Owning a pit bull is tough these days. There are bans of the breed in many cities, and it seems every time you turn around, they’re making news again in a negative way. Responsible pet ownership means working with and training your dog to be able to get along with other people and animals. It doesn’t matter what breed of dog you have, not taking the proper steps to turn your dog into a trusted member of society is a recipe for disaster. Training a pit bull isn’t much different than training other breeds. Below, you will find some tips to help you in understanding and training this breed.
The first 20 weeks in a puppy’s life is when you have the chance to make the biggest impact on their behavior. Puppies learn better and faster, and haven’t reached the fearful stage that most go through around this age. You should start training and socializing your puppy the minute you bring him or her home. This breed can be stubborn, so the earlier you show him or her you’re the one in control, the better off you’ll be. The puppy needs to be exposed to everyone and everything, from the vacuum cleaner, to the kids across the street, to the dog next door, as often as possible. Always make it a positive training time. Puppies need lots of treats and praise when you get a positive reaction from them. Pit bulls love to please their owners, so praise often when he or she has done a good job.
Get the Kids Involved
Let your children take an active role in training your dog. Not only will this teach your child responsibility, but it will teach the puppy that he or she is lower on the totem pole than your child. Have them help you teach the basic commands, like sit, stay, lay down, and so on. Be sure to actively control any training sessions that your child is part of. Immediately correct the dog if he or she nips, jumps, or chases the child, even during play. This type of behavior won’t be allowed when your puppy becomes an adult, so allowing it now is unacceptable.
Something to keep in the back of your mind at all times is that you never want to hit your dog. When you hurt your dog, he or she immediately feels as if they have to protect themselves. Dogs defend with aggression. If you feel angry enough to want to hit your dog, it’s time to put them away in a room, or a crate until you’ve calmed down. If they have to protect themselves against the person they love and trusts the most, imagine how they will react to a stranger. Pit bulls are very intelligent. A stern voice is all you’ll need to let them know they’re not doing the right thing.
Buy a Crate
Dogs may be pack animals, but they also need a place to call their own. It’s good for the dog and the entire family to be able to separate for a while and have time to calm down. The crate should always be a positive thing; never use it as a punishment. Line the bottom with clean blankets, put one of his or her favorite toys in and walk away. When they are crated, you won’t have to be vigilant with watching when you can’t see them.
Have Scheduled Feedings
This may sound like a small thing to do but it can be a huge step in showing your dominance. Never free¯feed your pit bull. Dogs need to know that you’re in charge, and you deciding when feeding time is are the best way to establish this. You always want to eat before your dog, and feed at the same time every day. In the wild, dogs will not eat until after the pack leader has eaten. The pack leader always has control. If your dog always has food, he or she thinks they are in control. The pack leader in the house needs to be you, and you need to establish this early.
Ignore Controlling Behavior
Dogs, like children, will do anything to get attention. Most parents are good at ignoring a child if their behavior is annoying. You should look at your puppy’s behavior the same way. If he or she jumps on you while you’re sitting on the couch and you haven’t invited him or her, ignore the behavior. Stand up and walk away. When you’re ready to give attention, make him or her sit before you pet. If he or she jumps up on you when you walk into a room, turn your back and walk away. It will then be up to you to decide when to give attention, and what your puppy has to do to earn it.
Mistakes Will Happen
Don’t expect your dog to always get it right the first time. There will be accidents and mistakes. It will be up to you as to how you’re going to handle the mistakes that happen during training. It won’t take you long to realize what you need to work on and what your puppy is good at. As with any breed, patience and consistency are the keys to successful training.
Know the Facts
There is a lot of hype in the media about the dangers of pit bulls. However, there are a couple of facts that you’ve probably never heard before. There have been several studies done that show that there may be more bad pit bull owners than there are bad pit bulls. Owners of these and other “vicious breeds” (rottweilers, chows, akitas) are more likely to exhibit antisocial behaviors and have a criminal record. Other studies have gone on to say that if raised properly, pit bulls may pose no more of a threat than other “low risk” breeds.
Training any canine requires more than teaching commands like sitting or shaking hands. You have to maintain total control of the dog at all times, no matter the situation. If you’ve done it right, you can help to break the stereotype that this beautiful dog has fallen under. Pit bulls are loyal, smart, stubborn dogs who love nothing more than to make you happy. They just need a strong, loving person to show them how to behave.