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    Teaching pit bulls to be nice

    MSCPA trains dogs to be upstanding members of society.

    > To listen, go to Pit bulls need a rebranding. Maligned, feared, and often in the news for the wrong reason, the strong, energetic breed can be a tough sell to dog lovers looking to adopt. Which brings us to pit bull class. Each week, trainers at the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, in Jamaica Plain, take a group of pit bulls and teach them to be upstanding members of society — how to sit, how to heel, how to listen, even how to follow orders well enough to ride a skateboard. On a recent Friday, eight trainers led six dogs (including a frisky puppy named Duchess, pictured) through drills in an open room with huge windows and a rubber floor. They used training clickers, paired with treats and praise, to reinforce good behavior, producing an ensemble of clicks, panting, mewling, a little barking, and lots of “good boy!” A trained pit bull can make a delightful pet, the MSPCA folks say, and consumer resistance has eased somewhat. Still, an unruly bichon frise might go in a day, while pit bulls might wait months for a home. The more Emily Post they know, the better their chances.

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