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DarnFar Ranch LLC Professional Dog Training
Changing the actions, aptitudes and attitudes of dogs and their people

How Do I Correct My Pitbull Without

Suffering Retaliation?

QUESTION: I recently read your response to Rules for New Puppies. I'm afraid to do the pinch method to correct bad behaviour because I have a pitbull and I feel that she will turn on me or get more aggressive. She is almost 3 months old. Do you have any input on this. It would be greatly appreciated because I'm now considering giving her up because of her bad behaviour. ANSWER: One of the most common root causes of aggressive or anti-social dogs is owners who fear them. We can always rehabilitate an anti-social / aggressive dog. But, we cannot always change the owner's perception of the dog once the owner is afraid of it. It is a recipe for disaster. If you are already afraid of a little, baby 3 month puppy, I would strongly advise either a 180 degree shift in your perception of the dog, or to rehome it immediately with someone who does not have fear of the puppy's breed. It is not just pit-bulls that face this unsettling situation. It is common in the giant breeds, such as Mastiffs, as well. People see that BIG dog and become concerned about its potential power. The dog senses fear from its owner or other humans and doesn't know how to process that information. So, in response, it lets out a "woof" to try to ward off those weird feeling that it senses. The "woof" is then perceived by the fearful owner that the dog is, in fact, potentially aggressive. So, s/he responds with more unbalanced energy back towards the dog (fear, worry, panic, some type of frantic energy). The dog has been developed by man to subordinate to and work for people. Sensing apprehension or fear from the human makes the dog believe the world is a very odd, unpredictable place. It makes no sense to the dog that the higher ranking one is afraid of him. So, the dog takes control of the situation with a bite- first-ask-questions-later approach. For me, a dog that has an owner that is afraid of it, is like having a boss that is afraid of you (even though you have no plans or desires to over ride his authority). Or, worse, it's like a parent fearing her own child. It makes no sense to the child that come with a good dose of "obedience to authority" built in, to sense a parent who fears him. It CAUSES issues that otherwise would not present themselves. Regardless of breed, the human owner should be able to touch the dog ANYWHERE, ANYTIME, for ANY reason and the pup should simply tolerate that. That is "normal". People with feelings such as those you suggest in your email, are the ones that create unbalanced, aggressive dogs out of otherwise, normally social pit-bull puppies. If you do not change your attitude, you have a fairly big chance of raising a very anti-social puppy. But, you puppy was not born anti-social. She will become that way because of your interactions with her. Do not put the puppy's breed higher in priority than her species. She is a dog. She is 3 months old. While she had sharp baby teeth, and obviously she is not getting feedback from her owner about self-restraint and how to keep her teeth off human flesh, she has no malice, no drive to be aggressive at that age. Puppies that age need someone to care for them with a high level of management. She just has a lack of understanding about the rules that you are responsible to impose upon her in "dog language" about her actions. She is treating you like another puppy and almost all puppies play with each other with their teeth. They are not aggressive. They are puppies. If you do not correct a puppy properly, it can perceive you as a playmate and it will "come back" with another nip. That is what "equals" do. You cannot be her equal. You must assume the role of "parent", "top dog", "leader", "higher ranking one" - how ever you want to perceive it. She cannot learn what is acceptable if you do not teach her. If you are afraid of her, or her behavior (which, to me is the same thing), then you won't be very convincing in your role. Either re-home her, or take control. She is a BABY puppy, not an alligator. Remain calm, give her a firm correction with the right attitude (cool confidence) - follow the information in my article - and teach your puppy to respect you. Limit the amount of free time she has so that she does not get sleep deprived (which can cause tantrums). Feed her properly. Do not interact with her in ways that "hype her up" (a very common mistake made, especially by young males - and even older ones). Make certain that she is getting enough, uninterrupted sleep. Let her be a puppy. Do not let her put her teeth on you, even in play. If you have another well-balanced dog with whom she can play puppy games, that would be great, too. I do not understand why people who are afraid of pit-bull acquire them. You cannot walk on eggshells around a dog for the next 14 years without expecting something disastrous to happen. You are either going to OWN your dog, or you are going to have a dog that you do not trust. Make a choice.