Pet Lady Article
Q: I have a one-year-old pit bull who is head-butting everything. He’s discovered if he head-butts something hard enough it moves. He started head-butting the refrigerator to get the box of biscuits to fall down, and he head-butts our other dog to move her out of the way. If I’m walking in front of him, he head-butts my knees and has almost knocked me down a few times. Why is he doing this all of a sudden? The behavior just started.
A: It sounds like your dog is beginning to assert himself to get his way. This controlling behavior can become a serious problem if you don’t get a handle on it now. If you have not already neutered him, I strongly urge you to do so. Neutering can help reduce some of his need to control. Your dog also needs a strong leader who can show him the rules. Leadership does not mean you have to scruff your dog and take him to the ground—good luck doing that and winning with a pit! Instead you need to show him that you will not tolerate this behavior and show him the behavior you do want. He needs to be fitted with a head halter to direct his head to the side when he starts to head butt. The leash attaches to the loop under the chin and when he starts to head butt, his head will turn to the side. Let the leash do the work, don’t jerk on the head halter. When the dog stops and backs up, puzzled at his unsuccessful attempt, praise him profusely. Ask him for a sit and give him a treat. An obedience class would be a good idea for this guy so you can teach him some basic skills of wait, sit, down, stay, come and walk on a loose leash. A wait command as you walk down the hall first will teach him that he is not to knock you over. He must learn to wait at the door until you ask him to go through as well. Place him in a sit at the door with a leash attached. Start to open the door. If he moves, block his movement and repeat “Wait.” Keep repeating these steps as you begin to open the door more and more, closing the door every time he tries to go out on his own. After numerous repetition, he will soon learn that charging out the door gets him nothing, waiting gets him what he wants—to go outside. I’m sure there are other aspects where your dog is demonstrating demanding behavior, i.e. nosing at your hand to be petted. These attempts to control must be ignored. When he behaves in a desired way, be sure to praise him enthusiastically. Be a patient, consistent, and loving leader and your dog will soon learn to be a little less head-strong and look to you for guidance in his life.