How to Train a Pitbull Puppy to Protect

Hard
1-6 Months
Work

Introduction

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. 

Defining Tasks

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.

Getting Started

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

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Step
1
Capture interest
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.
Step
2
'Bark' command
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.
Step
3
Reward
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.
Step
4
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.
Step
5
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.
Recommend training method?

The Natural Instinct Method

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Step
1
Obedience classes
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.
Step
2
Encouragement
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.
Step
3
Morning walk
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.
Step
4
Evening walk
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.
Step
5
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.
Recommend training method?

The Verbal Cue Method

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Step
1
Watch closely
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.
Step
2
‘Bark’
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.
Step
3
Reward
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.
Step
4
Stranger approach
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.
Step
5
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.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Apollo
Pit Bullmastiff
23 Months
0 found helpful
Question
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Apollo
Pit Bullmastiff
23 Months

I want him to know when to protect the house. Although, he does bark when he hears someone around the house. I want to use words to train him to protect us and the home.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1126 Dog owners recommended

Hello Koko, For the alerting, first teach pup to bark by teaching the Speak command. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-german-shepherd-to-speak Once pup knows the speak command, recruit friends pup doesn't know to step onto the property or come to the door while pup watches from a window or inside somewhere. Command speak and reward with a treat when they do. Practice with telling pup to speak each time the person is there, until pup barks on their own when the person tries to enter without saying speak. At that point, have the person come onto the property, wait seven seconds to see if pup will bark on their own, reward if they do, and command speak if they don't - then reward but give a smaller reward when you tell pup opposed to when pup does it on their own. Practice until pup will bark each time someone enters the property. Practice with different people you can recruit, that pup doesn't know so that pup will learn to do this with anyone who enters the property and not just that one person. Draw pup's attention to people outside or people on your property, and reward pup when you see them watching someone in general - so that pup will begin watching people and staying more alert as a habit. Pup doesn't have to bark to reward this one - just reward when pup is watching someone and you notice that. I also recommend teaching the Quiet command, so that you can tell pup when to stop barking after they alert. Quiet method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark For anything that would involve bite work, you would need to pursue training with a professional protection trainer who knows how to utilize pup's defense drive, build confidence, utilize rewards like a bite bag and tug, and have the right staff and equipment to practice things like arms holds - this training should only be done with a professionals help and should not encourage fear or true aggression when done correctly - it's more like teaching pup a task, teaching alertness, obedience, building confidence, and encouraging a natural defense drive - opposed to poorly done training that encourages suspicion and fear to get a bite from the dog. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Rex
Pitbull / American staff
3 Months
0 found helpful
Question
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Rex
Pitbull / American staff
3 Months

Can I train 2 dogs at the same time

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1126 Dog owners recommended

Hello Laura, When you are first teaching something new I would train with one dog at a time, then rotate the dogs and train with the next dog after you finish your session with the first dog. Once the dogs have both learned that lesson/command, then you can practice with both dogs together to help them get good at the command/training around other distractions (the other dog being a distraction). Each time you start something new I would separate though, then work them back up to practicing training that thing together. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Major
Pit bull
8 Weeks
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Major
Pit bull
8 Weeks

Where do I start

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1126 Dog owners recommended

Hello, Work on commands that build impulse control and respect for you at this age - that will lay a great foundation for more formal protection training later. Continue to pursue socialization with pup even though that can seem counter-intuitive, because a good protection and guard dog needs to know what's normal in the world, especially around people, so that they can tell when something is wrong correctly and not just react to everything and be unreliable. Good socialization also boosts confidence. Getting pup around a lot of people and places is great, but also work on pup's manners and obedience in those settings so pup is learning to focus on you around those exposures - like practicing heeling past people at a park, a Down-Stay at an outdoor shopping area, sitting for being petted, ect... To help pup learn better self-control and focus, practice the following commands over the next few months. Work up to pup gradually being able to do these things around distractions and for longer periods of time. For example, work up to an hour long Place command, heeling past people at the park, holding a Down-Stay while you walk away at the park while pup is on a long training leash and harness. Those types of commands can also help with respect and trust for you - which is important for guarding work later. Thresholds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-w28C2g68M Out - which means leave the area: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Leave It method - good for the mouthing too: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Place command: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O75dyWITP1s Down-Stay: https://www.thelabradorsite.com/train-your-labrador-to-lie-down-and-stay/ Heel- Turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Off- section on The Off command: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-train-dog-stay-off-couch/ Come - Reel in method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-whippet-to-recall Check out the article linked below for good respect building tips: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-doberman-to-listen-to-you Many dogs will naturally guard if it's in their genetics and you have laid a good foundation of respect and obedience, once they mature mentally between 1-2 years of age. If pup doesn't, you can also teach pup to bark automatically when someone enters the property and be more watchful in general using reward based training. For the alerting, first teach pup to bark by teaching the Speak command. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-german-shepherd-to-speak Once pup knows the speak command, recruit friends pup doesn't know to step onto the property or come to the door while pup watches from a window or inside somewhere. Command speak and reward with a treat when they do. Practice with telling pup to speak each time the person is there, until pup barks on their own when the person tries to enter without saying speak. At that point, have the person come onto the property, wait seven seconds to see if pup will bark on their own, reward if they do, and command speak if they don't - then reward but give a smaller reward when you tell pup opposed to when pup does it on their own. Practice until pup will bark each time someone enters the property. Practice with different people you can recruit, that pup doesn't know so that pup will learn to do this with anyone who enters the property and not just that one person. Draw pup's attention to people outside or people on your property, and reward pup when you see them watching someone in general - so that pup will begin watching people and staying more alert as a habit. Pup doesn't have to bark to reward this one - just reward when pup is watching someone and you notice that. I also recommend teaching the Quiet command, so that you can tell pup when to stop barking after they alert. Quiet method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark For anything that would involve bite work, you would need to pursue training with a professional protection trainer who knows how to utilize pup's defense drive, build confidence, utilize rewards like a bite bag and tug, and have the right staff and equipment to practice things like arms holds - this training should only be done with a professionals help and should not encourage fear or true aggression when done correctly - it's more like teaching pup a task, teaching alertness, obedience, building confidence, and encouraging a natural defense drive - opposed to poorly done training that encourages suspicion and fear to get a bite from the dog. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
BAYBIE
American Pit Bull Terrier (Blue Nose)
8 Weeks
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
BAYBIE
American Pit Bull Terrier (Blue Nose)
8 Weeks

How do I get him to no longer bite people's legs and feet. Also is it normal for a puppy to only eat a cup or lees of his food, in order to get home to eat any more I have to hold it in my hand. What training treats do you recommend...

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1126 Dog owners recommended

Hello Gilbert, How much pup should be eating depends a lot on the breed, metabolism, and age. I recommend consulting your vet to find out how much your particular dog should be eating at this age. As far as treats, many puppies love freeze dried meat treats, like freeze dried liver or stella and chewy kibble toppers. The meat tends to be healthier than more fatty alternatives, is softer to chew for a young pup, and is loved by most dogs. For puppies I also like to use mostly kibble to train and save the more exciting treats for when we are in public socializing or working on Come. Check out the free PDF e-book After You Get Your Puppy that can be downloaded as a pdf from the link below. www.lifedogtraining.com/freedownloads That e-book covers things like using kibble as treats and socialization too. 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. 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 its normal for it to take some time and practice for puppy to learn self-control well enough to stop the biting completely. 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

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Question
Dutch
pitbull
9 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Dutch
pitbull
9 Months

How to get my dog to protect my wife me and our house

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1126 Dog owners recommended

Hello George, You can either hire a professional protection trainer to train pup formally, or you can work on teaching pup to bark when someone comes onto the property and generally be more alert of surroundings, on your own. For any bite work, you will need to hire professional help though. To teach pup to bark and be more alert, first, teach pup the Speak command. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-german-shepherd-to-speak Once pup knows the speak command, recruit friends pup doesn't know to step onto the property while pup watches from a window or fence. Command speak and reward with a treat when they do. Practice with telling pup to speak each time the person is on the property, until pup barks on their own when the person enters without saying speak. At that point, have the person step onto the property, wait seven seconds to see if pup will bark on their own, reward if they do, and command speak if they don't - then reward but give a smaller reward when you tell pup opposed to when pup does it on their own. Practice until pup will bark each time someone enters the property. Practice with different people you can recruit, that pup doesn't know so that pup will learn to do this with anyone who enters the property and not just that one person. Draw pup's attention to people outside or people on your property, and reward pup when you see them watching someone in general - so that pup will begin watching people and staying more alert as a habit. Pup doesn't have to bark to reward this one - just reward when pup is watching someone and you notice that. I also recommend teaching the Quiet command, so that you can tell pup when to stop barking after they alert. Quiet method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark Protection training with bite work requires a high level of obedience, socialization, off-leash reliability, trust and respect. Protection training - where the dog is trained to actually bite in a dangerous situation, opposed to alert and intimidate intruders with barking and growling alone, is something that I only recommend a professional with years of experience with such training do - if done wrong by someone less experience you can actually ruin a dog and create terrible aggression instead. Protection dogs are typically trained using drive training - which is like a form of positive reinforcement, where the dog is rewarded with tug of war type bite bag for biting an assistant in a padded body suit who is pretending to attack, not through fear or intimidation to get them to bite. Protection dogs are actually socialized extremely well around people prior to the training so that they are friendly and confident around people when not working, and not spooky or mean. This allows them to tell when someone is acting normal or suspicious - because they understand what normal human behavior looks like, and for the owner to bring the dog places with them safely to protect them instead of being a hazard in public due to aggression. Look for a trainer who understands these things and has a lot of success working with dogs such as Police Dogs and privately trained protection dogs - training protection work Many dogs who are trained to be alert, well socialized so they can tell a true threat apart from a wanted guest, well mannered and bonded with your family, and have some natural instincts to protect (many Pitbulls are naturally protective), will also bite if someone was truly in danger without having to do bite training; just make sure you aren't encouraging aggression in normal circumstances around people in general. A smart dog with those instincts can generally tell when something does warrant aggression if they are comfortable and confident and well socialized with people in general, to avoid fearfulness or being overly suspicious of everyone. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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