Some Dog Obedience Training Tips to Help a Pit Mix Learn to Stop Nipping

By: David Codr

Published Date: January 24, 2017

Penny is a five-year-old Pit Bull mix who lives in West Omaha. Her guardian set up a dog behavior help session with me to stop nipping people who move quickly, anxiety around new men and reactivity to male guests at her home.

Because of her reactiveness, Penny’s guardian had gotten into habit of having her in the kennel when new guests arrived so she didn’t greet me at the door. That didn’t stop her from communicating that she was not pleased someone new had arrived.

I used soft body language when I arrived to try to help Penny feel less threatened by my arrival.

Because dogs meet by scent first, I was hoping that my approach would help her get to know me and help her settle down. You will notice I also used some positive reinforcement by offering her some high value treats when she mellowed out a bit in the kennel.

I asked Penny’s guardian to not try to placate or disagree with her kennel outbursts while I sat on the floor by her kennel. I was hoping to get the dog to calm down on its own and then let her out with a more balanced energy. But after several minutes, Penny was still agitated so I suggested we head into the living room to discuss her daily life and structure while giving her a chance to settle down.

I made a number of small suggestions to Penny’s day to day routine and how the guardian interacts with her. Her dog bed was right under a giant window that looked out over the front yard and this likely confused Penny into thinking one of her jobs was security. If a dog thinks its in an authority position like that, it feels its their job to disagree with passers by; something Penny did with vigor.

By moving the dog bed away from the window, and disagreeing with Penny nonverbally by standing up and getting between her and the window and moving her away by claiming that area, her guardian will be able to help Penny give up that job.

By this time Penny had settled down so I went over a more structured way of letting the dog out of the kennel. If you let an excited dog race out of the kennel, that energy is going to continue or increase. Its important to remember excited is not happy, its simply an unbalanced state of mind.

By only starting to open the door when the dog is completely calm, and aborting the process when the dog starts to get excited, we can help the dog understand that the only way they will get out is by being calm.

It took a few minutes but the guardian was able to let her out of the kennel in a calm and structured way and she was able to meet me without incident.

Once she was out Penny gave me some good sniffs then started to investigate my bag and move around the room. She also got right up in her guardian’s personal space, nudging and pushing her way where she wanted to go.

This gave us an opportunity for me to teach Penny’s guardian how to use body language and the non verbal communication cues to disagree with this behavior and teach her to respect personal space.

Penny’s guardian can use this same method to back her off any time she gets too nosy or somewhere she is not supposed to be. Nothing wrong with a dog next to or leaning on you from time to time. But if its all the time or the dog ads pressure, they are attempting to control or dominate and this is a behavior the guardian will need to disagree with.

Next I suggested that the guardian start to look for ways to delay rewarding her or giving her what she wants. Asking a dog to wait for things they are excited about is a great way to help them develop self control while simultaneously reinforcing a healthy leader follower dynamic between human and dog.

Another suggestion was the start Petting Penny with a purpose. This is a great way to adjust a leader follower dynamic as the dog shifts its thinking from telling the human what to do (pet me by nudging or pawing at her) to asking for attention by sitting or laying down calming in front of the human.

While changing the leader follower dynamic will go a long ways toward eliminating Penny’s nipping I knew I needed to come up with some ways to help her stop feeling threatened or confronted by visitors.

I look for ways to add positive dog training into these sort of situations and in Penny’s case, I thought making the greeting ritual into a sort of game could help lighten the mood and help her start to see arriving guests as a good thing.

Now this treat-tossing game should not start until Penny has calmed down. Anytime we pet or reward a dog, they see the action as rewarding them for whatever they are doing at the time. So waiting for Penny to calm down first is very important, otherwise the guardian and guest will be sending a mixed message.

While we made good progress, much of the work will need to be done by the guardian to help Penny move into a follower’s mindset. Once that is the case, I recommended the guardian call us to set up a dog training session with my apprentice Tara.

Training Penny to walk in a heel position, stay until released and other forms of obedience training will help Penny continue her journey into becoming a friendly dog.


  • Increase Penny’s exercise, especially early in the day.
  • Put Penny into a position to succeed in meeting new men by getting her a good amount of exercise an hour or more before they arrive.
  • Pet Penny with a purpose.
  • Look for opportunities to have Penny sit and wait calmly before getting what she wants.
  • Use the non verbal communication cues to disagree with any unwanted behaviors, preferably before she gets excited.
  • Make an effort to correct or reward Penny within 3 seconds to help her better understand what we are trying to communicate to her.
  • Use passive training to reward Penny for engaging in desired behaviors and say the command word the same time we start to pet (Sit, Come, Lay down).
  • Avoid using multiple command words for the same action (come, her, come-here, over here, whistle, thigh slap) to help Penny better recognize and respond to the designated command word.
  • Arrange for male guests to come over to practice the new greeting and treat catching game (Calm men who are not fast movers or loud talkers).
  • Do not let Penny bark, get excited or act aggressively at the window. Guardian needs to immediately get up to disagree and move Penny away to help her settle down.
  • Once the techniques introduced in the session are mastered, guardian should call to set up a dog obedience training session to continue Penny’s rehabilitation.
  • Do not let Penny get within 7 feet of anyone eating.
  • Ask Penny to wait for permission to eat food and only give it after she watches the humans eat first.
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This post was written by: David Codr

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