Border Collies playing with Pit Bull puppy.

Border Collies playing with Pit Bull puppy.

Yesterday I let my dogs play with a Pit bull puppy. I got some reaction from different people regarding this. “Why would you want to do that, they are bred not to like dogs” to “I thought you don’t like Pit bulls”. Will I ever get a Pit bull myself?  Probably not. And the reason is not that I do not like them, they are just not the right type of dog for my lifestyle. Is owning a Pit Bull any different from owning a Border Collie? Yes and no. Yes they are different in what they were selected for, but so are Border Collies. The difference is that every dog were bred for some kind of function and that is the main difference. Will a Pit Bull ever be able to do what a Border Collie does? Some of the things for sure, but will they ever be as good as a Border Collie in dog Agility for example? Definitely not.

Having said that, why do I use my Border Collies to play with a Pit Bull puppy? I think to explain it well I will have to use the words of Dr Ian Dunbar. If somebody phones or text me regarding any dog, the first question is “are you thinking of getting a puppy or do you already have a puppy.”? In other words am I dealing with a prospect or a product? If it is a prospect then education about nature can start. Explanations on genotypes and temperaments etc. Unfortunately that does not happen often. Most people contacting us already have the puppy. So now what? Well, nature has done its duty. We cannot change nature in any way. The puppy has been born and that is where nature stops. The genes bred into the puppy are permanent. So now what?

Well, we have a few choices. We can keep the puppy separate from the world and hope for the best, but probably not a good idea for any dog. We can get a huge fright and put it to sleep. That is not even an option as the new owners most probably has already bonded with the little puppy. So what is left?

Socialization. Nature has done it job so now nurture is all we have left. Nurture however will never change nature, it can just help the dog cope better. So with any dog actually, the critical period of socialization is often overlooked. That is a brief window of time in a dog’s life around 3 weeks to 12 weeks of age (breed dependent), when you should introduce him to anything and everything you want him to cope with as an adult dog. Socialization is also not just exposure. It is about interacting with different people, animals, bicycles, cars, washing machines and all you can think of that he will have to cope with as an adult dog. Let him play with other dogs, children, men, woman as much as you can. You should however also not force anything on him, but let him explore and interact at his own pace, as long it is always a positive experience.

Will socialization make my Pit Bull act like a Border Collie. NO!!! It will help him tolerate a little bit more but you must still keep in mind what the dog was selected for. These dogs should be very highly tolerant towards people unless they were bred from parents with a wrong temperament.  That is genetically imprinted in these dogs so will it ever be 100% safe to keep him with other dogs as an adult? Probably not. Owning a Pit Bull should be a lifestyle and owners must realize that. ANY dog can bite yes, my Border Collies nips me all the time, and I have been bitten many times while breaking up dog fights. The difference is these dogs are extremely strong and can do serious damage, much more than my Collies will ever be capable of. A grown man or other dog stands no chance against an attack from one of these dogs.

So why do I let my Border Collies play with the Pit Bull puppies? It’s easy. Just to give him the best possible beginning to his life and to set him up for success. What happens in this small time frame has an effect on the rest of his life.

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Eden K9 Abilties

George van Huyssteen (DipCABT)
Practitioner Member CAPBT International
Garden Route, South Africa


Petra du Toit (CPDT-KA)
SABCAP Companion Animal Behaviorist (AB/013)
SABCAP Dog Training Professional (DT/015)