How to Raise A Pitbull: Tips from One Owner to Another

Pitbull puppy
John Walton
Written by John Walton

This article will provide advice on how to raise a pitbull right and prove the stereotype wrong. Over the years, the American Pitbull Terrier has gained a bad reputation as a naturally aggressive breed of dog. This mostly comes from the fact that before the dogs were ever brought to America they were bred to fight bulls and once bull baiting became illegal, they were sent to fight one another. The thing is, these dogs only fought to please their masters, really. They are no more aggressive than any other breed of dog when they receive the proper training.

When you are considering different aspects of training your pitbull you should always keep in mind how to train your pitbull with positive training techniques.

Little pitbull

No matter what sort of dog you are raising, if you train them to fear you through punishment they are far more likely to become aggressive than if they are trained in a positive atmosphere.

House training

There are many different theories on the best way to potty train any dog, but especially your pitbull. They do tend to be more stubborn than some other breeds which can make this process much more difficult. Some people find it perfectly fine to correct the pup, letting him know what he did wrong, by rubbing their face in it, yelling or hitting the pup after it has an accident. This is only going to create an image of fear attached to you in this dogs eyes! There are much more productive ways to go about potty training.

Pit Bull infographic

While accidents will be inevitable, you should always do your best to prepare for them. Excessive sniffing is usually a way to tell if your pup is looking for a place to “go”. If you notice this you should take the pup outside immediately and wait for him to do their business. If it’s been 5-10 minutes and they haven’t, then bring them back inside for now but keep an eye out for them! The best way to prevent accidents is to be attentive until your pup learns to let you know they need to go out.

Remember, house training should happen young – usually within a week of bringing a puppy home if you got them as soon as they were old enough to be placed with a family. At the same time, you cannot expect this to be an easy adjustment for your pup, it is a completely new idea to them and they need time to learn!

A few tips for potty training your pitbull pup:

  • Take them out at least once an hour.
  • Take them out on a leash for the first week or so.
  • Take them to the same spot (this is more for convenience, it will become habit and you won’t have “piles” around your yard).
  • Don’t let them play and run around until “business has been taken care of” (this reinforces the reason for going outside in the first place!)

Be consistent – take the pup out regularly, whether or not they actually go, they will eventually get the idea. If you’d like to learn a bit more, check out this article on how to potty train your puppy.

Pitbulls are nice infographic

When you are considering trying to cut down on accidents you should also remember to take them out about 20 minutes after they eat (or if you notice them drink a ton of water!). Yes, it’s a lot of work – but your puppy will learn in time and soon enough you won’t have to worry about accidents and messes. When you know you have to be gone for extended periods, leave your pup in a wire kennel so that they cannot make a mess on your floors! Make sure you take them out first thing in the morning and last thing before bed.

Socialize your pup

When it comes to raising your pitbull to be good around people, crowds, other animals, etc. it is important that you socialize your dog properly. The absolute best thing you can do is start as early as possible when it comes to socialization – this is not to say a fully grown pitbull cannot be trained to change his behaviors, it is just going to take a lot more time, patience and hard work between you and your dog to make it happen. The sooner a dog is socialized the easier they will learn and react to new things.

Pitbull pup with people

When you are socializing your dog you should always remain in control of the situation – have your dog on a leash and next to you. This way you can intervene before any bad behavior starts. If you have already taught your dog to respond immediately to his name, even better. This way if you notice your dog start to growl at a person or animal when they shouldn’t be, you can snap their attention back to you. This is a good time to try and keep treats on you as well, to reward them for giving you their attention so promptly.

Start slow, introduce your pup to a few friends you’re having over or take him to visit a family member. This way your dog can slowly adjust to being around people other than you (and any immediate family living in the house). You are essentially letting your dog experience the world when socializing and this is how they will see the world from now on – so do your best to make every experience a positive one.

If you have other pets in the home, introduce your new pup to them one by one. Perhaps only allow your dog to be in one room for the first couple of days and have gradual face to face meetings with other animals. Keep treats nearby for distractions (for both pets!) that way if one starts to show signs of aggression you can distract them temporarily. A few meetings like this and they are usually willing to accept that they are going to be living together and after a while there may great friendship. Also, be sure to stay on the lookout for signs of dog aggression. If you’re not sure what those are, first check out our handy guide on the signs and methods of dealing with dog aggression.

Another note – in the process of trying to make all early socialization a positive experience, try to avoid dog parks right off the bat. Instead, take your dog to puppy kindergarten! This is not only a great training tool for many, many dog owners, but it also gives your dog a chance to be around other dogs – but not dozens all at once which can be overwhelming.

If you want your dog to be comfortable around more people than just your family then this is also very helpful – as well as taking your dog with you to cafes or similar places where there is outdoor seating and you are allowed to bring your dog. Just remember to keep them leashed and close to you at all times!

If you’d like to learn more about this topic, be sure to check out our great article on how to socialize your dog.

Use positive methods

I cannot stress enough that you should always consider using positive training methods when training your pitbull. You may have heard before that they are stubborn and you cannot teach them anything without beating it into them. This is 100% wrong. Any breed of dog can be trained through positive training methods. The most important thing you need to remember is that it is going to take lots of time and lots of patience. This is a learning process for your dog – so make it as fun and stimulating as you would want school to be for your children!

Pitbull training

It may sound crazy, but honestly, if you give it a shot you will see – consistency is key and your pitbull will learn! It may take longer than you were hoping for, but your dog will be better behaved than you would ever have imagined. The reason for this? He loves you and only wants to make you happy. This is true with many breeds of dog, which is why it positive training methods work so well across the board!

A great example of positive training is to either use a handful of kibbles (that way you can’t overdo it with the treats!) or go with some sort of other reward like toys or praise (though most find kibbles work best) and ask your dog to sit. If he sits, then reward him with a treat, praise or whatever the reward may be. Do this 10 times over – the same exact routine. By the time you go for that 11th shot, he will probably sit even if you don’t give him the treat! Especially if you use praise and a brief moment of affection along with the treat to show him he did good.

This is going to be a process for both you and your pitbull, but don’t give up! In the end, the bond you will share with your dog will be much stronger than that of someone who goes with a different training method. Your dog will learn to respect you with your consistency against bad behavior – but try putting them in their kennel for a bit or taking away a toy if they were playing too rough inside and broke something. They will usually pick up on the connection rather quickly and you never had to hit your dog once!

Common training mistakes

When it comes to training a pitbull you may think you will never get through, but it could simply be that you are taking the wrong approach. A few of the most common mistakes when training a pitbull include:

  • Not being patient enough.
  • Not being consistent enough.
  • Using negative training methods.
  • The lack of an open mind.

Basically, training your pitbull is going to as difficult as you want it to be. You have to prepare yourself mentally for the fact that it is going to be a lot of hard work. But in the end, you will be much happier and so will your dog! You will respect each other and have a bond stronger than if you had been handed an already well-mannered dog. When it comes down to it, the more effort, love and time you put into your dog’s training, the better they will be! After all, they just want to make us happy.

Not being consistent is another downfall that many dog owners have. The thing is, your dog loves routine. He knows when you’re going to feed him every day, when you’re going on a walk, when you leave for work and when you should return home. They also rely on you for consistency not only in routine but in actions – if they were not allowed to dig in the yard one day, but another you just decide not to care, they will never learn not to do it! They learn just like we do, trial and error, cause and effect.

The last big problem when it comes to training your pitbull is the fact that people are very closed minded. If only people would accept that just like we all learn differently, so do dogs! When one technique might be perfect for one breed, another may be a total different story. If one technique doesn’t work after a couple weeks, then try something new! There is no limit to what you can teach your dog to do when you have an open mind and positive training techniques!

Pit training

In the end, raising a pitbull is not that much different than raising any other breed of dog. You just need to remember to be consistent and take your time. Your dog will learn – but it’s up to you to give him the chance to learn in a positive environment. Don’t give up because you hit a few snags in the road! You and your dog will both be better off for it in the long run when you take your time to train and socialize your dog properly.

Take the time to train your pitbull properly and encourage anyone you know to raise them with confidence and positive training techniques and help break the negative labels that are put to these beautiful dogs!

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.

  • Daisy Simmons

    I’ve been exposed to some movies in my youth that pretty much portrayed these pitbulls in an unpleasant light. But of course, thanks to my brother who introduced me to a pretty gentle pit bull named Leo, those days are over. This article reminded me of the fear and stereotype that I overcame, and I sure hope that this article would serve to help others with the same fear that I did.

    • John Walton

      The negative light being given to pitbulls is heartbreaking. As if they chose to be branded this way. Pitbulls are docile dogs, but how they’ve been trained with violence and aggression is what makes them terrifying to people who knew very little information about the breed.

  • Ruby Anderson

    Pitbulls learn, and adapt depending on the environment that they are exposed in. It’s sad that there’s a feedback loop between dogowners who train dogs badly and pitbulls who are on the receiving end of this terrible training that usually leads to a terribly tempered dog. It’s what drive a negative stigma around them! I hope that someday this label of a ‘terrifying dog’ or ‘attack dog’ would come off pitbulls, they are sweet and protective with the right training and love, much like any dog.

    • John Walton

      Great observation, Ruby. You can’t really wipe off the bad reputation about these dogs. You can, however, increase awareness that they’re not bad dogs at all. The negative stigma shall pass, I’m sure. The only question now is, when?

  • Anna Tomson

    My neighbors decided to get a cute puppy pitbull. Since my family and I are close, they kept asking if it’s ok to raise a pittbull with their other dog — a mini schnauzer. All our families no longer have any small children. But like them, we have some dogs. Should they send him to be trained, just in case? Or am i stereotyping here?

    • John Walton

      For pitbulls, especially those who came from an unclear pedigree should be trained as much as possible. You would like to get all the obedience as much as possible. I don’t think this is considered as stereotyping because a lot of dogs undergo obedience training and not just pitbulls.

  • lahbica

    Just raise them as you are raising your children I’ve got 5 pitbulls and they have never bitten anyone for the 5 years have them

    • John Walton

      Socialization plays an important role in raising dogs and not just Pitbulls. When you give them lots of love and all their basic needs are fulfilled, they make great pets for families.

  • Tracy

    I have a blue nose male pit about 13 weeks now, we got him when he was 8 weeks old. I’ve taught him to sit, give paw, kisses but I’m having trouble with him being very stubborn when I want him to come. It’s like we just have a stand off on who is going to move first, any recommendations? Also I have 4 kids that he plays very rough with and nips at occasionally, don’t worry I would never leave them alone with him. Also if I try and run and play with him he’s jumped up and bitten my thigh. I think he just gets overly stimulated and doesn’t know how to turn it off sometimes because he’s not like that all the time.

  • Shane B

    I have had 3 Pits, and 4 American Bulldogs. GiGi is my current pit. Not all dogs are the same, some have different tendencies than others. GiGi, thus far one of the best I have had, does the nervous bark at first when meeting people, after a few minutes won’t leave them alone looking for attention. Loves kids, especially with a little gravy on them (J/K), and totally ignores everyone when smaller ones are around (5-10yrs old) will only listen to the kids. They are great dogs, HOWEVER, they are pack dogs, you and your family, if raised correctly, are part of their pack. I have never «spanked» my dog, I speak to her in a lowered voice and she automatically lowers her head. If I am rough housing with her and she draws blood, I have old man skin it happens, I stop and whimper a little bit and show her and she becomes very loving. I did the same thing with her when she was a pup. I didn’t let any kids rough house with her and would speak to her in a lowered voice when she tried because I wanted her to understand that it was not acceptable.
    She is about 1 1/2 old now and a very good dog, maybe one of the best, (including other breeds I have had. But I she is not my dog, she is my best friend. Now understand, they are very high energy dogs, she goes outside every day, we live on 2 acres, and I play frisbee with he for 20-30 minutes everyday when I get home from work. Plus the kids will usually either play ball or play frisbee with her when they get home. They are great dogs, but need plenty attention, and have to be part of the family.

  • Sophia Collins

    I really enjoyed this article it really hits some key points about pit bulls and how to raise them. I own two pit bulls they have been with me since they were 6 weeks old. My oldest is 5 years and my youngest is 6 months. This breed is very powerful and kill something with ease, people really need to understand that. That DOES NOT mean they will or that they are wired that way. It simply means that people need to understand that large breed dogs have this ability. With that being said we need to understand the importance of training our pit bulls and large breeds correctly. All breeds should be trained in a positive way not just pit bulls. If you train a pit bull correctly your life will be a lot less stressful. Even with a well-trained pit bull it’s our responsibly to always be aware of their ware about and to monitor them around guests etc. As I said before this is a large breed that can do damage in seconds. My pit bulls are the most loving dogs ever but I always keep a close eye on them with guests around. Dogs were domesticated many decades ago but that does not mean that all of their wild habits and reactions have left their DNA. I love this breed and would not change anything about them. My boys mean the world to me and I do not know what I would do without them. Pit bulls need us more than ever. Thank you for the article it will be very informative to anyone new to pit bulls. #ENDBSL