Thursday, April 18, 2024

With the right training XL Bullies can thrive under the ban

THE recent legislation banning XL Bullies in the UK has sparked heated debate across the country and has left many owners feeling frustrated and confused. Viral dog behaviourist, Will Atherton has shared his positive advice and solutions to help owners move forward and regain some control during this difficult situation. 

Although controversial, the rationale behind banning certain breeds stems from fears over public safety. Nevertheless, any dog, regardless of its breed, can exhibit aggressive tendencies if they’re not properly socialised and trained. An outright ban unfairly penalises responsible owners and dogs that have never demonstrated aggression. However, with the ban in place, the one thing owners do have control over is ensuring they and their dogs become guiding examples of just how good these breeds can be with the right training and safeguarding measures in place. 

As a behaviourist, Will doesn’t differentiate by breed, he simply addresses behaviours through loving leadership basedtraining methods. With thoughtful training and management, even dogs predisposed to aggression can become safe, controlled companions.

The key is differentiating between aggressive behaviour and a dog with an innate aggressive personality. Even the friendliest dog may react with aggression in certain situations, while a dog predisposed to aggression may never show it with proper management.

As we all know, you can’t necessarily train a dog’s inherent personality. However, you can train behaviours and use strategies to prevent aggression from surfacing. With an emphasis on implementing effective training, focusing on obedience training, muzzle training, and setting clear boundaries. 

Obedience Training

Teaching them to sit and stay patiently is a fundamental skill every dog should know. It allows them to be safe and the people around them to feel comfortable. As always, communication is important between owners and their dogs – they should always be looking to you for guidance.

If your dog tends to pull on the lead, it’s important to involve loose lead training. It allows you to be in control and show others that your dog isn’t threatening. This is a vital piece of training because banned or aggressive dogs shouldn’t be off the lead, so it allows them to move freely and calmly while still enjoying the benefits of a walk and the outdoors.

Muzzle Training

As of the start of this month, it’s illegal in the UK to walk an XL Bully type dog without a muzzle. There are safe and positive ways to incorporate muzzle training and make it a fun experience for your dog. Introducing them to the muzzle through treats and getting them used to wearing it, makes walkies that much easier. 

Will offers a complimentary, comprehensive online course on positive muzzle training for all breeds, you can find further information here.

Clear Boundaries

You need to show your XL bully or aggressive dog that you are in control. As the owner, you have a duty of care to your dog and those around you.

Use the “four on the floor” method – praise your dog when all four paws are on the floor and interrupt the jumping behaviour.

If your dog is prone to problem behaviours like jumping up at other people, Will utilises his 3-step process of interrupting the bad behaviour, so it doesn’t become further established or get worse – then redirecting them to a desirable behaviour we want them to display, such as sitting nicely when they see someone. You can then reward that desirable behaviour with treats or the attention they were looking for in the first place, so that the next time they see a new person they know what not to do, and what they should do instead – and doing the right thing will be amazing!                                   

If your dog reacts to other dogs by barking or lunging, it can scare people. This is especially true for banned breeds due to unfair stereotypes. Start at home by rewarding your dog for focusing on you instead of zoning out onto distractions. This will allow you both to better enjoy walks and have peace of mind for others.

These training tips don’t just apply to XL Bullies. Any dog displaying aggressive tendencies should follow these tips to ensure future dogs aren’t subjected to banning laws. You can begin training from your living room or garden, however, if you’re struggling it’s advised to reach out to a trainer for peace of mind.

As for XL Bullies, they tend to be powerful, muscular dogs that need extensive socialisation and training. With proper handling, they can make wonderful companions. Will has worked with many XL Bullies and their dedicated owners who prioritise controlling their dogs in public spaces.

Instead of stigmatising specific breeds, Will thinks that legislation should target irresponsible owners. He encourages the XL Bully community to lead by example, being advocates for proper training and management to show what the breed is capable of with the right care and guidance.

For further guidance and training on XL Bullies or concerns regarding dog aggression, readers are encouraged to refer to Will’s video on the subject here.


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