Tail wagging, tongue lapping and full body hugs are just a few of the reactions you can expect to come home to when you adopt a bully breed. These sturdy, active dogs make wonderful companions. But too often, unaware pet owners relinquish their bully breeds to shelters because they didn't realize the commitment required to own such a dog. Before you bring a bully breed into your life, make sure you know all the facts about these dynamic dogs. Are they good with children and other people? How much time and attention do they really need? What is Breed Specific Legislation, and how could it affect your decision to adopt? Read on to learn the answers to these questions and more, plus find out if adopting a bully breed is really right for you.
10. Bullies Are Anatomically Normal
There are a lot of really outrageous -- and just plain wrong -- myths about these breeds' physical make-up. From claims that they come equipped with super powerful jaws that lock like a crocodile's to theories that they have swelling brains that make them go crazy, it's no wonder bully breeds have a somewhat spotty reputation. Dr. I. Lehr Brisbin of the University of Georgia conducted research on pit bull mixes and a variety of similar breeds and concluded they have the exact same anatomy as any other dog, including that harmless-looking teacup Chihuahua your neighbor carries in her purse. Rest assured when you adopt a bully breed, he doesn't come equipped with supernatural anatomy.
9. Bully Breeds Are Active Breeds
Pit bull mixes and other breeds that fall into the bully category are generally very athletic and love lots of exercise. They typically excel in agility, flyball and other sports. Look for organizations in your area that cater to bully breeds for group activities that will keep them engaged. For example, a group in Chicago started a skateboarding club for pit bulls, and there are agility groups all across the country where bully breeds are welcome.
As is true with most other dogs, a bored bully is a bad bully. If you prefer slow living, a breed in this category is probably not the dog for you. Also keep in mind that you should never have your bully breed off-leash in public, so finding open spaces where he can run free might pose a challenge. If you don't have a fenced-in yard, but have space, a dog run makes an excellent option, as does a doggie treadmill. Many people mistakenly believe that treadmills are only used to exercise dog-fighters, but many dogs of all breeds get exercise this way when they aren't able to go outdoors. Just remember to supervise all of your dog's activities.
8. Bullies Require Proper Socialization
If you've ever been to a dog park, you've most likely seen a group of dogs involved in a tussle. Dog-on-dog aggression is not a breed-specific behavior, and even the littlest dogs can turn on each other. According to Pit Bull Rescue Central (PBRC), it's true that pit bull mixes do have a history of being less tolerant of other animals due to the way they were originally bred, but every dog is different. Some might love other animals, while others might only be accepting of those they've been raised with or not tolerant at all. It's up to you to learn your dog's patience for other pets and take the appropriate measures to ensure a safe environment.
Most shelters work on socializing and should know the tolerance level of all the rescued dogs in their care. Once you've settled on a dog to adopt, ask the shelter if you can visit with your other pets to ensure they'll get along. After adoption, you should work on socializing as soon as possible.
7. Bully Breeds Love Kids
Bully breeds such as the Staffordshire bull terrier have a long history of being good with children and are often called "Nanny Dogs" in England thanks to their sweet and nurturing demeanor around kids. Bullies that are well-socialized and properly cared for are generally wonderful pets for children, as they are able to handle any rough-housing and are drawn to kids' carefree dispositions.
When you introduce a new dog into your home, you should not only train the dog how to treat your child, but also train your child how to treat the dog. One thing to note, bully breeds are typically of stout build so they could knock over young children and therefore, need supervision. Regardless of breed, dog trainer Victoria Stilwell says you should never, under any condition, leave a child unattended with any dog for any length of time.
6. Bullies Need Your Love...Among Other Things
You've got lots of love to give a bully breed, but what about space, time and money? Most bully breeds will do OK in an apartment and can succeed in an urban setting, as long as they get plenty of exercise and at least 30 minutes of outdoor activity on a daily basis. Pit bull mixes are especially notorious for escaping, so if you have a fenced-in yard for playtime, make sure it's secure and that there aren't any loose boards your bully could use as an escape route. Consider the height of your enclosure too, since some bully breeds are excellent jumpers.
The annual cost of owning a bully breed will be about the same as with any other dog, plus a few extra considerations. Before you adopt, find out if your homeowner's insurance includes an exclusion on pit bull mixes or other breeds; you may need to pay an additional premium to call one of these dogs part of the family. Likewise, if you rent, check with your landlord to make sure you can have a bully breed in your building.
5. Bullies Have Breed-specific Laws to Follow
It may be surprising to know there are actual laws on the books in many cities and counties regarding dogs, but thanks to fear and irresponsible pet ownership, many local governments have enacted breed specific legislation (BSL) to curb perceived issues with bully breeds. The easiest way to find out if your town has passed BSL is to contact your local animal control facility. The shelter where you plan to adopt should know the regulations also, but if you're adopting out of town, it's best to check for yourself first.
Another thing to consider is your long-term living arrangement. Is there a move in your future? If you think you might be moving to another city or state, check to see what BSL is on record in the city to which you plan to relocate. Besides total breed bans, some cities have specific regulations for owning a bully breed, including muzzling in public, mandatory micro-chipping and carrying liability insurance. Do your research before you try to adopt, and be a responsible pet parent by following any rules established in your area.
4. Bully Breeds Are Socialites
Bullies are very sociable animals and generally love being around people. They enjoy making new friends and are typically trusting of strangers. Their fondness for human contact and gregarious personality really makes them a perfect companion for someone who is a people person.
If you've heard that these breeds are malicious or overly aggressive, you should know they're always at the top of the class in temperament testing. The American Temperament Testing Society (ATTS) conducts annual evaluations for all dog breeds, and pit bull mixes consistently rate higher than some of their more popular counterparts, including the Golden Retriever and Collie. Bully breeds also excel at the American Kennel Club's (AKC) Canine Good Citizen (CGC) training, which is a program that teaches good dog manners and responsible pet ownership. Dogs who become certified as CGCs might also qualify for reduced insurance rates, so it's an extra bonus to take this course with your bully breed.
3. Bullies Have Good Genes
Providing the best care for a bully breed doesn't differ much from any other breed. They all need annual veterinarian exams and vaccines, and should be fed a healthy diet on a regular schedule. These breeds are typically very fit with few health concerns. Joint problems are a common issue some bully breeds might face due to their highly active nature. To minimize the chance of future complications, try to walk your dog on dirt or grass, since asphalt is harder on joints. Also try to warm him up with a short 5- to10-minute walk before any strenuous activity.
Bully breeds are shorthaired dogs that don't require much grooming. Your dog can probably get away with a "wash and go" once a month. Start working with your bully as soon as you bring him home to get him used to having his nails clipped or ears cleaned. If you're uncomfortable performing these duties, find a groomer who understands bully breeds and is well-trained to groom them.
2. Adopting a Bully Breed May Take Time
Any reputable shelter will put you through a thorough screening process before allowing you to adopt a dog, but the process is usually more rigorous for someone looking to take home a bully breed. Don't be offended if a shelter really questions your motives in adopting pit bull mixes and other breeds that have a history of abuse or dog-fighting. Shelters could request a list of references along with a home visit to see where your adopted bully will live. You should also be prepared to answer a detailed questionnaire in which you will be asked things like why you want to adopt a bully breed and your history as a pet owner.
Consider the shelter as your own pet matchmaking service. The more they know about your life, the better they can match you with the perfect pet. For example, an adult bully breed might make a better fit than a puppy, since adults are more settled. Always tell a shelter if you have small children, how active you are and other factors that might help them pair you with the right pooch. This will ensure every adopted bully finds a permanent home with a loving family that understands the unique needs and personalities of these breeds.
1. Bullies Are Loyal to a Fault
Bully breeds are generally very loving and loyal companions. They normally form very close bonds with their owners and will be a constant presence around your home. As the group Bay Area Doglovers Responsible About Pit Bulls (BAD RAP) explains, "Be ready to commit lots of quality time to your pet for life." These people-lovers won't like being relegated to the backyard or left alone for long periods of time. Be prepared to commit at least two hours a day of undivided attention to your bully breed to ensure his happiness. Remember, you can't judge an entire breed by a few negative news reports. If you're ready to adopt a loving and active dog, you will have a faithful companion for life in a bully breed.
- American Kennel Club. "AKC Canine Good Citizen Program." (Aug. 17, 2010) http://www.akc.org/events/cgc/index.cfm
- American Society Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. "Ten Tips for Adopting a Pit Bull." (Aug.17, 2010) http://www.aspca.org/fight-animal-cruelty/dog-fighting/ten-tips-for-adopting-a-pit-bull.html
- American Temperament Testing Society, Inc. (Aug. 17, 2010) http://www.atts.org/
- American Veterinary Medical Association. "State Legislative Resources." October 2007. (Aug. 17, 2010) http://www.avma.org/advocacy/state/issues/sr_breed_ordinances.asp
- Bay Area Doglovers Responsible About Pitbulls. "Monster Myths." (Aug. 17, 2010) http://www.badrap.org/rescue/myths.html
- Bay Area Doglovers Responsible About Pitbulls. "Pros and Cons of Owning a Pitbull." (Aug. 18, 2010) http://www.badrap.org/rescue/owning.html
- National Canine Research Council. "Fear vs. Fact" (Aug. 17, 2010) http://nationalcanineresearchcouncil.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/fearfactncrc1.pdf
- Pit Bull Rescue Central. "Socializing Your Pit Bull." (Aug. 18, 2010) http://www.pbrc.net/socializing.html
- Saunders, Kim. "The Adopted Dog Bible." Petfinder. Collins Living. 2009.
- Stilwell, Victoria. "Teaching Dog Safety." Scholastic Parent & Child. February 2010. (Aug.17, 2010) http://www2.scholastic.com/browse/article.jsp?id=3753354