There is a great misunderstanding perpetuating—even from veterinarians—that “tough” dogs like Pits need harsh training. Nothing could be farther from the truth! All dogs deserve to be taught with patience and respect. Linking an animal’s physicality to his cognitive learning abilities is simply illogical. Should college students be sorted into separate classes based on the size and shape of their bodies? What about temperament you ask? If you’ve taken time to get to know any Pit you know most of these strong muscular bodied dogs have an ooey gooey sweet center. In fact, they are one of the highest scoring dogs in the American Temperament Test Society Inc’s rankings. The UKC description of heir characteristics reads: “the APBT is not the best choice for a guard dog since they are extremely friendly, even with strangers. Aggressive behavior toward humans is uncharacteristic of the breed and highly undesirable.”
Positive reinforcement training is scientifically sound and successful for much larger and stronger animals that bully breeds! Lions, elephants, walruses, rhinos and more are all trained using positive reinforcement. Could you even imagine trying to put a training collar on a walrus & physically manipulating it?! How about trimming the nails of a 400+ pound male lion? The same nails that are his natural weaponry and could shred you in seconds? It is regularly done using positive reinforcement! Please don’t fool yourself that your bully breed or other “tough dog” needs a harsh hand.
Then the question is: do you want to physically punish your dog via pinch, choke, or shock your dog? Besides, physically you cannot control your dog when he is not wearing the aforementioned. Your dog is likely stronger & definitely faster than you. Always. Really. So then what? What happens when your dog isn’t wearing the collar? You cannot correct him. In over a decade of training, I have heard countless people say “I don’t want to hurt my dog” The good news is you don’t have to, not even for your Pit Bull.
Rather than physical coercion, we want mental cooperation. We want a dog who is willing—downright happy to comply! That is achieved through working his mind. Pits are described in the UKC standard as “this breed does very well in performance events because of its high level of intelligence and its willingness to work. “
I will absolutely agree that physically strong dogs do make leash walking & manners more difficult. Though I’ve known many a small dog that can pull your shoulders out. While developing your working relationship and mental compliance with your dog, there are tools that can gently help you physically manage your strong dog on leash. Thankfully there are many no-pull harnesses on the market that work wonderfully.
Surfers ride with the wave, not against. Train with your dog’s intelligence, not against it! Rather than punishing your dog for doing something “bad” show them what they SHOULD be doing instead and reward the good behavior. Don’t want your dog to jump? Teach them to sit under distractions. Don’t want your dog to eat something or sniff something he sees? Teach him a “leave it” cue. Telling the dog what to do and rewarding his correct choice will yield you much greater results.
In the end, ask yourself one simple question: “how would I prefer to be taught?” That is your answer.