top of page


Obedience:  Obedience, also referred to as Competition Obedience


Bull Terriers & Obedience: Obedience is about the dog’s ability to focus on its handler and respond to verbal and hand signals with various behaviors like sit, stay, down, and heel. Obedience gained the reputation of being overly challenging for Bull Terriers back in the days when correction-based training was common. But now that reward-based techniques are available, obedience training and competition are more fun, and within reach for the dedicated Bull Terrier team.   A number of Bull Terriers have been awarded the highest titles for each level in this sport, and the BTCA offers the prestigious Harry Otis award to the Bull Terrier that earns the highest average obedience trial scores each calendar year.


The Novice exercises are based on behaviors you will find very useful as a dog owner, such as heeling, stays, and coming when called.  As you move into more advanced levels, a variety of more active and interesting behaviors are required, like jumping, retrieving, and scent discrimination.


The absolute key for success in obedience is to make the training fun!  Keep training sessions very short, and reward frequently.  Break each exercise into small segments, and make each training period a successful one. Vary your rewards and be enthusiastic.


Where to find instructors: While most obedience schools teach the exercises required in the lowest levels of competition obedience, if you plan to enter obedience trials, it will be well worth your time to seek out classes targeted at potential obedience competitors. Take the time to observe classes before signing up.  Look for an instructor who is an active competitor with a positive and flexible attitude, who is willing to suggest different tactics for different dogs.  Bonus points for classes that contain multiple dogs that are not traditional obedience breeds. People who have only trained Golden Retrievers or Shetland Sheepdogs can be painfully ignorant about motivating less biddable dogs and the people who love them.  If you see hounds and terriers working happily in class, congratulations! You have found a learning environment where your Bull Terrier’s chances for success are good.


How to get started: One of the nice things about obedience is how little equipment is needed to get started.  A collar and leash, some treats and a patch of floor space is about it. Many teams ease into competition obedience by first training in Rally obedience, which includes all the commands and more, but allows handlers to talk throughout their performance. Rally classes generally practice things in short segments that can make it easier to keep your Bull Terrier’s attention.  Once your dog understands the commands, start working on saying less and less, doing longer stretches of heeling and stays with more time and distance until you’re ready for competition.


National organization: American Kennel Club


Equipment: Equipment can vary based on what your obedience instructor recommends and your dog requires.  As of February 2018, a six-foot lead is required for Beginner Novice, and Novice requires a lead long enough to hang loosely while heeling, which would be about 4 feet for most Bull Terriers.  Upper levels require more specialized equipment for retrieving and scent discrimination exercises as well as several styles of jumps.


Time: It can take a year or more to get your dog trained and more importantly proofed (able to work around distractions) to compete in obedience.  In terms of the clock, you are best off working in short, 5-10 minute training sessions no more than a couple times a day so you and your dog don’t become bored. Take breaks, intersperse play and fun exercises with the ones that are more challenging. Your job is to make every exercise as rewarding as possible while striving toward having a happy dog and a good performance. Patience in training is a virtue, one of the most common mistakes can be showing a dog before he or she is ready and allowing them to understand that there are some venues where they can ignore you with impunity.


Bull Terrier activity expert Cleo Parker 734-634-3501 (cell)



Rally: Rally is a popular dog sport that offers dogs and handlers an experience that is fun and energizing. The teams move at their own pace, similar to rally-style auto racing. Rally was designed with the traditional pet owner in mind, but remains challenging enough for those who enjoy higher levels of competition.


A rally course includes 10 to 20 stations with placards indicating which behavior the dog is to perform at the station (e.g., sit, down, front, change of direction). The judge asks the handler to begin, and the handler-dog team completes the course at their own pace. Unlike traditional Obedience, handlers can talk to their dogs, pat their legs, and otherwise encourage their dogs on the course. Perfect heel position is not required, just obvious teamwork between dog and handler. The objective of rally is to train dogs to work as teammates with their owners. [Adapted from AKC Rally website]


Bull Terriers & Rally: Rally is a great fit for Bull Terriers! The fast pace keeps dogs engaged and active, and dogs can be praised and encouraged throughout. At the Novice level dogs are on leash, and all levels are suitable for young and old dogs.   Most of the stations are relatively simple to teach individually. They are then put together to eventually form a Rally course.

Rally is a wonderful way to teach focus, attention, and teamwork, a great foundation for any other dog sport or activity.

How to get started:     Find an AKC dog show that is having a Rally trial and attend to watch the competition and connect with local trainers and clubs that offer instruction.  Order a set of Rally flash cards  ( is one site)  and teach yourself each station, then decide how you will teach your dog. Use treats, be positive, smile, keep sessions short, and make sure you set your dog up for success for each session.

For more info about Rally, go to:


National organization:    The American Kennel Club at


Equipment: A leash, collar, small soft treats and a hungry dog!   You can train in your home, or anywhere you have little distraction.  Set yourself up for success by briefly (15 - 30 minutes) crating your dog before and after training, so that your short delicious session stands out as FUN.  End the session with something easy, praise and a treat. Just start with a few of commands.  The foundation is a quick moving, happy attentive heel.   Train this by first getting 3 steps of happy, attentive heeling – with a treat right at their nose.   Encourage a quick start, treat after 3 steps, praise, treat and release from heel position.  Make it a game with your dog.


Time: Experienced handlers with dogs that already know the basics (sit, down, stand, stay, front), may be able to trial within 4 months.  Most dogs should be ready for a trial in 6-9 months with 4-5 training sessions per week at home, and good instruction in a Rally class.


Bull Terrier activity expert:   Robin Harman

bottom of page