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Early Training Tips For Pit Bull Puppies
Pit Bull puppies are just like any other, energetic, full of life and can chew on any and everything in sight. While some experts frown on training puppies under 3-4 months, and I agree, there are some things that you can do early on that may help with later training. The tip here is not some much training as it is being consistent and interactive with your puppy. This goes for all dog breeds but it goes without saying that larger breeds can be quite a bit more troublesome than smaller breeds if left to their own devices.
Teach your puppy his name
It's commonplace to give your puppy a perfectly appropriate name and then turn around and refer to him as puppydog, cutiepie, lil sh*t head, or just "hey dog....." etc... Use the name you gave him/her. It may take some time but before you know it, his head will turn when he hears his name. Early on, when calling his name, turn his head towards you when you say his name then praise him. Eventually, he will understand that you are talking to him. If you call his name and he looks on his own, immediately praise him and/or give him a treat. Treats are definitely a great way to a puppies heart.
Make frequent eye contact
Eye contact cannot be understated. Eye contact ensures you have your puppies attention and that he has your attention. This really helps with the aforementioned, name learning, but eye contact is intimate. You want to have a strong relationship with your puppy. You want him to know that when you speak he must give you his attention. Once you have a dogs attention, training becomes easy. Nothing is more frustrating than talking to your puppy/dog and they show no signs of even acknowledging that you are speaking to them. Feel free to google the "Alpha Stare". Keep in mind that you must out stare your puppy, so to speak. He should look away before you do. This establishes you as his top dog.
Teach bite inhibition
Puppies explore the entire world with their mouths and boy those little puppy teeth are pointy and sharp. They really don't have any other way to do it so get used to it and please do not discipline them harshly for biting your fingers. that's what puppies do. Now, if a puppy is left in his litter for the 1st 12-16 weeks, they would learn bit inhibition on their own by chewing on their siblings until their siblings shriek in pain. If you take a puppy home inside that 12-16 week time frame, the job becomes yours to teach bite inhibition. Get some gloves if the sharp teeth get a little painful. The trick is to allow the puppy to chew on your hands but let out a high pitched squeal or shriek when they bite too hard. This let's them know they hurt you. Many times the shriek will stop them in their tracks, for a few seconds. Then, they will probably go right back at you. Patience and consistency is key. For those Adam Sandler movie fans, "Goooosfraba.."
Get em a leash
Some people will want to put their puppy on a leash from day 1. I don't recommend that but putting a leash on them and allowing them to get used it while they are walking around the house is a good idea.
This is probably one of the earliest forms of dog training and it lends itself to establishing you as the alpha. I probably wouldn't worry too much about this until 10-12 weeks or so. When feeding your puppy, make him wait until you give the ok to consume his food. To teach this you have to be firm and sometimes it helps to growl or bark, in your own way while physically preventing him from getting to his food bowl.
Ensure eye contact and tell him to "Leave it". exactly one time. Do not repeat yourself! Then, place his food on the ground and, if he tries to dive right in, push him back from his bowl. You may have to block him physically but do not hurt him or hit him. Simply stand your ground and force him to sit and wait for you to give him the ok to eat. I would bark and put your hand in his chest to push him back. DO NOT GIVE IN! Soon, he'll know he must wait for the OK (I use "take a break") to eat. This also ensures he understands who the alpha is, you. I have already conditioned Diesel, aka Lil D in the video below but it only took once or twice for him to get the idea and he was about 10 weeks when I taught him.
Note: The Slow Your Roll Feeding Bowl can be ordered here.
Again, it's very important to always re-enforce your location in the pecking order. Thresholds are another area where insisting that he "wait" for the "ok" to proceed. Each time you open a door, he must wait until you pass through first. Only after you have given him the command, I use "take a break", is he allowed to pass. This works when you want to keep him out of a room as well. Here is another snippet of Diesel and Copper, my Husky, being held at the doorway. You can hear me giving a sharp bark like correction when they considered coming in uninvited. It's followed up by "leave it" before breakfast. Oh, and I held the camera in landscape mode this time. Yay!
Of Course Potty Training
Puppies have tiny bladders and must be allowed to urinate frequently early on. Depending on your circumstances, time of day, work schedule etc... this may or may not be that simple. Crate training is the most popular method of potty training. Although, part of crate training involves introducing your puppy to the crate.
The theory is that puppies are less likely to urinate where they sleep so when you must be away, leaving them confined in their crate should help. Well, as I have stated puppies have very small bladders and it could take weeks before they have enough bladder control to hold it for hours. It is somewhat crucial to make yourself available early on and let them out frequently, where possible. The last thing you want is for them to become accustomed to urinating in their crate. Definitely be prepared for accidents and don't scold them or rub their nose in it if they have an accident.
Most trainers will tell you to take them out of their crate frequently and put them outside in the exact same spot so it becomes habit to pee and poop in the same general area. Always praise them when they go outside and as a treat they should be allowed to roam free in the house for a short time. Remember that they have small bladders so keep it to around 10 min. This is key to quickly potty training your puppy.
Pee and Poop on command
One additional piece of advice is to teach them to pee and poop on command. When you take them to their spot, repeat whatever key word you want to use to convey to them you'd like them to go. I use "pee pee outside" or "potty outside". I start by saying this right when I am taking them outside to go and I keep repeating it over and over throughout until the deed is done. Then I continue with "good boy pee pee outside" give them a treat and lots of praise. It's important to watch for the signs..If they are outside the crate or pen, and they begin sniffing the floor and walking off, that's a big red flag. Immediately start repeating your choice of words and take them outside. Soon, they will be going when and where you tell them to, even if they don't have to go all that badly. It's quite impressive when you are walking your dog and tell them "pee pee" and they immediately go.
Patience is key
For small puppies, the attention span will probably prohibit teaching more advanced things like sit, stay and come. However, getting your puppies attention early on will pay off in spades when you take it to the next level. Just be patient.
Here is another snippet of Lil D demonstrating a pretty good stay. He is about 12 weeks, right around a good age to start, and I've only worked with him about 3 times prior to the video. I apologize for my inability to hold my phone in landscape mode. I'll work on that. :)
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