The time it takes to train an English Bulldog is worth every second. Preventing problems is always easier than rectifying negative behavior. While very dog is his own person, he also has the characteristics of his breed so the first step is to take the time to know who you’re dealing with.
Who is He?
He’s English because the breed originated in the British Isles. He’s Bull because his ancestors were used to bait bulls so they had to be ferocious and courageous. When the practice became illegal, fanciers bred out ferocious tendencies and within a few generations ended up with what the American Kennel Club calls “one of the finest physical specimens with an agreeable temperament.”
What Should You Know about Him?
Because he’s fiercely loyal, he’s a great family dog, not only intelligent but intuitive and responsive to your mood. For this reason it’s important to always train him from a positive frame of mind. But since he can also be stubborn and a bit headstrong, this involves a bit of a balancing act. Be positive and kind but let him know he’s not the alpha dog, you are.
A word of caution is called for when training English Bulldogs. Like other flat faced short-nosed dogs, they are prone to overheating. Keep this in mind and always be prepared to stop and rest in a shady, cool spot.
Commands should be taught one at a time. Wait until one is mastered before introducing the next. This is a process, after all. Speak with command and assurance. A high-pitched loud voice will serve to excite him or mislead him into thinking it’s playtime.
Sit. This command serves many purposes – from teaching patience to discouraging an overly-exuberant interest in visitors. Push his rump gently into a sitting position as you command sit. Feed him a treat. Repeat. Gradually withhold the treat
Come. This command is necessary to retreat from a dangerous situation. Start indoors with the leash on. Step away while holding the leash. Encourage him in an upbeat tone to come to you. Tug on the leash. Reward him with hugs, pats and good boys! Repeat until tugging is no longer necessary.
Leave it. Dogs are scavengers. They will eat everything they find from gourmet to garbage. Teaching leave it can prevent him from ingesting something that will make him sick. Stand over him and drop a treat on the floor. When he approaches it and shows interest. Command leave it and give him an even better treat. Over time, alternate treat and treatless commands until he responds solely to the command.
Heel. Given his muscular build and strength, proper walking techniques are crucial. Strive to be alpha dog. Hold the leash firmly in one hand, loop encircling your thumb. With the other hand exert pressure on the leash and command heel. If he doesn’t, reverse directions. For some reason, dogs naturally heel when you do this. Reverse once again and continue in the original direction. Repeat until you are alpha dog. This a tough one, but vital that it be taught early on before he gets too strong.
English Bulldogs raised without contact with other dogs can become aggressive. Once you’ve established the basics, enroll him in obedience school. Not only will classes provide pointers for you, they will strengthen the bond between the two of you. After all, isn’t that what having a dog is all about?