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

Most Recommended
3 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

Effective
2 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

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?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Cali
Staffordshire Bull Terrier
11 Months
1 found helpful
Question
1 found helpful
Cali
Staffordshire Bull Terrier
11 Months

She won't learn to stop using the bathroom in her kennel over night. Also, I want her to learn when to bark at a stranger or when to attack.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
662 Dog owners recommended

Hello Dre Neal, First, make sure that her crate is the correct size and does not have anything absorbent inside it, including a soft dog bed or towels. If you want to add bedding, look into PrimoPads.com for tough, non-absorbent waterproof beds. The crate needs to be big enough for her to lay down, stand up, and turn around, but not any bigger. She should not be able to pee in one end and stand in the other end to avoid it. If she can, then the crate will not encourage her natural instinct to hold her urine. Also, clean the crate with a pet safe cleaner that contains enzymes. The enzymes will break down the poop and pee molecules that she can still smell if you used any other type of cleaner or no cleaners before. It must be enzyme based. Simply look on the bottle and something like Natures Miracle should say enzyme on it somewhere if it contains that. Look at her feeding and sleeping schedule, that could be the issue. Make sure that you are taking away all food and water two hours before bedtime, so that she will be empty by the time you take her to go potty last thing before bed. When you take her to go potty, take her right before you put her in her crate and turn out the light for the night. Not forty-minutes or an hour beforehand, but right before, and set up her sleeping area so that she will actually go to sleep when you put her in there and not be woken up by people, other animals, lights, or the TV. Her body is only able to hold her urine for longer while she is asleep. She should be able to make it ten hours overnight if you do the things above. Right when she wakes up the next morning, she will need to go potty because he bladder will become active again too. Take her out right away, don't wait. If she is still having accidents after that, then she needs to be check out by your Veterinarian, especially if she cannot go for longer than four hours during the day. She might have something medical that is going on that is effecting her bladder capacity. That could be as simple as an infection that could quickly be treated with antibiotics. To teach her to bark at strangers you can teach her a command that means "Speak" but use another word, like "Who's That?" or "Pay Attention", and whenever you see a stranger give her the cue to bark., with practice she should start to bark on her own when she sees someone, to get a treat. You do not want to encourage actual aggression, simply awareness and appearing intimidating. To teach her to bark, check out the article that I have linked below and decide what you want her cue to be, likely something more discrete than "Speak", and use your own command word in place of the speak command while teaching it to her. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-german-shepherd-to-speak To teach her when to attack, take her with you to as many places as you can and work on her obedience while encouraging calm behavior and focus. You want her to observe a huge amount of all different types of people, so that she will learn what is and is not normal. When she is with you and around a lot of people and being taught to be calm and focused through obedience, she should become more aware of your own reactions to people, people's body language, smells, and what is and is not normal to watch for. When she understands what is normal, then she will be more likely to react appropriately when something is not right and people's body language and smells are different than usual. You can also do formal Schlutzhund or protection training with her for further help, but that should only be done through professional training, either a trainer or through a club, where you can learn from others with more experience. It involves high level training and control. The dogs who do it are not actually aggressive, they are rewarded for being extremely obedient and in-tune with their handlers and training, so that they react exactly as they are taught in certain situations. These dogs are very well socialized, highly trained dogs, who understand when it's work time and when it is not. These are the only ways that you should ever train a dog for protection, otherwise you create a dog who is dangerous to you and everyone, and not just dangerous people. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Nico
Staffiie
10 Years
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Question
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Nico
Staffiie
10 Years

I have recently rescued nico and am unsure if she is too old to train as a guard dog to me

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
662 Dog owners recommended

Hello Liz, She is likely too old to train for true protection work because things related to age could effect her work, like arthritis pain, mental decline, vision issues, hearing loss, and fatigue. She is probably not too old to train a few tasks that could help keep you safe though, like barking when someone approaches uninvited, learning to pay attention to strange people better so she is more aware if something is unusual, and staying close to you when you tell her to. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Nella
Staffordshire Bull Terrier
10 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Nella
Staffordshire Bull Terrier
10 Months

I want to teach her protection and when to attack strangers of danger i want to know when to bark at strangers and to heel everything else she basically knows

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
662 Dog owners recommended

Hello, Protection training requires a high level of obedience, socialization, off-leash reliability, trust and respect. Protection training - where the dog is trained to actually bite in a dangerous situation is something that I only recommend a professional with years of experience with such training do - if done wrong by someone less experience you can actually ruin a dog and create terrible aggression instead. Protection dogs are typically trained using drive training - which is like a form of positive reinforcement, where the dog is rewarded with tug of war type bite bag for biting an assistant in a padded body suit who is pretending to attack, not through fear or intimidation to get them to bite. Protection dogs are actually socialized extremely well around people prior to the training so that they are friendly and confident around people when not working, and not spooky or mean. This allows them to tell when someone is acting normal or suspicious - because they understand what normal human behavior looks like, and for the owner to bring the dog places with them safely to protect them instead of being a hazard in public due to aggression. Look for a trainer who understands these things and has a lot of success working with dogs such as Police Dogs and privately trained protection dogs - training protection work. As far as barking, a trainer can help you with this part too, but this is something that can be taught more easily on your own than bite work. To help with this area I would need to know a bit more about what you are wanting to teach. Are you wanting to teach pup to bark at all strangers, strangers who come onto your property, strangers who are acting "suspicious", or just strangers that approach you in general. There are a lot of specifics that you have to decide about when and how often you want pup to bark. The training is then practiced in those locations around people, who are doing those types of things, commanding the dog to "Speak" in those situations, then rewarding pup. After lots of practice you slowly phase the Speak command out and just practice that situation, waiting for pup to bark on their own, then rewarding, giving a Speak command hint if pup doesn't bark after a few seconds (you will need volunteers to help with this part most likely - such as someone to practice walking around your yard suspiciously while you command your dog to "Speak!" and reward him for barking). https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-german-shepherd-to-speak For the heeling, check out the article and video linked below: Heel article - The turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Heel Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OTiKVc4ZZWo Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Neekah
Staffordshire Bull Terrier
4 Years
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Question
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Neekah
Staffordshire Bull Terrier
4 Years

Hi
My dog is quite the opposite tk a guard dog if she hears a loud bang or someone new walks into the house she welcomes them in like shes know them for ever and if she ever hears shouting or anything she hides, how do I solve this is it a fear thingz I git her at 9 months!

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
662 Dog owners recommended

Hello Sammie, Hiding when there is a loud nose is noise phobia - some dogs are more sensitive to noise than others and it can be a combination of lack of socialization around those types of noises and genetics. You can work on desensitizing her to loud noises using rewards and recordings of those types of noises - start with the volume on low in the background while doing fun things with her and rewarding with treats. As she gets used to that volume and doesn't seem to notice it, increase the volume a bit. Gradually increase the volume overtime as you desensitize her using rewards - until she can handle a louder volume without being worried. Take it slow to avoid creating more anxiety. If she isn't naturally protective you can't truly train that. You can teach a dog to be possessive but that involves a lack of respect for you, leads to fear-biting, and is generally a horrible thing to teach!!! True protectiveness should involve a dog being really well socialized, fine with people normally, able to tell when there is a true threat, and bold enough not to back down when needed - many good protection dogs have whats called a strong defense drive - meaning they push back when emotional or physical pressure is applied, rather than cower. That is primarily a genetic trait. Those same dogs should be sound enough to not react to non-threats though. Pup may surprise you. Some dogs will rise to the occassion when there is an actual threat. Just because pup doesn't bark at guests doesn't necessarily mean she wouldn't do anything if there was a real threat. All that to say I don't suggest trying to make her more protective temperament-wise. You would likely end up creating fear-aggression which is an extremely dangerous, foolish, and harmful thing to do. It also would result in you not being able to have her with you around people or in public - which would make her even less helpful as a protection dog. What you can do without changing her temperament is to teach her to bark and growl when you give a certain hand signal or word, such as patting your leg or saying, "What's that?"...something a threatening person wouldn't see as a cue for her to act aggressively - making her look intimidating. You could also work with a professional to teach bite work - which involves using positive reinforcement via a tug game, to teach pup to bite and hold something on command. Pup may not be a good candidate for this because it doesn't sound like she has much defense drive but a trainer would have to evaluate how she does in person to know for sure. Probably teaching pup to ignore distractions through intermediate obedience and canine good citizen class, and teaching pup to bark and growl on command will make her look the most intimidating for protection with the temperament she has. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Smokey
American Staffordshire Terrier
6 Months
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Question
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Smokey
American Staffordshire Terrier
6 Months

I wont him to be protective but on my command

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
662 Dog owners recommended

Hello Terry, I suggest starting with Basic then Intermediate Obedience - a high level of obedience is necessary. Pup also needs to be thoroughly socializes so that they are able to tell when something is normal and not normal - otherwise pup will be a liability to you and a danger to others. Gaining pup's trust and respect through obedience practice, consistency, and calm leadership, then having pup be well socialized so that pup is not aggressive due to fear or suspicion is very important. Once pup has those things in place, then seek the help of a professional protection trainer who will use positive reinforcement - like the reward of tugging and bite bags, to teach formal protection work like being observant, biting and holding on command, and being able to release and be called off on command. Protection Dog training has the initial foundation of obedience and socialization - where bite work and such is involved, is something that should only be done working in person with a protection dog trainer. Done wrong, it can lead to a dangerous, fearful, and highly reactive dog who attacks not only in protection-necessary situations when told, but also attacks you, friends, family and random people at unwanted times also. A correctly trained protection dog has to be trained to a high off-leash level, using positive reinforcement type methods via rewarding with things like tug and bite bags, utilizing a dog's natural defense drive during training to teach bites, rushing, and holds, and building the right type of confidence in the dog for the work. This isn't something that normally can or should be done at home without the right safety measures, experience, or staff with pads and safety measures to practice everything with. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Apollo
Staffordshire Bull Terrier
2 Years
0 found helpful
Question
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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
86 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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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
85 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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