General Dog Training Information – five golden rules of dog training

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Rule number one: Keep it short

Especially in the beginning, do not try to build rome in one day.
What you want to achieve is that your dog LOVES the training and looks at it more like playing than just plain and simple learning or obedience. If you want to do a lot of training and your daily schedule allows for it, I advise several short sessions over one long session.
5 – 10 minutes per session are absolutely enough for starters.


Golden rule number two: Keep it simple

It may be hard at first to lower the expectations. But once you are able to clear your mind and give your dog time and room to develop things will fall in place on their own.
There are “easy tricks” and “hard tricks”. Starting with the real easy ones will help both you and your dog to stay focussed and motivated.

Golden rule number three: Break it down

This is actually part of rule number three. The more you are able to break down a trick into tiny little phases, the faster and better your dog will learn it. This may mean that you may actually need to teach your dog three different things in order to complete ONE trick. For example if you want to teach your dog to hold something in his mouth and he is not used to that, the first step may actually be to reward him for just sniffing the object.
As you cannot explain to your dog what his is supposed to do and he cannot read minds, he has to learn what you want through experience. Being rewarded for ten sniffs ten times tells your dog… “ok, this has something to do with me interacting with the object”. As the next step it may take a while until your dog tries different behaviors, such as pawing the object or nudging it, before he eventually opens his mouth to lick or take it for a split second. Being only rewarded for interaction with the mouth and grabbing leads to the next step of holding the object for a second an then eventually really taking it with the mouth and holding it for longer.
This can take several sessions and every step on the way to the final goal should be treated as a success in order to keep you and your dog motivated.

Golden rule number four: Remove distractions

In general you should be aware that your dog prioritizes. Your Bull Terrier evaluates attention, toys, food and treats in relation to present distractions.
Trying to teach your dog a trick outside while surrounded by a bunch of other dogs may be a herculean task. While doing it in your quiet and familiar living room may work like a charm.
Therefore especially in the beginning it is important to remove distractions (toys, yelling kids, other pets that are not part of the training, etc.).
Training with distractions can actually be counted as a particular form of advanced training to deepen acquired behavior and to strengthen the communication between dog and owner regardless of the surroundings. This is also the reason why you cannot expect your dog to do the same things he does perfectly when the two of you are in your personal training situation and surroundings for example in a dog park or somewhere else. Showing your dog what you want from him is one part of training. Being able to catch his attention at all times is a whole different training story and should be addressed separately.


Read on about the last but not least important of the five golden rules of dog training on the next page

6 thoughts on “General Dog Training Information – five golden rules of dog training

  1. Pingback: Obedience training & socializing your dog

  2. Hi there,

    We have an 18 month bull terrier and comes across as a very “naughty” dog. We have trouble walking him and getting him in the car ect.
    Is there anything you can recommend.

    • Hello Jess,

      you are in the middle of the “Bull Terrier teenage madness”. Even if your dog is an extra wild one, it WILL get better when he ages.
      But there are likely things you can do about the situation right now already. I would just need some more details to give you advice:
      How old was the dog when he came into your home? Did he attend any kind of training – a puppy class or obedience training at home, something like that?

      What exactly is the core problem? Is he pulling all the time or just not listening?
      Based on your input about his history in your home and the worst current behavioral issues, I will be happy to share my experience with you.


  3. Hola Dorothea, a Luke lo rescatamos a los 7 meses en diciembre de este año ahora ya tiene 1 añito que cumplio el 30 de junio, el es dulce cariñoso, pero…….. tiene momentos de euforia de locura, sabe sentarse muy bien aprendio a hacerlo muy rapido pero todo lo demás nos cuesta…. aveces creo que tiene sindrome de atencion disasociada, jjajajaaj. Estamos intentado seguir tus pasos.
    Por ahora quiero que pare cuando camina y compre una correa larga y lo detenemos, pero…….. aveces regresa y aveces estamos horas esperando que se le antoje regresar. algun tip para esta tarea, (por cierto acabamos de comprar el clicker)

  4. We adopted an 18 month old intact male 3 months ago. We are his 3rd owner. The first one abused him. He is at the vet now recovering from neutering. He is very dog aggressive and has recently become people aggressive while on walks. We are working on obedience training but almost ready to give up. He seems to be getting worse with people including me. He is becoming food aggressive with me. Would like your thoughts. This is not our first bull terrier. We adopted a male and had him 12 years

    • Hello,
      first of all it is really hard to evaluate this situation without seeing the dog and experiencing the incidents in person, your reactions to it and the circumstances around. AND without knowing much more details than just a few sentences describing the problem. That’s the problem with the internet when it comes to very specific problems, such as aggression.
      One major reason that the online evaluation is so hard is that there is no such thing as THE STANDARD AGGRESSION.

      Triggers and motivations can be very different. Resulting in different training approaches and sometimes even a vet visit.
      Many times – but not always – aggression is a result of insecurity which is often misinterpreted and therefore handled in counterproductive ways by inexperienced owners.

      There are still some things I can tell you. But I am sorry that I have to tell you I can’t give rock solid advice on any training strategy over the internet for this particular situation. That would be careless.

      At 18 months it may be hard to really completely change things regarding the dog aggressiveness. At least not within a short period of time. Maybe never.

      Issue no.1 is that Bull Terriers are a breed known for common incompatibilities with fellow individuals. They are people dogs and not every Bull Terrier is so much into other dogs, even if they are Bull Terriers, too. Some even show aggressive behavior.
      And that is just the way it is. People also do not necessarily all like each other. Sometimes the chemistry is just off, and there’s nothing that can be done about it other than just walk different ways.

      Problem no.2 is that you probably know little to nothing about his history with the previous owners, and if the aggressiveness has been a problem from the start, how it has been handled in the past etc. If it was present in the past already and he has been abused, my guess is that this issue at the most has received the wrong kind of attention so far, which has probably only made things worse.
      There may be a chance to work on that. But in my opinion this would only be possible with a one-on-one evaluation of the dog to first find out if the behavior is caused by dominance or the opposite insecurity, because the following training strategies obviously will be different.
      The reason why is seems to start showing now and not from the start may be that he changed strategies from cowering and just being scared to going forward now that he feels a little moe familiar in his new environment.
      Some dogs choose going forward versus avoiding the situation even when scared. But that does not mean that they are bad dogs.
      It is often a behavior that can at least partly be corrected with proper training and a lot of patience.

      Also if he has been abused, if you have not done that already, I would definitely discuss his medical status with the vet and make sure that there is no physical limitation involved – possibly a result from the abuse – causing him constant or recurring pain. Because pain is a factor that can contribute a lot to aggressive behavior.

      Another point is that you did not mention in which situations, when and where exactly the aggression occurs. Neither if it happens on leash, off leash etc… The motivation if it takes place at home in HIS territory so to speak may be a completely different one than if the same thing happens in the dog park, for example.
      Also you did not say anything about the extend of the aggression and how the situation usually develops. And I don’t know anything about the things you have tried so far to handle it or which training approach you have tried.

      Bull Terriers are known to be quite territorial and protective of their people. This is another possible motivation for aggression.

      The aggessivness towards people is probably the easier thing to work on for you. Also the more important one, because you can always manage and avoid contact with other dogs. But it will probably be hard to avoid other people altogether.
      Again, the training strategy depends on the causes and his motivation.
      With a history of abuse the causes may very well be simple fear or insecurity.

      If you are dealing with food aggression right now that would again point to insecurity and show that you just need to grow towards each other a little more. Just do things together and allow him the time to grow and settle his trust in you. He has only been in your house for three months now and so far all he seemingly has learned in his former life is how people forced their will on him through pain.
      Nobody can shake this off within just a few weeks. And the moments when he is struggling with his trust in you are the most important ones for you and the best chances for you to show him that he actually CAN trust you.
      How to do that, that’s something a competent trainer will show you.
      I could start writing about hand feeding and trust games now. But I do not even really know, if that’s truly the issue you’re currently struggling with.

      Many vets recommend spaying/ neutering to “handle” aggression problems. To be honest I am not a huge fan of messing with nature to correct behavior. Because it buys a lot of health disadvantages and there is no 100% guarantee that anything will change regarding the behavior. The only chance for this to cause a change would be, if the hormone situation actually WAS the cause in the first place. But that is not always the case.
      But that ship has sailed now. So, you will have to wait and see, if things balance now that the testosterone will be washed out of his body and the situation settles.

      As you see there’s a whole bunch of “ifs” and “whens”, which make it impossible to give clear advice over the internet just from the little information I read about your situation.

      What this dog needs right now is definitely a lot of understanding and for now a lot of management to avoid incidents.
      If you feel more safe with him on the street wearing a muzzle for now, just get one that fits him good, keep him on leash at all times outside until you have sorted things out at your own pace.

      This issue is probably not impossible to integrate into your life in some way or maybe even resolve partly or completely. But it will take time. And my suggestion is to really find the help of an experienced trainer. Not a puppy class or something like that. Solid 1-1 training, a thorough evaluation on-site and a solid strategy with enough time and under appropriate circumstances to allow your dog the time to learn and develop trust. I would really try to find a trainer in my area that is – ideally – experienced with Bull Terriers but at least with bull and terrier breeds. Because after all they ARE just a little different than many other breeds.

      I wish you good luck with your little one. I am sure he has a great personality. He just needs more time, attention and training than the average dog, because he is a Bull Terrier and on top of it one with a history of abuse.
      Try to find solutions and 1-1 NOW – and I am sure things WILL get better for you and your family, including the furry members.
      Don’t hesitate to write back, if you feel there are more things to say about your situation.

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