Can A Pit Bull Be A Service Dog? A Guide to Owners & Landlords

Pit Bulls are assumed to be violent because they used to be trained to fight with other animals. That’s why many owners might be wondering if this breed can be trained as service dogs.

So, can a Pit Bull be a service dog? Pit Bulls make good service dogs when they are trained and socialized properly from a young age, and they can be licensed as service animals. To be a Service animal, your Pitbull should be specially trained to help physically disabled people as well as people with mental health problems. 

Continue reading to learn more about service dogs, which Pit Bull breed makes the best service dog, and how to train a Pit Bull to be a service dog.

What Is A Service Dog?

A service dog is a dog that is very well-trained to do and perform tasks to help people with special needs; this includes people with physical disabilities as well as people with mental health problems.

Service dogs should be able to help them with their daily tasks, even the simplest ones. According to ADA (Americans With Disabilities), service dogs are not considered to be regular pets, and they require a different kind of training than the dogs raised to be family companions.

Can A Pit Bull Be A Service Dog? 

A Pit Bull can be a service dog as long as it’s trained and socialized properly from a young age. 

Pit Bulls have many qualities that make them suitable as service dogs, including having a great temperament and a strong muscular build. They will be able to help their owners with all of their daily needs.

Which Pit Bull Breed Makes the Best Service Dog? 

The term Pit Bull is used to refer to multiple breeds, including American American Staffordshire Terriers, American Pit Bull Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, and American Bullies.

All Pit Bull breeds can be service dogs with proper training; however, some Pit Bull breeds might be more suitable for the job than others.

When deciding which Pit Bull makes the best service dog, there are certain factors you need to keep in mind, such as the dog’s size, temperament, and whether it will be easy to train.

Let’s take a closer look at the 4 main Pit Bull breeds to help you determine which one of them makes the best service dog.

American Staffordshire Terriers

American Staffordshire terriers are known as Am Staff. They originally came from Staffordshire in England, where they were bred as farm dogs.

They have calm temperaments, which makes them more easygoing compared to other Pit Bull breeds. They are also very smart and will be able to learn any commands quickly. This makes them the most ideal to be trained as service dogs.

American Pit Bull Terriers

American Pit Bull terriers are the most associated with the term Pit Bull as they’re the oldest breed compared to other Pit Bull breeds.

They have been around for over 150 years, during which they were mostly bred as fighting dogs. This largely contributed to their reputation for being aggressive.

However, with proper training and socialization, these dogs will grow up to be loyal and affectionate towards their owners, and they will rarely display any aggressive behavior.

Staffordshire Bull Terrier

Staffordshire Bull terries descend from American Staffordshire terriers and various Bulldog breeds. 

Similar to their Am Staff ancestors, they have calm temperaments, and they’re smart, which makes them ideal as service dogs. However, they’re smaller in size compared to other Pit Bull breeds as they weigh between 20-40 pounds and stand at 15 inches in height. 

American Bullies

American Bullies descend from American Pit Bull terriers and various Bulldog breeds. 

They’re considered to be a relatively new breed, and they share many characteristics with their American Pit Bull terrier ancestors, including their reputation for being aggressive.

However, these dogs have a shorter life span compared to other Pit Bull breeds as they’re more prone to developing various health problems. This makes them the least ideal to be service dogs as they will need to be replaced more often.

Breed Specific Legislation and Pit Bull Breeds

Before getting any Pit Bull breed, whether it’s as a pet or a service dog, you need to consider the BSL (Breed Specific Legislation) where you live.

There are some states that restrict the ownership of specific breeds, including all kinds of Pit Bulls. The reason for this restriction is that these dogs might be dangerous to humans and other animals. You can learn more about why Pit Bulls are banned in some places here.

If you live in the United States, here’s a list of all the states that have restrictions on the ownership of Pit Bulls:

  • Washington 
  • Kansas
  • Michigan
  • Alabama
  • Oregon 
  • Iowa  
  • Indiana         
  • Georgia
  • Idaho 
  • Missouri       
  • Ohio  
  • North Carolina
  • Montana      
  • Arkansas      
  • West Virginia          
  • South Carolina
  • North Dakota          
  • New Mexico Kentucky      
  • Maryland 
  • Wyoming     
  • Louisiana      
  • Tennessee    
  • Delaware 
  • Nebraska      
  • Wisconsin    
  • Mississippi   
  • Vermont

How to Train your Pit Bull as a Service Dog? 

a photo of a pit bull training to show it can be a service dog

Pit Bulls need special training to become service dogs. You can either train them yourself or take them to a professional trainer that specializes in training service dogs.

The key to training any dog is to start the training process as early as possible and to remain consistent throughout the whole process.

Now, let’s take a look at some of the things you need to keep in mind when training your Pit Bull as a service dog.

Start With The Basics

You need to start the training process with the basics, which include potty training, leash training, and teaching them certain obedience commands such as sit, stand, come, etc.

It’s very important not to skip over the basics of the training process as you won’t be able to progress to the next level of the Pit Bull’s training process.

It’s also important to start the training process when the Pit Bull is still a young puppy. You can still train an adult dog, but it will be more challenging and time-consuming. 

Early Socialization 

Early socialization is an important part of the Pit BUll’s training process as it will help the dog adapt to any kind of environment and prevent it from developing any behavioral problems.

To socialize your Pit Bull, it’s recommended to take on daily walks in different places where it will be exposed to new people, animals, scents, and sounds.

Eye Contact

The best way to test your Pit Bull’s attentiveness is by how much it makes eye contact with you. As a service dog, your Pit Bull must be focusing on you and only you, no matter how many people or animals are around.

You can train your Pit Bull to pay attention to you by having another person try to distract your dog and divert its attention. If your Pit Bull runs toward the other person, make sure to discourage it and get its attention back on you.

If your Pit Bull doesn’t get distracted and keeps making eye contact with you, make sure to reward it with a treat to encourage it to continue displaying this behavior.

Off-Leash Training

Your Pit Bull should be well-behaved when it’s off-leash as it is when it’s on-leash. This way, you can go out in public without worrying about the dog running away, jumping on others, or causing any kind of trouble.

You can take your dog to a closed area, take off the leash, then start giving it different commands to see if it behaves well. If your dog is well-behaved and obeys your commands, make sure to reward it with a treat to encourage it to continue displaying this behavior. 

Specialized Training

Once your Pit Bull has mastered all the previous training phases, then it is time for more specialized training, which will depend on what you want your dog to do as a service dog.

Hearing Service Dogs 

Hearing service dogs should learn to respond to doorbells, ringing phones, or fire alarms.

To teach your Pit Bull to be a hearing service dog, you can bring it to sit in front of you and mimic the action that you want it to at the sound of doorbells, ringing phones, or fire alarms. 

If the dog successfully mimics the action you showed it, make sure to give it a treat, so it will continue to behave the same way in the future.

Psychiatric Service Dogs

Psychiatric service dogs are there to alert their owners whenever they are displaying any signs of a panic attack or any other psychiatric distress.

To teach your Pit Bull to be a psychiatric service dog, you can simulate a panic attack and command your dog to come over. When your dog comes to you, give them a treat, so they continue to do it whenever you actually have a panic attack.

It’s in the dog’s nature, in general, to come over whenever they feel like their owners are behaving odd.

Mobility Assistance Service Dogs

Mobility assistance service dogs are there to help people with physical disabilities.

To teach your Pit Bull to be a mobility assistance service dog, you can simply reward them whenever they fetch you an item. For example, you can say the item’s name and point to it with your fingers. 

Be Patient 

Training your Pit Bull to be a service dog requires a lot of patience. Even professional trainers require a significant amount of time when it comes to training service dogs.

It’s recommended to start slow and stick to one command until your dog fully understands it before advancing to a new command. Rushing through different commands will end up confusing the dog as it will not understand what exactly you want it to do.

It’s also recommended to seek help from a professional trainer if you’re having any trouble throughout the training process. The trainer will help you figure out what you’re doing wrong and give you advice and tips on what you can do to improve.

How to License Your Pit Bull As A Service Dog?

Licensing your Pit Bull as a service dog will prevent any issues you may face when you’re in public or when renting a new home. 

You can register your Pit Bull through a certain organization that is specialized in your disability. It is required to have a letter from your doctor stating your disability and a health certificate for your dog from the vet that states that his health is good.

You need to send all the documents needed to the organization. Once your Pit Bull is licensed, you will receive a vest for your dog, a certificate, and an ID badge.

Can A Landlord Refuse to Rent To You If Your Service Dog Is A Pit Bull? 

Some landlords do not allow certain breeds in the houses or apartments they rent, especially with breeds that have BSL like Pit Bulls.

However, all landlords are required by law to allow residents with disabilities to keep service dogs, even if the service dog is a Pit Bull. This is according to the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination against people based on disability.

How to Talk to Your Landlord About Your Pit Bull Service Dog?

When talking with your landlord about your Pit Bull service dog, you need to discuss all policies about keeping pets in the building and whether you need to pay any additional fees.

If your disability is not visible, your landlord can ask you for some documentation that states that you have a disability. You also need to provide the landlord with documentation for the dog, including its registration papers, health certificate, and license as a service dog.

This way, your landlord will have all the legal documents required and a guarantee that your Pit Bull is trained and well-behaved enough to stay in the house or apartment that you are renting.

I have a complete guide on how to talk to your Landlord about your Pitbull in my guide to living with a Pit Bull in an apartment here, and I highly recommend you check out this guide as it covers literally every single thing you need to know about living with a pit bull in an apartment, including the legal side of things.

Related Questions 

Are Pit Bulls Good for People with Anxiety? 

Pit Bulls are good for people with anxiety. They are characterized by an affectionate and loyal personality that makes them caring and protective of their owners. They can be trained to spot the signs of an anxiety attack so they can come over and help their owners through it.

How Long Do Service Dogs Need to Be Trained?

Service dogs need to be trained for about 120 hours over the duration of 4 to 6 months, according to international standards. It’s recommended to have the dog spend at least 30 hours of that time in public to help it get used to being around different kinds of distractions.

 Can A Pit Bull Be A Guard Dog?

 A Pit Bull can be a guard dog as long as it’s trained from an early age. Pit Bulls are loyal and protective of their owners, and it’s easy to train them to attack command. They are also strong and have muscular builds, so they will look intimidating to scare away any intruders.

Helpful Resources

Frequently Asked Questions about Service Animals and the ADA

ADA Service Dog Laws

How to license your dog as a service dog

PitbullsHome Personally-Tested Picks for Pitties:

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