While English bulldogs can be affectionate, loving companions, they are also notoriously stubborn and difficult to train. Some owners result to coercive and punitive measures, but these training techniques are cruel and ineffective. You can teach your bulldog to do almost anything using reward-based methods.
Teach your dog to associate the sound of a training clicker with a reward. Training clickers are highly effective tools that help you "mark" a good behavior, ensuring your dog knows he's done the right thing even if it takes you a minute to give him a treat. Click the training clicker and give your dog a treat immediately after she obeys the command. Repeat this exercise two to three times per day every day for a week. When your dog begins looking for a treat immediately after you click the clicker, you have established an association.
Shape your dog's behavior by saying a command when he spontaneously does the behavior. For example, if you want to teach your dog to sit, say "sit" immediately after he sits. Then click the training clicker and give the dog a treat. This helps your dog to learn the meaning of commands, and makes it easier to practice the commands. It can take anywhere from 10 to 100 repetitions of a command for your dog to learn its meaning, so practice the shaping exercise frequently for several weeks.
Give your dog the command you are attempting to teach him. Say "sit" and then wait for your dog to sit. When he does, click the training clicker and give him a treat. Practice tricks in low-stress environments with few distractions for two to three weeks.
Give your dog the command in higher-stress environments such as parks with people nearby. Many dogs struggle with obeying commands when there are many distractions, so progressively add more distractions over the course of several weeks or months. Always reward your dog for following the command.
Begin using a schedule of intermittent reinforcement as your dog begins to reliably use the command. Reward him sometimes but not others. Dogs who are rewarded every time they follow a command they know learn that they only have to follow the command when they want a reward. However, dogs who don't know if they'll be rewarded this time or next time have a much stronger incentive to obey the command.
- Dog Breed Info Center: Bulldog
- American Kennel Club: AKC Meet the Breeds: Bulldog
- The Power of Positive Dog Training; Pat Miller
- Never punish your dog for ignoring a command. Instead, simply ignore him for 5 to 10 seconds and then try again.
Brenna Davis is a professional writer who covers parenting, pets, health and legal topics. Her articles have appeared in a variety of newspapers and magazines as well as on websites. She is a court-appointed special advocate and is certified in crisis counseling and child and infant nutrition. She holds degrees in developmental psychology and philosophy from Georgia State University.