The Staffordshire bull terrier is a hugely popular dog breed in the UK – the 10th most popular overall in fact, out of a total of over 240 different dog breeds and types. Virtually all dog lovers know at least one Staffy, and there are lots of them around in dog parks and popular walking areas. This means that if you’re looking to buy a medium-sized dog breed that is loving, very loyal and around the middle of the pack in terms of their exercise requirements, this might be the dog for you.
If you are looking for a Staffordshire bull terrier for sale, before you commit to a purchase it is important to learn as much about the breed as possible, and have a plan for how you’re going to train and manage them.
Training your new puppy is an important element of this – and so in this article, we will look at how to train a Staffordshire bull terrier effectively, and tell you what you can reasonably expect your dog to be able to achieve. Read on to learn more.
The most widely accepted and definitive study of canine intelligence by breed was conducted by Dr Stanley Coren, who produced a listing of dog breeds ranked by intelligence across a total of 131 breeds from the smartest downwards. The Staffordshire bull terrier is ranked in 49th place overall, which places them around the middle of the pack towards the high side.
Staffys are neither incredibly intelligent nor stupid, which is generally considered to be the best type of intelligence level for successful training by the average owner who wants an obedient, responsive dog that will follow and execute all of the main core commands.
There are a number of things in the Staffy’s favour when it comes to how easy or otherwise they are to train. First of all, as mentioned, they’re in the middle of the pack when it comes to intelligence, in terms of their ability to learn and execute commands and follow direction.
Secondly, they’re around the middle of the pack again in terms of their energy levels – which means that they can engage with you and work hard without tiring out after a few minutes, but that they aren’t so lively and full of beans that they need to run around for hours before they’ll be able to concentrate.
Thirdly, Staffys are very loyal dogs that work really hard to please their owners, which means that they are keen to impress, earn a reward and keep trying when they don’t get things right first time.
All of these factors combined means that the average dog owner – even a first-timer who has never trained a dog before – stands a good chance of effectively training a Staffordshire bull terrier puppy on their own if they do some research and go about it the right way.
There are a number of core commands that all dogs should be able to learn and execute reliably – and these are “sit,” “stay,” “come” (or recall) “no” (or “stop”), “down,” “leave it” and “heel.”
Fortunately, all of these commands are well within the abilities of the average Staffy, and many dogs of the breed will be able to learn and execute a lot more commands as well.
Perhaps the best training command to begin with to teach your dog the basics of following commands and what is expected of them, and the one that is also the easiest command to teach, is the “sit” command. Whilst this command is not as highly-loaded or important as commands like “leave it” or “come back,” it gets you and your dog off on the right foot.
From sit, you can move on to stay, and then “come” follows naturally – “heel” is important for walking on the lead, and no, down, and leave it are perhaps the most important commands of all (along with achieving reliable recall in high-stakes situations), and the ones to move on to when your dog has got the basics down to pat.
Staffys are generally keen to learn and enjoy training, because it means that they get your undivided attention and can engage their brains as well as having the chance to win some treats or rewards.
Positive reinforcement training is almost universally recognised as the most appropriate and effective method of training any dog, and the Staffordshire bull terrier is no different. Whether you wish to use verbal commands or integrate a clicker or whistle is up to you – but in terms of your training approach, the core principles of positive reinforcement dog training remain the same.
Before you can begin a training session with your Staffy, you need to make sure that they’re in the right frame of mind to work, and that you have their attention.
Don’t try to train your dog right after they’ve eaten (as they will probably need a rest to digest their food, and won’t be as interested in treats) nor when they are full of beans and badly in need or a walk. You also don’t want to start working with your pup when they’re tired out and need to sleep, so choose a time when they’re relaxed but engaged and interested in what is going on, and go from there.
Get your Staffy’s attention with a treat, so that they pay you all of their attention, and give them the sit command and gently push or tap on their rump to encourage them into the sit. When they sit (with or without assistance) give them the treat and a lot of praise.
If your dog starts to get up immediately or only sits until they have their treat, repeat the command and don’t hand over the treat until they sit properly. However, during your first few repetitions of the command, give them the treat as soon as they sit, so that they begin to build up the association in their mind between the action and the reward.
Keep training sessions short and fun for your dog – don’t persist when they are bored or tired, and always end the session on a high note, returning to a command that your dog can execute successfully rather than a command they haven’t got to grips with if necessary.
Always ensure you have your pup’s attention before you give the command – using their name if necessary – and keep your commands short and very clear, without a lot of conversation or distraction that might confuse your dog!
The principles remain the same when you move on from the “sit” command to the more complex commands – and if you’re dog isn’t keeping up or getting to grips with things, just go back a stage or so in case you’re moving too fast.
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