Bully Breed Training 101

posted: 05/15/12
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When you adopt a bully breed dog, you might find yourself defending it against some negative stereotypes about bad behavior or aggression. For this reason, it's important to start training your new bully as soon as you bring him home. The last thing you want is your dog jumping on a neighbor or nipping at another canine, reinforcing any wrong notions your friends might already have. To ensure you and your dog get off on the right foot, find out how to get started teaching basic pet-iquette, and learn when it might be time to enlist a professional.

Getting Started

Before you begin, make sure to set yourself up for success by finding the right location and tools to train your bully safely. You should make sure your dog has a collar and leash that fit comfortably and allow you to control him if needed. Bullies are stout breeds, so look for leashes made of a strong material that won't break and will allow you maximum control. Many experts, including dog trainer Victoria Stilwell, are against prong, shock or choke collars, and instead recommend head collars like the Gentle Leader for bully breeds. These collars will allow for more control without hurting your dog. You should always keep your dog leashed when training in a public place and try to find a distraction-free zone where other animals aren't likely to catch your trainee's attention.

The Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) recommends learning what motivates your dog. Rewarded behaviors are most likely to be repeated, so if you can figure out what motivates your dog, you will unlock the key to positive training. Some dogs respond to food rewards while others like toys or praise. Experiment with your bully until you find the right reward, and then you can really begin working on commands and correcting any behavioral problems. Start with teaching basic movement commands such as "sit," "stay" and "come." Bully breeds are extremely intelligent and should master these commands easily.

Continuing Education

The general belief is that puppies are easier to train because they have a clean slate to work with. While this might be true, the old adage "you can't teach an old dog new tricks" is not. You can teach an adult dog how to behave around others and to follow basic commands. In fact, some adult dogs might be easier to train, since they may be calmer and more settled than puppies.

Remember, regardless of your bully dog's age, consistency is key. Just because your dog has learned a command doesn't mean you can stop reinforcing it. Continue to expect the best behavior out of your pooch and praise him or her for following your instructions. Once he's mastered the basics, consider signing up for the American Kennel Club's Canine Good Citizen (CGC) program. This program is perfect for bully breeds as they generally excel at obedience, plus many insurance policies will give a discount on liability policies if your bully is certified as a CGC.

Accepting Advice and Assistance

You might know more about your dog's history if you purchase him from a breeder, but adopted bullies don't always have a violent history, as some people believe. Most shelters will have conducted temperament testing to see how your dog will respond to stimuli such as food, other pets and strangers, which will give you a head start in working with your new dog. Plus, adopted bullies who have experienced neglect or dominant training techniques might be very eager to please a new owner who takes a gentler training approach.

However, if your dog exhibits behavioral problems or has a history that's affecting his level of learning, it might be a good idea to consult a professional dog trainer. Look for one who has worked with bully breeds in the past and believes in positive training methods. Get recommendations from friends, and don't be shy about asking any potential trainers how they feel about bully breeds before you hire them. Whether you enlist the help of a pro or decide on a do-it-yourself approach, consistent and positive training will help ensure you and your bully enjoy a happy and long life together.

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