Stop commands are one of the most common misunderstandings between dog and owners, because many people just assume that the dog understands a firm “NO!” without ever really teaching them what it actually means.
The fact that this command is used to control many different kinds of situations does not make it much easier for the dog.
Luckily in many situations our Bull Terriers or other dogs do understand the meaning over time.
Because after experiencing certain situations and the tone of the voice repeatedly they can eventually count one and one together and learn the meaning of “NO” on their own.
However, if such a command has never really been clearly established, chances are that there is still a lot of space left for misunderstandings and misinterpretation and the command will probably still often fail.
Really teaching an stop command and using it consistently is therefore VERY helpful in the relationship and communication with your Bull Terrier.
If possible, something other than the word “no” should be chosen – for example “leave it”, because we are using the word “no” so often in every day life that again it can cause confusion. How is the Bull Terrier supposed to know, if a certain “NO” in the given situation relates to his actions or something else?
Also it is good to not only have an stop command ready, but also a second command to make the dog give away things. This way we can still communicate and tell our dog what to do, should the “leave it” command fail and our dog has already gotten hold of the thing it was not allowed to touch. I use “let go”.
Both commands are pretty easy to train within a few days within a controlled environment and in small steps.
If it is not reliable, don’t use it – yet
It is important to make sure that the command is really understood and followed reliably, before applying it in everyday life. That eliminates misunderstandings and room for the dog to choose its own actions. But once they can be used reliably, we can use those commands to actually TELL our dog that we want him to LEAVE our things for example or LET GO, if he was faster. :).
It is a fascinating fact that once the space for misunderstandings is being eliminated in the communication with a dog and the Bull Terrier actually understands what we want, even for those “stubborn” little hardheads it seems to become a million times harder to disobey. To me it feels like once they have understood what we want they just can’t ignore it.
I’ve witnessed that about a million times with my dogs in the past.
Once the communication is clear, the command usually only fails, if the dog is too excited/ full of adrenaline, because then dogs sometimes literally can’t hear us. And they can’t follow a command they don’t hear. That often happens when the dog is being exposed to too many new environmental stimuli at once.
Well, sometimes Bull Terriers also try to negotiate things. But if we act consistently and insist on our command to be followed, they will eventually give in.
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Great article! I came to your site from bulliesofnc.com forum. You give great advice and I like your tactics. So how do you exactly teach leave it/let go and stop? With treats? Thanks!
thanks for asking. I’ve been planning to write more essays about training in general. But right now I am awfully loaded with work.
Nevertheless, here’s a quick answer that will hopefully help already. Please just note that training is as diverse as individuals are. Therefore not every approach may work for everyone. If you get stuck with the tips below, just try Youtube, for example, to find some new ideas for different approaches:
Best thing to start with is something edible and attractive to your dog, but for starters it should not be something your dog goes absolutely crazy about. Leave it open and available to your dog as long as he does not touch it. Cover it or hold it and close your hand as soon as your dog goes for the treat. You may have to be quick with that part first. 🙂
You can start without any commands and just reward your dog for leaving the treat for a few seconds.
While the treat is exposed and as long as your dog only sniffs it at some point you introduce your command. The reward is that doggie can take and eat the treat after you allow it. If he is going too fast for it, covering the treat prevents your dog from taking it prematurely. Build the exercise by prolonging the time of exposure and wait time for your dog, plus more yummy treats. If he’s doing VERY good, now and then an extra reward can be super motivating.
Best trained with a toy. Easiest object is something you often play tug o’ war with. With other objects it can be hard to get your dog to HOLD it in its mouth in the first place. Usually when you let go of the tug toy, after a few seconds your dog will let go too, because he thinks the tug game is over. Catch that second to introduce your command (before the toy touches the ground) and reward. After lots of repetitions in different sessions, try telling him to let go, while you still hold the toy in your hand.
Tip: A yummy treat appearing in your other hand could help in stubborn cases. Only make sure to consistently use your command and reward right after he let go.
Once your dog knows the command and reliably follows it, you can try training with edible things.
Stop/ Stop it:
In my personal experience, this is best trained in everyday life at home. It does not make any sense to try it outside with lots of distractions with a young dog because it is close to impossible to get through to the dog under these circumstances. The calm environment of your home makes sure that you will be noticed. If your dog does something, he should not do, use your command and speak it out loud and with emphasis. The fact alone that you are talking to your dog, will probably already cause him to interrupt what he is doing in order to look at you. Catch that moment, have treats ready and reward.
If he has done something, he is repeatedly going for, you can either use that to practice your stop command. Or if possible you can remove that trigger and wait for the next situation. Try to avoid scolding. Your dog should be able to focus on learning the command.
Only lots and lots of repetition and rewarding successful behavior every time in different situations will reliably show him that stopping whatever action he is doing at that moment is the meaning behind your “stop”. It will take some time and consistency is key.
In everyday life, I actually use the “stop” a lot less than the more precise control commands “let go” and “leave it”. But that is not a general rule. Just personal experience and makes it easier for me to direct my dog.
Hi my American staffie (15 weeks old) is learning lots of positive things fast. The one thing I am finding it hard to manage is her sometimes out of control behavior jumping up on me and biting sometimes drawing blood with her nipping. Usually she responds well to commands but in an excited tired state she can seem out of control. Can you suggest how to train her to ‘stop’ in this situation or should I just put her outside? Elroy
your baby is just a few months old. She needs to be allowed to enjoy her life and her youth and get some time to adjust. Please, don’t expect a puppy to learn everything at once.
If learning does not happen at the speed you desire, no biggy, just try to manage for now.
Stop play and interaction immediately when doggie gets too rough, ignore her for a few minutes. Give her a time-out and retreat. So should everyone interacting with her. You will have to do this on repeat, over and over and over … until doggie starts to connect the dots and realizes that roughhousing doesn’t get her anywhere. And, voila, by this you’re already doing some training.
At the same time you can already start to introduce your training sessions as a kind of a game or diversion, trying to teach her basic commands, but for now without expecting immediate success and keeping it short.
Give her lots of praise when she does something right. This helps her to distinguish the wanted from the unwanted behaviors. Even praise her in a slow and muted fashion now and then when she is just calm. Not only during training sessions. She needs active confirmation that this – calm behavior – is what you want from her. We often take the dog being quiet for granted and only give feedback when they do something we don’t want.
But it helps them a LOT to also get the positive behaviors reinforced by praise and affection.
Young dogs have tons of energy and a short attention span. Plus, learning is very exhausting for them and so is exploring their new life. Learning and training are good to keep them mentally exercised. But especially a young dog should also have a healthy mix of enough physical exercise to drain excessive energy and resting phases throughout the day for healthy growth and development. Some young dogs don’t know yet how to really rest because they are so curious and are constantly afraid to miss out on something interesting and exciting. If your dog does not nap during the day often, encourage her to calm down by providing her a remote resting place and leaving her alone when she tries to nap. Even try to actively put her to bed now and then if she does not nap a lot. At a young age dogs need lots of sleep.
Helping her to come down may also contribute to resolving the nipping because this is often a sign of overexcitement. On the other hand, exploring things with their teeth is just the nature of a young dog. So, a little nipping will probably be involved for a while until you have managed to teach her the bite inhibition.
There are several topics on this website you can read for more advice: