A combination of irresponsible, abusive owners and excessive media coverage of pit bull attacks has left many people with the impression that pit bulls are dangerous, unfriendly dogs. But pit bulls, like all dogs, are products of their environment and these dogs can be trained to be obedient, gentle companions. Positive, reward-based methods using treats, praise and lots of playtime are the most effective methods. Pit bulls are especially prone to becoming aggressive when they are punished or mistreated.
Pit bulls are slightly more prone to behaving aggressively toward other dogs. Early socialization can prevent this problem. Expose your dog to assorted friendly dogs in a variety of environments, and give your dog a reward every time your dog meets a new dog. This encourages your dog to develop positive associations with other dogs. Follow the same protocol for socializing your dog to people. The breed is not genetically predisposed toward people aggression, but young children can activate any dog's prey drive. Therefore, it is especially important to socialize your dog to children and to supervise unfamiliar children around your dog. Socialization is most effective when it occurs between six and 16 weeks. However, it's never too late to begin socializing your dog.
When your dog can behave on a leash, outings are more pleasant. Further, walks can help calm an anxious dog and prevent behavior problems. Begin taking your dog on short walks as a puppy, and give your dog a treat when your dog walks close to you. If your dog begins pulling on the leash, stop walking. This teaches them that pulling does not get them what they want and slows the walk down. If your dog is especially strong or prone to pulling, a head halter or anti-pull harness can discourage pulling when you go on walks.
It's easiest to house train dogs when they are puppies. Take your puppy outside every hour or two, and praise your dog. Give your dog a treat when your dog eliminates. Avoid giving your dog food before you leave the house or go to bed for the evening. If your dog has an accident, immediately take your dog outside. This teaches your dog to associate elimination with being outside. Until your dog is fully house trained, confine your dog in a crate when you can't supervise your dog. This discourages accidents and decreases messes. If you are house training an older dog, use the same process.
The easiest process for teaching a dog a new command involves "shaping" the behavior. When your dog does what you want, use the command and then give your dog a treat. For example, when your dog sits, say "sit" and then give your dog a treat. Teach your dog to stay by telling your dog to stay, holding up your hand and then backing away slowly. Give your dog a treat for staying for a few seconds, and make sure to give your dog the treat while they are still staying. Gradually increase the amount of time you expect your dog to stay, and reward your dog for their successes. To teach a dog to come, call your dog to you in an excited tone and then give your dog a treat. Repeat the exercise a few times a day, and then gradually increase the number of distractions your dog is exposed to when you ask your dog to come. Never call your dog to you to punish your dog, and always use the same word to ask your dog to come.
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