So you finally get your working prospect home and want to put him right on track to the discipline of your choice. Since it’s obedience and FR where I’ve won championships at, my focus will be on guiding your perspectives toward these two. The first thing to keep in mind is that although our breed is a very intelligent one, they are NOT shepherds! Their drives, desire to please, motivation, temperament and attitude are different than the non-fighting breeds.
So the next step is to find a trainer. It’ll be imperative to find one who has experience, knowledge and understanding of the intrinsic qualities of the APBT (this is so because the majority of breeds that compete in working dog trials are shepherds and their trainers might try to train APBTs as if they were some type of shepherds, which as we all know, is a huge mistake). Since this is a working dog forum and the idea is to promote working APBTs, finding a trainer isn’t as hard as it might seem. Understand that almost ALL TRAINERS will say THEY are the best. So, with that in mind, it’s as simple as going to their record. Choose one who has at least trained and titled an APBT in your area of interest. Since Pit Bulls in Ringsports are so scarce, you can go with the many who have competed successfully in PPD trials.
From the get go, you should work on the basics of socializing, environmentalizing and imprinting your pup. Keep one thing in mind! Although Pit Bulls are very “forgiving” animals (they can bounce back from bad training better than your average shepherd) NO TRAINING IS BETTER THAN BAD TRAINING!!! It’s better to go slowly and good than to rush through steps that could cost you dearly in the near or far future. Set your goals, develop your working plan with the proper adjustments to achieve them progressively.
Your dog’s learning curve should go upwards steadily with some sessions that aren’t so positive. If you have strings of negative training sessions, that a big, huge red flag right there. Stop and adjust the working plan until you get positive results again. Sometimes during the course of your training you’ll reach a plateau. Your dog might seem to be losing interest or might give the illusion of suddenly not knowing or remembering simple commands. This is your cue for giving him a little vacation.
The goal is to trial. Personally I see no use of training a dog (especially if you’re a trainer), and spend all that time, effort and energy into something frivolously. Now, there are people who go to dog training clubs who don’t care about training and titles. Their main interest is hanging out with dog people. And that’s OK! We’re not talking about them. The trial is the practical test of your training. It’s your evaluation on your work and a very important tool to advance your program. This will tell you where the holes in your training are and where you have to make adjustments in your working plan.
Since the physical and training preparation for a competing dog is extensive and very detailed, I won’t address it in this article. But the PROOF OF GOOD TRAINING IS THE DOG'S PROGRESS IN EXECUTION. By this I mean that a dog should have a steady progress and better showings with each successive trials he competes at. Just the same as young male Lions get better and better at hunting until they finally make a kill, your dog should also get better and better at trials. Until you get to the ultimate ….. the championship!
Last but not least, and I just can’t stress it enough …. It’s the road to the title the fun part of training. If you and your dog aren’t having fun at it, most likely your relationship with your dog will be fractured. Bond between you and your dog is ultra important so please don’t take it lightly. Once you’ve mastered positive training methods, you’ll have not only a willing and happy worker, you’ll have a loving teammate instead of just another canine. Happy training!