Can Pitbulls Be Service Dogs

Pitbulls as Service Dogs: Debunking Myths and Celebrating Abilities

When people think of pitbulls, they often imagine a fierce and dangerous dog breed. Yet, for those who know these dogs well, pitbulls can also be loyal, loving, and highly trainable companions. In recent years, some advocates have pushed for pitbulls to become service dogs, assisting people with various disabilities or conditions. However, the question remains: Can pitbulls be service dogs? In this article, we will explore the facts, myths, challenges, and potentials of pitbulls as service dogs.

What are Service Dogs?

Before we delve into the specific qualities of pitbulls as service dogs, let’s clarify what service dogs are and how they differ from emotional support animals (ESA) or therapy dogs. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a service dog is “a dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability.” This means that a service dog must meet several criteria:

– The dog must be trained to perform a specific task that directly assists the person with a disability. Examples include retrieving objects, opening doors, pulling wheelchairs, alerting to sounds or smells, detecting seizures or low blood sugar levels.
– The person must have a disability that substantially limits one or more major life activities. This includes physical impairments such as mobility issues, blindness or deafness; mental health conditions such as anxiety disorders or PTSD; and medical conditions such as diabetes or epilepsy.
– The dog must be under control and well-behaved in public places. It should not bark excessively, jump on people, or show aggression towards other animals.

Service dogs are not considered pets but rather working animals that provide vital assistance and independence to their handlers. Therefore, they have certain legal protections and rights that ESA or therapy dogs do not have, such as being allowed to enter public places like restaurants or stores that normally prohibit pets.

Now that we have defined service dogs, let’s see how pitbulls fit into this picture.

See also  can dogs eat figs

The Pitbull Controversy

Pitbulls are a type of dog breed that includes several sub-breeds, such as the American Pit Bull Terrier, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and the American Bully. These dogs have been historically bred for various purposes, such as hunting, herding, guarding, and fighting. Unfortunately, some people have also used pitbulls for illegal dogfighting rings or other forms of abuse and neglect. As a result, pitbulls have gained a reputation for being aggressive and unpredictable, even though most of them are not inherently violent or dangerous.

This stigma has affected pitbulls in many ways, including their chances of becoming service dogs. Some organizations that train service dogs exclude pitbulls from their programs because of prejudice or liability concerns. For example, Delta Air Lines recently banned all “pit bull type” dogs from flying as service or support animals due to safety reasons. However, other groups argue that pitbulls can make excellent service dogs if they receive proper training and socialization.

Let’s examine some arguments for and against pitbulls as service dogs.

Arguments Against Pitbulls as Service Dogs

One common argument against pitbulls as service dogs is that they are too aggressive or prone to bite people. While it is true that some pitbulls may display aggression towards humans or other animals, this behavior is not unique to this breed alone. Any dog can become aggressive if it feels threatened, stressed, or poorly trained. Moreover, studies have shown that breed-specific legislation (BSL) aimed at banning or restricting certain breeds based on appearance does not effectively reduce dog bites or improve public safety.

Another argument against pitbulls as service dogs is that they have a high prey drive and may chase or attack small animals, such as birds or cats. While it is true that some pitbulls may display these instincts, this behavior can also be managed through proper training and socialization. Many service dogs, regardless of breed, are trained to ignore distractions and focus on their tasks.

See also  why are dogs better than cats

A third argument against pitbulls as service dogs is that they may not be well-received by the public, who may fear or discriminate against them. This is a valid concern, as some people still hold negative stereotypes about pitbulls and may react aggressively towards them or their handlers. However, this problem can also be addressed through education and advocacy efforts that promote positive images of pitbulls and their abilities.

Arguments for Pitbulls as Service Dogs

On the other hand, many advocates argue that pitbulls can excel as service dogs if given the chance. Here are some reasons why:

– Pitbulls are highly trainable and eager to please their owners. They are known for their loyalty and affection towards humans, which makes them excellent candidates for bonding with their handlers.
– Pitbulls have a strong work ethic and can perform a wide range of tasks depending on their training and temperament. Some examples include detecting allergens, providing mobility assistance, calming anxiety attacks, retrieving dropped items, or alerting to medical emergencies.
– Pitbulls have physical characteristics that can benefit certain types of disabilities or conditions. For instance, pitbulls are muscular and sturdy enough to support people with balance issues or mobility impairments. They also have short hair that sheds less than other breeds, which can be beneficial for people with allergies or sensory sensitivities.
– Pitbulls have proven themselves as therapy dogs in various settings, such as hospitals, nursing homes, and schools. Therapy dogs differ from service dogs in that they provide emotional support rather than specific tasks; however, they still require rigorous training and socialization to interact safely with humans.

Therefore, pitbulls should not be automatically excluded from service dog programs based on their breed alone. Instead, they should be evaluated on their individual temperament, skills, and health status like any other dog.

Training Pitbulls as Service Dogs

If you have a pitbull or want to train one as a service dog, there are several steps you can take to increase your chances of success:

See also  why does my dog eat snow

– Consult with a professional trainer who has experience in training service dogs or working with pitbulls. Make sure that the trainer uses positive reinforcement techniques and avoids punishment or physical force.
– Socialize your pitbull early and often with various people, animals, and environments. This will help your dog become more adaptable and less reactive to new stimuli.
– Teach your pitbull basic obedience commands such as sit, stay, come, heel, and leave it. These commands form the foundation of more complex tasks and also improve your dog’s manners in public places.
– Train your pitbull to perform specific tasks that match your disability or condition. This may involve shaping behaviors through positive reinforcement, using clicker training, or chaining behaviors together into longer sequences.
– Test your pitbull’s ability to work in distracting settings such as crowded streets, noisy parks, or busy stores. Gradually increase the level of distraction while rewarding good behavior and ignoring bad behavior.
– Register your pitbull as a service dog with relevant authorities such as the ADA or local government agencies. This will give you legal protection against discrimination and access to public places.


In conclusion, pitbulls can be excellent service dogs if given proper training, socialization, and evaluation based on their individual abilities rather than their breed label. While some challenges exist in terms of prejudice or liability concerns, these issues can be addressed through education and advocacy efforts that promote responsible ownership and training of all dogs. By recognizing the potential of pitbulls as service dogs, we can not only help people with disabilities or conditions but also challenge the negative stereotypes that harm these loyal and loving companions.