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17 Dec 2004

RE: American Pit Bull Terrier
This is our home setup and I would appreciate any pointers on what we can do to ensure all our animals stay/become happy and content.

We have 7 cats, all sterilized, all rescued. Thus, some of them are inclined to hide and flee when the going gets tough! They are mostly afraid of people, but have learnt to trust us, and have also learned to accept our 2 female, sterilized miniature daschunds. The dogs appear to annoy the cats more than anything else. They do chase the cats but have never harmed them. The dogs are 2 years old now.

We have just acquired an American Pit Bull Terrier pup. Female, 8 weeks old. She has been vaccinated and will be sterilized when she is 6 months old, or earlier. Her name is Juno. The daschunds names are Abby and Dixie. Abby is the dominant female, and this can be seen from the ‘spats’ between her and Juno. Juno is usually first to submit.

As you can imagine, the pup is the same size, even taller, than the daschunds. If she were to turn on the daschund at a later stage, the daschund would not stand a chance. However, she has not come across as aggressive at all – she is far more interested in playing with the daschunds. She does bark at the cats, unfortunately, but one of the cats went for her the other day and she bolted in shock and yelped. Now she avoids getting too close, but still barks. Sometimes she ignores the cats completely – which we would like to encourage.

I am concerned about Abby and Juno fighting. Abby goes for Juno often, and it appears that Abby and Dixie even “attack” her as a team. None have been hurt, and the pup usually backs off. It will not be long before she does not back off though. The dogs used to have food at their disposal whenever they wanted it, but I have now stopped that and I feed them certain times of the day. I am still training them to realize this because they do not eat when I put their bowls down.

The dogs sleep inside at night, in our bedroom, in their own beds. We are still housetraining Juno so it is a bit disruptive currently. We also have a 6 month old baby boy, who shares our bedroom at the moment. He is moving into his own room this December.

The dogs are outside, in the back garden, during the day. The garden is very large and they have plenty of toys to keep them busy, as well as kennels in case of rain.

We got the pup for protection purposes, as well as for pleasure. We have enrolled her in a training course, and will be socializing her at the same time.

Is there anything you can suggest for the fighting between Abby and Juno, and also is there anything I should change to avoid this dog becoming a terror instead of a pleasure? I am fully aware of the possible animal-aggression in Pit Bulls – I am fairly clued up on the breed, and I am hoping that by training and socializing I will prevent this.

Answer 368 views

01 Jan 0001

Hi Doglover
As you allude to, Pit Bulls have been selectively bred to fight. They are not good guard dogs as they were not bred for this (German Shepherds, Rottweilers etc. are guard dogs), but are a deterrent as many people fear them. They are usually good with people and children, but if aggression is sparked in them there is no warning (growling, hackles up, stiff legs etc.) and the bite is usually serious. The other problem you have is that all three dogs are bitches so they are more likely to fight than if there was a male to balance the equation. I think that the risk of Abby being injured or killed is high, no matter what you do, and the risk of your child being involved in a fight is also there. So my suggestion is that you re-home Juno as soon as possible. If you want a guard dog I think you will have a better chance of success with a male large breed, not a terrier.
If you are determined to keep Juno then here are some essential tips:
* Puppy socialising classes starting from 9 weeks old - with bigger breed pups. She must not be allowed to bully any other pups.
* Socialising with older big breed adult dogs that are "bomb proof" and will discipline her without hurting her. Labradors and German Shepherds are often good at this.
* Don't leave the dogs together when you are not around - alternate territories each day.
* Step in and discipline Juno when she goes for Abby by either 1: rolling Juno over gently onto her back and holding her down gently until she calms down or 2: separating them quietly, by picking one up, and giving them a few minutes of time out from any contact with dogs or people - no shouting or smacking at all.
Karen Gray-Kilfoil
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