Your Bulldog Grows Up
Bulldogs have an extended puppyhood, and yours won’t settle down much until she’s 2 or 3 years old. Some Bulldogs are quiet and mellow, but most keep their happy-puppy attitude well into old age. You have many years of laughter to look forward to as your pup matures.
Over the next 2 years, your dog will continue to physically mature, although the changes won’t be nearly as dramatic as those you’ve seen during her first year.
Changes from 1 Year to Adulthood
Your Bulldog will look like a teenager until she’s about 18 months old and then she’ll fill out and look fully mature and balanced between 2 and 3 years old. The growth plates in her limbs will close between 10 and 18 months, and her height will stabilize. Her legs will grow stronger and sturdier, and for a male, characteristics like a broader head and chest will develop if he’s not yet neutered. Females won’t look a lot different when they reach maturity, but they, too, will stop growing and fill out a little.
Your 12-month-old Bulldog has the maturity of a 15-year-old child. She’s still very much a puppy, with a teenager’s exuberance and energy level, and she might not have much common sense yet. By the time she’s 18 months old, she’ll have matured a bit. She’ll be less frantic but still very active.
Adult Sizes and Weights
Your Bulldog probably won’t grow more than another inch between now and full maturity. She’ll add on a few pounds, and she’ll eat like a horse, but don’t excuse weight gain as filling out. Continue to check her body condition (see Appendix B) and adjust her food accordingly.
Remember, the breed standard states that an adult male should weigh about 50 pounds when he’s 3 years old, so depending on his height and build, he should be less than his expected weight now. A female should be around 40 pounds at 3 years old. In reality, most males are closer to 60 pounds and females are around 50 pounds. Occasionally a large Bulldog can be nearly 80 pounds, but this is unusual. And even a thin Bulldog can look heavy because of her stocky build.
When in doubt, keep your Bulldog lean rather than heavy. A lighter weight puts less stress on her joints and puts her at risk for fewer health problems.
With a little attention, your Bulldog should be healthy and active for many years to come. Schedule regular wellness exams with her veterinarian and get her the necessary vaccines. Also watch for signs of health problems so you can catch them before they get serious.
When Are Her Next Vaccinations Due?
Assuming your puppy had her rabies vaccine and final DHPP booster at 4 months, she should need her next inoculations 1 year later, when she’s 16 months. Consider waiting a week or two between the DHPP and rabies vaccines to avoid overloading her immune system though. After this round of vaccines is completed, you shouldn’t have to revaccinate her for 3 years.
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In 2003, the American Animal Hospital Association changed its vaccine guidelines, recommending veterinarians vaccinate dogs only every 3 years. Research has shown that yearly vaccines are unnecessary because most animals retain the immunity from the initial vaccines for many years. There are also indications that overvaccination is potentially harmful. Adverse long-term effects are still being studied, but researchers suspect excessive vaccination could contribute to anaphylaxis, immunosuppression, autoimmune disorders, infections, and other problems.
Your dog also might have had other noncore vaccines such as those for Lyme disease, coronavirus, or leptospirosis. Discuss these and other optional vaccines, and the risk of contracting the diseases in your area, with your veterinarian.
If you’ll be boarding your dog, the bordetella (kennel cough) vaccine is required and must be given on a 6-month or yearly basis, depending on the kennel’s requirements.
If you take your dog to the veterinarian for a suspected illness and her vaccines are ready to be updated, wait until she has recovered from whatever ails her. Her immune system is compromised when she’s ill, and the vaccine might not create the protective immunity it’s supposed to provide. Likewise, as your dog ages, consider her health status before administering vaccines. It’s possible that older dogs with diabetes, hypothyroidism, glaucoma, or any other chronic medical condition should no longer be vaccinated. Explore this option with your veterinarian when the time comes.
A titer, an alternative to boostering vaccines, is a blood test that confirms if a dog has responded to a specific vaccine and still has that immunity. If she does, no further vaccination is necessary. Veterinarians usually test for parvovirus and distemper because if the dog is protected from these two, it’s fairly certain her immunological status is in good shape. Titers should be repeated yearly to detect when or if your Bulldog loses her immunity.
A titer measures the amount of antibodies to a particular disease a dog is currently carrying.
Vaccines cost less than running a titer test, but the benefit is that you don’t expose your dog to unnecessary vaccines.
The Annual Checkup
Even if you don’t vaccinate your dog every year, she still needs an annual wellness exam. Dogs age faster than humans, and your Bulldog changes dramatically between wellness visits. On a routine visit, your vet might discover something you haven’t noticed yet. Bulldogs especially are very pain tolerant and often won’t exhibit any symptoms until they are seriously ill.
The annual exam establishes a history so that when your dog does have a problem, the veterinarian has a record of her past health status to refer to. This helps her decide if further tests are needed and aids her diagnosis.
Before you take your Bulldog to the vet, make a list of questions about her health, behavior, nutrition, and anything else on your mind. Review her health record so you know the date of her last vaccines and any other treatments she’s had. Bring her treats with you to the appointment so you can make the visit a positive experience for your dog. Also bring a stool sample to be checked for worms and other parasites, along with any medications or supplements you’re giving her.
During your visit, the veterinarian will examine your dog. She will …
- Check her weight and assess if it’s normal or if she’s overweight.
- Conduct a nose-to-tail examination, listening to her heart, lungs, and digestive sounds and feeling for any abnormalities, lumps, or signs of pain.
- Test her reflexes to be sure they’re normal.
- Examine her teeth to see if they’re clean and her gums are a healthy color.
- Draw blood for heartworm test and any others indicated, such as testing for tick-borne diseases.
- Administer annual bordetella (kennel cough) vaccine if needed and update any other necessary inoculations.
- Examine her ears to see if they’re pink and healthy and free of infection or foreign bodies.
- Renew her prescriptions for flea control, heartworm preventative, and any other necessary medications.
If the vet finds a problem, she might order further bloodwork, x-rays, or other testing.
Skin Disease in Bulldogs
We’ve discussed how to keep your dog more comfortable if she suffers from itchy skin and hair loss. Although symptoms may be similar, the causes can vary. We’ve also talked about parasites, food sensitivities, and other potential problems. Sometimes skin issues can be a side effect of other conditions, like thyroid or autoimmune diseases. Here are some of the things for you and your vet to consider if your Bulldog has skin ailments:
Allergies: If your dog is licking her paws, scratching for no obvious reason, suffering from chronic ear infections, or has dander or flaky skin, she might be reacting to an allergen. A Bulldog’s allergies could be caused by food sensitivities, fleas, or environmental factors. Just as people do, she might suffer more during certain times of the year.
We’ve talked about food, noting your Bulldog might be sensitive to a particular grain or protein source. Food allergies are actually uncommon in dogs. Careful experimentation with elimination diets might solve this problem, and your vet might prescribe a hypoallergenic food to see if that helps. If a food allergy is the issue, it can take up to 12 weeks to see a difference in your dog’s health.
Even if they don’t have a food allergy, some dogs with atopic dermatitis improve when switched to a higher-quality dog food. If your Bulldog is allergic to house dust mites, for example, they often react with grain mites. In that case, your puppy will benefit from a grain-free canned food or kibble.
Your pup can be allergic to flea saliva, too, and it only takes one flea to cause an intense itchy reaction. Check her coat for flea dirt, bathe her if you see evidence of infestation, and keep her on a regular flea preventative. Some preventatives lose their effectiveness because the fleas build up immunity to them, so switch brands if your dog suddenly becomes reinfested.
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If your dog is clean and in excellent health, she won’t be as attractive to fleas.
Environmental allergies are harder to treat because you usually can’t eliminate the allergen. Called atopic dermatitis, such allergies often start slowly, with just one or two sensitivities, and your dog starts reacting to additional substances over time. Many things can affect her, including pollen, grasses, dust mites, feathers, and mold. As your dog continues to suffer, she might develop thick, greasy-looking skin.
Your veterinarian or a veterinary dermatologist can perform skin sensitivity testing and develop injections to desensitize your dog to the offending substances.
Unless the allergies are extreme, your best bet is probably to take measures to keep your dog comfortable. For example, your vet can prescribe antihistamines, antibiotics, and steroids to control symptoms. Be aware that as your puppy scratches, she also might get secondary yeast and staph infections, which need treatment as well.
TIPS AND TAILS
Antihistamines like Benadryl can provide some relief from chronic allergies. Your veterinarian can tell you the appropriate dose for your Bulldog.
If you think your pup has environmental allergies, keep her indoors with the windows closed when the pollen count is high. (Check online or in your daily paper for that information.) Also keep her indoors during the peak hay fever times of day—early morning and evening. And when you bring her indoors, rinse her feet and wipe her down with a damp towel or unscented dryer sheet.
Autoimmune disease: Autoimmune disease, specifically pemphigus foliaceus, causes blistering on your Bulldog’s skin. Some dogs with other chronic health problems such as thyroid disease also suffer from pemphigus. Exposure to sunlight can worsen the symptoms, so the problem is more common in warmer climates. The disease is diagnosed by skin scrapings or a biopsy and can be treated with steroids, although it’s usually chronic and will keep recurring. Steroids can have long-term side effects, so the dosage will be lessened over time and only increased if the disease flares up again. Secondary bacterial infections are common.
Flank alopecia: Also called seasonal hair loss, flank alopecia usually develops in adult Bulldogs, sometimes as a side effect of thyroid disease. In some dogs, the condition is seasonal and worse in the winter due to short days and less sunlight. In this case, exposure to light can help relieve symptoms. In other dogs, it’s a chronic condition and the coat never fully regrows.
Seborrhea: Seborrhea causes Bulldogs to have dandruff and greasy skin, usually accompanied by unpleasant odor. It isn’t as common in Bulldogs as it used to be because high-quality dog foods have become more available. It usually starts when a dog is around 2 years old. There’s no cure, but moisturizers, medicated shampoos, and essential fatty acids are often prescribed to help manage the condition. Affected dogs are susceptible to bacterial and yeast infections that can cause severe discomfort and require further treatment.
Skin fold dermatitis: Similar to hotspots, where moist, inflamed skin appears over the nose to the sides of the face and under both eyes, skin fold dermatitis also occurs when the tailbone grows abnormally and twists the skin under the tail. Females may suffer from vaginal fold dermatitis. Symptoms include itching, pain, inflammation, and odor due to bacteria and yeast infection. To prevent problems, wipe your dog’s folds daily with baby wipes and dry thoroughly. If symptoms are present, an antifungal wipe, Gold Bond powder, or cortisone cream can help. Severe cases require diligent management and veterinary treatment. In extreme cases of tail fold dermatitis, the tail is amputated.
Other Common Bulldog Ailments
In addition to the skin conditions mentioned earlier, Bulldogs, like many other kinds of dogs, are vulnerable to disease as they mature. Fortunately, careful breeding and health testing have greatly improved the breed’s overall health in recent years. Bulldogs used to live just 8 to 10 years, but today, their life expectancy is closer to 12 or 13 years.
In older dogs, some age-related problems do occur, like arthritis and heart disease; on the other hand, some ailments strike young dogs for no apparent reason. If you take sensible precautions, however, you can help prevent or minimize many conditions that could affect your dog.
Arthritis: Dogs suffering from hip or elbow dysplasia develop arthritis, sometimes at a very young age. Puppies don’t exercise as hard as adults and don’t carry a lot of weight, so symptoms in a severely affected dog might not show up until she reaches her full adult size. Most dogs who develop arthritis get it in their middle years, between 5 and 8 years old.
Although arthritis is sometimes caused by hip dysplasia, otherwise healthy dogs can get it due to a previous injury, tick-borne disease, autoimmune disorder, obesity, or cartilage problems caused by poor diet.
Manage your Bulldog’s exercise for life so she won’t be crippled by arthritis as she ages. Whenever possible, have her run and play on soft ground because hard pounding jars her bones and joints.
If your veterinarian does diagnose arthritis …
- Manage your dog’s weight, and provide gentle exercise such as swimming or walking to maintain her muscle tone.
- Give her glucosamine and chondroitin supplements that lubricate her joints and may relieve her pain.
- Ask your veterinarian about pain-relieving medications.
- Consider getting her acupuncture to help relieve symptoms.
- Get her a soft bed that cushions her sore joints.
- Allow her to stay indoors on cold and damp days.
- Raise her food bowl if she has a stiff neck.
- Help her climb stairs, and provide a ramp to help her get into and out of the car.
- Put carpet runners on hard floors so she can walk more easily.
Arthritis, hip dysplasia, and other ailments can be prevented or at least improved by keeping your Bulldog slim and trim.
Bloat: Gastric dilation volvulus, or bloat, most often occurs in large, deep-chested dog breeds, but it occasionally occurs in Bulldogs, too. Because of a Bulldog’s breathing issues, she can inhale a lot of air when she eats or drinks, and the resulting gas can get trapped. The risk increases as your dog ages.
With bloat, the stomach fills with gas and fluid and swells because the dog cannot expel it (gastric dilation). As a result, the stomach twists (volvulus). Symptoms include drooling, unproductive retching, restlessness, biting at her side, a distended abdomen, and signs of shock. Emergency surgery to relieve the twisting could save your dog’s life. If your dog’s stomach doesn’t twist, her veterinarian might be able to relieve the gas by inserting a tube into her stomach.
Excessive gas can be mistaken for bloat in Bulldogs. But true bloat is a life-threatening situation, so take your dog to the vet immediately if you suspect it.
Dogs who have suffered from bloat are very likely to have another occurrence. To prevent bloat …
- Restrict access to water for 1 hour before and after meals.
- Avoid strenuous exercise 1 hour before and after meals.
- Divide her food into three small meals, spaced well apart.
- Avoid feeding dry food that lists fat among the first four ingredients.
- Never let her gulp a large amount of water all at once so she doesn’t take in too much air. If she’s very thirsty, let her have a quick drink and then wait a minute or so for another one. Repeat as needed to quench her thirst.
TIPS AND TAILS
If you haven’t purchased health insurance for your Bulldog, it’s not too late. Although preexisting conditions won’t be covered, you could choose a plan that covers emergencies or major illnesses.
Dry eye: Dry eye results from inadequate tear production, sometimes from the surgical treatment of cherry eye. The eyes develop a thick discharge, and your dog may rub his face a lot, which can lead to infection or corneal ulcers if left untreated. Many over-the-counter artificial tear products can help relieve the irritation, or your vet can provide something. In more severe cases, surgery may be required to correct the flow of fluid.
Ear infections: Often related to skin problems and allergies, a Bulldog’s ears can become severely infected, which causes pain, odor, inflammation, and severe itching. The ear canal becomes thickened and can turn to bone, completely closing as result of long-term neglect. At this stage, surgery to remove the ear canal is the only way to relieve her symptoms. The key to good ear health is regular and diligent cleaning, especially if your Bulldog has allergies.
Gum disease: Caring for your Bulldog’s teeth and gums is crucial to ensuring her lifelong health because without diligent dental care, she could get a serious infection that could spread through her system and shorten her life.
By the time your dog is 3 years old, she might need a teeth cleaning to remove tartar and plaque buildup on her teeth and beneath the gum line where the toothbrush can’t reach. Your veterinarian can determine if your dog needs her teeth cleaned and can show you where plaque has built up or gum disease has started.
Although her teeth are beautiful and white now, chewing on sticks and tennis balls can wear them down significantly over time. She also could break a tooth that will need to be removed.
Heart-based tumors: Found primarily in senior Bulldogs, a tumor can be either benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous) and is often discovered when the dog has an ultrasound to diagnose the cause of some respiratory issues or other symptoms of heart failure. For example, a dog with breathing issues might panic at her inability to breathe and faint, causing the owner to rush her to the vet where the condition is discovered. The only treatment is surgery or chemotherapy if the tumors are malignant.
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Select a permanent guardian for your Bulldog to ensure she won’t end up in a shelter if something happens to you. In fact, select three people who have agreed to care for your dog. Then, if someone’s situation changes and he’s unable to fulfill your wishes, someone else can.
In the previous section, we touched on food allergies. Your dog’s diet can affect her health in other ways, too, and we look at those here. We also explore raw and home-cooked diets, along with their benefits and drawbacks.
The Relationship Between Food and Health
Poor-quality food can cause nutritional deficiencies in your pup and lead to major illness. Now that the pet food industry does a much better job of manufacturing complete and balanced dog foods, there’s a far lower incidence of diseases caused by nutrient imbalances. But even a food label that states “complete and balanced” might not provide the best nutrition for your dog’s particular needs.
Many things can occur when certain nutrients are out of balance:
- Vitamin A toxicity can occur when too much liver, cod liver oil, or vitamin A is added to the diet. This can cause lethargy, loss of appetite, and bone and joint pain.
- Vitamin B12 deficiency causes anemia.
- Vitamin D toxicity causes excess levels of calcium in the blood and can lead to kidney stones and organ failure.
- Fatty-acid deficiency causes skin and hair disorders, such as a dry, brittle coat and hair loss. It also causes slow healing from injury or illness.
- Zinc deficiency sometimes occurs in dogs fed poor-quality or generic dog foods or those who have been oversupplemented with other minerals like iron, calcium, and copper. A deficiency causes poor growth in puppies, and too much causes calcium and copper deficiencies.
- Protein deficiency causes infections, a weakened immune system, slow healing, hormone deficiencies, and skin problems.
TIPS AND TAILS
If you’re feeding your Bulldog a raw or home-cooked diet, you are responsible for ensuring she’s getting the proper balance of the nutrients she needs. (More on feeding your dog raw and home-cooked diets later in this chapter.)
Dealing with Obesity
If your dog is 20 percent or more over her ideal weight (see Appendix B), she’s not just plump—she’s obese. Spayed females are the most likely to gain weight, but all Bulldogs are susceptible. If your pup develops this problem, you’re risking serious future health problems, such as arthritis, heart and respiratory disease, hip dysplasia, cruciate ligament injury, kidney disease, cancer, pancreatitis, and a decreased life expectancy by up to 2 years.
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Bulldogs are often on the thin side until they reach about 2 years old, but as they age, they can pack on the pounds easily. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if your dog is heavy because of her stocky build, so refer to Appendix B and talk to your vet about what her ideal weight should be.
Once you’ve established that your Bulldog is too heavy, work with your veterinarian to put together a realistic weight-loss plan. Before you start anything, have your vet do a complete physical exam. Health conditions like thyroid disease can cause weight gain and could be the culprit.
Helping your dog lose weight is similar to going on a diet yourself. To say “less food and more exercise” is simple, but you need to do more than that. Here are some productive ways you can help your Bulldog maintain a healthy weight:
- Cut back on her food gradually so she isn’t suddenly starving. If you cut back too fast, her metabolism will slow to compensate for the decrease in food.
- Add green beans, canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix or filling), and other high-fiber veggies to her meal to help her feel full.
- Switch to a light commercial dog food or a low-calorie, high-fiber prescription diet food. The bulk is the same so she doesn’t feel deprived.
- Feed her twice a day, and pick up her food in between.
- Soak her food in water before giving it to her so it expands in the bowl and makes her feel full as soon as she eats.
- Eliminate coat supplements that might be high in fat and calories.
- Cut back on treats. A big dog doesn’t need giant dog biscuits; a little snack is sufficient. Choose less-fattening treats like carrots, rice cakes, or popcorn (if she isn’t sensitive to rice or corn). If you opt for popcorn, give her air-popped popcorn, and don’t add butter or salt.
- Avoid table scraps. Those calories add up fast.
- Put her meal in a treat-dispensing toy so she’ll be entertained and less focused on scarfing down as much food as possible.
Last but never least, begin an exercise program with your Bulldog. Assuming she’s healthy enough to exercise, start with walks and work up to more energetic games of fetch or other activities when her fitness begins to improve. Daily exercise builds muscle tone, and muscle tone decreases the amount of fat she carries around. Muscle mass also increases metabolism, which helps burn calories.
Today, you have more options than ever when it comes to choosing food for your dog. Instead of commercially manufactured dog foods, many people opt to feed their dogs raw or home-cooked diets. Many of these owners want to provide their puppy optimum nutrition and have control over the quality of ingredients they’re feeding, without any added dyes, fillers, or preservatives. Others might have lost faith in commercial foods due to recalls. Some might want to try a home-prepared diet to see if they can resolve a health problem their Bulldog suffers from, like allergies or digestive issues.
Home-prepared foods have advantages and disadvantages, and you’ll find plenty of advice in books and online. When you’re researching diets, take into consideration the source of the information. This is a subject people get very passionate about, but they’re sometimes long on opinions and short on facts.
A poorly prepared, imbalanced diet can cause more health problems than it solves, as you saw in the earlier “The Relationship Between Food and Health” section. So unless you’re a veterinary nutritionist, consider working with one to be sure you’re providing the healthiest possible diet for your Bulldog.
Keep in mind that dogs are carnivores, so whatever type of diet you choose, it should contain about 75 percent meat. No more than 10 percent should consist of grains, and 15 percent can be vegetables and fruits.
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Feeding home-prepared foods is not an all-or-nothing proposition. You can feed a quality commercial food to be sure your dog is getting sufficient vitamins and minerals and supplement it with raw or home-cooked ingredients.
Always monitor your Bulldog’s health to be sure the diet is working for her. Her stools should be smaller because her body is making better use of the nutrients she consumes and she isn’t eating too many grains and fillers that are hard to digest efficiently. In addition, her teeth should be cleaner; her gums should be healthier; her skin should be healthier; her coat should be thicker and shinier. Overall, she should appear healthy and happy, with clear eyes and ears and plenty of energy.
If your Bulldog suddenly develops diarrhea, vomiting, gas, or a decrease in appetite, discontinue feeding the diet and consult with your veterinarian. It could be due to a single ingredient, or something else might be wrong.
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People who feed their dog a raw diet often grind the raw bones to minimize the risk of puncturing her stomach or throat with a sliver of bone.
Raw diets are often referred to as BARF, which can stand for either Bones And Raw Food or Biologically Appropriate Raw Food. The BARF diet was popularized by Australian veterinarian Dr. Ian Billinghurst, who believes dogs should eat the way their ancestors ate. But considering that dogs have been domesticated for more than 10,000 years, this might not be an appropriate comparison. Another way of looking at it is that wolves still eat this way in the wild. Wolves are much different from dogs, and dogs have changed dramatically since they were first domesticated. Wolves don’t necessarily get the nutrients they need for good health, and ancient dogs quickly became dependent on humankind for food.
So although the reasoning may be flawed, there are some advantages to feeding raw, whole foods, along with some disadvantages:
Advantages of a raw diet:
- You have complete control over the ingredients.
- You can purchase fresh, whole foods and avoid pesticide-treated, processed foods and meat raised with antibiotics or growth hormones.
- You can experiment with different ingredients and take advantage of seasonal produce.
- Your dog will have smaller, less frequent stools.
Disadvantages of a raw diet:
- It’s hard to know whether you’re feeding a proper balance of nutrients, especially vitamins and minerals. For example, a dog needs a good balance of calcium and phosphorus in her diet. Raw meat provides phosphorus, and raw bones provide calcium, but getting a correct balance is often the biggest problem with a raw diet.
- Raw meat must be from healthy animals and handled carefully during processing to prevent spoilage or contamination, especially because it isn’t cooked, which kills bacteria.
- If you aren’t careful, ingesting raw meat can give you or your dog E. coli or salmonella.
- Large, raw bones can break a dog’s teeth or perforate her stomach or intestinal tract. Small, softer raw bones, like chicken or turkey necks, are safer. If you find bits of bone in her stool, she’s not chewing them completely. Grind them smaller as you prepare her food, or discontinue feeding bones. Remember that Bulldogs have extremely strong jaws. A bone that might be broken up into small, safe pieces by another breed can be splintered easily by a Bulldog and cause serious injury when she swallows it.
- Raw foods are more expensive than feeding commercial dog food and take a lot of planning and preparation time.
- You risk feeding too much fat, which can cause pancreatitis, a potentially fatal disease.
Home-cooked diets are usually a stew made of meat, grains, and vegetables. Your dog gets many of the benefits of a raw diet without as much risk of contamination, although safe handling practices are still necessary on your part.
Table scraps don’t provide adequate nutrition for your Bulldog and usually contain excessive amounts of fat. Cooked bones should be removed and discarded after cooking or ground into small, safe pieces.
TIPS AND TAILS
As with any change in your dog’s food, make the transition to a new diet gradually to avoid major stomach upsets.
You’ve taught your puppy to enjoy handling and grooming, and now it’s time to make good use of those skills and not let her forget them.
Maintaining a Regular Grooming Schedule
Pick an evening at least once a week, and sit down on the floor with your Bulldog for a good grooming session. Sunday night is often a good choice because she’s tired after an active weekend and willing to sit still. The more often you practice this, the more she’ll look forward to your time together—as well as the multitude of treats she gets when you trim her toenails.
At times, you might need to brush her more often, especially when she’s blowing her coat twice a year. At these times, you can break up grooming chores into several shorter sessions during the week, such as tooth-brushing Tuesdays or wrinkle-wash Wednesdays. The idea is to get both of you looking forward to this time together while keeping her clean and healthy.
The more time you spend grooming, the more cooperative she’ll be. If you slack off for a couple months, maybe in the winter, you’ll find she gets a case of the wiggle-butts come springtime when you want her to sit still for grooming.
Performing Weekly Health Checks
Don’t forget to perform a weekly health check (see Month 4) during your grooming sessions. Go over your Bulldog’s entire body—her coat, skin, feet, mouth, eyes, and ears—to identify grooming needs and health issues before they cause serious problems.
As your Bulldog ages, also look for lumps and signs of soreness due to arthritis or other conditions.
You’ve spent a lot of time and effort raising a well-behaved Bulldog, and now it’s time to enjoy the fruits of your labor. A backyard dog quickly forgets her manners and social skills, and she redevelops the behavior problems you’ve worked to avoid. So continue socializing her and enjoying her company.
Enjoying Daily Walks
No matter how old she is, your Bulldog always needs some daily activity, both for exercise and companionship with you. A daily walk helps you unwind, gives her some much-needed exposure to the outside world, and allows you to enjoy some nice time together.
If you don’t keep up with walks and exercise, your Bulldog will gradually get harder to handle and her training will deteriorate. The more trouble she is, the less time you’ll want to spend with her, and next thing you know, she’s spending way too much time alone or in the crate.
Remember, your Bulldog is still young and needs a lot of exercise, guidance, discipline, and especially time with you.
Remember, dogs quickly become desocialized if they don’t get out regularly. Plus, at 12 months, males are reaching an age where they might become more territorial and protective, so they still need diligent socialization.
Include your Bulldog in activities when company comes to your house so she continues to welcome people into your home. Be sure she also spends time with children if you don’t have any of your own. She needs to continue meeting other friendly dogs of all sizes on a regular basis as well.
With a little work on your part, her social skills will continue to improve, and she’ll remain the friendly, outgoing dog a Bulldog is supposed to be.
She might look like an adult right now, but she isn’t quite there yet. Give her leeway as she earns it, but don’t be afraid to continue with crating and discipline when she needs it.
If her behavior deteriorates, back up a few steps and put her in a puppy boot camp program around the house. When her skills have been reviewed, try again to offer her some adult privileges.
Changes as Adulthood Approaches
As your Bulldog nears adulthood, she’s still your happy-go-lucky puppy, but she’s growing bigger, stronger, and more protective of her territory. Although Bulldogs aren’t particularly good defenders, you might find her sounding the alarm well before your doorbell rings. You shouldn’t see any aggression like what might appear at this age in other breeds, however, because typically Bulldogs are universally friendly.
Her attention span has improved, and she concentrates better. She’s not as distracted and impulsive as she once was, and she obeys you more readily and accepts your leadership. In other words, although she’s still a rambunctious youngster, your pup should be developing into a sociable, well-mannered member of society.
If you haven’t yet spayed or neutered your Bulldog, be sure to plan this in the next few months.
A 12-month-old Bulldog isn’t mature enough to have full run of the house when you’re not awake or home to supervise her. It’s just too much responsibility. She can’t resist temptation yet, and like most teenagers, she always needs to be doing something. So continue crating her at night and when you’re unable to watch her. She might need to be crated at night until she’s past 2 years old.
You’ll also find her spending time in her crate by her own choice, so don’t worry that you’re being cruel by enclosing her. She considers her crate her own safe haven away from the world.
Your Bulldog is still an adolescent, and she will be for many months, so she might suddenly test the rules when you least expect it.
When you finished basic obedience class, your work wasn’t done. A Bulldog puppy still has a lot of maturing to do, and her skills need reinforcement on a regular basis. Here are some reminders for how to use training throughout her life and keep her skills fresh:
- Always ask her to sit when you put on the leash and wait for you before going through doors.
- Have her sit to greet people.
- Ask her to do a down-stay while you eat dinner or are out in public.
- Incorporate sits, downs, and stays into your daily walk.
- Have her sit or do a down before you give her her food bowl.
- Don’t allow her to boss you around, enticing you to play or go for a walk, without asking her to earn her privileges by sitting first.
- Practice self-control exercises. You don’t want her to be rambunctious and out of control when you most need her to behave.
- Keep the recall a fresh and happy command so you always can rely on her to come when you call her.
- Even when you’re playing a game, enforce commands like give, off, and sit. She’ll enjoy the challenge.
Continue practicing, taking her to classes, and adding new skills to her repertoire. Socialization and training go hand in hand, and the more time you invest in both—while having fun with your Bulldog—the better companion and pet she’ll become.
Remember that Bulldogs won’t work for minimum wage. Always use really good treats like liver cookies, chicken, string cheese, and foods she likes. Learn to give treats as random rewards and not as lures (a.k.a. bribes), or she’ll only work for you if you have food in your hand.
You and Your Puppy
Your Bulldog puppy’s first year presented a lot of challenges, and now she’s almost grown. All the time you’ve invested has built a good foundation for your next decade or more together.
Enjoying Social and Fitness Activities
Sometimes it’s hard to get yourself off the couch to exercise, but your Bulldog can help get you out the door. You two can participate in one (or more!) of the multitude of doggy fitness classes nationwide. Walking groups, exercise classes, and even doga—yoga for you and your dog—offer the opportunity to strengthen the bond between you and your Bulldog while reaping health benefits for you both.
Bulldogs love to play with other Bulldogs, and Meetup groups offer get-togethers for like-minded folks in any number of hobbies and activities, including dogs. To find a Bulldog meetup group near you, go to meetup.com, put in your zip code, and see what you can find. Bulldog owners often schedule play dates at local dog parks, beach walks, costume contests, and even “yappy” hours.
Bulldog rescue groups always need more volunteers, and members share a common love for their breed. Even if you can’t bear to visit a shelter, you can help out with adoption fairs, transportation, fund-raising, and other events. Members often bring their own Bulldogs along, so be sure to take yours, too, if she’s well socialized.
You also could join the local or national Bulldog breed club, especially if you’re interested in activities like obedience, conformation, tracking, or agility. You’ll find plenty of fellow Bulldog owners to train with, and you’ll stay current on upcoming events and activities.
Outfitting Your Dog
Having an active Bulldog means outfitting her with her own gear for your adventures together. These products make it easier to take your dog along and ensure her safety.
You might need some accessories to take your dog out on the town, or at least for camping activities. Major sporting goods chain stores and camping and hunting catalogs carry an array of products especially designed to outfit the well-appointed Bulldog.
You might remember the search-and-rescue dogs who worked after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. A nationwide campaign gathered donations to supply those dogs with protective boots to wear while searching in the hot, dangerous debris. Even though your Bulldog isn’t a search-and-rescue dog, she might be more comfortable on your adventures if she’s got some boots to protect her feet. Protective boots come in everyday lightweight styles that provide air circulation while protecting her paw pads from hot pavement. For cold and snowy weather, tall, insulated boots keep snow out while a textured sole prevents her from slipping on ice. Traction sole boots also help her navigate rocky terrain and slippery boat decks. Whatever your activities together, you’re sure to be able to find some appropriate footwear for your dog.
Carrying a backpack gives your Bulldog a job to do and helps you out, too. She can carry her own gear in the pack, or you can get a special water pack that has two compartments for water—one for yours and one for hers. She should never carry more than 25 percent of her body weight. For a 50-pound dog, that’s 12½ pounds.
If you’re going to the beach, swimming, or boating with your Bulldog, a life vest will help keep her safe. Most life vests are reflective so you can easily see your dog, and they have a handle you can use to lift her out of the water. Hauling a wet dog in the back of your car is no fun, but bench seat covers make cleanup a little easier. Removable and washable, they fasten around the seat with straps so they’ll stay in place and protect the upright part of the seat as well as the bench.
Here are some other, smaller convenience items you might want to check out:
- Reflective waterproof collars
- Safety reflectors to hang from her leash or collar
- Folding canvas food and water bowls with waterproof inserts
- Crate-cooling fans
- Heated dog beds
Enjoying Your Best Friend
The loving companion you envisioned sleeping at your feet in front of the fireplace is well on her way to growing up—or is further along if you adopted or rescued an older dog.
During your time together so far, she’s probably given you lots of laughs, made you want to tear out your hair, eaten your prize rosebush, and vomited by the foot of your bed. She’s also probably snuggled with the kids and dried your tears with her big, sloppy tongue while knocking over your favorite lamp. Maybe it’s her sense of humor that’s made you love her so much, but you can’t imagine life without her now, and why would you want to?
We hope you’ll enjoy your Bulldog’s youth and exuberance, her maturity and loyal companionship, and her devoted old age. She’ll be your best friend through thick and thin, always ready to play, always happy to see you come home. Include her in your life, and allow her to love you. There’s something about a Bulldog that’s made the breed one of the most popular in the United States year after year, and you are lucky enough to find out why.