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Can a Pitbull Be a Therapy Dog or Emotional Support Dog?

31 July, 2018
Pitbull puppy

When we say “Pitbull,” it may unfairly conjure up images of a blood-thirsty beast out to destroy anything in its path. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The Pitbull has gotten a bad reputation over the years due to cruel people using them for illegal dog fighting rings. These dogs are victims of animal abuse like any other helpless canine that finds themselves in the hands of an unscrupulous individual.

The term “Pitbull” is also a misnomer. There is no recognized breed of Pitbull, but instead, four registered Bully breeds that get lumped into one category. These include the American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, American Bully, and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier.

All of these “Pitbulls” are battling their way out of an unfair image. Some are even finding their way into the world of therapy work.

In this post, we will explore the question; can a Pitbull be a therapy dog?

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General Traits of the Pit Bull

pitbull in the sunAll of the “Pitbull” breeds share similar traits. They are all blocky in build with square heads and muzzles. Despite their shorter stature, the Bully breeds are also deceptively strong.

They all have very short, straight coats that come in a variety of colors.

Personality wise, the Bully breeds tend to be on the stubborn side (this is their Terrier” nature coming into play). However, that doesn’t mean they aren’t highly trainable. With the right techniques (a gentle, yet firm hand, positive reinforcement, and a willingness to help the breed overcome its lousy rep) these dogs do make wonderful companions.

The Bully breeds have a strong need to please, and therefore are very loyal, loving, and devoted animals. They crave human attention and do not do well left alone for long periods-of-time.

When it comes to exercise, your Bully will need 60 to 90 minutes of vigorous exercise once or twice a day. This can include long walks or hikes, jogging, playing in the park or getting your dog into agility or flyball activities.

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What is a Therapy Dog?

Unlike a service dog that must provide a task for a disabled individual, the therapy dog is used for comfort and support.

There are three types of Therapy Dogs;

  1. Personal Therapy Dog (aka Emotional Support Animal) – a dog (or other species of animal) that provides general comfort and unconditional love. It does not need to be specially trained for a task. Requires an ESA letter and can travel and live with you.
  2. Assisted Therapy Dog – one that joins the handler (typically a doctor, therapist, teacher, etc.) at the workplace to help clients, students, etc. with stress and anxiety.
  3. Visiting Therapy Dog – one that is brought into hospitals, schools, hospices, nursing homes, etc. to interact with the people. They are only there for a short period-of-time.

The Pit Bull as a Therapy Dog

therapy pitbullDespite many communities imposing breed-specific bans on the Pitbull, there are just as many regions trying to break the stigma.

It is a fact that the “Pitbull” makes an excellent Therapy Dog. Their natural love for people, their eager-to-please attitude, and their ability to withstand pain give them the innate ability to be tolerant in situations where some dogs may not be so.

According to Pitbull Lovers;

“Some people have a hard time getting around, and it’s not altogether unlikely their toes might get stepped on or run over by a wheelchair. I worked a session where a woman had a sensory problem, and she had a compulsive need to pinch things extremely hard once she got a hold of them.

While she never pinched Angel, she could have if we were not paying attention and the outcome would have been Angel having discomfort but not reacting with aggression.

Another breed might have been driven to biting or growling at a person like this.”

All these qualities are what’s making the Pitbull a popular choice in the world of therapy work.

Can a Pitbull Be a Therapy Dog? 

Pitbulls do make excellent therapy dogs, but as with any breed, early socialization and obedience training are vital to having a well-rounded dog. If you want to fly or live with your personal therapy dog (emotional support dog), you must get a letter from a licensed therapist to verify your need.

If you want to get into therapy work or think a canine would be the perfect solution to your emotional issues, then be sure to seek out a reputable breeder or rescue organization.

We all deserve to have a happy, healthy life. The Pitbull is no exception.

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