Do you want an energetic dog you can take on hikes and walks in the park, and who will keep you on your toes? If so, the American pit bull terrier may be the dog for you. This lovable breed is a family favorite known for its playfulness and energy.

Physical characteristics of the American pit bull terrier

The American pit bull terrier is a medium-sized, well-muscled breed with a regal appearance. Often ranging from 17 to 21 inches tall, these dogs stand strong, agile, and ready for anything that comes their way, whether it’s a spontaneous game of fetch or regular agility training. Individuals typically weigh from 30 to 60 pounds, with males a bit larger than females.

The American pit bull terrier’s characteristic large, broad head with a wide, flat muzzle is likely its most common identifying feature. Individuals of the breed, and many American pit bull terrier mixed breeds, can easily be picked out by this unique head shape. Their ears are fairly short, and curl frontward and down.

This breed has a stocky build, with a muscular body and average-sized legs. The tail is naturally long and tapered. American pit bull terriers come in all patterns and colors, with black, red, and shades of brown the most common.

Personality and temperament of the American pit bull terrier

American pit bull terriers are good-natured, affectionate dogs who have become victims of stereotyping from their use in dog-fighting.

Most American pit bull terriers who are well-socialized and trained as puppies are obedient, adaptable, playful dogs who love attention from people and are good with children. Their loyalty and protective nature make them a good addition for families willing to provide the necessary socialization and training.

American pit bull terriers rescued from a fighting background will require an expert behavioral evaluation to determine whether they could safely integrate into a home with other pets and children. These dogs require a patient, strong leader willing to invest time into rehabilitation, but they often can become loving, trustworthy family members.

Common health concerns for the American pit bull terrier

American pit bull terriers have an average lifespan of 12 to 14 years. Whether you are adopting an American pit bull terrier or one has been a part of your family for years, knowing the breed’s most prevalent health conditions is important. Common health concerns for American pit bull terriers include:

Canine hip dysplasia (CHD)

Most medium- to large-breed dogs are at increased risk for CHD development, which leads to hip joint degeneration and arthritis. Treatments range from lifelong medications to decrease inflammation to surgical hip replacement. Before adopting an American pit bull terrier puppy, ask the breeder if a veterinarian has evaluated the parents for hip dysplasia, or—better yet—if he can provide documentation that certifies the dogs as CHD-free.


Canine parvovirus causes severe vomiting, bloody diarrhea, and life-threatening dehydration in puppies who are not adequately vaccinated. Parvovirus is contagious and exists in most outdoor environments, making it likely most dogs will be exposed. Unfortunately, American pit bull terriers are more likely to develop this illness than some other breeds. All puppies should receive a full set of vaccines from a veterinarian starting at 8 weeks of age, and continuing through 16 weeks of age. They should not be exposed to public environments, such as dog parks, pet stores, and neighborhood walking paths until after vaccination is completed.


Environmental allergies can cause itchy skin, a bumpy rash, and chronic ear infections in the American pit bull terrier. Clinical signs are often seasonal, with symptoms exacerbated when allergens like pollen circulate at high levels, but sensitivity to allergens like food ingredients or dust mites can cause year-round problems. If your American pit bull terrier is itchy, consult your veterinarian.

Other health concerns may include:

  • Knee problems
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Demodectic mange
  • Skin infections
  • Cerebellar ataxia
  • Cleft lip or palate
  • Urinary stones
  • Blindness
  • Babesiosis

Caring for the American pit bull terrier

American pit bull terriers have short hair and need only to be brushed with a soft brush at least once a week to remove excess hair and minimize shedding. They need bathing once a month, with periodic ear cleaning and nail trimming.

The American pit bull terrier’s high energy level and playfulness means adequate play time is necessary, because individuals who do not exercise will become bored and possibly destructive. American pit bull terriers enjoy most types of activity, including games of fetch, hiking, and walking in the park to socialize with other people.

The American pit bull terrier is the perfect dog for you if:

  • You have time to provide daily exercise
  • You enjoy the outdoors and want to take your dog camping, hiking, and on daily strolls through the neighborhood
  • You are willing to train and socialize your dog
  • You are a single owner looking for companionship
  • You have a family with older children
  • You are a strong, confident leader who has experience handling and training dogs