Breed-specific suggestions for raising a nice pitbull (or other bully breed)
*Responsible containment is critical! I recommend a fence at least 6 feet tall, sturdy, with lean-ins at the top and dig skirting at the bottom, if the dog is to be left out unattended...and even a 6' fence when supervised, since a bully can sail a shorter fence with ease. It takes only a second to hop over and snag that toy breed teasing him from the sidewalk.
Chain spots are popular for bullies, and sometimes that's the only thing that will keep them in the yard...but even on chains, you will want a perimeter fence, to keep neighbor kids and stray dogs from harassing YOUR dog.
*Provide solid leadership. Establish a permission-based lifestyle, where the dog is submissive to humans, and checks in with you before he takes action.
*Practice obedience training: you are building responsiveness to humans, not just teaching tricks.
*Impulse control! Bullies are a dog whose training program needs a HEAVY focus on teaching them to think first, and control their impulsive instincts. You can google for all sorts of 'impulse control' and 'indirect access' exercises, and also have a look at this comprehensive link on developing impulse control.. Practice often!
*Socialise them to people and other animals, in a controlled manner, especially as a puppy. You want them to think that other humans are potential friends, and that other animals are off-limits and are NOT play toys.
Teach them to recognize dogs as social peers, not prey. (!) Do you know what prey drive looks like? It's very important that you do--so you can interrupt it before it escalates. There are lots of videos on YouTube to learn from. Instead of shrieking in excitement, stalking, pouncing, or challenging, you can help your dog learn to "talk" to other dogs in a friendly way, and develop good body language.
*Prevent the dog from rehearsing bad behaviours, by controlling all interactions with people and animals. Never leave a bully breed unattended with other animals, or small children. Most responsible pitbull owners also separate their dogs from any other dogs when they leave the house, "just in case".
*Make sure that leash snaps and collar hardware are sturdy, and checked daily for damage. If you're using tools (such as a Starmark collar or head halter), use a backup leash/collar or a safety connector. Don't let anyone walk the dog, unless they are physically able to control him--this especially includes your 10 year old, or your grandma.
*No dog parks. NO dog parks. Maybe as a puppy, if the other dogs have good social skills, but not as an adult. They do great, until the day that they don't. Dog parks can bring out the worst in dogs.
*Don't ignore signs of aggression. When in doubt, bring in a trainer who has experience with aggression, and has good references on their past aggression cases. Dogs involved in maulings almost always have a history of aggressive behaviour, that starts long before the serious incident occurs.
*Be a role model for other bully breed owners. :-) Remember that you are a representative, the public face of the breed, whether you like it or not. That's not fair, but life's not fair.
*This applies to not only the American pitbull terrier, but also similar breeds such as the Staffy, American bulldog, bully mixes, and outcrosses like the Bandogge. Any athletic, pushy, impulsive, highly prey-driven dog requires a very responsible owner!
Training primitive dogs. Primitives have somewhat different 'special needs', but the article covers things like leadership, impulse control, and indirect access.
It's not "all in how you raise them". When it comes to things like dog-aggression, genetics plays a role. You can compensate for a LOT with training, and even more with good management. And, some lines and individuals are much easier than others! However, it's good to understand what you're starting with. Pay close attention to mom and dad, since they are your best guess at what a puppy will be like.
Bully breeds (as a whole) have an unusually high rate of serious bites. There are numerous possible reasons for this. For all of their positive traits, they are also extremely powerful, drivey, impulsive, prey-driven, and eager to engage. They come from terrier stock, with the terrier urge to grab and shake. The more we understand the bully breed personality, the better we will be at making sure YOUR dog never becomes a statistic.