Pitbulls sometimes get a reputation for being violent or aggressive. In many cases, this has little to do with the breed but rather has everything to do with training. Any dog can be bad if they are not appropriately trained. Pitbulls can be excellent dogs if they are trained from a young age, but training can take some time to accomplish.
Here are seven expert tips on how to train a Pitbull, including the best methods, commands to teach, and how to socialize your Pitbull.
The 7 Tips to Train a Pitbull
1. Socialize Early and Often
One of the most important phases of Pitbull training is socialization. Pitbulls are normally loyal and sweet dogs to their owners, but they can become anxious, protective, and aggressive in unfamiliar situations. One of the best ways to mitigate these undesirable behaviors is through socialization. Pitbulls should be introduced to a variety of different people, dogs, and situations starting from a young age. Socialization works best when you start dogs young and socialize them consistently.
Pitbulls should be socialized with other humans. Getting a Pitbull used to a variety of different people, including friends, family, children, and strangers, is crucial to their development as well-behaved dogs. Pitbulls that are socialized toward humans are less likely to become protective and aggressive. If you start socializing your Pitbull as a puppy, it will get used to being around a variety of different people, which will make them more comfortable and less anxious later in life.
You can socialize your Pitbull with people by taking them outside in public areas, training them while you have people over to the house, and rewarding calm and friendly behavior.
Pitbulls should likewise be socialized towards other dogs to make them as well-rounded as possible. Some Pitbulls are perfectly fine around people but can become angsty and aggressive around other dogs. Even if you live in a single dog household, it is important to expose your Pitbull to other dogs to get them used to them. This will teach your Pitbull how to play, how to understand canine social cues, and how to act and react around other dogs.
The best way to socialize your Pitbull with other dogs is to bring them to places where other dogs are common. You can take them to a dog park, to public trails where dogs are common, or schedule doggy play dates with friends or neighbors. This will help your dog in situations such as the vet’s office or if a strange dog comes up to it when you are out and about.
2. Critical Commands
There are a handful of helpful commands that all Pitbulls should learn. These commands will help you keep your dog under control and will make it easy to manage them inside and outside of the house.
These commands touch on all of the most important pillars of dog training, including recall, holding, and stopping.
3. Always Use Positive Reinforcement
The best way to train a Pitbull is by using positive reinforcement. Positive reinforcement means rewarding your dog when they do a behavior that you enjoy or find acceptable. The best ways to dish out positive reinforcement are with treats, affirmation, or pets. Each dog is a little different. Some dogs are more food motivated than others and therefore might respond better to treats than pets.
When your dog comes, give them love. When your dog plays nicely, give them a treat. When your dog sits, affirm them. These are the best ways to get good behaviors to stick.
You should ignore bad behavior. Do not get mad, and do not yell or use negative reinforcement. Most dogs do not respond well to negative reinforcement, and this can be especially true of Pitbulls. Avoid negative reinforcement and simply ignore undesirable behavior.
You should only strongly correct your dog with a raised voice or physical hands when it is a matter of safety. For example, if your dog takes off and won’t come back, you might need to go retrieve them by hand.
4. Plenty of Exercise
Another thing that helps with training is exercise. A Pitbull that is worn out and has gotten all of their energy out is easier to train. Dogs that have too much pent-up energy can get crazy. Dogs that are amped up and feel cooped up will have a harder time focusing and can be harder to control. A dog that has gotten plenty of exercise will be calmer in the house and more receptive to training. That is because they will be able to pay attention more closely and respond better to commands and positive reinforcement.
5. Be Consistent
Consistency is an important factor in any dog training, including Pitbull training. You want to be consistent with your commands, with your positive reinforcement, and with your expectations. Use a small pool of command words for the best result. If you want your dog to sit, always say sit, don’t use words like down. If you want your dog to come, always say come, don’t say here or come here. Be consistent. Whatever you want your command words to be, stick with them.
Similarly, you should keep consistent expectations for your dog. If you don’t want your Pitbull to bark at strangers, you should never let them bark at strangers. It can’t be okay to bark at strangers in some places and not others. That will only serve to confuse your Pitbull and erode their underlying training.
Use consistent commands. Use consistent reinforcement. Use consistent expectations. This will allow training to sink in and stick much faster and more effectively over time.
6. Be Patient
It is important to remain patient with your Pitbull, especially if they are new or young. Training does not happen overnight. It can take weeks or even months for training to start sinking in. Being patient will help you remain consistent. It will also help you remain calm and make it easier to choose positive reinforcement rather than negative reinforcement.
If you allow yourself to get frustrated, you are more likely to turn to negative reinforcement, which is not good. It can also make your energy anxious or angry, which can then translate to your dog. Pitbulls can be very sensitive to a person’s energy. If you are worked up, angry, or frustrated, it can cause your dog to react in a similar manner which can quickly erode your training and trust between you and your Pitbull.
7. Seek Professional Help
Lastly, if you are struggling to get a young Pitbull under control or if your Pitbull continues to exhibit undesirable behaviors, you might want to seek professional help. There is no shame in admitting you are in over your head. There are plenty of dog training programs available that can help teach your dogs the basics. The basics are sometimes the hardest things to get down. Once a dog knows a handful of commands, it is easier to reinforce those and build on them than it is to start from scratch.
Dog training can be very effective, but it also costs time and money. It can also be expensive, especially if you are on a budget. However, it can also pay serious dividends. If you are having trouble training a stubborn dog and don’t want to give up, consider professional training help.
Dog training can be a frustrating experience, but it is also very rewarding. A well-behaved dog can exhibit good behaviors for years and years. Training a Pitbull requires patience, consistency, and socialization. If you focus on these things, you should have no trouble training your Pitbull. The results might not always be fast, but given enough time and attention, they should sink in and stand the test of time.
Featured Image Credit: Elizabeth Grieb, Shutterstock