Do Pitbulls Turn On Their Owners

The heading of this article makes it seem like all pit bulls will eventually turn on their owners.

Like there is no hope of owning one of these beautiful beasts without being the victim of their unprovoked aggression at some point.

Loving pitbull owner hugging their dog with matching beanies

Sparkpaws Instagram

Well, that’s just not accurate...

Pit Bulls don’t all snap one day and attack owners. Nope, you don’t have to wait for one fateful day when your dog will start seeing you as food or their mortal enemy.

But yes, some pit bulls have bitten their owners. And they aren’t the only breed to do so. Many other breeds, from the tiny chihuahua or toy dog breeds to the mighty Dobermans and shepherd dogs can turn on their owners.

So let’s look at some reasons why some Pit Bulls have snapped back and perhaps dispel some myths around this topic.

First of All - Not all Pit Bull Bites Are Actually From Pit Bulls

That makes no sense.

Well, think about it. The word Pit Bull is simply an umbrella term many people use to describe a type of dog, rather than one specific breed.

Pitbull wearing a Sparkpaws collar
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Not even the American Kennel Club officially recognizes the pit bull as a breed. And in many circles, people will describe a pit bull as a dog with a broad chest, strong neck muscles, and a broad head. 

So it’s a general term used to describe these types of dogs, not a specific breed.

With this in mind, many people will claim to have been bitten by a pit bull, when in fact, they were bitten by one of the pit bull mixes - an American Staffordshire Terrier, American Bully, or even an American Bull Terrier.

True pitbulls are known as American Pit Bull Terriers and they account for far fewer bites than reported in the media - or folklore.

Negligent Owners Are Often To Blame

Many pit bull attacks and bites are actually because of the bad rearing by the dog owners themselves.

People adopt or raise one of these beautiful dogs with the idea of keeping them as a guard or protection dog. And so, they train them from young to be aggressive.

They avoid socializing their puppies with other dog breeds and will keep them away from other people.

This ultimately leads to aggressive dogs. And yes, pit bulls can be extremely aggressive - as aggressive as any other dog.

Because of the lack of affection shown by their owners, these guard dogs never grow to show the love and loyalty that they are otherwise known for. And at times they can snap back at their owners - venting their frustration and anger. 

Responsible dog owners will raise their pit bulls in a loving home, providing for their every need and teaching them to be tolerant of other animals and humans. These dogs don’t just indiscriminately bite people, especially their owners.

On the contrary, they become extremely affectionate and protective of their owners if raised correctly. 

Adoption Dogs Can Be Problematic

Dogs at a shelter


The problem is often that people adopt dogs from shelters without knowing much about their backgrounds.

And while that is all truly admirable, it can lead to some serious safety concerns.

A dog that lands up in a shelter is perhaps a bit older. It’s seen some stuff in its life and has had to endure quite a bit of hardship.

So, some questions come up - 

Have these dogs ever been mistreated? 

Have they had to endure beatings or starvations? 

Were they used for something ominous like dog fighting? 

While you can tell a lot about a dog's personality by their demeanor and their history by the scars they carry, it’s impossible to know everything they have been through.

So, adopting one of these medium-sized, strong dogs, from a shelter is simply a risky move - especially if it’s an older dog that has been around the block.

Puppies will still have a playful nature and will be easy to train. Much of what happens in the first few weeks of a puppy's life shapes them and will directly affect their character and disposition.

If you have children at home it would be especially wise to reconsider adopting an adolescent or full-grown dog. Go ahead and get your family a beautiful puppy and train it from a young to be part of your pack.

External Triggers

Another reason why bites occur is because there are external triggers.

By this, there could be something completely different that aggravates the dog. This could be pent-up frustration due to lack of exercise or affection, a dog in the neighborhood that is sending out bad vibes, or the constant noise of a highway that builds up frustration in a dog.

Whatever it is, when these external flashpoints become too much for a dog to handle they will lash out at whomever or whatever is within range, and at times that can be their owners.

Keep a close eye on your dog when you take them out for a walk and take note of their body language when crossing the street, when passing by a house that has a barking dog, or when they’re close to other loud noises.

Beautiful brown and white pitbull


If your dog seems to get upset or aggravated you’ll notice it in the hair on the back of their neck standing on end, with their tails straightened, and by their laser-sharp focus on an object.

This uncompromising stare often leads to pit bulls going into an episode of aggression and that’s when dog owners can potentially be bitten.

Identify The Type Of Aggression Your Dog Displays

To avoid a bite, you need to identify the root of the aggression that your dog shows. 

Yes, different types of aggression drive all dogs. Here are some of the most common aggression types that your Pitty might be suffering from - and how to avoid a bite!

Conflict Aggression

This type of aggression occurs when they feel threatened or challenged in a situation. This can result from competition for resources or attention. 

To avoid getting bitten, give your dog space and avoid confrontations. Use positive reinforcement for good behavior.

Defensive Aggression

This type of aggression occurs when a dog feels cornered or trapped. They may bite out of fear or to protect themselves. 

To avoid getting bitten, avoid sudden movements, give the dog an escape route, and use calm and soothing tones.

Possessive Aggression

This type of aggression happens when a dog guards their possessions, such as food, toys, or territory. 

To avoid getting bitten, don't approach a possessive dog while they're eating or playing with their belongings. Teach the dog to share through training.

Status-related Aggression

This type of aggression is all about dominance and hierarchy. Dogs may show aggression to establish or maintain their status. 

To avoid getting bitten, establish yourself as the pack leader through consistent training and clear boundaries. 

The Impact of Dog Fighting

Unfortunately, these dogs have been used in years past as fighting dogs. 

They are simply built like tanks, with the athletic prowess that many other breeds can only dream of. For this reason, they have always been used, or misused, as fighting dogs.

When generation after generation is bred with one goal in mind, to destroy whatever dog is paired up with it, the result is a dog that simply inclines to bite.

Again, this doesn’t mean that all pit bulls will turn on their owners at some point, it simply means that they are good at fighting and defending themselves. And this leads to aggressive behavior when they aren’t reared responsibly. 

Owners Responsibilities

Muscular grey Pitbull


Pit bulls are indeed unique animals, distinct from other breeds like Staffordshire Bull Terriers. As responsible owners, it's crucial to recognize and respect these differences. 

Owners bear the responsibility of nurturing their pit bulls from a young age, shaping them into well-rounded and non-aggressive family pets.

Training is the cornerstone of responsible ownership. Pit bull owners must invest time and effort in teaching their pets proper behavior, ensuring they don't exhibit food-guarding aggression or aggression towards other dogs. 

Socialization is equally vital. Early exposure to different environments and experiences helps pit bulls become well-adjusted and less likely to display human-aggressive tendencies.

Providing a loving and stable home is another owner's responsibility. 

Neglect or mistreatment can lead to behavioral issues. Irresponsible owners who treat pit bulls as tools for dog fighting or fail to meet their needs can inadvertently foster aggression.

Failure to fulfil these responsibilities can have dire consequences. Some pit bulls, when not raised properly, may suddenly snap, leading to dog attacks, endangering family members, and potentially ending up in animal shelters.

It's important to remember that pit bulls, like all dogs, are products of their environment and upbringing. And responsible ownership is the key to preventing such tragic outcomes.

In conclusion, the American pit bull terrier, often unfairly labelled as an inherently aggressive "bully breed," can be a wonderful family pet when placed in the hands of responsible owners. 

Understanding their unique needs and fulfilling these responsibilities is crucial to ensuring they do not become statistics in dog attacks.