How to Train a Pit Bull Puppy Basic Commands

How to Train a Pit Bull Puppy Basic Commands
Easy difficulty iconEasy
Time icon1-6 Weeks
Behavior training category iconBehavior

Introduction

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. 

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Defining Tasks

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. 

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Getting Started

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. 

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The Drop It! Method

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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.

2

Toy time

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.

3

Bribe

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.

4

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!

5

Practice

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

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Position

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.

2

First stay

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.

3

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.

4

Add distance

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.

5

Practice

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

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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.

2

Lure

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.

3

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.

4

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.

5

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.

6

Add distance

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

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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tank

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Pit bull

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9 Weeks

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he knows how to sit and he is biting a lot ,

May 12, 2022

tank's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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Hello Pernille, Check out the article linked below. Starting today, use the "Bite Inhibition" method. BUT at the same time, begin teaching "Leave It" from the "Leave It" method. As soon as pup is good as the Leave It game, start telling pup to "Leave It" when he attempts to bite or is tempted to bite. Reward pup if he makes a good choice. If he disobeys your leave it command, use the Pressure method to gently discipline pup for biting when you told him not to. The order or all of this is very important - the Bite Inhibition method can be used for the next couple of weeks while pup is learning leave it, but leave it will teach pup to stop the biting entirely. The pressure method teaches pup that you mean what you say without being overly harsh - but because you have taught pup to leave it first, pup clearly understands that you are not just roughhousing (which is what pup probably thinks most of the time right now), so it is more effective. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite I would also work on teaching the Out command, and then use the section from the article on How to Use Out to Deal with Pushiness, to enforce it when pup doesn't listen, especially around other animals or kids. https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Another important part of this is puppy learning bite inhibition. Puppies have to learn while young how to control the pressure of their mouths - this is typically done through play with other puppies. See if there is a puppy class in your area that comes well recommended and has time for moderated off-leash puppy play. If you can't join a class, look for a free puppy play group, or recruit some friends with puppies to come over if you can and create your own group. You are looking for puppies under 6 months of age - since young puppies play differently than adult dogs. Moderate the puppies' play and whenever one pup seems overwhelmed or they are all getting too excited, interrupt their play, let everyone calm down, then let the most timid pup go first to see if they still want to play - if they do, then you can let the other puppies go too when they are waiting for permission. Finding a good puppy class - no class will be ideal but here's what to shoot for: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/puppy-classes-when-to-start/ When pup gets especially wound up, he probably needs a nap too. At this age puppies will sometimes get really hyper when they are overtired or haven't had any mental stimulation through something like training. When you spot that and think pup could be tired, place pup in their crate or an exercise pen with a food stuffed Kong for a bit to help him calm down and rest. Finally, check out the PDF e-book downloads found on this website, written by one of the founders of the association of professional dog trainers, and a pioneer in starting puppy kindergarten classes in the USA. Click on the pictures of the puppies to download the PDF books: https://www.lifedogtraining.com/freedownloads/ Know that mouthiness at this age is completely normal. It's not fun but it is normal for it to take some time for a puppy to learn self-control well enough to stop. Try not to get discouraged if you don't see instant progress, any progress and moving in the right direction in this area is good, so keep working at it. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

May 13, 2022

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Ruby

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Pit bull

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11 Months

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I need help with getting Ruby to walk on leash or harness .If we're in a quiet area she is awesome and calm. I take her for a walk where there might be alittle traffic, she loses it. She pulls away,tries to drag me, or stops and stares down other dogs in yard. But once back in quieter area she calms down..

Jan. 17, 2022

Ruby's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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Hello Jove, First, how does pup do around other dogs in general? Is pup is reactive or aggressive to other dogs specifically, I would see if there is a G.R.O.W.L. class in your area you can join with pup to help desensitize pup to other dogs, so they aren't as triggering while on a walk also. I suggest working on the structure of your walk first. You want pup to be working during the walk - having to stay behind you, focus on you, perform commands periodically, and not have her mind on scanning the area in search of other dogs. The walk should start with her having to exit your home very calmly, performing obedience commands at the door if she isn't calm. She should wait for permission ("Okay" or "Free" or "Let's Go") before going through the door instead of bolting through if that's an issue. When you walk she should be in the heel position - with her head behind your leg. That position decreases her arousal, reduces stress because she isn't the one in charge and the one encountering things first. It prevents her from scanning for other dogs, staring dogs down or being stared down, and ignoring you behind her. It also requires her to be in a more submissive, structured, focused, calmer mindset - which has a direct effect on how aroused, stressed, and aggressive she is - it makes her feel like the responsibility is on your shoulders not hers around other dogs. Additionally, when you do pass other dogs, as soon as she starts staring them down, interrupt her. Don't tolerate challenging stares - even if she is stressed. Remind her with a gentle correction that you are leading the walk and she is not allowed to break her heel or stare another dog down. It is far easier to deal with reactivity when you interrupt a dog early in the process - before they are highly aroused and full of adrenaline and cortisol, and to keep the dog in a less aroused/calmer state to begin with. This also makes the walk more pleasant for her in the long-run. Leading the walk this way can actually boost a dog's confidence in the long run around other dogs because the dog feels like you will handle the situation so they can relax. Protect her from other dogs. If she feels nervous and someone wants to let her meet their rude, excited dog, tell the other person no thank you. A simple "She's in training" tends to work well. Be picky about who and how she meets other dogs. Avoid dogs that don't respect her space, pull their owners over to her, and generally are not listening well - those dogs are often friendly but they are rude and difficult for a nervous dog. Also, avoid greeting dogs who look very tense around your dog, who stare her down, who give warning signs like a low growl or lip lift, who look very puffed up and proud - that type greeting with a dog is likely to end in a fight since your dog doesn't know how to diffuse that situation. A stiff wag is also a bad sign. A friendly wag looks relaxed and loose with relaxed body language overall. A tense dog with a very stiff wag, especially with a tail held high is a sign of arousal and not always a good thing. Thresholds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-w28C2g68M Heel article - The turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Heel Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OTiKVc4ZZWo Reactive dog - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XY8s_MlqDNE Severely aggressive dog – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vfiDe0GNnLQ&t=259s A long down stay around distractions is a good thing to practice during walks periodically. If she is good with other dogs but simply overly excited and attentive toward them, a good way to do introductions with other dogs is to recruit friends with calm dogs and use the Passing Approach and the Walking together methods from the article linked below. After a few practice session of this, when the dogs can calmly walk side by side finally, take pups on walks together with both in a structured, focused heel. This gives both dogs something other than each other to focus on, keeps their energy calm, and helps them associate each other with the pleasant experience of a walk. Repeat this with lots of different dogs, one or two dogs at a time - you want other dogs to be associated with calmness, pleasant experiences, and boring things - not roughhousing, wrestling, nose-to-nose interactions always, or being rushed by them. https://wagwalking.com/training/greet-other-dogs Sometimes you can even find others to practice with through obedience clubs, meetup groups, or hiking groups. When she does greet another dog nose-to-nose, give slack in the leash, relax yourself, and keep the greeting to a max of 3 seconds, then happily tell her "Let's Go" or "Heel" and start walking away, giving her a treat when she follows so that she will learn to quickly respond to that command in the future. Keeping the greeting relaxed and short can diffuse tension and give the dogs enough time to say hi before competing starts. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Jan. 17, 2022


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