Now you're ready for the Puppy Temperament Test in the box on pages 50—51. Have your pad of paper at hand and make notes as you go along, or better yet, ask the breeder or a friend to make notes for you. Test each puppy individually. Don't go through the scores until you have tested all the puppies.
Looking at the Results
There are no right or wrong answers to these tests. Rather, they are simply a guide to help you choose the right puppy for you. No one has figured out how to accurately foretell the future, but these tests can help us make an educated guess.
The puppy who scored mostly A's is a middle-of-the-pack dog in terms of dominance. This is not the most dominant puppy nor the most submissive. If this puppy also scored A in tossing a ball, this puppy will suit most families with children or active couples. This puppy should accept training well, and although she may have some challenges during adolescence, she should grow up to be a nice dog.
The puppy who scored A's and B's will be a little more dominant and will probably challenge you a little more as an older puppy. If the puppy scored B or D on tossing a ball, training could be more of a challenge.
The puppy who scored mostly B's is a more dominant personality. She could grow up to be a great working dog with the right owner or handler. A dog like this is not good for a person with a soft personality; this dog will need someone as strong as she is. This dog will need the structure of training from puppyhood on into adulthood.
Test each puppy in the litter individually, and be sure to take lots of notes. Pages 49-51 explain how to interpret the results. But don't go through the scores until you have tested all the puppies. And remember that there are no right or wrong answers.
Place a puppy on the ground at your feet. Stand up and walk away. Does the puppy:
A. Follow you.
B. Put herself underfoot, climbing all over your feet.
C. Do a belly crawl to follow you.
D. Ignore you and go the other direction.
Call the Puppy
Move away from the puppy, bend over and call her, spreading your hands and arms wide to encourage her. Does the puppy:
A. Come to you, tail wagging.
B. Chase you so fast you don't have a chance to call her.
C. Come slowly or crawl on her belly to you.
The puppy who scored mostly C's is a more fearful or timid personality. She must be handled carefully since this puppy could, if pushed too far, bite out of fear. She needs a calm environment, careful socialization, and a calm, confidant owner. This dog could do well in a home with a quiet couple or a single adult.
The puppy who scored C's and D's may have trouble bonding with people, and yet when she does bond, she will be devoted. Slightly fearful, cautious, and
Gently roll the puppy onto her back in your arms and place a hand on her chest. Restrain her this way for thirty seconds—no longer. Does she:
A. Struggle for a few seconds but then relax.
B. Struggle for the entire thirty seconds.
C. Cry, tuck her tail up, and perhaps urinate.
D. Struggle for fifteen seconds then stop, look at you, or perhaps look away.
When the puppy is on the ground, place both hands under her rib cage and lift her paws off the ground for thirty seconds. Does the puppy:
A. Quietly accept it without struggling.
B. Struggle for at least fifteen seconds.
C. Accept it with a tucked tail, some crying, and perhaps some urinating.
D. Struggle for more than fifteen seconds and try to turn and nip at your hands.
Tossing a Ball
With the puppy close to you, show the puppy a ball, and then toss it just a few feet away. Does the puppy:
A. Dash after it, pick it up, and bring it back to you.
B. Bring it back but not want to give it to you.
C. Go after it but not pick it up or get distracted by something else.
D. Pick it up but then walk away.
yet independent, this dog could be a challenge. The dog will need calm, positive, yet firm, patient training.
The dog who scores mostly D's is an independent soul who isn't convinced she needs people. She will need to spend lots of time with her owner so she can develop a relationship and bond with someone. Although this dog would be okay in the backyard for hours at a time, that would not be good for her mental health or for her relationship with her owners.
After evaluating the scores, take another look at the puppies. Set aside the puppies who definitely do not meet your needs and look at the remaining ones. Now you need to listen to your heart. Which one of these puppies makes your heart go thump? Which one are you drawn to?
Watch the puppies' reaction to you, too. Which one keeps trying to climb up your legs? Which one is staring at you, trying to get your attention?
Although these tests can help you narrow down your choice, it's still up to you to make the final decision, so take your time. This decision will be with you for twelve to fourteen years!
Choosing an adult dog is both a little easier and a little harder than choosing a puppy. A puppy is the result of her genetics and the care she's received as a baby, but she is also all potential. But an older puppy or adult APBT is exactly what
you're going to get. If you want a smaller, petite female, you can choose one; if you would prefer a large, muscular male dog, you can choose that, too.
An older puppy or adult APBT also has a history. That history could be a loving home where the APBT was a treasured member of the family, or it could be a neglectful home where she was ignored, unfed, and thirsty. Worse yet, she may have been discarded from a dogfighting operation.
The things that happened before she ended up in a shelter or a rescue group all have a bearing on her future. If she was beaten, she may duck every time she sees a broom, mop, or rake. She may try to bite when a hand reaches for her collar. Or she may urinate every time someone moves quickly in her direction.
APBTs are, luckily, very forgiving and many can overcome horrible beginnings. But they will always carry with them those things that happened previously. It's important that you find out as much as you can about the dog before you decide to bring her home.
Ask the shelter personnel or rescue volunteers as many questions as you can think of: What is her personality like? Does she appear afraid of anything in particular? Does she appear aggressive toward anything (or anyone) in particular? Is she calm around people of all sizes, shapes, and ethnic backgrounds? Is she worried about brooms, mops, water, the hose, or buckets? Is she frantic to get out of a run or a pen?
Tests used on baby puppies do not work on older puppies or adult dogs, so you have to rely on the information you can get from people who have been caring for the dog. Spend some time with her, ask more questions, and if you can, take her for a few walks. You may also want to spend a weekend with her—take her home—before you decide whether this is the right dog for you.
Caring for Your American Pit Bull Terrier
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