How to Train a Pit Bull Puppy Basic Commands

Easy
1-6 Weeks
Behavior

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. 

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. 

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. 

The Drop It! Method

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Step
1
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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!
Step
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.
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The Stay Method

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Step
1
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
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The Sit Method

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Step
1
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
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Written by Sharon Elber

Published: 03/14/2018, edited: 01/08/2021

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Costa
Doogly and tuna (for dogs)
1 Month
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Costa
Doogly and tuna (for dogs)
1 Month

How can i teach him to stop biting and sit commands
I have bonus food (reward food) but i can’t control him just by talking i always have to sit him down or push his mouth calmly when he bite my fingers and don’t leave it

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
912 Dog owners recommended

Hello Adam, The puppy biting is completely normal and it will take him time to learn something different so try not to be too discouraged if it takes a little while. Check out the article linked below to help him learn. I suggest using the Bite Inhibition method right now while also teaching the "Leave It" method. It will take him time to learn Leave It but that is ultimately the method you want, so use the Bite Inhibition method until he learns Leave It well enough to use that method. Both can be found in the article below: Puppy Biting article: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite For Sit, he is also very young, so any amount of improvement is a big deal for him at this age. Check out the "Food Lure Method" from the article linked below to teach Sit: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-your-puppy-to-sit Luring him into the sit usually helps a pup learn faster - so that he is moving on his own, but if you feel stumped you can also try one of the other two methods from the sit article linked above. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Layla
Pit bull
5 Weeks
0 found helpful
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Layla
Pit bull
5 Weeks

How to get rid of fleas

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
912 Dog owners recommended

Hello Tayvious, I am not a vet. I highly suggest contacting your vet with this question - especially for a puppy so young. Fleas can be more dangerous if the infestation is severe with a young puppy. There are several products like shampoos, capstar pills, preventative medicines that will also deal with current infestations like advantix, as well as home treatment options if you have a household infestation now too. You will need something or a combination of things that kills fleas in all their life stages - adult, pupae, larvae, and egg on both puppy and in your home. Sometimes the home needs to be treated a couple of times, with a couple of weeks between treatments to ensure fleas have been killed in all their life stages - especially with carpeting. Be sure to vacuum well between home treatments to gather eggs. You need to consult your vet to see what is safe to use on a puppy their age. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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we dont have a name yet
Pit bull
8
0 found helpful
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we dont have a name yet
Pit bull
8

my challenge is the dog wont get along with are other two dogs one of the dog seven in human years th other is three but the wont get along i think is because the are diffirnt breed the other two are black honds and the age is not 8 it is 8 weeks

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
234 Dog owners recommended

Hi there. It takes time for dogs to get use to eachother when there is a large age difference. Taking them on walks together is a great way for them to bond. Also doing things like playing games, or spending a few minutes working on training commands as a team will really help them adjust to eachother.

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bruno
Pitt bull
2 Months
0 found helpful
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bruno
Pitt bull
2 Months

he bites too much during playing with us

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
234 Dog owners recommended

Hello. Here is information on nipping/biting. Nipping: Puppies may nip for a number of reasons. Nipping can be a means of energy release, getting attention, interacting and exploring their environment or it could be a habit that helps with teething. Whatever the cause, nipping can still be painful for the receiver, and it’s an action that pet parents want to curb. Some ways to stop biting before it becomes a real problem include: Using teething toys. Distracting with and redirecting your dog’s biting to safe and durable chew toys is one way to keep them from focusing their mouthy energies to an approved location and teach them what biting habits are acceptable. Making sure your dog is getting the proper amount of exercise. Exercise is huge. Different dogs have different exercise needs based on their breed and size, so check with your veterinarian to make sure that yours is getting the exercise they need. Dogs—and especially puppies—use their playtime to get out extra energy. With too much pent-up energy, your pup may resort to play biting. Having them expel their energy in positive ways - including both physical and mental exercise - will help mitigate extra nips. Being consistent. Training your dog takes patience, practice and consistency. With the right training techniques and commitment, your dog will learn what is preferred behavior. While sometimes it may be easier to let a little nipping activity go, be sure to remain consistent in your cues and redirection. That way, boundaries are clear to your dog. Using positive reinforcement. To establish preferred behaviors, use positive reinforcement when your dog exhibits the correct behavior. For instance, praise and treat your puppy when they listen to your cue to stop unwanted biting as well as when they choose an appropriate teething toy on their own. Saying “Ouch!” The next time your puppy becomes too exuberant and nips you, say “OUCH!” in a very shocked tone and immediately stop playing with them. Your puppy should learn - just as they did with their littermates - that their form of play has become unwanted. When they stop, ensure that you follow up with positive reinforcement by offering praise, treat and/or resuming play. Letting every interaction with your puppy be a learning opportunity. While there are moments of dedicated training time, every interaction with your dog can be used as a potential teaching moment.

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Harlem
Pit bull
8 Months
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Harlem
Pit bull
8 Months

My dog knows to sit , but won’t always sit. When we are outside I struggle having him to “sit & stay” when people or other dogs are walking/ passing by . He’s stubborn I would say , so he listens when he wants sometimes . Also he barks way too much . I’m trying to get him to bark only when he senses danger or is uncomfortable.. but he’ll bark at everyone that comes through the door , sometimes he’ll bark at people outside , not all the time. Other than that he’s learning .

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
912 Dog owners recommended

Hello Shaienne, For the Sit, I recommend very gradually working pup up to distractions and telling pup to Sit, then waiting until they do it (even if it takes 30 minutes at first, calmly reminding pup to "Sit" every five minutes) before allowing them to have anything they want - like a treat, walking forward on a walk, saying hi to a person or dog, going to sniff something, eating dinner, being thrown a toy, being petted, ect... Have pup work for what they want by sitting first. This approach can be used on its own or combined with the Pressure method below. Another approach is to use the Pressure method from the article linked below. Reward pup when they do sit willingly, but keep the treat or kibble hidden in your pocket until after they have sat, and as pup improves require a better sit before they earn the reward - so a slow sit earns praise, and a fast more focused sit earns the treat, to help motivate pup to improve their sit. As they get better at consistently sitting quickly then give the treat less often so pup has to do a few commands before the treat is delivered, to phase the treat out more. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-german-shepherd-puppy-to-sit If pup is not comfortable being touched or has any aggression issues, including toward other dogs or people, I recommend using a waiting approach instead of the Pressure method from the article. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Tyson
Pit bull
6 Months
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Tyson
Pit bull
6 Months

Tyson does not listen to instructions. He sits when told to but that's about it, he refuses to give paw.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
912 Dog owners recommended

Hello Jasmine, First, know that what you described is normal for basic obedience, especially at this age - the initial goal is just to teach pup what a word means and motivate them to learn. What comes next is intermediate obedience. For intermediate obedience, you will gradually work up to distractions and pup developing the skills to obey in those situations too - at first the distraction might be someone walking through the room, a squirrel in the yard, a leaf blowing by, ect...Start with less distracting environments, then gradually move onto harder environments and spend intentional time practicing in each of those new environments until pup can focus there too. For example, in your home without others around is easiest, your backyard is a bit harder, your front yard is even harder, your neighborhood is even hard, your home with guests present is even harder, a pet store is even harder, ect...Go out of your way to practice at the current level pup needs to learn at and to create the distractions pup is ready to learn to overcome during training sessions when you can control things - so that pup can also respond when things are more out of your control in every day life, but keep the distraction level what pup is ready for at that point in the training so pup can still succeed with your help - the goal is to guide pup and provide consistent, calm boundaries at this point. Second, you may need to switch some of your training methods now that pup knows the commands and is sometimes choosing to disobey. For example, when teaching Sit I would first recommend using the Treat Luring method from the article linked below. Once pup knows that method well and has worked up to some distractions, I would enforce my command using the Pressure method from that same article when pup chooses to disobey something they know. The pressure method will still reward some but will also give a gentle consequence for disobedience to encourage pup to obey even when they don't find it as fun. Be patient with pup and know that a puppy is still developing their attention span and ability to learn - keep things more positive and very gradually transition to intermediate methods for commands over the next 4 months. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-german-shepherd-puppy-to-sit Some other methods to help enforce commands when pup is ready: Reel In method for Come: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-whippet-to-recall Turns method for Heel: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel The Leash Pressure method for down: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-german-shepherd-to-lay-down If pup doesn't know these commands really well already, start by using the treat luring methods with each command before using the slightly firmer methods to proof that command once pup has learned the command and just needs to be reminded. Right now you can also keep a drag leash without a handle (for safety reasons to get caught less around the house) on pup while you are home. That way when you give a command like Come and pup ignores you, you can calmly walk over to them and lead them back to where you were - gently teaching them that they need to listen in every day life too. For the shake paw, I suggest a different approach. With pup sitting in front of you, tap the back of pup's front paw until they light it slightly off the ground, while happily saying "Paw or Shake". As soon as they move it at all, praise enthusiastically and reward with a treat. Repeat this until pup starts to lift the paw all the way off the ground - then reward. When pup is lifting the paw up, require pup to lift it higher before rewarding with a treat. Continue to praise for attempts though. When pup will lift the paw a couple of inches off the ground when you tap and say shake, start to tell pup to Shake, then wait seven seconds, then tap to remind pup if they don't lift on their own. Do this until pup starts to lift the paw consistently without needing the tap a few seconds later. When pup can lift when you say paw, place your hand under their paw when they lift it, praise and reward right when their paw touches your hand - even though you caused it to. Repeat. Next, place your hand slightly below where pup's lifted paw is, wait until pup lowers their paw a bit - accidentally touching your hand on their own (by accident on their part at first), as soon as pup touches your hand on their own because your hand was under the paw, praise and reward. Repeat until pup starts to intentionally touch your hand because they are associating it with the treat being given. When pup starts to understand that touching your hand is what earns them the treat, wait until pup puts their paw all the way into your hand, rather than just touching it slightly, before you reward. Practice this often for lots of short training sessions frequently, rather than fewer long ones to help pup focus and not get as distracted during training. Expect this to take several days or weeks to teach, not just one or two sessions. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Melo
Pit bull
6 Months
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Question
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Melo
Pit bull
6 Months

Hi there!

We recently adopted a 6 month old puppy and have been struggling with over excitement when entering the home from being out back. He goes into a frenzy and jumps on couches and people. We are expecting a baby in June and are slightly worried that we won’t be able to enforce a no jumping behavior in Melo before the baby arrives.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
912 Dog owners recommended

Hello Elona, What you just described is commonly called the "puppy zommies". It's normal, although a bit tricky to deal with in the moment. I suggest practicing something called "Jazz up and Settle Down". Which is a bit like red light, green light for dogs. During training, get him a little excited, then command "Stop" or something he knows like "Sit", and freeze. Wait and completely ignore him until he calms back down. As soon as he gets calm or sits, praise and give a treat. Tell him "Let's Play!" again, and start playing and getting him a bit excited again. As soon as he starts to get a little worked up (not too much at first), command "Stop" or "Sit" again, then wait, reward with a treat when he calms down, then continue the game after he is rewarded. Repeat this a few times each training session, then end the session (have lots of frequent shorter sessions throughout the day at his age). As he improves, and can really calm down quickly, let him get a bit more excited before calling Stop. Gradually work up to him becoming more and more excited and having to calm down quickly from a higher level of excitement as he improves. Also, understand that this will take some time and practice. Puppies have to learn self-control just like any other skill, while young. This game can help him develop it sooner though. I also recommend practicing calmness at the door when letting pup inside, so pup has to enter calmly initially too. Thresholds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-w28C2g68M Check out the Leash and Step Toward methods for jumping on people. Leaving pup's leash on them when they first come inside and you are supervising to make sure it doesn't get caught on anything, can help you enforce rules calmly at that time. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-australian-shepherds-to-not-jump Additional commands that may help when the baby arrives are Out - which means leave the area, Place, and Leave It. Leave It: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Out - which means leave the area: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Place: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O75dyWITP1s If pup isn't already crate trained, that may be helpful to work on ahead of time too, for times when you simply need to give pup a dog food stuffed chew toy in the crate for some down time, and know that pup and baby are safe when you need a rest. Surprise method: https://wagwalking.com/training/like-a-crate Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Zeus
American Pit Bull Terrier
7 Weeks
0 found helpful
Question
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Zeus
American Pit Bull Terrier
7 Weeks

I would like to make him a guard dog. How would I teach him not to bite at playtime

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
912 Dog owners recommended

Hello Janiyah, Check out the Leave It and Bite Inhibition methods from the article I have linked below. I would work on teaching Leave It - which takes more practice, and using the Bite Inhibition method while pup is still learning Leave It. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite I would not worry about teaching pup not to bite interfering with future guard work either. The two are actually completely different. Puppy biting is a social behavior. It's how pup's learn about things around them and play with other puppies. Pup simply needs to learn how to control pressure and not to bite people normally. Bite work done for protection and guard dogs is something taught to adults using a dog's drive train, and rewarding the dog for biting on command with bite bag tugs and fun. You don't want a dog to learn to use their mouth all the time - like a pup who never learned to stop mouthing. You want a dog to understand that biting in general isn't allowed, then to learn that there are exceptions when working and given bite commands. You can continue to encourage bite work skills for future guard dog puppies by playing games like tug and using flirt poles, instead of having pup bite on you. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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