Tips to Raise Your American Pit Bull Terrier
Make a great family dog of your APBT puppy
The Pit Bull Breed
The name Pit Bull actually encompasses several dog breeds of a distinct type, including:
- American Pit Bull Terrier
- American Staffordshire Terrier
- American Bully
- Staffordshire Bull Terrier
Many people have the misconception that Pit Bulls are vicious beasts with courts of law calling them a “public health hazard.” However, a recent study shows that, in fact, the exact opposite is true and technically, Pit Bulls are less aggressive than Chihuahuas.
Pit Bulls are one of the most loyal breeds of dog. When raised properly and socialized from a young age – they will make the best pet that you could possibly wish for. The key is to not judge a dog by the looks, because according to science, it’s not always possible to tell if a dog will be truly aggressive or not based on the breed alone.
Choosing Your Pit Bull Puppy
Learning how to raise a Pit Bull puppy healthily starts before you even bring your new friend home. Get the priorities straight – be sure that you have the time, money, and patience that is required for raising a dog.
Much the same as having children, a new puppy will bring sleepless nights, expenses, and take up a lot of your time. Having said that, if you’re up for the challenge – the rewards that come along are beyond worth it.
If you’re not sure that you have the resources to take on a pup without all of the background information, then you may want to consider purchasing a puppy from a reputable breeder.
Adopting a dog from a breeder will give you access to a lot of information that a shelter or rescue organization will not always have, including:
- Bloodlines – Aggression can often be genetic, and many irresponsible or inexperienced breeders don’t put this at the forefront of their breeding program. By going to a reputable breeder, and talking with some owners of their previous litters, you’ll be able to garner whether or not these dogs have been bred for temperament.
- Medical history – Pit Bulls can be especially susceptible to certain diseases, so do your research. A breeder will have information on the medical history of your pup’s siblings and parents. Some of the most common conditions in Pit Bulls include hip dysplasia, knee issues, mange, thyroid disease, nerve disease, and blindness.
- Temperament – Pit Bulls are often known to be an aggressive breed, but also one that when brought up properly makes an ideal family pet. When learning how to raise a Pit Bull puppy, you’ll quickly realize that they are a loyal and friendly breed. In fact, according to the American Temperament Test Society, they rank No. #2 on the list of most tolerant dog breeds, beaten only by the chilled out famous Labrador.
All three of the above factors are very important to consider for any dog and not just when adopting a Pit Bull puppy specifically. However, it’s also one of the most difficult type of information to acquire on the dog if he’s not from a breeder. The best way is to use something like a DNA test for dogs like Embark that will give you most of this information.
Food Aggression in Pit Bulls
One of the most common types of aggression observed in Pit Bulls (even Pit Bull puppies) is resource guarding and particularly aggression related to their food.
Discussing food aggression and resource guarding is imperative when talking about how to raise a Pit Bull puppy well.
From the get go with any puppy, you should teach him to be food safe, meaning that he will both allow you to take his food from him without any signs of aggression, and he will wait for a command before eating his food.
How do you teach this?
It’s simple. First, I highly recommend you read this science-based article on aggression in dogs in general from Kristina – she’s looked at the evidence on what exactly causes aggression, and gives you spot on tips on preventing it.
Now, here’s where you start with food aggression in Pit Bulls. From the very first feed, you should place your puppy’s food bowl down and keep your hand on the bowl as he eats. You can then pick up, and replace the dog food bowl on the floor.
Dogs that are food aggressive will often nip or growl at anyone who tries to remove their food or get too close to it. Starting this training when your puppy is young and can’t cause you any real damage will make things much easier. As you remove his food, if he growls, or goes to nip you, continue removing the food, and only replace it once he has settled.
Continue this until he stops making a fuss. The first time that he allows you to do this without trying to nip or growl, praise him readily. Even as your puppy matures into an adult, experts suggest doing this exercise on an intermittent basis to make sure that he doesn’t become food proud over time.
Train your basic commands first
Before teaching this, it’s best to teach your puppy the “Sit”, and “Stay” commands. Once he knows these two commands, it will be much easier to have him wait for his food. The training is easy, but requires of patience.
You’re going to start by holding his food bowl in your hand while kneeling on the floor in front of him. With the food bowl raised away from him, ask him to Sit and then Stay.
Once he is in this position, continue repeating the Stay command. Lower his bowl of food slowly. If he moves from his Sit and Stay position, repeat this command until he learns to stay in place while the food is on the floor and you have removed your hand.
By using a food time word, you’ll make this much easier. Some owners like to say “dinner time.” This conditioning is very important for puppies and adult Pit Bulls alike.
Socializing Your American Pit Bull Terrier
As we have already discussed, the Pit Bull breed can be prone to dog aggression because they were often bred as fighting dogs. It’s important to learn about socializing your pet when understanding how to raise a Pit Bull puppy healthily and safely.
With the correct upbringing and a commitment to socializing your pup, you will end up with a well-mannered and friendly dog, which is key to a good relationship.
Socializing a Pit Bull with adults
As soon as your Pit Bull puppy arrives home, the chances are that your friends will be clamouring at the chance to visit. This can be a great way to begin socializing, but make any rules clear with your friends. If you don’t want your dog to jump up for example, let your friends know to gently push him off of them to discourage the behaviour.
Socializing a Pit Bull with kids
Unlike your adult friends, children are less able to control their excitement around puppies. By first introducing them through the door of a crate or a puppy gate, this will allow both sides to calm down before meeting in the open for the first time.
Kids will be kids, but make sure to use positive reinforcement with the children who visit with your dog. By letting them know what games he likes to play and the rules of the house, they’ll likely have a great playtime with your Fido.
Socializing a Pit Bull with other animals
When learning how to raise a Pit Bull puppy, it’s important that you understand the proper way to socializing your pet with other dogs and cats.
Even if you don’t have other pets at home, you never know when you may bump into another dog at the vet’s office, in a dog park, on the street or when visiting friends and family.
You want your new Pit Bull puppy’s first experience with other canines and cats to be a positive one. If you have a multi-dog or multi-pet household, introduce each dog individually. Begin with the most dog friendly and calm dog first.
If you’re not lucky enough to have your very own pack of pooches, ask a friend with a well behaved dog if they would consider meeting up for some socialization training.
Many owners make massive efforts to ensure that their pet is human and dog friendly when learning how to raise a Pit Bull puppy, but you can’t forget about animals. You never know when you come across a cat, horse or other pet while out adventuring with a dog.
Introducing your dog to cats, horses, birds and farm animals from a young age can make for much nicer walks in the country and even the city. And, if you ever need a friend to dog sit, it can help to avoid any problems with their pets as well.
IMPORTANT: Do not assume that “it’s all how you raise them.” You may not like it, but genetics play a role in dog development, too, and a certain number of dogs will be naturally dog aggressive, no matter what you do.
Even if you have a dog with dog aggressive tendencies, you can train your dog to pay attention to you and be much less likely to ever use aggression. If you are ever in doubt as to your dog’s capacity for aggression, err on the side of caution – the truth is that you may not have a dog park dog. Realize that your dog’s behavior has an impact on all Pits and Pit owners. Any incident your dog has with another dog or person will likely be blamed on your dog, so bend over backward to have a well-mannered dog. We all want to prevent BSL (breed specific legislation).