Are Pitbulls Good Family Dogs?

All families are special in their own unique ways. We are sure that you love your families, and pets, and want to keep them happy and safe. Perhaps you have a family and are thinking about adding a pit bull into the mix, or maybe you own a pit bull and are worried about how they will react to a new family member.

This is a concern for all dogs, but pit bulls especially are a widely misunderstood breed, and with news of frightening dog attacks, it's reasonable that you may have some concerns about cohabitation.

So, are pitbulls good family dogs?

Pitbull puppy being held

Are Pit Bulls More Aggressive?

Many people are under the impression that pit bulls are more aggressive and antisocial than other breeds, and some may caution you against having them as family pets. This is somewhat understandable given the stigma against bully breeds.

It is true that pit bulls, or rather ‘the pit bulls family’ which includes all kinds of pit bull breeds such as the American Pit Bull terrier, Staffordshire Terrier, Bull terrier, and others, have their origin in blood sports such as dog fighting and bull baiting.

However, this is just one side of the coin. Many generations of pit bulls have come and gone, and most modern breeders breed for temperament and health rather than aggression.

Many competent breeders, and even the American Veterinary Medical Association agree that there's no scientific basis for one single breed being more likely to be aggressive or more likely to bite than another.

Adapting a Pit Bull To Your Family

The greatest solution to finding pit bulls that will blend well with your family is getting a pit bull that is well-adjusted socially and well-trained. For this, it's normally best to get a pit bull that is still quite young, or an older dog that you know is well-adjusted... 

However, getting a puppy that is too small to be adopted is counterproductive. Puppies should never be taken away from their mothers before they are eight weeks old, and ideally when they’re around twelve weeks. Not only is it distressing for the puppy and mother, but it also causes them to miss out on vital social development from their litter mates.

This is true for any dog breed but can make a big difference to pit bulls, who occasionally have a harder time adapting to having other dogs around.
Pitbull in a blue Sparkpaws rain coat

It's also important to start training pit bulls from a young age. Most dog attacks are from wandering dogs or dogs that have escaped their owners. Taking the time to make sure your dog walks by your side, stays calm, and will return to you when called can make a big difference in keeping your dog and other dogs safe.

It's also important to discourage pitbull puppies from ‘play biting or jumping up excitedly, as this behavior can cause problems when they are bigger and older.

Properly introducing your pit bulls to any other dogs or family members will also help them feel more secure and comfortable.

Do Your Research…

Pit bull-type dogs are one of the most commonly abandoned dog breeds, meaning that there are many of them waiting to be adopted in shelters around the country. Adopting one of these dogs is a wonderful opportunity for both them and you, and is often much cheaper than buying from a breeder.

However, take the time to research each dog, including talking to the shelter workers. A traumatized or reactive pitbull dog may still need a loving home, but they are probably not the family dogs you’re looking for and may require more experience and training to handle them safely. This is true with any breed, even small ones.

At the end of the day, pit bulls are like any other dogs, their individual temperaments, quirks, and adequate training will decide whether they are going to be a good fit for your family or not.

Cute black pitbull in a pink knitted beanie

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Adapting Your Family to a Pitbull

Pit bulls, and any other dog breed, tend to attack for two main reasons according to behavioral experts. The first reason is that the dog feels threatened or is in pain, the second is because the dog became overly excited and went into prey drive.[1]

Children rarely mean to hurt or frighten animals, but it can be hard for a young child to understand when enough is enough. Take the time to properly train your children to gently handle animals, and to remain calm when a dog becomes overly excited. These are skills they can use throughout their lives.[2]

This can include small things - such as learning to pet fur in the direction of growth, not tugging on any part of the animal, and knowing how to handle a play bite.

Some pit bulls can also experience ‘food aggression’, this is not unique to the breed but can happen sometimes, especially with rescued previously mistreated animals. This means that they are very defensive of their food, and may act out around mealtimes or when receiving treats.

Pit bull owners should always supervise mealtimes when toddlers and small children are present. Older children should also be taught not to pet, disturb, or try to remove food from a dog that’s busy eating.

Many people have probably heard that pit bulls are more likely to turn on their owners. There is no real basis for this, however, it is true that the bites of pit bulls can often be more dangerous than other breeds.

Pit bulls often bite and latch on as a leftover from their bull-baiting days - meaning that a bite from a pit bull will cause more damage than a bite from other medium-sized dogs. This is why proper prevention is important.

Pros and Cons of Owning Pit Bulls As a Family…

Most of these points are a generalization but can give you an idea of commonly observed behavior in pit bulls


  • Pit bulls are low-maintenance. They don’t really need a lot of bathing or brushing.
  • They’re normally easy to find in America, and cheap to adopt from a shelter.
  • They tend to be very loyal and protective of their owners.
  • This particular breed of dog is known as pleasers and tends to respond well to positive reinforcement and attention.
  • They live a relatively long life (12-14 years) if properly cared for.


  • Many pit bulls can be very stubborn, which can make it hard to get rid of bad habits.
  • They are more prone to allergies and hip problems.
  • As a very athletic dog breed, they require a lot of exercise.
  • Pit bulls can be very needy, and often beg for attention. They can act out or develop behavioral issues if they feel ignored.
  • They can cause more damage if driven to attack compared to some other breeds.
  • Your family may have to deal with the stigma of owning a pit bull as well as common misinformation about the breed.
Pitbull and owners with matching hoodies

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Will a Pit Bull Make a Good Guard Dog For My Family?

So pit bulls can make great family dogs if raised and trained properly, but do they make good guard dogs? One of the main reasons many people choose to adopt pit bulls is because they can intimidate thieves or other dangerous individuals.

However, pit bulls don’t actually make for very good guard dogs. They were not specifically bred for the purpose of guarding, and aren’t exceptionally territorial. This means that they may not even bother to attack intruders. However, this may be different for each dog.

They can still be a deterrent though, as they can bark to warn of intruders, and can be very loyal if they feel their owners are being threatened.

Are Pit Bulls Good With Children and Other Animals?

Sadly, there is no definitive answer to this question, whether your pit bull will get along well will largely depend on their background, upbringing and unique personality.

That being said, many pit bulls have demonstrated a lot of patience with small children, pit bulls love attention and will enjoy receiving it from children. The majority of dangerous pit bull attacks on children were carried out by roving, unneutered males who had not been properly fenced in.

Getting a puppy or young dog can also help them to adapt to having small kids around. Though it's a bad idea to leave small children unattended with any dog breed, even small ones, as a child could accidentally frighten or injure a dog and cause them to react. 

It's a common myth that pit bulls cannot get along with other dogs, even other pit bulls, but there's not much truth in this. Many pit bulls have shown that they can get along just fine with all kinds of animals. Some have even been used as herding dogs.

The problem comes in that all dogs fight -  but pit bulls have a lot of tenacity, and may cause more severe damage when fighting. A responsible owner can minimize the risk by discouraging all aggressive responses - such as snapping and growling at each other - feeding their dogs in separate areas, using crates when not at home, and especially, by ensuring all dogs are spayed/neutered.[3]

Spaying and neutering is the biggest tool in reducing aggressive responses between dogs.

Pitbull and a child in matching raincoats

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Every pit bull is unique, and you will have to examine each dog on a case-by-case basis to see if they’re going to be the right fit for your family.

That said, we can conclude that pit bulls are not as aggressive as people claim, and there are many many examples of pit bulls fitting in and doing well with families. Their success largely depends on how well-trained they are.

You can help matters by carefully training your pit bull, neutering/spaying them, discouraging aggressive tendencies, and making sure that their needs are met. You should also train children and family members to treat your dogs well to prevent any kind of reactive incident. It's also a good idea to understand your dog’s background and triggers.

Each family should decide for themselves, but when we compare all the positives and negatives, there is no reason not to at least consider including a pit bull into your loving family.

If you wish to put your bond with your pets on display, especially this holiday season, why not consider matching with them? Sparkpaws offers a wide range of matching dog and human hoodies in a variety of colors so that everybody can stay bright and warm.

If that sounds like your thing, check out our Matching Collection here.

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