Training and managing an English bull terrier

Training and managing an English bull terrier

Education & Training

The English bull terrier is a stocky, medium-sized dog breed from the terrier grouping, which has a very business-like appearance and a strong personality to match. They’re also really popular dogs in the UK as a whole, being ranked 47th out of a total of 241 different dog breeds and types.

If you are looking for a distinctive, handsome no-nonsense dog breed to join your family or to choose as your next pet, the English bull terrier might be the right dog for you. However, English bull terriers have a very distinctive temperament to go with their unmistakable looks, and their training and management must be carefully handled to ensure that the adult dog is obedient, trustworthy, and well behaved.

English bull terriers are often described as being a poor choice of pets for first time dog owners, especially if you don’t really understand the breed and know what you are getting in to. However, if you take the time to learn about the breed in detail and do plenty of research into their personalities and core traits and set up a training and management regime to match, there’s no reason why even a first-timer can’t successfully train their own English bull terrier pup at home.

If you are wondering how to train an English bull terrier or how to work with, rather than against, the breed’s core traits and personality, this article is for you. Read on to learn more about how to train and manage an English bull terrier.

The English bull terrier personality

English bull terriers are fairly fun loving and enthusiastic dogs, but they don’t have the most onerous of exercise requirements, requiring just a couple of moderately long walks a day to keep them in peak condition.

They are considered to be even tempered and responsive to the people that they respect, but like many terrier breeds, they can be very independent, one track minded and tenacious, with a real stubborn streak! They have a reputation for being quite obstinate and sometimes pig headed, but they are also notably good with people and very personable too.

They are very bold and brave dogs that aren’t prone to being shy or nervous, and tend to be good with both children and other dogs when properly introduced and socialised.

However, their tendency to being quite stubborn can make them a challenge to train and manage, and if your English bull terrier decides that they don’t want to do something or that there’s no good reason to do what you ask of them, you will have quite a job to shift them!

How intelligent are English bull terriers?

English bull terriers are classed as having a fair level of working intelligence and obedience, falling in 66th place in the Coren ranking of canine intelligence by breed out of a total of 79 different dog breeds.

This means that while they’re not among the smartest of breeds, they can still learn and execute a reasonable range of commands, and that training dogs of the breed to follow all of the essential commands that dogs need to learn is entirely possible.

How to approach training the English bull terrier

Deciding on the right training approach for any dog is something that requires a good basic understanding of the breed’s core traits, as outlined above. This knowledge enables you to work with these traits rather than against them, and manage your expectations in terms of what can be achieved, and what the dog is capable of.

Reward-based positive reinforcement training is the most appropriate training approach for all dogs, and the one most likely to yield results. The principle of positive reinforcement training for the English bull terrier is to gain and keep the dog’s attention with an incentive, offering a reward (such as praise or a treat) for compliance with a command, so that the dog sees the value in doing as they are asked, and looks to the trainer for direction.

This can help to counteract the potential challenges of the dog’s independent, stubborn streak, by ensuring that the dog is conditioned to understand that paying attention and/or following your directions provides a better reward than ignoring you or refusing.

Getting started with English bull terrier training

You should begin setting and enforcing rules for your English bull terrier pup from as soon as you bring them home, setting a routine and boundaries that allow the dog to know what is expected from them, and what they can expect from you in return.

You should also be careful not to allow the dog to exhibit behaviours that can be cute in the puppy, but highly problematic in adult dogs – like jumping up, begging, being pushy, or grabbing and tugging at things with their mouths.

Socialisation should begin as soon as your dog is old enough to go outside, and letting a young, small pup play with other larger dogs will allow your dog to begin learning the basics of appropriate play and social interactions, which they will retain when they are fully grown.

Begin training your English bull terrier by getting them used to their name, and using it to call them and get their attention. When your dog looks to you and comes when called, give them a treat and some praise. Build on this by doing the same when your dog is concentrating on something else or playing with a toy, so that you can reliably get them to look to you for direction even when something else has captured their attention.

The first command to teach your English bull terrier is the sit command – this is a simple, easy to understand command that sets the groundwork for more complex commands later on, and begins to get your dog used to the process of training and reward.

Keeping your cool if your dog is ignoring you or being stubborn is important – focus on rewarding good behaviour, rather than providing a negative reaction to bad behaviour. Keeping your dog’s respect is also important, and they have to know that you are the boss and pack leader, and not them!

This means keeping alert to the signs of pushy or dominant behaviour, such as pushing through doorways or being defensive about resources and toys.

If you run into difficulties training your English bull terrier, go back to basics, and work up again from there.

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