Posts Tagged “English Bulldog Training”
While your English Bulldog puppy’s mother and breeder are getting her started on good house-training habits, you’ll need to do some shopping. If you have all the essentials in place before your dog arrives, it will be easier to help her learn the rules from day
Newspaper: The younger your Bulldog puppy and larger her breed, the more newspapers you’ll need. Newspaper is absorbent, abundant, cheap, and convenient.
Puddle Pads: If you prefer not to stockpile newspaper, a commercial alternative is puddle pads. These thick paper pads can be purchased under several trade names at pet supply stores. The pads have waterproof backing, so puppy urine doesn’t seep through onto the floor. Their disadvantages are that they will cost you more than newspapers and that they contain plastics that are not biodegradable.
Poop Removal Tool: There are several types of poop removal tools avail-able. Some are designed with a separate pan and rake, and others have the handles hinged like scissors. Some scoops need two hands for operation, while others are designed for one-handed use. Try out the different brands at your pet supply store. Put a handful of pebbles or dog kibble on the floor and then pick them up with each type of scoop to determine which works best for you.
Plastic Bags: When you take your English Bulldog outside your yard, you must pick up after her. Dog waste is unsightly, smelly, and can harbor disease. In many cities and towns, the law mandates dog owners clean up pet waste deposited on public ground. Picking up after your dog using a plastic bag scoop is simple. Just put your hand inside the bag, like a mitten, and then grab the droppings. Turn the bag inside out, tie the top, and that’s that.
Crate: To housetrain a puppy, you will need some way to confine her when you’re unable to supervise. A dog crate is a secure way to confine your dog for short periods during the day and to use as a comfortable bed at night. Crates come in wire mesh and in plastic. The wire ones are fold-able to store flat in a smaller space. The plastic ones are more cozy, draft-free, and quiet, and are approved for airline travel.
Baby Gates: Since you shouldn’t crate a dog for more than an hour or two at a time during the day, baby gates are a good way to limit your dog’s freedom in the house. Be sure the baby gates you use are safe. The old-fashioned wooden, expanding lattice type has seriously injured a number of children by collapsing and trapping a leg, arm, or neck. That type of gate can hurt a puppy, too, so use the modern grid type gates instead. You’ll need more than one baby gate if you have several doorways to close off.
Exercise Pen: Portable exercise pens are great when you have a young pup or a small dog. These metal or plastic pens are made of rectangular panels that are hinged together. The pens are freestanding, sturdy, foldable, and can be carried like a suitcase. You could set one up in your kitchen as the pup’s daytime corral, and then take it outdoors to contain your pup while you garden or just sit and enjoy the day.
Enzymatic Cleaner: All English Bulldogs make housetraining mistakes. Accept this and be ready for it by buying an enzymatic cleaner made especially for pet accidents. Dogs like to eliminate where they have done it before, and lingering smells lead them to those spots. Ordinary household cleaners may remove all the odors you can smell, but only an enzymatic cleaner will remove everything your dog can smell.
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Never punish your English Bulldog for failing to obey you or try to punish him into compliance. Bribing, repeating yourself, and doing a behavior for him all avoid the real issue of dog training – his will. He must be helped to be willing, not made to achieve tasks. Good Bulldog training helps your dog want to obey. He learns that he can gain what he values most through cooperation and compliance, and can’t gain those things any other way.
Your Bulldog is learning to earn, rather than expect, the good things in life. And you’ve become much more important to him than you were before. Because you are allowing him to experiment and learn, he doesn’t have to be forced, manipulated, or bribed. When he wants something, he can gain it by cooperating with you. One of those “somethings” – and a great reward you shouldn’t underestimate – is your positive attention, paid to him with love and sincere approval!
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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.”
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Many English Bulldog owners wonder if they can retain control while walking their dogs and still allow at least some running in front, sniffing, and playing. You might worry that allowing your dog occasional freedom could result in him expecting it all the time, leading to a testy, leash-straining walk. It’s possible for both parties on the leash to have an enjoyable experience by implementing and reinforcing well-thought-out training techniques.
Begin by making word associations you’ll use on your walks. Give the Bulldog some slack on the leash, and as he starts to walk away from you say “OK” and begin to follow him.
Do not let him drag you; set the pace even when he is being given a turn at being the leader. Whenever he starts to pull, just come to a standstill and refuse to move (or refuse to allow him to continue forward) until there is slack in the leash. Do this correction without saying anything at all. When he isn’t pulling, you may decide to just stand still and let him sniff about within the range the slack leash allows, or you may even mosey along following him. After a few minutes of “recess”, it is time to work. Say something like “that’s it” or “time’s up,” close the distance between you and your dog, and touch him.
Next say “let’s go” (or whatever command you want to use to mean “follow me as we walk”). Turn and walk off, and, if he follows, mark his behavior with “good!” Then stop, squat down, and let him catch you. Make him glad he did! Start again, and do a few transitions as he gets the hang of your follow-the-leader game, speeding up, slowing down, and trying to make it fun. When you stop, he gets to catch up and receive some deserved positive reinforcement. Don’t forget that’s the reason he is following you, so be sure to make it worth his while!
Require him to remain attentive to you. Do not allow sniffing, playing, eliminating, or pulling during your time as leader on a walk. If he seems to get distracted – which, by the way, is the main reason dogs walk poorly with their people – change direction or pace without saying a word. Just help him realize “oops, I lost track of my human”. Do not jerk his neck and say “heel” – this will make the word “heel” mean pain in the neck and will not encourage him to cooperate with you. Don’t repeat “let’s go,” either. He needs to figure out that it is his job to keep track of and follow you if he wants to earn the positive benefits you provide. The best reward you can give a dog for performing an attentive, controlled walk is a few minutes of walking without all of the controls. Of course, he must remain on a leash even during the “recess” parts of the walk, but allowing him to discriminate between attentive following – “let’s go” – and having a few moments of relaxation – “OK” – will increase his willingness to work.
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“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.
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Teach your English Bulldog an important new rule: From now on, he is only touched and petted when he is either sitting or lying down. You won’t need to ask him to sit; in fact, you should not. Just keep him tethered near you so there isn’t much to do but stand, be ignored, or settle, and wait until sit happens.
He may pester you a bit, but be stoic and unresponsive. Starting now, when you are sitting down, a sitting dog is the only one you see and pay attention to. He will eventually sit, and as he does, attach the word “sit” – but don’t be too excited or he’ll jump right back up. Now mark with your positive sound that promises something good, then reward him with a slow, quiet, settling pet.
Training requires consistent reinforcement. Ask others to also wait until your Bulldog is sitting and calm to touch him, and he will associate being petted with being relaxed. Be sure you train your dog to associate everyone’s touch with quiet bonding.
Reinforcing “Sit” as a Command
Since your English Bulldog now understands one concept of working for a living – sit to earn petting – you can begin to shape and reinforce his desire to sit. Hold toys, treats, his bowl of food, and turn into a statue. But don’t prompt him to sit! Instead, remain frozen and unavailable, looking somewhere out into space, over his head. He will put on a bit of a show, trying to get a response from you, and may offer various behaviors, but only one will push your button – sitting. Wait for him to offer the “right” behavior, and when he does, you unfreeze. Say “sit,” then mark with an excited “good!” and give him the toy or treat with a release command – “OK!”
When you notice spontaneous sits occurring, be sure to take advantage of those free opportunities to make your command sequence meaningful and positive. Say “sit” as you observe sit happen – then mark with “good!” and praise, pet, or reward the dog. Soon, every time you look at your dog he’ll be sitting and looking right back at you!
Now, after thirty days of purely positive practice, it’s time to give him a test. When he is just walking around doing his own thing, suddenly ask him to sit. He’ll probably do it right away. If he doesn’t, do not repeat your command, or you’ll just undermine its meaning (“sit” means sit now; the command is not “sit, sit, sit, sit”). Instead, get something he likes and let him know you have it. Wait for him to offer the sit – he will – then say “sit!” and complete your marking and rewarding sequence.
“OK” will probably rate as one of your dog’s favorite words. It’s like the word “recess” to schoolchildren. It is the word used to release your dog from a command. You can introduce “OK” during your “sit” practice. When he gets up from a sit, say “OK” to tell him the sitting is finished. Soon that sound will mean “freedom”.
Make it even more meaningful and positive. Whenever he spontaneously bounds away, say “OK!” Squeak a toy, and when he notices and shows interest, toss it for him.
I’ve mentioned that you should only pet your English Bulldog when he is either sitting or lying down. Now, using the approach I’ve just introduced for “sit,” teach your dog to lie down. You will be a statue, and hold something he would like to get but that you’ll only release to a dog who is lying down. It helps to lower the desired item to the floor in front of him, still not speaking and not letting him have it until he offers you the new behavior you are seeking.
He may offer a sit and then wait expectantly, but you must make him keep searching for the new trick that triggers your generosity. Allow your Bulldog to experiment and find the right answer, even if he has to search around for it first. When he lands on “down” and learns it is another behavior that works, he’ll offer it more quickly the next time.
Don’t say “down” until he lies down, to tightly associate your prompt with the correct behavior. To say “down, down, down” as he is sitting, looking at you, or pawing at the toy would make “down” mean those behaviors instead! Whichever behavior he offers, a training opportunity has been created. Once you’ve attached and shaped both sitting and lying down, you can ask for both behaviors with your verbal prompts, “sit” or “down.” Be sure to only reinforce the “correct” reply!
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