Your Staffordshire bull terrier may be an exuberant face kisser, but not everybody will interpret favorably his pulling, licking and rowdy jumping. Training your Staffordshire bull terrier good manners is of paramount importance if you want to prevent him from being stigmatized by an unjust stereotype.
Invest in high-value treats that make your staffy drool. Sliced hot dogs, string cheese, steak and chicken are just a few of many dogs' favorites. You may also want to try the Ferrari of all dog treats: smelly freeze-dried liver. Don't be fooled by your staffy's tough looks; this breed has quite a soft side; your gentle yet firm training methods work best.
Fill your treat bag with treats. The best treat bags are the ones that clip to your belt or go around your waist. These bags allow you to train hands-free while keeping the treats readily handy.
Find a quiet area where you can train with little distractions. You may find it difficult to get your dog's attention if he is surrounded by enticing stimuli. Skip the dog park, the yard full of squirrels or that noisy, chaotic road. Choose instead a quiet, boring room in your home where there is not much going on.
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Train your staffy to sit. Simply take one bite-size treat and bring it to your dog's nose. Got his attention? Lift the treat up and over your Staffy's head. As your dog's eyes follow the treat, his rump will plop on the floor. This training method is known as "luring." Praise your dog the moment his rump touches the floor and immediately deliver the treat. Repeat several times. Once your staffy understands the exercise, start adding the command ''sit."
Train your staffy to lie down. Simply take one bite-size treat and bring it to your dog's nose. Then slowly draw an imaginary vertical line that goes from his nose to the middle of his paws and then pull outwards toward yourself. This movement should mimic an imaginary letter ''L''. Praise your dog the moment his elbows touch the floor and immediately deliver the treat. Repeat several times. Once your staffy understands the exercise, start adding the command "lie down."
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Train your staffy to stay. Ask your staffy to sit or lie down besides you and then say "stay" while you keep the palm of your hand open, toward him. Take a step forward and walk in front of your dog with your hand still open facing the dog. Return to your previous position beside your dog, praise and immediately deliver the treat.
Find a helper to assist you in training your staffy to come when called. Work in a hallway without distractions. Have your helper hold your dog by the collar while you place yourself on the opposite side of the hallway. Bend down and call your dog. Tell your helper to release your dog. The moment your dog heads your way, begin praising; immediately deliver a treat when he reaches you. Practice this further in the yard or in a quiet outdoor area. Attaching a long leader to your dog's collar or harness will prevent him from escaping.
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Train your staffy to walk at your heel on the leash. Have your dog wear a front-attachment harness; clip the leash in the front ring. Work on loose-leash walking in your yard. Every time your dog pulls ahead, stop walking. The moment your dog looks at you, call him back next to you, praise him and deliver the treat. Make it clear that great things happen when he is in heel position next to you and that the walk abruptly stops the moment he moves ahead of you.
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Socialize your staffy as much as you can. If you own a staffy puppy, make sure he gets to encounter all kinds of people, animals and objects in different places. Ideally a puppy should meet at least 100 different people before he reaches 12 weeks of age, according veterinarian, animal behaviorist and dog trainer Ian Dunbar. While staffies are naturally inclined to shower their friends with affection and hold a particular sweet spot for children, you cannot over-practice socialization with this breed.
Enroll your staffy in classes. If you own a puppy, consider puppy classes. In these classes your puppy will learn the ABCs of basic manners and how to behave around other dogs. This breed is prone to being aggressive toward other dogs, explains trainer, breeder and author Michele Welton, so classes will help you train your dog to be under control around other dogs. Staffies should be trained through basic obedience at the least. A well-behaved staffy can do wonders to counteract anti-breed sentiment directed toward Staffordshire bull terriers and similar dogs.
- Find what best motivates your dog. Not all staffies are driven by food.
- Start training in a quiet area but gradually move on to more distracting areas.
- Fade out the lure quickly once your dog understands the exercise. Use only hand signals without the lure as you progress in training. Fade the hand signal gradually as you train your dog to respond to verbal commands only.
- Act a bit silly when your dog comes to you when called. It's OK to throw a small party.
- Remember to release your dog from a command. "OK" or "done" will work.
- Punishment-based training may increase the incidence of problem behaviors.
- Avoid using choke chains, prongs and shock collars.
- Don't fall into the trap of showing treats to get your dog to obey a command. That's bribing!
- Do not try to solve training problems or behavior issues on your own. Find a professional dog trainer or behavior specialist if you need help with your dog.
Adrienne Farricelli has been writing for magazines, books and online publications since 2005. She specializes in canine topics, previously working for the American Animal Hospital Association and receiving certification from the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers. Her articles have appeared in "USA Today," "The APDT Chronicle of the Dog" and "Every Dog Magazine." She also contributed a chapter in the book " Puppy Socialization - An Insider's Guide to Dog Behavioral Fitness" by Caryl Wolff.