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Your Pit Bull pup seems to spend most of their time bouncing around, following you around the house. Life has been a whirlwind since you bought your puppy home. But the endless enthusiasm and wagging tail puts a smile on your face every day. You don’t like leaving them even for a couple of hours. However, it hasn’t all been without problems. Your Pit Bull does fall short in one area in particular, and that’s walking calmly by your side.
Training your pup to heel will help for a number of reasons. Firstly, you will be able to have those relaxing morning strolls you first envisaged. You also won’t need to worry about them pulling you to the ground and injuring yourself. Because Pit Bulls are strong, training them to heel will also mean you always have control when traffic or other pets are around.
Training any dog to heel is an uphill battle. It’s only natural that they want to sniff and explore everything around them. Fortunately, Pit Bull are fairly intelligent and keen to please. So training will consist of setting some clear boundaries. You will then use verbal commands and positive reinforcement to get them walking to your tune.
If your Pit Bull is particularly switched on and eager to please, then you could see results in just a couple of weeks. But if they are more interested in exploring than learning, then you may need up to a month. Get training right and you’ll never need to worry when you see another dog approaching on the horizon. The control you assert will also help you stamp out other bad habits too. Finally, if your pup can walk calmly, other people will be able to walk him without any problems.
Before you start work, you will need to get your hands on a few bits. A short training leash will be needed. Because Pit Bulls are so strong, you may also want to invest in a body harness. This will increase your control while reducing the strain on the dog's neck.
You don’t need to set aside specific time for training. Instead, you can practice when you are out on your daily walks.
Once you have all that, just bring patience and an optimistic attitude, then you can get to work!
The Verbal Command Method
Secure Dexter to a leash and head out the door for your walk as you normally would. However, keep the dog on one side and stay calm as you go. You don’t want to get your pup too worked up at this point.
As soon as your Pit Bull starts pulling, stand still and don’t move. The dog may pull for a few seconds but they will eventually stop and turn around, wondering what is going on.
As you come to a stop, issue a firm ‘heel’ command. Hold eye contact when you do so they know you’re trying to get their attention. Note you can use any word or phrase you like. You can then give the leash a little yank and wait for them to return to your side.
Set off again
Once they are firmly by your side, you can start slowly walking again. However, as soon the pup pulls, stop and issue the ‘heel’ command again. Wait for them to return and then set off again.
It may be time-consuming and annoying, but you need to be patient. The pup will eventually catch on and be able to walk for longer and longer without pulling. Also make sure anyone else that walks them takes the same steps.
The Sharp Turn Method
Secure your Pit Bull puppy to a leash and start your walk as you normally would. If the dog is already quite big and strong, you may want to fit a body harness too. Try and keep them relatively calm as you start walking.
As soon as they pull on the leash, stop, turn around and start walking in the other direction. Don’t look at the dog or say anything, just take a sharp turn in the opposite direction. This will confuse them for a minute, but eventually they will realize if they pull, they won’t get to decide where they walk.
Now all you need to do is repeat this whenever they pull. That may mean to start with that you just walk back and forward, but they will swiftly get the hang of it. Also make sure if someone else walks the pup that they stick to the same measures. If not, you will only push back the end result.
Once they get the hang of it, you can also start introducing some positive reinforcements. You can give them verbal praise and talk to them as you go. This will keep them keen to stay by your side.
It is important you do not punish your Pit Bull puppy when they pull. This will only scare the dog and may make them more eager to get away from you. Instead stay calm and remember Pit Bull puppies respond best to positive stimulus.
The By My Side Method
Secure the pup to a leash and head for a walk as you normally would. However, make sure you have a few treats in your pocket and one treat in your hand at your waist height. You want them to know there is something there, but don’t give them access to it.
Walk 10 yards with the treat at your waist keeping their interest. The trick is to start slowly to begin with and then build up the distance over time.
Once you have walked 10 yards you can hand over a treat and give the dog some verbal praise. The happier they feel afterwards, the more eager they will be to play again.
Increase the distance
Now all you need to do is steadily increase the distance you walk for before you give them a reward. Increase the distance by 10 yards each time. Before you know it your Pit Bull puppy will be in a habit of never pulling.
Change it up
If the pup loses interest or doesn’t seem remotely bothered about staying close to the treat to start with, then you may want to try an alternative reward. Often, the smellier the food, the more effective it will be. Cheese, for example, can work well.
By James Barra
Published: 03/21/2018, edited: 01/08/2021