Puppies are mouthy by nature, and their nips can turn painful as they mature. Pit bulls in particular have particularly strong jaws and should be trained early not to bite. Commonly, "pit bull" encompasses a number of breeds, including Staffordshire terriers and other recognized breeds, and American bulldogs -- not really pit bulls at all.
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Teach your puppy that you are the top dog from Day 1. Pit bulls can be extremely dominant, so showing the puppy that you are the boss from a young age will curb dominance-related biting and aggression. In a natural pack setting, submissive dogs will roll over to display their bellies to the alpha members of the pack. Pick the puppy up and hold her gently on her back to show her that you are in charge. Walk through doors in front of the dog, rather than letting her lead, and keep her on a leash during walks to keep her under control. Feed her on a set schedule, pouring her food and making her wait before diving in.
Play with your puppy, but stop playing if she bites. Nipping is common in pit bull puppies, and their strong, angular jaws can cause severe damage if biting behaviors continue into adulthood. If the puppy bites you during playtime, yelp loudly and immediately stop moving. The yelp mimics the cry of an injured littermate, and removing yourself from the game shows the puppy that biting leads to the end of playtime. After a brief time out, resume playing with the puppy, repeating the process if she bites you again. Slowly tighten up your biting rules, yelping for increasingly gentler bites until the puppy no longer applies any pressure during playtime.
Redirect the puppy’s attention with a toy. Many pit bull puppies become increasingly mouthy during teething, and even the smallest nip with sharp puppy teeth can cause serious injury. If your puppy is insistent on chewing, provide her with a number of durable toys. Sturdy ropes are perfect for strong pit bull jaws and will keep even the most determined chewer busy. Replace old, worn toys with new ones to prevent your puppy from ingesting pieces that may lead to intestinal blockages.
Exercise your puppy every day. Pit bulls are very energetic dogs, and too much pent-up energy may cause your puppy to bite out of boredom. Take your puppy out for frequent walks and play sessions, and toss a favorite toy to encourage her to burn off steam. Once your puppy has had her shots, frequent trips to the dog park will be another excellent way to socialize and run off excess energy.
- Keep a variety of toys on hand to keep your dog from getting bored. Ropes, balls and stuffed toys are all acceptable choices for a mouthy pit bull puppy.
- Never hit your puppy for biting. Spanking the puppy only teaches her to fear you, and a fearful dog may bite to protect herself.
- Pit image by Mark D. Farthing from Fotolia.com