Pit Bull Training – 9 Tips for Success
Got a Pit Bull puppy? Thinking about getting a Pit Bull puppy? Or, are you just in love with Pit Bulls? I must say Pit Bull ownership and adoration is on the rise! Unfortunately, much of it is due in part to poor and over breeding.
Thankfully, there are many good adopters out there who are willing to take one of these special dogs into their homes and give them the love they deserve! Many people need a hand when it comes to Pit Bull training. Don’t worry! I’ve compiled a list of the top nine tips for training them. First, however, here’s a look at this breed’s origin.
Until the early part of the 19th century; the Bulldog was bred with great care in England for the purpose of baiting bulls. The Bulldog of that day was vastly different from our present-day “sourmug.” Pictures from as late as 1870 represent the Bulldog as agile and as standing straight on his legs-his front legs in particular.
In some cases he was even possessed of a muzzle, and long rat tails were not uncommon. The Bulldog of that day, with the exception of the head, looked more like the present-day American Staffordshire Terrier than like the present-day Bulldog.
When it comes to the bull-type terrier breeds, all can agree that the common component in their makeup was the Bulldog. (Note that the Bulldog of 200 years ago was a vastly different, more ferocious creature than the lovable “sourmugs” of today).
Argument begins when breed experts try to nail down which preexisting terrier breeds reside in the American Pit Bull Terrier’s genetic background. Some suggest that such extinct breeds as the White English Terrier and Black-and-Tan Terrier were part of the genetic mix that led to the creation of the Staffordshire Terrier, forerunner of the American Pit Bull Terrier.
Some writers contend it was the white English Terrier, or the Black-and-Tan Terrier, that was used as a cross with the Bulldog to perfect the Staffordshire Terrier.
It seems easier to believe that any game terrier, such as the Fox Terrier of the early 1800s, was used in this cross, since some of the foremost authorities on dogs of that time state that the Black-and-Tan and the white English Terrier were none too game, but these same authorities go on to stress the gameness of the Fox Terrier.
It is reasonable to believe that breeders who were attempting to perfect a dog that would combine the spirit and agility of the terrier with the courage and tenacity of the Bulldog, would not use a terrier that was not game.
In analyzing the three above-mentioned terriers at that time, we find that there was not a great deal of difference in body conformation, the greatest differences being in color, aggressiveness, and spirit.
In any event, it was the cross between the Bulldog and the terrier that resulted in the Staffordshire Terrier, which was originally called the Bull-and-Terrier Dog, Half and Half, and at times Pit Dog or Pit Builterrier.
Later, it assumed the name in England of Staffordshire Bull Terrier.
These dogs began to find their way into America as early as 1870, where they became known as Pit Dog, Pit Bull Terrier, later American Bull Terrier, and still later as Yankee Terrier.
In 1936, they were accepted for registration in the AKC Stud Book as Staffordshire Terriers. The name of the breed was revised effective January 1, 1972 to American Staffordshire Terrier.
Breeders in this country had developed a type which is heavier in weight than the Staffordshire Bull Terrier of England and the name change was to distinguish them as separate breeds.
Now, the pitbull is one of the most loved and respected of the bully breeds.
It has appeared throughout literature and pop-culture as an icon among the bully breeds.
Ownership has grown and the distribution of the American Staffordshire Terrier is widespread.
You may own one.
However, you’ll need to train it.
On that note, here are my best dog training tips when it comes to the Pit Bull.
The Top 9 Tips for Pit Bull Training:
#9. Handle Your Puppy
If you are getting a puppy or young adult dog begin your relationship by teaching your puppy tolerance of handling! All puppies and dogs need to learn to be tolerant of handling and touch but it is especially important for those of us who have big dogs.
You will likely have to bathe your dog, trim his nails, clean his ears and possibly have to administer medications and do other things that dogs are not overly fond of; be sure to plan for this by teaching your youngster to tolerate and then enjoy this kind of touch.
I am notorious at my work (a veterinary clinic) for bringing my dogs to work and at lunch bringing them out, asking them to lie down sitting on the floor with them and then slowly taking each paw and trimming their nails.
I have conditioned my dogs since they were puppies that if they lie down and don’t fuss, they will get a giant (it was bigger and better when they were puppies but is now just a biscuit) reward after their nail trim.
They are happy to lay still because they know they will be rewarded when I tell them they are “All Done”.
The average dog owner can’t achieve this kind of control and manipulation because they don’t start when their puppy is young and they probably stopped trimming if the dog initially pulled or screamed to get away.
I stick it out when they are young, even if they throw a temper tantrum! This makes their adulthood and all the negative things I might have to do to them so much easier.
** Be careful if you have an older or rescue dog! Being bitten isn’t worth it! **
There are ways to go about conditioning adult dogs to liking certain kinds of touch but it is a slow and often arduous process. Only do what you are comfortable doing!
#8. Teach Relaxation
I like to teach my dogs to relax on cue, whether that be a touch or a verbal cue or both! You never know when your puppy might panic or decide not to like something. Dogs are dogs. We can’t sit them down and explain to them that the sound of gutter hitting the house in a windstorm is “normal” and nothing to be afraid of for them.
Dogs often develop fears and dislikes to things that are mostly out of our control.
This is especially true for those of you who have adopted a lovely Pit Bull of unknown history and training.
Many of these dogs come from deplorable, sad situations of abuse and no socialization.
Imagine your puppy feeling uncomfortable and you being able to simply reach down and touch his ear in a certain way that will help him to breathe deeply and relax!
This is an amazing tool for your tool bag!
#7. Train Calm
This goes for YOU! Never train when you are angry, sad or upset! Also don’t train if you have had too much coffee.
The best pit bull training happens when you remain calm and collected.
One of my client’s favorite things about me as a dog trainer is how calm I am all the time.
It doesn’t matter if your dog is jumping on me, threatening to bite me, or barking in my face; I remain calm.
Letting my emotions take over only distorts situations and confuses our canine (or feline) friends.
Dogs feed off of our emotions!
I believe this is why my dogs are always so calm, they are learning to take their cues from me, their owner, as how to deal with things in their environment.
Don’t get me wrong, I get happy and excited and clap and cheer for my dogs if the moment dictates, but only when it will improve their behavior and helps with pit bull training!
#6. Teach Control and Obedience
Obedience is the cure all to all bad behavior!
And, with extensive obedience (advanced and excellent obedience skills) comes control.
It is true… basic obedience is not enough.
Obedience is a lifestyle; like diet and exercise should be a lifestyle and unless you treat it as such you will not gain the control that you need.
I teach my dogs to give me eye contact and focus so that instead of focusing on another dog or a person, my dogs are looking directly at me. This kind of control allows me to control what my dog is actually looking at and therefore can stop or at least control aggression or fear. Plus, the more obedience control I have over my dog, the better behaved my companion is and the more places I can safely go with him/her.
#5. Socialize, but with Control
So often, socialization with other dogs, people and environment is confused with a total lack of control.
Socializing your Pitbull with other dogs may not mean taking him to the dog park and setting him free praying that there is no altercation.
After all, if you wanted to socialize your dog with toddlers you wouldn’t open the door to the local Chuck E. Cheese and just release your dog hoping all dogs and children would survive? Would you?
The idea is kind of ridiculous!
So is socialization with “reckless abandon” toward anything. In my opinion, socialization means “control”.
If I socialize my dogs with other dogs or people, that means teaching him appropriate manners when in these situations.
Depending on the dog depends on whether or not it is appropriate for dog owners to allow the dog to play, but respect of other dogs and people and the teaching of how to act and react is first assessed and taught.
Remember, not all dogs are appropriate for play, nor want to play. Both dogs that I currently have, have absolutely no desire to play. They can be within inches of your dog and remain calm and well behaved but they have no desire to romp. Not all dogs want to play, don’t force it on them. If they don’t, teach them that they can still have appropriate manners and obedience around other dogs and people.
#4. Exercise Matters
Probably the number 2 cure all for bad behavior is EXERCISE.
The number one is, of course, obedience!
First, your dog needs mental stimulation. Second, your dog needs physical stimulation and exercise. Have you ever been “into exercise”?
Have you ever run a 10k or enjoyed pounding the pavement or lifting weights at the gym?
There is a kind of “high” and euphoria that goes along with physical exercise. Dogs need it! And, the byproduct of all that feel good hormone is good restful sleep!
We all love a sleeping puppy. And, we all know that a dog at sleep is a dog that is not getting into trouble.
Pitbulls are big dogs with lots of muscles and a fairly high energy level – they have needs! A half mile walk or a long wandering meander through the neighborhood is not going to do it for them.
Pitbulls are natural born bodybuilders and athletes, you must find a way to give them the exercise that they crave. During Pit Bull training, each them games involving obedience and involving exercise or retrieve games. Let them pull a tire, a bike or learn to pull you on a sled or skis! Give them something to do with their mind and that beautiful body!
# 3. Weight Affects His Health
This one goes hand in hand with the above example. Probably 90% of the Pitbulls that I see come into our veterinary clinic are significantly overweight. Many of these dogs are owned by older couples who adopted them from a shelter, rescue or other bad situation and who are just unknowingly killing your dogs with food.
Being overweight causes:
— Joint problems
— Heart conditions
— Difficulty breathing
And many other health problems.
I personally know a medium to large sized dog who is 164 pounds. He literally can’t breathe at this point because his weight is killing him.
Oddly, people with these large framed “tough” type dogs equate weight with toughness.
“My Pitbull weighs 100 pounds”
“My Rottweiler weighs 150 pounds”
The truth is that the only thing weight equates with is serious health issues. You should be able to see muscle tone, a waist, and the ribs of a well conditioned dog. Please don’t kill your dog with food. Trust me, you will miss him when he is gone.
Dog Training Tips to Avoid Aggression with Your Pit Bull
The truth is that these last two tips work for any breed of dog, not just Pit Bulls!
#2. Do Not Tether
Tethering your puppy outside and leaving him on a chain creates frustration. Seeing the world coming and going and never truly being able to interact with it causes frustration which often leads to an aggressive dog. People think that aggressive dogs are tethered outside to keep them from being aggressive inside.
The painful truth is that tethering or chaining actually causes aggression.
You can take a perfectly normal, non-aggressive dog and tie him out day after day where he is overstimulated and frustrated and chances are after a fairly short period of time he will begin to show signs of aggression.
Chaining and tethering are both terrible for dogs.
If you, as dog owners or as a dog trainer need a boundary, get a kennel run that you can use for toileting purposes or take your dog for a walk to do his business.
Contrary to popular belief, dogs do not need to be outside for hours on end to be happy.
My dogs, actually, hate being outside.
They go outside, do their business and then want to come back into the house to rejoin the family. And, I am perfectly content with that.
Also, I do not leave my dogs outside if I am not home. I don’t want them to develop chasing, barking or other habits while I am gone.
If you absolutely have to tether, go out to monitor your dog while he is outside. Remember, dogs can also suffocate themselves if they are left on tethers or chains.
#1. Aggression Incites Aggression
Aggression incites aggression, I love saying that, as I believe it encapsulates the exact meaning.
A friend of mine used to have a saying, “Aggression is the first resource of the incompetent.” Meaning when you are frustrated, you should use your mind and not your body to deal with the situation.
Aggressive training techniques can often create aggression.
Pitbulls have a very high tolerance to pain and it is not very likely that many people would win a physical altercation with one.
Instead of putting yourself in that position, use your mind to train.
Utilize positive reinforcement techniques and convince even a difficult dog that he WANTS to listen to you.
The things you want him to do should be beneficial to him. If you can learn to play that game with positive reinforcement, you can learn to train anything or anyone!
Want to Train Your Pit Bull, Too?
Access my step-by-step collection of tutorial videos specifically guiding you through how to teach your Pit Bull puppy to control its impulsive behavior, calm himself, focus and listen to you!
The Pit Bull is an amazing breed with a strong history and a strong demeanor. These dogs are loveable and loyal, but they require the proper training and care in order to reach their full potential as a pet. Whether it’s a puppy or fully-grown, you’ll find that these training tips may be exactly what you need in order to reach peak performance with your Pit Bull.
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.