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You might be surprised how early you can begin training your Pit Bull puppy basic commands. In fact, as early as 10 weeks old, you can start adding some fun, reward-based training sessions to your puppy’s routine.
Of course, very young puppies have short attention spans. You will only have about 10 minutes before she is bored or distracted. So, we have chosen three basic commands that you can work on in short bursts throughout the day. As your puppy gets older, you will be able to train more complex behaviors in longer training sessions.
In addition to learning new behaviors, working with your puppy from a young age will help her to get used to learning and come to look forward to your training sessions – after all – they are such a fun and rewarding experience!
This guide includes three basic commands: 'sit', 'stay', and 'drop it'. We will also offer you some simple principles to make sure your training is successful regardless of what behaviors you want to teach your Pit Bull puppy.
It is important to think of training time as a fun game you play with your Pit Bull puppy. Consider it a game that you are going to try to set up so that she wins – as often as possible. That is, it is your job to make sure that you are setting the bar low enough that she can do the behavior and get the reward.
Any final behavior can be broken down into tiny steps, or some behavior in the direction of what you are looking to perfect. For example, you may want your 'sit' to include your dog sitting until released, however, in the beginning, you will take even a second of that butt hitting the ground before rewarding. Over time, you will slowly raise the bar until she will sit for as long as you like before being released.
The secret to great dog training is knowing when to move that bar – what will count as “good enough” for a reward is going to be a moving goal post. It is your job to move it at a pace that your Pit Bull puppy can handle.
In addition, just ignore failure during a training session. If you use corrections during training it is likely to give her a bad taste about training, which will not be in your best interests long term.
A clicker is an inexpensive piece of equipment that does nothing more than make a sharp clicking sound when you squeeze the button. Professional trainers love this simple tool because it is very powerful. It allows you to “mark” a desired behavior the instant it is happening, buying you a few seconds to actually get the reward to the dog.
However, you do not really need a clicker to use this technique. Instead, you can make your own sound or use a unique word while training as your “marker.” The trick is to ALWAYS follow that sound up with a food reward. If you make a mistake and mark the wrong behavior, it still needs to be followed by a reward.
If you are not using a clicker, then just use whatever you have decided for your “marker” when the instructions say to click/reward.
Use small bits of soft treats or other tasty food rewards when training your Pit Bull puppy basic commands. However, since this breed tends to be extremely food motivated, you can also use some of their regular kibble rations for training sessions. Mixing that with some more interesting foods like little bits of cooked chicken is another great idea.
The Drop It! Method
Importance of 'drop it'
This essential command is one that is important to teach all dogs, and the younger you start the better. It is important that you can have your Pit Bull puppy drop whatever is in his mouth on command. This will make sure that you remain the pack leader, reminding him that you control all of the resources. In addition, it will serve you in an emergency in the event that he gets into something that could be dangerous.
Start working close to your puppy with a stuffed toy or other object he enjoys chewing. Get him interested in chewing the toy by playing a little bit of tug or keep away.
With a treat in your hand, ask him to “Drop it!” and then offer the treat. At first you will bribe your puppy to drop the toy but continue to repeat this step, transitioning to asking for the drop it without the bribe, then immediately click/rewarding the drop.
Give the toy back
When doing drop drills, make sure he always gets his toy back in the end. This teaches him that the 'drop it' game is just a bonus – he gets a reward AND gets his toy back!
Continue to work on 'drop' drills, both in formal training sessions, and randomly throughout the day. Try to add some distance to this drill by practicing from a few feet away. Remember to mark the behavior the instant he drops, followed up by a reward as soon as you can.
The Stay Method
Decide what position you want your Pit Bull puppy to be in when she stays. Most folks like 'sit', but another popular choice is 'down'. First ask for that position, then click/reward just to get her in the training state of mind.
Say “Stayyyyy” in a drawn out tone and use your non-verbal cue (usually an open palm). If you get even a single second of a 'stay', click/reward. Continue to try to add time to the stay by click/rewarding in quick succession for holding the 'sit'. Ignore failure and just start over if she breaks too soon.
Add release word
Once your Pit Bull puppy is staying for 5 seconds, it is time to introduce the release command “Okay!” Ask for a 'stay', click/reward 5-10 seconds, then say “Okay!” and toss a treat away from her so she will break the 'stay'. Click as she breaks the stay and let her get the reward.
Start to add some distance with a single half step backwards. Remember to click while you are at a distance, then step back to reward. After 4-5 click/rewards during the stay, release and reward.
Continue to add distance and duration with practice. Work towards being able to give your Pit Bull puppy this basic command and being able to disappear into another room for a few seconds, teaching her it pays to obey even when you are out of sight.
The Sit Method
Get ready to train
Sit on the floor with your Pit Bull puppy so that you can work at close range with him. Pick up a treat between your fingers and let him know you have it, giving him a chance to sniff.
Move your hand up and behind his face so that sitting will be an obvious choice. Try a few times if it does not work the first time. As soon as he puts his bottom on the ground, click/treat. Just ignore all failure. If your puppy holds the 'sit', click and treat a few times as fast as you can. As soon as he breaks the 'sit', start over with the motion and repeat.
Fade the lure
Repeat the steps above 10-15 times, during which time you will stop using the food in your hand and just use the same hand motion. In addition, you can start to abbreviate your hand motion so that it eventually just looks like the non-verbal cue that you plan to use for this command.
Add release word
Once your puppy is giving you about 5 seconds when cued to sit, you can add a release word. Usually, “Okay!” said in an excited tone is a good choice. Start to ask for the 'sit' with your non-verbal cue, click/reward for the sit, click/reward for staying in the sit for a few seconds, then release with “Okay!” If you need to, lure him out of the sit by tossing a treat on the floor, then click/reward for breaking the 'sit' when released. Do NOT reward him if he breaks the 'sit' before being released.
Add verbal cue
Add a verbal cue “Sit!” once your he is doing the sit and release reliably. Continue to work on extending the duration of the sit before releasing by click/rewarding while he is in the sit.
Add distance to your 'sit' drills. When you start working with your puppy from a distance early, it will help you have more control over him when he is not right next to you.
By Sharon Elber
Published: 03/14/2018, edited: 01/08/2021