When it comes to dogs and children, the dangers of pitbulls are no more or less than with many other types of dogs. Because of the image that pitbulls have been given, many people might hesitate in choosing one if they have small children at home. In reality, a well-mannered, properly treated and trained pitbull can be an excellent and loyal companion for family members of all ages.
Popular mythology and urban legends have risen around pitbulls indicating that they are violent dogs that should not only be banned, but are dangerous when it comes to their interaction with children and adults. These stories come from the many situations where the strength and stamina of the pitbull is channeled into dogfighting — the pitbulls that develop anti-dog and sometimes anti-human aggression have been chronically mistreated and, instead of being groomed and trained into becoming a loving family pet in a safe environment, are taught only violence, hunger and pain. As dogfighting is a part of some cultures, it is an unfortunate side effect that many children are exposed to it as well as adults.
Pitbulls that are not raised in the world of dogfighting have loyal, friendly personalities that make them excellent family pets. At the turn of the 20th century, they were prized as family pets and companions for children because their tough and energetic nature, along with a high tolerance for pain, allowed them to absorb the roughhousing a child might dish out as well as having the endurance to participate in a long day of play. Very athletic dogs, they thrive in families with active children and will do well when included in games from “fetch” to Frisbee. They also make excellent companions for children because they are extremely eager to please and friendly with all types of people. This is valuable in a child’s dog that will be counted on to welcome a number of the child’s friends into the home. Pitbulls are also known for their sense of humor, which can work well when paired with a child companion.
As with any other dogs, there are potential dangers when it comes to owning a pitbull that hasn’t been properly trained to the basic commands or one that hasn’t been shown his place in the pack. Because of their size and their enthusiastic nature, they can easily push over a small child, although this is usually accidental. Dogs of any breed that are not properly socialized can become pushy with people, especially those that are smaller than they are.
Contrary to popular belief, pitbulls don’t make good guard dogs — so if the goal is to get a protector for the child, a pitbull might not be the best choice. While they will protect their family if they feel there is a threat to them, pitbulls that are raised properly tend to have the outlook that all strangers are potential friends.
Pitbulls can be pushy if not trained from an early age to respect their human companions as pack leaders, and this pushiness can lead to inadvertent harm of a small child simply because of the strength and size of the dog. Proper training includes teaching the dog that his human family outranks him, even the smaller children. Like other breeds, they should not be allowed to jump or be rewarded for pushy, pestering behavior. Children must also be properly trained to respect the dog, not tease, and allow the dog its downtime.