The First Few Weeks with Your Pitbull – Tips for Smoothly Transitioning and your Pitbull and Family

The following is an excerpt from "The Complete Guide to Pit Bulls" by Erin Hotovy. For more information visit the books Amazon Page.

Author Credit: Erin Hotovy

Finally, it’s time to bring your new Pit Bull home! Hopefully, you’ve had plenty of time to prepare for your new friend. Even if your home is ready, there are still a few things you’ll want to do to prepare for your dog. Some of these things can be done in the first week to give you some peace of mind that you won’t be in a rush if a mishap occurs. Other tips will reduce stress in both you and your dog. A new dog can be a big life change, but with a little prep work, everything should go smoothly!

Planning for Your Pit Bull

pitbull crate training
Photo Courtesy – Meredith Duncan

While spontaneity is fun, there are a few reasons why you’ll want to plan ahead before bringing your new dog home. One reason is because it’s a ton of work taking care of a new dog, and it’s difficult to watch your new puppy while you’re trying to clean up the house and buy supplies. If you do some of the work before your dog comes home, you’ll have more time to spend with your dog.

Another reason is because dogs can sense stress. Pit Bulls are sensitive dogs, which means that they pick up on human emotions and non-verbal cues. So, if you’re stressed out and frantic about getting everything ready for your dog, your Pit Bull will know something is up and feel uncomfortable. On the other hand, if you’re cool and relaxed, then your dog will have a reason to relax during a time that’s a big transition. Your dog will already be a little nervous about going to a new home, so you’ll want to do every little thing you can to make him feel more at ease.

The First Night at Home

The first night at a new home can be a big change for a dog. Up until now, your Pit Bull has only known one home, which was shared with his mother and siblings. Now, he’ll be transported to a new place in a strange car and will be surrounded by strange people. From a dog’s perspective, this is a very scary time. However, there are a few things you can do to make things easier on your dog.

pitbull lying down               Make sure you have plenty of treats on hand. Treats are one of the best ways to show your dog that they’re doing exactly what they’re supposed to do. If they approach you, give them a treat. If they potty outside or lie on their bed, give them a treat. This is a small thing you can do to make your dog feel happy to be in your home. Exercise and play can also wear your dog out to the point where they won’t feel as anxious as if they’re just lying around. Plus, they’ll have so much fun that they’ll forget that they were ever worried about their new home in the first place!

Pit Bulls are companion dogs, so they’re more likely to suffer from separation anxiety than other breeds. It’s possible that your new dog will cry or become anxious at night because he wants to be close to you. However, not all owners want their dog to sleep on their bed. If you’re planning on crate training, you may consider moving the crate near your bedroom so your dog doesn’t feel so abandoned. Even if your dog isn’t inside your room, setting the crate in the hallway with the door cracked open will let your dog know that you’re near. As time goes on, you can move the crate out to wherever you prefer your dog to sleep.

Before bed, make sure your dog gets to go outside to use the bathroom. If you do this immediately before bed, your dog will be less likely to cry an hour later. However, you’ll want to remember that puppies need to go outside very frequently, so you’ll want your dog to be close enough that you can hear when they whine to go out.

Going to the Vet

Even if you don’t go to the vet in the first few weeks, you’ll want to have a vet’s contact information on hand. Puppies are notorious for swallowing things they find on the floor, so in the event of an emergency, it’s good to have both a regular vet and an emergency vet in your phone book.

pitbull outdoor
Photo Courtesy -Samantha Fey

If you don’t already have a vet, there are a few things to keep in mind when choosing one. Most people will just choose the vet closest to where they live, but there are more considerations one must make. Some vet clinics are small and do not have the full range of services. If your local clinic does not have a lab or surgery services, then you have to decide which services are important to you in a regular vet.

Also, it doesn’t hurt to take recommendations from people who know local vets. Breeders are a great source because they already have an established relationship with a vet. Shelters and rescues can also suggest a vet because they probably work with the same vets on a regular basis. Or, just ask a friend who their trusted veterinarian is. You want this person to be someone you can trust because your dog’s health is in their hands. Choose someone you feel comfortable asking questions and chatting with.

When you do take your dog to the vet for the first time, make sure to make it a positive experience. Many dogs get nervous at the vet because something has happened in the past that they didn’t like. Before you go, make sure your dog has had plenty of exercise so their playful energy doesn’t turn into anxious energy. From the moment you get into the car, start praising your dog for staying calm and give lots of treats. If your dog walks by your side into the building, give them another treat. During the checkup, the vet will probably give your dog treats, too.

To prepare your dog for the vet, practice touching your dog as a vet might. Pretend to look in his ears, pull back his lips to see his teeth, and gently palpate his belly. Some uncomfortable experiences, like having his temperature taken and getting shots, are best left to the professionals. But if your dog is comfortable being touched in this manner and being petted by other people, then your dog shouldn’t have a problem at the vet. Again, this is a situation where you want to act like everything is fine so your dog doesn’t get any ideas to the contrary.

Puppy Classes

Within the first few months of having your dog home, you should consider enrolling in a puppy training course. Not only will this give your dog the skills they need to start their training, but it will help them socialize with other dogs. As we will discuss in a later chapter, socialization is an important part of a dog’s life that ideally takes place when the pup is between four and eight months old. When you let your dog interact with other dogs, he will be more likely to get along with others as an adult, provided these interactions go well.

pitbull walking
Photo Courtesy – Brendan Sloan

These classes are also just as valuable to the owner as they are to a dog. If you’ve never trained a dog before, this is a good introduction to dog training. An experienced trainer will teach you how to give commands and reward your dog for successfully completing the command. Your weekly class is a time where you can ask an expert questions about your dog’s behavior and get answers based off of experience. Also, you’ll have someone you can contact when you have questions after the class is finished. It’s nice to have lots of resources for when you need help with your dog. As an added bonus, these puppy classes will teach your dog basic skills that will make them a little more manageable as their puppy energy comes in full force.

Pet Supplies to Have Ready

It’s hard to know exactly what you need when getting a new dog, but there are lots of things you’ll want to have on hand before you even bring your dog home. For starters, you’ll want a crate (if you’re planning on crate training) or a bed. Sturdy food and water dishes that cannot easily be destroyed are also necessary. When it comes to a collar and leash, you’ll probably want to start off with a flat, buckled collar. There are different kinds of leashes on the market, but a sturdy, nylon leash works best. You don’t want anything too long or too short, so stick with the 4-foot or 6-foot varieties. You may be tempted to get a retractable leash, but this may reinforce bad walking habits. Besides, Pit Bulls are strong, determined dogs. If your dog sprints after a squirrel on a walk, a retractable leash may snap.

Next, you’ll need plenty of toys. Pit Bulls love sturdy chew toys and tug ropes. Stay away from stuffed animals that can be ripped to shreds because they can become a choking hazard. There are lots of toys made especially for strong chewers, so pick something you know will last. Puzzle toys, like Kong toys, can be a lot of fun for a dog and will keep them busy. Stock up on these toys because they will wear out quickly.

You’ll also want some grooming supplies. A natural (or synthetic) bristled brush is enough to keep shedding fur from covering your house and will give your dog a nice shine. Nail clippers will keep their claws from scratching you when they hop up on the couch to cuddle. A gentle shampoo is also good to have on hand when your Pit Bull inevitably rolls in the mud (or worse) and gets dirty. You’ll also want a toothbrush and toothpaste that’s made for dogs to keep your dog’s teeth healthy and fresh.

Finally, you’ll need a good-quality dog food and plenty of tasty treats. Choosing a dog food will be covered in a later chapter. It’s good to have a couple types of treats on hand so your dog will always be motivated to behave well. A high-value treat is a powerful tool.

How Much Will This Cost?

It’s hard to predict just how much a new dog will cost you. There are so many factors to consider and so many ways to either spend a lot, or a little, when it comes to each factor. For example, if you’re buying a Pit Bull from a good breeder, it will cost anywhere between $500 and $1,500. Shelters and rescues usually charge a fee because their dogs are up to date on their shots and are spayed or neutered. Even then, you can adopt a dog for a hundred dollars, on average.

pitbull puppy on arms of owner
Photo Courtesy – Jaco & Judith Swanepoel

Up front, you’ll feel like you’re spending a lot of money on supplies. But many of these supplies will be used for many years. Dishes, crates, and leashes will last for a long time, so you’ll only have to purchase them once or twice throughout your dog’s life. If you add up everything in the previous section, it will cost you around $200–$400. Food can cost an additional $600 or so a year.

At least once a year, you’ll need to take your dog to the vet for a checkup and shots. These routine visits can cost between $100 and $200. You’ll also need flea and tick preventative and heartworm medicine, which costs several hundred dollars a year.

When you add all of this up, it’s possible that you’ll spend over a thousand dollars just in the first year of your dog’s life. This seems like a lot, but it’s well worth it. After all, your new Pit Bull will be a part of the family in no time!

It takes a lot of work just to get ready for a new dog, but if you’ve made it this far, you’re ready to start raising your new Pit Bull pup. During the first few months, you may feel like you’re shelling out a ton of money on vet visits, supplies, and classes, but it will get easier as time goes on.

To read more from "The Complete Guide to Pit Bulls" by Erin Hotovy, or purchase on Amazon, visit the link below:

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