Dog Tolerance – Pit Bull Style

From the archive: Dog Tolerance – Pit Bull Style

Before we dive into this topic let’s preface it with this statement:  Dogs are individuals.  They should be evaluated and judged as individuals. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s look at dog tolerance.

It’s true that breed characteristics exist.  Some are good, others not so good.  For example, herding dogs tend to be excellent workers. They are also known to be quite bossy and will attempt to herd small humans, often by nipping at their heels.  Guardian dogs are almost always extremely loyal and will do anything to keep their family safe.  They may also make it very difficult, and in extreme cases, impossible to have house guests unless they are confined away from visitors.  See where I’m going with this?

Pit bulls have many very positive traits.  They are exceptionally smart, eager to please, and tend to fall in love with people in a split second.  Their main drawback, though, is their tendency to be dog aggressive and prey driven.

We’ve mentioned prey drive in this article only because, while a pit bull may be dog tolerant, small dogs can and often do resemble prey animals.  When this is the case different management procedures are required to keep it from being a problem.  We’ll talk about that another time.

There are different levels of dog tolerance that can mostly be categorized in four groups.  They are Friendly, Tolerant, Selective, and Aggressive.

Dog friendly pit bulls are what we call “cold” dogs.  They don’t have an ounce of natural dog aggression in them.  Truly cold dogs are few and far between but they do exist.  Owners of these types of dogs need to always be alert, just in case, but basically have it pretty easy in the management department.  Dog friendly pit bulls make the best breed ambassadors because of their ability to attend awareness functions where other dogs will be.

Dog tolerant pit bulls are generally pretty laid back and go with the flow.  They don’t seek out the company of other dogs but they’re indifferent if another dog is in their space.  They may be easily annoyed by other dogs, especially if another dog is displaying rude canine behavior such as rambunctious attempts to play.  They will usually ignore another dog’s antics and may resort to a warning growl before removing themselves from the company of a dog who is bugging them without further incident.

Dog selective pit bulls appear to be pretty hit and miss with other dogs.  They will act friendly with one dog and aggressive with another.  Owners will often times try to figure out what traits trigger the different responses, but the truth is, sometimes it’s as simple as chemistry.  Rather than attempting to force a selective dog to be friends with a dog he doesn’t like it’s more productive to manage and expose him to dogs he interacts positively with.

Dog aggressive pit bulls, while they may be able to live peacefully with another dog within his family (but never, ever left alone), are unable to interact with any other dogs.  Seeing another dog will trigger some type of heightened response, whether it be rigid stance and pricked ears or a full on display of snarling and lunging in an attempt to attack.  This type of dog is every bit as happy and loving in the home with his people as a dog friendly pit bull, he just cannot be exposed to other dogs.  Period.

Dog aggression is a hard wired behavior and cannot be trained away.  Temperament ALWAYS trumps training, and while training is a strong tool to be used in managing this type of behavior, it WILL NOT cure it.  Owners should never believe anyone who says they can train this trait away.  Doing so will only lead to disappointment, if not tragedy.  Do not set your dog up to fail, accept him as he is and manage him accordingly.
It is also important to note that just because a pit bull is aggressive towards other dogs and/or extremely prey driven does not mean he is aggressive towards humans.  Those are two different types of aggression that have nothing to do with each other.  The very rare exceptions to that rule are dogs that are genetically unbalanced.  More on that later.

If you need help identifying which type of tolerance your pit bull has contact us and we can help you.  If you are looking to adopt a pit bull be sure to think of these tolerance levels and decide whether you can handle a dog selective or dog aggressive dog.  It’s OK if you can’t.  If the dog you’re interested in has a lower level of dog tolerance than you feel you can handle there is nothing wrong with continuing your search.  We will be glad to help you find the dog that is right for you.
Remember, the decision to adopt a dog should always be made because you want him for you, not for companionship for another dog.  Pit bulls do not need dog friends.  They would much rather have you all to themselves.  His devotion to you is one of the things that make being owned by a pit bull one of the most rewarding experiences in the world.


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