At Dynamic Dogs, we help a lot of pitties! Pit bulls are a versatile breed with a bad rap. “Pit bull” is a broad term for a type of dog, such as a “terrier,” “hound,” or “bird dog.” They are an American breed with a long history, and versatile purpose. Pit bulls vary a lot, or at least what is called a pit bull. In fact, many people cannot correctly identify the breed type, and may lump other similar breeds (Mastiff, Boxer, Dogo, etc) in the “pit bull” category.
So what’s with the bad rap? Pits are banned in some areas, but they are popular in Chicago. Any breed can gain a bad reputation if they become overbred and are too-often popular among irresponsible people. A good pit is a loving and highly trainable companion. Here we will go over your key points to owning a Pit, then dispel myths regarding pit bulls and training your pit bull.
KEY POINTS TO TRAINING YOUR PIT BULL
- Understand your dog as an individual
- Classify: Dogs are all dogs, then they are breeds, then they are individuals
- Train for real-life obedience around many distractions
- Teach impulse control
- Take ultimate responsibility for your dogs behavior
- Set your dog up for success by working with a professional trainer
- Complete the AKC’s Canine Good Citizen program or equivalent
MYTH: ALL pit bulls are all dog-aggressive due to a dogfighting background and breeding
FACT: Not every dog will hold up to generalizations of the breed. This depends on their breeding (genetics), how they are raised and socialized early in life, and how they are handled as an adult. Not every pit bull has animal aggression, in fact many live in homes with other dogs and cats or attend daycare plays. There is a large population of pit type dogs, and the majority are not bred for dog fighting, in fact, very few are. Most are bred for other reasons: companion pets, for money, for their looks, etc. But not all for actual dogfighters. Because of some of the genetics and history in certain bloodlines, animal aggression and high prey drive can be an issue in the breed. The right training can go a long way, but it comes down to this- Not all dogs are going to get along with every other dog. Do you get along with every human you meet? Even in your own family, are there relatives you just can’t stand? If this is the case, you must accept this and learn to manage it properly. Not every pit bull will be totally accepting of other animals. Even if your dog is non-social, you should still have full control over your dog through obedience, and he should be a safe dog in public and around other dogs under your supervision. You cannot control what other people do with their dogs, but you can make sure your dog is safe and under your control.
What is “prey drive”?
You will hear this term a lot in relation to dog training. Prey drive is the instinctive motivation to find, pursue, and capture prey. All dogs are carnivores who retain these instincts. Imagine playing with a dog with a toy squirrel… they get excited when it moves, when it squeaks, and they chase after it when you throw it. They might shake it around or want you to throw it again. That is prey drive. Now imagine a dog who halfheartedly chases a ball when you throw it, not very interested. That dog is lower in prey drive than the one who sees the ball and gets very excited. When dogs are “in prey drive” they can still listen and be obedient, but it takes practice.
MYTH: Pit bulls require very firm or harsh training because they are a dominant breed
FACT: Although being physically strong and powerful and even willful is a breed type trait, most Pit Bulls are in tune with their handler and respond to fair and consistent training. Some dogs require more firmness from by their owner, just as some children require stricter parenting. If you have a strong and high drive breed you do need to step up and be firm when required, but it doesn’t mean you have to be harsh. When people get frustrated or think their dog is stubborn, they are no longer teaching the dog, the are only punishing it. Dominance is a situational relationship issue between a dog and owner, and is not a breed trait of pit bulls.
MYTH: Pit Bulls are difficult to train
FACT: They are, on average, no more or less difficult to train than other breeds. They are generally willing to please if they are given proper direction and clear rules to abide by.
MYTH: Pit Bulls snap on their owners, attack out of nowhere, or have unpredictable aggression
FACT: Pure myth. A dog attacking their owner can be caused by many many things, such as neurological issues, pain, or poor training. It is not a breed trait of the American Pit Bull Terrier. According to Karen Delise, founder of the National Canine Research Council, and author of the book “Pit Bull Placebo,”
“The classification of an attack as unprovoked is usually based on the declarations of a negligent owner who does not care to understand canine behavior, an owner who is unable to read (understand) canine behavior, a busy owner who is too preoccupied with the tasks of daily living to see the signs and signals dogs usually display, or persons who deliberately misrepresent the facts to limit their culpability.” Take this to mean that no dogs attacks “out of nowhere,” there is always something precipitating it.