The term pit bull does not refer to a single dog breed. People apply the term to a type of dog that can weigh anywhere from 25 to 80 pounds and whose ancestors are 17th and 18th century British crosses of various terrier types with the Old English bulldog. Three breeds directly descended from such bull-and-terrier crosses are the American Staffordshire Terrier, the American Pit Bull Terrier and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier.
Like all puppies, pit bull puppies need proper nutrition, age-appropriate exercise, socialization and love. Unlike other puppies, pit bulls arrive in a world predisposed to think negatively of their type. Whether that is fair is a subject for another day, but it does raise important considerations for pit bull puppy owners. A public attitude that pit bulls are aggressive dogs puts the onus on pit bull owners to socialize and train puppies early and well in order to combat that perception. Raising a pit bull takes a lot of dedication, but it pays off in big slobbery kisses from a breed that truly loves people.
Prepare your home with all the items you are likely to need for your new pit bull puppy before you bring him home. Build a kit containing water and food bowls, a collar, leash and identification tag, food, and a few age-appropriate toys. Remember that pit bulls are powerful dogs, and older puppies may be hard on personal items and toys. Always purchase sturdy collars and leashes, and buy toys specifically made for “power chewers” as your pup grows. Replace toys as they wear out, to prevent choking or other accidents. You will also want a bed, soft blankets, and paper towels and other cleaning supplies if your puppy is not potty trained yet.
Review your plans for housing, feeding and training the puppy with all members of your family before he arrives, to make sure you are all on the same page concerning his care. Pit bulls are intelligent, sensitive dogs. Inconsistencies may confuse your new family member and make him anxious.
Schedule a puppy check at the veterinarian as soon as possible to start your dog's puppy shots and establish a healthy baseline from which to gauge his progress. Ask your veterinarian to recommend a good diet for your pup, and adhere to it carefully. Pit bulls thrive on routine, so feed your puppy at the same time each day.
Introduce your puppy during a time when you can have at least a full day to concentrate on making him feel at home without distractions. This is especially necessary if you have other pets in the family. Adult pit bulls sometimes exhibit aggression toward other dogs or pets, so starting early to socialize your pup to other pets in your family will help him to become a stable, friendly adult. Your pets will all need supervision and time to get to know one another.
Allow the puppy to familiarize himself with his new surroundings at his own pace. This helps him remain calm and teaches confidence. If you plan to use a crate, the Humane Society advises against leaving your puppy in it for long periods, turning it into a prison. Learn how to use the crate humanely and effectively, incorporating frequent breaks, and use the crate only until your pup is fully potty trained.
Be aware that your pit bull puppy must go outside frequently, especially after eating or awakening from a nap. Potty training is not difficult when you understand that, like all babies, young puppies have little bladder and bowel control. Patience and watchfulness are key. Never punish your puppy for an accident you should have anticipated.
Supervise your puppy to avoid the development of destructive behaviors. If you must leave home for extended periods, buy a strongly constructed playpen for your puppy, and put his crate inside the pen with the crate door fastened open. This allows him to exercise and to have a separate place to eliminate on thick papers or pads so that he won't be subjected to discomfort and danger. Puppies teethe nearly non-stop until they are about 9 months of age. Since pit bulls have powerful jaws, make sure your pup has a solid rubber or nylon chew toy to keep him appropriately occupied away from hazards or your furniture, while soothing his teething pains.
Establish rules, and stick with them from day one. Most dogs like routine, which lets them feel that things are under control. Since each pit bull must act as an ambassador for all pit bulls, they especially need well-defined limits in order to be seen as “good dogs” that are well trained and obedient; so begin basic training early.
Exercise your high-energy pit bull puppy at least once each day, and preferably twice, to keep him fit and help drain excess energy that may lead to acting out or destructive behavior. Make leash training part of his exercise. Teaching him the proper way to walk with, rather than in front of or against you, gives you greater control in public places where dog-to-dog interactions may occur. Some dogs may have trouble with leash training or particular training styles, so you may need to research to find the right method to fit your pup’s personality. Contact your veterinarian, dog trainer or local chapters of the ASPCA, Humane Society or pit bull rescue group for recommendations.
Give your puppy something to do. Bored puppies often find trouble to get into, not because they are bad, but because they simply have nothing else to do and don't know any better. Pit bulls need intellectual stimulation as well as physical activity to keep them happy. Play interactive ball, tug-of-war or disk-throwing games with your puppy regularly, and provide stimulating hide-and-seek toys like a stuffed Kong-type toy filled with peanut butter or other treat for him to “find” when you can’t interact directly. In addition to Kong-type toys, the Humane Society of the United States recommends Nylabone and Busy Box-types for healthy distraction.
Introduce your new pup to other dogs, people and places as soon and as often as possible. Pit bulls need socialization. They are almost never people-aggressive, but generations of breeding them to fight other animals has endowed many individuals with dog-aggressiveness. This has given pit bulls an undeserved reputation for aggressiveness in general. You can best combat that false impression by raising your puppy to be a well-socialized dog. Like human children, puppies learn best when they are young, so enroll your pup in an obedience class that stresses good social skills as well as the basic commands to sit, stay, come and heel. Earning the AKC Canine Good Citizen (CGC) certificate is a good place for your pit bull puppy to start.