It is best to leash train American Bulldogs when they are about 8 weeks old as, at this age, they are more impressionable and much easier to train. There is some debate about whether a bulldog should wear a collar or harness and really it is an individual choice with whichever is best for the dog, but the harness has advantages over the collar.
Most Bulldogs have breathing issues and collars can put more stress on their windpipes and many Bulldog’s neck folds make squeezing out of a regular collar quite easy.
Proper harnesses will not come off and they do not affect the sensitive areas around the dog’s neck, allowing for more effective gently control.
- To start leash training, get your puppy used to wearing his collar or harness around the home. Give the puppy a treat when you put it on and take off the harness and give a vocal cue. The sound tells your puppy a treat is coming and that it’s leash/treat time.
Once your puppy is used to the harness, attach the leash and just hold it so it’s slack. Make your cue sound and, as soon as the puppy looks at you, give him a treat. Then a few minutes later, make the cue sound again, the puppy should come to you for the treat. When the puppy starts coming to you, back away slowly, just a little and when the puppy gets to you, give him a treat.
Now you have begun the leash training.
- When you take your Bulldog for a walk and discover that it’s your Bulldog that’s taking you for a walk, there is only one remedy.
As soon as your puppy tries to pull away or pull you, stop dead and do not budge until the leash becomes slack. When your puppy comes back, reward him with a treat, then try walking again. If he pulls away, stop again and only move when the leash is slack. It may take a while but, eventually, your puppy will understand.
The Bulldog has a uniquely stubborn streak, so American Bulldog training can be frustrating sometimes. Walking with other dogs will motivate your dog to follow. Be patient, persistent and never quit.
- If your dog walks in front of you and does not listen to your commands, it shows that he thinks you are not in charge. You, not the dog, need to change and you need to regain control.
Dogs like peace in their packs and if they think you not strong enough to be a leader, they will take over that leadership position for the good of the pack. But they are happy to be led by strong and confident humans. Dogs are happy when they know their positions and roles.
- Bulldogs can be temperamental at times when they will not move, try walking around your dog and then moving forward. When your dog moves, praise him and give him treats. Or offer a treat and give it to him when the puppy moves forward.
- Do not take Bulldogs walking in the hot sun because they are prone to overheating due to their breathing difficulties. It is best to walk in the cool morning or evening.
- Many Bulldogs will respond well to food treats as a reward when doing close training but, when outside, they respond best to being offered a play toy and some personal contact.
- It is much better to use a nice strong short lead for walking Bulldogs as retractable leads mainly teach your dog that if he pulls harder, he can go further - the last thing you want him to do.
- It is a good idea to take some water and something to allow him to have a drink so he stays with you and doesn’t try to wander when he get heated.
- Always stop and allow Bulldogs to have a sniff around occasionally. Their sense of smell is their primary sense. We use our eyes and hearing, so sniffing adds to their enjoyment of the walk.
- One of the most important commands when walking is the wait command, especially if you are trying to retrieve their business when they have relieved themselves and you have a 15 to 20kg ball of muscle pulling on your hand. Having your Bulldog sitting and waiting makes it so much easier.
Bulldogs are a pleasure to own and when you welcome one into your family, you will have many moments when you doubt your sanity, but you will never regret having one as your friend.