Jump to section
For anyone who has ever owned a Pit Bull, it is well known that they come with a reputation. While Pit Bulls can be some of the most loving and gentle dogs out there, many years of breed specific legislation and media frenzies have given them a bad name. As an owner of a Pit Bull, there are many things you need to keep in mind when training your dog, especially the breed’s tendency to be a little wary around other dogs.
While not all Pitbulls exhibit this trait, the breed is well known for being standoffish around other dogs whether in the home or in public. This behavior can stem from fear or outright aggression, but no matter the cause, it is much more serious coming from a Pit Bull than other breeds without the associated stigma. Aggressive tendencies from your Pit Bull may be seen as a nuisance, or worse, a danger. Your dog depends on you to set him up for success, not failure.
Socializing any dog with others of the same species can vary from simple to complex. Attitudes towards other dogs can stem from incidents in early puppyhood, the lack of opportunities to socialize, or traits that are bred into the dog genetically. Your dog counts on you to determine the most likely cause and utilize methods to combat any negative associations with other dogs to create much less stressful encounters.
Unfortunately, not every Pit Bull will find it necessary or inviting to play with other dogs, but with enough work, they can be taught to tolerate others in a fair and calm manner. To avoid having to troubleshoot problems later on, however, it’s recommended that you begin to socialize your Pit Bull as a puppy and carry on this socialization throughout his life to give him the best foot forward. But even if you miss the puppy window, there are still methods available to help an adult Pitbull adjust to the presence of other dogs without raising a fuss. Be prepared to spend several months on socialization either way, as it is an involved process that requires plenty of work to be successful.
Before taking your Pit Bull around any other dogs, be sure that he is vaccinated appropriately. If he has ever shown any indication that he may bite, consider looking into a muzzle to prevent any incidents from occurring. In addition, invest in a strong leash so you can maintain control. Preventing dangerous encounters should be of special importance, even if it isn’t your dog that initiates the encounter.
Following that, find some tasty treats that your Pit Bull especially likes. Try not to use any large treats, bones, or toys that can be fought over, as using these items around other dogs can instigate territorial aggression or resource guarding. The treats should be small and made to be eaten in a single bite.
The Early Method
Start after vaccinations
To give your Pit Bull puppy the best chance at getting along with other dogs, begin as soon as your vet gives you the all clear to take him outside following his vaccinations. Early socialization can give your dog the leg up he needs to prevent aggression from developing later.
Set up playdates
Start with friends who own friendly, calm dogs to expose your Pit Bull to the ideal play companions.
Keep encounters positive
Watch your dog for signs of stress or fear. Remove him from the situation to calm down if he starts exhibiting these behaviors.
Vary the experiences
Allow your dog a chance to see dogs in places other than your home. Be cautious in areas where dogs are off leash. Never allow your dog to approach another without knowing the other dog’s temperament beforehand.
Find chances for your dog to encounter other friendly dogs, whether in a training class, on leash at the park, or out in dog-friendly public areas like pet stores. Continue with these experiences throughout puppyhood and well into adulthood.
The Tolerance Method
Recognize your dog’s limits
Not every dog will love other dogs. But you can teach him to tolerate them being nearby. Know when your dog is done socializing and know when to remove him from the situation.
Keep your distance
If your Pit Bull isn’t overly fond of other dogs, try not to approach other dogs too closely. Maintain a good several yards between you at all times, or more if your dog is still uncomfortable.
Work on obedience
If he needs a distraction, ask your Pit Bull to perform a few obedience commands while other dogs are nearby. Reward him for keeping his focus on you.
Work your way up
Start with very little distraction such as a dog that is many yards away. Reward your Pit Bull with treats or praise when he ignores it. It may take a few days, but gradually get closer and closer to other dogs, rewarding each time your dog focuses on you instead. If he begins to lose focus, move back to where he was last successful and try again.
Accept your dog’s personality
Some dogs are just meant to be people lovers instead. Never force your Pit Bull to interact with other dogs if he is clearly uncomfortable. Consider consulting a behaviorist or trainer if absolutely necessary, but if not, be ready to accept that your dog may never get along with other dogs. Encourage socialization with people instead, if that’s what he prefers.
The Reinforcement Method
Know your dog’s boundaries
If your Pit Bull is skittish around other dogs, do some testing to see how close another dog has to be before she gets uncomfortable. Do not put your dog in any danger to do this. You should only have another dog get as close as necessary to get a small reaction out of yours.
Your dog may be more prone to negative reactions when she has pent up energy. A tired dog may be more lax and calm. Take a long walk or run before meeting up with any other dogs. This can help eliminate stress.
Reinforce good behavior
If your dog is displaying signs of welcoming behavior like a happily wagging tail, play stances, or polite sniffs, offer her a treat. These reactions to other dogs are good and you want to attribute them with good things.
Meet on neutral grounds
Some dogs can be territorial and less likely to be nice to another dog if it approaches the house. Bring your dog to neutral territory such as a pet store or another safe pet-friendly area where she can meet other dogs.
Keep things fun
Make sure your Pit Bull is in a good mood to be meeting other dogs. If she is showing signs of being stressed or afraid, take a step back to where she was last relaxed and try again. Offer treats every time she is behaving calmly and provide plenty of praise before working your way towards other dogs once again.
Never punish bad behavior
Verbal reprimands or physical corrections may create negative associations with other dogs. Never use punishment to address your Pit Bull’s responses to other dogs.
Be cautious of dogs with behavior issues
Introduce your Pit Bull to dogs that are well mannered and friendly with the owner’s permission. Never allow your dog to approach another without permission from the owner or without knowing how the other dog will react. Avoid dog parks for this reason.
By TJ Trevino
Published: 02/07/2018, edited: 01/08/2021