There are a lot of different methods and philosophies for training Pitbull puppies. Choosing the right method and feeling confident that you’re training will be effective can be a tough task. Despite the Pitbull’s reputation and mean-mug, they’re actually extremely loving and soft-hearted. Through positive reinforcement and rewards, you can build a strong bond with your new Pitbull puppy and give them all of the good manners they’ll need to happily socialize with other dogs and people.
A Pitbull puppy can learn to sit as soon as they reach eight weeks. Other basic commands, like lay down and come, will also be very helpful in raising a well-mannered pup. The basic commands are taught through the use of positive reinforcement, and often incorporate a technique called “luring.”
To teach your puppy to sit, bring them to an area with no distractions using a treat to lure them where you want them to go. Hold the treat over your pup’s nose to encourage them to lift their nose upward. Move the treat backward over their head. Their shoulders will automatically lower, putting them into a sitting position. As soon as the rear-end hits the floor, give verbal praise and allow them to eat the treat. Repeat this procedure several times and begin using the command “sit” so your puppy starts associating the verbal command with the act of sitting down.
Your puppy must master the sit command before moving on to the lay down command. Start by commanding your pup to sit. Next, bring a treat to the nose and then pull the treat straight down, landing between the puppy’s feet. From there, pull the treat forward. Your puppy should lay down as they attempt to follow the treat. As soon as your puppy is fully on the floor, give praise and offer the treat. Follow the same procedure repeatedly and begin incorporating the lay down verbal command.
Teaching your pup to come when you call them—the recall command—is absolutely critical. Not only will it help you control where your pup goes, but it can also end up saving their life if they run toward a bad situation. Find a long, quiet space, like the hallway of your house. For this training, you’ll need a friend to hold your puppy at one end of the hallway. Start by standing in front of your puppy with a treat. Begin walking backward while calling their name. As soon as your puppy shows that they want to run toward you, your friend should let them go. When your puppy makes it to the other end of the hall, praise and offer a treat. Gradually increase the distance as training progresses and add distractions to really challenge your puppy.
Loose Leash Walking
Loose leash walking is best taught in a dog obedience school where distractions like other dogs are present. This ensures that your puppy can behave on a leash even when there are lots of other things to grab their attention and cause them to pull. You can begin teaching some basics of leash walking at home by taking your pup for a walk and coming to a stop when your puppy gets in front of you. This will cause the leash to become taut. Use a treat to bring your puppy next to you again and repeat this process over and over.
The stay command requires a fair amount of attention from your puppy, so it may be difficult to teach this command when they’re very young. To teach the stay command, simply instruct your pup to sit next to you. Hold up your open palm and say the word “stay.” Take a step forward, keeping your hand up. Return to your starting position next to your puppy and praise them for staying still. Gradually increase the distance and length of time you ask your puppy to stay.
Remote Collar Trainers
A remote collar trainer can be an effective puppy training aid. By simply pushing a button on the small handheld device, your puppy receives a mild stimulation from their collar. Remote trainers help reinforce positive behaviors and adherence to basic commands. They also help you decrease digging, chasing, and other undesirable behavior. Remote collar trainers are good for:
- Basic commands like sit, stay, and come
- Preventing dangerous or nuisance behaviors
- Off-leash training up to 1,000 yards
- Training two puppies at once
Like other similar breeds, Pitbull Terriers could potentially develop aggression toward other dogs as they grow and mature. Your Pitbull puppy is going to grow up to be quite powerful, so proper training and early socialization is key to their healthy development.
Veterinarians may recommend that you don’t expose your Pitbull puppy to other dogs to prevent dangerous diseases that are common among puppies. However, complete isolation is not an ideal situation for your puppy.
You should try to socialize your puppy with other dogs in a controlled environment—preferably among dogs that you know have been vaccinated. At a public dog park, you might not be aware of the health history of every dog. It might be safer to try an obedience class setting for socialization instead.
Socialization with People
Despite the not-so-nice reputation of the Pitbull, aggression toward people is uncommon and depends largely on the dog’s upbringing and training. The American Temperament Testing Society tests dogs for traits like shyness, aggression, and friendliness. Recently, the organization gave the Pitbull Terrier an impressive score of 87.4%—more than passing.
If you just got a Pitbull puppy, your first step toward proper training would be to socialize your new puppy as much as possible. Think of your puppy as a blank canvas. They know very little of the world, and the things that you teach them will shape their attitude, actions, and personality.
With puppies, there is a small window of time during which they are highly impressionable. This critical window starts to close around 12 weeks of age.
Socialization with Dogs
While you can teach many of the basic commands yourself, it is vital to expose your puppy to other dogs outside of your home, helping them learn how to obey commands in the face of heavy distraction. Taking the time to train your puppy at a young age will help you have control over them when they become large and strong. For more advanced training, you may want to seek a reputable dog training facility in your area.
Training and socialization shouldn’t stop as your puppy grows up. Once your Pitbull reaches maturity, they may become selective about which dogs to they want to socialize with. Puppy socialization helps promote bite inhibition and keeps your dog safe and friendly around other dogs at any age.
As with any breed, a Pitbull’s temperament and tolerance for other dogs depends on several different factors, including genetics, training, socialization, and resilience.
Responsible ownership of a Pitbull puppy is so important, given the breed specific legislation currently in place across many areas of the country. Raising a well-behaved Pitbull puppy helps reduce negative stigma around the breed. You want people to see your puppy for the amazing dog they really are, rather than deferring to the negative representation of the breed fueled by the media and irresponsible dog owners.
Tips and Tricks
• Do not play rough or wrestle with your Pitbull puppy. Rough play or aggressive training with a puppy can lead to aggressive adult behavior.
• Let your Pitbull puppy interact with as many different people and dogs as you can, especially during ages 8-12 weeks.
• Play tugging games, but make sure you don’t use a toy that’s easily destroyed. Try a sturdy rope instead.
• Perform a lot of handling and restraint exercises before your Pitbull puppy reaches 16 weeks of age. This teaches the puppy that being touched and handles is perfectly ok, leading to smoother interactions with people and veterinarians.
• If you notice that your pup is constantly bullying other puppies, introduce them to some confident, non-aggressive adult dogs who can put your puppy in their place. Allowing your puppy to bully other puppies will only embolden them to get more aggressive.