The pit bull has been the victim of negative press and the images of dog fighting and violence inflicted on the breed by uncaring individuals. Those who prize the pit bull for its loyalty and intelligence have a lot to overcome, and raising a pit bull right can go a long way in overcoming this negative stereotype associated with the breed. A firm hand, establishing the dog’s position in not only the family but in society, will help ensure that your pit bull is a friendly, well-adjusted member of society who just might change some opinions about the breed.
Establish yourself as the pack leader. Pit bulls — and other types of dogs — will easily step into an in-charge role if a strong pack leader is not present. Making the dog understand that you are the boss will form the basis of everything else that you do with him. To do this, allow the dog to eat only after you do, do not hand out treats and toys every time they are asked for and do not let the dog get pushy or demanding with you.
Exercise the animal often. Pit bulls were bred as active, working dogs, and a walk around the block isn’t going to cut it. A pit bull that’s not tired can turn destructive, but one that goes on hikes, jogs through nature trails, visits the dog park and plays fetch in the backyard will not only be tired but more closely bonded to his owner. These dogs are very strong and very high-energy, so they need to be exercised every day to keep them not only happy but in good physical condition.
Socialize your pit bull. This means taking him to all different settings and introducing him to different kinds of people, animals and experiences. While best done when the dog is a puppy, this is a process that continues on through the dog’s life. The more he is familiar with others, the less fearful he will be — and a confident dog will be a friendlier dog.
Supervise the pit bull at all times. When you can’t keep an eye on the dog, be sure that he is in his kennel and away from any trouble he can get into. If he is always supervised, this will give you the chance to take away inappropriate chew toys before damage is caused or get him outside before there is a mess in the house.
Praise often. In spite of their reputation, pit bulls thrive on positive reinforcement and teaching methods where good behavior is praised. Loyal and eager to learn, these dogs can be raised on a steady diet of positive reinforcement for actions such as selecting an appropriate toy to chew on, asking to go outside to eliminate or greeting a visitor without jumping.
Make pit bulls work for what they get. These high-energy dogs will take advantage of an owner who gives free handouts, but will respect the pack leader who makes them work for what they get. Make them sit for a treat, shake for a toy or perform some sort of command for everything they get to raise a dog that is eager to please and willing to learn.