I get asked all the time for advice and training tips when people see how well behaved Bentley is and how many tricks she knows. The truth is that Pit Bulls are great dogs to train due to their strong desire to please humans. This is why everyone that owns a Pit, or any breed for that matter, should train them and if you do not know how hopefully these simple basic training tips I've put together will help. These are the methods I use in early training.
I got Bentley when she was a puppy so of course I started training her right away but let me tell you she went through the whole puppy chewing phase, that is inevitable, and yes, I left things unattended and returned to find them destroyed. The quicker you learn that a puppy is just like a child and wants to get into everything it's not supposed to, the better off you will be. With that being said, rule number one, of course, don't leave anything valuable lying around and rule number two invest in a number of chew toys so when your pup is bored with one, there will be another one to get his attention instead of your brand new pair of shoes that cost an arm and a leg.
As soon as you bring your dog home, no matter how old he is, you must start the training process. The first things you should teach your dog are his name and “no”. These are the easiest things to teach any dog, even kids can teach their dogs these two things. Treats work best when training your dog so I advise that you use a treat when starting off. When your dog starts getting into things he's not supposed to, say “no” sternly but don't yell. You want to get his attention and respect but not to have him scared of you. Soon enough your dog will know the meaning of “no”.
Teaching your dog to sit is simple and should be the first trick your dog learns. To teach your dog, simply call him to you and tell him to “sit”, your dog won't understand but will eventually get tired of standing and will sit. As soon as this happens, praise your dog and give him the treat. Practice this until your dog can sit on command.
“Lie down” is the next easiest command and is basically taught the same way as the sit command. If your dog is not wanting to lie down you can always use treats as motivation. Try placing the treat close to the ground and your dog's head should follow. Repeat the “lie down” command as you push the treat closer to his chest. This will cause him to lie down to get into a more comfortable position to eat the treat. After he is laying down, praise him and give him the treat. Repeat this until you no longer have to coax him down. You may use a hand signal when you are teaching your dog so he will reference the word and hand signal with the action you want him to make. I point my finger to the ground and snap but you may use whatever signal you are more comfortable with.
The next command I recommend that you teach your dog is “stay”. This one takes more patience but is a very valuable command for your dog to know, especially in public. You can teach your dog stay when he is in a sit or lie position as it will be easier. Slowly start walking away and saying the word “stay”, using a hand gesture if you want. The signal I use for stay is my arm out in front of me with my hand pointed straight up, just like a traffic signal officer would do. If your dog follows you say no and have him either sit or lie down again. Once you are able to walk a short distance with your dog in the stay command, stop and praise him. Keep repeating this with your dog until you are able to go further and further away. With Bentley, I am able to go into different rooms and even outside while she stays. I do this with treats right in front of her too and she won't touch them until I give her the release command. When I have made her stay as long as I want I give her a release command of “okay”. You may use any release command you please. The release command will come in handy for future tricks.
After these three easy commands have been taught you can start basing new tricks and commands off of them such as rolling over, shaking hands, going in a circle, sitting pretty, jumping through hoops and much more. Once you have the basic three you can expand and there's no limit to what you can teach your dog with lots of patience and understanding.
I suggest that you buy a clicker when you want to move on to more advanced training techniques. I have trained both with and without the clicker and have gotten positive results both ways but I feel that the clicker works very well. As soon as your dog hears the click, he knows he has done the trick correctly. When you start clicker training, you can start with old tricks and click when the command has been acted out and then give him a treat. This way he will associate the click with a treat and will know when the trick has been properly completed. Always click and give a treat. When your dog knows the commands well you won't need the clicker anymore.
As with anything, practice makes perfect. Don't give up or get frustrated because your dog may not be learning at the speed you would like. Instead have patience and keep at it. Remember, even as humans, we have been trained and conditioned from birth with patience from our parents so have some empathy for your learning pooch.