How to Train a Pit Bull to be a Guard Dog

Medium
1-6 Months
Work

Introduction

You brought Lucky into your home for several reasons. Firstly, you wanted a trusty canine companion. You definitely got that. Your Pit Bull is playful, energetic and always eager to see you. However, you also chose Lucky for another reason. Pit Bulls are big and strong, and you’re after a guard dog. You may have certain objects of value that you want to keep safe. But you may also just want to keep your family and home secure. Dogs are thought to be one of the most effective burglar deterrents and not many are brave enough to take on a Pit Bull.

Training your Pit Bull to be a guard dog comes with more benefits than just an efficient intruder deterrent. You will instill a high level of discipline in your dog. Discipline that can be used to train them to do a range of commands and tricks. This type of training is also just a great way for you to spend quality time together.

Defining Tasks

Training a Pit Bull to be a guard dog isn’t going to come without its challenges. You will need to keep them focused and properly motivated for months. That requires the right food or a favorite toy. You will then use obedience commands to get the dog barking and taking an interest in strangers. You will also need to do some socialization work to ensure they don’t display any signs of aggression towards people or pets they do know.

If your dog is just a puppy then they should be fast learners and keen to please. As a result, training may prove successful in just a month or so. However, if they are older and not such keen students then you may need several months before you see consistent results. If training proves successful, you’ll have a fantastic way to keep people and possessions secure.

Getting Started

Before you can start training, you will need to make sure you have several things together. Firstly, you will need to stock up on treats or small pieces of your dog's favorite food. You will also need a secure leash and some friends your Pit Bull does not know too well.

Set aside 10 to 15 minutes several days a week for training. The more consistently you train, the sooner you may see results.

Once you have all that, just bring enthusiasm and patience, then work can begin!

The ‘Bark’ Method

ribbon-method-3
Most Recommended
2 Votes
Step
1
Monitor
Spend a couple of days watching your Pit Bull. You’re looking for any situations which naturally trigger a bark. This could be when you feed them or take them for a walk, for example. You’re going to use these moments to teach them to bark on command.
Step
2
‘Bark’
Put your dog in one of these situations and issue a ‘bark’ command in a playful voice. Give the instruction just before or as they naturally start to bark. You can use any word or phrase you like. So you could also use ‘speak’, for example.
Step
3
Reward
As soon as the dog barks, hand over a tasty treat. In fact, try to reward them within three seconds. Then continue to practice this for a few minutes each day, gradually giving the command earlier.
Step
4
On command
Work toward giving the command without the natural trigger, so you can say "bark" and your dog will bark without an outside influence. As your dog improves, give the command in a range of situations.
Step
5
Have someone approach
Once they understand the instruction, have a relatively unfamiliar person approach the door. Give your Pit Bull the ‘bark’ instruction. Then have the person scream and run away. It’s important the dog knows to bark until they flee. You can then hand over a reward.
Step
6
Practice
Now all you need to do is practice regularly. Have different people approach and continue to hand over tasty rewards when your dog barks. Before you know it, the dog will be in the habit of barking at any stranger that approaches.
Step
7
'Quiet'
To avoid barking getting out of control or encouraging aggression, use the reverse approach to teach your dog to be quiet on command. Wait for him to naturally fall silent, introduce the command 'quiet' and give a reward. Work toward giving the command earlier, while the dog is still barking, until he will stop barking as soon as he is commanded.
Recommend training method?

The Full Package Method

ribbon-method-1
Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Start early
If you want the quickest results, then start training your Pit Bull to be a guard dog from an early age as possible. It is when they are a puppy that they are at their most receptive, so any work you do then will yield results far sooner.
Step
2
Obedience classes
Enroll your puppy into group obedience classes. Not only will this teach them a range of useful commands, from ‘down’ to ‘stay’, but it will also socialize them with other pets and people, which is essential to keep guarding behavior from developing into aggressive behavior.
Step
3
Encouragement
You need to encourage any of the types of behavior they will need to be an effective guard dog. That means handing out treats or playing with a toy whenever they take an interest in or bark at strangers that approach your home.
Step
4
Get them familiar
Make sure your Pit Bull is familiar with the item/place/people you want them to guard. If not, they will not feel like they fall within their territory, therefore, they will be less interested in protecting them.
Step
5
Avoid punishment
It’s important you do not use punishment as a training tool. Your Pit Bull will respond best to positive reinforcement and punishment may only make them overly aggressive and too challenging to control.
Recommend training method?

The Boundaries Method

ribbon-method-2
Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Morning walk
Secure your dog to a leash each morning and walk them quietly around the area you want them to guard. You are showing them the object or place falls within their territory. This will make them naturally want to defend it.
Step
2
Evening walk
Also secure the dog to a leash in the evening and walk them around the perimeter of the area. This will further reinforce the boundary training. They will soon be wary of anyone unfamiliar that wanders within the space.
Step
3
Tether
In the daytime, tether your dog to a long leash around the area they are to protect. This will only make the area feel even more like their territory to protect. Make sure they still have some freedom to roam around. Also, ensure they have access to water and food.
Step
4
Have a stranger approach
Now have a friend or person your dog does not know that well slowly approach. Point at the stranger, whisper and draw your Pit Bull’s attention to the person. Continue doing this until the dog barks. Be patient, it may take them a little while to catch on.
Step
5
Reward
As soon as the dog does bark, hand over a tasty treat or a toy. The happier they feel afterwards, the more keen they will be to repeat the behavior. Continue practicing this several times a week and they will soon be in the habit of barking at anyone that approaches.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Juice
pitbull
6 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Juice
pitbull
6 Months

My puppy is so friendly. He loves everyone. He's a softy I guess. I want him to be the complete opposite when people come over. I put him up when people come over. And he listens when I tell him to do simple things. Sit stay go lay down. Those kind of things but loves attention from everyone. Strange or not. Hes very affectionate. Not like any other dog I've ever seen. He wants to cuddle and be held like a lap dog. It's crazy. He's a good dog but he isn't intimidating at all. How do I fix that?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1126 Dog owners recommended

Hello, Friendliness at this age isn't a bad thing for a guard dog. Most dogs become more protective when they reach mental maturity between 1-2 years of age. You want pup to be used to people, so pup can later tell what's normal and abnormal, pup can be around more often to actually be able to help when the situation warrants, and pup will be confident around new people and not fearful of people. 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

Add a comment to Juice's experience

Was this experience helpful?

Question
Eazy-E "Eazy"
Blue Nose Pitbull
2 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Eazy-E "Eazy"
Blue Nose Pitbull
2 Years

He already exhibits some of the above mentioned behaviors on his own with people he just needs a little more practice and structure with fully following a command when I want him to the first time. But he acts the same way when he sees another dog and other animals and he will not stop going nuts go matter what I say or do. I have to pull him away against his will and I am a small girl, he is one strong puppy dog lol
Please any advice to help him be a little more calm and under control in those situations?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1126 Dog owners recommended

Hello Samantha, First, know that there is a difference between a guard dog and a protection dog. A guard dog is generally guarding an area and staying in that area the majority of the time, so pup is reacting when someone comes onto the property they are guarding or enters the home they are guarding. A protection dog is a dog who is protecting a specific person or item they carry. This dog needs a much higher level of obedience and control so that they can be in public places with the person without reacting when they aren't commanded to or an obvious danger presents itself. This dog needs a high level of socialization, advanced obedience, specific training for protection so they learn how to react defensively but they disengage in an instant when commanded to, in order to not be a danger in public and just a dog who is generally reactive. It sounds like pup currently is learning a guard dog level of training, but is being expected to potentially protect you while out with you as a protection dog, and is simply reactive toward others. If that may be the case, then I would actually pursue some intermediate and then off-leash level training with pup. Practicing things like Quiet, Heel, Come, Leave It, and Stay, gradually working up to high distractions, while also practicing rewarding pup for protection like work when pup is commanded to, like Speak or barking just when someone unfamiliar touches you or you scream or do something to signal to pup you are in danger. 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 Quiet method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark 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 Come - Reel in method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-whippet-to-recall Generally, a protection trained dog is taught manners and socialization and obedience first before you begin rewarding the protection specific behaviors, so they have a good foundation under them, so I would stop rewarding any automatic aggressive responses right now, work on obedience commands like Heel and Quiet for a while, then once pup is at an intermediate or advanced level with their obedience, start training more protection again with off switches being trained also, like Come, Leave It, Sit, and Quiet. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Add a comment to Eazy-E "Eazy"'s experience

Was this experience helpful?

Question
Jollie
Pit bull
5 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Jollie
Pit bull
5 Months

How do I get my dog to stop begging for food when I am eating my meals? Even after she has had her dinner or meal she still always insists on begging for anything that I am eating

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1126 Dog owners recommended

Hello, I recommend teaching Place, Out, and Leave It. I would enforce pup stay on Place, working up to longer periods of time gradually, and walking over to pup to place a treat between their paws as a reward for staying on Place periodically, starting by rewarding more often and having pup stay on place for shorter periods of time at first, after pup has been taught Place, and working up to the entire mealtime gradually, spacing out the rewards further and further, until pup is finally just getting one treat for staying on Place the entire meal, at the end of your meal when you get up. I would teach pup what Out means, then use the Out command and the section on How to Use Out to Deal with Pushiness for general begging and pushiness, like when eating popcorn in the den during a movie. https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Place: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O75dyWITP1s Leave It method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Add a comment to Jollie's experience

Was this experience helpful?

Question
Dove
Pit bull
3 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Dove
Pit bull
3 Months

He plays around though.and bites on me while playing with me but doesn’t attack strangers also doesn’t attack cats or hens.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1126 Dog owners recommended

Hello Dolapo, 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. You don't want a dog who is skittish, fearful, or reactive to everything, instead of what is actually suspicious. 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 anything that would involve bite work can be taught too, but 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 (like a body suit) 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. At this age pup should be friendly to the world around them. That's developmentally normal at this age, and if pup wasn't I would be concerned that pup wasn't balanced enough in confidence and temperament to be suitable for a guard dog or protection dog later on. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Add a comment to Dove's experience

Was this experience helpful?

Question
Sully
Pitbull mix
1 Year
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Sully
Pitbull mix
1 Year

Got him from a shelter. He is very sweet but VERY scared of everything even shadows. I had my last pit for 16yrs and he naturally was very protective of me and my kids. I want thisdog to be the same way but i can't even get him to bark let alone protect anyone

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

Hi! Wow he is super beautiful!! So I think your first step with this is to work on some confidence boosting exercises and routines. There is no real way to "train" protective behaviors without spending a large sum of money and time with a professional. So it's best to work on confidence and allow his instinctual protectie behaviors to come out naturally. 1. Work on obedience training. Daily obedience work, even when it is only for a short time, provides submissive dogs with a lot of confidence. Family members are proud of dogs that perform on command and dogs pick up on this feeling. If the obedience training is harsh, though, a submissive dog will just get worse. Find a positive reinforcement and reward-based training class in your area. If the trainer works with a discipline-based system, it is not appropriate for a submissive dog. 2. Socialize your dog as much as possible to make them adaptable. The sensitive socialization period for your dog ended when she was a puppy, about 15 weeks of age, but she can still be socialized as an older dog, it is just going to take a lot more work. To socialize your dog, take her out as much as possible, let her meet new people, let her meet your friends dogs (if they are friendly with other dogs), and let her run free at the dog park so that she will meet new dogs. (Some dogs will be too nervous to play at the dog park so this phase may only come later.) 3. Give your dog a job or get her involved in a canine sport. Most dogs are not able to "work", however, so in order to give them an activity to build their confidence, it is a good idea to get them involved in one of the canine sports. Flyball, agility, Frisbee, dock diving, and other activities may be available in your area. 4. Use counter-conditioning techniques to help her overcome fear. This is the best but also the hardest (for you!) of the methods available to treat a submissive dog. For each thing that your dog is afraid of, you have to train her to have a pleasant feeling. When a dog is no longer afraid of the situation, he is confident and no longer going to be submissive. If you decide to try to build her confidence through counter-conditioning, the first thing you have to identify is the trigger. What is stimulating your dog to be so submissive? If she is only afraid of one thing it is easier to train her; unfortunately, most submissive dogs are afraid of almost everything. Spend some time with your dog to become familiar with her fears. The next step is to teach him that the scary thing is actually a good thing. When she is exposed to the scary object, give her a tasty treat and let her relax around the object without any pressure. The final step in counter-conditioning your dog to face her fears is to expose her and not provide a treat or even notice that he is being exposed. If you need more help on using counter-conditioning, the animal behaviorist Patricia McConnell has a book that I have found to be useful. The techniques are great and will help your dog develop confidence but as with most behavior modification, takes patience and persistence. Please let me know if you have additional questions. Thanks for writing in!

Add a comment to Sully's experience

Was this experience helpful?

Book me a walkiee?
Pweeeze!
Sketch of smiling australian shepherd