As the owner of an American Pit Bull Terrier, a dog breed often subject to public hysteria and misperception, you have a responsibility to ensure that your Pit Bull is a good canine ambassador. The best approach to solving a Pit Bull’s behavior problems is always to prevent them from occurring in the first place, through proper management and effective training. Pit Bulls, like all dogs, do best with positive training methods that avoid confrontation, combined with good management that prevents reinforcement for undesirable behaviors.
Your Pit Bull puppy can become the well-behaved dog you’re hoping for if you follow these basic training and behavior tenets:
Be consistent with your Pit Bull. Consistency is important, not just in relation to what you allow your Pit Bull to do (get on the sofa, perhaps) and not do (jump up on people), but also in the verbal and body language cues you use with your Pit Bull and in his daily routine. Like all dogs, Pit Bulls are most comfortable when they understand how their world works. Lack of consistency can cause your Pit Bull stress, and stress can cause your Pit Bull behavioral problems.
Be gentle and be firm with your Pit Bull. Positive training methods are becoming the norm, for good reason. Dog-friendly methods, properly applied, are wonderfully effective, creating relationships between dogs and humans based on mutual respect and cooperation. Positive training can help you avoid many problems with your Pit Bull puppy, including stress and aggression that can arise from coercion-based training programs that include verbal and physical punishment. Positive does not mean permissive, however. A good training program sets limits and will help your Pit Bull understand that some behaviors are inappropriate and unacceptable.
Manage behavior. All living things repeat behaviors that reward them. Behaviors that aren’t reinforced will go away. If you manage your Pit Bull puppy through the judicial use of crates, baby gates, doors, fences, leashes and supervision, he’ll never have the opportunity to learn that inappropriate behaviors are rewarding. By the time your Pit Bull is a year old, most of his habits will be solidly formed, and he’ll be unlikely to start chewing table legs and shoes. An adult Pit Bull who has already learned undesirable behaviors must be managed even more carefully. It’s more difficult to make a Pit Bull’s unwanted behaviors go away than it is to prevent them in the first place!
Provide adequate exercise. A tired Pit Bull is a well-behaved Pit Bull. Many behavior problems can be avoided, others resolved, simply by providing your APBT with enough exercise. Check with your veterinarian to make sure your Pit Bull is physically and medically fit for an increase in exercise.
Protect your dog. Because of the public readiness to point the finger of accusation at Pit Bulls, it’s critically important that you protect your APBT from being put in situations where he might be accused of misbehaving. Don’t ever leave your Pit Bull unattended in public places, and always closely supervise his interactions with children.