With her abundance of intelligence and energy, your pit bull can do almost anything. But for you and your dog to be welcome everywhere you go, she needs to be connected to you and obedient, even in the presence of distractions. It is your job to channel all of that pit bull tenacity and eagerness to please in the right direction to maximize her strengths and minimize her weaknesses.
Lead your dog by example and with strong body language. Pit bulls are observant of people and behavior, and your dog will learn from your nonverbal cues as much as the spoken commands. Outside, walk with proper posture, a confident stride and your head held high. Find a collar that gives you control over your strong bully dog without being punitive or uncomfortable. Hold a short, strong leash firmly but without tension. Know where you are going and stay in front. Inside, eat first, walk first and sit first. Let your dog join you once you are settled. Your pit bull will naturally fall into a more submissive position.
Train your dog daily, inside and outdoors. Teach him basic commands and have him master easy tasks with different types of external stimuli. Reward compliance with training treats or a clicker. Be patient and be sure your dog completes the command perfectly before moving on to the next lesson.
Exercise your dog as much as possible. The more physical exertion you can give your dog, the more relaxed and focused attention he will have for daily training sessions. A pit bull's natural abundance of energy can be his -- and your -- biggest obstacle to success. Remove that potential pitfall, and training and obedience will come much more readily.
Socialize your dog to minimize the unknown. The fewer variables your dog experiences, the less he will need to try and formulate a reaction on his own. When a pit bull feels confident in your ability to introduce him to new things, he will be more likely to let you take the lead in strange situations. Without the pressure of dealing with the unknown or protecting the pack, your pit bull will naturally be more relaxed and obedient.
Reassure your pit bull regularly to let him know when he is acting appropriately, whether you were actively training or not. Your pit bull learns your physical and verbal signs very quickly. Give him confidence in himself and his obedient behavior by being purposeful in your positive reinforcement. Try reward methods such as treats, a clicker, touch or voice, and consistently choose whichever is most effective.
Schedule play with your pit bull. These exuberant and loyal dogs also have a silly and goofy side that you would do best to indulge. Allowing some unstructured play in a daily regimen helps to enforce boundaries between work and play time. This down time is as important as scheduled feeding, walking and training times in helping your dog to reach his potential as a well-rounded and obedient pit bull.
- Trust your pit bull to act positively. Mutual trust makes for a reciprocal relationship with these observant and human-oriented dogs.
- Get to know your pit bull as an individual. Observe his behavior and sensitivities and adapt your routine or training accordingly for maximum success.
- Check with a trainer or your veterinarian to make sure you are addressing your dog's needs safely and to get helpful input.
Kat Toland has worked with animals for over 20 years. She's been employed in the pet industry, but more significantly has been involved in all aspects of rescue, working with cats, dogs, horses, even spending time with rescued wolves. She currently volunteers with a group that runs with shelter dogs.