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Petunia's_dad November 20th, 2003 10:55 AM

Question about Pit mixes
We have had our Pit mix, Petunia, going on three months now. Last night, I ran into the first major issue with her. While we were walking, we saw a black lab who is in our obedience class. The two dogs didn't seem to want to talk, but me and her owner did for a few minutes. Chance (the lab) was trying to hide behind his owner, and I was trying to keep Petunia calm. She was doing ok, nothing agressive that I could see. When she sees other dogs, she usually gets very excited and starts whimpering....(if you ask my wife, she sounds like a horse) Suddenly, she jerked forward almost pulling me down and grabbed Chance by the ear. I was able to pull them apart by opening her mouth (not smart to do with bare hands) and noone was hurt horibbly. The whole time, she never growled or gave any indication of being uncomfortable or nervous. on the other hand, I am somewhat nervous now. Is this normal for Pit bulls? I am still new to owning one and am not really sure how to react. Is there a chance that she was just playing and noone was really being hurt? Chance didn't really yelp like he was being hurt, but I don't know if he was just startled that a dog half his size jumped on him. I am just not sure what to make of this. She isn't usually aggressive with other animals, just excited. Should I not let her near other dogs?

The only thing that we could think of was at obedience class on tuesday, I was working with Chance more than Petunia. His owners were having problems with the gentle leader and since I had to use them on Petunia when we first got them, I was showing them how they work. Could it be that she was simply jelous that I spent time with him? Or is this just the natural dog aggression that I will need to keep an eye on?

I apologize if I'm babbling. This shook me up pretty good. Any advice would be helpful.


Luba November 20th, 2003 12:37 PM

Oh boy sorry to hear that but I can hear LR saying sweet wind whispers of I told you so!!

I bet you're shook up. I would NOT walk her without a muzzle on anymore! You can't take the chance (no pun)


Lucky Rescue November 20th, 2003 12:45 PM

Yes, this CAN be normal for some pit bulls. A confident pit bull will usually NOT bark or put up aggressive displays before attacking - they just go for it.

And yes, there are things you can do that will improve the behavior of all but the most aggressive dogs.

One question - when you say you were "trying to keep Petunia calm" - how were you doing that?

Obedience training is the key. A dog can't attack another dog if it's in a Sit or a Stay.

For example, my dog wants to go towards other dogs she sees going past us on our walks. She has been obedience trained, so I simply put her in a "heel" BEFORE we get close to the other dog. If she tries to lunge, I correct her for BREAKING THE COMMAND, and NOT for showing aggression. This way she does not associate the correction with the other dog. If she heels nicely past the other dog, she gets major praise and occasionally a treat.

You cannot stop your dog from feeling aggression towards other dogs, but you CAN stop her from acting on it. Keep going to obedience school, and practice obedience with her everywhere so she doesn't think she only has to obey at school.

If you dog acts up, immediately begin an obedience drill (once she really understands the commands) wherever you happen to be. She must learn that obedience is not optional.;)

Petunia's_dad November 20th, 2003 01:05 PM

I was trying to have her sit and stay to calm her down. The problem we are running into is that she knows the basic commands, sit, stay, lay down, but she doesn't always listen to them. She will sit when told most of the time, but stay is a problem. I know she knows it, because when I feed her, she will sit and wait until I release her. But when we are outside and there are distractions, trying to keep her attention is tough. The trainer at the obediance class has given us a few suggestions, but they all seem to be when she is walking, not ways to get her attention when she's sitting. Once she's sitting, even treats don't always keep her attention. We have gotten her to the point when she pulls to hard, we stop walking and she sits. However, I have trouble with her at this point. She sits for a few seconds, then usually gets up and starts pulling again. If I can keep her attention and get around the dog without getting to close, we are ok. But basically, once she gets like that, the easiest thing to do is run in a direction that is away from the other dog. I know this isn't the best thing to do, but I'm really at a loss. I'm going to have to get to class early this week and have a long talk with the instructor.

I'm starting the think the problem is that Petunia's smarter than I am and purposely ignoring me when we're outside.:)

Lucky Rescue November 20th, 2003 04:38 PM

Hahhaa!! Sorry to laugh, but Petunia sounds like SUCH a typical pit bull!!

All the problems you are having are the ones ALL of us have had with our dogs, and still occasionally have.

You need to teach Petunia the "Watch me" command to get her attention outside. Pit bulls are so hard to distract when they are fixated on something!

Start off at home where there are no distractions. Great a great treat and have Petunia sit in front of you. Show her the treat, then put it behind your back

She will first look to where your hand went. Don't move, and she will then raise her head and look at you. The second she makes eye contact, say Good Girl and instantly give her the treat.

Keep practicing, and when you know she will look at you, start saying, "Look at me" just before she does. They usually catch on this pretty quickly.

You can use this when outside too, and gradually phase the treats out, or just give them randomly.

When you are outside (or anywhere) and tell her to sit and she gets up, correct her and make her sit again, but don't use the command more than once! If you do, she'll learn that she only has to obey after the 3rd or 4th time you say it. She has to learn that she may as well obey the first time, cause she is not going anywhere until she does.

When she pulls, you can also do an ABRUPT about face and walk rapidly in the other direction. Everytime you follow her as she pulls, she has won and will continue since dogs only do what works!

Petunia's_dad November 21st, 2003 08:01 AM


Thanks. I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one who has run into these problems. I think part of the reason we are having some issues is that I have a habit of not being forceful and letting the dog get away with things sometimes. (My sister says that's why my nieces don't listen also:) ) I started last night being more forceful and not repeating commands. Last nights walk took quite a while. I have a feeling that this is going to take some time, but I am going to stick with it.

We were thinking it might be a good idea to try and get some one on one instruction with a trainer. Does that make sense? Since she is a combination of being very smart and very stubborn, I'm thinking this is going to take a lot of patience and work and working with a group, while it is good for socialization, might not be a good setting for training her.

Thanks again for all your advice.

Carina November 21st, 2003 06:01 PM

I'm more familiar with Rottweilers than pitbulls - Lucky, chime in here. :)

How about a pinch/prong collar? I know they can work wonders as a training tool for certain situations and certain dogs. Note I said training tool, not a substitute for training. I also realise that they can be counterproductive with aggression issues if the dog feels the pinch and wants to redirect at the other dog.

It did NOT work with Cooper; I've had him since 8 weeks old and used very little compulsion type training with him. I tried at at the urging of the trainers at a facility I was going to (they were jerks, when I figured THAT out I walked out one night mid-class in a snit.) Anyhow, it didn't work with Cooper and he got real grumpy and just refused to work; I haven't used it since.
The reason I tried it on Coop was he got real stupid about other males when he was an adolescent & I hadn't yet neutered him. General obedience and as many as three drop in obedience classes a week, around different dogs, helps desensitize him to other dogs. I'd definitely suggest lots of exposure to other dogs in structured situations, and not getting close enough for her to get real aroused until you can get her to pay attention to you.

But with Dutch (a dominant, very dog-aggressive, intact adult male I took in last year) using a micro-pinch was amazing. Like having power steering! :D He is much improved now, but at first he just wanted to flatten every dog he saw and I could have been an ant on his butt for all the attention he'd pay to me. I credit the pinch collar for making Dutch a much better citizen.

FWIW - "Watch" is a great command. It takes time for a dog to get reliable about it, especially in a high distraction situation. I can tell you Dutch was not about to focus on anything except what HE wanted; I had to be quite a bit more forceful to get his attention.

One other point - getting her attention BEFORE she gets into staring and posturing at other dogs is most effective. It's 50 times harder once she's tuned you out and gone into drive over something.

I think I rambled a's been a long week!
So LR, do you think a pinch collar *might* be useful?

PS: Prong/pinch collars are more effective and less potentially damaging to a dog's neck, trachea, and spine that choke collars. I know they look like torture devices, but they are really more humane, IMHO.

Lucky Rescue November 21st, 2003 09:46 PM

A pinch collar can be very effective, as you said - in conjunction for training and not a substitute.

Choke chains in general do NOT work,and only cause injury and tracheal damage. Pinch collars, in spite of their barbaric appearance, are much more humane.

I used a pinch collar on a pit bull I was fostering, and it helped for a short while, then she started pulling again.
On my present dog, I like my Martingale collar. It gives more control than a plain buckle collar, yet is not nearly so harsh as a choke chain. It's possible to abuse a dog with any kind of collar, so proper training is a must.

Many people seem to have good results using a harness on pit bulls. Teaching them not to pull can be very laborious and frustrating. After a year, my dog is pretty good about not pulling, and now a verbal reminder is usually enough to make her ease up.

However, if I take her somewhere new, her excitement gets the better of her, and of course having a rabbit run in front of her can result in my being wrapped around a tree.:p

Petunia'sDad has joined us on our pit bull board, so I'm sure he'll get a solution.:)

Carina November 21st, 2003 10:03 PM

[QUOTE][i]Originally posted by LuckyRescue [/i]
Petunia'sDad has joined us on our pit bull board, so I'm sure he'll get a solution.:) [/B][/QUOTE]

Cool! I belong to a very active Rottweiler board; the knowlege base is incredible.

A feew weeks ago I was walking Dutch in the woods and we scared up two deer, they rushed out of the trees right across our path. Despite the pinch collar I literally DID wrap myself around a tree to stop us, because Dutch took off like a freight train after the deer. He has a ferocious prey drive and has killed two critters (a rabbit & a possum) while onleash - he is fast and at least he kills very quickly. :(
He's about 100lbs of muscle and very strong; I'm not particularly large and it happened so fast I had no time to brace myself.

Petunia'sDad, best of luck with her! Petunia sounds like a real pistol. And I just love that name. :)

Lucky Rescue November 22nd, 2003 09:53 AM

[QUOTE]Cool! I belong to a very active Rottweiler board; the knowlege base is incredible[/QUOTE]

Yep! We have reputable breeders, rescuers, and people like Diane Jessup (who has written books on the breed and owned the most-titled performance pit bull in history) on our board. I was so thankful to find it.

About the tree..yeah, I had to wrap Chloe's leash around one to stop her from pulling me head-over-heels down a hill after the rabbit. She's only 70 lbs, but an incredible powerhouse. I have to chuckle when told I should use only positive methods and clickers on her! A sledgehammer couldn't have distracted her from that rabbit...haha.

I can just imagine if she were 100lbs.:eek:

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