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Oscar is a bundle of energy. You open the front door and your Pitbull puppy is leaping into the air, desperate to plant slobber all over your face. Despite his tough exterior, you know your Pitbull is full of love and affection. He's brought nothing but happiness and smiles into your life. However, you got Oscar for a specific reason - you want to train him to protect. You may have a family you want to keep safe at night or it may be that you simply want to protect your house and valuable possessions from intruders.
Training a Pitbull puppy to protect seems like an ideal solution. In fact, Pitbulls naturally possess many of the characteristics needed to effectively protect people and property. This type of training will also instill strict discipline into him, which may make it easier to teach him any number of other commands. While Pitbulls have a reputation for being strong, powerful dogs, with the right amount of control, knowledge, and patience, you can help shape your Pitbull puppy into a loyal protector.
Training a Pitbull puppy to protect isn’t as complex as many owners believe. However, it will require strict discipline on both your part and Oscar's. You will need to take steps to show him that what you want him to protect falls within his territory. You will also need to encourage the sorts of defensive behaviour that will make him effective at protecting, such as barking. To do all this, you will need the right incentive. As you can probably guess, food is often the best way to get your Pitbull puppy dancing to your tune.
If Oscar is particularly receptive, then you could see results in just a matter of weeks. This is because when they are puppies, Pitbulls can soak up information and learn impressively quickly. But if your Pitbull puppy is stubborn with a short attention span, then you may need several months. Stick with training and before you know it, you’ll be able to sleep easy at night as your Pitbull protects you and your home.
Before you get to work, you’ll need to make sure you have a few essentials. A long leash will be required and you may also want to invest in a body harness. This will increase your control while reducing the strain on Oscar’s neck.
You will need a decent supply of treats or his favorite food broken into small pieces. A friend will also be required for two of the methods below. Then, set aside fifteen minutes each day for training. Of course, you will also need access to the space or persons you want him to protect.
Once you’ve ticked all those boxes, just come armed with patience and a pro-active attitude, then work can begin!
The Follow Me Method
Secure Oscar to a leash and then have someone slowly approach in your yard or on a walk. Stand level with your Pitbull puppy and then point at the person, whisper, and do all that you can to get him worked up. This method relies on the theory that dogs mirror their owners behaviour. So be patient, it may take him a little while, but eventually he will get worked up when he sees that you are.
Keep pointing and getting animated until Oscar barks at the person. If he's struggling, start shouting at the person yourself, to show your Pitbull puppy how it’s done.
Once he does bark, you need to give him a reward within three seconds. Any longer and he may not associate the action with the reward. If you use a clicker when you train, click before you hand over the treat or toy.
Mix it up
Now you simply need to practice regularly. Have a stranger approach several times a week in a range of different situations. The more frequently you train, the sooner it will become habit.
Lose the rewards
Once your Pitbull puppy barks whenever a stranger approaches even with distractions around, you can slowly start to phase out the reward. By this point, Oscar knows what to do and doesn’t need a tasty incentive to behave as you’d like.
The Natural Instinct Method
The first thing to do is start taking your Pitbull puppy to group obedience classes. Firstly, they will teach him a range of useful commands that will help you retain control later on. These classes will also help socialize Oscar with other pets and people, as you don’t want him being aggressive toward everyone.
Whenever Oscar takes an interest in a stranger, you must reward him. Give him a treat, a toy, or some verbal praise whenever he sniffs, barks, or heads over to a stranger. Do this every time and it will soon become habit.
Secure your Pitbull puppy to a short leash each morning and walk him around the perimeter of the space you want him to protect. If you want him to protect you, keep him with you for a short while. This will help reinforce where his territory begins and ends. He will then naturally want to defend anything within that space.
Repeat the previous step each evening. This will further reinforce his boundaries. Before you know it, he will become protective over any stranger that wanders within this space.
Never use punishment
Do not use punishment techniques to train your Pitbull puppy to protect. Such methods may make Oscar overly aggressive and incredibly difficult to control, especially as Pitbulls grow up to be both big and strong. Instead, stick to positive reinforcement techniques.
The Verbal Cue Method
Spend a couple of days watching your Pitbull puppy. You’re looking for situations which trigger a bark. This could be when he's excited for an imminent walk or when you’re preparing his food.
Once you’ve identified a situation that makes him bark, put him in it. Just before, or as he starts to bark, issue a ‘Bark’ command in a clear voice, just once. Don’t keep repeating the instruction, as you want him to respond to your command the first time, every time.
As soon as he does indeed bark, swiftly go over and shower him in praise. You can also chuck him a treat or play with a toy for a minute. Now simply practice this for ten minutes each day in a variety of situations.
Once he barks whenever you instruct him to, even with distractions around, it’s time to put your work to the test. Have a stranger slowly approach the house. Have them knock on a window or door. Then point and give Oscar the ‘Bark’ command.
Reward and practice
Once Oscar barks, have the friend yell and run away. It’s important your Pitbull puppy knows to keep barking until the intruder vacates the vicinity. Now you simply need to practice a few times a week. Try and use different people each time and before you know it, Oscar will automatically bark whenever a stranger approaches.
Written by James Barra
Veterinary reviewed by:
Published: 05/30/2018, edited: 01/08/2021