Your English Bulldog pretty much has a one-track mind. Once he is focused on something, everything else is excluded. This can be great, for instance, when he’s focusing on you! But it can also be dangerous if, for example, his attention is riveted on the bunny he is chasing and he does not hear you call – that is, not unless he has been trained to pay attention when you say his name.
When you call your dog’s name, you will again be seeking a specific response – eye contact. The best way to teach this is to trigger his alerting response by making a noise with your mouth, such as whistling or a kissing sound, and then immediately doing something he’ll find very intriguing.
You can play a treasure hunt game to help teach him to regard his name as a request for attention. As a bonus, you can reinforce the rest of his new vocabulary at the same time.
Make a kissing sound, then jump up and find a dog toy or dramatically raid the fridge and rather noisily eat a piece of cheese. After doing this twice, make a kissing sound and then look at your Bulldog.
Of course he is looking at you! He is waiting to see if that sound – the kissing sound – means you’re going to go hunting again. After all, you’re so good at it! Because he is looking, say his name, mark with “good,” then go hunting and find his toy. Release it to him with an “OK.” At any point if he follows you, attach your “let’s go!” command; if he leaves you, give permission with “OK.”
Using this approach, he cannot be wrong – any behavior your dog offers can be named. You can add things like “take it” when he picks up a toy, and “thank you” when he happens to drop one. Many opportunities to make your new vocabulary meaningful and positive can be found within this simple training game.
Problems to watch out for when teaching the treasure hunt:
- You really do not want your English Bulldog to come to you when you call his name (later, when you try to engage his attention to ask him to stay, he’ll already be on his way toward you). You just want him to look at you.
- Saying “watch me, watch me” doesn’t teach your English Bulldog to offer his attention. It just makes you a background noise.
- Don’t lure your dog’s attention with the reward. Get his attention and then reward him for looking. Try holding a toy in one hand with your arm stretched out to your side. Wait until he looks at you rather than the toy. Now say his name then mark with “good!” and release the toy. As he goes for it, say “OK.”