“Stay” can easily be taught as an extension of what you’ve already been practicing. To teach “stay,” you follow the entire sequence for reinforcing a “sit” or “down,” except you wait a bit longer before you give the release word, “OK!” Wait a second or two longer during each practice before saying “OK!” and releasing your dog to the positive reinforcer (toy, treat, or one of life’s other rewards).
If he gets up before you’ve said “OK,” you have two choices: pretend the release was your idea and quickly interject “OK!” as he breaks; or, if he is more experienced and practiced, mark the behavior with your correction sound – “eh!” – and then gently put him back on the spot, wait for him to lie down, and begin again. Be sure the next three practices are a success. Ask him to wait for just a second, and release him before he can be wrong. You need to keep your English Bulldog feeling like more of a success than a failure as you begin to test his training in increasingly more distracting and difficult situations.
As he gets the hang of it – he stays until you say “OK” – you can gradually push for longer times – up to a minute on a sit-stay and up to three minutes on a down-stay. You can also gradually add distractions and work in new environments. To add a minor self-correction for the down-stay, stand on the dog’s leash after he lies down, allowing about three inches of slack. If he tries to get up before you’ve said “OK,” he’ll discover it doesn’t work.
Do not step on the leash to make your dog lie down! This could badly hurt his neck, and will destroy his trust in you. Remember, we are teaching our dogs to make the best choices, not inflicting our answers upon them!
Rather than thinking of “come” as an action – “come to me” – think of it as a place – “the English Bulldog is sitting in front of me, facing me.” Since your Bulldog by now really likes sitting to earn your touch and other positive reinforcement, he’s likely to sometimes sit directly in front of you, facing you, all on his own. When this happens, give it a specific name: “come”.
Now follow the rest of the training steps you have learned to make him like doing it and reinforce the behavior by practicing it any chance you get. Anything your dog wants and likes could be earned as a result of his first offering the sit-in-front known as “come.”
You can help guide him into the right location. Use your hands as “landing gear” and pat the insides of your legs at his nose level. Do this while backing up a bit, to help him maneuver to the straight-in-front, facing-you position. Don’t say the word “come” while he’s maneuvering, because he hasn’t! You are trying to make “come” the end result, not the work in progress.
You can also help your English Bulldog by marking his movement in the right direction: Use your positive sound or word to promise he is getting warm. When he finally sits facing you, enthusiastically say “come,” mark again with your positive word, and release him with an enthusiastic “OK!” Make it so worth his while, with lots of play and praise, that he can’t wait for you to ask him to come again!
Building a Better Recall
Practice, practice, practice. Now, practice some more. Teach your Bulldog that all good things in life hinge upon him first sitting in front of you in a behavior named “come”. When you think he really has got it, test him by asking him to “come” as you gradually add distractions and change locations. Expect setbacks as you make these changes and practice accordingly. Lower your expectations and make his task easier so he is able to get it right. Use those distractions as rewards, when they are appropriate. For example, let him check out the interesting leaf that blew by as a reward for first coming to you and ignoring it.
Add distance and call your English Bulldog to come while he is on his retractable leash. If he refuses and sits looking at you blankly, do not jerk, tug, “pop,” or reel him in. Do nothing! It is his move; wait to see what behavior he offers. He’ll either begin to approach (mark the behavior with an excited “good!”), sit and do nothing (just keep waiting), or he’ll try to move in some direction other than toward you. If he tries to leave, use your correction marker – “eh!” – and bring him to a stop by letting him walk to the end of the leash, not by jerking him. Now walk to him in a neutral manner, and don’t jerk or show any disapproval. Gently bring him back to the spot where he was when you called him, then back away and face him, still waiting and not reissuing your command. Let him keep examining his options until he finds the one that works – yours!
If you have practiced everything I’ve suggested so far and given your dog a chance to really learn what “come” means, he is well aware of what you want and is quite intelligently weighing all his options. The only way he’ll know your way is the one that works is to be allowed to examine his other choices and discover that they don’t work.
Sooner or later every English Bulldog tests his training. Don’t be offended or angry when your dog tests you. No matter how positive you’ve made it, he won’t always want to do everything you ask, every time. When he explores the “what happens if I don’t” scenario, your training is being strengthened. He will discover through his own process of trial and error that the best – and only – way out of a command he really doesn’t feel compelled to obey is to obey it.