I'm going to start of this section with some numbers: 28,955, 81.9, 1,235 and 85.5. What do these mean? Let me tell you; every year the American Temperament Test is given to thousands of dogs representing every breed imaginable. Last year they tested a total of 28,955 dogs. The dogs go through a series of tests that measure temperament, disposition and more. The average score for all breeds (out of 100) was 81.9. 1,235 of the dogs tested were American Pit Bull Terriers or American Staffordshire Terriers; their average score was 85.5, HIGHER than the over all combined average! (This score also places them above the ever popular Golden Retriever.) You can check out how your favorite breed tested (including mixed breeds) by going to http://www.atts.org/
As promised, we will now discuss proper training techniques for you and your pit bull.
First lets go over positive vs. negative re-enforcement and punishment. Let's try not to think of positive equating to good and negative to bad; instead think of them as + and - signs. Positive means that you are adding something to the dogs environment while negative means that you are taking something away.
I train using positive re-enforcement. I simply reward desired behavior and ignore any un-desired ones. Simple as that. Remember it is very important to tell you dog when he/she is doing something RIGHT, even if it's nothing at all. We tend to spend a lot of time telling our doggies what they CAN'T do and not enough time letting them know what is acceptable.
There is a lot of talk out there about establishing yourself as the 'dominant' or 'alpha' in your house hold, and while this is true, you do NOT have to challenge or force your dog into submission in any way to achieve this status. There is a popular TV personality, who will remain nameless, who often preforms 'alpha roll-overs' on dogs. Many times this person ends up getting bit by the dog, which I assume is why there is a "Do not attempt this at home" warning at the beginning of each episode.
There is actually a very simple and non-confrontational way to establish leadership in a house hold, and it's called the Nothing in Life is Free method. First let me start by saying that dogs are natural born followers, not leaders. (If every dog were born to lead, they would never survive in a pack society.) However, that being said, they need a leader and they need structure, therefore if a clear 'alpha' is not established they will reluctantly take on the role.
The Nothing in Life is Free method bridges the gap between human and K9 communication, and it is quite simplistic. Basically, every time your dog wants anything, they must first 'work' for you. Ex: If you dog wants to go outside, he/she must first sit and wait while you open the door and then release them to go out side. This must be done for everything including going for walks, getting treats, eating dinner, playing and even before receiving affection. It may not seem like a big deal when your dog brings you a toy and you in turn begin to play with him/her, but what really took place was your dog demanded that you play with them at that moment and.....you did. So, they must be in charge right?
Other things you can do when dealing with a more severe case, include mixing your dogs food with your hands. This will leave your scent on the food, and in dog world, leaders eat first. You can also buy two bowls that look exactly alike. One for the dog to use and one for you. Put some cereal in the clean bowl and have your dog sit and watch you while you eat it. Then give your dog their bowl with the dog food in it. What your dog just saw was you eating first and it sends a clear message. If a dog knows who the pack leader is, he can relax; being a leader is stressful on dogs, always having to worry about resources and protection! Whew! They are much happier leaving those hard jobs to some one else, namely, you.So, after reading all of this, you wonder: "What can I do?" Well, the easiest thing you can do is to spread the word by passing all 6 blogs around to all of your friends, neighbors and relatives and encouraging them to do the same. If you are the proud parent of a pit bull, I would highly recommend having your dog CGC certified. The CGC (Canine Good Citizen) is a nationally recognized certificate issued by the AKC. (American Kennel Club) It is a 10 item basic temperament/obedience test that takes about 20-30 minutes to complete. You can go to the AKC's web site to search for evaluators/trainers in your area, and to view the items on the test. A pit bull with a CGC is truly a beautiful thing. In some cases, rental agencies and insurance companies that would normally turn the breed away, will make exceptions for dogs who have earned their CGC certificate. It is a huge step forward to having your dog become a true ambassador of the breed.
If you only take one thing away from all of this, please remember: Pit Bulls are just dogs; four legs, two eyes, one heart.
They are not monsters who are going to creep into your house at night and eat your children.
In fact, let me put it this way.....
Pit bulls are responsible on average, for 2 deaths a year.
Fifty people a year die after drowning in 5 gallons of water.
150 people die every year when a coconut falls on their head! Therefore you are more likely to be killed by a palm tree, than a pit bull!
320 people die in their bathtubs every year, but we never hear talk about banning them!
The sad reality is that with the millions of pits euthanized in shelters across the country (and world!) a pit is half a million times more likely to be killed by a human, than the other way around...
Thanks for listening...now spread the word...!