Pitbull puppy training tips
No breed of dog has a worse reputation than the American Pit Bull Terrier, commonly known as the Pit Bull. People have bought into the myth that these dogs are unpredictable and dangerous and can “snap” at a moment’s notice. The truth is, if properly trained, this dog can be the best pet you will ever own. They are intelligent, loyal and persistent, traits that make training them both rewarding and relatively painless.
The most important component in training a Pit Bull, or any dog for that matter, is developing a strong relationship with the animal. Because Pits are so devoted to their owners, it is best to start working with the dog when he is as young as possible. As soon as the pup is weaned, it is time to get to work. It is important that the dog identify a primary “human” early on. Pit Bulls live to please and the sooner they learn who is boss, the better.
To Crate or Not to Crate
There has been a great deal of debate as to whether or not a puppy should be kept in a crate or cage during training. On one hand, this method of training does help eliminate some of the destruction that can occur when puppies get bored. Pit Bull pups can be devastating! Keeping a puppy in a crate, especially at night, prevents him from tearing up furniture and other items that may catch his fancy. It also gives the dog his own “space” and many dogs return to their crates nightly even after training is over.
On the other hand, puppies miss their mothers and it is tempting to try to comfort them by keeping them in bed with you at night. Their nighttime crying is difficult to listen to and at some point you will be most certainly want to try to comfort the dog. The problem with this is that once the dog gets into the habit of sleeping on the bed or couch or other comfortable spot, you are not going to be able to get him to stop. Try to remember that eventually, this dog is going to weigh 60-80 lbs. or more, the size of a small human!
If you are going to be away from home during the day, it is best to crate the dog. Dogs get bored too and this is normally when the destruction occurs. And don’t think you can stop this by giving him a room to himself. Pits are Houdini-like in their ability to escape and have been known to claw through walls, chew up restraining gates and figure out how to open doors.
All You Need is Love
A Pit Bull puppy is adorable and easy to love. Keep him close to you early on, remembering that you are developing a relationship with the animal. If you live in a colder climate, you will need to keep the dog warm. They have very short fur and are susceptible to the cold. They enjoy wearing little sweaters and you can even use an arm from an old sweatshirt or a tube sock as a substitute. You can carry a Pit Bull puppy like an infant zipped up in your jacket when you go for a walk. They love to be outside. This reinforces your love for the dog and his for you.
Get your puppy used to being on a leash as early as possible. Pits grow up to be very strong and unless they are used to a leash, they will be a challenge to train as they get older. Put a little collar on the dog and walk him as often as possible. At first, the dog isn’t going to understand what is going on, but he’ll get the idea soon enough. Take him for short walks and reward him with a “ride” home in your jacket. He will look forward to the walk just for the trip home! Use simple commands and be consistent. Call the leash by name and keep it in the same place all the time. Eventually, you will be able to tell the dog to get his leash and he will do so.
Consistency is the Key
Pit Bulls are very intelligent. That, combined with their intense desire to please, makes training these dogs relatively easy. You must let the dog know you are in control though and use a firm voice. Do not yell at the dog and never hit him or even threaten violence. Use simple commands and repeat them. You should also use hand gestures in combination with words. For example, to teach the dog to respond to “Down,” say the word and gesture at the same time. Repetition works. And don’t give up. Pit Bulls are tenacious and you must be equally so.
Training with Treats
Avoid using a lot of treats during training. An occasional biscuit is okay, but you don’t want to spoil the dog. He must learn to respond to your voice and tone, not to the promise of a treat. You should provide plenty of chew toys and bones, though. This occupies the dog during the day and keeps his teeth strong and healthy. Make sure that these toys do not contain small, metal parts such as bells or squeak boxes. Pits have a strong bite and will chew up just about anything. He could choke on one of these metal parts.
If you plan on keeping the dog outside, be aware that they have incredible strength and agility and are able to leap up to six feet in the air. Never underestimate the determination of a Pit Bull! Keep him safe by making sure that any fenced in area is secure and that the fence is high enough so that he cannot scale it. Do frequent checks of the full perimeter of your fence and look for any area where they dog might be able to slip though. Make sure to keep any gates locked as well. And please, do not leave a dog outside in extreme temperatures – either hot or cold.
A well-behaved Pit Bull is a joy to live with! They can “tell” you what they want and are remarkably creative in communicating with their owners. They are energetic and enjoy playtime. They can be taught to fetch sticks, play Frisbee and learn the names of their toys and other items. These dogs are being used as search and rescue workers (several worked tirelessly at Ground Zero after 9/11) and make great companion dogs for the disabled.
There are currently groups working to overturn breed specific laws in areas that penalize people for owning these animals as well as to get them recognized for their incredibly ability to assist the disabled. Unfortunately, they must overcome the stigma that has developed in the past few years. Pit Bulls are not inherently dangerous. They are great with children and can live comfortably with other dogs. They even get along with cats! Properly trained, a Pit Bull will earn his keep and reward you with love, loyalty and devotion his entire life.