The 5 Most Common Training Mistakes
Due to their high intelligence and strong desire to please, pit bulls are easier to train than most breeds. In this, they are very much like Golden Retrievers, but with an extra dose of energy and a terrier's stubborn streak and inventiveness thrown in. So, your demanding handful of a best friend is also a potential obedience champion.
But you don't want to make these common mistakes:
TRAINING MISTAKE #1: Scolding Your Pit Bull When She Comes to You
Even if she ran off and ignored you when she clearly heard your call, even if you just watched her spend the last hour chasing rabbits while you ran late for an important meeting, DO NOT YELL AT YOUR PIT IF SHE COMES WHEN YOU CALL. Clearly, this goes for all your dogs, not just pit bulls.
A corollary to this is NEVER CALL YOUR DOG TO PUNISH HER.
Why, you might ask? Why not reprimand her for not coming right away, or for running off when you told her not to?
Because if you punish your dog when she finally does come, she is going to associate answering your call with punishment. This doesn't give her incentive to come in the future; it gives her reason to stay away, and come back later, after you've stopped calling.
Look at it from your dog's point of view. If she thinks, "my human is calling; oh no! What is he going to do to me this time?", she'll also think, "why not delay the punishment as long as possible? Maybe the human will be nicer in a couple of hours."
You want your dog to associate answering your call with good things--affection, treats, and loving behavior. Your dog is far more likely to develop perfect recall if she expects praise and a hug. And aside from life being a lot easier with a canine who comes when you want her to, there are times when it's absolutely vital that your dog respond immediately to your call.
If you put an extra note of urgency in your voice when she's heading in the direction of the road or the rattlesnake, you want her thinking, "my human's calling, gotta head his way," not "better run away faster!"
TRAINING MISTAKE #2: Rubbing His Nose in It When He Makes a Potty Training Mistake
This will just confuse the dog, and possibly make him afraid to go at all. The correct way to house train your pit bull is to watch him for indications he needs to go, tell him "outside," and then take him outdoors right away. Once he has gone outside, praise him.
Also take him out at set times, such as when you first get up, before bed, after meals, etc. Dogs thrive on routine. And when you can't watch the pit bull you're house training, make sure he is crated. This way you won't find any unpleasant surprises behind the living room curtain.
Using this method, even an adult rescue who has never lived indoors before will be house trained within a week.
TRAINING MISTAKE #3: Punishing Your Pit Bull for Something That Happened a While Ago
If you walk in and see that your dog shredded the couch, do not begin shouting. She will think she's being punished for what she is doing now (possibly greeting you at the door, or lying on the floor wagging her tail), not for what she did a long time ago.
And keep in mind, 20 minutes before you got home might be a long time ago in your dog's mind. You'll just have to wait until she acts out while you're around to let her know the particular behavior is not appreciated.
TRAINING MISTAKE #4: Encouraging Bad Behavior
This could also be called "Don't Be Inconsistent."
If you don't want your pit bull begging for table scraps while you're eating dinner, never give him any. Otherwise he's going to cutely plead for you to give in again. Once out of every 100 times is more than enough to keep his hopes up.
To give a more problematic example, don't let your pit bull jump up on you. Even if you don't mind, visitors may feel differently. Especially with a large, powerful breed such as the pit bull, your unsuspecting guest might get knocked down.
Many people are frightened of pit bulls to begin with, and they'll be terrified of the careening bundle of joy launching himself into the air to give them a facial with his tongue. Don't flirt with disaster; make sure your dog knows which behaviors are simply off-limits.
TRAINING MISTAKE #5: Making Training Sessions Too Long
Like human children (and many human adults!), dogs have a relatively short attention span. While individual canines will vary, the ideal training session is usually no longer than 5-15 minutes. After that, it becomes less of a game and more of a chore.
Your pit bull will learn far more from three ten-minute sessions scattered throughout the day than a single lesson taking an hour. This is especially true when training puppies, but it applies to adult dogs too.
There you have it. The mistakes pit bull owners are most likely to make are more or less the same errors trainers of all breeds are most likely to make. You'll just want to keep in mind that pit bulls, while they can certainly be a stubborn handful, are a little more sensitive than most breeds. Adjust your training accordingly by putting greater emphasis on positive reinforcement and avoiding harsh correctional methods.