The nature vs. nurture controversy is one that is often applied in the arguments for and against the American Pit Bull Terrier. Whatever your perception of this loved and hated dog breed may be, one thing is certain-if you are thinking about owning an American Pit Bull Terrier, you'll need to carefully research all the possibilities.
The Nature Of The Beast
The nature of the American Pit Bull Terrier certainly does effect both public perception and reality of the breed.
Those in opposition of the breed will argue that this dog was born and bred to be a killer, and that a killer it will always be, at least in some dark recesses of its mind. Some dogs are still bred-irresponsibly and illegally-for dark purposes today, and these are affecting the reputation and stability of the breed.
Lovers of the pit bull argue that the very temperaments that were bred into the early dogs are the characteristics that make them so great. But they will also readily tell you that American Pit Bull Terriers do require a good measure of understanding, guidance, and training to bring the best out of them, and that some situations are just never safe for these dogs.
The Real APBT Temperament
The majority of the research suggests the proper American Pit Bull temperament to be
Fun-loving and full of energy
Loyal and affectionate toward humans
Aggressive towards nearly all other dogs and many animals
Easily bored, and sometimes destructive
High threshold for pain
Tenacious in fighting situations
Overall, breeders and kennels accept the Pit Bull as a dog with positive temperament, and the breed scored better than 83% in temperament tests by the American Temperament Test Society (in comparison, well-loved border collies of Lassie fame scored under 80%).
There are a number of American Pit Bull Terriers, however, who have displayed strong human aggression and have attacked to the point of fatality; there are also a number of the dogs that have killed other dogs, as the dogs are admittedly dog-aggressive.
The Nurture Effect
Research suggests that the nurturing of the American Pit Bull Terrier can make all the difference. When owners understand the mentality and needs of their dog, the result is almost overwhelmingly positive; but when these dogs are abused, neglected, left to their own devices, or forced into social relationships with other dogs (and some animals), their aggressiveness is almost sure to surface, and fights are common-fights that often end in death because of the dog's historic tenaciousness.
Because there are bad dog breeders who are selecting negative temperament traits, all cannot be left to nurturing, however. Positive outcomes with pit bulls require careful dog selection for good ancestral temper and health. Good selection is just the beginning, though, and must be paired with informed, devoted training and dog maintenance. In the end, some dog owners are simply not prepared for the risk. Recognizing this early on is critical, as an American Pit Bull Terrier does not respond well to a weak, wavering master. The bottom line in the pit bull nature vs. nurture controversy then really comes down to the level of comfort of the owner given the history, research, and demands of the breed.