"A breed of satin and steel. Pit bulls are a mixture of softness and strength, an uncanny canine combination of fun, foolishness, and serious business, all wrapped up in love."

-D. Caroline Coile

Monday, July 11, 2011

Socializing Your Pit Bull

New pit bull owners often ask, “What is the best way to socialize my pit bull with other dogs?” There are many ways to do so! The age of your dog as well as his/her individual personality will help you determine which methods are appropriate for socializing your dog.

Pit Bulls under six months of age should be enrolled in a puppy class. Many obedience training facilities have classes specifically for puppies, and often part of the class time is devoted to off-leash play with other puppies. When seeking out a training facility, it is often helpful to observe the classes prior to attending so you can get a feel for how class will be conducted and see if it is a good match for you and your dog. Off-leash play can be an important feature of a puppy class, but it should be done properly (i.e., does the instructor factor in age, size, and play style of puppies when organizing play groups?).

To socialize adult dogs, PBRC recommends that owners first carefully introduce their pit bulls to other adult dogs. A great way to introduce adult dogs is to take a nice long walk on leash together. Please see PBRC’s webpage on introducing dogs.

Some ways that adult dogs can interact with other dogs are:

  • Taking long leash walks with appropriately matched dogs of good temperament and good social skills and with known, responsible owners.
  • Organized play dates with friends' dogs in a fenced area.
  • Taking an obedience or agility class, where your dog will learn to focus on you in the presence of other dogs, and may also receive positive reinforcement in the presence of other dogs.

PBRC does not recommend dog parks or dog daycares. There are a number of reasons why:

  • While dogs can learn good social skills at a daycare or park, they can just as easily learn poor social skills in these largely unsupervised situations. For example, a dog that is fearful around other dogs can become even more skittish in a large pack of rowdy dogs. By the same token, a pushy dog may bully other dogs without a human to correct this behavior. The ratio of staff per dog in many dog daycare settings is so low, making it difficult to control the experience for each individual dog.
  • Dogs in a pack act very differently than they do individually; even a well-socialized dog of good temperament can be drawn into “pack behavior.”
  • There's no way to predict or know the behavior of the other dogs in the group at a park or daycare; many people take their dogs to daycares or dog parks with little understanding of their own dogs' tolerance for other dogs; there is often an expectation that “dogs will work it out” however this can occur in a way that results in injury.
  • Dogs playing together for long periods of time in large groups with unstructured time or activities can result in inappropriate behavior. Some examples of inappropriate behavior that may develop or be rehearsed when unsupervised are: mounting other dogs, antagonizing other dogs, destructive chewing, and excessive barking.
  • Dog playgroups need to be carefully selected by competent readers of dog body language and with an understanding of social canine behavior; there are many people, well-intentioned, operating dog daycares with very little experience with dogs and, in particular, with little pit bull experience.
  • If something does go wrong, whether or not the pit bull instigates it, the pit bull is usually blamed; every negative incident reflects not only on the individual dog, but on bull breeds as a whole.
  • If provoked in a fight, some dogs will not back away from a challenge. Whether your dog is the victim or the instigator, a negative incident can result in future problems during dog-dog interactions.

Here’s what other pit bull savvy groups have to say about dog parks:

Here is some additional information on dog aggression and dog interactions:

Lastly, some dog daycares and dog parks prohibit bull breeds from attending.
While PBRC does not support any legislation or policies that are breed
specific, we hope that owners will make responsible choices and set their
dogs up for success and for safe fun!


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