Training Staffordshire Bull Terrier

by Trainer Lada Polunina

I'm not claiming to be a know-all and the best trainer ever. In this article, I just aim to describe my vision of the Staffordshire Bull Terrier breed, based on my experience (training my own and other people's dogs).

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Padded Staffy Harness
Staffy Is a Hunting Breed Initially

To let you know how you can comfortably co-exist with a Staffy, I'd like to start with a trivial thing: the history of the breed. I will not dwell into technical details of the breeding, main thing you should know: Staffordshire Bull Terrier and other similar dogs have been bred for one single purpose - to hound wild animals. Which means Staffy is much more a hunting than some other kind of dog. According to its hunting destination, the breed has some features making its training difficult. First of all it is the dog's mobility: it wants to be in 10 places at once, the desire to catch and snap (if you don't explain what's allowed and what's not, no matter what to chase after), a little bit rough way to play with other dogs and the fierce desire to communicate almost with every person around (not everyone likes it). Don't forget that many people are simply afraid of Staffordshire Bull Terriers because of the negative reputation in the media.

But in general, educating a Staffy puppy is quite the same as education other breeds' pups.

Where do you start after buying a puppy? Teach the dog to recognise its name. Why? It's simple. The dog's name is a signal: "Attention!" After the dog has learned its name, you can do without any special commands (especially in cases when you are not absolutely sure the command will be fulfilled). The name is the most frequent word you use to address your dog and it works better just because the dog knows it well. Pronounce the name with a positive intonation and never - with a negative (then the dog's name can become a substitute for the "Come!" command, which is very important in an emergency case).

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Staffy Dog Training Gear
Start Puppy Training from Its Name

Training Staffordshire Bull Terrier

How do you teach the Staffy its name? Start at home, of course. Keep enough tasty things ready. You can see your pup, it can also see you. Call its name 1 time (it is 1 time, no multiple repetitions) and wait for the pup's reaction. As soon as it reacts somehow (for example, it raises its ear, turns its head, comes to you), praise it with words, give it the dainty, stroke it. Wait for the puppy to distract a little and say its name once again. Encourage its reaction. Repeat the dog's name 5 - 10 times during one training session. Later you should complicate the task: call the pup from another room or from the kitchen and support its eye contact. After you start taking the puppy for a walk outdoors, keep doing this exercise (first at quiet places, that at noisy ones). I think the puppy should be first taken for a walk at the age of 2,5 months (of course, if the weather conditions are good).

In a couple of weeks, the puppy feels quite confident outdoors. At this stage you should find a company of friendly dogs, containing not only pups but grown-up dogs too. But don't think that the walking will now turn into a constant socialising, where the dogs and their owners spend time separately.

I prefer the following variant. Go outdoors, let the pup relieve nature, then play with the pup a little (do the name exercise, train the simplest commands, try playing with toys etc). It would be perfect, if you could walk the pup without leash. Don't be afraid, the puppy will instinctively follow you, at this age the risks of running away is very little. But at this age you can teach the dog to walk without leash.

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Tracking Dog Harness
Train Your Dog Outdoor and Indoor

Then join the dog company. I try to spend 10-15 minutes there: its enough for the pup. I don't mind others touching my puppy, but if they start snuggling it, I try to softly draw the dog's attention at me, then let it go on communicating. As soon as my little Staffy stops actively playing with other dogs, we leave the company. We do the same if the games get rough.

After leaving our peers, we do something together: we play, train or visit new places. Of course, the length and the informational intensity of the walk depends on the pup's age and the weather conditions. Why do I do so? Because I try to form contact without interfering into the natural socialising process. As the pup grows, I start training some useful skills during our walks. At the age of 5 - 6 months, the puppies prefer me to the company of other dogs, but eagerly communicate with them, if it's possible.

You should teach you Staffy from a very early age to give you everything it has in its mouth and its "control zone": a bone, a toy, a bowl etc. The best variant is an equal exchange (for example, a piece of dainty for a toy). This promotes trust in your relationships. Never take anything away by force, with negative emotions, it will make the Staffy run away and hide its "treasure".

One more problem with all puppies: picking up stuff in the street. To avoid it, you should keep an eye on your dog and watch its behaviour. Especially if you walk without leash. The puppy decides to search for something because it feels bored (see special literature dedicated to this behaviour pattern). As soon as you see your Staffy smelling and searching for something on the ground, call its name and start moving AWAY from the dog. When the puppy pays attention at you, praise it and encourage it to come TO you. If the pup already picked something up, distract it, give it something tasty and take it away from this "bad" place.

To be continued...

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