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A Pit Bull Can Be Trained as a Guard Dog and Still Be a Great Family Pet

Updated on August 28, 2014

The American Pit Bull is one of the most controversial dogs in the world. Unfortunately, the acts of a few trainers and breeders have led to the misconception that Pit Bulls are dangerous, overly aggressive, dogs that can turn on their owners at the drop of a hat. This isn't just wrong; it does a disservice to the entire breed. Pit Bulls are one of the most pack oriented dogs you can own, and are therefore a wonderful addition to any family.

American Pit Bull
American Pit Bull
Not This American Pit Bull
Not This American Pit Bull

There are several misconceptions about Pit Bulls, but the truth is:

  • Pit Bulls are only dangerous to their families when they have not been properly socialized.
  • Pit Bulls do not have locking jaws as is frequently misreported by the media.
  • If a Pit Bull does attack another dog it doesn't mean that it will attack a human.
  • Pit Bulls are not passive dogs and do need supervision.
  • Determination is one of the Pit Bull's most notable traits; unfortunately this is often confused with an inability to be controlled.

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The key to raising a Pit Bull that will be both a guard dog and great family pet is early socialization. This is because the temperament of the individual animal is just as dependent on its upbringing as it is on the breed's natural characteristics. If you are looking for a family dog, start with a puppy that can be brought into your pack and socialized.

Raising a family friendly Pit Bull will make it feel like part of the pack. As a member of the pack, your Pit Bull will do everything in its power to protect the other members of the family from harm. It is very important that you teach your dog what things are not dangerous. You are the pack leader and you determine what constitutes danger. The dog will act off from your cues. Always introduce your Pit Bull to new people when they come to your home. This lets the dog know that the person belongs there.

Pit Bulls are quite sensitive to human actions. With a Pit Bull, even more than most other breeds, positive reinforcement is necessary. Never strike your dog or use harsh teaching techniques. This will teach the dog that being harsh and violent is the way to deal with problems. This is precisely the type of training that will lead to a dangerous dog.

It is actually harder to make a Pit Bull an aggressive dog than it is to make it a family pet. Pit Bulls are naturally affectionate and love to show it. They like to rub up against the family and frequently give doggy kisses. They are so people oriented that they can get overly excited when they get to meet new people. They are very eager to please and do whatever they can to get approval. The only drawback to this is that they are not naturally great guard dogs (unless you want an intruder to be licked to death). The good news is that the media has made Pit Bulls out to be vicious, bloodthirsty killers. So, just having a Pit Bull in your home is a huge deterrent to burglars and thieves.

A Pit Bull can be trained to be a guard dog, but it should be done by a professional. You must find a professional trainer who does not use physically abusive tactics. Look for a trainer that works with police dogs if at all possible. They teach dog to be protectors with the use of command words, often in a different language to prevent the dog from being unintentionally set off. The training will not change the demeanor of the dog, it will just teach him when it is appropriate to defend the pack.

If you don't have other dogs, consider bringing your baby Pit to a puppy kindergarten to socialize with other dogs. And, if possible, take your dog to intermediate and advanced obedience school. This will provide you with the guidance necessary to deal with the particular personality quirks of your dog while teaching him that humans and dogs outside of the family are not necessarily dangers.

Pit Bulls have specific needs that must be met for them to be productive and loving members of your family. They are working dogs, so you must account for their high energy levels. They were originally bred to be hunting retrieval dogs and as livestock herding animals, things that aren't needed in today's families. When you are training your dog, keep this in mind. Your Pit will need a lot of exercise to burn off that energy. This will keep him from finding other things to occupy his time (like chewing up your furniture).

Here are some activities for keeping your Pit Bull occupied when you are short on time:

  • Get your dog a food puzzle toy like a Kong, Tricky Treat Ball or a Tug-a-Jug. This will work out your dog's brain and keep him busy for a while.
  • Buy a Nylar bone or hard rubber chew toys. They will give him something that he is allowed to chew on.
  • Put out hidden treats for your dog to find. This will give your dog something to do when you are cooking dinner or folding clothes (the two times that you are sure to get a dog in the lap).

The biggest problem you are going to have with your Pit Bull has nothing to do with the dog, himself. You may have neighbors that are very concerned about having a Pit Bull next door. You might have a landlord that is specifically against renting to anyone with a Pit Bull. Some home insurance won't cover your dog. There are even some outdated local ordinances against Pit Bull ownership.

The best thing you can do if you find yourself in one of these situations is to enroll your dog in the Canine Good Citizenship Program offered by the American Kennel Club. Passing the good citizenship test requires the ability to follow basic obedience commands, the ability to walk through a crowd, no resistance to being petted by strangers and the ability to disregard other dogs in the area as he passes them. Being able to show that your dog has earned a good citizenship award can help alleviate the apprehension that people have about your dog.

There is no reason that you should be scared to own a Pit Bull. They are loving, loyal, family oriented companions that, once they learn their place, will be an invaluable member of the family. The public image of the Pit Bull makes it a good guard dog while the natural demeanor makes it a perfect family pet.

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