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
Importance of Good Socialization
Imagine a world in which you have never seen another person before. One day, a scary human approaches you and starts acting in ways that seem strange to you. They might even yell in your face or put their hands on you in an aggressive manner. How might you react to this? Would you be excited to interact with other people, or would you have your guard up the next time you go outside?
This is sort of what a non-socialized dog experiences when they go out into the world. It’s easy for a dog to become isolated when they only spend time at home with you and your family. However, it’s important for your dog to have lots of good experiences with other people and animals. Sooner or later, your dog will need to leave the house. When this happens, you don’t want them to be fearful or anxious. Frightened dogs are more likely to become aggressive in order to protect themselves. Unfortunately, someone can get hurt by a frightened dog. Pit Bulls are generally very gentle, but any dog will defend himself if the danger is great enough.
However, if your Pit bull has a lot of good experiences around other people and dogs, he will be more likely to play and interact with others. This makes it possible to take your dog to training classes and dog parks, and just walk around city streets without worrying about your dog’s behavior. You’ll want to show your dog off to anyone and everyone, so you’ll want to ensure your dog will be fine in all of these situations.
Behavior Around Other Dogs
Pit Bulls are not known for their love of other dogs. Because of this, you want to make sure that your dog has plenty of safe and positive experiences to spend time around other pups. A puppy training class is a great way to introduce your dog to other dogs. Every dog in the class should be well controlled and on a leash, so there’s no big risk of another dog scaring your dog. Plus, when all of the dogs are little and curious, your Pit Bull is less likely to become intimidated by the others.
A dog park can be a different situation. Here, dogs of all breeds and ages mingle. And, not all dogs are gentle with one another. If your Pit Bull is ambushed by a pack of rambunctious dogs, he might be a little wary of playtime with others. If your dog doesn’t seem to like to play with others, perhaps it’s best to visit the park when it’s less busy, like early in the morning. This allows your dog to sniff around the other dogs without having to be surrounded by them. You may also try to find other dog-friendly dogs to have play dates with. This way, if your dog gets annoyed, you can easily separate the dogs.
Socialization should be a process. First, introduce your pup to a few other dogs in a calm, controlled situation. Then, continue to raise the stakes until your dog is comfortable passing another dog on the sidewalk or can play in the park without an altercation or anxiety. With enough positive interactions, your dog will be playing with others in no time.
Greeting New People
Socializing with humans should be no problem for your Pit Bull. This breed loves to hang out with people and adores attention. However, it’s still a good idea to get your puppy used to being around all sorts of different people. Especially with adopted dogs with past lives, some people are a little more frightening than others, especially if your dog has had some bad experiences.
While some Pit Bulls may run up to a stranger and demand pets, some will be a little more wary. After all, they want to protect their owner from any potentially dangerous foes. For this reason, it’s a good idea to teach your dog that they can trust other people. Ideally, when someone approaches your dog, they’ll offer a hand for a quick sniff. Once your dog feels a little more oriented, they’ll approach the person or back away.
When you’re teaching your dog to trust strangers, remember to use treats. Go on a walk and ask friendly strangers if they’ll give a treat to your dog if he behaves nicely. Invite your friends over to give a peace offering to your dog in exchange for cuddles. Try to interact with all sorts of different people. You may find it silly, but sometimes dogs can be leery of someone based off of their physical appearance. Of course, if your dog tries to back away from someone, don’t force them to interact. Instead, try again later when your dog is feeling a little more secure.
PitBulls and Children
Pit Bulls and children tend to get along swimmingly. However, it’s important to be cautious when any dog is around a child. As stated in previous chapters, children do not always know how to behave around dogs. If a dog doesn’t have a lot of experience with children, he may not understand why these tiny people are so loud and rambunctious. If your dog is already nervous, then gets a poke in the eye or their tail gets pulled, the dog might snap to defend himself. As an owner, you are responsible for your dog’s behavior. If you notice your dog is getting upset, you must correct the children and calm your dog.
Of course, dogs are less likely to be nervous of something if they’ve already experienced the thing and nothing went horribly wrong. So, if your dog gets to run around and play with a bunch of children, the Pit Bull will probably have no problem with their loud noises and fast movements. If your dog has been poked and prodded and then cowered in fear, he may be less likely to agree to rough play from a child in the future. So, set your dog up for success by choosing early interactions that will not overwhelm your dog as they try to make sense of the world around them. Teach children how to properly pet a dog. Instruct them that the dog’s head can be sensitive, but petting their back is okay. Over time, your dog will start to be able to handle a little more excitement and chaos.
Educating Others about Your PitBull
Unfortunately, other people may fear your dog, even though you know that he’s perfectly gentle and well behaved. Though it isn’t your job to change public opinion on your own, you might consider your dog’s unfair reputation when entering public spaces. For example, when approaching a stranger on a walk with their dog, let them know that your dog is friendly and ask if their dog is too. If they say yes, let the dogs sniff each other out. When out in public, encourage other people to pet your dog and let them see how friendly your pup is. At the dog park, introduce yourself and your dog to other owners. Maybe you’ll meet new people who would be willing to advocate for Pit Bulls once they know how sweet the breed really is. Show people that they have nothing to fear when they see your dog walk down the street.
Pit Bulls are friendly toward people, but they still need socialization skills to become good doggy citizens. They are not always great with other dogs, but spending time around other canines in a controlled environment can ease their fears. If you want to take your dog out in public without issues, it’s a good idea to do this socialization early in your dog’s life. That way, you can share your dog with others and they can see for themselves how special Pit Bulls are.
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