How to Care for an American Pit Bull Terrier

Though pit bulls are often perceived as aggressive, they can make wonderful pets.
pit bull dog image by Danuta Kania from

The American pit bull terrier is a breed that evolved in the United States from a mixture of various terriers, including the bull terrier and the American Staffordshire terrier. Though the breed has roots as a farm dog and family watch dog, it has also fallen victim to owners who have used it for illegal dog fighting that has earned it the reputation for being ferocious. The American pit bull is strong, tenacious, determined and very intelligent. With proper care and training, the American pit bull terrier can be a loyal, gentle companion.

Training and Socializing

Step 1

Begin training your American pit bull as soon as you bring her home. By nature, the breed is strong-willed and highly intelligent. Without guidance, your pit bull may assume that she is the boss. Whether your dog is a puppy or an adult, start by introducing her to basic commands such as "no," "down" and "off" using a firm voice.

Step 2

Teach your pit bull how to walk on a leash. Because the breed is very energetic and strong, your dog may have the urge to run ahead of you or tug at the leash. By pulling back firmly and enforcing her to walk by your side, your pit bull will learn leash manners and your walks will become easy and enjoyable.

Step 3

Housebreak your American pit bull terrier. Because the pit bull is intelligent and eager to please her owner, housebreaking is generally easy to accomplish. The best method to use for teaching your dog not to eliminate inside the house is to take her outside frequently and on a regular schedule. Taking your pit bull outdoors first thing in the morning, after meals and playtime, and before bedtime will allow your dog to adjust to a potty break schedule while alerting her that inside is not the appropriate place to eliminate.

Step 4

Set boundaries for your dog. Pit bulls thrive when they are shown what behaviors are expected of them, and what limitations their owners expect. For example, being consistent when it comes to not allowing her on certain furniture items, correcting her verbally if she jumps on visitors and using a crate for training will give your pet limits to follow.

Step 5

Reinforce positive behaviors by rewarding your pit bull as she begins to learn. Pit bulls thrive on being praised with kind words or rewarded with treats. Doing so will encourage her to repeat good behaviors.

Step 6

Socialize your American pit bull terrier with other animals and people frequently. This will help her understand that other animals and people are not threats to her, and reduce the tendency for aggressiveness in social situations.


Step 1

Take your American pit bull terrier on a daily walk. Pit bulls have a lot of energy, and need a lot of exercise to channel it in a positive way. Dogs that do not get enough exercise may resort to destructive behavior such as destroying household items. Walking your pit bull at least once a day is a good start to fulfilling her exercise needs. Not only will it give her a physical work out, but the environment around her that she experiences during her walks will stimulate her mind.

Step 2

Indulge in various interactive games with your pit bull, such as fetching a ball or playing with toys. These activities will give your pet added exercise each day while also teaching her which items belong to her. Giving her specific toys to play with will also decrease the likelihood that your pit bull will chew your clothing, furniture and other possessions.

Step 3

Give your dog opportunities to indulge in vigorous, off-leash exercise. Romps in a fenced yard or a dog park will give your pit bull the freedom to work out excessive energy. It will also help her learn to behave in social settings. Monitoring her closely during these activities will ensure her safety.

Health and Nutrition

Step 1

Feed your American pit bull terrier a high-quality dog food that is formulated for active dogs. This type of food will provide the vitamins and minerals necessary for this high-energy breed.

Step 2

Monitor your pet for health conditions that are typical of the breed. Though the American pit bull terrier is a breed that has few health problems, some pit bulls are prone to hip dysplasia, allergies and congenital heart conditions. If your dog shows any signs of problems, seek veterinarian attention to keep your pit bull healthy.

Step 3

Take your dog to your veterinarian for regular check-ups and routine care. These visits should consist of an annual exam, yearly vaccinations and a prescription for a regimen of flea, tick and heartworm preventatives.


Step 1

Brush your American pit bull terrier several times a week with a firm bristle brush. This will remove excess fur and keep her coat shiny. When your dog is shedding, typically in late spring and early fall, brushing her daily will keep her coat looking its best.

Step 2

Bathe your pit bull as needed. The breed has an easy coat to care for and is not prone to skin problems. Therefore, giving your dog a bath about once monthly or every other month should suffice. However, dogs that spend a lot of time outdoors may need more frequent baths.

Step 3

Rub your dog's coat with a dry shampoo and towel or chamois in between baths. This will make her short coat shiny.


  • Never play tug games with your American pit bull terrier. These activities can encourage rough, aggressive behavior.

  • Do not scream at your pit bull while trying to train her. She will respond much better to positive reinforcement.

  • Never use physical means such as hitting, slapping or kicking your pet.


  • Always be consistent with commands so your American pit bull terrier gets use to what you expect of her.

  • Always be consistent when setting boundaries. For example, don't allow your dog on your couch one day then tell her to get off the next. This will confuse her about what you expect of her.

  • If you choose to take your pit bull to a professional trainer, choose one that is familiar with the breed.

Items You Will Need

  • Leash
  • Ball
  • Dog toys
  • Crate
  • High-quality dog food
  • Hard-bristle brush
  • Dog shampoo
  • Dry shampoo
  • Towel or chamois


About the Author

Jennifer Lynn has been writing as a correspondent and reporter since 1991. She has written for numerous newspapers and currently writes as a correspondent for Gannett. Lynn has a Bachelor of Arts with a focus on English from Ohio University, where she also studied journalism at the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism.

Photo Credits