Dogs are pack animals by nature and even when they live with a family of humans they see the human family as part of their pack. A pecking order is usually established within a pack generally the most dominant is the leader or the alpha dog who makes the decisions for the pack. As a dog owner, you need to establish that you are the alpha dog. I know that a lot of people may think that this is generally going down the path of let’s compare the pack instinct of a wolf to a domesticated dog. To a degree yes. We do however know that yes all canines were developed from wolves, but we also need to realize this was in fact 12,000 years ago and over time a large number of different breeds have been developed for different reasons and for their different traits and of course allot has also been modified including the strength of natural instincts.
Any dog trainer will emphasize the importance of an alpha dog role that you as a dog owner needs to be. Why? Because YOU need to be the one that makes the decisions, and your dog needs to obey willingly. So how is this accomplished? Every person has different theories but with Bullmastiffs, I have considered confidence, firm handling (not physical punishment) and consistency to help in achieving the alpha role. No two dogs nor breeds are the same so different training techniques are needed to suit the individual dog. I have added links listed below that discuss the instincts and the role of the alpha dog that go into much more depth.
Below are a few tips that we apply with basic obedience with our Bullmastiffs
Before any training can be started you will need to accustom your Bullmastiff to a collar. We find that placing a collar on to puppies at an early age (8 weeks) a few hours a day for a week will help. When you first start walking your Bullmastiff puppy place the lead onto the collar and allow the puppy to walk you around then gently and gradually start leading your puppy to where you want to go. If the puppy resists stop and start again, sometimes this does require plenty of patience. When your puppy is walking on a lead confidently you will need to replace the collar with a check chain so that you have more control, be prepared to buy a few as your puppy grows.
In the years of owning German Shepard’, we could find that we could spend up to an hour training, whereas the Bullmastiff becomes easily bored so we keep lessons short and away from distraction. Bullmastiffs are intelligent. If you throw a stick he will return it, if you throw it again he will not return it because he thinks you don’t want it anymore. The key to good training is plenty of praise and consistency. In an excitable voice let them know when they have done the right thing. If they are being disobedient or displaying unwanted behavior a firm growling “NO”.
Before you ask your Bullmastiff of any command we always find that the “watch” command is useful because you are asking the dog to give you his undivided attention. We find that because the Bullmastiff is a very food driven dog the use of food can help. Using a piece of food in your hand ask the dog to “watch” as soon as he looks at you and you only give the food straight away and plenty of praise. Try the exercise without food at times as you will find that you will not always have treats on you to give, and you don’t want the Bullmastiff to solely rely on treats for good behavior. The time that your Bullmastiff does “watch” can generally be extended over time.
Any command that is given for example sit or stay don’t be too repetitive with the one command in training as I have mentioned above the Bullmastiff becomes easily bored. At tops, we only train our Bullmastiffs for 15 minutes at a time. This should give you enough time to be able to go over a routine of basic obedience, for example, the sit, stay, come and drop commands. Obviously when you first start training your young pup, work on one command a week for a few minutes a day, when they happily command move on to another command plus add the sit command an so on. I have only given the principals that should be applied when training your Bullmastiff that we have found to work.