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Discussion Starter #1
Hi everyone,

I googled and researched so much online and found out that you hardly ever meet an aggressive puppy and that most owners confuse their puppy's playfulness with aggressiveness. So I shot a video clip of how my 4 month old pit bull puppy behaves and most trainers are shocked and tell me I need to do something urgently.

Now let me describe the situation:

95% of the time our puppy is well behaved. He learns quickly, I do a lot of obedience training. He waits for food, to leave doors, I try to only pet him as long as he is calm. I try to never represent over excitement to him. We never play tug of war and we also avoid rough housing. But he will go get the preydummy, or a ball for me. He is 16 weeks old now.

When he was 8 weeks old, he was always biting us, which is completely normal, but shouldn't be ignored. So we followed all the advice, that we read online: Yelp, and leave the puppy alone. But instead of less biting, the biting became more and more. Not only when he wanted to play, also when we try to pet him. He never wants to cuddle, so I don't want to force this on him, as there simply are less cuddly dogs.

When he tries to bite our feet or ankles, we tell him no, and make him sit. He then becomes very angry, and growls, and barks at us. When he is in this state, he bites as hard as he can, I can tell the difference between normal play-biting or mouthing and the "I want to bite your finger off"-version. We've had American Staffordshire Terriers before we got this pit bull. We got him from a really good breeder, by the way.


So here are my questions: What am I doing wrong? Can I expect the puppy to outgrow this stage with calm guidance? At which point would you be able to trust your dog completely, if as a 4 month old he growled at you and tried to seriously bite you?

Once again, I don't think a dog is considered aggressive at this age, so excuse my title. But no one ever takes me serious, unless I show them the video clip.

THANKS SO MUCH, any advice is welcome!
 

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As an owner of a 5 month old pit bull, what you describe is concerning. My boy was also mouthy at the beginning and I responded as you did. Mine outgrew this behavior and now has a soft mouth. Have you spoken to the breeder? I suggest you see a certified behavioralist ASAP. Also, there are several good pit specific forums. Can you provide a link to your video? Good luck.
 

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It sounds like he may be throwing a tantrum when you won't let him get away with biting you. Sort of like a 2 year old pitching a fit because their parent will not let them have the toy.

You say you leave the puppy alone when he bites you. What are you doing before that? Are you teaching him that if he wants to play he needs to be biting one of his toys and not one of your body parts? Back when I had my cute, furry, little land shark, aka my terrier puppy, he had no bite control, he wanted to bite me to play but he HURT. What I did was give him a toy whenever he bit me and immediately played with him and the toy. He'd drop the toy and try biting me again so I'd give him back the toy. He'd try biting me again and that's when I'd get up and get out of his reach. I did that EVERY time he bit me. It took around 3 weeks or so, but there came a day when I could see that he was coming to bite me, he stopped short, seemed to be thinking, and went and grabbed his toy before coming to me. I praised him to the sky and back while playing with him. After that, for the next 15 years, whenever he wanted to play he went and got a toy.

Moral of the story, you need to also teach the puppy what he can do. Just teaching him what he can't isn't enough.
 
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Definitely some frustration going on here. This is probably a dog that needs plenty of positive outlets for play. Tug, fetch, dog buddies, etcetera. Keep in mind that his energy levels will be super sporadic while he is growing.

The one other thing I find super helpful is crate training. There will be times when he is super amped up, but doesn't want to stop playing. This is the point where I will crate a dog with a good chew or a stuffed kong, something quiet to do. Usually they are passed out in a matter of minutes LOL.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Ok, I managed to upload one of the four clips. The shortest one, I hope this works:

https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B_SshBh_gExNdy1MSnVUT0JVTUk


So most of the time it starts as play, he wants to attack my legs and gets angry when I don't let him.

We have him crate trained. I do a lot of obedience training with him, this works well. I feel we need to work more on our bond. So he respects me more.
Respect is definitely our issue, I'd say. what do you all say? I hope you can watch the clip.
 

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Pitties are very intelligent and social dogs, some don't do well if not heavily socialized from the start. Every good positive trainer says to socialize dogs early - they should get used to being handled by many people in many environments, get socialized with children and have dogs around to socialize with. They need lots of exercise and mental stimulation. If this is not your dog...
 

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Thanks for the video. I am not overly concerned by that although it could get problematic if you don't take action. Continue training with the puppy. Be consistent. Make sure he gets enough exercise. Socialize him. NEVER hit or smack him as correction. Agree with posts above.
 

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The one other thing I find super helpful is crate training. There will be times when he is super amped up, but doesn't want to stop playing. This is the point where I will crate a dog with a good chew or a stuffed kong, something quiet to do. Usually they are passed out in a matter of minutes LOL.
This helped us when my pit mix was younger. He was very mouthy and constantly tried to bite. He was particularly aggressive with my 11 year old son. He was clearly playing, but would get SOOOOO amped up with very little to no prodding from us. He just had so much energy! So we would put him in the crate for a nap when this happened. It was rare when we did it, because I hate to use the crate as a disciplinary tool, but with him... we needed him to take a time out for our skin's sake! So we would put him in the crate and say, "Time to go Night Night!" He eventually grew out of it around 6 months old and now he has a very soft mouth. He takes treats and toys very politely. At times he caught me while playing with his "brother"... they like to jump on the couch in mid-play when I just so happen to be and I get caught in the crossfire. lol

I agree... plenty of socialization and "play-time" with other dogs help. We use to take Tank to his "cousin's" (My boyfriend's mom's dogs. At the time she had a pit and a beagle/basset hound) and they would plaaaay for hours and he would come home pooped and sleep like a baby!

I also agree with the consistent replacing your hand/arm/whatever with a toy. With Tank, I firmly said, "No bite!" and handed him his toy and said "Chew this" and have him tons of praise when he did that.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Thank you all for your help and support. I just want to stress one more time that my actual problem is not mouthing and play biting but mostly the seriously getting angry at me. Quick outbursts of aggressive behavior where he bites as hard as he can, growls and sounds very frustrated. How would you react to that? This happens maybe three times a week and MOSTLY when we're out in public on the leash. So u cannot crate him in that moment and I usually don't have a replacement toy with me. Should I take one?
Did you check the video clip? Does this seem normal to you? Did it remind you of your puppies? Because most people tell me their puppy never behaved like that. Our former puppies never did.
 

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Thank you all for your help and support. I just want to stress one more time that my actual problem is not mouthing and play biting but mostly the seriously getting angry at me. Quick outbursts of aggressive behavior where he bites as hard as he can, growls and sounds very frustrated. How would you react to that? This happens maybe three times a week and MOSTLY when we're out in public on the leash. So u cannot crate him in that moment and I usually don't have a replacement toy with me. Should I take one?
Did you check the video clip? Does this seem normal to you? Did it remind you of your puppies? Because most people tell me their puppy never behaved like that. Our former puppies never did.
Please, describe what the puppy has been experiencing for the last 4 weeks you've owned him? What socialization have you been doing?

Why would a puppy be Frustrated??
 

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Yes, I would take a toy. Also some treats. Reward every positive interaction between you and him and between him and anyone else. With negative interaction, take him to a quiet area for cool down time. Sometimes dogs can become over-stimulated by children playing, cars driving by, people walking about, etc. They can feel encroached upon and sometimes they just need to be withdrawn from the situation to help them find their calm again. If you can't crate, find a quiet area to take a break in.
 

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I watched your video, but I'm not too concerned. If this video captures what you mean as aggressive, I think you may be a bit mistaken. I know he is growling and barking, but it looks like playful behavior to me. I wouldn't be worried about him acting out of "frustration". Terriers, and pit bulls in particular, play loud and rough. They are literally breed to bit down and shake things to death, I am fairly certain he is just "killing" you all in fun, but I understand that it sounds and looks scary.

However, while I wouldn't worry about aggression, I still do not believe his behavior is appropriate. 4 months is extremely young to expect and train impulse control, but I believe it would be in your best interest to begin now. What I see if a puppy who really wants to play, but doesn't understand the parameters or boundaries yet.

First, continue the crate training work. It is beneficial for every dog to have a space that is their "safe" place. I would begin having him stay in his crate for 30-45 minutes at a time while you are still around the house. This will teach him to entertain and calm himself. Make sure he has a chew or puzzle toy. You could also try setting up "tethers" around your house. I have never personally used this method with my own dogs, but I have for extremely hyper/anxious dogs in training and it helps a lot. Tie a short leash to the leg of your couch or dining room table and attach him to it, while you are around. Do not leave him alone tethered for safety reasons. Again, this will teach him to calm himself. As in people with hyperactive/anxiety issues, if you slow down the body, you will slow down the mind. This could help with his impulse control, respect, and ability to calm himself.

Second, I would begin teaching a "place" and "settle" command. I am sure kikopup has some videos that can show you how to train these behaviors, and they are relatively easy. Slowly increase the excitement or distractions in the house and have him stay on his "place" mat to help impulse control and self reliance. You can begin a settle command (basically lay down at your feet for extended periods of time) in the house. Once it is reliable, practice outside in your yard and at parks. Don't forget to treat! Laying calmly nearby you while exciting outside activities are going on is such a wonderful thing for your dog to be able to do.

Be careful that you are not using his "sit" or "down" commands as punishment. What is see in the video is that after he is biting on to your shirt and growling, you immediately ask him to sit but you do not treat for the behavior. Asking him to sit is fine, but I would make sure to continue treating and work on using commands to refocus his attention away from playing to making eye contact and following prompts.

Finally, find a way to channel his energy. If he is really into biting, grabbing, and chasing things like I see, you may want to consider beginning to train him for sport. Does he play with toys as intently as he plays with your sleeve in the video? If so, I would consider looking into having him evaluated by a schutzhund trainer and joining a club or taking some lessons (shutzhund is not something you should attempt to begin on your own, you must use a good, kind professional)
 

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Ok, I managed to upload one of the four clips. The shortest one, I hope this works:

https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B_SshBh_gExNdy1MSnVUT0JVTUk


So most of the time it starts as play, he wants to attack my legs and gets angry when I don't let him.

We have him crate trained. I do a lot of obedience training with him, this works well. I feel we need to work more on our bond. So he respects me more.
Respect is definitely our issue, I'd say. what do you all say? I hope you can watch the clip.

I'd say that's a pit puppy that's thinking you are playing with him. That sounds like a play growl to me, and I don't see any body language that looks like he's angry, or fear aggressive. It looks like he thinks like it's great fun to have you pushing on him and "playing" with him. My old terrier loved nothing more then for me to rough house with him by pushing him away, and shaking him from side to side. He'd growl like a demon, like your puppy was in the video, and sound plain vicious but it was all in good fun. The difference between my dog, and your puppy, is that I had taught my boy to bite down on a toy so I could safely play with him.

No, I don't think it's a matter of respect, I think it's a matter of your puppy not knowing how to safely play with you.

Have some type of toy with you on your walk to give to him when he bites you.

Teach a drop command, and use that instead of sit, to get him to stop biting you. Drop will also come in handy if he grabs something he cannot have. Be sure to practice it with stuff that he can have back after he drops them so that he does not come to hate the command.

You can take a flirt pole with you so you can gain some distance between you and him when he wants to bite your pants, and have him run a bit chasing it to drain some of that energy. Again the drop command will come in handy here so that you can get him to drop the toy and continue the walk.

Do not push him off of you when he bites, that's just getting him amped up, and judging by the video it looks like he thinks you are playing a very fun game with him. He'll bite harder because he's so excited that you are wrestling with him, and terriers as a group are not known for having a soft mouth, they like to bite, bite hard, and shake to death whatever they have.

There's nothing wrong with play growls, all of my dogs have done them, and none of them ruled my house. They all obeyed me, including the one I have now, and none tried to rule the house.
 
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Google this..Dog training: 'Warning signs of an aggressive puppy' at www dogsbestlife.com A great informative article with some good tips!
 

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This helped us when my pit mix was younger. He was very mouthy and constantly tried to bite. He was particularly aggressive with my 11 year old son. He was clearly playing, but would get SOOOOO amped up with very little to no prodding from us. He just had so much energy! So we would put him in the crate for a nap when this happened. It was rare when we did it, because I hate to use the crate as a disciplinary tool, but with him... we needed him to take a time out for our skin's sake! So we would put him in the crate and say, "Time to go Night Night!" He eventually grew out of it around 6 months old and now he has a very soft mouth. He takes treats and toys very politely. At times he caught me while playing with his "brother"... they like to jump on the couch in mid-play when I just so happen to be and I get caught in the crossfire. lol

I agree... plenty of socialization and "play-time" with other dogs help. We use to take Tank to his "cousin's" (My boyfriend's mom's dogs. At the time she had a pit and a beagle/basset hound) and they would plaaaay for hours and he would come home pooped and sleep like a baby!

I also agree with the consistent replacing your hand/arm/whatever with a toy. With Tank, I firmly said, "No bite!" and handed him his toy and said "Chew this" and have him tons of praise when he did that.
Yup! They need naps just like kids. It doesn't even have to be a discipline thing to them if you put something fun and quiet in there for them to do. Just don't be surprised if they crash as soon as they get 2 minutes into it :D
 

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Looking at your video...

Because of the fumbling, a lot of the behavior isn't visible plus I'm viewing on a very small screen so just difficult for me to get a clear picture. Regardless this is something I would be working on with a good trainer to address, personally.

A couple things I noticed that I dpn't think have been mentioned yet (if they were sorry! just skimmed posts).

-Be aware that you didn't actually ask for the sit until your puppy already did it on his own! If his sit is solid, ask for it much, much sooner. Probably the second he shows the slightest interest in your clothing.

-As soon as your puppy showed interest in your pant legs, you began stepping away pretty quickly. That quick movement is only likely to excite and further encourage a pant bitter/tugger. Difficult and counterintuitive for many people, but freezing or being very still will in general work better.

-Avoid prying clothing and other items from his mouth. If you have a drop it, ask for that. If not trade a treat or redirect to a toy.

I definitely recommend different leash handling. Not a fix, but can make a world of a difference in calmly addressing this in the moment. Not sure of this link will work....
https://www.facebook.com/michael.shikashio/videos/10210779485429780/
Assuming it does, pay attention to how she transitions to that defensive position in which she can control and hold a leashed dog away from her body.
I've worked with plenty of pant biters both in classes and at the shelter. I hold my leash slightly differently but this really does work well in the moment.


As far as training goes, again I do recommend working with a trainer.

My bet would be that you'll likely need to be working impulse control and focus exercises in addition to your obedience. I'll leave it to the trainer to choose exercises but should probably involve working on switching from excited/aroused to focused and/or obedience in exciting scenarios.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Please, describe what the puppy has been experiencing for the last 4 weeks you've owned him? What socialization have you been doing?

Why would a puppy be Frustrated??


That is a very good question. Made me think a lot:

Maybe I haven't been playing with him enough, or the right way? His life consists of walks, training sessions, food finding games, sniffing games, and preydummy games.
But I have been avoiding tug of war or rough housing, as I was told several times, this isn't the right breed to play this game with.

Do you all agree? Or should I teach him "off" and then play tug of war with him? It might make him happier to have an outlet and something to bite and "kill". At least for some minutes a day.

We went to puppy class 4 times, and then I took a personal trainer.
All of the dog contact we have in our free time is with adult dogs, who, most of them, don't really play. They just go on a walk with us. Or they sit around calmly and chew their bone/toy.
They correct my puppy, when he comes too close into their personal space.

Maybe I should find him an actual playmate, his own age?


A (sports dog) trainer yesterday saw Chili attack my leg, leash and then growl at me and snap at me and he was concerned. He told me, that's it's time I once seriously "impress" my dog. It should have been done much earlier. As far as I understood, by impress he meant startle him, through a very strong push, or even a slap. It should be SO impressive, that my puppy is "healed" from this behaviour. It shouldn't be a fight, it should be quick and effective.


How do you feel about that?


Another (police dog) trainer looked at my video, and also gave me this feedback: YOu're moving too much, you look like prey, he is playing with you, aggressively. Tug the leash towards you, bring him in, in a quick and harsh move. I did that and it seems to stop the game. I tell him NO, and it has gotten much better. So when the sports-dog trainer from yesterday was SO shocked, even though I felt I had my dog under much better control now, it frustrated me.



Also the sports-dog trainer did some exercises to check how the bond was between me and my puppy. If he checked where I was going with his eyes, or if he followed me into the woods. But he didn't.
How do I strengthen our bond? I've been trying my best, to do new things and to lead him through new environments. To do a lot of training.
But I don't know how to establish a stronger bond, for him at least.... I love him already like crazy.


Thank you all for the great links to the training clips and articles. I have checked everything out, and I will definitely implement a couple of new great ideas!!!!!!!!!!!!
 

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That's a 4 month old pitbull - and anyone that thinks that the puppy is playing needs to give their head a shake. He's lashing out in pure frustration. If your dog was 2 years old, 60 pounds and pulling that crap - would you be more concerned? I would be.

Put away the idea of training for a while and start nourishing the dog with what he needs - not with what you need. The dog needs socialization, pure socialization. Too much one on one is frustrating you - and the dog, that video is clear. It can't all be about obedience, can't all be about training, the dog is 4 months old and already showing frustration. Dogs have been linked to us for 40,000 years or more - they need us. Dogs have single handedly change the course of mankind, they need people - give it to him.

How many people does this dog know? Has he ever been around kids? These dogs need to be introduced to everyone and everything in every environment possible from the time they are taken from the mother. Adults, children, cats, dogs, hamsters whatever - do that and you won't have any surprises down the road. Take the dog out and relax, get it around people, let people pet him, let them maul him and handle him - or is the dog even capable of that now? That should have been done when you first got him. If that puppy hasn't been around children, I'd be scared to try it now if he's going to start showing frustrated aggression like that.

You have a pit bull - a dog that's under a microscope.
 

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That's a 4 month old pitbull - and anyone that thinks that the puppy is playing needs to give their head a shake. He's lashing out in pure frustration. If your dog was 2 years old, 60 pounds and pulling that crap - would you be more concerned? I would be.

Put away the idea of training for a while and start nourishing the dog with what he needs - not with what you need. The dog needs socialization, pure socialization. Too much one on one is frustrating you - and the dog, that video is clear. It can't all be about obedience, can't all be about training, the dog is 4 months old and already showing frustration. Dogs have been linked to us for 40,000 years or more - they need us. Dogs have single handedly change the course of mankind, they need people - give it to him.

How many people does this dog know? Has he ever been around kids? These dogs need to be introduced to everyone and everything in every environment possible from the time they are taken from the mother. Adults, children, cats, dogs, hamsters whatever - do that and you won't have any surprises down the road. Take the dog out and relax, get it around people, let people pet him, let them maul him and handle him - or is the dog even capable of that now? That should have been done when you first got him. If that puppy hasn't been around children, I'd be scared to try it now if he's going to start showing frustrated aggression like that.

You have a pit bull - a dog that's under a microscope.
I would strongly caution you against following this advice. First of all, anyone who thinks this puppy is showing "pure frustration" probably doesn't have a whole lot of experience with pit bulls. This is a little bit extremist and pessimistic. Your puppy is showing relatively normal pit bull behavior. You say you got this dog from a breeder? Then he comes from undiluted hunting lines, there is no reason to expect your dog is doing anything other than what should be expected at this age/development stage. Don't panic about your puppy being aggressive, just continue to work with a trainer to guide his behavior so he does not become hard to handle.

Secondly, indiscriminate socialization is just as dangerous as not socializing at all. Please do not let other people "maul", mob, or harass your puppy in the name of socialization. Taking away a dog's personal space and self possession is extremely dangerous and the number one way to create an insecure dog. Right now, your puppy is confident. You want to do everything you can to preserve that while teaching him manners. From your posts, I can tell that you have done quite a bit to start your pup correctly and I would be surprised if he hasn't been adequately socialized already. Of course, you should never stop introducing him to new people, places, and things, but there is a point where he is too far out of his comfort zone for this to be helpful- instead it will hurt.

Don’t Socialize the Dog! | Karen Pryor Clicker Training

Furthermore, at 4 months old (16 weeks) he is arguably out of his "socialization period" and entering a fear imprint stage. Allowing new people to swarm and harass him at this point, when he is no longer as open to new experiences, could create a lifelong phobia in him if he has a bad interaction. Continue introducing him to new things, but keep an eye to make sure he is comfortable and happy.

However, finding a rambunctious playmate for him would be great. Try to find a slightly older dog who enjoys playing rough but has no problem correcting inappropriate puppy behavior. If you live anywhere near Tampa, FL, I would volunteer my own :D

I would strongly suggest you begin working with a sport dog trainer. How toy driven is your puppy? How much prey drive does he have? I can give you more information about evaluating and choosing a sport for him if you'd like.

Finally, you said he does not seem too bonded to you. Don't be too upset, he is a young, independent, playful puppy. He'll come around if you continue working with him a lot. However, this is one of my favorite exercises from one of my favorite trainers (Suzanne Clothier): I teach this to all my puppy clients and anybody who has issues with hyper active or unfocused dogs.

http://www.mwbcr.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Auto-Check-In.pdf
 

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I would strongly caution you against following this advice. First of all, anyone who thinks this puppy is showing "pure frustration" probably doesn't have a whole lot of experience with pit bulls. This is a little bit extremist and pessimistic. Your puppy is showing relatively normal pit bull behavior. You say you got this dog from a breeder? Then he comes from undiluted hunting lines, there is no reason to expect your dog is doing anything other than what should be expected at this age/development stage. Don't panic about your puppy being aggressive, just continue to work with a trainer to guide his behavior so he does not become hard to handle.

Secondly, indiscriminate socialization is just as dangerous as not socializing at all. Please do not let other people "maul", mob, or harass your puppy in the name of socialization. Taking away a dog's personal space and self possession is extremely dangerous and the number one way to create an insecure dog. Right now, your puppy is confident. You want to do everything you can to preserve that while teaching him manners. From your posts, I can tell that you have done quite a bit to start your pup correctly and I would be surprised if he hasn't been adequately socialized already. Of course, you should never stop introducing him to new people, places, and things, but there is a point where he is too far out of his comfort zone for this to be helpful- instead it will hurt.

Don’t Socialize the Dog! | Karen Pryor Clicker Training

Furthermore, at 4 months old (16 weeks) he is arguably out of his "socialization period" and entering a fear imprint stage. Allowing new people to swarm and harass him at this point, when he is no longer as open to new experiences, could create a lifelong phobia in him if he has a bad interaction. Continue introducing him to new things, but keep an eye to make sure he is comfortable and happy.

However, finding a rambunctious playmate for him would be great. Try to find a slightly older dog who enjoys playing rough but has no problem correcting inappropriate puppy behavior. If you live anywhere near Tampa, FL, I would volunteer my own :D

I would strongly suggest you begin working with a sport dog trainer. How toy driven is your puppy? How much prey drive does he have? I can give you more information about evaluating and choosing a sport for him if you'd like.

Finally, you said he does not seem too bonded to you. Don't be too upset, he is a young, independent, playful puppy. He'll come around if you continue working with him a lot. However, this is one of my favorite exercises from one of my favorite trainers (Suzanne Clothier): I teach this to all my puppy clients and anybody who has issues with hyper active or unfocused dogs.

http://www.mwbcr.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Auto-Check-In.pdf

It's no wonder so many pit bulls end up anti-social and living their life in a controlled environment. Hands down my favorite dog, worked with hundreds of pitties over the last 40 years.

I'm out.
 
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