Pitbull puppies are highly intelligent, social, and eager to please. As such, they learn behaviors quickly, whether good or bad. It is best to begin training your puppy as soon as you bring them home.
How do I train my pitbull puppy to be a good citizen? To train a pitbull puppy, use positive reinforcement methods and consistent practice to instill the habits you seek to develop. Begin with basic obedience training such as sit, stay, down, come, and housebreaking. Pitbull puppies are not very different from most other breeds in this regard.
Beginning your pitbull puppy’s training as soon as possible ensures your puppy will not have time to learn poor behavior habits. Be sure to keep in mind that once a behavior is introduced and mastered, it is difficult, but not impossible, to change.
Are Pitbull Puppies Easy to Train?
Due to the many misconceptions and myths surrounding Pitbulls, many would reason that they are aggressive, high energy, and stubborn, making training them a difficult task. However, in truth, they are effortless to train.
Pitbulls are smart, eager, and learn basic commands faster than many other breeds. There are three keywords to remember for training to be successful, research, patience, and repetition.
When Should Training Begin?
Training should begin the minute you bring your puppy home. Ideally, your puppy should be seven to eight weeks old, but this by no means rules out the older puppy.
The first and most important aspect of training, especially for a pitbull, is socialization. The sooner your puppy meet fellow dogs, humans, and other creatures reduce the likelihood of them developing fear.
Aggression and other undesirable behaviors are rooted in fear. Once a dog is fearful, it is difficult to regain their trust. Therefore you need to be proactive. Bring your puppy everywhere, expose them to new people, children, and other pets as often as possible.
What Do Trainers and Vets Say?
In the past, trainers and veterinarians advised waiting to begin training until your puppy had their first round of shots. That is no longer the case. The most recent thought is to start training as early as seven or eight weeks (source).
As with any issue, some trainers and veterinarians still purport to wait until the puppy has had the complete round of shots, usually by 14 weeks. They do not believe the benefits to early socialization outweigh the risks of the puppy contracting serious illnesses.
Contracting a disease is a serious risk and not to be taken lightly. Seek guidance from your veterinarian as to what is right for your puppy. They know if there have been outbreaks of any kind that would cause a danger to your puppy.
What is the Best Method to Teach My Pitbull Puppy?
Pitbulls respond well to consistent, positive reinforcement. They do not respond well to negative reinforcement, such as yelling or punitive punishment, which only instills fear and will not build a bond of trust.
Positive reinforcement is training using rewards for good behavior and ignoring the negative, making it more likely they will repeat the desired behavior (source). Science has proven that reward-based training is the best method.
Why? When you train using rewards, you will build a positive bond with your puppy. It makes training fun and rewarding. Your puppy will have more confidence and has encouragement that it is okay to think for themselves. Fewer behavior problems are reported.
How to Train Using the Positive Reinforcement Method
Find Out What Your Dog likes and is Willing to Make an Effort to Work for
Finding a reward your dog wants may take a bit of time. Most dogs will work for food, treats, or toys (source).
Pitbull puppies are active and excitable. Consider using a calm voice and a gentle pet before giving them a treat. You will teach your puppy you are happy with them following your command and remaining calm at the same time.
Be consistent with giving the reward every time they earn it in the beginning. As your puppy begins to obey, alternate the treat with verbal and physical praise. Eventually, your approval will be enough. Also, do not always give the same reward every time; variety will keep your pup coming back for more.
Timing is vital, which means you must give the reward immediately, so your dog associates the treat with the behavior. If you are too early or too late, you may confuse your puppy, and they may or may not repeat the desired behavior.
The use of positive reinforcement should become part of daily life for you and your puppy. Keep treats in all the rooms your dog has access to. The treats will then be quickly accessible to reinforce behaviors outside of formal training sessions.
While changing up rewards during your regular training session, you may also want to consider having certain treats depending on the situation.
For instance, if you are at the park, or walking by a school, or at the dog park. They will be more likely to continue to pay attention to you if the treats are extra appealing.
What if My Dog Misbehaves?
There are times when we may inadvertently reinforce bad behavior, such as jumping up. You may think to talk to them and gently pushing them away will work, think again. You have just given your puppy what they want, your undivided attention, and touch (source).
Rather than risk reinforcing bad behavior, do not give the dog what they are seeking. It may be your attention or just food from the table.
What Behaviors Should I Teach My Pitbull Puppy?
First and foremost is teaching your puppy where you want them to go to the bathroom. Pitbulls learn this quickly, but in the beginning, they will have accidents in the house. Accidents are very frustrating. If they pee or poop inside, do not punish them.
Some people would often push their puppies to face in the excrement, or worse hitting them, before bringing them outside to their designated spot. Unless you have caught them in the act, this may serve to reinforce going in the house.
Begin training by establishing a schedule for going potty. For example, bring your puppy outside as soon as they wake up, after meals, and before bed.
If it works for you, adding afternoon times would also be helpful. A crate is a useful tool in potty training, especially if you are away from home for long stretches.
Establishing a schedule will train your puppy’s bladder. Having to go to the bathroom does not always adhere to a schedule, especially for a puppy.
Rather than barking or pawing at you, attach a bell to the doorknob. Show them to ring the bell when they need you to take them out.
As stated earlier, if they go in the house and you see them use a loud clap or noise to distract them. Gently tell them no and bring them out to their designated spot.
Puppies love to chew on whatever they find; shoes, pillows, even couches, Add teething to the mix, and you may have a lot of damage. As with housebreaking, interrupt them in the act and direct them to what they are allowed to chew.
There are hundreds of chew and teething toys available at any pet store. Be sure to provide a variety and rotate them to alleviate boredom.
As far as biting, do not ever allow your puppy to nip on your fingers or toes. While this may seem quite harmless when they are very young, by encouraging the behavior, you are training them that it is okay to bite people. Pitbulls are very strong and could cause serious harm without meaning to.
One such myth is that Pitbull’s jaws will lock on what they are biting and are impossible to force open. Although false, knowing how feared Pitbulls are regarding their bite, it is best never to tolerate biting you or other animals.
There are a couple of ways to teach your puppy not to bite. When your puppy bites or nips at you, pull away and make a hurt sound, so they know you do not like it. They are very sensitive to human emotion and want their human to be happy.
Another method to use when they are biting on you or a forbidden object is to divert their attention and give them something they are allowed to chew on. Eventually, your puppy will only chew what is theirs.
Want to completely stop your dog from chewing? Check this short video below:
Leash training is paramount to having a well-behaved puppy and should begin at 7 or 8 weeks, or as soon as you bring your puppy home.
Be prepared by having their collar and tag ready to put on. You want them to be excited about wearing the collar, and if you are happy, they are happy, so make a bit of a big fuss about it.
A long training leash is a useful tool. Inside it is helpful to give you control over the territory your puppy is exploring. For instance, tether the leash to your chair while watching television, your puppy has a sense of freedom while you have a line of sight to keep them out of trouble.
The long training leash is handy to teach commands outside, especially if you do not have a fence. Your puppy can be far away while you teach sit and stay, but can not wander or runoff.
Except for the dog park, there are not many places where your puppy can be off-leash. Teaching them to walk on a leash will take time.
Puppies, especially energetic, will tend to pull. Pulling makes taking a walk very unpleasant, even if they know how to sit and stay.
Walking on leash without pulling is a must for the safety of both your puppy and yourself, especially when you have a powerful dog such as a pitbull.
Use the leash as often as possible to establish consistency. While walking, hold the leash so your puppy must walk behind or right next to you, this is the heal position.
If your puppy pulls, say back and use a hand signal, palm toward their face, to teach stop. Bring your puppy back into a heel and start to walk.
You can also stop every time they pull. Your pitbull will soon learn to get what they want, which is to explore; they must first heal. This will most likely take anywhere from one to three weeks depending on your puppy.
In the beginning, you may not even get past the front door. The time to learn good manners time well spent.
Dogs jump to say “Hi, I am so excited to see you, pet me!”, to catch a ball or a frisbee, or while playing with another dog,
One thing you do not want is a pesky jumping dog. It may not bother you, but it is ill-mannered, and guests or those your pup meets outside the house will be disturbed.
Pitbulls are very human-friendly, one of the reasons they make excellent family pets, and they love meeting new people. One of the best ways to get someone’s attention is to jump around and paw them. It is a self-satisfying behavior. They get your attention.
To teach your pitbull puppy to politely greet people with a calm sit, pay no attention to them. Do not make eye contact or touch them, even if it is a push. That will only reinforce the negative behavior. Once they are calmly seated, reward them.
To establish not jumping on guests at the door, let your guests know ahead of their arrival what to expect. Tell them how to respond and when to give their attention.
Involving guests reinforces that jumping is not acceptable at the door, no matter who is there. Once your puppy masters this, it will be easier to teach outside the home.
Dog to Dog Aggression
The aggression between dogs is straightforward to address and requires one word, socialization. It cannot be stressed enough how important socialization is for puppies.
The more dogs, cats, creatures, and people they meet early on will be the difference between a friendly or possibly aggressive dog.
Unsocialized dogs will not share food, treats, or toys. If another dog tries to take a toy, your puppy may become aggressive. If your home has multiple pets, put them all together from the first day. Separating them tells them there is a problem, and dogs need packs.
At the dog park, let them join the fun right away, do not hold them back. Keep close to them, however, in case there are signs of any issues. Your puppy may not be the problem, but as a pitbull, he will more than likely get the blame.
Know Your Dog’s Body Language to Aid in Training
A dog’s body language is one way they have to communicate with you and other species.
Knowing your puppy’s body language will prevent a possibly unpleasant or worse situation from occurring. Knowing when to step in not only keeps your puppy safe, it also allows you to redirect and teach what you expect.
There are many individual signs of a dog’s aggression toward another dog. Before jumping to conclusions potentially creating a situation, quickly assess your dog’s body language. Taking into account their whole body as one sign may not mean a fight.
Your pitbull may display a stiff posture, tail tucking, pacing in circles, curled lip, growling or snarling, or a raised ruff. There is always more than one sign (source).
Teaching your dog to drop and leave something they want or are barking or running towards will save their life. Use a favorite treat and a plain treat.
Hold one in each hand, then hold out the boring treat but say nothing. Wait for your puppy to back away from the treat. Immediately give a reward such as a tasty treat. Keep practicing and slowly add the words “leave it” for whatever you do not want your dog to touch.
Keep practicing this until your dog is an expert without distraction. Slowly move to busier places and eventually use other objects. You can also begin to teach “drop it” when playing ball so your dog does not play tug of war unless that is the game you are playing.
Teaching Comfort and Obedience with Routine Touch
Your pitbull puppy will need to learn that being touched has to be tolerated. All through the day, at unexpected times, play with their ears, mouth, paws, and tail. Perform regular grooming and Clip their nails, give them baths, and brush their fur and teeth.
You may find that at first, your puppy will resist, especially grooming. If you repeat the playing and the grooming regularly, you will find your puppy will begin to enjoy these activities. It may not take long for your pitbull puppy to become accustomed as they naturally love to play and be touched.
Grooming and playing is an excellent way to not only teach your puppy good manners but gives you both time to grow your special bond. Grooming is essential and should be a pleasant, relaxing time with your dog (source).
How to Discipline a Pitbull Puppy
Never lose your temper. The calmer you remain, the more relaxed your puppy will be. Puppies and adult dogs respond negatively to yelling, even becoming fearful. You do not ever want your puppy to react out of fear. You do not wish to cause him to become aggressive.
tame any aggression. When you must punish, only punish behavior that gives your puppy self-satisfaction, such as chewing your favorite shoes.
Rather than punish them, teach your dog what you expect from them. For instance, you are teaching the sit command. As soon as your puppy sits, give a treat, a pet, or provide lots of praise. An immediate response from you will strengthen obedience.
Pitbulls respond exceptionally well to training methods that include rewards, which can be food, a toy, or any special attention from you. Teaching what you expect is the best way to discipline them. Set boundaries, never waver, and be consistent.
It is crucial to establish yourself as a leader or alpha. Your puppy will look to you for direction. The pack looks to the leader to tell them where to go, when to sit, and when to eat. Without a leader, a puppy will be lost and confused.
When your puppy does something wrong, such as loud howling, and will not quiet when you tell them, gently hold their muzzle (this is what a mother dog does), and quietly tell them to “hush.” Be sure to make the correction quickly and move on.
You are the leader, and as such, you should give or deny permission to eat, sit on the couch, sleep on the bed, or go outside to play.
Always be first when going through doors and be sure your puppy walks in the heel position. A dog with a leader knows their place in the pack and gives them the comfort they need to be well-behaved.
Advanced Training and Dog Sports
As mentioned above, pitbull puppies are full of energy. Walking and playtime are fun ways to exert energy, making for a calm puppy. There are so many more fun ways to do this and spend time together.
Following is a sample list of sporting events available to Pitbulls and a short explanation of each (source).
This is a competition that includes catching Frisbees thrown by the owner. It is a game of accuracy, discipline, determination, and obedience.
Pitbulls often compete in this sport. In this sport, the dog needs to jump from a dock to a body of water. The goal is to reach the farthest distance possible. The dog with the most extended reach wins.
Is your doggo determined to run over the tunnels, obstacles, and other barriers? The agility trial will be a perfect match for your pet. It’s a high-paced sport that will put your Pitty’s energy into good use. The good thing with agility trials is it also trains your dog to be a quick thinker and an obedient canine.
Flyball is like a relay game where a team of dogs competes to run along a course with obstacles and hurdles.
Herding is a sport for dogs with the instinct or inclination to herd or collect livestock in groups. Even non-herding dogs can join the competition as long as they can perform the task at hand.
This sport includes teamwork between you and your dog. The goal, finish the course dotted with written instructions that the owner or handler has to follow. Moreover, what your dog should do is respond to your commands and heel appropriately on your left side.
For Pitties that are masters of basic commands, obedience trials can be a great pick. It puts your dog’s discipline and intelligence to the test. Also, it will utilize your ability as the owner to control your dog through cues and commands.
Are Pitbull Puppies Aggressive?
This question is difficult to answer. Pitbulls have a reputation, thanks to the media, of being aggressive, dangerous dogs. Saying a Pitbull aggressive and dangerous is a generalization steeped in lack of facts and understanding of the breed.
According to Pitbullinfo.org, pitbull is a generic term used to describe a type of dog that resembles any medium-size dog with bully traits. There are four recognized breeds and over 20 unique mixed breeds (source).
According to the American Kennel Club, the recognized pitbull-type breeds are members of the Terrier group of breeds. They include:
- The American Pit Bull Terrier
- The American Staffordshire Terrier
- The Staffordshire Bull Terrier
- The American Bully (not related to the bulldog).
The pitbull-type dogs were initially bred in England, Ireland, and Scotland in the 19th century and are a cross of a bulldog and a terrier.
The purpose of this cross-breeding was to have the strength and tenacity of a bulldog with the agility of a terrier, making them excellent dogs for cattle herding and wonderful family pets.
Most likely, Pitbulls’ reputation of being aggressive came from being used in bloodsports such as bull/bear-baiting and dogfighting (source).
While bloodsports became illegal in England in 1835, this did not stop using Pitbulls for sport, it just brought the competition underground, and dogfighting became very popular.
Immigrants brought their Pitbulls to America and, as in England, were working dogs. They herded cattle, hunted, and were pets.
Pitbulls, until recently, were vastly popular dogs and considered one of the friendliest. They were featured on the cover of Life Magazine three times.
In World Wars I and II, the pitbull-type dog represented the spirit of America. They are soldiers, police dogs, search and rescue dogs, actors, and seeing-eye dogs. Some famous pitbull-type dogs are Spuds McKenzie of Budweiser, and Pete the Pup from the Little Rascals.
Training a Pitbull is the same as training any other breed of dog. What sets the Pitbull apart from others is their high intelligence which makes them fast learners.
They love people, are social, want to work and learn, and are eager to please. Having these traits make Pitbull puppies easy to train.
Pitbull puppies still have a reputation for being aggressive. At the same time, they are no more or less aggressive than any other breed. It is up to you to train them to be good canine citizens.
Training takes time and effort. As long as you are willing to put in the work, you and your pitbull puppy will have a long, happy life together.