How to Train a Staffordshire Bull Terrier to Protect

Hard
2-4 Months
Behavior

Introduction

Most dogs are instinctively protective of their owners and families.  However, not all dogs know how to effectively protect their family in a threatening situation.  Training your dog to have the skills he needs to warn off an attacker before the situation escalates provides effective protection. Some breeds are more naturally protective than others and harnessing and directing these behaviors so you have an effective protection dog will prove more successful than training a dog that lacks confidence. The Staffordshire Bull Terrier is one of those naturally protective dogs. Sometimes 'Staffies' are referred to as 'The Nanny Dog' because of their ability to guard and because they are naturally good with small children in their home. This trait can be harnessed to make a 'Staffie' an excellent protection dog as his instinct is to guard and protect his 'people' from threats. If you are interested in training your Staffordshire Bull Terrier to be a protection dog, make sure you have the resources available, the assistance of a reputable professional trainer, and that you are aware of regulations in your area involving 'bully breeds'.

Defining Tasks

The Staffordshire Bull Terrier is fearless, tough, and oddly enough, nurturing of their people. This combination of traits will make an excellent protection dog, providing that their protective behaviors can be controlled and directed. This is where training your Staffie is important. You will want your dog to respond immediately to threats and, with complete control, to directions to break off aggression. Staffies are very loving dogs and training them with attention and praise can be effective. You will not only need to teach your dog to 'heel', 'sit', 'stay', and 'come', but also to 'Leave It', 'Sit-Stay', and 'Down-Stay' so that you can call off protective behavior when it is misplaced. Exposing your Staffie to lots of different situations is important. To be protective, you will train your dog to bark when necessary, and if you feel that further protective behaviors are required, you can train your Staffie to attack to protect you. But you must also ensure you can call off attack behaviors. Attack training should only take place with the guidance and resources of a professional trainer.

Getting Started

Although Staffordshire Terriers will work for affection, treats are a good idea to positively reinforce obedience commands. An assistant who is a stranger to your dog and who can act threatening in a controlled situation to elicit protective behaviors will be required. Someone who is experienced training dogs, and specifically protection dogs is recommended, as their approach and timing will be more precise. If you are training your dog attack behaviors, you should seek the assistance of a professional trainer that will have the knowledge, facilities, and equipment to safely train your dog to perform these potentially dangerous behaviors.

The Threaten Strangers Method

ribbon-method-1
Most Recommended
4 Votes
Step
1
Teach obedience commands
Teach your Staffordshire Bull Terrier obedience commands such as 'sit', 'stay', 'heel', and 'down'. Expose your Staffordshire Bull Terrier to lots of different situations and people so he is well socialized and is not fearful or aggressive in new situations.
Step
2
Bark on command
Teach your Staffie to bark on command. Wait for a barking trigger to occur naturally, or create it, and pair a command for 'speak'. Reinforce this command and gradually you can remove the reward. Add a 'quiet' command so you can stop your dog from barking.
Step
3
Have a 'stranger' approach
Engage an experienced assistant to approach you and your dog out on a walk and behave in a threatening manner. The assistant may need to wear protective equipment in case your dog becomes overly aggressive. However, before conducting this training exercise, you should have good control over you dog so this does not happen.
Step
4
Trigger barking
When approached, command your dog to bark. Let him continue barking while the 'stranger' runs away. The retreat of the intruder acts as reinforcement for your dog. Ask your dog to stop barking after the assistant leaves.
Step
5
Practice
Practice his protective, threatening, and warning behaviours with your assistant on several occasions. If possible, change assistants and environments.
Recommend training method?

The Complete Control Method

ribbon-method-2
Effective
3 Votes
Step
1
Teach 'leave it'
Having complete control of your dog is necessary, as Staffies are strong dogs with powerful jaws and can do serious harm if you lose control of them. Teach your dog a strong response to the 'Leave it' command. Hold out a treat in a closed hand and command your dog to leave it. When he leaves the treat, reward him with a different treat from your other hand.
Step
2
Practice 'leave it'
Practice 'Leave It', making the behavior more complex. Use different treats and toys left out on the floor. Practice out on walks with different items your dog is attracted to. Make sure this behavior is 100% reliable.
Step
3
Teach 'sit/stay' and 'down/stay'
Teach your Staffordshire Bull Terrier to perform a 'sit/stay' or 'down/stay' command. Use treats to reinforce and practice in a variety of situations and when your dog is at different levels of excitement and distraction, until behavior is absolutely reliable.
Step
4
Teach 'quiet'
Practice 'speak' and 'quiet' at home and out on walks, directing your dog to bark and then asking him to be quiet. Reinforce behavior with treats and then with praise.
Step
5
Use commands to call off aggression
Practice allowing your dog to bark at assistants encountered on walks, and then commanding 'quiet', 'leave it', 'sit/stay' and 'down/stay' to ensure you have complete control over your dog's aggressive and threatening behaviours.
Recommend training method?

The Attack Skills Method

ribbon-method-3
Least Recommended
2 Votes
Step
1
Get professional help
Engage a reputable, professional trainer to assist with attack training if you decide you need your Staffordshire Bull Terrier to perform more than just threatening protective behaviours. Only proceed once you have established complete control of your dog and on the advice of a trainer.
Step
2
Introduce 'attacker'
In a controlled environment or at a professional training facility, your trainer will have an assistant put on a protective padded suit and approach you and your dog in a threatening manner.
Step
3
Direct attack
When your dog responds with aggression, you can add a command to 'attack' and release your dog who will attack the assistant. An experienced trainer usually plays the role of assistant as someone who will not panic and knows what to expect.
Step
4
Call off attack
Use your call off commands such as 'leave it', or use your recall and 'sit-stay' command to get your dog to return to your side. Remember that this is the key to having a well trained protection dog.
Step
5
Reinforce following directions
Reinforce successful acts of breaking off of the attack. If your dog does not respond immediately, or completely, you will need to go back and work on control commands until they are fully established before proceeding with attack training.
Recommend training method?
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Written by Laurie Haggart

Published: 06/06/2018, edited: 01/08/2021

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Snowy
American Staffordshire Terrier
2 Years
1 found helpful
Question
1 found helpful
Snowy
American Staffordshire Terrier
2 Years

Hi I want my dog to be able to protect and atack if anyone was to hurt me or my child when out side he is a good dog he follows me all over I just want to know if he would atack and protect me how can I find out if he will thanks Catherine

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1123 Dog owners recommended

Hello Catherine, I would check around with local Schlutzhund, IPO, or protection dog training groups to see if there is anyone who evaluates. Many dogs will naturally protect if it's in their genetics once they are 1-2 years old if bonded to you. If pup doesn't, you can also teach alertness, barking when someone approaches to warn you, and bites and holds through the groups I mentioned. I only recommend working with a professional for any bite work though. I needs to be combined with a high level of obedience, and taught in a positive, confidence building way, where pup is rewarded for grabbing and holding through training that resembles tug games, with releases also practiced, and safety measures like a trainer in a body suit who teaches pup where to target on the person and under what circumstances to react. You have to be careful not to just create fear aggression. True protection dogs should be confident, unafraid, and are not aggressive toward anyone. It's a trained behavior, where the handler has voice control, and pup can tell the difference between friends and threats. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Sakkie & Lily Burke
Staffordshire Bull Terrier
12 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Sakkie & Lily Burke
Staffordshire Bull Terrier
12 Months

Are they still trainable

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
257 Dog owners recommended

Hello. Yes, any dog at any age or breed is trainable. The internet has really great resources for training, as well as the training articles on our website. As long as you're doing positive reinforcement based training, you are good to teach nearly anything!

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Question
Champion
Staffordshire Bull Terrier
8 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Champion
Staffordshire Bull Terrier
8 Months

Champ has a hard time understanding to heel when we walk, although i’ve gotten him to relax on trying to run rugged when on a leash, heel seems foreign to him

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1123 Dog owners recommended

Hello Dee, Check out the Turns method from the article linked below. Pay special attention to the steps on turning directly in front of pup when they start to move past your leg. Turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Bucky
Staffordshire Bull Terrier
4 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Bucky
Staffordshire Bull Terrier
4 Years

My rescue staffy is a lovely, sweet natured boy who is timid and reactive with other dogs but curious about people. However, we live in a very conservative area and I am visibly LGBT, which has already led us to be harassed while walking. Is there any sort of defensive behaviour you would recommend trying to work up to with this very anxious dog?

Darlene Stott
Darlene Stott
Dog Trainer and Groomer
104 Dog owners recommended

Hello, if Bucky is already reactive, I am not sure that adding defensive behavior is ideal. I think that increasing his confidence is what you are looking for. I always recommend that any dog be trained in obedience. Canines love to learn and typically thrive on training because it gives them a sense of where they stand. In turn, this instills confidence. As well, training classes promote an incredible bond between owner and dog, and with the bond often comes a natural desire to protect. So, please consider training for Bucky. It will be good for your confidence, too, to have a dog that is the best trained on the block. If you want to start training on your own, the Heel command is excellent. Try the Turns Method with Bucky: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel. This guide has good tips for a shy dog; try the Visitor Method and if you have friends who have dogs, ask them to participate: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shy-chihuahua-to-be-friendly. Expose Bucky to other dogs whenever you get the chance (again, a training class will help). I hope this helps and all the best!

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Question
Apollo
Staffordshire Bull Terrier
2 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Apollo
Staffordshire Bull Terrier
2 Years

Apollo is a rescue dog. They believe he was used as a bait dog. He has become very protective of myself and has increased aggression with my boyfriend. Growling, extremely defensive and barking. At one point he was so protective that he started to foam at the mouth. When I am not around he is very calm with my boyfriend and listens to commands. I don’t know what to do or how to calm him when my boyfriend and I are home together. He’s great with our other dog, cat, other company. What do I do?

Thank you,
Melissa

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
257 Dog owners recommended

Hello there. I am going to give you some advice on how to turn this behavior around. This could take up to a couple of months. But with consistency, you should start to see improvement over the next few weeks. You won’t be able to solve your dog’s overprotective behavior in one day. In the meantime, you don’t want to put your life on hold. You can still invite guests into your home as long as you prioritize managing your dog’s behavior. You’ll need a short-term strategy to start showing your overprotective dog what behavior is unacceptable while also keeping your guests safe. There are a few ways to do this. Leash: Keeping your dog on a leash while friends are visiting gives you control over your dog’s actions. Leash him up before the doorbell rings and keep him close as you greet your guests. During the visit, you can let the leash drag and only use it if you have to. Muzzle: If you feel a muzzle is necessary while you work through these issues, then trust your gut on this one. Separate Room: Your dog won’t get better without practice, but sometimes you have to weigh the risks versus rewards. If your overprotective dog is in the beginning stages of training, keeping her separated from guests might be best. You don’t want to put a friend’s safety at risk or needlessly stress out your dog. As long as you keep working toward stopping the behavior, separating an overprotective dog from company is a temporary management solution. Start Obedience Training Obedience training is a must for every dog, and it’s especially important for overprotective dogs. Working with your dog on things like “sit-stay,” “down-stay,” and “heel,” will help build her impulse control. He’ll start seeing you as a capable leader and will turn to you for guidance. A mistake many pup parents make is stopping obedience training once their dog masters the basics skills. Being well-trained is about more than knowing how to sit when a person holds a treat in front of their face. It’s a lifetime lesson, and even senior dogs need regular training. Commit to training your dog several times a day for short periods of time. Make Your Dog Work for Affection You can’t help but smother your dog with love every time he’s within petting distance, but that isn’t always what’s best for him. He will start to feel entitled to your attention, and that’s part of the problem. To remedy this, initiate a “work for it” program that allows you to show your dog affection as long as he earns your attention in appropriate ways. Make him sit, stay calm, and do whatever else you ask before doling out whatever it is he wants. If he’s excited for dinner, make him sit and leave it before digging in. If he wants in your lap, ask him to do a trick first. Never give your dog attention if he rudely nudges your hand or barks in your face. He needs to know polite behavior, and polite behavior only, is how he gets what she wants. You ignore everything else. Involve Other People in the Dog’s Life Most overprotective dogs choose to guard only the person they feel closest to. It’s usually the same person who fills their food bowls, takes them on walks, and handles training. They become obsessively attached, and a strong bond gradually mutates into overprotective behavior. Putting some space between you and your dog will help him learn to trust other people. Enlist the entire family’s help and take a step back in your role as primary caregiver. Have someone else feed the dog a few times a week, and encourage other people to engage his in playtime. This will help him be more comfortable with different people. Socialize Socialization is best done during the puppy stages, but even adult and senior dogs benefit from new experiences. Exposing your overprotective dog to new places, experiences, and people, will help him learn that not everyone is out to hurt you. Make sure each new experience is positive, and encourage your dog without forcing him to interact. If your dog is afraid, you don’t want to make things worse. Take socialization at the pace he’s comfortable with. If he seems overwhelmed, back up and try something a little smaller. These are some general ideas and they can be modified to fit your dynamic. These behaviors do take time, and sometimes the behaviors get worse before they get better. So just push through that time if that starts to happen. Please let me know if you have any additional questions. Thank you for writing in!

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