Why Do Pitbulls Attack Their Owners?

why do pitbulls attack their owners
Image by Yvonne Lüneburger from Pixabay

We’re sure you no longer consider it news that pitbulls have grown popularity for being very notorious and aggressive dogs. Although there are many myths surrounding this belief, there are some indisputable facts. 

First, the history and background of the pitbull have contributed to the supposed aggression today. Also, when a pit bull bites, it does not let go of the bite for a very long time. Sometimes, you even have to kill or injure it before it lets go of the bite. So let us find out: why do pitbulls attack their owners? But first, a brief history.

History Of Pit Bulls

The history of pitbulls dates back to the 1800s when they were initially bred from Old English bulldogs that were used in a cruel blood sport called “bull baiting”. Later on, it moved to “ratting” where the dogs were pitted against rats to see which dog killed the most rats. 

Over the years, pit bulls have been used for herding cattle, sheep, guarding livestock as well as families against thieves and dangerous animals. 

Interestingly, because of their loyal and caring demeanor, they were used as “nanny dogs”.  So, it’s hard to believe that these same set of dogs are accused of attacking people not to talk of their owners. 

The Myth About Pit Bulls

Some people have been made to believe pit bulls have locking jaws which makes their bites very aggressive. However, this is not so. Pit bulls have the same set of teeth with every other dog breed as well as the same skull features. The only reason people think pit bulls have locking jaws is because they don’t easily let go of bites, they hold on for a very long time.

We discuss the myth about pitbulls have locking jaws more exhaustively in this article: How Much Bite Force Does A Pitbull Have? Click here to read it.

Why Do Pit Bulls Attack Their Owners?

The answer to this is mainly based on their breeding. Pit bulls don’t just suddenly become violent, aggressive or mean. It has underlying connections with lack of training, abuse, irresponsible ownership, neglect, and lack of attention to the dog’s health and temperament issues. So, bad owners that breed pit bulls badly are mostly the ones that make national news headlines. 

However, these attacks are not restricted to pit bulls only. Generally, any dog breed can attack its owner and this is subject to how the dog is being trained and the environment it is being trained.  So, let’s look at some of the reasons pit bulls might attack their owners:

1. Fear

Fear aggression is one of the major reasons why pitbulls can attack their owner. For dogs like pitbulls that have bad history or have been maltreated in the past, fear is instilled in them. This makes the dog feel threatened by everybody and it becomes very defensive. This is why it is important that you raise your dog properly and teach good manners in a way that won’t instill fear in it. 

So, a dog attacking out of fear does not have the intention to hurt or kill its owner but it eventually happens if the owner is not sensitive to the body cues to back off. 

2. Territorial Defence

Also, in case you did not, dogs are territorial animals that do everything within their power to defend their space from anyone they consider not part of it. If you don’t relate with your dog or allow it to interact with people around, it becomes isolated and used to its space. So, if you suddenly walk into its space, it feels the need to defend itself and space. This is why it might show aggression and hostility towards you and others. However, this happens very rarely. 

3. Medical Problems

There are times your dog might be in pain and you still make it do some strenuous things it doesn’t want to do. For instance, if a dog has a broken leg and you try to lift it without proper caution. The pain its feeling may prompt it to bite so you can back off. 

It is very typical of pit bulls to defend themselves when they’re not feeling well. Dogs cannot control themselves when they’re sick. So, internal health issues like rabies or liver disease may cause a dog to act unpredictably and attack its owner. 

Now, the owner may not even be able to decipher what is wrong with the dog, so it is important to watch your dog for signs of discomfort. Most times, it’s the pitbulls that have been used for dogfighting that are usually without medical care and assistance. They are likely to have been exposed to bacteria, parasites, unhealed wounds. Plus, many of them have never been vaccinated ever. It is important to do regular check-ups to make sure your dog is healthy. 

4. Food Aggressiveness

This is one of the most popular reasons dogs attack their owners. Some dogs are very possessive of their foods and turn aggressive when you try to touch their food or pet them, they attack. It is necessary to take measures to prevent this. After all, it could be an innocent child trying to play with the dog.

5. Predator Instinct

Generally, all dogs have inborn instincts to act as predators. It is more prominent in pitbulls judging from history where they were trained to see every other animal as their prey. They’re meant to chase, grab, injure or kill whatever prey they catch. 

6. Lack Of Training

If you want a well-behaved pit bull, then you have to be patient enough to train it properly. Proper training reduces the risk of aggression and helps you to control your dog when it misbehaves.

7. Abuse

If, probably before you got your pitbull, it had been exposed to abuse by its previous owners, then, you should expect that it would try to defend itself through every possible means. It is part of their self-defense to attack and injure whoever attempts to attack them. 

Pitbulls happen to have been exposed to abuse if you go down memory lane. In fact, some have been used to cover up illegal drug operations. You can imagine how aggressive that kind of pit bull will be. 

What Are The Signs A Pit Bull Will Attack?

In case you have not been paying attention before, then you need to now. It is important to take note of the signs a pit bull might show when it wants to attack you so you can protect yourself. However, it might be somewhat difficult because pit bulls have been trained to mask noticeable indicators of biting but there are still signs that will prompt you if you can be sensitive. Below are some signs:

1. Direct Eye Contact

When your pitbull often makes direct eye contact with you, it is a direct threat that it plans to attack you.

2. Wagging Tail

Yes, dogs normally wag their tails. A pitbull can wag its tail when its happy or really likes you. However, take time to observe properly. A pitbull’s wagging tail may also mean high energy and might be a sign it wants to attack you.

3. Legs Are Apart

When your pitbull keeps its legs apart, it probably is a stance of defense.

4. Thrown-Out Chest

When your pitbull chests out or is trying to look big, then you should be careful.

5. Ears Up

When your pit bull constantly raises its ears up, it might be a sign of anger. 

6. Rumbling Growl

This is one of the scary signs a dog can show and you should act fast. Most times, the growl is always low so you have to be sensitive to notice it. 

7. Showing Its Front Teeth

This is referred to as “short mouth” and it is a clear intention of a pit bull to bite you. At this point, you don’t need any other confirmation to back off.

What To Do When Your Pitbull Attacks

The first thing you should understand if you find yourself in this situation is that you have to protect yourself first. Hence, if your pitbull tries to make contact with you and you’re suspect it wants to bite you:

  1. Be calm and aware of your body language to the dog.
  2. Don’t make direct eye contact.
  3. Don’t attempt to elevate your body over that of the pit bull, it will feel threatened and want to attack. 

If Your Pitbull Moves To Attack You

When it opens its mouth, shove anything into its mouth (a large object) before it reaches for your arm, leg or face. If it attempts to attack you again, shove the object back in. 

If Your Pitbull Bites You

If you were unable to make it out in time and your pitbull bites you, take the following steps:

  1. Don’t try to hit the pit bull or harm it physically. 
  2. Try to force something into its mouth, something that can gag it. 
  3. If it lets you go, visit a vet immediately no matter how minor you think the bite is.
  4. Scream for help as loud as you can if it isn’t letting go. Pitbulls can find it hard to let it go when they bite. So, you would probably need help.

For ways to prevent your pit bull from attacking you, check out the video below:

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