When we're out on a walk, (aided by our trusty Weiss Walkie!), beware any unassuming passerby who stops to pet Con and giver her a little attention. She laps it up, then reciprocates by jumping up, quick as a snake, and getting that darn lick on the face in.
I tried every training tip and technique I could find to get Con to stop this behavior. Nothing worked. I grudgingly had to give her points for being uber-stubborn.
Then one day, for reasons I can't even explain, I got a squirt bottle, filled it up, and waited. Of course it felt like I had to wait forever before someone finally came to the door. But eventually someone did, and I got ready. As my daughter let her friend in the house, I grabbed that squirt bottle, aimed it at Con, and gave her the command, "NO JUMPING!". Of course, she didn't listen. So I squirted her. All I put in that bottle was ordinary tap water, but to Con, it might as well have been mace!
At first she was so startled she stopped moving completely. After a few seconds she regained her moxie, and tried to jump again. Once more, I pointed the squirt bottle at her and gave the command. This time, she was looking at me out of the corner of her eye. And because she was, she saw that squirt bottle pointed at her, and the friend walked into our house without further incident.
Needless to say, I was stunned. Months and months of work and it all came down to a $.99 squirt bottle! Once I got over the shock, I was singing hallelujah! I had found Con's mortal enemy, the one thing she hated so much she would do anything to avoid it, even listen! I used the squirt bottle to train Con further, and now have a very well behaved dog. Visitors can now walk all the way into my home before she approaches them. And the squirt bottle rarely makes an appearance anymore.
Training Concobar is a never ending project. As I'm sure other Pitbull Parents will agree, for us dog owners who are not "experts" there is almost always a behavior issue that needs to corrected. Whether it's barking at every little noise (as Con is prone to do), practicing the sit and stay, perfecting the "come" command, or trying to get a dog to stop jumping, being a dog owner means that correcting and training your dog is a tireless responsibility.
If you do some research, as I did, you'll find that there are thousands of websites that offer all different sorts of training advice. And of course, there's the expertise of the famous Dog Whisperer, Caesar Milan. I've found some of his techniques to be very helpful, while others I haven't even bothered to try. Many of the websites also offer sound advice, if you can pick your way through the minefield that is a results list from your search engine.
However you choose to train your dog, whatever techniques you give a shot, there are several key factors that will determine whether that training will be a success or not.
- Patience. You must have a never ending store of patience with yourself and with your dog. It can be trying, especially after you've repeated yourself twenty times and your dog is still not listening. However, if you give up, your dog will never learn the behaviors that can be essential in a happy owner/dog relationship.
- Repetition. As I mentioned in my earlier post, Pitbulls 101, constant repetition is absolutely key when training your dog. Remember, the actions that don't come naturally to a dog are all learned behaviors. And you can bet that sitting when he wants to run, staying by your side instead of chasing squirrels, and ignoring his instincts to bark at every noise, all fall under the heading of learned behavior. The only way for your dog to learn that behavior is for you to repeat the commands you want your dog to learn, over and over.
- Creativity. It's important to try new and different training techniques with your dog. It's likely you'll try several different areas of training before you find what works best for you and your dog. Don't be afraid to be creative. Go with your instincts, and your dogs instincts. If you believe you can get your dog to perform a desired behavior by doing something you haven't read about or seen on TV, that's okay (as long as it doesn't hurt the dog). Give it a shot. You might hit on something that really works for the both of you.
So this is my advice to you, fellow Pitbull Parents; Find you dog's mortal enemy! Don't forget to be creative while you're doing so. The squirt bottle may work for you, or it may not. I've heard of other dog owners using bells, flashlights, even vacuum cleaner hoses, successfully.
An important thing to remember is that you're not trying to scare your dog into submission. You don't want to create an atmosphere of fear. You're simply using the mortal enemy as a tool. If used well, you should get to the point where just saying it's name will get your dog to comply. And then, the prize at the end of a long, hard road, your dog will behave without even a mention of his mortal enemy!
Remember, having a well-behaved pitbull is one of the best ways to become a breed ambassador. And the path to getting a well-behaved dog is proper training. Every time a stranger can walk up to pitbull and come away from that encounter with a positive impression is a win for the breed! And a win for those of us who are committed to spreading the word about what a great pet a pitbull can make.