How to Train a Pit Bull Puppy to Come

How to Train a Pit Bull Puppy to Come
Medium difficulty iconMedium
Time icon2-6 Months
General training category iconGeneral

Introduction

Teaching your Pit Bull puppy to come when called is important for their safety and your peace of mind. The basics are easy to train, but plan to practice this critical skill for the life of your pup so that she will come when called, every time. Professional trainers call this behavior reliable “recall".

You can start working with your Pit Bull puppy as early as 8 weeks old. Keep your training sessions exciting and rewarding. At this age, you can do 5-10 quick recall drills before your puppy gets bored. Of course, as your pup gets a little older, you can practice her recall for longer periods of time and in higher distraction environments. 

Since Pit Bulls are intelligent and loyal breeds, they take naturally to learning to come when called. However, as with any other breed, your dog can be too distracted by other dogs, cats or squirrels to pay attention to your command. It is important that you keep your dog on a leash even if they have a relatively strong recall, especially near dangerous conditions such as traffic. 

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Defining Tasks

Recall training is not done in a single session, rather, it is an ongoing continuous skill building exercise. Before we get into the specifics of how to train your Pit Bull puppy to come, we want to share some tips that will help you make the most of your recall training:

  • Never call your Pit Bull puppy to you then punish her or take away something good such as her favorite toy (unless you plan on a fun toy toss!).
  • Never chase your puppy after issuing the recall command. Instead, run away from him excitedly to trigger him to chase you if he hesitates when you call him.
  • Practice recall several times a day, and in as many new environments that you can manage (using a long line for safety if necessary).
  • Make sure to follow our instructions for “proofing” your recall to make sure that it will be there when you need it most. 

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Getting Started

There are only a few things you will need to train your Pit Bull puppy to come when called: 

Long Line – This is a leash or rope that is 25’ or longer that you can use once you are ready to move your training outdoors.

High-Value Rewards – What is it that your puppy really enjoys? Is it food, a squeaky toy or maybe a tug on her favorite rope bone? You can use anything as a reward, but make sure that she is very highly motivated by the rewards that you use, especially when training new behavior.

Energy and Patience – Training requires that you bring a good attitude to the table. If you find yourself getting frustrated, then you should find another time to train. In order to teach your Pit Bull to come when called, you will want to be sure that you are more exciting and fun than the other things that may compete for his attention.

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The Basic Recall Method

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Set up

This is the method to start with when beginning your recall training. Your Pit Bull puppy is going to be easily distracted by the smells and activity of just about any distraction, so start training all new behaviors in a very familiar and boring place. Have high value rewards ready when teaching any new behaviors.

2

Run away

Start to run away from your Pit Bull puppy before saying his name followed by your recall command, or “Come!” Your tone should be fun, playful and inviting so he will know this is a fun game. Most puppies will instinctively give chase, and when he catches up with you, gently touch his collar before rewarding very generously. Repeat 10-20 times.

3

Add distance

Start to gradually increase the distance from where you call your puppy. You can even start making this a fun game by calling her from around the corner or from behind some furniture. You will know you are making things fun when your puppy enthusiastically comes running to find out what cool thing she will get when she gets to you this time!

4

Go outside

Once about 4 months old, your Pitbull puppy should have some experience doing recall drills indoors. It is time to move the training sessions outdoors, using the long line for safety. Keep touching the collar before rewarding success. Ignore failures for now and just do whatever it takes to entice your pup to come after you call her with her recall command.

5

Add consequence

Once your puppy is about 6 months old, and they have lots of practice with recall it is time to add some consequence for failing to come when called. It is critical that your Pit Bull puppy has plenty of practice successfully practicing their recall before you add negative consequences for failure. The best thing to try is to start pulling your dog in using the long line when she fails to come within 3 seconds of being called. Silently put her in the crate or a small room for a brief, 3 minute “Time Out” before resuming your session.

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Next steps

Move on to the “Proofing” method to learn how to add distractions so your Pitbull puppy will come when called no matter where you are and regardless of distractions.

The Recall Game Method

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Set up

If you have a few friends that you can get to help you train your Pit Bull puppy, consider this fun game to help sharpen his recall skills. Make sure everyone has a small bag of treats before getting started.

2

Take turns

Have everyone sit in a circle, and alternate calling your puppy to them. Have them call only once, and if necessary, bribe him over by offering a treat the first few times.

3

Reward

When your puppy arrives at the person that calls her, make sure they touch her collar before dispensing praise and a treat. Also, have them hold her until the next person calls, building up some excitement for this game as she struggles to break free and sprint to the next person in anticipation of a treat.

4

Add distance

Add some distance by widening the circle. As your puppy gets more confident with this game, you can even call him from different rooms of the house. This is a great way to get the kids involved in training your dog!

5

Go outside

Move the game outside, using the long-line for safety if you don’t have a fenced area. Turn it into a game of hide and seek using trees, sheds or other obstacles to make this recall game even more fun and challenging.

The Proofing Method

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Why you need to proof

Once your Pit Bull puppy is about 4 months old, and he has plenty of practice with recall drills at home, it is time to start “proofing” their recall. This means that you will start to teach him to come when called in a variety of new environments, and in the presence of different distractions. This advanced skills method will give you some tips on how to make sure your Pit Bull learns to come when called, no matter what!

2

New places

Take your dog to some new places and practice doing recall drills like you did with the 'Basic Recall' method. If you are worried about safety, use your long line to ensure you can reel her in before she gets into any trouble. Try going to the woods, an abandoned parking lot, doggy social areas like the dog park or bike paths and hiking trails. The more places you practice recall drills with your puppy, the more reliable she will be at coming when called.

3

New distractions

By now, you should have a sense for the triggers most likely to break your Pit Bull’s recall. Maybe he is very interested in socializing with other dogs, for example. Find a way to practice recalling him past such distractions, such as a friend with their dog on a leash nearby. Use your long line to enforce your recall and keep the tone positive and fun. Huge rewards should go to your Pit Bull puppy when they choose to come to you instead of investigating a distraction.

4

New people

If you want anyone to be able to call your Pit Bull to them, be sure you practice recall drills with as many people as you can. If you don’t, then do the opposite – keep your dog close, have a friend call them, and then reward your dog for NOT going towards your friend.

5

Get selective

Get picky about the recalls that you will reward generously. Eventually you want to be rewarding 10% or less of the recalls you do with a food motivator, choosing the fastest and most intense returns to give the best rewards to.

6

When NOT to recall

At some point in recall training, you will need to decide to never use your primary recall command unless you are able to enforce it, otherwise, you may be teaching your dog that recall is optional. If you see that your puppy is engaged with playing with the neighbor’s dog, then try to use a whistle or secondary recall device to get their attention. Otherwise, prepare to go put a leash on your dog and end their game if you use her primary recall command and she ignores you.

By Sharon Elber

Published: 02/05/2018, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Bentley

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Pit bull

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7 Weeks

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He likes to bite clothes and won't release even when we have a toy right there. He also starts growling and getting more aggressive while still not letting go.

March 14, 2022

Bentley's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Amber, At this age pup likely lacks impulse control, which is pup's control over the pressure of their mouth. They might actually have a hard time being able to let go on their own, and if you are pulling against pup trying to get away that might be triggering a defensive response - like a game of tug of war, causing pup to clamp down. I would work on teaching Drop It, Leave It, Out, and Bite Inhibition. In the meantime, when pup grabs, calmly tell pup "Ah Ah" and with your hand gently put but pressure onto the back of pup's mouth, where their jaws come together at the back of their teeth. That area tends to be sensitive and often if you put pressure there with the object pup is grabbing by actually pulling the object toward pup (think a horse bridle) or with your finger carefully, pup's reflex will be to try to spit the object out to get away from that pressure. Once pup knows Drop It and the other commands, use those commands to instruct pup so pup is actually choosing to obey and being trained though. Out - which means leave the area: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Leave It method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Drop It – Exchange method: https://wagwalking.com/training/drop-it Once pup is old enough, playing with other young puppies in a setting where the play is moderated by the people can help pup learn how to control their bite pressure also. I highly recommend this, especially for breeds who tend to bite often and hard otherwise. https://www.petful.com/behaviors/puppy-classes-when-to-start/ Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

March 15, 2022

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Tiny

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Pit bull

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8 Weeks

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Hard to get him to listen and biting

Dec. 8, 2021

Tiny's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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Hello Katherine, For the listing, start with teaching pup to respond to their name. To teach pup to respond to his name better, practice saying his name and holding a treat next to your eye. When pup looks toward your eye, praise and give a treat. Practice often until pup consistently looks at your eye when you say his name. Next, pretend to hold the treat by your eye with your hand but actually have it hidden behind your back in your other hand. Say pup's name and praise and reward pup with the treat from behind your back when they look at your eye. Practice until pup looks consistently. Also, practice at random times throughout the day when pup isn't expecting it. Next, simply point to your eye and do the same process until pup is good at looking at your eye then even at random times during the day. Finally, simply say pup's name without pointing at your eye and reward with a treat hidden in your pocket throughout the day at random times of the day - you can also use pup's meal kibble as treats kept in a ziploc baggie in your pocket. 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/ 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. 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

Dec. 9, 2021


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