Pitbull Training Tips

by Jessica
(Massachusetts )

Pitbull training tips for a reactive dog

We have had Ruger since he was about 9 weeks old. He was so small and my husband looked at him and said "he's gonna be bad" LOL! He is our new addition as we have 6 year old APBT.

Ruger has been the bane of our existence! I have spoiled Ruger from day one as our son is 11 y/o and I was craving "baby-ness". So now we have this 50 pound semi-aggressive pup.

He is good with our kids and us but watches outside and barks at everyone. We walk him 3 miles a day. He is aggressive towards other dogs, certain people, skateboards, motorcycles, running children, birds, people on bikes...etc.

We are looking for some tips on training. He will sit, high five, come and "up" onto things. However, stay or lay down or no barking or leave it is a huge problem! Any tips?

Gale's Reply:

Hi Jessica:

This reminds me of something I read on the Pit Bull Rescue Central website: "Pit bulls are a little bit more of everything a dog can be". That is to say--more affectionate, more mischievous, more adorable and more of a pain in the you-know-what.

So if I'm understanding you correctly, you spoiled Ruger when he was little. And now, at six months and 50 lbs, he's a bit out-of-control. He decides which commands to follow and which to ignore. And that, along with his reactivity to moving objects is causing you some concern.

'Spoiling' is one of those catch-all words that can mean different things to different people. Since you didn't specify, I'm going to make some assumptions that you're free to correct if I'm wrong. I imagine that what you mean by spoiling is that you let him get away with things and perhaps indulged his whims.

Here's my take on spoiling--it's ok as long as it's on your terms, not your dog's. Let's say Ruger decides he wants to cuddle. He comes up lays his head on your lap and gives you that 'pet me please' look. What do you do?



Now, with some dogs--including many pibbles-indulging them doesn't create a problem. But if you have a 'pushy pittie', every time you comply with his 'requests' you are actually reinforcing his pushiness.

In that case, it would be time for a minor course correction. In the above example, instead of Ruger deciding when you will pet him, you need to be the one to decide. In other words, when you want to pet him, call him to you. Ignore attempts on his part to be petted on demand.

If this is the kind of thing you have going on, it won't be easy. But, be strong! Your reward will be a dog that comes to understand that you are the boss--not him. A great little booklet that is a quick read and one I regularly recommend is :How to be the Leader of the Pack - and Have Your Dog Love You for It!

Establishing yourself in the leadership role is especially important as you have a multi-dog household. And, you will probably find that everything--including obedience training--gets a little bit easier.

Realizing that you are in charge (so he doesn't have to be), you may notice that Ruger's reactivity lessens. But, if he continues to display pseudo-aggressive behavior, you'll need to address that. It's the kind of thing that could land him in trouble down the road.

If you decide to enlist professional help for that, look for a trainer or behaviorist who understands classical counter-conditioning. Alternatively, you can learn the techniques yourself. In my opinion, the best book on this subject is: Click to Calm - Healing the Aggressive Dog.

As far as obedience training goes, I'm partial to clicker dog training. But, there are lots of good programs out there. Victoria Stillwell's materials are also excellent.

Good luck and feel free to post back with more questions or to let us know how things are going.

For more information on obedience training, check out our pit bull training page.

For help with behavioral issues, visit our dog behavior training page.





Comments for
Pitbull Training Tips

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Jul 09, 2011
been there :)
by: Amanda

My female has some of the same issues, some we are still working on and some are resolved. 1) barking at the window. I sit with her in the window during the busiest times of day and correct her with touch and the same command everytime she reacts. She still barks sometimes but usually only once, quietly and recognizes the command, no longer fixated. I totally agree with gail on everything being on your terms, when i feed her, she is to be sitting outside the door of the room she is fed in, until i leave the room. She used ot be really nervous around kids, and meeting new people. After nipping a kid on my street during a walk she no longer meets on her terms. She is to sit to meet anyone, and sniff their hand when offered, but if she is excited she has to wait. once she sniffs their hand I let her leash loosen so she can sniff whatever else she desires, shoes etc. She chases any toy cars that move or make noise etc but after a strict 'leave it' or 'no' she knows its off limits. I think you just need to establish yourself as leader and your pup will start to relax, or atleast follow all commands given.

Jul 10, 2011
I love feedback & tips!
by: Jess

Hi again!
I have thank you for all the support and great tips...as well as the words of encouragement ;) This weekend Ruger and the family will be going for a clicker and a study bag full of "How to's "...I will let ya's all know how our first few days go. We me luck! !!! Thanks Jess

Jul 10, 2011
Muzzle it
by: Anonymous

I have two Pitbulls. One purebred and one that is a tiny bit Rottweiler. The purebred was born so perfect and he is extremely obediant and good with strangers, other dogs etc although he barks at strangers in the home. The other one has always been a naughty girl, she's bit people when she was a puppy and had attacked other dogs. They were both trained more or less identically. My solution other than discipling her when she acts bad outside is that she has to wear a muzzle when I take her outside. She is very aggressive towards other dogs and acts like a hunting dog always sniffing the ground looking for something to hunt. We tried to train it out of her but she still tries to attack other dogs.

She is the sweetest dog inside the home and licks and babies our other Pitbull but she can't be trusted when we take her out so she has to wear a muzzle. She is submissive and obediant to her owners and family and a really good girl but when we take her out she acts like the stereotypical vicious pitbull and it's embarrassing. I would suggest you might want to have your dog wear a muzzle too if the training doesn't work because it's better safe than sorry. My purebred Pitbull is the perfect dog but for some reason the mixed one is pretty aggressive even though they were raised the same way.

Our mix didn't hurt anyone badly but she nipped strangers outside and is an ankle biter type and I know it's because she's from a bad line from the questionable breeders my former stepdad got her from. I love them both the same but she has to wear a muzzle outside for her own safety. She's 11 and the other is 8 and she still tries to attack other dogs despite years and years of training. The weird thing with her is that she's good with some dogs but attacks random dogs and people outside but won't bite another dog or stranger if they're in our home. They're both kinda smaller than usual too because they were both runts of the litter. The purebred one is so adorably small and stout.

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