After winning both CD and CDX FCI International championships with my APBT (registered as a Staff of course) Mean Martha's Dragon a.k.a. "Drago" it was a very pleasant feeling when many dog enthusiasts would come over to pet my dog and talk to me about his training. He beat some stiff competition, especially from those German imports so popular at that time!
Many people would ask about training techniques and methods but there were those few humble individuals who would honestly seek knowledge. The huge majority of them were from our fellow bulldog people. And their main concern was usually how to get their dogs to ignore the others. Especially when they had highly dog aggressive dogs.
We are in a time and age where technology seems to be taking us by storm. This has transcended into our modern training systems we have today. Mainly, the misuse and abuse of the E-collar as well as many other training tools. When a problem arises many trainers automatically think of coercion as the solution. Zap, whip, prod or prong him into compliance. But is this the best solution? After all the advances in dog psychology and behavior, isn't there a "better" way? After all, anyone can clobber a dog into submission. But training is something totally different.
I have seen some clubs and individual trainers who have regressed from dog trainers into animal tamers. Using the same techniques the animal tamers used to do. Chain the animal, whip him into submission and then have him perform. The lions and tigers would do it, no matter how much hatred they showed against him. Of course you'll get results, but to what cost. Don't forget that our dogs can't pick and choose their trainers and/or training venues. We owe it to them to strive in finding the best solution for behavior problems and/or training methods.
What happened to "good old fashioned dog training"? Let's TEACH the dog. Let's educate him as to what to do and how to do it. Bulldog breeds are notorious in resisting pain especially when a high motivation is in front of them. So if you have a dog aggressive dog you will have to use a huge amount of compulsion to obtain the behavior you want. Besides that, the usual by-product of pain, in that situation, is an increase in determination to get to the other dog. So, what do we do? How do we overcome the issue of getting across the head of a hot & hard-headed dog the behavior we want him to do?
First and foremost â€¦. KNOWLEDGE!!! Know your breeds' characteristics and understand why he does the things he do. Bully
breeds don't always follow the logical behaviors non-bullies do. So with this in mind our training approach must be with how our bullies think and react to distracting stimuli. After training hundreds of APBTs, the majority from game lines, and the majority of those were rejects from people who used them for illegal activities, these dogs usually came with "an attitude" towards other dogs.
I first tried by using force but failed miserably. It would crush the spirit right out of the dog and crumble his bond with his owner/handler. Making the dog work in a dull, unhappy manner. Eventually I learned that patience and a well thought out plan is the key to making the dog understand how to behave in front of other dogs. Let's start by looking into our bully's mind. Selective breeding makes them have that urge of being scrappy. They're NOT to be confused with fight crazy dogs (generally speaking of course for there are dogs who are so dominant that they'll fight their own shadow). So their genetics make them see pain, within a conflict with another dog, as a motivation to keep scrapping. It's like martial artists and boxers, the majority aren't picking fights with everyone they see on the streets. Yet they do have that special trait that makes them like it. So if you use pain to try to get his attention off other dogs, you're actually contributing to increment his conflict. Reason why many of our dogs get "fired-up" when they get "corrected" for misbehaving in front of other dogs. Not to mention that he sees you as the culprit of his behavior. Another by-product of this type of training is what I call the "escape" behaviors. This is where the dogs try to get away from the restriction by lunging into another dog or sprinting through gates, doors, etc.
But what we want is to have the dogs acknowledge the presence of other dogs without losing his head and/or feeling overly conflicted about it. So how do we go about obtaining this? The simplicity might even astound you! In the dogs' non-verbal world they understand and can read body language faster than verbal language. So, every time you stop to correct
your dog, he might be interpreting that it's "OK" to confront another dog because every time he focuses negatively on the
other dog you stop to "pump him up". With this in mind I would always put a comfortable (for the dog) buckle collar (could be nylon, cotton or leather) and hook it to a 4ft. leash. The leash should also be comfortable for you to hold. Don't use chain leashes!!! Have at least 2 (the more the better) dogs present at the training. Most of us dog people usually know or get together with other dog people so coordinate it with them or with whomever you train with.
Now comes the important part. Keep your mind set straight. Your dog doesn't know the behavior YOU want him to do. His misbehavior is only wrong in YOUR mind not his. So don't get discouraged when he exhibits his normal behaviors of pulling and lunging at other dogs. Have the other 2 dogs posted or handled at least some 30ft. apart from each
other. What you're going to do is walk your dog in a straight line in between the 2 (or more) dogs. The proper way to do it is by thinking you're a machine that is on a track and the switch is on and you walk up and down that same track, back and forth continuously at a steady pace. Do NOT under any circumstances talk to your dog. No commands, no scolding, no calling his name, nothing! You want to minimize all conflict as much as possible.
Once you start seeing progress (the dog stops lunging) this is your cue to have the dogs get closer. Don't go overboard! Breach the gap 2ft. at a time. And if you can get more dogs in the line up, it'll help even more. You should also working with your heeling and attention away from this field and its distractions. Be it in your backyard or other place he knows well, keep working on getting and maintaining his attention and on his heeling. Eventually it'll all be put together. Once the dog is strong with distractions present, which is: the dog can walk consistently around other dogs (who don't provoke him) without
you having a tug-o-war with him, you can take it to the next level.
Since my tool of choice is a prong collar, I always have it on him when I take him out to work. I put it on him as soon as I open his crate to work him even though I hook the leash to the buckle collar. Therefore he always sees the prong as something positive. At this stage I'll hook him up to the prong collar and step into the training field. Now we start the same routine and I'll handle him walking closer to some dogs than others. If he gives an unwanted behavior like lagging or pulling away toward the other dog, I'll give him a sharp pop on the prong. The "pop" should last the same amount of time as the tick of the clock. It must be firm but not overpowering as to put him into a trauma. Remember you are walking all the time, so the pop on the leash should be done in sequence. As soon as your dog gets to you (which should be immediately) you pet and praise effusively as you get to the end of "the track". Once there you stop and lower your body to
praise slowly and profoundly. You want him to feel relaxed and reassured with you.
From there it's an easier task to incorporate the complete obedience routine starting with the heel. All of my obedience titled and non-titled dogs have done this, and up to date not a single dog has failed to get the desired results of working without feeling conflicted in the presence of other dogs. I hope this can be of help to all those who have this problem and haven't found a positive solution to it. Happy training!