Top 9 Tips For Training A Pitbull
Got a Pit Bull?
Thinking about getting a Pitbull?
Or, are you just in love with Pitbulls?
I must say Pitbull 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!
But, many people need a helping hand when it comes to training their Pitbull.
Here are my Top 9 Tips For Training A Pitbull:
#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 dog is young and they probably stopped trimming if the dog initially pulled or screamed to get away. I don’t. 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 dog 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 wind storm 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 Pitbull of unknown history and training. Many of these dogs come from deplorable, sad situations of abuse and no socialization.
Imagine your dog 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 dog 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 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 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 dog.
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 body builders and athletes, you must find a way to give them the exercise that they crave.
Teach 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:
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.
Ways To Avoid Aggression with Your Pitbull
The truth is that these last two tips work for any breed of dog, not just Pitbulls!
#2. Do Not Tether
Tethering your dog 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 is terrible for dogs.
If you 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 hang 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 also use 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, you can learn to train anything or anyone!