Your Puppy Comes Home
Your Bulldog puppy is ready to meet his new family. He’s gotten a good start in life from his mother, his littermates, and the breeder, and now it’s your turn to take over his care and education. In his third month, from 8 to 12 weeks old, he’ll grow and change dramatically. This also is the first critical period for socialization, so make that a priority this month.
In this chapter, we share the information you need to select the best puppy for your family, prepare for his arrival, and navigate his first few weeks with you. You learn the ins and outs of puppy-proofing, vaccines, health care, feeding, grooming, socializing, and the first steps of training.
Choosing Your Puppy
You might have given some thought already to the type of Bulldog you want. If you haven’t, before you decide on a breeder or visit a litter of pups, make some choices about the dog who will be part of your family for the next 8 to 12 years. In this section, we look at some information that will help you make educated decisions when you visit breeders.
TIPS AND TAILS
This book addresses the English Bulldog. You’ll read about other types of Bulldogs, too, including French Bulldogs, Olde English Bulldogges, American Bulldogs, and more. These breeds may or may not be related to the English Bulldog, but they do have different physical characteristics, temperaments, and health concerns.
The Bulldog was originally a butcher’s dog in Great Britain, used to subdue cattle before slaughter. Later, he was bred to participate in bullbaiting, which was thought to tenderize the animal’s meat. According to the Bulldog Club of America website, “The original Bulldog had to be courageous, very ferocious and savage. It also had to be almost insensitive to pain. Many of the features in the current Bulldog standard are derived from the physical requirements needed by these dogs.”
Bullbaiting was outlawed in England in 1835, and within a few generations, the fierce qualities bred for it were gone from the breed. Today’s Bulldog is a loving and enthusiastic pet with a sense of humor and big personality who makes a loyal family dog—especially around children.
The Bulldog wasn’t specifically bred for trainability, but he’s very smart, thinks for himself, and needs a reason to do what you ask of him. Easily housetrained and an eternal teenager—he will argue with you—your Bulldog is an independent thinker who loves his owner and craves attention. He doesn’t have a high prey drive, so he can live happily with other pets like cats and rabbits.
Bulldogs aren’t generally aggressive toward people or other dogs, but as they get older, some get possessive of their toys. They have a different style of play from other breeds—more rough and tumble—which sometimes leads to misunderstandings. A Bulldog needs to meet and play with dogs of other breeds while he’s still young so he learns good manners when playing with other breeds.
Not much difference exists between the sexes. Bulldogs are individuals, and gender has little impact on their personalities.
If you’re looking to get more than one Bulldog, it’s generally not a good idea to get two puppies from the same litter. The siblings are more likely to bond with each other than their human family, and one will usually be more shy and reserved, relying on the other for cues. And two dogs from the same litter—especially females—might not get along because their personalities are too similar. Get your second dog from a litter with different parents, and wait at least 6 months before doing so. Then both of your puppies will bond to you, not their playmate.
The Bulldog personality evolved into that of a pleasant family pet, but his unique physical characteristics have been preserved through the centuries. The Bulldog is a heavy-set, low-slung, wide-bodied dog who carries most of his weight between his front legs. This strange structure allowed him to “roll with punches” while being slung back and forth by an angry bull. Although of medium height, an adult Bulldog can weigh 60 pounds or more.
A Bulldog’s most unique feature is his heavy brachycephalic head, with a pushed-in nose that at one time enabled him to breathe while hanging off the nose of a bull with his lower jaw. The dog’s deep facial wrinkles allowed the bull’s blood to drain away from his eyes, nose, and mouth.
A brachycephalic dog has a flat face, with a relatively broad skull that’s short from front to back.
Bulldogs come in an assortment of colors, most commonly brindle, solid white, red or fawn, and piebald (mostly white with some patches of the aforementioned colors). Brindle is a solid color with broken black stripes throughout the coat.
Beware of breeders who advertise exotic-colored Bulldogs. They often charge more for these dogs, but by breeding specifically for color, they may accidentally increase undesirable genetic traits. Some fad colors like blue or blue merle may be the result of mixing with another breed to get the color, and this Bulldog might not look much like a Bulldog when he grows up.
Letting the Breeder Help
If you’re not sure how to choose a puppy, your breeder can help you pick the right one for your family. She has lived with the litter for 2 months, and she has had time to get to know each pup’s personality. For example, by the time the puppies are 10 days old, some are more active as they try to be the first to nurse, while others hang back and need a little help—she’ll know this. The pups have been interacting since they were just a few weeks old, and the breeder recognizes who’s the bossiest, who loves everyone, and who’s the quietest. She’s been watching their activity level and their dominance during play as well as who makes the most eye contact with people.
As you interview breeders, tell them what activities you plan to do with your Bulldog. When the breeder knows what you have in mind, she can pick out the best pup for your family. She’ll give the more active puppies to owners who want to compete in obedience or carting, for example. If you think you’d like to try therapy visits with your Bulldog, she’ll pick a more laid-back, people-oriented pup.
When you first talk to a breeder about buying a Bulldog puppy, a responsible breeder might ask you to complete a questionnaire and interview you to be sure you would be a good fit for one of her puppies. Don’t be offended by this; after all, you both want the same thing—the right puppy in a home he will stay in for his entire life and grow up happy and loved. She is looking for someone who understands that Bulldogs are a high-maintenance breed that also might require more expensive vet care than the average dog. In addition, she wants you to understand that although they’re entirely trainable, Bulldogs are harder to train than some other breeds, like Pointers or Sheepdogs.
You want to ask some questions and make some observations of your own, too:
- Are the puppies raised in a clean environment?
- Are they well socialized?
- Are the other dogs in the breeder’s house clean and well cared for?
- Do the other dogs seem to have good temperaments?
- Does the breeder offer copies of all health clearances for the sire and dam?
- Does the breeder offer a written contract and/or guarantee?
- What does the breeder do with her dogs besides breed them? Are they performance dogs, show dogs, etc., or is the breeder just breeding to make money?
The breeder should be happy to answer your questions. If she’s not, find another breeder.
Bulldog Puppy Personalities
Bulldog puppies, even those in the same litter, exhibit very different personalities. You can’t label a pup with absolute certainty, but let’s look at some characteristics you might see.
The pushy one is in charge, bowling over his littermates and controlling the toys. If you aren’t an experienced Bulldog owner, this puppy might grow up to be too much for you. Bulldogs are naturally nervy and determined, so picking the most dominant one may be a decision you’ll regret if you’re not prepared for him.
The middle-of-the-road puppy usually makes the best dog for performance sports. He still has plenty of energy and determination, but he’s more amenable to cooperating with your plans.
The quiet one may come into his own as he matures, or he might remain less outgoing. Even the quietest Bulldog has plenty of personality, so don’t count this one out unless he’s openly fearful or shy, neither of which is typical of a Bulldog of any age.
TIPS AND TAILS
A singleton puppy who has no littermates will be behind on his social skills because he hasn’t learned how to play with other puppies, hasn’t been corrected for biting too hard, and might be afraid of other puppies. Especially if you’re a first-time dog owner, choose a puppy who has had plenty of contact with other puppies.
Registration Papers and Contracts
When you purchase a puppy, you’ll likely hear or read some unfamiliar terms and receive some confusing paperwork. Don’t feel overwhelmed; this is typical of what all breeders provide. Let’s look at what some of the items you’ll be dealing with mean.
Contract: The contract between the breeder and a puppy buyer states the conditions of purchase. For example, some conditions might state the dog may not be bred, the breeder retains co-ownership, or the dog must be returned to the breeder if at a later time the owner can no longer keep him. The contract also might specify certain health guarantees, meaning the breeder will pay for treatment if the dog develops certain hereditary abnormalities.
AKC: This is the American Kennel Club, the main registry in the United States for purebred dogs. The AKC is a nonprofit organization.
Registration papers: Your puppy’s breeder will provide AKC papers naming the puppy’s sire and dam, his date of birth, his color, and other information. To register your puppy, you fill in the name you choose for your dog and submit the papers to the AKC.
Limited registration: Most pet puppies are sold on a limited registration, which means if the dog eventually produces puppies, they cannot be registered. The dog isn’t eligible to be shown in conformation, but he still is eligible to compete in most performance events. Some breeders convert the registration to full status when the dog reaches 2 years old and the owner provides records of favorable health checks. The only reason to change the registration status is if the puppy shows promise as a good representation of the breed in the show ring and is ultimately a good breeding prospect.
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Are registration papers important? Papers are no guarantee your puppy is a certain quality or the parents were health-tested. But papers do give you the sire’s and dam’s names, and you can research their pedigree with the AKC. Without papers, you have no guarantee your dog is a purebred Bulldog. The breeder might not have taken care to breed healthy, correct-looking dogs; follow any code of ethics; or offer any kind of guarantees.
Adopting an Adult Bulldog
If you want to add a second Bulldog to your family, consider adopting from a Bulldog rescue group. Bulldogs are given up by their families for a variety of reasons. Rescuers report that the majority of dogs they get are between 4 and 6 years old. These are the lucky dogs because they’ll readily adapt to a new home with some care and education.
Older dogs often have more entrenched behavior and may have minor healthcare issues (like cherry eye) that need attention, but they’re not a lost cause at all. These adult dogs might have been neglected for a long time, but with some care and education, they can become wonderful pets. Most thrive with attention from their new family, love other dogs, and settle in quickly.
When you adopt a Bulldog from a rescue group, you might not know much about your dog’s life up to this point—good or bad. If your new dog has been in a foster home, the foster family can fill you in on what they’ve learned while he’s been staying with them—he’s housetrained, friendly toward cats, appears well-socialized, has had some training, etc. He’ll have had all his shots and been neutered (or she will have been spayed).
The rescue group also treats any health problems and discloses ongoing issues with you. The most common health problems involve the skin, ears, or eyes, usually due to long-term neglect. Some require surgery and may need ongoing treatment such as eye drops or a special diet.
Rescue groups look for owners who understand the breed and the care and maintenance Bulldogs require. They also hope you will take an obedience class with your new dog to start your relationship on the right foot, even if he appears to have had some training already.
You’ll rarely find a Bulldog in an animal shelter, but if you do, he is probably a stray who hasn’t been claimed by his owners. As a result, you’ll have no history on his health or behavior, so getting him off to a good start is especially important.
One thing is for certain: what you do in the first few weeks and months with your adopted Bulldog has a big impact. He’ll eagerly soak up everything he sees and hears so he can figure out the rules and routine in his new home. Take advantage of this honeymoon period!
Many adopters feel sorry for their new dog, and whatever previous situation he might have been in, and allow him to get away with anything and everything when he first arrives. Don’t do this. He’ll get confused by the sympathy and attention, especially if there are no rules or a structured routine he can quickly learn to count on. When the newness wears off and the rules change, he’ll be even more confused. It’s no wonder new dogs chew and otherwise misbehave.
Also, don’t assume your rescued Bulldog was abused. It’s likely he just didn’t get adequate training and socialization, or his owners didn’t understand what a typical Bulldog is like. Still, he might react fearfully or even aggressively to unfamiliar things. If he does, take it slow, and start training and socializing like he’s a young puppy.
Positive reinforcement training is very effective with rescued dogs. Gradually introduce him to unfamiliar things so he’s comfortable in new situations, and reward him with treats when he’s brave. If you punish him or force him to confront something scary, he’ll become even more afraid. As he learns to trust your judgment and understand that you won’t force him, he’ll look to you for guidance. Your happy voice and unconcerned body language will reassure him.
Preparing for Your Bulldog Puppy
It’s fun to shop for your new puppy while you’re waiting for him to arrive. In this section, we share a shopping list of the supplies you need to keep your pup healthy and safe.
Bowls: Stainless-steel bowls with nonslip rubber bottoms are easier to sterilize and last longer than other types of bowls. Your puppy will push the bowl around the floor as he eats, so the nonslip bottom helps keep the bowl in place. Plastic bowls get teeth marks that make them harder to clean, and your pup might get puppy acne on his mouth and chin as a result. Ceramic bowls are pretty, but a bouncing Bulldog puppy can break even the heaviest crockery. Be sure to choose wide-mouthed bowls for your Bulldog so he can fit his face into them.
Collar and leash: Pick a collar that fits around his neck but has enough holes so you can loosen it as he grows—and he’ll grow very quickly his first year and outgrow several collars. Don’t choose a wide collar because it will be difficult for him to turn his head, especially when he’s older. A flat nylon or rolled leather collar is the only type of collar you need for everyday wear. When you put it on him, you should be able to fit two fingers between the collar and his neck. Be sure it isn’t so loose he can pull out of it, though.
You might want to get a thin nylon slip collar for leash walking and training because he can’t slip out of it. Never leave a slip collar on your dog when you’re not there, however, because it could choke him if he gets caught on something.
An adjustable martingale collar that slips over his head and tightens only when he pulls on the leash is another option. It has no buckle, but if he decides he doesn’t want to go where you’re going, he can’t back out of the collar. Don’t leave a martingale collar on an unattended puppy; he could get caught on something and strangle.
Select a leash made of leather or cotton rope that’s easier on your hands than nylon. A 6-foot leash is helpful while your pup is learning how to walk nicely at your side. When he’s older and taller, a 4-foot leash is long enough, and you won’t get tangled up in the extra length. Stay away from adjustable-length retractable leads for now. That’ll just teach your puppy to pull, and you don’t want that.
Bulldog owners often choose to use a harness rather than a collar. It’s easier on his neck, and he can’t back out of it. But at the same time, it teaches him to pull, pull, and pull some more. Bulldogs are famous for dragging their owners down the street.
Teach him from the start to walk nicely on a leash using a regular buckle collar (more on that coming up). When he’s older, and if you feel the need for a harness, consider a no-pull type of harness, which is specially designed to fix this problem.
Bulldog puppies can be destructive. They see leashes, collars, bowls, crates, and beds as toys, and they can quickly demolish everything in their path. Choose sturdy, relatively chew-proof supplies, and be diligent about keeping them out of your inquisitive pup’s reach. And be sure to provide him with plenty of things he’s allowed to play with and chew instead.
Crate: From the very beginning, your puppy should spend some time in his crate. It’s his safe haven from the world, a place he’ll return to and enjoy throughout his life. The crate also is an essential housetraining tool. Choose a crate that’s bigger than your pup but not so big he can soil in it and sleep at the other end. Some crates come with a divider you can remove as your puppy grows. When he’s an adult, you’ll need a bigger crate than you might think because a Bulldog’s short back makes it impossible for him to curl up in a small space.
Crates come in a variety of styles. Your puppy will feel safe and secure in a plastic crate that simulates a den. Many plastic crates are airline approved, so if you’re going to travel, this is the one you need. Check with various airlines to confirm the crate you choose is acceptable if you’re going to fly with your dog.
Then there are wire crates, which have unique advantages. Your puppy can see out of all sides and feel like he’s part of the action, even when he’s confined. A wire crate often has a side door and an end door, so you can rearrange it to suit your room. If your pup won’t settle down in his crate, you can spread a towel or blanket over the crate to block his view. Wire crates also allow air to circulate, which is important in hot weather. In addition, they fold down flat and are easier to store than plastic crates. If you opt for a wire crate, we recommend you get one made of heavy-gauge wire that will resist the efforts of a determined Bulldog puppy.
Mesh or fabric crates are best for adult dogs who are already crate trained, not puppies.
If you can, consider buying two crates: a plastic one to keep in the bedroom for sleeping in and a wire one for the family room where he can spend time with you without getting underfoot.
Slicker brush: A slicker brush has short metal or rubber pins on a rectangular rubber backing. Rubber pins are best for a Bulldog. Try it on your own skin to be sure the pins aren’t so sharp they’ll hurt your puppy and irritate his skin. This is the brush you’ll use the most because it gets out all that loose undercoat when your Bulldog starts shedding.
Rubber curry: A palm-size rubber disc with bumps or fingers on it, the curry massages your Bulldog’s skin and pulls loose hairs to the surface so you can brush them off.
Bristle brush or hound glove: Use this as a finishing brush to remove all the loose hairs still floating around after you’ve finished the deep brushing. You also can use it for quick touch-ups when he rolls in dirt or leaves.
Toenail clippers: The breeder started the toenail-clipping process for you, and 8 weeks old is not too young to trim a puppy’s toenails. The best clippers are guillotine style that squeeze and cut off the end of the nail. Be sure to get extra blades, because dull blades can tear his nails. An alternative tool is a rotary grinder, similar to a Dremel tool. The grinder has a sandpaper-covered tip that grinds down the nail instead of cutting it.
Toothbrush and toothpaste: There’s no time like the present to teach your pup to enjoy—or at least tolerate—having his teeth brushed. Get either a toothbrush or a fingertip brush and toothpaste formulated especially for dogs. Do not use human toothpaste on your dog or puppy; it will make him sick.
Pet gates: When he’s not in his crate, you’ll still want to confine your puppy so you can prevent housetraining accidents and discourage chewing. Pet gates come in different sizes that block doorways or even large spaces between rooms. You can buy inexpensive plastic, fancy metal, or furniture-quality wood gates. Some styles mount permanently with screws, while others are pressure-mounted so you can remove them when your puppy grows up. Deluxe models have a pass-through gate so you don’t have to take them down every time you want to walk through the doorway.
Exercise pen/playpen: A folding wire exercise pen (or ex pen) gives your puppy room to move around but keeps him confined. If he’s acclimated to his ex pen when he’s little, he’ll respect the pen when he’s bigger. Use the pen when you leave him alone and while you’re at work. A pen 24 inches tall should be tall enough for a Bulldog puppy.
Puppy toys: Anything that comes apart is not a good toy for a Bulldog because he can swallow small pieces that could then cause a bowel obstruction. Most toys made especially for puppies just aren’t durable enough for Bulldogs. Their strong jaws, even when they’re puppies, can destroy the toughest toys. Get larger, sturdier toys, even for the youngest pup. Heavy-duty rubber bones or knuckle bones are best.
Toys that dispense food entertain your pup while you’re away. The heavy-duty KONG toy is good for Bulldogs. Stuff it with kibble and mashed banana, and freeze it before presenting it to your pup. Or get various food-stuffed toys and leave a different one in his ex pen each day. If your puppy doesn’t show an interest in his chew toys at first, coat the toy in chicken broth. That’ll get his attention!
Bulldogs love stuffed toys. A toy made especially for dogs shouldn’t have buttons or pieces that could easily come off. As he gets older, he’ll do his best to pull out the stuffing or squeaky and eat it. If you get stuffed toys, pick them up when you aren’t able to supervise your pup.
For the first week or two he’s with you in his new home, consider putting a large stuffed toy in your pup’s crate at night so he’ll have something to cuddle with now that he doesn’t have his littermates. When he gets bigger, he’s likely to destroy the toy, so remove it when he’s settled in.
Other fun toys include 1-gallon or 1-liter plastic water bottles, which are noisy, fun, and inexpensive. Take away and dispose of the bottles when your pup starts to chew off pieces. Knotted rope toys are fine until they start to fall apart, so replace them as needed.
Most breeders caution against rawhide chews for Bulldogs. Rawhides soften as the puppy chews, and he could swallow it whole. If it blocks his windpipe, he can stop breathing; if he swallows it, it can cause an obstruction.
TIPS AND TAILS
Test all toys you give your pup while you’re home with him before you give him a potentially unsafe toy and then leave for work. His sharp, strong teeth could destroy something you think is puppy-proof in minutes.
If your puppy has the house strewn with toys, he’ll have a hard time learning what’s okay to chew and what’s off-limits. Set up a toy box where you keep his toys, and let him pick out his favorite of the moment. Switch out toys regularly so they’re more exciting to him when he gets the “new” toys.
Bed: An inexpensive bed is fine until your pup grows up a bit. An old throw rug or beach towel keeps him just as cozy as a $100 plush bed. And just a heads-up: he’ll probably destroy several beds between now and the time he’s an adult, so don’t feel like you have to invest in the higher-priced models at this point.
Bulldogs especially like bolster/pillow type beds so they can rest their heads on the edge. It makes breathing easier.
As with crates, you’ll need a bigger bed than you might expect because a Bulldog can’t curl up in a tiny ball like some more flexible breeds.
Puppy-Proofing Your House
Anything that can hurt a human baby can hurt your puppy. And because puppies don’t have hands to pick up new things, he’s going to explore his new world using his mouth. Anything he can sink his teeth into is fair game, and it’s your job to be sure he stays safe. That means puppy-proofing your home.
Start by getting down on the floor for a puppy’s-eye view of your home—you might be surprised what you find under the couch or in other puppy-reachable areas. Do the same in your garage and yard. Puppy-proofing is an ongoing project, so remember that within a month, he’ll be able to get to things that are out of reach right now.
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Have your children help you puppy-proof the house and yard. The kids will enjoy the challenge of finding things that might hurt the new puppy and helping you put them away.
Remove all dangling objects, too. While you’re on the floor checking for stray objects, remove or reposition any hanging drapery or window blind cords, tablecloths, and houseplants that might be in your puppy’s reach. It’s tragic but not unheard of for a pup to strangle on a drapery cord.
Also, cover electrical outlets and tie up electrical cords out of your puppy’s reach, or encase them in a cord-keeper or something as simple as a PVC pipe. A puppy who chews through a cord can be electrocuted and even killed.
Because you handle them so much, your scent is concentrated on remote controls and telephones, and your pup will gravitate toward these toy-size items that smell like you. Don’t leave them out on the coffee table for him to find. In fact, take everything off the coffee table for the next year.
Paperclips, thumbtacks, pens, buttons, jewelry, coins, and other tiny bits that fall out of your pockets and off a table or dresser are very attractive to puppies—and very dangerous. Be vigilant about picking up anything your pup might find interesting. Look under the bed and dresser, under the coffee table, and under any other place that’s convenient to your puppy’s eye level.
Now is also the time to teach your kids to pick up their clothes. If they don’t, they’ll learn this lesson the hard way the first time your puppy carries their underwear into the living room in front of company! Shoes and socks are heavy with your scent and, therefore, most appealing. Many a puppy has needed emergency surgery after swallowing a sock.
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In case you doubt Bulldogs can get into serious mischief, a recent winner of Nationwide Pet Insurance’s Hambone Award for unusual claims was a Bulldog named Lulu who needed surgery to remove something she swallowed. The surgeon removed 15 pacifiers, a bottle cap, and a piece of a basketball. Thankfully, Lulu recovered.
Wastebaskets provide an open invitation to a curious Bulldog. Purchase cans with hard-to-remove lids, or put the trash bin in a latched cabinet.
Relocate chemicals and cleaners from bottom cupboards in the kitchen, bathroom, and garage to higher, puppy-proof locations. Put medications and cosmetics out of reach, and use childproof latches to help keep your pup out of mischief.
Foods such as chocolate, onions, yeast dough, and coffee are dangerous for dogs, so keep these far out of his reach. (See Appendix C for a complete list of foods and other household hazards to keep away from your dog.)
In the bathroom, close the toilet lid so your puppy doesn’t fall in and drown or drink toxic cleaners.
Screen off fireplaces or wood-burning stoves, too. An ex pen works well for this purpose. Also put the wood somewhere he can’t get to it.
TIPS AND TAILS
During the holidays, block your puppy’s access to the Christmas tree with an ex pen or other fence. Ingested tinsel or ornaments can cut his insides or cause a fatal blockage.
Identify any poisonous houseplants you might have in your home (and yard), and remove them. It only takes a leaf or two of some plants to kill your beloved Bulldog. (See Appendix C for a list of poisonous plants to keep out of your pup’s reach.)
Puppy-Proofing Your Yard
As with the inside of your house, you need to be sure the outside of your home and yard are safe for your Bulldog. Even if your puppy won’t be spending a lot of time out in the yard, you still must puppy-proof it for when you do need to let him out.
If your yard is fenced in—and it should be now that you have a dog—check your fence for loose boards, holes, or anyplace you can see daylight through or under it. The slightest hint of an escape route will tempt your puppy to dig. Also be sure the tension wires at the bottom of chain-link fencing are securely fastened. Don’t forget to look behind bushes and sheds for loose spots, and block small spaces where your pup might get stuck, like between the garage and a fence or shed. And recheck your fence and all these areas regularly. You never know what he might do out there.
TIPS AND TAILS
Never leave a Bulldog of any age out in the yard unsupervised. Besides the danger of heat exhaustion, Bulldogs are often stolen because they can be sold fairly easily, and for a lot of money.
Your barbecue grill, drip pan, and the accompanying cooking tools are full of wonderful food smells, so store them out of your puppy’s reach after use. Also stow away patio chair cushions when you’re not using them.
Build a temporary fence around the pool, hot tub, or pond, if you have these water areas in your yard. Also block access to decks and balconies to prevent your puppy from falling off.
Bulbs and some outdoor plants, like oleander, are poisonous to your pooch. (See Appendix C for a complete list of plants toxic to your dog.) Cocoa mulch contains the same deadly ingredient as chocolate—theobromine—and a small amount can quickly kill a puppy. Keep compost bins off-limits to your puppy as well. Fermenting materials produce molds and bacteria that are toxic when eaten.
Just as you did indoors, keep chemicals out of your puppy’s reach outside. Store garden and pool chemicals in a puppy-proof cabinet. Don’t use snail or rodent bait in your yard because both are especially attractive to dogs. Likewise, keep fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides out of his reach, and consider limiting their use on your yard. These might not seem especially toxic to you or your children, but your puppy is low to the ground and his entire body is exposed to concentrated doses. And if you do treat your yard, keep your pup out of it for at least 48 hours afterward.
Puppy-Proofing Your Garage
You have to be just as vigilant in the garage because toxins like antifreeze can kill your puppy quickly. Dogs are attracted to its sweet taste, and your Bulldog puppy will have no trouble getting under the car to lap it up. Motor oil and radiator fluid are also hazards. Check under the car often, and wipe up drips immediately.
Ice-melting products contain assorted chloride compounds, and even a small amount can be lethal for dogs. Your puppy might ingest it if he licks his paws after playing outside. To help protect him, check labels and buy pet-safe products.
Watch your Bulldog puppy extra carefully the first few weeks when he’s outside your home. He’ll surely show you something you missed picking up or putting away.
Building Your Puppy’s Professional Staff
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when you have a new puppy, especially if you’re a first-time dog owner. But you’re not alone. A staff of helpful professionals is available to help you.
Your first and most important adviser is your veterinarian. Try to find one who has experience treating Bulldogs and the breed’s specific health issues. If you don’t already have one, ask your friends, especially fellow Bulldog owners, if they have a vet they like. If your breeder lives close, she can suggest someone nearby. Local trainers or kennel staff may be able to recommend a clinic. You also can check with your state’s veterinary medical association for a listing of local vets. The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) also maintains a list of members at healthypet.com.
After you’ve received some recommendations and chosen a potential vet, schedule a clinic visit to meet the veterinarians and staff. Make some observations while you’re there:
- Is the clinic clean and neat?
- Does the staff seem friendly and willing to answer your questions?
- Do you like the vet’s bedside manner?
- What are the doctors’ specialties and education?
- Do they treat many Bulldogs?
- What kinds of Bulldog health problems have they treated?
- Are the hours convenient?
- Where are you referred to for off-hours emergencies?
Look for a dog trainer, too. Although your Bulldog won’t begin puppy kindergarten for a few weeks, start asking around now for a good trainer who offers puppy classes. Try to find an instructor who has experience training Bulldogs and will allow you to use food treats during training. Different breeds learn at different rates, and methods that work on a Sheltie, for example, might not work well for a Bulldog. If the trainer makes a comment like “Bulldogs can’t be trained,” find another trainer.
When meeting with a trainer, ask if you can watch a class, and look for the following:
- Do the puppies seem happy and safe?
- Do students get enough individual attention?
- Are they having fun?
- Are their questions answered?
- Does the trainer offer more advanced classes for older puppies?
- Does the trainer use positive training methods?
Ask the trainer what clubs or professional associations, like the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT), she belongs to. Although obedience instructors aren’t legally required to be certified, you want to know yours is keeping up with advances and best practices in the field.
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Puppies should not be wearing chain collars or be trained with any kind of force. If you see this while observing the class, find another trainer.
You could have a pet sitter come to your home in the middle of the day while you’re at work so your puppy can get his lunch and a potty break. This helps him housetrain much faster. When you interview pet sitters, ask for references and proof of liability and property damage insurance. Ask about her experience with Bulldogs and if she’s a member of any professional organizations.
A little due diligence now saves you time and angst later. You’ll be glad you have your resources lined up before you actually need them.
A Bulldog puppy goes through dramatic physical and mental changes during his first few months of life. As he grows into his feet and adds pounds to his frame, his brain also develops, so his ability to concentrate and learn improves at the same time.
At 8 weeks old, your Bulldog puppy is starting a growth spurt that will continue until he’s about 6 months old, when it slows down dramatically.
That roly-poly little butterball you brought home probably weighs 10 to 12 pounds. By the time he reaches 12 weeks, he’ll weigh 20 to 25 pounds. He’ll alternate between being clumsy and sure-footed as his legs start to grow, and the little squirt who can barely keep up with you now will soon be barreling ahead and running circles around you. His sight and hearing ability are now fully functioning, as is his brain.
At this stage, different Bulldogs can vary by a week or more in their growth level, so if yours lags a bit behind, don’t worry too much about it.
Puppies spend a lot of time sleeping. But between naps, playtime is important, too. For a puppy, exercise doesn’t mean jogging or going for a walk. Just exploring the yard for 15 minutes is a good workout for him, or a 50- to 100-foot walk on leash across the yard. If he stops or seems tired, quit and give him a break.
Although your puppy is physically advancing, he’s still emotionally immature. He’s capable of learning, but his attention span is very short. Therefore, you’ll need to break his lessons into tiny steps and reinforce them with plenty of praise. Training sessions should last 2 or 3 minutes at the most.
Remember, he’ll retain anything he learns during this period—good or bad—for the rest of his life so be sure you make it good.
Proper health care is essential for your Bulldog pup. Like human babies, puppies need extra attention during their first year.
Your Puppy’s Health Records
Your puppy’s initial health records from the breeder help you set up a schedule with your veterinarian for future exams, vaccines, and parasite prevention. In your puppy’s going-home packet, the breeder should provide a complete health history, including the dates the pup was wormed, the brand name of the wormer used, the dates of the first vaccines, and which specific vaccines were administered. If your puppy was treated for giardia or other parasites, that should be noted as well.
A copy of the sire’s and dam’s health clearances, explained in the previous chapter, also should be included. You might receive photos of the parents and a three- or four-generation pedigree chart, too.
Your breeder might give you a bag of the food your puppy has been eating, a familiar toy, and a piece of the blanket or T-shirt the puppies have been sleeping on. Put the latter in with your puppy the first few nights so he’s comforted by the scent of his mother and littermates.
Along with your sales contract, receipt, and AKC registration form, the breeder might give you articles and information on Bulldogs and puppy-raising in general. Go over each item with the breeder before you leave so you’re comfortable you understand what you’re signing and how to best use the information she provides.
Your breeder should give you information for dealing with your puppy when it’s hot. You must learn how to care for your Bulldog in hot weather. If the breeder doesn’t include this information, ask for it. (We cover this more in Month 5.)
Diseases, Vaccinations, and Schedule
The breeder will have given your puppy his first in a series of immunizations that covers distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus, and parainfluenza (DHPP)—the basic core vaccines every dog should have. Right now he’s still too young for the rabies vaccine. These diseases are the reason puppy owners are told to limit their dogs’ exposure to the outside world before they’re fully vaccinated.
You might not hear about these ailments very often because most dog owners vaccinate their dogs so these illnesses aren’t overly rampant. But ask any shelter worker, and they’ll tell you disease occasionally does break out in the shelter. Unfortunately, the only solution is to euthanize the entire population of shelter dogs to contain an outbreak. Needless to say, these diseases are pretty serious.
Distemper, a viral infection, causes upper-respiratory symptoms such as runny nose and fever. As it progresses, the puppy also suffers from vomiting, diarrhea, pneumonia, and neurological problems. After the infection causes bleeding in the dog’s intestinal tract, it’s quickly fatal. Distemper is transmitted through saliva, urine, feces, and airborne droplets such as a sneeze, and your puppy can get it from another dog or a wild animal like a fox, ferret, raccoon, or skunk. The infection most commonly occurs in puppies 9 to 12 weeks old.
Canine hepatitis, caused by an adenovirus, was originally transmitted to dogs from foxes, and today it’s common wherever dogs, foxes, or coyotes live, spread by direct contact with an infected animal. The affected puppy will have a fever and enlarged lymph nodes on his head and neck and may die within a day or two from internal hemorrhaging, liver disease, and swelling in the brain. Hepatitis comes on very quickly in puppies 6 to 10 weeks old, and there is no cure.
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You might be confused when you see your puppy’s vaccine records because DHPP is sometimes designated DAPP. If the H stands for hepatitis and the A stands for adenovirus, what disease was your puppy vaccinated for? Hepatitis is caused by the canine adenovirus type 1 (CAV-1), so the two terms are sometimes used interchangeably. To confuse matters more, there’s an adenovirus type 2, part of the kennel cough (bordetella) group of diseases, which are much less serious.
Part of the kennel cough syndrome, the main symptoms of the parainfluenza virus are a dry cough and runny nose. If not treated, it can lead to secondary pneumonia and death.
Parvovirus is a relatively recent canine disease (it also affects coyotes), first striking in the late 1970s and now found throughout the world. It’s one of the most highly resistant viruses and can survive in the environment for 5 months or longer. The symptoms include bloody, foul-smelling diarrhea; fever; and depression. Your veterinarian will test a stool sample to confirm the diagnosis. Parvo is treated with intravenous fluids and medications to control the vomiting and diarrhea. The disease is most severe in puppies 6 to 14 weeks old, and many die even with veterinary care.
Many other noncore vaccines are available for dogs. You want to protect your puppy, but rather than overload his immune system all at once right now, discuss the various other vaccines with your vet and decide together if and when your puppy should receive them. Some optional vaccines include kennel cough (bordetella), Lyme disease, coronavirus, leptospirosis, and rattlesnake vaccine. We go into more detail about these in later chapters.
Your puppy won’t be fully protected until he’s had several booster shots. The vaccine he received at 6 to 8 weeks old primed his system to develop antibodies now that the ones he received from his mother’s milk no longer protect him. Boosters are given at 3- or 4-week intervals up to a total of three times—for example 6, 10, and 14 weeks, or 8, 12, and 16 weeks. The last one is administered at about 14 to 16 weeks of age and then a booster is given 1 year later. After his 16-week vaccine, it’s safe for your puppy to venture out in public with you.
TIPS AND TAILS
Whenever your puppy gets a vaccine, wait in the vet’s office for about 30 minutes before heading home. If he’s going to have a reaction, it usually begins within a half hour. If you’re still in the office when something happens, you can have the vet check him.
Your Puppy’s First Vet Appointment
Within a week of bringing home your Bulldog puppy, take him for his first vet visit. Bring along some treats, and make it a fun experience for him. Remember, what he learns now about the vet’s office determines how he views it for the rest of his life, so do what you can to make it pleasant for him.
Carry him into the vet’s office, and don’t let him explore on his own on the floor. Although the office looks clean, your puppy is especially susceptible to illness at this age and could pick up something.
Bring the breeder-supplied health records to your first appointment. The veterinarian will recommend a schedule for future deworming and vaccines based on those records.
The doctor will do a complete physical exam. She’ll listen to your puppy’s heart and lungs, look in his ears, examine his mouth for abnormalities, check for a hernia on his belly, and make note of his weight and overall physical condition.
Dealing with Parasites
When a puppy moves to his new home, the stress of being in a different and foreign environment away from his mother and littermates may depress his immune system, allowing parasites like worms, giardia, or coccidia to take hold.
Roundworm, hookworm, and whipworm are intestinal parasites that grow and reproduce in a puppy’s body. He might show no outward symptoms, or you could see the worms in his stool. Weight loss, a dry or wiry textured coat, diarrhea, and a potbelly are other indicators he could have worms. All three types of worms can be transmitted when the puppy accidentally eats, licks, or walks on contaminated soil and then licks his feet. Roundworms especially can be passed from the mother to her puppies.
If your puppy has worms, it doesn’t mean the breeder did something wrong. Most vets assume all young pups have worms and advise a deworming now and again in 2 weeks. Even though the breeder wormed the pups, it doesn’t kill all the worms. The first worming kills the adult worms, but it doesn’t kill the larvae; the second worming kills the worms that have developed since the last worming. It could take several treatments over a period of weeks to eliminate them all from your puppy’s system.
If your puppy is having diarrhea, the vet might opt to test a stool sample to check for giardia and coccidia, two other parasites that sometimes affect puppies (and adult dogs as well). Your pup can ingest these single-celled parasites from infected water or soil or from contact with an infected puppy’s feces. (Both can be transmitted to humans, too.) Medication quickly kills the parasites.
Some topical flea-control products are made specifically for puppies. Ask your veterinarian what and how much to use so your pup doesn’t get a toxic dose. Some orally administered flea-control products also prevent heartworm and other types of worm infestations and are available by prescription. Your vet should discuss these options with you, but feel free to ask.
Considering Pet Health Insurance
With all the potential diseases and ailments your puppy might get, should you purchase health insurance for him? If so, should you buy it now or wait until he’s older and more likely to get sick?
You have many considerations when it comes to purchasing pet insurance. No one wants to be faced with the horrible decision of euthanizing their dog because they can’t afford a procedure that could save his life. Lesser expenses add up, too, and you might decide the expense of coverage is worth it for your peace of mind. By removing financial pressure from the equation, it frees you to make better decisions about your Bulldog’s care.
Insurance companies offer many different types of pet coverage. Depending on what you’re willing to pay, almost any type of coverage is available. The most inexpensive plan is usually a major medical plan that only covers accidents and major illnesses like cancer or heart disease. More comprehensive “wellness” plans include hereditary diseases and routine care like vaccines, spaying/neutering, and teeth cleaning. Behavioral problems, parasites (like heartworm), and special veterinary food also are excluded from most policies.
TIPS AND TAILS
Bulldogs generally have more health insurance claims than other breeds, and companies don’t cover preexisting conditions. If you purchase pet insurance for your pet when he’s young, he’s less likely to have disqualifying preexisting medical conditions later.
When researching pet insurance policies, ask these questions:
- Is there a deductible?
- Will the price increase as my dog ages?
- Will the price increase if he’s diagnosed with a chronic disease?
- What illnesses or injuries are not covered? What is covered?
- Are hereditary conditions covered, even if my dog shows no symptoms now?
- May I choose my own vet?
- Are diagnostic tests covered?
With most pet insurance policies, you, the owner, pay the bill, submit a claim and receipts, and are reimbursed by the insurance company. The veterinarian doesn’t get involved in billing or receiving payment. Some plans have a set amount they reimburse for each type of illness or injury, so that’s something to keep in mind, too.
TIPS AND TAILS
Based on Nationwide Insurance claims in 2015, the top five most common medical conditions for Bulldogs are skin allergies, skin infections, ear infections, eye infections, and dry eye.
Feeding your new Bulldog is more involved than just setting down a bowl of kibble once or twice a day. Choose a food with the nutrients a puppy needs to develop strong muscles, healthy organs, and sturdy bones.
By feeding him quality food and establishing good feeding habits when he’s a puppy, you’ll help ensure his future good health.
Your Puppy’s Nutritional Needs
Dog food manufacturers want you to feed your pet puppy food for a year or more, but Bulldog puppies don’t need excess nutrients to grow and thrive. In fact, some breeders recommend you buy only one bag of puppy food and switch to adult food as soon as that’s gone.
Puppy foods encourage overly fast growth, which can cause orthopedic problems later in life. They contain the same basic nutrients as adult food but in slightly different amounts. A healthy, balanced diet includes protein, carbohydrates, fat, minerals, vitamins, and water. For puppies, manufacturers sometimes include additional protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals.
Dog food ingredients are subject to regulation by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). AAFCO establishes the minimum and maximum percentages of each nutrient that must be present in a food to declare it “healthy and balanced.” AAFCO also approves labeling “for puppies” or “for all life stages.” It doesn’t regulate what exact ingredients should make up the foods, however, and that’s where it gets tricky to select a food for your Bulldog.
The quality of ingredients is the most important factor when selecting a brand. Low-quality ingredients can affect your dog’s digestion and behavior. Read the dog food label, and choose a food that’s higher in meat protein and fat and lower in grain carbohydrates. (Ingredients are listed in descending order according to volume.) Dogs are meat eaters and don’t do well on a vegetarian diet.
TIPS AND TAILS
You might be interested in feeding your puppy a raw diet. A puppy’s immune system needs time to grow and mature, and he’ll be more susceptible to salmonella and E. coli when he’s little. We cover the pros and cons of a raw diet in Month 12, but in general, we don’t recommend it for dogs under 1 year old. You can discuss the issue with your veterinarian.
Your pup needs protein because protein contains the amino acids that help build his healthy bones, muscles, skin, and coat. The best protein sources are meat, fish, and poultry. Less-expensive protein sources come from plants, like wheat or corn gluten, and are harder for your puppy to digest.
Puppy and dog food labels should name the meat source (beef, lamb, or chicken) the food contains. If you see meat meal, that’s a good, concentrated source of protein. Meat by-products are made up of the less-desirable parts of the animal, such as the feathers or feet. Choose a food that has a specific meat source as the first ingredient, such as lamb or lamb meal.
Also important, carbohydrates provide sugars (glucose), starches, and dietary fiber. Simple carbohydrates, such as fruit, are easy for your puppy’s body to absorb. Complex carbs like whole grains, potatoes, peas, and beans also provide fiber and starches to help his digestion. Other starches are sometimes added to dry food during manufacturing to help the kibble retain its shape and texture.
Whole grains are a healthy source of carbohydrates. Refined grains such as white rice and white flour, on the other hand, are stripped of their most important nutrients—B vitamins, dietary fiber, and iron. These fillers add calories to a dog food but not much nutrition. Some “empty” carbohydrates, such as cellulose or peanut hulls, are used as fillers and help your dog form a solid stool, but they have no nutritional benefit. They’re also harder for your dog to digest and sometimes cause excess gas. What’s more, recent scientific studies have suggested that excess cereal carbohydrates—such as those found in grains, refined or whole oats, wheat, corn, etc.—cause hyperactivity in some dogs.
Fat provides your pup energy and essential fatty acids and helps his body absorb the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. Fat also adds flavor and texture to dry food and is sprayed onto the food after cooking. The essential fatty acids help lubricate your puppy’s joints and keep his coat shiny and healthy, while the calories in fat give him energy to grow.
Your pup needs certain vitamins and minerals in his diet. Vitamins are crucial to cell functioning. The fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K are stored in his liver, and excess cannot be eliminated. Excess water-soluble vitamins C and assorted B vitamins are eliminated via the urine. If his dog food becomes rancid, the vitamins are destroyed, so manufacturers add antioxidants to extend the shelf life and prevent spoilage.
Minerals help your pup build healthy bones and teeth. Dog food companies used to add a lot of calcium to puppy formulas to aid growing bones, but this practice has changed because excess calcium can cause your Bulldog to grow too fast and develop overly large bones with less density, making them brittle and easily broken. Calcium is necessary in the right amount because it works with phosphorus to aid functions such as muscle contraction. Additional minerals important to your puppy’s overall body functioning include zinc, iodine, selenium, and copper.
TIPS AND TAILS
The quality of any dog food can be affected by heat, storage conditions, and age. Be sure to check the expiration date on the package to ensure the food is fresh, and use food within 6 months of purchase.
If you’re feeding a “complete and balanced” puppy food made with meat and other high-quality ingredients, you shouldn’t have to add any vitamins, minerals, or other supplements to your puppy’s diet. In fact, doing so can do more harm than good. So opt for a good-quality food, and discuss any nutrition concerns you may have with your veterinarian before supplementing your puppy’s diet.
Making Diet Changes Slowly
The breeder probably sent home a small bag of the brand of kibble your puppy has been eating. If you’re going to continue with this brand, that’s fine. If you decide to change brands, make the change gradually to avoid upsetting your puppy’s tummy.
Start by mixing 25 percent of the new food with 75 percent of the old food for several days. If your pup seems to tolerate it well with no diarrhea, you can increase the amount of the new food to 50 percent new and 50 percent old for a week. During the next week, mix 75 percent of the new food with 25 percent of the old. Eventually, you should be able to eliminate the old food completely with no problems.
How Much to Feed?
Bulldog puppies can easily become overweight, and fat puppies grow up to be fat adult dogs. You should be able to feel your puppy’s ribs, even when he’s only 8 weeks old. If you can’t feel them, he’s probably too fat.
There’s no hard-and-fast rule about how much to feed your pup this month. Be sure to increase the amount of food per day as your puppy grows. At about a year and a half, that can be decreased as his growth rate has slowed. Most breeders recommend about 1 cup per 10 pounds of body weight per day. This could vary quite a bit among individual puppies, so monitor your pup’s size. Whatever you do, don’t blindly follow the recommendations on the bag of puppy food, which are usually far too high.
Proper Feeding Practices
During this month, feed your puppy three meals a day if possible. Bulldogs digest their food very slowly, so whatever he eats is going to sit in his tummy for a while. He’ll survive on two meals a day if you work during the day and can’t get home to feed him lunch.
When feeding, select a spot where your puppy can eat undisturbed, perhaps in his crate—you want to feed him in the same place every meal. Put his food down and leave it for 10 to 15 minutes. If he hasn’t eaten after that time, pick up his bowl until the next mealtime. By picking up his food, he’ll also learn to look to you as the provider of his food—an important motivator when you start training. And because you know when he has eaten, you also know when he needs to go out, which helps with housetraining.
Your pup doesn’t need any table scraps or other goodies to make his food tasty. In fact, giving him scraps only teaches him to turn up his nose at plain kibble. Practice good feeding habits now to avoid having a beggar later.
Keeping Your Puppy Hydrated
Last but certainly not least is water. Water is the most essential nutrient your puppy needs. The lack of other nutrients causes illness, but your puppy cannot survive without water.
It’s all too easy for puppies to get dehydrated, especially Bulldogs, so keep plenty of water available to your puppy. Change his water every day because fresh water encourages him to drink.
TIPS AND TAILS
Carry water with you at all times when you take your puppy in your car. In hot weather, it’s a good idea to bring along some ice as well.
It might seem unnecessary to groom your puppy when he’s only 8 weeks old, but if he learns to tolerate it now, he’ll be easier to groom throughout his life. Instead of looking at grooming as a chore, make it fun. It can be a wonderful opportunity for you to bond with your puppy.
Take advantage of his need to cuddle, and teach him to enjoy handling at the same time. You’ll need to clean his face, trim his toenails, brush his teeth, and investigate injuries throughout his life, so you want him to be comfortable being touched anywhere on his body.
Massaging Your Puppy
Gentle massage is a loving way for your puppy to get used to being handled and groomed. Massage him in short sessions when he’s naturally tired and ready for his nap, and you’ll soon have a happy, relaxed, sleeping pup.
Always keep the massage sessions fun and positive, with lots of treats along the way. He doesn’t understand what you’re saying yet, so your tone of voice is important. A soothing voice helps him calm down and relax in your hands.
To begin a puppy massage, sit on the floor with your legs out in front of you. Pick up your pup and roll him on his side or tummy in your lap or on the floor between your legs. Bulldog pups aren’t usually comfortable rolling on their backs, so slowly stroke his body and legs to relax him. (If you aim for his head, he’s likely to start play-biting.) He’ll struggle as you hold him, so reward him when he stops wiggling, even for a second, by giving him a treat and letting him get up. Allow him to move around a little between sessions. If he’s not happy to come back to you, you’ve pushed him too far. Remember, he doesn’t have much of an attention span yet so keep things short and fun.
By the third time you put him on his side, he’ll start to figure out what you want and calm down faster. If he doesn’t, he’s just too wound up and you should quit and try again later. After a few sessions, he’ll relax quickly.
A firm touch is less likely to tickle, so keep that in mind as you slowly stroke his body and legs. A long stroking motion is relaxing; patting him stimulates him and makes him more active. Rub your fingers between his toes, and work with his paws until you can hold each one in your hand without him struggling to get free. Gently stroke his ears from base to tip, and turn each ear inside out. Massage his mouth, and lift his lips and massage his gums with your fingertip.
Let him fall asleep if he wants to, and allow him to sleep on your lap or next to you for a while. If he’s still awake, take him out for a potty break and then let him play.
Introducing the Brush
When he readily allows you to hold on his paw without wriggling it away, introduce your puppy to the brush and other grooming tools. At this point, you aren’t trying to do a complete grooming job; you just want him to see the tools, let him feel them on his body, and give him lots of praise for allowing you to touch him with them.
Let him investigate each tool for a minute or so while you praise him and hand out treats. Allow him to feel the sensation of each tool on his body for a second, and immediately praise him and take it away.
Gradually work up to brushing his tummy, chest, neck, and legs. Do this several times a week.
Bulldogs need proper socialization when they’re young to ensure they mature into well-adjusted adults. To socialize your pup, systematically introduce him to the creatures and experiences he’ll encounter throughout his lifetime. By starting when he’s young and carefully controlling his interactions so they’re positive, you prevent future behavior and temperament problems. A well-socialized puppy grows up to be more emotionally stable, has an improved ability to learn, and is more resilient when faced with new experiences or stress.
Remember, because your pup hasn’t yet completed his vaccines, this isn’t the time to take him to the park or out in public. There are still many things you can do to socialize him, though.
The Fear-Imprint Period
Bulldog puppies are naturally curious and interested in everything around them. But between 8 and 12 weeks, most puppies go through a fear-imprint stage when they’re more likely to be significantly affected by a scary experience. A traumatic encounter during this phase could spoil his attitude toward that thing for the rest of his life. A healthy sense of fear is key to survival, but you want him to be curious and confident, not terrified.
The fear-imprint stage lasts for several weeks and usually starts soon after you bring home your puppy. Overwhelming or frightening incidents that occur during this time might stay with him for the rest of his life, and he’ll always react to them with fear.
Most pups won’t experience anything overly frightening at this age, but it’s worth taking precautions to avoid any unnecessary scares. This is a bad time to discipline him severely, yell at him, or force him to approach something he finds scary—if there’s ever a good time for any of these things.
When something traumatic does happen, it’s hard to know how your puppy looks at it. For example, if an 8-week-old pup, just entering the fear-imprint period, is badly startled when someone drops a bowl of apples behind him, it could cause a lifetime phobia. But what exactly the puppy becomes afraid of is difficult to predict. It could be objects hovering over his head, things coming up behind him, apples, bowls, or some other factor the pup focused on during the incident.
In spite of the potential health risks, you still need to socialize your pup during this time. Don’t force him to do anything he’s not comfortable with, but do allow your worried pup to approach a scary person or thing in his own time. Try not to overwhelm him or accidentally reward his fearful behavior. If you overreact, he might decide there really is something to be frightened about—or he could conclude he’s being praised for acting scared, and he’ll continue to act frightened to get attention from you.
If he barks or makes a big fuss when he sees something, move him away, try to distract him, and praise him when he calms down. Remember, praise desired behavior, ignore unwanted reactions or frightened behavior, and keep patiently working with him. Continue to present experiences he was familiar with before this period as well as introduce him to new things. In about 2 weeks, he’ll regain his confidence.
There’s a balance between overprotecting and overwhelming your puppy. With that in mind, it’s time to start the socialization process in earnest.
The most critical period of socialization ends by the time your puppy is 16 weeks old. During this time, your puppy learns easily, and what he learns, he’ll remember for his lifetime—good and bad. Your goal over the next few weeks is to introduce him to myriad positive experiences.
Socialization is not a one-time thing; you need to expose him to new things every day. If you bring home your Bulldog puppy at 8 weeks of age and he never sees another dog, person, or place until he’s 16 weeks old or older, he won’t develop into the outgoing, confident dog he has the potential to be. An unsocialized puppy can become excessively fearful or aggressive.
Your puppy’s breeder started his socialization when he was just a few weeks old (see “Social Skills” in Months 1 and 2). Now it’s your turn to continue those efforts.
Invite a variety of people to your home one at a time or in small groups. Your pup needs to meet people who are tall, short, fat, thin, old, and very young. He should see hats, coats, uniforms, umbrellas, and wheelchairs. For example, ask a guest to sit on the floor, toss your puppy a treat, speak to him in a happy voice to encourage him, and then ignore him while he works up his courage and decides to investigate. When your puppy approaches someone new, praise him for being brave.
If your puppy is fearful, start with the new person at a distance so your puppy can get used to her before getting too close. Act like the stranger is no big deal. Talk in a normal tone of voice, and shake hands or touch the person’s shoulder so your puppy understands that you think the scary person is just fine. Always give your pup the opportunity to interact with new people while they give him treats and pet him. Do this several times a week until he’s at least 16 weeks old.
TIPS AND TAILS
Include your mail carrier in the socialization process. After all, he or she will likely visit your home or doorstep every day for the rest of your dog’s life. Provide a box of dog biscuits, and ask your mail carrier to offer one to your puppy every time he delivers the mail.
Although your puppy saw many things at the breeder’s home, those same things might seem new to him in at your house. Continue to expose your puppy to various surfaces, including asphalt, gravel, concrete, grass, snow, dirt, and puddles. When he has a chance to interact with his environment, he’s more likely to remember it, so feed or play with him on each material.
Accustom him to different locations, too, such as the bathroom, the living room, the garage, the patio, his crate, and your car. You can safely take him to homes that have no pets or have pets who are vaccinated and friendly if you carry him to and from the house. Visit the vet’s office for a pet-and-treat session.
Introduce your Bulldog puppy to assorted sounds, like the lawnmower, the television, the dishwasher, music, thunder, yelling, kids, sirens, motorcycles, and other loud noises. Start with the sounds far away and slowly move closer, or record loud sounds and play them back while gradually increasing the volume. Remember that at this age, you want your Bulldog to have positive experiences, not terrify him to the point he’ll be emotionally scarred for life. If your puppy seems worried, back up and adjust the exposure accordingly.
Set up some physical challenges for him, and let him figure out each item for himself. Construct an obstacle course in the backyard, for example, and have him go up a step, walk through a tunnel, play in a cardboard box, climb over and under obstacles, and walk up a ramp or small teeter-totter. Or place a board across several bricks and teach him to walk on it, crawl under it, and climb over it.
By allowing your puppy to figure out new things for himself, you’re helping him build confidence and problem-solving skills. When he reacts in a calm and happy manner, praise him. You’re there to provide a comfort zone for him, and he needs to know all is going well. You’re also there to protect him from overwhelming situations and remove him when something is just too much for him.
Also remember that you’re quite large in relationship to your puppy. If you greet your puppy by bending over him, you block his view of everything else in the world—a terrifying thing to a little puppy. Think of how uncomfortable you are when a large person gets in your personal space and hovers over you—you want to move away. No wonder a puppy is sometimes afraid of big, new people.
Make introductions easier on your puppy by inviting everyone to get down on the floor at his level. Pet him by scratching his chest rather than patting him on top of the head. A hand looming over him might cause him to shy away, but the palm of your hand, down low and reaching in his direction, isn’t so scary.
Gradual socialization is very effective with rescued dogs, too. Slowly introduce your new teenage or adult Bulldog to unfamiliar things so he’s comfortable in new situations, and reward him with treats when he’s brave. If you punish him or force him to confront something scary, he’ll become even more afraid. As he learns to trust your judgment and understand that you won’t force him, he’ll look to you for guidance. Your happy voice and unconcerned body language will reassure him.
Your Bulldog Puppy and Children
Bulldogs love children. If you don’t have kids, borrow some and have a puppy party. Puppies need to learn how to interact with children, and equally as important, children need to learn how to properly interact with puppies.
Start by inviting over one well-behaved child at a time. For the initial introductions, keep the sessions short, calm, and controlled so your puppy doesn’t get overtired or overwhelmed.
Bulldog puppies are very heavy on the front end, so children shouldn’t be allowed to pick up a puppy. Instead, insist they sit on the floor to hold the pup. Be very careful even with adults who pick up your pup; people don’t expect the imbalance and could drop your Bulldog before they know what’s happening.
Some children don’t know how to play with a puppy. Avoid tug-of-war and teasing games. Teach the kids to give the puppy a treat for looking at them when they say his name. Help them teach the pup to sit or learn a trick like shake. Play “puppy-come” games, where everyone sits in a circle and each child calls the puppy in turn and rewards him with a treat when he comes. Have the child brush the puppy, hold his leash, pet him, or toss a toy a few feet away for him to run after.
TIPS AND TAILS
Never leave your puppy alone with children. It’s up to you to protect him while you supervise and direct the activities.
As more kids visit, there likely will be lots of yelling and running around. You want your pup to get used to the commotion, but all this activity encourages him to join in. Children often run and scream, waving their arms and batting at the puppy when he jumps on them. To him, this is an invitation to play. If he doesn’t learn his manners now, your Bulldog will play too roughly with kids as he gets older.
Teach kids to “be a tree” when your puppy gets too excited and starts nipping or pulling on their clothes. Have the children fold their arms across their chests, stand perfectly still, and not look at the puppy. When your pup stops leaping, quietly praise him and have everyone stay settled for a few minutes. Distract him with a toy or chewy, and put him on a leash to prevent him from jumping and nipping again.
Watch your puppy’s reactions as he plays with children, and remove him if he seems overwhelmed. And remember that puppies this age tire quickly. After a short play session, he can snuggle while he falls asleep in a child’s lap.
Introducing Other Family Pets
If you have other dogs in the house and they’re over 6 months old, choose a neutral territory, such as a friend’s house, for them to meet your puppy for the first time—before you even bring him home—so they won’t see him as an invader. Leash your older dogs, and one at a time, introduce each one to your puppy, who can remain unleashed. Keep a loose hold on the adult dog’s leash; a tight leash could make the dog feel restrained and like he can’t get away, which could make him more likely to lash out at the puppy.
If things get tense, pick up your puppy, remove him from the adult dog, and start with them farther away from each other next time. Praise the older dog and offer treats, so he’ll think the puppy brings good things. Be sure the older dog gets plenty of attention so he doesn’t get jealous and take it out on the pup.
Also, don’t leave your pup alone with the older dogs. They need supervision for several weeks until everyone is comfortable and the puppy has figured out his place in the hierarchy. (See “Socializing to Calm Adult Dogs” in Month 4.) Use baby gates and ex pens to separate them when you can’t supervise.
Bulldogs don’t have a high prey drive, so yours should be able to get along with other species. If you have a cat, know that the cat takes much longer to get used to your pup than the puppy to her. A cat’s first instinct is to run, and a puppy’s is to chase—what fun! It might take a few weeks for things to settle down. Be sure your cat has a place up high where she can get away from the puppy. Baby gates, for example, can block your puppy’s access to the cat’s territory.
Allow them to smell each other through a closed door, and take the puppy on a leashed tour of the cat’s favorite room, letting the cat leave when she wants to. At night, when the pup is in his crate in your room, the cat will have a chance to get used to his smell and learn the pup can’t get to her while he’s crated. Whenever the cat is around for the first week or two, leash the pup so he can’t chase her. When he gets too close, the cat likely will hiss and swat him. They may eventually become great friends, or they may just tolerate each other, but you need to introduce them slowly and help give your cat a break or escape when she needs it, especially at first.
Small pocket pets like birds and hamsters and caged animals like snakes are safest in their cages when a young Bulldog puppy is on the scene. He can get used to their presence from his crate, so don’t try to introduce them nose to nose—you’re the one who is likely to come away with wounds. If you don’t make a big deal of it, they won’t either, and everyone can peacefully coexist without interacting. Keep the doors to the pet rooms shut when you’re not able to supervise so a curious puppy doesn’t knock over a cage or aquarium.
TIPS AND TAILS
Prevent your puppy from leaping on or otherwise interacting too much with other animals. A bird can peck or bite at an overactive puppy, and a cat will scratch and hiss. You want meeting new animals to be a positive experience for your pup—and avoid injury to both parties. His first exposure to other species should be from a distance or otherwise carefully controlled.
Introducing Other Puppies
Your puppy needs contact with other puppies, too, especially puppies of other breeds. Bulldogs play differently from other puppies, and yours needs to learn acceptable dog manners—if one plays too rough or bites, the other one disciplines him or simply quits playing with him. You might be able to set up playdates with your pup’s littermates, or your veterinarian might have other puppies in his practice he can refer to you.
Limit your puppy’s contact with other dogs, both puppies and adults, unless they’re completely vaccinated and show no signs of illness. Wait until after the second set of vaccines at least before you set up a puppy playtime.
Perfectly normal puppy activities might test your sanity if you’re not used to having a puppy in your home. To help you both get through these times, it’s best to plan ahead for a few inconveniences and challenges during the first few weeks your Bulldog is home.
Sleeping Through the Night
At night, put your puppy in his crate by your bed, and expect to get up and take him out once or twice during the night. His little bladder can’t hold it more than a couple hours at this age. By 12 weeks, he should be able to sleep through the night.
TIPS AND TAILS
Pick up all water an hour or two before bedtime so your Bulldog doesn’t fill up right before he goes to bed. Give him one last break outside before you put him in his crate for the night.
Curiosity—Not Just for Cats
Without constant supervision, your Bulldog puppy will develop unwanted behaviors, which will turn into habits and be much harder to deal with later. As your pup gains confidence, he’ll start to explore his world more and more. If left to his own devices, he’ll discover that digging is fun and chewing keeps him entertained. These are normal doggie behaviors, but they’re not something you want to encourage. That same curiosity leads your pup into every nook and cranny, searching for more exciting things to eat and play with, exposing him to things that could hurt him.
Always supervise your puppy when he’s out of his crate or ex pen. You’ll both be better off.
When Your Puppy Starts Biting
As your puppy starts exploring, he uses his mouth and especially his teeth to discover new things. He tastes everything, and because he doesn’t know his own strength, he tests to see what happens when he bites hard or tugs. Bulldogs have exceptionally strong jaws, and he must learn effective bite inhibition by the time he’s 16 to 18 weeks old, when his adult teeth start to come in.
It is never okay for him to use his mouth on a person. His littermates started teaching him bite inhibition as they played and yelped when a bite was too hard, and you need to continue these lessons with your puppy, from the first day you bring him home, using the same methods his littermates used.
When you are playing with your puppy, use a rope toy or something else so he’s biting the toy, not you. When he starts nipping at your arms or clothes, yelp loudly like another puppy would. This tells him you’re displeased. Then calmly fold your arms and turn away from him, ignore him, and abruptly leave the room. Game over. Return after about 30 seconds. He’ll get the message after a few tries. With some puppies, yelping just makes them more excited, so eliminate that step if that’s the case. If he’s too wound up to quit, put him in his crate for a 3-minute time-out.
When you see him consider biting but then think better of it, praise him. Redirect his attention to a toy or an acceptable chewy.
If family and friends are consistent in their reactions, he’ll quickly learn to keep his teeth to himself.
At 8 weeks, your puppy is capable of learning specific lessons and connecting his actions with certain words. Teaching him good habits now prevents him from developing bad habits later. After all, it’s much easier to stop problem behaviors before they become a habit than change them when he’s a teenager.
Positive training methods make learning fun. Right now, he’s paying close attention to everything you do, and that’s a great opportunity to start his training. This phase won’t last long, though. Bulldogs are independent and opinionated, and he’ll be tougher to convince to do it your way even a month from now.
There’s no need for harsh corrections with a puppy this young. Instead, interrupt him and redirect his energy to something else. The most effective correction is responding to an undesirable action with a growly tone of voice or a short time-out.
Your pup’s attention span is limited right now, so keep your training sessions short—no more than 2 or 3 minutes at a time. Remember, he doesn’t understand what you’re saying to him right now, but your body language and tone of voice communicate your meaning. Always reward him for doing something right. Lure him with treats, or shape him into position and reward him. Add the command name when he understands what you’re asking him to do.
A Family United
An 8-week-old puppy needs to feel safe and secure so he can grow up confident and well adjusted. He must be certain that he understands the rules of the house and knows that everyone reacts the same to his behavior.
To make this happen, everyone in the household needs to agree on the rules when it comes to the dog. Bulldog puppies are cute and cuddly, but will you want him on the couch when he’s an adult? Will he have access to every room? Where will his preferred elimination spot be? Where will he eat? Should he be prevented from jumping up on all people, or are there some exceptions? If you are inconsistent in enforcing the rules, your puppy will be confused—and you’ll wonder why he isn’t learning anything. Decide on the rules together, and enforce them equally.
Also agree on the words you’ll use for different commands. Does “Down” mean “lie down” or “get off me”? Do you call him by saying “Come” or “Here”? Too many names for the same action only confuse your puppy.
Even at this age, he’s opinionated and determined to do things his way, so be prepared for some resistance. Agree on discipline, too. Rather than drag him by his collar when you want him to go somewhere, pick him up or hang a few leashes around the house so anyone, anywhere can easily hook him up to control his behavior. Agree that you all will ignore bad behavior or distract him rather than hit him or yell at him.
Start housetraining your Bulldog puppy the first day you bring him home. He’ll need to go potty as soon as he wakes up, within 15 to 30 minutes after eating or drinking, and after a play session. For the first week he’s home with you, he’ll need to go almost hourly. By 12 weeks, he should be able to last an hour and a half during the day between potty breaks.
Keep him close and supervise him during this time, put him in his crate or ex pen, or leash him and tie the leash to your belt so he’s always near you. Don’t allow him to make a mistake.
He’s little, and going outside alone is a scary thing for your pup. Take him out every time, and stay with him until he’s finished. Go to the spot you want him to use, and he’ll probably pee immediately. Don’t play or entertain him right now; just stand there and wait. You could tell him to “Go potty” or “Hurry” while he’s eliminating, and eventually he will associate that word or phrase with the activity, but right now he has no idea what it means.
Praise him to the skies and offer him a treat when he goes, and he’ll quickly learn that pottying outside produces treats. If he doesn’t go immediately, put him back in his crate for 20 minutes and try again. When he performs, give him some supervised freedom indoors before confining him again.
It’s worth repeating: you must go outdoors with your puppy and praise him when he eliminates so he’ll know he’s done the right thing. If you just put him outside, how will you know he’s done his business? And how will he know what he’s supposed to do?
Housetraining often takes longer in winter, when it’s cold and snowy outside. You don’t want to go out and stand in the cold, and your puppy doesn’t want to get his feet and tummy wet. Dig out a snow-free area, or erect a small shelter over his potty spot so you both won’t mind so much.
When you leave your pup at home alone or can’t supervise him, set up his ex pen and crate (with the door open or removed), some water, and a spot where he can relieve himself. He’ll select a corner of the pen to use. Encourage him with a piece of turf, a piddle pad, or even a doggie litter box in that spot. The best solution is to use the same surface he’s expected to use outside so he’ll quickly make the connection.
TIPS AND TAILS
Your pup will naturally want to jump up against his ex pen you’ve set up to confine him, and if he doesn’t stop now, he’ll learn to knock it over. Never pick him up when he’s jumping; instead, stand up straight and ignore him until he puts his feet on the floor. Don’t pet him while he’s on his hind legs, either. That’s just rewarding him for pushing on the pen. It’s better to rattle the pen until he backs down then you can praise him. This method also works when he’s jumping against a pet gate.
If he has an accident in the house, you have to try to catch him in the act and interrupt him. Make a loud noise, scoop him up, and take him straight outdoors. Wait outside with him while he finishes going, and praise him.
If you don’t see the indoor accident happen, clean it up and forget about it. If you scold him at that point, after the fact, he’ll have no idea what you’re mad about.
Your Bulldog’s crate is a training tool for you and a safe haven for your puppy—and it needs to stay that way. Don’t ever use the crate as a punishment, and don’t ever confine your pup in it for more than a few hours at a time.
To introduce your puppy to the crate, toss in a treat and let him go in, get it, and come back out when he’s ready—don’t close the door, and don’t make him stay inside. Do this a few times throughout the day, always leaving the door open so he can explore it on his own. At mealtime, place his dinner inside the crate, again with the door open. After a few meals, however, begin closing the door behind him while he eats. (Many breeders will have already introduced your puppy to a crate, which speeds up the process, but you still might need to start slowly.)
He might whine and cry a little the first few times you close the door. If he does, wait until he settles down and then reward him by letting him out. If you let him out because he doesn’t like it, he learns that making a fuss gets him what he wants.
At bedtime, place the crate next to your bed. Give him a chewy toy, place the blanket the breeder gave you (with his mother’s smell on it) in the crate, put him in, and close the door. You might not get much sleep the first night!
Practice putting your puppy in his crate for a few minutes at a time while you read or watch TV nearby. Give him a chewy filled with treats, and let him see you leave the room and return a few times. He’ll soon be comfortable and settle down for a good chew and a nap. Save the best chew toys for crate time so he looks forward to it. And always wait until your puppy is quiet before you let him out.
Limiting His Freedom
For the first year, your pup is still too young to have the responsibility of the entire house and yard. With no one there to instruct him, he can learn bad habits like digging in the wastebasket and chewing. He also can get hurt very easily.
Indoors, use pet gates to block his access to other rooms. If he’s scolded for having an accident in the house, he’ll just go to another room—in his mind, you can’t see him and he doesn’t get in trouble, so it must be okay. He’s figured out that peeing in front of you is bad, but doing it out of your sight is fine. Housetraining will progress faster if you keep him in the same room with you.
If you have to leave him outside for a while, put him in his ex pen. He’ll get to enjoy the great outdoors but remain safe.
Never leave a Bulldog outside in hot weather. (More on this in Month 5.)
“Come” is a fun command for you and your Bulldog puppy. To get a lifelong reliable recall, start training early and always call him for a positive reason. Take advantage of his willing nature; he’ll probably race to you as soon as you call. When he gets older, he’ll likely think twice about whether it’s worth responding—typical Bulldog behavior. If good things happen every time he responds, he’ll be more likely to come to you. If you’re going to do something he won’t like, you should go get him.
To introduce come, call your puppy by calling out “Puppy, come!” every time you feed him. Praise him, pet him, and feed him. If he doesn’t come happily, go get him, take him back to where you started, tell him “Good come,” pet him, and release him. He’ll soon figure out coming is a pretty good thing.
To teach come at other times, get down on his eye level, a few feet away, and open your arms wide. In a high, happy voice, say, “Come!” or “Come here!” and cheer him on as soon as he looks your way so he won’t go back to what he was doing. Praise him all the way to you, and give him a treat when he arrives. If he doesn’t come, go get him.
Practice the come from just a few feet away at first, and gradually work up to farther away. Don’t ever use a leash to drag him to you. He’ll just balk and resist, convinced that come is no fun at all. Right now training is all about fun, not force.
Have family and friends call your pup, too. Play a game in which one person calls him and then another. Keep it short, and always stop before he gets tired.
TIPS AND TAILS
For a quick and reliable training tool, put a few pieces of kibble in a small food storage container and shake it when you call your puppy. He’ll soon learn the shaker means treats—you can even shake it from another room, and he’ll come running. Make several shakers, and set them around the house so you can find and use them easily.
You and Your Puppy
During the first few weeks, you and your puppy are both learning about each other—and keep in mind that he’s learning even if you aren’t actively teaching. He’s figuring out his name, who’s who in his new family, what makes you happy, what he shouldn’t do, and what his new routine is. You’re starting to recognize when he needs to go out and when he’s tired, hungry, frightened, or wants to play. You’re all settling into your new life together.
Naming Your New Puppy
Your Bulldog puppy has two names, a call name and a registered name. His call name is the one you use every day. His registered name is the one listed on his AKC papers. The two don’t have to be similar at all.
Your Bulldog’s call name is the name you use for him every day. It may or may not have anything to do with his AKC registered name.
The best call names for your pup are short (one or two syllables) and snappy; have a happy, upbeat sound; and are easy for him to recognize among your other words. If you make his call name too long, you’ll undoubtedly shorten it to a nickname—Frederico will soon become Freddy, Francesca will be Franny, etc. Also, don’t choose a call name like Flo, which sounds too much like “no.” And think about what the name will sound like when you call him from across the park. Will you be embarrassed? Will he recognize what you said?
His AKC registered name is limited to 36 characters, and that includes any spaces. (For an extra fee, you can have up to 50 characters.) With the breeder’s permission, the kennel name can precede the puppy’s name, as in, Windy Acres Coming Storm. In this example, Windy Acres is the kennel name, and Stormy is his call name. Remember, his call name could be anything, and it doesn’t have to be related to his registered name. You could call him Bruiser or Mac, regardless of his registered name. Sometimes the sire’s or dam’s name is first on the registration, as in Samantha’s Sunny Surprise. Here, the dam’s name is Samantha and the dog’s call name is Sunny. You also can make up a registered name that has nothing to do with the dog’s kennel or parents. It’s up to you.
What to Expect During the First Week
Today is the big day! The breeder has done her job, and now that wonderful ball of fur is delivered into your arms, ready or not. Let’s review what you should expect the first few days.
Take him outside as soon as you arrive home so he can relieve himself in his designated spot. Once the smell is there, he’ll know to go in that place again. Let him explore around outside for a few minutes—supervised, of course.
When you’re sure he’s emptied his bladder and bowels, bring him inside and let him explore the main room where you spend most of your time. If he has an accident, clean it up, but otherwise ignore it. At this point, he’ll be too confused to remember anything you try to teach him.
Let your Bulldog puppy tell you what he wants to do next. He might approach you for attention. If so, get down on the floor with him for quiet introductions, let him sniff you, and maybe give him a few treats. He might fall asleep immediately at this point. Remember, puppies need a lot of sleep and tire quickly. Don’t overwhelm him with lots of noise or roughhousing, but do give him enough exercise so he’ll sleep soundly that first night.
On the first day, let him get to know just your family. (Visitors can meet him later.) It’s everyone’s job to make him feel welcome and safe. After a few days, he’ll recognize individual family members. As he starts to settle in, he’ll watch what you’re doing and start to follow you. He’ll be excited to see you and begin to learn his name.
Be sure his basic needs for food, water, and sleep are met. Take him out hourly for potty breaks. Be patient with accidents and chewing.
Bulldog puppies are naturally happy and outgoing. During this period of his life, playing is fun and instructive. This isn’t the time to be serious about anything. Make training a game using lots of treats, and he’ll learn fast and remember forever. Even a pup who makes a mistake can be corrected in a positive way by distracting him and redirecting him to an acceptable behavior. A full tummy, a soft toy, and a warm bed all make for a very happy puppy.
A Bulldog puppy doesn’t learn everything on the first try. It takes at least three repetitions for him to start getting the idea, and you might have to start all over tomorrow with the same lesson. He will make mistakes, have accidents, chew things, and whine in his crate—he’s just a baby. Forgive him, and keep training. He’s learning how to learn, and he wants desperately to please you. He just needs time to figure out right from wrong.
When you run out of patience, let another family member take over for a while, or put your pup in his ex pen or crate for a time-out. If you lose your temper, he’ll be frightened and see you as unpredictable.
Also, diligently manage your puppy’s environment. Even though you puppy-proofed your house and yard, he still requires direction, supervision, and confinement. Keep temptation out of his reach, and you can prevent trouble before it occurs.
The Importance of a Routine
A puppy starts to feel safe and secure when he knows what’s expected of him and also when he’ll be fed, walked, put to bed, and left alone. Set up a daily schedule with fixed times for every activity, and stick to it as much as possible. Try to keep weekends the same as weekdays. If you get up at 6 A.M. on weekdays, he’ll quickly learn to anticipate getting up at that same time on weekends.
Many people take a few days off from work when they get their new pup. If you do, don’t shower him with attention for several days in a row and then suddenly go off and leave him alone the next day. Instead, introduce his schedule immediately. A young puppy sleeps as much as 16 to 18 hours out of every 24, so he needs a lot of rest and quiet time, even when you’re home.
Treating Him Kindly
Remember, your pup is learning both good and bad things during this time, so be sure your grooming and touching are always positive and gentle. Never drag your puppy by the collar; if you want him to go somewhere, pick him up until you’ve taught him to walk on a leash. Never swat him with a newspaper or rub his nose in an accident; this doesn’t teach him anything except to be afraid of you. And you shouldn’t ever use harsh discipline on your puppy. After all, he doesn’t even know the rules yet. It’s your job to teach him—and to teach him kindly.
If, every time you handle your puppy, you show him that being touched is a good thing, he’ll look forward to your attention. He’ll read your mood quickly and respond well to a loving touch.