Selecting for Competition
Almost any sound, healthy Bulldog can compete at and attain performance and civic activities titles in a variety of events. Bulldogs can compete at every level of these events. Go to The Fun Zone to see what your Bulldog can do! If the bug to really take a dog to the upper levels of performance bites you, what should you look for in a puppy or dog that can get you there?
In order to be entered in a conformation show, the dogs must be eligible to show under the AKC Regulations. Dogs entered in these shows must be AKC registered and at least 6 months old. Find everything you need to know to compete successfully with your Bulldog in Conformation.
Your dog also should be able to walk on a leash next to you without you having to tug or pull him and should be able to do this with distractions around. In a show ring, he usually will have to walk around, in a large right triangle or up and back. With practice, none of these is particularly difficult. Finally, he must learn to stop walking when you do and stand waiting for your next movement. This is needed so that when he comes to the judge, he can be stopped for the judge to look him over.
Your local All Breed Kennel Club may have training classes for basic obedience (getting the dog to do what you want him to) and conformation shows. It can help train your dog to have a skilled instructor advise you on how to train you dog most easily and to have other dogs and distractions present when training. This makes the training situation better to prepare the dog for actual shows.
The most important single trait that all performance animals share is attitude. It is the willingness to work hard, to succeed. It is the dog that finds performing exciting and fun. The dog with attitude has a desire to do the job and will earn titles at the higher levels.
Look for a dog that is inquisitive, bright and alert. Your working Bulldog should be curious about everything around him. He will have a higher than average energy level.
Each show is held by one club and a superintendent or show secretary handles receipt of entires and setting up the show. All upcoming shows can be found on the Event and Awards page on the AKC web site.
Test your bright puppy by asking him to follow you with a bit of food or a toy. Back away a few feet and see if he will readily come to you. The puppy that follows and wants to be with you has higher pack drives and will attempt to please you as a pack member. A puppy that follows you for a moment then veers off to investigate their own interests or ignores you when you ask him to come is more independent and will be harder to train. Retrieval instinct is not often found in Bulldogs and it needs to be nurtured to advance in competition. Try throwing a small toy just a few feet to see if he will go out to it and pick it up. Retrieve instinct is not essential but it does make it easier to teach advanced retrieving skills.
Puppies with attitude and drive will require effort on your part to devise ways to channel their energy and curiosity but not stifle it.
Spayed bitches and neutered dogs may not be shown in regular classes in conformation (thus, they cannot become Champions), however, they may be shown in performance events. Neutered dogs and spayed bitches may be shown in the Stud Dog and Brood Bitch class and they may be shown in the Veterans Class at a specialty show held independently, but not in conjunction with an all breed show. This is to prevent competition between altered and intact dogs of different breeds, hearkening back to the origin of dog shows as proving grounds for breeding stock.
Conformation and soundness are necessary components of a working Bulldog. The working parts of his anatomy are very important. He need not be a show prospect but must have correct length of back, adequate shoulder and rear leg angulation and be balanced. Most importantly, he must be a good breather. He should have a properly arched neck to aid his breathing. Try to avoid pinched nostrils. Heavy bones show prospects can be equally successful in the performance arena if they are sound in body and breathing ability. The Bulldog Standard requires a very athletic, strong dog and therefore is very capable of working.
Once you have found your working Bulldog you must take advantage of his willingness and energy by channeling them in the right direction without discouraging him with negative responses. You cannot make a great performance dog out of a poor prospect but you can very easily ruin a potentially great dog by improper training methods.
Bulldogs, even very willing ones, do not have an intense need to please. They like to make us happy but if they don’t succeed they seldom worry about it! This type of a dog does not find repetition exciting nor is it productive. Repeating a portion of training 2-3 times then moving on usually is better than drilling over and over. Bulldogs are intelligent. When they don’t do what we ask it is usually because they don’t want to, not because they don’t understand it! Our job is to convince them they want to perform the activities we want and that they are fun. Only then will our Bulldogs buy into our program and earn those performance titles. A working Bulldog cannot be made to do anything!
Rewards are the most important part of training a Bulldog. Petting, praise, food and fun are the type of rewards that appeal to most Bulldogs with food probably leading the list. Even when using food as a motivator, most Bulldogs will not readily respond to mundane rewards such as dog biscuits. Much better results are obtained by using liver cookies, hot dogs, chicken, etc. Few Bulldogs work for minimum wage!
Training should never be boring or too repetitive.
Attention is the key to successful training. Until your Bulldog will pay attention your training will have little success. Attention training will strengthen the bond between you and your Bulldog resulting in the focus needed to perform well, in spike of distractions. Dogs that do not pay attention to their owners are easily distracted in a performance venue. There are many books and videos on the market if attention training is not available in your area.
Conditioning is the second necessity for a performance Bulldog. A dog cannot sit around all week and be expected to go out and perform a strenuous routine on the weekend.
He should have plenty of opportunity to run and play each day in order to earn to use his body efficiently and to build strong muscles and ligaments. If possible provide an area with varied levels. Let him play on hills or banks to improve strength and agility. Keep his weight down. Fat stresses the soft tissues and the respiratory system. Be cautious about training or performing in warm weather and always carry water, towels, spray bottles and cool pads.
Throughout your Bulldogs performance career it is important to make all performances and training sessions short, fun and rewarding. Training should never be boring or too repetitive.