Fear that I've failed as an owner.

by Nikkey
(Michigan)

My absolutely beautiful pit, Chevy, is a year and a half old. Absolutely amazing with people, children, some animals (we're working on that!) and she has changed the hearts of many pitbull fearing people.

When I found her, as a puppy and took her into my home, I had sworn that I was going to spend every last minute teaching her everything any other dog should know, so that she would surpass her reputation as a pitbull.

I started off strong, snaps for treats (good girl situations), socializing, walking, feeding, I had everything nailed to the dime in her life.. And now at a year and a half she runs after other dogs, attempts to snap at some, barks at children and scares the crap out of almost everyone that has never met her.

I stopped training almost five months ago because of my busy work schedule, but I have never had problems with her running away or chasing other dogs or even snapping at other dogs. Have I failed as her owner? Am I going to be one of those people who just get pitbulls for their bad reputation, just another idiot that doesn't know how to treat their dog and train them to their full potential?

I don't want to be a headline. Is it too late? Can I still get her back in the groove of listening, behaving, and calmness around dogs? Will she always have this aggressive, over the top, over excited "I won't listen to you" attitude?

I looked at your list of books, but I feel as though I have to start all over again, and none or maybe all of them apply to me. I feel like I failed her more than myself. I just need some tips on how to get her into the groove of things again because somehow, I'm back at square one. But it really opened my eyes. I used to be able to take her everywhere and she was calm and collected. Now she goes bananas when someone walks by.

Walks are constant--twice a day, if not three times a day. And yet she sort of disobeys. She looks, knows what I'm saying, but passes it off. Her energy level is on the roof, even after walks. And she just will not do any training with me at all. She's gained her own freedom somehow, past me.

Before I go from questions to question, here are my main three:

1.Have I failed as her owner for stopping her training?

2.How do I regain that bond with her again so we can get back to training the right way?

3.What training would be most effective?

Thank you, any confusions please make them clear so I can help out my situation. I apologize for all the scatter-brain topics.

Gale's Reply:

Hi Nikkey:

I don't believe you've failed Chevy. Life happens. I think most of us go thru times when more is required of us in one area of life. That area takes center stage. And other areas fade into the background a bit.



In your case, it seems that your job became more demanding around the time that Chevy was entering the equivalent of her adolescence. And now, five months later, you have a dog who doesn't want to listen to you AND, in the meantime, has developed a strong prey drive. The prey drive issue would have surfaced even if you had kept up her training full force. The difference is that had you been training during that time, you would have had the opportunity to work with shifts in her personality and behavior as they came up.

So, while the lapse in training didn't help matters, I'm not convinced it's the only factor contributing to Chevy's misbehavior. Dogs often undergo personality/attitude changes as they go thru different life stages. Bear in mind that people rescue mature dogs (older than Chevy) with all kinds of behavioral problems every day of the week. So, it's NOT too late to make a course correction with Chevy.

The fastest way to get back on track would probably be to have a couple of sessions with a behaviorist. That is, someone who has the expertise to observe you with Chevy and give you pointers specific to your situation for working with her going forward.

However, depending on where you live, you may not have access to that level of expertise. But, if you can manage it, I think an objective, expert opinion will be your best and fastest route to getting back on track. A couple of books on the human/canine relationship might also be helpful in giving you a sense of direction: Bonding with Your Dog - A Trainer's Secrets for Building a Better Relationship by Victoria Schade and How to be the Leader of the Pack - And Have Your Dog Love You for It! by Patricia McConnell, Ph.D.

You say that Chevy's energy level is through the roof even though she gets 2 - 3 walks a day. It may be that she needs something more vigorous than walking to burn off some of that energy.

As far as what kind of training is best, as I'm sure you know, there are numerous excellent methods and each one has its own enthusiastic cheering section. I'm personally partial to clicker training. But, I'd say the best method for you is the one that you are the most comfortable using and that is based on positive rewards. Hopefully, other owners will weigh in on things they done to pull things back on track with their dogs.

Good luck. Feel free to post back and let us know how you and Chevy are doing.

Comments for
Fear that I've failed as an owner.

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Nov 17, 2011
Muzzle maybe?
by: Anonymous

Some dogs are just dog aggressive more than others and its very hard to train that out of them but you should still try your best. I would suggest you use a muzzle until you've got the dog under better control to aviod any preventable accidents. My older Stafford is very dog aggressive and has been since she was a puppy and she has to wear a muzzle outside now. Where as my other Pitbull, raised the same way as her, is perfect and literally just ignores other dogs, cats, people. etc. They both have to wear muzzle because I live in Ontario anyway but the younger one doesn't need a muzzle but the older one does. The older one is great with the younger one and licks him clean has NEVER biten him only when playing and she is good with dogs who come into the house but tries to attack dogs outside. She's selectively dog agressive.

Nov 17, 2011
Not too late.
by: Anonymous

We took in a Pit Bull female that was dumped at a liquor store, captured by animal control in a small town and left there in the chain link enclosure for 3 months with just food and water.

We had her spayed and shots and then enrolled her in obedience training where we went with and actively participated. It did wonders and the trainer said she was a good dog and smart too.

She was about 3 years old when we got her and the Vet said didn't look like she'd ever been in a dog fight ring. It took a few weeks of this guided training but she came around really good.

It wasn't that expensive and maybe something like this with a professional trainer could help get her where you feel comfortable with her.

Good luck, I think it's do-able.

Nov 17, 2011
YES! you have failed, however..
by: gg

That doesn't need to be the end of the story! I adopted a 4yo 90lb male pitbull with issues, from a family member. Its been two years, and the MOST important lesson has been that TRAINING NEVER STOPS! Especially with a high spirited, formidible, hunter with issues. You recognize the problem, now focus. Read, read, read! There's Soo much info available online about training. Watch training videos. And with all the schools of thought (clicker, positive, corrections, etc), I found that somewhere inbetween works for me and Phoenix. We still train with high-value treats (usually chicken), LOTS of 'good boy' s and celebrations. But at the same time, if he needs a correction, I do that, too, which is almost EVERY time he doesn't do what I say! Sometimes its just verbal, with alot of strong tone. Sometimes I turn my back to him. But if he's way out of line, I agree with trainers who believe you must 'meet' the dog's energy. My dog had already been in a few dog fights and killed a cat before I got him. And he is still aggressive at times. I love him WAY too much to allow that. He IS like owning a loaded gun, I AM responsible for the safety of others he encounters, legally and morally. There are times when I grab his scruff hard and push his head down for being aggressive towards people, but only if he's over the top and a command was ignored. He KNOWS, through consistency, that I EXPECT him to listen. If I call him, and he pauses to shake or drink or ANYthing, I say "what'd you do", which is my standard phrase to inform him something was bad behavior.
You owe it to your dog to take the time to have training sessions! Use treats, fetch balls, toys. And I HIGHLY recommend Leeburg's video on how to break up a dog fight. Although I eventually decided against an e-collar, he offers alot of good free training.
One more thing, have you considered the Raw Meaty Bone diet? I read as much as I could find and recently made the switch. Phoenix is more calm, healthy and happy. Leeburg had the best info on that, too. GOOD LUCK!


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