Your English bulldog's bullheaded attitude may be caused by the wrong approach to training. In order to cater to Mister Al Capone's stubborn traits, you'll need to figure out how to motivate him and make training extra worthy. Some tweaks here and there can change how your favorite breed responds.
Employ gentle, positive training techniques. Despite cartoons depicting English bulldogs as ferocious beings, in reality they're actually mellow fellows -- and quite sensitive, too. Yes, they do have a stubborn streak, but you can work on this by rewarding behaviors you like so he'll feel more motivated and compelled to repeat them. Getting mad, frustrated and impatient won't cut it with this breed. They will only make matters worse.
Determine what types of treats activate your bulldog. You want lip-smacking high-value treats that make him drool on sight. Be careful though; this breed has a tendency for gaining weight easily. If you don't want to lose him in folds of wrinkled skin and fat, you'll have to closely monitor his food intake and provide daily walks to keep him in shape.
Use the treat to train your bulldog through luring. For a Sit, simply hold the treat, let him sniff it and then move it from his nose back towards the head. As he follows the treat, his noise will point up and his rump should automatically touch the floor. Praise and immediately reward. For a Down, bring the treat to his nose and design an imaginary letter "L" bringing the treat downwards from his nose to the middle of his paws and then pulling outwards. As he follows the treat, he'll move downwards and his armpits will touch the floor. Praise and immediately reward.
Remove the treat from the picture as soon as he understands the exercise. If you fail to do this soon enough, you'll have a bulldog who will go on strike unless he sees a treat. Keep the treats in your pocket and continue using your hand movements as before for the Sit and Down commands -- only this time you won't have the treat in your hand. Your bulldog should still follow your hand as if the treat was there. Then praise and give the treat after he has completed the exercise, eliminating the treat altogether ultimately.
Keep your training sessions brief and sweet: 10 minutes tops, five may be all you can do with this breed. By nature, English bulldogs are phlegmatic coach potatoes to start with; don't be surprised when you hear that they don't do well with tedious training sessions that last forever. Short and fun sessions will keep his interest alive and motivation in high gear. Make sure you always end your session on a positive note so you'll leave him asking for more. He'll come to delight in the sessions.
Be patient and understanding. While Al Capone may never be the ultimate obedience-trial star, consider that once he learns something, he'll likely never forget it. If you ever feel like he's testing your patience, ask him a behavior he knows well, throw a party and end it there. You can resume later, when you'll be calmer and he hopefully responds better. In the meanwhile, it won't hurt if you evaluate your training method. Perhaps you were asking too much and need to break down the exercise into smaller, attainable steps.
- Always praise and reward your bulldog for any signs of improvement.
- To control your bulldog's intake of calories, break up treats in very small pieces.
- Make sure you make it clear that receiving the treat is contingent on performing the behavior and not seeing the treat in the hand.
- Be prepared for doggy adolescence. During this time, your bulldog may be more stubborn than ever. If you're patient and consistent though, you'll likely breeze through it with no major issues.
- Don't just assume right away that your English bulldog is unreformably stubborn. Get him checked by a vet. This breed ranks first for hip dysplasia, according to the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals.
- Never scold, hit or employ harsh training techniques with your bulldog.
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.