There’s no doubt about it, Pitties have gotten a bad reputation in our society. They are mislabeled as highly aggressive, dangerous dogs. The truth is, the exact opposite is almost always the case. In honor of Pit Bull Awareness Month, we’re de-bunking some popular myths about these misunderstood dogs.

Myth 1: Pit Bulls are a naturally aggressive breed

Truth: First off, “Pit Bull” is not technically an official breed. There are a variety of breeds, and mixes of breeds, that are identified as or considered Pit Bulls. Some of these include the American Staffordshire Terrier, American Bulldog, Bull Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and American Pit Bull Terrier (this last breed is recognized by the United Kennel Club and the American Dog Breeders Association, but not by the American Kennel Club). Often, a Pit Bull is recognized as any muscular, medium-build dog with short hair and a blocky head. Therefore, their identification as a “breed” by most people is based on appearance rather than any actual DNA linking them to the breeds mentioned above. It is extremely difficult for vets and other animal professionals to determine a dog’s breed based on appearance, and physical identifications are almost always total guesses. Many dogs that have physical characteristics similar to Pit Bulls are found to have no Pit Bull-like breed markers in their DNA. Pitties are really just mutts with a controversial label slapped on them.

Pit Bulls don’t fit nicely into any specific breed, so it’s impossible to say they were truly bred for anything. However, their physical strength and determined attitudes make them fantastic sporting or working dogs. Many Pitties also have an inherent prey drive, but this could be said about any kind of dog, from Beagles to Greyhounds. Sure, some Pitties can be aggressive, but they are no more likely to be aggressive than any other breed of dog. A Golden Retriever, Chihuahua, or Labrador are just as likely to exhibit aggressive behaviors. According to American Temperament Test Society data, Pit Bull-like breeds consistently score above-average on temperament tests, placing in the top 21% of all breeds.

Bottom Line: A dog’s personality and behaviors are unique to each individual dog, and have nothing to do with their identified breed.

Myth 2: Pit Bulls Have Locking Jaws

Truth: No dogs possess this mysterious “locking jaw” that’s mentioned in the whispers of neighborhood gossip. Studies show that Pittie’s jaws are anatomically like all other canine jaws. All dog bites, regardless of breed, can be prevented by responsible ownership, good socialization, and proper introductions to new people and animals.

Bottom Line: A locking jaw doesn’t exist in any breed of dog.

Myth: Pit Bulls aren’t good family dogs

Truth: This one is just totally ignores the long-standing history of the adoration of Pit Bull breeds. When early Pitties were brought to the U.S. from England with immigrant families, they were widely considered ideal family pets. Due to their loyal and protective nature, Pit Bulls came to be known as “nanny dogs,” because parents would entrust them to keep their children safe while they were working on farms or tending to household chores. In the early 20th century, Pits were even used in a variety of advertising campaigns for everything from shoes to World War I and World War II recruitment. It wasn’t until the 1980s, when criminal groups began exploiting Pit Bulls’ fierce loyalty for horrific and illegal activities, that these dogs got a bad rep.

Bottom Line: More than 80 years of a celebrated existence support that Pitties can be incredible family pets.

Myth: Pit Bulls can’t interact with other dogs or animals

Truth: Once again, this depends on the individual dog, not the breed. Some dogs interact great with other dogs, but not small animals. Other dogs prefer to be head of the household, and will tolerate other animals, but no other dogs. Some dogs love interacting with other dogs when they’re young, but grow to dislike them as they get older. Like all dogs, some Pit Bulls have a strong prey drive, but some don’t. Any dog with a prey drive probably won’t get along with cats or other small animals, but that isn’t always the case. There’s no real way to tell how a dog is going to get along with other animals until they are introduced to them.

Bottom Line: Proper introduction to other animals is key to a dog’s socialization. The only way to know which animals a dog tolerates is to facilitate controlled introductions.

Myth: Pit Bulls are more likely to “snap” and turn on their owners 

Truth: There is no evidence that any kind of dog is likely to turn on its owner. Dogs are almost always loyal to a fault, which is why we’ve continued to keep them as pets for so long. This is especially true of Pitties, who often exhibit fierce loyalty to their human companions. That’s one of the reasons some people take advantage of Pit Bulls for illegal dog fighting—they aim to please their owner to a fault, so if a bad owner teaches them to fight, they do it because of their deep sense of commitment. Additionally, all dogs are capable of “snapping,” or biting and/or exhibiting unusually aggressive behaviors, when faced with an uncomfortable or unfamiliar situation.

Bottom Line: Pitties are faithful to their human companions, and no more likely to “snap” than any other breed of dog. It is rare for any kind of dog to lash out unexpectedly, as there is almost always a reason behind a dog exhibiting aggressiveness.

If you can see past stereotypes, you’ll find that things are never quite as they seem. Pit Bull Awareness Month was established to “educate and foster positive communications and experiences…dedicated to restoring the reputation of [Pit Bulls].” Pit Bulls have gotten a bad reputation because irresponsible owners exploited some of their best qualities to achieve negative outcomes. Pitties are intelligent, loyal, goofy, affectionate, amazing dogs. Each dog is unique, and that’s what makes them such special companions. Don’t overlook a Pittie just because of some negative rumors. Educate yourself, and find the facts behind the frightening myths. To learn more about these incredible dogs, visit the pages below.

Best Friends Animal Society

Huffington Post

Pit Bull Info

A special thank you to everyone that replied with adorable photos of their Pit Bull companions on our “Show us your Pitties!” Facebook post! The photos in this post are just a few of the great pictures we received from proud Pittie owners!