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Basic training tips for a pit bull and dogs in general
Training is one of the most important aspects of owning a pit bull type dog. Lack of training can turn what would have been a good, well behaved dog into a nightmare to deal with. I'm going to go over some basic tips to help you train your pit bull. Although this is aimed at pit bull type breeds, most if not all should apply to at least working class breeds.
Which commands to train a pit bull
Picking out what you want to train your pit bull is important. There are basic commands every dog should know, recall, stay, walking on a leash to name a few, but there are many other commands and tricks that you might want to teach them. For example, if, like me, you let your dogs sleep on the bed and sit on the couch with you, get down is a command they should know. If you don't, it's not that important.
Another thing to keep in mind when teaching tricks is to try and think of every way your pit bull could use this trick, not just how you are teaching it. One of mine likes to play in water, so I thought it would be funny to teach her how to turn on the shower. I taught her how to jump in the tub and turn on the water on command. I got a nice, funny YouTube video out of it. Unfortunately, all of the doors in our house are the kind you push down to open. She can and will open the front door and let herself out. So not only do we have to keep the door locked all the time, but she taught our male the same trick. Just remember that pit bulls are smart.
Positive vs Negative reinforcement
For some breeds, negative reinforcement is a viable method for training, but not pit bull type dogs. First, they have a strong desire to please humans, which makes positive reinforcement tons more effective. They want to make you happy and do what you want, they just haven't quite figured out exactly what that is yet. Second, their high pain tolerance makes shock collars, pinch collars and spanking pretty much pointless. Most of the time they will hurt themselves before you get the desired effect.
To train a pit bull a new trick or command, start out small. If you are teaching them to stay, start off only taking one or two steps back, then recalling. That way you are giving them the best chance to succeed. Once they have the basic idea of what you want, you can take it further. Also, keep training sessions short. If you try to train your dog, especially a puppy, in a two hour block, it won't be as effective as only training them for ten or so minutes at a time. Lastly, you can teach a pit bull to do virtually anything with praise and repetition. They love getting attention and making you happy, and it won't take much for them to learn what you want if you praise them.
Never stop training
Pit bull type dogs are not only athletic, but very intelligent. Most people are good about giving them the physical exercise they need, but forget about the mental. Mental exercise can be anything from training new commands, reinforcing ones they already know, to giving them puzzles to figure out. Keeping your pit bull mentally sharp is just as important as keeping them physically strong.