Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, former veterinary assistant, and author of the online dog training course "Brain Training for Dogs."
With so many different training methods and philosophies available nowadays, choosing the right way to train your pit bull puppy may literally make your head spin. Don't be fooled by the tough looks of pit bull terriers: truth is, they are loving creatures with quite a soft side. Positive reinforcement training (using rewards and lots of praise) helps build a strong bond and make the training process fun and rewarding for your new pit bull puppy.
How to Train Your Pit Bull Puppy Basic Manners
These are some basic commands you can introduce to your pit bull puppy. As mentioned earlier, a puppy as young as eight weeks old can be taught to sit. Many of these commands will be very handy in various circumstances. They are taught through positive reinforcement training and some use a training technique known as ''luring.''
A puppy can easily be taught to sit on command. Start in an area with few distractions, using a treat as a lure. Place the treat over your dog's nose, causing it to point upwards. If you move the treat backward over the puppy's head, his hunched should automatically lower, causing him to sit. The moment his rear touches the floor, praise and give the treat.
Repeat several times and then start adding the word ''sit'' every time the rear touches the floor so the puppy starts associating the act of sitting with the command.
In order to lie down, the dog must know already the sit command. Command him to sit and face him, holding a treat. Bring the treat to the puppy's nose and then down in a straight vertical line ending up between the pup's legs, and then pull it out horizontally as if making an imaginary letter ''L." The puppy should follow the treat and lie down.
As soon as his armpits touch the floor, praise and release the treat between the paws and let him have it. Repeat and start introducing the command ''lie down'' so your puppy associates the act of lying down with the command.
The recall command is one of the most important commands your pit bull puppy should know, and it be a lifesaver. Start from a quiet area of your home, such as a hallway. Your helper holds your puppy. With a treat in your hand, lure your puppy and then walk backward toward the opposite end of the hallway while calling your pup's name. Tell your helper to let the puppy go as soon as he shows the desire to come to you. Praise and give the treat as soon as your dog arrives.
Note: Make this exercise more challenging by increasing the distance and trying it in increasingly distracting areas.
The watch me command is very important. It helps your pit bull puppy stay focused on you even if for a brief time. Start by holding a treat at eye level and saying ''watch me.'' When your puppy makes eye contact, praise and give the treat. Increase the time you keep the treat at eye level so your puppy looks at you for longer and longer periods of time.
Loose leash walking is very important, and it works best if taught in an obedience class setting so your puppy learns how to behave on the leash despite strong distractions such as other dogs and people. You can teach some basics of loose leash walking by walking your puppy in a quiet area and stopping when your puppy is walking in front of you, causing the leash to tighten. Use a treat to reposition your puppy next to you and repeat this exercise over and over.
You want your puppy to grasp the concept that every time he is not next to you, the walk stops, and when he is next to you, it continues. You can also integrate the ''watch me'' command for attention heeling once your puppy is older and has a better attention span.
Stay is another important command to teach, but it requires some attention, so it may be difficult to introduce to a very young puppy. Older puppies may be taught ''stay''— simply tell your pup to sit or lie down next to you and with the palm of your hand open and pronounce the word ''stay." Take a step forward and place yourself in front of the dog with the palm of your hand still open. Return to your initial place next to your dog, praise your dog for staying, and give the treat.
Increase the distance by taking more steps forward and increasing the length of time your dog stays. Have your pit bull perfect this command by adding distance and distracting environments gradually.
An Important Read for New Puppy Owners
The Importance of Early Socialization
Because some Pit Bull Terriers (as with other breeds) may have a tendency to develop some level of inter-dog aggression (aggression towards other dogs) as they reach social maturity, and because they are a very powerful breed, when it comes to dog training it can never be emphasized enough the importance of early socialization and training.
Socializing your pit bull puppy with other dogs may be a bit tricky. Veterinarians may recommend not exposing your Pit Bull puppy to other dogs in order to prevent potentially dangerous infectious diseases that are common in puppies, but isolating your puppy during this important phase of its life may be a big mistake.
According to veterinarian Robert K. Anderson, the risk of a puppy dying from parvo or distemper disease is far less likely than the risk of a dog being put to sleep because of behavior problems. Your best bet would be to socialize your puppy with other dogs in controlled settings with known dogs that have already been vaccinated and in clean, safe environments, according to the Real Pit Bull, a nonprofit corporation located in central New Jersey. An ideal place to start would be in a puppy class.
How to Socialize Your Pit Bull Puppy with People
Despite a pit bull terrier's reputation, aggression towards humans is very uncharacteristic of this breed and a highly undesirable trait. Indeed, pit bull terriers make poor guard dogs, due to their friendliness towards strangers. The American Temperament Testing Society, which tests different aspects of temperament in dogs, including stability, shyness, aggressiveness, protectiveness and friendliness, gives the American Pit Bull Terrier a nice passing score of 86 percent.
If you just got a Pit Bull Terrier puppy, your first step in Pit Bull Terrier dog training would be to socialize as much as you can. The great part of owning puppies is that they are like a blank canvas on which you can work to create the right imprints. What you do during this time is very important.
In puppies, there is a small window of opportunity, which closes at approximately 12 weeks of age, during which they are most impressionable, and therefore, more open to new experiences explains Joe Stahlkuppe in his book Training Your Pit Bull. Hopefully, your breeder gave your puppy a great start so you can take over this very important task.
How to Socialize Your Pit Bull Puppy Around Other Dogs
While you can teach some commands at home, it is very important to enroll your pit bull puppy in classes so he or she is exposed to other dogs and learns to obey your commands despite distractions. This helps you gain control over a potentially large, powerful breed before it's too late. Look for a reputable training center that offers positive reinforcement training in your area. Most trainers also provide instructions on how to become a benevolent pack leader.
Continuing training and socialization as your puppy grows is very important since once pit bull terriers reach social maturity, they can become aloof around other dogs and discriminative about which dogs to befriend. While puppy socialization may help tremendously in teaching bite inhibition, it may not be enough to override the breed's inclination towards inter-dog aggression, explains veterinarian Jennifer Messer. Yet, it's important to recognize that as with any breed of a dog, a pit bull's temperament and tolerance to other dogs is the result of several factors: genetics, level of training, socialization, ability to bounce back from a negative experience, resilience, context and so on. For more on this, read Are All Pit Bulls Aggressive Towards Other Dogs?
Responsible ownership of pit bull terriers is a must, especially since the breed is in a critical situation with breed-specific legislation being enacted in several jurisdictions and increasing liability insurance premiums. By demonstrating how well behaved and well trained your pit bull puppy is, you can be an advocate for the breed and educate people around you. This way, people see your dog from a realistic perspective instead of relying on poor representations, which are sometimes promulgated by the media.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Questions & Answers
Question: My Pit Bull is six-months-old, and I just got her, but she won’t listen to me. She is also starting to bite more frequently. What should I do?
Answer: At six-months, your pit is entering doggy adolescence, and things can get challenging during this time. Here are a few games to help reduce the nipping: https://hubpages.com/dogs/German-Shepherd-Puppy-Bi...
Question: Is it easy to train an 11-month-old pit bull?
Answer: At 11 months, dogs are in the doggy adolescent stage. This is when things get a bit more challenging, but with consistency, just as with dealing with teenagers, these dogs can turn out being great dogs once they are 3-5 years old. How easy or hard training a pitbull of this age is, ultimately depends on several factors such as whether the dog was trained at all in the past, the dog's temperament, motivation (use high-value treats) and owner's skill in training.
Question: How do I get my puppy to stop biting me?
Answer: Although this article was written with German shepherds in mind, readers have found these tips very valuable for any dog breed: https://pethelpful.com/dogs/German-Shepherd-Puppy-...
Question: My puppy won't stop peeing in his crate. My wife has tried being more assertive by taking him outside, and he is rewarded when he uses the bathroom outside. It's mostly at night that he does this, though. What do we do?
Answer: Your puppy may not be ready to go through the night without going potty. It may help to limit access to water for a couple of hours before bedtime. Also, make a mental note of what times he has accidents in the crate, and take him out for about an hour prior.
Question: How do you get your Pit Bull puppy from taking towels off the table?
Answer: Sounds like your pup sees the towels as fun tug toys! You can try training the leave it cue. Use it anytime you pup approaches the table and then, make sure you provide ample of fun, interactive toys such as stuffed Kongs or Kong Wobblers. Here's how to train leave it: https://pethelpful.com/dogs/The-Importance-of-Trai...
Question: How do I help my puppy to learn to stop eating up my shoes?
Answer: Sometimes, the easiest way to simply put shoes away. However, since you mention you want your puppy to learn, here's an easy-peasy solution: grab several high-value treats (or even better, a stuffed Kong filled with some dog-friendly goodies) and calmly trade the shoe for the treats/Kong. This is a quick fix, the longer-term option is to ultimately train your dog to "leave it" which you can find here: https://pethelpful.com/dogs/The-Importance-of-Trai...
© 2011 Adrienne Farricelli
Daysha on August 09, 2020:
My sister bought a blue nose pit from a man who was the pits second owner. He is now about 14 weeks old and knowing he is a puppy we try not to get upset at the behavior but he does not listen only when he hears the word treat and he bites everyone all the time. Playfully but still painful. we have no clue how to get him out of this stage
Kyriakos on May 17, 2020:
My pitty is 1.5 months old we have him 2 days know but he pee and staff too much am taking him 4 times outside and i reward him
squaw on January 16, 2020:
my puppy was born on nov 13 2019 and she is out of control all she wants to do is chew every thing and im having a hard time to get her to use the pee pad she only uses it when she wants to
Christine on November 12, 2019:
I need to have my pit mix. Traind i have lupus and vigto and ms. I neex him to pick up what i drop or open a door or alert someone that i need help and meds can you help
Keri Gates on January 10, 2019:
Hello, i'm currently a NEW owner of a blue nose pitbull puppy. He is now about two months, i will really appreciate if this group will help me through all the questions i have to become a great owner/trainer
Windy on May 17, 2018:
My puppy won’t stop eating furniture
Dezerae hale on May 02, 2018:
I love your website im doing a presitation for school and i am using your website to reaserch.
Donna Madsen on March 04, 2018:
I just got a 7 week old male blue nose pit bull my husband just had open heart surgery I was wondering how I can teach him not to nip on the skin, he has plenty of chew toy's, he is already potty trained, but my husband can't come home til I can get this figured out any suggestions?
Cinthia A on August 14, 2017:
I have a 7 month pitbull and he started about a month ago growling and barking at aggressively at me. He won't do it to my husband or anyone else that comes around. He just snaps at me out of no where. When he has calmed I can get close and take him out for walks but then he snaps again. I have been able to pet him in the past 2 days. He hasn't bit me. Can you help?
Yaz Higgs on July 31, 2017:
I have two rescue Pit bulls, my female is three months old and my male is five years old.
They keep running out of the gate every time it opens.
I have tried every trick in the book but nothing works.
Any advice please?
Krista Hotaling on May 30, 2017:
We recently adopted an 8 wk old blue nose. She is of course full of energy and does a lot of puppy biting. We are using positive reinforcement for the biting and it is slowly calming down,=. My main concern is I have a small Morkie who is 6 and my puppy is just too rough for her. We have to keep them apart unless the puppy is quiet then I have them lay or eat together. Any advice on how I can get her to play nice and not hurt my other little dog?
Aaron Drews on May 26, 2017:
I have a brand new pit bull puppy, and I want to raise him the right way, I'm curious how to start
Katie B. on May 12, 2017:
I have a red, pit puppy I got when he was 3 weeks old, (I'm fully aware he was too young to be taken from his mother but he would've died and I knew to give him milk replacement and how to care for him). Anyway, he's now 12 weeks old and he's an amazing dog but he WILL NOT lie down. I put him in the sit position but as soon as I lower the treat his butt pops up and he stands there trying to get the treat. What should I do?
troy on March 21, 2017:
I just got a pit puppy a few days ago, he is 3 months old. when he gets excited playing he bites he is like chasing my hands. he don't bite in a hard way to hurt me but the way I see it because I try to control that habit but still cannot, I need help pls to let him quit doing this so I can let him enjoy his time playing. thank u
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on March 07, 2017:
Your puppy is still young, but you want to work on this early as this can morph into serious separation anxiety. Here are a few tips: engage your puppy before leaving, go for a brief walk, then leave a stuffed Kong ( like with peanut butter) and give it to him as soon as you leave. You can also hide some treats around the house. Here are some more tips,
Landivn on March 06, 2017:
Hi Adrienne, my husband and I recently took in a 4 month old Pittie. The hardest thing for me to do is leave the house in the morning for work as she just won't stop 'crying'. What can I do to make it easier for her and myself? Even if we're at home, the moment she realizes she's alone in a room, she becomes so anxious... I suppose it has something to do with her previously being neglected. Please help...
Tucker on October 15, 2016:
You need to use the stay phrase and just keep saying it until you teach your dog the no command
Fran on October 01, 2016:
How do i keep my puppy from jumping on people. She just gets so excited, it hard to have her focus....
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on July 06, 2016:
There are high chances you puppy has become this way because of the intimidating methods that have been used to correct her. Spanking, yelling and grabbing the muzzle are sure ways to trigger defensive behaviors. Please look up positive reinforcement training and get a force-free trainer to help you out. Hopefully the damage isn't extensive enough and it can be remedies considering her young age.
Ashlie on June 01, 2016:
Hello we have recently tooken in a pit bull/lab/aussie puppy, she is now two months old, we have had her for roughly two weeks. She doesnt listen, we tell her no and she throws a tantrum, she listens to sit, shake, stay, come on, and get it, but she only listens when she wants to. Now she has gotten a but bigger when we tell her no she growls and barks and fries to bite us. We have tried grabbing her muzzzle and telling her no bite, be have tried spanking her butt, we have tried hitting her nose, yelling, yelping, nothing works, she just wont stop biting us. My mother and father says if she doesnt get better we will get rid of her because she is a "bad dog", i think she just needs more time and training. What should i do? I am 17 by the way.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on November 20, 2012:
Thanks for stopping by! Have you tried the "L" technique outlines in the article to teach him to lie down? That's what I used in my doggie basic manners classes, best wishes!
BODYLEVIVE from Alabama, USA on November 20, 2012:
Hi Alexadry, I have a pit and we just think the world of him. We taught him quite a few commands while he was growing up but I just couldn't get him to lay down when I wanted him to do so. Mind you now, when we play with him, he'll lay down with his front legs in the air and his back legs wide apart. He wants me to rub his tummy all the way to his neck. Sometimes I won't do it, he'll then get up and take his nose and push my hand. I know what he wants me to do and I won't. He then gets right in front of me and looks at me with the strangest look. My husband and I just laugh at him. He then gets up and run around me and trys to push me over. I'm mostly in the sitting position when I pet him.