Ways to love, train, educate, share information, and revel in being a Pitbull Parent.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Bullies are Bullheaded

If you already own one of the Pitbull Terrier breeds, then chances are you’re intimately familiar with how very stubborn these dogs can be. A more bullheaded dog I’d love to see! And if you’re considering becoming a pitbull parent, than you should know just what you’re in for.
Before I delve into future blogs on training tips or other behavior modifications, I think it’s important to establish who the boss is in your

My dog, Con, politely waiting for her treat.
home. Is it you? Or your beloved four legged companion?
Pitbull terriers are known for being very intelligent dogs, but along with those brains comes an iron will. These dogs definitely have their own ideas about who is in charge, and more often than not, it isn’t the owner.
As Cesar Milan famously says: You must be the pack leader. Some of you may groan over this reference, but it’s pure truth. Your dog is hardwired to respond to a pack leader, and it should absolutely be you. So how do you become the pack leader? Let’s review.
1. Have an eye duel with your dog.

  • Stare your dog down. This is a tried and true test of dominance. The longer it takes for your dog to look away, the less likely it is that he/she will respond to your commands.
  • If your dog is one that takes a while to look away, continue practicing this, as well as other dominance exercises, until you see improvement.
  • Some trainers will say that this test is to be avoided. I, on the other hand, find that it helps lay the foundation for who is really in charge.
  • Assign one word directives for your dog to follow.
  • Simple ones I find effective include: enough, no jumping, and back up.
  • Stick to those assigned words!
  • Your dog does not speak English! Any words you speak to your dog outside of the established commands may as well be in Chinese.
  • Remember, your dog wants to follow your lead, you just have to show him/her that you’re worthy of being his/her pack leader.
  • When you speak a command, do so in a tone of voice that shows you mean business. You don’t have to yell, but, like with a small child, your tone of voice should clearly say, “I’m in charge here”.
  • This is a standard technique. By giving or denying your dog permission for behaviors you’re reinforcing the idea that you’re in charge.
  • Knowing when to apply this can be tricky because you have to be sure your dog will accept your denial/permission. If your dog behaves the way he/she wants after you’ve attempted to gain control it will reinforce the idea that the dog is in charge, not you.
  • Your dog should always be following you.
  • You should be the first one down the stairs, out the door, into a room, etc.
  • Feed your dog after your meal is over. Making your dog wait while you eat is classic pack leader behavior.
  • I can’t repeat that enough. In order for your bully to learn the commands and behaviors you attempt to teach him/her, constant repetition will be required.
  • Don’t mistake repetition for repeating yourself. Your dog can hear you just fine! You should not have to repeat the same command over and over in one sitting. Each time you say the command and your dog fails to comply, you’re teaching him/her that they’re in charge.

  • Repetition here means that you should continue to strengthen the commands you’re teaching your dog by continually working with your dog. Don’t let a day go by without practicing the commands you've chosen.

2. Establish simple commands.
3. Speak to your dog in a firm, authoritative tone.
4. Give or deny your dog permission.
5. Make sure the humans come first.
6. Finally, repetition, repetition, repetition.
Please keep in mind that this is not an exhaustive list. These are the strategies I found useful while I was training my Staffordshire Pitbull Terrier. We still have some duels for power in my house, but with consistency in the commands, tone of voice, and expectations of my dog, I’m winning the war of bullheadedness against my bully! And so can you.
Some links you may find helpful:
These links will take you directly to the training pages of these wonderful websites. Go forth and spread the word about what wonderful pets pitbulls make!

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