Breathtaking First 12 Months of a [Better] Bulldog Puppy
Finding Her Way
This month, your Bulldog puppy’s focus is more social than studious. She looks to you for everything, she follows you anywhere and everywhere, and she’s eager and happy most of the time. The period between 12 and 16 weeks, or 3 or 4 months, is a lot of fun for your family and your puppy as you continue socialization, take her to puppy class, and begin to set the foundation for future learning and good behavior.
This month also is a challenge as your joyful toddler becomes more active. Overenthusiastic about everything, she acts first and thinks later. She starts teething now, and her entire world changes as she gnaws on whatever might comfort her sore mouth.
Keep in touch with your breeder, and call her when you have questions about your puppy’s development. You might be worrying about something entirely normal, but you won’t know it’s normal unless you ask an expert. Plus, she’ll enjoy hearing about your puppy’s progress.
Expect big changes in your puppy this month. She might even look a bit out of proportion because all her parts are growing at different times. As mentioned, she also begins teething during this month, and that means chewing.
Your Bulldog is still small and doesn’t have much endurance, so keep walks and play sessions short. When she starts to act tired or stops in the middle of a game, it’s time to quit. She can go for very short walks—several hundred feet or so—but she’s not ready to go all the way around the block just yet. A sniff-and-stroll session around the yard is better.
Size and Weight
A 12-week-old puppy weighs around 20 pounds—almost double what she weighed at 8 weeks. She’ll almost double her weight again this month. And by 16 weeks, she’ll be about half of her adult height and weight. As always, these measures are estimates, so assess your puppy’s body condition (see Appendix B), and work with your vet to determine what her healthy weight should be this month.
By 16 weeks, your puppy is teething—something females usually do earlier than males. She’s losing her baby teeth, and her adult teeth are pushing through her gums. Her incisors, the small front teeth on her upper and lower jaw, start to come in first.
As with human babies, the teething process is painful, but instead of fussing and crying like a baby would, your Bulldog puppy chews to relieve her pain. Hide your most precious possessions, shoes, handbags, phones, and remotes, or they’ll become her teething property. She doesn’t target these items with evil intention—they smell like you, and that comforts her. When you catch her chewing on something you’d rather her not destroy, trade it for an approved chew toy. Provide your pup a variety of safe chew toys, and keep them handy because you’ll be negotiating plenty of trades. Rotate the toys so she has just a few at a time. Then they’ll seem new and exciting when you offer them. Don’t worry if you see some blood on her toys; that’s normal.
TIPS AND TAILS
Don’t yell and chase your pup when you catch her chewing something she shouldn’t. She’ll think you’ve suddenly lost your mind, and she’ll be afraid of you. And the next time, she’ll hide with her prize, and you’ll have trouble getting it away from her.
Frozen bones, cold carrots, ice cubes, or stuffed frozen KONG toys feel good on her sore gums and keep her occupied for longer periods. Frozen treats will make a mess, so confine her in her ex pen or crate when you give her these gum soothers. You also can rub her gums with a teething product like Orajel or use a natural remedy like chamomile. And to make mealtime easier, soak her food in a few tablespoons of water so it won’t be as painful for her to chew it.
When she’s teething, she sometimes might not feel like eating and might not want her mouth touched. This is normal. Remember, her mouth, hurts right now.
Frozen food-stuffed toys can keep your puppy happy for hours while relieving her teething pain. Fill a KONG with a mixture of mashed bananas and plain yogurt; add a few kibbles, bits of carrot, or broken dog biscuits; and freeze it until it’s solid before giving it to her.
Your puppy might get bad breath, have soft stools, or be a bit lethargic while she’s teething. Her ears might even flop out of position for a week or two, and you’ll have to reglue them if they don’t go back up into position. All this is normal, but if you’re concerned, consult with your veterinarian to rule out an infection or other problems.
At this stage of your puppy’s life, some new concerns are worthy of your attention. The most important things to watch for this month are signs that your puppy has eaten something she shouldn’t. Because she’s teething, revisit your puppy-proofing efforts (covered in Month 3) and supervise her carefully. When you can’t watch her, confine her.
Bulldogs and Cherry Eye
Cherry eye most often shows up in a Bulldog by the time she’s 4 months old, about the same time she starts teething. In addition to the upper and lower eyelids you can see, all dogs have a third eyelid. This third eyelid is in the lower corner of the eye, toward the nose, under the lower lid. When a dog has cherry eye, a swollen gland pops out from under the third eyelid and forms a little pink cherry-looking bulge. If caught early, your veterinarian can give you medication that helps the gland return to normal size.
A dog who has had cherry eye has a greater chance of suffering from dry eye in the future. With dry eye, her eyes don’t produce enough tears to keep them lubricated.
If you notice your puppy rubbing her eyes a lot, take her to your vet for an exam. Besides dry eye and cherry eye, conditions like entropion, ectropion, and distichiasis (eyelash disorders) can be diagnosed in a very young dog. Both entropion and ectropion can be surgically corrected, although some vets recommend waiting until the dog is older to see if it’s severe enough to require surgery.
When to Take Your Puppy to the Vet
As you and your Bulldog puppy get acquainted, you might worry about her and what’s normal for her. It can be difficult to know if a case of puppy diarrhea or vomiting means it’s time to head to the vet. What might be a minor condition in an adult Bulldog can quickly become critical in a puppy, so watch her carefully. If signs of illness continue for more than a few hours, contact your veterinarian.
If you see any of the following, go to the veterinarian:
Diarrhea or vomiting: A puppy can get an upset stomach from eating too much or too fast. Maybe she swallowed a piece of stick in the yard or a bunch of grass. She might have parasites. If her feces contain blood or mucus, it could be a sign of parvovirus. Vomiting is also a symptom of poisoning. If your puppy is staggering or shaking, take her to the vet immediately. A pup who is vomiting and has diarrhea is at risk for dehydration.
Dehydration is an excessive loss of body fluids, especially water, commonly caused by overheating or illnesses. To check your puppy for dehydration, lift the skin along her back. If she’s well hydrated, it should make a tent shape and drop immediately back into place. If her skin remains standing in a ridge, she’s dehydrated. Also check her gums; they should be moist, not dry.
Refusing food or water: A puppy can get dehydrated quickly, so offer your Bulldog plenty of water. If she doesn’t want to drink, see if she wants ice cubes. They’ll provide the moisture she needs but not make her queasy. Gnawing on the ice cubes also gives her something else to think about other than how she feels and may help ease teething pain. Add a little chicken broth to her water or the ice cubes to entice her.
Your puppy might skip a meal sometimes. If meal skipping is accompanied by lethargy or listlessness, it could indicate something seriously wrong. If she doesn’t feel better within 12 hours, call your vet. Your puppy could have a blockage caused by something she ate, such as socks, gravel, sticks, or bones.
When she feels like eating again, start off slowly, feeding her a bland food like cooked, plain, skinless chicken and steamed rice or cottage cheese. When she feels better, gradually switch her back to her regular food.
Sudden changes in activity level: Beyond being a tired puppy taking a nap, is your pup lethargic, dull-eyed, and uninterested in her surroundings? Or is she frantic and hyperactive? Sudden changes like this might be a sign of fever, disease, or something as minor as a thorn in her foot.
Signs of pain or injury: Is she limping, whining, or crying when you touch her? Does she bite or snap at you when you try to get close? If so, she might be trying to tell you where it hurts.
Breathing problems: If she’s gagging, wheezing, or suddenly appears unable to breathe, this could be an emergency. She could have something stuck in her throat, or she might have been stung by a bee.
Fever: A puppy’s temperature, taken rectally, is usually between 100°F and 102.5°F. Feeling your puppy’s nose isn’t a foolproof way to detect a fever. Bulldog noses are often dry; this is normal and not necessarily a sign of illness. Use a digital thermometer to get an accurate reading.
TIPS AND TAILS
To take your puppy’s temperature, use a rectal thermometer lightly coated with petroleum jelly. Keep her occupied at the front end with treats as you gently place the thermometer in her rectum about 1 inch. Hold it there for 2 minutes or until it beeps (if you have a digital model). Call your veterinarian if it reads over 103°F.
Urine or bladder problems: If an almost-housetrained pup is suddenly having frequent accidents, if she has dark-colored or bloody urine, or if she’s straining to go, she could have a urinary tract or kidney infection.
Constipation: Straining to eliminate could mean your pup isn’t drinking enough water. Offer her canned food, which contains more moisture than dry food and helps get things moving. She also might have eaten something that caused a blockage. Sometimes, a puppy appears to be straining when she actually has diarrhea, so try to get an accurate read on what’s happening.
Eye or nose discharge: If you see this, it could mean she inhaled a foxtail or has something in her eye. It also could be a sign of upper-respiratory illness.
Unusual odor from mouth or ears: This could indicate she has a broken tooth that’s infected or some decayed food is stuck in her teeth. She also could have an ear infection or ear mites.
The veterinarian will want to know when the symptoms began and how your puppy has been acting. For digestive issues, you might be asked to bring in a stool sample.
Getting Her Booster Vaccines
Three or four weeks after your puppy’s first vaccines, you should visit the veterinarian for her second DHPP vaccine. Each booster continues to build her immunity by stimulating the production of antibodies that protect her from disease.
At 12 weeks, she’s not completely protected yet. The final vaccine, at 14 to 16 weeks, completes the series, and after that, she can start visiting the outside world. At 16 weeks, or 4 months, your veterinarian gives your pup her first rabies vaccine, which is effective for 1 year. Your pup needs a booster for both DHPP and rabies 1 year later.
You might want to wait a couple weeks between the DHPP and the rabies vaccine to avoid overloading her system. The core vaccines all dogs should have—distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus, and parainfluenza—have a low risk of side effects, but you should be aware of the symptoms in case your dog has a reaction. They can occur minutes, hours, or days later and can last from a few minutes to a few hours.
At the site of the injection, bad reactions include pain, swelling, hair loss, inflammation, abscess, or intense itching. Reactions to nasal or oral vaccines could include ulceration in the nose or mouth, eye discharge, or coughing.
The most severe vaccine reaction is anaphylactic shock, which is an extreme allergic response. It tends to occur very quickly after the vaccine is administered. Symptoms include difficulty breathing, swelling at the injection site, low blood pressure, and weakness. A mild allergic reaction can be treated with an antihistamine, but consult with your vet before administering any over-the-counter drug so you don’t overdose or give your puppy anything toxic.
Dealing with External Parasites
Gone are the days when you had to constantly spray, dip, and bathe your dog in toxic pesticides to get rid of fleas and ticks. For the most part, you can control or eliminate these pests with over-the-counter products now. However, some situations do require a visit to the vet. Here’s how to check your pup for these nasty critters:
Fleas: Roll your puppy on her back, and look for fleas scrambling across her tummy to hide. Often you’ll just see flea “dirt.” The black specks are flea droppings, and the white specks are their eggs.
Ticks: Ticks feed on your dog’s blood (as do fleas). A tick embeds its head in your dog’s skin and can remain attached for several days, filling up with blood. A full tick looks like a grape hanging off your puppy’s body.
Both fleas and ticks can quickly get out of hand if you don’t protect your puppy. Fleas can spread bubonic plague, a bacterial infection that although rare today, still exists. They also may transmit tapeworms to your pup. Ticks can transfer serious diseases to your dog—and to you—such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever, ehrlichia, and Lyme disease. In addition, ticks have a toxin in their salivary glands that can cause a condition called tick paralysis, which causes a dog’s hind legs and ultimately her entire body to become progressively weaker.
A puppy who has been bitten by a tick may become lethargic, have a nasal discharge, or exhibit joint pain and lameness. If these symptoms occur, take her to the vet to test for parasite-borne diseases. Your pup also might have an allergic reaction to flea saliva and develop a skin infection that requires treatment.
Most topical preventives, like Vectra 3D, Advantix, or FRONTLINE Plus, are approved for puppies. The necessary dose is usually in proportion to your dog’s weight, but read the label carefully before using on your pup. These products are easy to apply between your puppy’s shoulder blades and partway down her spine, where she can’t lick or scratch off the medicine. The product distributes through her coat and oil glands in her skin without being absorbed completely into her body, and many are even still effective after your pup swims or has a bath. Most treatments are effective for 30 days, and fleas or ticks are usually killed with 12 to 48 hours. A bonus: the pests don’t have to bite your puppy to be killed, as with some preventives.
Sometimes a dog has an allergic reaction to a topical product, with symptoms including itching, redness, or swelling. If your pup exhibits these symptoms, bathe her with a dish detergent such as Dawn that will remove the product without harming her.
TIPS AND TAILS
Oral flea and tick preventives are often combined with heartworm pills in a single dose, administered once a month, to offer continuous protection for your puppy. Some brands also kill lice and other types of worms like roundworm, hookworm, and whipworm. An additional advantage to oral products is that they don’t leave a greasy residue on your dog’s coat or cause skin irritation.
You’ll find flea dirt not only on your pup, but also in her bed, in her crate, and anywhere else she’s been. Fleas jump off your dog and hide in the carpet until another warm host walks by they can latch on to. You haven’t eliminated all the fleas around you just by treating your puppy; you’ll have to treat other dogs, the cat, your yard, and your house to completely get rid of fleas. Nontoxic borax-based products and services like Fleabusters that dehydrate and kill fleas are available to treat your house and yard.
Ticks are common in the woods and in fields of tall grass. They like to hide in grass or bushes along hiking paths, waiting for an unsuspecting victim—you or your puppy—to latch on to. The more remote and overgrown an area, the more likely you and your Bulldog are to come home with a few hitchhikers, so stick to open trails as much as possible.
When you get back to your car, go over your dog thoroughly to remove any ticks before they attach to your puppy and start to feed. Rub her hair against the direction it grows so you can see down to her skin. A black speck no bigger than a pencil point can be a tick. Ticks look for warm spots, so pay special attention to your dog’s armpits, in the folds of her face and neck, her groin, and her ears.
At home, go over your puppy with a flea comb to remove any hangers-on. Just because you remove a tick doesn’t mean it won’t hop right back on.
After a tick is attached and feeding, it’s much harder to remove. Using tweezers or a specially made tick-puller, grasp the tick as close to your pup’s skin as possible, and slowly pull the tick away from your dog’s body. The head breaks off easily, and you don’t want to leave it embedded where it can cause an infection, so if it breaks off, make a second pass to remove it.
Resist the temptation to crush an engorged tick; it’s filled with blood that will explode everywhere. Instead, douse ticks with alcohol or insecticide to kill them.
After you’ve removed and killed the tick, clean your puppy’s skin and dab some antibiotic ointment on the spot where the tick was attached.
Fleas and ticks are common on rats, mice, rabbits, deer, and coyotes, so plenty of opportunities exist for your puppy to be reinfested. Even if your Bulldog doesn’t currently have fleas or ticks, consistent use of flea and tick control products will protect her.
Giving Your Puppy a Pill
You might never have a problem giving your Bulldog a pill. Hide it in a dab of butter, liver sausage, cheese, or canned food, and you’re done. That’s if you’re lucky.
Some Bulldogs aren’t so agreeable and quickly become experts at eating around the pill and then spitting it out. In this case, you’ll need to be more assertive. If you’ve been doing handling exercises with your puppy, she’s used to you looking at her teeth and touching her face, so you’re halfway there.
Standing behind your pup, put one hand over her muzzle with your thumb and middle finger behind her large canine teeth on either side. Squeeze in her lips. With your other hand, pry open her mouth, push the pill to the back of her tongue and down her throat, and close her mouth. Hold her mouth closed, and stroke her throat with your finger until she swallows. Give her a spoonful of canned food, cheese, or other special treat so she’ll keep swallowing and you can be sure the pill is down.
If that method doesn’t work for you and your pup, you can purchase an inexpensive pill gun from your vet. This is basically a long syringe that holds a pill on the end. Coat the pill with butter so it goes down easily. Then, the plunger in the back of your pup’s mouth, and inject the pill. Hold her mouth closed and stroke her throat until you feel her swallow the pill.
A growing puppy needs plenty of food, but in addition to how much she eats, what she eats is important. You also want to be sure she’s not learning any bad habits, like begging.
Appetite and Growth Spurts
Your puppy needs more food this month to keep up with her growth—up to about 4 cups a day. If your growing puppy cleans up every morsel three meals in a row, increase her food in small amounts, about ¼ cup at a time.
Feeding Your Puppy
The eating habits you teach your Bulldog puppy now are established for life. If she has to compete with other dogs for her food, she’ll learn to gulp down her meals. If you feed her from the table while you eat dinner, you’re creating a lifelong beggar. It’s important that you set up a proper feeding routine now, and stick to it.
Feed your dog at the same times every day. If she knows when mealtime is, she won’t pester you throughout the day. If you feed her just before you sit down for your dinner, she’ll be full and not so anxious to join you. After she’s eaten, that’s it—no seconds. Don’t let those big, sad, “Oh please, I’m starving!” puppy eyes fool you.
If you absolutely have to give her something from the table, wait until you’re done eating, get up from the table, and put the food in her food dish. If you toss a couple scraps on the floor while you’re scraping dishes, you’ll have a pest for life.
If it’s too late and you already have a beggar on your hands, put her in another room, put her in her crate, or tie her across the room until you’re finished eating.
TIPS AND TAILS
If your Bulldog is leaving a little food at every meal, cut back her next meal by ¼ cup. Don’t leave it down for her to free feed, and don’t be tempted to start adding table scraps or canned food to entice her. She won’t let herself starve.
Feeding tables scraps can be dangerous to your dog. “Give the poor dog a bone” is one of the worst things you can do, especially if it’s a cooked bone. Cooked bones are dry and brittle and can break apart easily and puncture your puppy’s esophagus, stomach, or intestines. Poultry bones are smaller and more dangerous than beef, but even large pieces can cause intestinal blockages. Raw bones are safer, but raw poultry bones are still risky. Bulldogs—even puppies—have such strong jaws, they can easily splinter bones that other dogs will only be able to chew slowly.
Holiday leftovers are especially hazardous for dogs. In addition to the bones, greasy turkey tossed in the trash is just too tempting for a curious puppy or even an adult Bulldog to resist. Besides the danger bones present, fatty foods can cause pancreatitis, a potentially fatal inflammation. Severe vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, and lethargy are symptoms of pancreatitis, and your puppy will require several days of hospitalization—if she survives.
“What’s in it for me?” is your Bulldog’s attitude about training. Independent breeds like Bulldogs need a reward to perform. Yours probably will turn up her nose at an extra bit of kibble, so choose really tasty goodies and switch often to keep her interested. And act super excited when you pull them out so she’ll think it’s a big deal.
Just as you check the ingredients in a dog food before giving it to your pup, look at what’s in the treats you give her. Treats might be high in fat, salt, and sugar to boost flavor, and the added salt will likely make your dog drink more (and be harder to housetrain). Soft or semisoft treats often contain added dyes and fillers, and just because something looks like a piece of bacon or beef doesn’t mean it is. Binding agents are often added as well to make the treat stick together and look like a chunk of meat. Some “bones” are made with vegetables and cornstarch and could break apart quickly in a Bulldog’s jaws.
Most treats are not intended as a complete, nutritionally balanced food, and this will be noted on the package. Junk food dog treats can upset your puppy’s nutritional balance, especially if she gets too many.
As an alternative to a constant barrage of commercially made treats, vary her treats. String cheese, leftover meats such as beef or chicken, and liver cookies are very enticing to most Bulldogs.
If you buy ready-made treats, look for ones with the highest meat content available and human-grade ingredients. Dehydrated and freeze-dried treats are convenient and don’t make a mess in your pocket. You should be able to cut up the treats so you can feed tiny amounts during training sessions. You can give several pieces as jackpot rewards for learning new things.
Remember, treats should make up no more than 5 to 10 percent of your dog’s total daily calories.
Your Bulldog puppy needs regular maintenance to keep her in good condition and ensure she’s in good health. With routine grooming, your puppy will look and feel better, and you’ll catch small health problems before they become big issues. Best of all, you’ll enjoy time together.
Gluing Floppy Ears
At this age, your puppy’s ears may be flopping in every direction. This is partially due to teething, but they sometimes don’t return to their proper “rose” shape. A correct rose ear folds inward at its back lower edge; the upper front edge curves over, outward, and backward and reveals part of the inside ear.
Bulldog ears are glued into shape—never cropped or surgically altered in any way. Your breeder can show you how to glue your dog’s ears into the proper position, where they should remain glued for up to 3 weeks and then undone and repeated once or twice more until they stay in position on their own. The procedure is not painful, and your puppy will get used to it quickly.
If you don’t mind her ears permanently hanging down in a V shape, you don’t have to glue your Bulldog’s ears.
Setting Up a Grooming Schedule
A weekly grooming routine should include the following:
Brushing her coat
Clipping her toenails
Checking her ears and cleaning them if necessary
Brushing her teeth
Performing an overall health check
(In Month 5, we introduce some additional grooming chores to add to your routine as her body develops: cleaning her face wrinkles and tail pocket and dealing with tearstains.)
Pick an afternoon or evening, and spend some quality time cuddling and grooming your Bulldog puppy. Place a beach towel or old sheet in front of the TV, and combine grooming time with your favorite sitcom. Set out your tools: brush, flea comb, toothbrush and toothpaste, toenail clippers, Kwik Stop, and treats. By the time you’re ready, your puppy will be ready, too, because she knows what’s up.
Once a week might not be enough. Your Bulldog will shed heavily twice a year, in the fall and spring, and she’ll need more of your attention during this time for grooming. If you’re an especially tidy housekeeper, you’ll soon realize that the more often you brush her, the less often you have to vacuum. Regular brushing also helps stimulate oil production in her skin and brings out the luster in her coat. During shedding season, two or even three short brushings a week might be necessary. You might want to take the grooming party outside in shedding season because you’ll have lots more hair to deal with.
Other grooming chores, like teeth and toenails, might only need to be done once a week or every other week. And you might want to skip tooth-brushing while she’s teething if her mouth is too painful. If so, rub a little pet toothpaste on your finger and let her lick it off to keep her in the habit.
Grooming Your Puppy
In Month 3, you introduced your pup to some grooming tools and started teaching her to enjoy being groomed. This month, you continue grooming … in spite of her protests. An active Bulldog puppy is in no mood to sit still, and she’ll wiggle, bite, and play puppy games to get out of being groomed. Take her for a walk or vigorous play session just before it’s time to groom her so she’ll be tired and sit quietly while you work. It also might help to give her a favorite toy to gnaw on while you groom her.
Break grooming into small sessions, and reward her for sitting calmly. For example, trim one toenail, give her a treat, and massage her for a minute. Then trim another toenail and give her a treat. Stop after a few minutes, and do some more a half hour later.
Include a health check as part of your routine. Here’s what to look for:
Skin: Check for lumps, bumps, cuts, and scratches. Carefully examine under her legs against her body where ticks and grass seedlings might stick to her. Look for dandruff or irritated spots.
Coat: Her coat shouldn’t be greasy, wiry, dry, or frizzy. If it is, take a stool sample to the vet to be checked for parasites or worms.
Feet: Examine her paw pads to be sure they’re not raw or cracked. Look for thorns or other foreign objects embedded between her toes or in her pads. Check her toenails for any broken or infected nails that need attention.
Mouth: Check to see if her gums are red or sore, especially while she’s teething. Look for broken teeth or objects stuck between her teeth, and check for lumps or cuts on the roof of her mouth and under her tongue. Be sure her gums are bright and pink.
Eyes: Her eyes should be clear and bright, not cloudy or filled with mucus in the corners. Be sure her eyes are free of grass and other irritants.
Ears: Wipe out her outer ear with a damp cloth or cotton ball, and look to see if there’s discoloration or debris down in her ear. Smell her ears, too. A bad smell means an ear infection.
If you check your puppy carefully on a regular basis, you’ll recognize immediately when she’s injured or ill. By catching problems early, often they’re easier and less expensive to fix.
TIPS AND TAILS
When she’s used to being looked over, she’ll also be more likely to let you examine her when she’s not feeling well.
Trimming Her Toenails
In another session, reintroduce the toenail clippers. Although the breeder probably trimmed your puppy’s toenails, she was so young then she might not remember it anymore. She needs to learn to tolerate clipping now, because as she gets older, she’ll get much more resistant to handling if you haven’t trained her early. Toenail trimming is something you must do because untrimmed nails can cause her feet to splay, which affects her balance and ability to stand and walk correctly. Overly long nails also contribute to the development of arthritis as her legs take on added stress.
You might want to get a helper for the first time you try trimming her nails.
Hold your Bulldog on your lap or put her on a table so she can’t run away. Stroke her leg with the toenail clippers while you hold her foot, and let her investigate this strange object. Tap lightly on her toenail, and give her a treat when she doesn’t pull back. Do this for all four feet and each toenail. Break it into several sessions, or take play breaks between feet or toes. If you have to, back up a bit in the process. And remember, quitting is her reward for doing the right thing.
Once she accepts the tapping on her toenails, trim off a tiny piece of one toenail. Praise her while you cut, and immediately give her a treat and release her. The point is not to actually shorten her nails, but to get her used to the feeling of the pressure from the clippers. If she can’t tolerate that, just close the clippers for a second on her nail and release without cutting.
Watch out for the nail’s quick, the blood-filled vein that runs down the middle of each nail. If you accidentally cut the quick, it will hurt and bleed, and your pup will not want you to do it again! Some Bulldog puppies have dark toenails, and you won’t be able to see the quick through the nail. The more often you trim her toenails, the farther back the quick will recede, and the less likely you are to nick it. Always err on the side of caution, and cut back less than 1/32 inch of each nail.
If you do accidentally cut the quick, hold your fingertip tightly over the end of the nail until the pressure stops the bleeding. Then apply a product called Kwik Stop or run a bar of soap across the tip of her nail to help the blood clot.
If you use a nail grinder instead of clippers, you’ll be less likely to cut into the quick. To get her used to the sound of the grinder, turn it on and hold it about 1 foot away from her so she can hear the noise. Gradually move it closer to her as she becomes accustomed to the noise. Don’t let her investigate it with her mouth or nose while it’s running because it could hurt her. The grinder can get hot, so just touch it to her nail for a second or two at first. Slowly work up to several seconds, and check it often to be sure it’s still cool to the touch.
Whether you use clippers or a grinder, try to hold a nail-trimming session every 3 days while she’s learning. That might seem like a lot, but it’s much easier to trim off just a little every so often than to try to clip her nails way back in one session. Plus, it gives you that much more bonding time with your pup.
Don’t forget the dewclaws while you’re trimming. If they get too long, they can easily snag when she’s scratching or digging.
Your last opportunity to have a significant impact on your puppy’s personality is between 12 and 16 weeks. This month ends the first critical period of socialization, so continue the lessons you started last month by exposing her to more people, sounds, smells, and textures.
Socializing to Calm Adult Dogs
If you have another dog in your household, you’ve seen him interact with your puppy. But one canine friend does not make a socialized puppy. Your puppy needs to meet dogs of different breeds and sizes while she’s young. One-on-one encounters are safer.
Choose your puppy’s companions carefully. The only adult dogs your puppy should meet now are well-socialized and tolerant dogs. A puppy needs older dogs, of both sexes, to teach her lessons you and other puppies can’t teach. Adult dogs generally forgive a pup or discipline her lightly for her transgressions while she’s still so young. It’s better that your puppy learns her doggie manners now, when no one is likely to hurt her if she misbehaves.
When she meets an adult dog, your puppy will use the same appeasement behaviors she offered her mother back in the litter. She’ll approach the adult with a low-slung “I’m a little puppy” wiggle. She might even release a little urine so the adult dog can tell how old the puppy is. By doing this, your puppy is communicating that she’s not challenging the older dog and that she’s not sexually mature yet. She might also lick the adult’s muzzle or lift one paw toward him, both submissive behaviors she learned to do when she was just a few weeks old.
A pup who doesn’t offer submission when she approaches an adult may be chastised. Most adult dogs tolerate a baby until she steps out of bounds. Leaping or pouncing on the adult, walking over him, yanking on his tail or ears, chasing him—all play behaviors—are fine until the grownup has had enough.
Another favorite puppy ploy is to try to steal a bone or toy from the adult dog. You’ll see the grownup purposely put the bone just out of reach and watch the puppy approach it. When the puppy attempts to take the item, the adult will come to his feet with a bark and reclaim his rightful ownership.
An adult dog uses varying degrees of discipline. He might growl; give a severe look; air snap; or even give a short, sharp bark—all low-level corrections. After one or two incidents, most puppies understand. Some pups, however, are oblivious to the message, and the adult will ramp up his response. He’ll roar like a lion, chase away the pup, or stand over the puppy and plant a paw on her body. All this sounds very ferocious, but no one gets hurt.
TIPS AND TAILS
When introducing your puppy to an adult dog, try to stay out of the action and let nature take its course as long as possible. Don’t discipline the older dog; he’s just establishing the dog rules, and your puppy needs to learn these valuable lessons.
Monitor the behavior of both dogs to ensure a safe encounter. If your puppy is persistently obnoxious, step in and stop her—and give the older dog a break before he loses all patience. If the older dog is standing over the puppy with his hackles up, tail stiff, and ears forward, or if he’s chasing the puppy, this might be a sign of an overactive prey drive. Stop it before instinct takes over and your pup gets hurt.
Meanwhile, don’t make excuses for your puppy. “She’s just a baby. She doesn’t know any better,” isn’t going to teach her a thing. And if you step in and rescue her, she’ll learn she can be a brat with no consequences.
Socializing to Many People and Things
Get creative this month when it comes to socializing. The fear-imprint period is over, and your Bulldog pup is more responsive and outgoing. Invite the cheerleading team to come over, a football player in uniform, kids wearing backpacks, and other people in unusual clothes.
Let her investigate your wet umbrella when you come in. Then pick it up and hold it over your head and shake the water off onto her. Let her walk over a metal grate or figure out a pile of rocks. Although her vaccines are almost done, she doesn’t have full immunity yet, so still limit her exposure to public places.
TIPS AND TAILS
Have a family contest to see who can come up with the most interesting new thing to introduce to your puppy.
When your puppy meets new people, she might crouch and release some urine, just as she did when meeting adult dogs. This is normal canine behavior, and Bulldogs almost always outgrow it.
An especially submissive Bulldog, however, might continue to urinate even when she no longer crouches to greet someone. To prevent submissive urination from becoming a habit, avoid situations that cause her to urinate. Let her approach people rather than allowing them to loom over her or corner her. It might seem like no big deal to you, but from your puppy’s viewpoint, this new person might as well be King Kong.
Also, don’t punish your puppy for the submissive urination. That will just frighten her more. You want to build her confidence, not punish her for what’s a purely physical reaction.
That said, don’t comfort her either. Your sympathy and worried voice might have the opposite effect of what you intended and convince her there was good reason to be afraid.
Your Bulldog’s personality really starts to shine this month. She’ll gain confidence as she has successful experiences, and she’ll enthusiastically tackle new challenges. And although she wants to stick close to you, she also wants to check out the world around her. She takes her cues from you when she’s unsure, and she fearlessly follows you everywhere.
Enjoy it now, and take advantage of her devotion, because next month she’ll be a preteen and ready to take over the world all on her own.
Preventing Separation Anxiety
We wish our dogs could be with us all day every day, but it’s not always possible, and our puppies need to learn to spend time alone. A dog who can never be left at home without destroying the house might suffer from separation anxiety. To help avoid this, teach your Bulldog to feel safe and comfortable alone while she’s still a puppy, even if you’re home all day. Your life or job situation might change someday, and by teaching this lesson now, when she’s young, you can prevent future trauma.
Your 4-month-old puppy isn’t yet mature enough to have the run of an entire house or yard, so confine her in her crate or pen when you’re gone to thwart puppy mischief. After all, when you’re not there to supervise, she’s free to indulge her curiosity and entertain herself in doggie ways. She knows she can’t dump the trash and eat the kitty litter in front of you, but when you’re gone, she makes her own rules.
Teach your puppy not to rely on your constant attention every minute you’re home. Set up her crate, pen, or wherever she can stay when you’re gone, and practice leaving her there for short rests during the day. She’ll learn to feel safe there, chewing on her toy and listening to household noises. She’ll also realize that being in her pen doesn’t always mean she’s going to be left for long periods.
Deafening quiet could unnerve your puppy, so when you leave, turn on the radio or television so the house still has some sounds she’d hear when you’re home. Background noise also blocks out scary sounds from outdoors, so she won’t react to unknown terrors.
Exercise your puppy before you leave her alone at home. Take her for a walk, practice obedience, or play a game. Then give her a chance to settle down and relax so she won’t still be excited when you put her in her pen.
She’ll quickly learn that the rustle of keys followed by you picking up your briefcase or purse, getting your jacket out of the closet, or picking up your books all mean one awful thing: you’re going and she’s staying. While you’re teaching her to spend time alone, occasionally go through your leaving routine without actually leaving. Pick up everything, fiddle with it, put it back down, and go back to what you were doing.
Don’t make a fuss over your puppy when you come and go. Put her in her pen and do something else for a few minutes before you leave. Then just leave. Big good-byes and petting just rev her up and upset her. When you come home, ignore her while you put down your things and get settled. Then greet her calmly and take her outside for a break.
Minimizing Mouthing and Overexcitement
Puppies learn by playing, and her over-the-top behavior this month includes plenty of chasing, pouncing, biting, and mounting. We talked about puppy biting in Month 3, but now your Bulldog is constantly grabbing and biting everything she sees. As you walk through the house with a puppy attached to your ankle, you’ll be wondering what on earth you can do to get her to stop this.
Bulldogs love to use their mouths when playing, but a Bulldog should never put her teeth on people, so don’t allow puppy-biting to continue. A 60-pound piranha is not what you signed up for when you got a Bulldog, and as her jaws get stronger and stronger, her nips can really hurt.
Mouthing and overexcited behavior go hand in hand, and you can easily minimize both. First, stop the game if she won’t quit mouthing. Also, step in and halt the action when she plays too rough with children or other puppies.
When petting your pup, reach for her body first, not her head. Your hand extending toward her face is an easy target. Also pet slowly, using long strokes on her body and head.
Stroke your puppy in the same direction her hair grows because rubbing against the growth might be uncomfortable and make her move away from you. Also, scratch her chest rather than reach for her head. As mentioned, an incoming hand is the perfect target for an excited, mouthy Bulldog puppy, and a shy pup will cower at a hand looming over her. Stroke your pup slowly if you want her to calm down, and always stop before your puppy decides she’s had enough so you leave her wanting more.
Don’t roughhouse with your Bulldog. Your hands darting at her encourages mouthing. Rough handling of her head, even in fun, invites her to play-bite. Bulldog owners often think of their breed as a “tough” dog and encourage a puppy to play rough-and-tumble games, but this creates an adult dog who plays too aggressively and tends to use her strength in the wrong way. You don’t want her to learn she can fight you and win.
Be sure she’s getting enough exercise and sleep, too. A wound-up or tired puppy is more likely to jump and bite.
Schedule play dates with other vaccinated puppies. They’ll discipline her if she bites too hard or plays too rough.
When she’s really excited, use muted body language and a quiet voice. Ignore her until she offers a sit or quits pawing at you and only then give her a treat to reward calm behavior. Offer her a treat after she calms down, not before, so she doesn’t think it’s a reward for all her frenzied activity. If she is biting at your hand for the treats, don’t reward her until she looks away and then put the treat on the ground, away from your hand.
If she’s too wound up to accept handling, attach a leash and let her drag it after her so you can lead her away from an overactive situation to a place where she can calm down.
You also can teach her to bring you a toy when she’s overexcited or mouthing you. Make a big deal out of it, and she’ll quickly learn to go get her toy whenever she’s excited.
Finally, give her a short time-out in her crate or pen when she’s rowdy. Don’t let her out until she settles.
Dealing with Vocal Discovery
You’ll wake up one morning this month and realize your puppy has discovered she can do things with her voice. Barking at the cat makes the cat run, barking at other puppies makes them play, and barking at the mailman makes him go away. Bulldogs aren’t usually chronic barkers, but you don’t want to create the problem.
It starts when she barks excitedly and you respond. Next thing you know, she’s standing in front of you barking for attention. And it works, doesn’t it? You immediately take action, if only to quiet her. In her mind, this rewards her behavior, and before long, you have a chronic barker.
When she’s barking for attention or is just getting too wound up, put her in her crate for a time-out. Don’t let her out until she’s quiet, and don’t talk to her while she’s calming down. If you give in and release her, she decides that if she barks long enough, there’s a chance you’ll let her out, so she’ll keep trying until she hits the jackpot. If you don’t accidentally reward her for barking, she’ll eventually grow out of this stage.
Between 12 and 16 weeks, start teaching your puppy specific behaviors. She needs to learn vital skills by the time she’s 5 months old, but if you wait to start until then, she’ll be too distracted by adolescence to learn much. The commands you teach her now build a framework for later training and communication.
This month, your Bulldog puppy is focused on you and is a fairly eager student. Enjoy it while it lasts because she won’t feel this way for long! She’s realized that watching and listening to you produces good things, and she’s able to connect your words to her actions and remember what worked for her yesterday. And whether or not you’re teaching, she’s certainly learning.
When teaching your puppy something new, work with her in a quiet place with no outside interference—no TV, video games, or other household activities. You want her to focus on you and only you. After she learns a behavior, you can teach her to respond in spite of surrounding distractions.
An independent breed like the Bulldog does better with short, upbeat training sessions, no more than a few minutes at a time. Too many repetitions will bore her, and if she gets bored, she’ll start making up her own games.
Enrolling in Puppy Class
You’re doing everything right for your Bulldog puppy. She’s meeting new people every week, you’ve started training, and her housetraining is going well. Even so, puppy class, often called puppy kindergarten, is an essential part of her education and social development.
The window of time during which this benefits her the most is closing fast, however. You started searching for a trainer when you first got your puppy. (See Month 3 for tips on selecting a puppy trainer.) Now it’s time to finalize your decision and enroll in class.
Approach training as a game. Your puppy’s attention span is still short, and she’ll learn faster if she’s having fun. If she’s really active, train after she’s had a short play session, when the edge is off her energy and she can concentrate better. Bulldogs can be hard to motivate, so adjust your methods to her personality and mood, and use plenty of treats.
You might be worried about enrolling in a training class, knowing your puppy isn’t yet fully immunized. But at some point, the risk of inadequate socialization is greater than the risk of disease. If you select the school carefully, her chances of getting sick are less likely. To prevent dog aggression later on, Bulldogs need to meet puppies of all sizes and breeds and learn how to play properly with them.
Choose a facility that’s clean and well maintained. Check out the health requirements for all dogs entering the premises, including those for classes beyond the puppy class. All dogs should be vaccinated, and no unknown dogs should be allowed. Some facilities rent their space on weekends for dog clubs and competitions; does this one? What are the health requirements for dogs who attend these events? Do they thoroughly clean and disinfect the space afterward?
Most classes accept puppies from 10 weeks up to 4 months old, so expect to see a mix of old and young, big and small in class. The instructor should separate the pups if the big ones are overwhelming the littler/younger ones—no one wants a sensitive puppy to be overwhelmed and frightened nor a bully rewarded for pushing other puppies around. Puppy class is for developing social skills and confidence, not destroying them.
Don’t be offended if your bundle of joy is singled out during class. Any pup who plays too roughly should be removed and introduced slowly to just one or two puppies at a time. That’s a lesson she needs to learn, and that’s why you’re at class.
Classes are a combination of playtime and lessons because all play, all the time gets the puppies too fired up. Your puppy learns the difference between when she can actively play and when she has to settle down or pay attention, and her reward for calming down is to go back and play some more. She’s also handled, trained, and corrected by new people during class. Equally important is the opportunity to play and learn her dog manners and bite inhibition with other puppies.
The instructor will set up play accessories that present new and fun challenges you don’t have at home, such as agility equipment. While observing you with your pup in class, the instructor will be able to identify potential problems and help you explore solutions.
Bring the entire family to puppy class. Puppy classes are as much about training you as they are training your Bulldog, and everyone in the household needs to be consistent with the care and handling of the puppy. In class, you learn how to teach your puppy, properly reward her, and introduce her to basic obedience exercises like sit, down, and come while you learn how to shape her behavior to manage play-biting, jumping up, and chewing. You also practice social skills like meeting new people and animals, and you learn how to handle situations when she’s afraid. In addition, you play new games with your puppy that both teach her and build your bond with her. And you can ask your instructor questions when you get stuck on a problem.
Many puppy class instructors follow the American Kennel Club S.T.A.R. (Socialization, Training, Activity, and Responsibility) Puppy Program. This is a 6-week training course that ends with a quiz for both owners and puppies. Owners also make a Responsible Dog Owner’s Pledge to accept responsibility for the care and training of their puppy. For more information, visit akc.org/starpuppy.
“Sit” is an instruction you’ll use over and over again, and it’s easy to teach. You’ll tell your pup to sit in many situations throughout her life: before you put her food down, so you can attach her leash, to greet people, for a vet exam, or before you go through a door. The first thing she’ll learn is to sit for a treat. Many people teach their puppy to sit for her dinner as early as 8 weeks old.
Let’s review the steps for sit. (Your pup doesn’t need to be on a leash for this unless you have trouble keeping her attention.) With your puppy standing, facing you, hold a treat just above and in front of her head—don’t hold it so high she tries to jump up and take it. She’ll look up to reach for the treat, and as she does, slowly move your hand toward her tail, keeping the treat just above or in front of her nose. She’ll naturally rock back and sit as she looks up and as you lean into her. Immediately feed her the treat and praise her while her rear is still touching the ground. Then say “Okay!” and let her get up. She’ll soon learn that “Okay!” means she’s finished and can move.
TIPS AND TAILS
If you have trouble getting your puppy to sit, have her stand with her back near a wall or a piece of furniture. Then she can’t back up because she has nowhere to go.
Repeat this three or four times, and you’ll find she starts to sit as soon as you lift your hand. As a bonus, you’re teaching her the hand signal for sit before she’s even learned the word! When she reliably sits for you, add the word “Sit” just before she actually sits. (Don’t say “Sit down.” You want to save “Down” for another behavior.) Pretty soon she’ll associate the word with the action.
When she understands the word “Sit,” ask her to sit without the hand signal or lure, and produce the treat and praise as soon as she responds. If it doesn’t work, she doesn’t understand yet, so back up and work some more on the initial steps.
At first, let her up as soon as she gets her treat. When she’s responding well, wait for a second or two before you release her with “Okay.” Don’t stare at her during this time; that will make her uncertain and she’ll stand up. Work up to a few seconds before you release her and then alternate between some immediate releases and letting her sit for a few seconds. You’ll see her fidget and think about getting up, but try to release her while it’s still your idea, not hers.
When her sit is consistent, ask for it in other rooms and outside, with you facing her, and with you at her side. Always praise her warmly, even if you don’t have a treat. Pretty soon she’ll sit whenever you look at her!
Invite everyone in your household to tell her to sit, too. Hand out treats, and have your guests tell her to sit before she greets them.
“Down” is an easier position for a puppy to hold when she has to stay in one place for more than a few seconds. Down also is useful when you’re out in public, when you’re standing and talking to someone, sitting in the vet’s waiting room, grooming her, and needing her to settle for a period of time. A dog can hold a sit for a minute or two, but she can be trained to stay in the down position for 30 minutes or more.
Down is a little harder to teach, for several reasons. Your little wigglewort will want to play instead of letting you manipulate her into a down. And because down is a submissive position, she might not want to accept your control. If you’ve been practicing handling her, she’ll learn the down much more quickly.
Let’s review the steps for down. With your puppy sitting (try this on a slippery floor to make the process easier), hold a treat in front of her nose and slowly lower it to the floor. When your hand gets to the floor, pull the treat slowly away from her. She’ll likely lower her body to the ground as you do. If she does, watch her elbows. As soon as they touch the ground, feed her the treat, praise her, say “Okay,” and let her up. Don’t push on her shoulders because this can easily dislocate a puppy’s shoulder.
You also could scoop your arm under her front legs and pull them forward, lowering her body to the ground. Again, as soon as her elbows touch the ground, feed her the treat, praise her, say “Okay,” and let her get up.
TIPS AND TAILS
Training your Bulldog isn’t a one-person job. Take advantage of your family’s interest in your new puppy to involve everyone in training and socialization. When you play and train together, you all learn how to work with her, get the results you want, and are consistent in what you teach her. As an added bonus, your pup responds to and bonds with all of you.
Another method to teach down is to sit on the floor, bend one knee with your foot on the floor, and lure your pup under your bent leg with a treat. She’ll have to put her front end down to reach under your leg and get the treat. As soon as her elbows touch the floor, give her a treat, praise her, and release her. Lure her farther each time until her entire body is down before you give her the treat.
Whatever method you use, you might have to scoop under her rear legs to settle her back end. Sometimes she’ll get stuck with her rear up in the air. Help her understand that all of her needs to be on the floor.
As you did with the sit, practice several times over a number of short sessions. Then start practicing in different places and on different surfaces. Your puppy will test you and try to get out of getting down by rolling over, wiggling, and biting at your hands, but have patience! Don’t give her a treat until her elbows and back legs are on the floor.
When she anticipates what you’re asking, she’ll get down as soon as you start to shape her into position, and eventually, you’ll be able to touch her less and less. Pretty soon, the motion you use—luring her nose down with a treat and pulling it out in front of her—will turn into a hand signal, and you’ll be able to add the command “Down” as she starts to comply. Always follow through and be sure she goes all the way down.
Up until now, you’ve been on the floor with your puppy, and that’s the picture she has in her mind of the exercise. She won’t understand what you’re asking if you stand up and tell her “Down,” so gradually work with her as you get up off the floor. Move to your knees, for example, and then stand up completely, continuing to work with her until she complies at each stage. Don’t bend down toward her when you give the command; stay upright. Bending over her is an invitation to get up and come to you.
When she can do both a sit and a down in response to a verbal command, play a game of push-ups with her. Ask for a sit, a down, a sit, and a down, alternating several times. When she understands it’s a game, she’ll pop up into a sit and throw herself into a down. She’ll also begin to anticipate the next command, and you can make her wait until you tell her. She’s learning to listen and respond quickly—and you’re both having a lot of fun.
Introducing Leash Walking
Until now, you’ve been carrying your puppy out in public, and she happily follows you around at home. But she’s getting heavy, and it’s time for her to learn to walk nicely at your side. In this section, we teach leash walking. Your breeder may have already started the process.
Break this training into short sessions. At the beginning of each session, start with something she knows well to boost her confidence before you move on to new things.
To begin, take your hungry puppy to a confined area with no distractions. Hook the leash to her flat collar (no chain collars and no harnesses for this), and let her drag the leash around, get tangled, and figure out how to untangle herself. Let her step on it and get stuck. She’ll soon figure out she needs to move her feet or give to the pressure of the leash to relieve the pull on her neck.
You can stand, kneel, or sit on the ground for this. Hold one end of the leash steady, and put just enough pressure on it so she feels it. Every action provokes a reaction, and her first instinct when she feels the pressure is to pull away from it. She might struggle, flip over, bite at the leash, or throw a full-fledged tantrum. Be a statue, don’t say anything to her, and let her figure it out.
Continue to hold firmly, but don’t pull her. If you drag her, she’ll either shut down and refuse to move or lag even farther back. You may have to lure her with treats. The instant she gives the tiniest bit to the pressure and the leash slackens, release the leash, praise her, and give her a treat. If you loosen the pressure before she gives to it, she learns that struggling makes it go away. You want her to learn that calmly moving toward you makes the pressure stop. Pick up the leash again and repeat the lesson. After a few tries, she’ll realize that if she yields to the pressure, you’ll give her a treat.
TIPS AND TAILS
As much as you’re teaching her, she’s also teaching herself what leash pressure is and how to make it stop, so set her up for success. Make it easy for her, and don’t move on to the next step too quickly.
Now stand up and step backward, keeping light, steady pressure on the leash. Wait quietly until she leans toward you or takes a step in your direction. Don’t look directly at her while you’re waiting because she might be intimidated by your gaze and afraid to move forward. And don’t go to her; remember, she is learning to come to you.
Encourage her with praise when you see her even think about moving forward. If she comes all the way to you, great! That’s where you want her, so give her some extra loving every time she comes to you. If she balks, just keep steady pressure on the leash until she gives in and complies. She’s likely to be confused, and you might have moved on before she really understood what you wanted. Practice backward steps until you both can move two or three steps without pressure.
Next, turn so you’re sideways and a step ahead of her. Because you’re no longer facing her, it presents a different picture, and she’ll be confused at first. Repeat the previous steps in this new position, and pay careful attention to the feel of the pressure on the leash. Without looking, you should be able to tell if she’s giving in to your slight pull.
Stand with your puppy at your left side with the leash in your hands and the clip hanging loosely from her neck. Say “Let’s go!” and take one step forward with your left foot. If your puppy moves with you, give her a treat, praise her, and have a party! She did just what she was supposed to do! If she balks, encourage her with your voice and a pat on your leg. When she moves, quietly treat, praise, and release her.
When you want your dog to walk with you, always start out with your left foot. That’s a visual signal down at her eye level that it’s time to move. When you want her to stay in place as you move, step off with your right foot.
Start with a puppy who has had enough exercise to take the edge off of her energy. Gather up some treats and a squeaky toy, attach a leash to her collar, take her a few feet from the front door, and point her in the direction of the house. She’ll probably move to head back inside. When she takes a few steps, release her and have a party!
Work up to taking several steps before you pause and praise her. If she pulls against the leash, stop briefly and try again. When she’s pulling, she’s not paying attention to you. She might glance at you every once in a while to see what you’re doing behind her. Reward her with lots of enthusiastic play and treats whenever she turns to look at you. Pretty soon she’ll be checking in often to see what you’re up to. You might always have to use a few treats to keep her attention, but as long as she’s focused on you, she won’t be dragging you down the street.
Your command word can be “Let’s go,” “Walk,” or whatever you decide to use. Don’t use “Heel”; that’s a precise position used in obedience competition where a dog is at your left side, her ear lines up with the seam of your pants, and she’s looking at you. You might want to teach a variation of heel later for when you take her out in public or if you plan to compete with your dog. For now, you’re just teaching her to walk nicely at your side with no pressure on the leash, a much looser position.
Remember, you want her to be successful, so you’ll have to take small, slow steps with her training. When she starts getting pretty good at leash walking, you can add variations to make it fun for both of you. For example, take several steps, turn in the opposite direction, and invite her to catch up. Go fast, go slow, turn left, turn right, and walk in a circle. Always encourage her, praise her, and give her treats when she’s by your side or catches up. She needs lots of feedback.
By now, she’s walking well in the living room, but that’s not the real world. Practice in the backyard, on the driveway, and in other places so she generalizes the concept of walking on a leash.
A puppy generalizes a lesson when she learns that a particular command means the same thing in many different places and situations. For example, “Sit” means “rear end on the floor” in the living room, on the driveway, in the garage, in the yard, and at puppy class. She also learns “Sit” means sit when someone else uses the word, even when the person is standing, sitting, or across the room.
When she’s walking nicely in a few places, add a mild distraction, like a family member walking at a distance. Remember to keep this practice short—just a few minutes.
If you begin to lose her attention, work to get it back quickly. Try to give her a treat before she looks away, so you’re rewarding her for paying attention. When her attention to you wanders, make noise, change directions, skip, or pull a squeaky toy from your pocket. She’ll hurry to catch up and find out what she missed. Be more interesting than that distraction could ever be, and always praise and reward her when her attention is back on you. As she gets the hang of the game, gradually add other distractions, such as a ball, a cat, a child on a bike, or a car going by.
Natural distractions, like a good smell or a leaf, will always tempt your canine buddy. If you stop and wait while she sniffs, she’s teaching you the rules of the walk. If you decide to let her sniff, give her permission before she gets to the item. Give this permission a name, like “Go sniff.” Then practice calling her back to continue walking, and praise her when she responds. She’ll soon learn.
Bulldogs are relatively easy to housetrain, and by the end of this month, yours should be almost, if not completely, housetrained. She also should sleep through the night in her crate without needing to go out.
If this isn’t happening, first be sure she doesn’t have a urinary tract infection by having your vet check a urine sample. If your pup is healthy and still having accidents, review the housetraining process outlined in Month 3, and tighten your supervision.
The main cause of delayed housetraining is because owners stop going outside with their puppy each time she needs a break so she hasn’t really learned why she’s out there. They let her out and then give her a treat when she comes back in. They don’t know if she’s eliminated or not, and the puppy thinks she’s being rewarded for coming in, so she doesn’t take her time and get the job done.
If she’s having accidents in the house, keep her in the same room, next to you, on a leash. And if you don’t yet recognize the signals that she needs to go out, learn them now. If you’re busy and can’t watch her, put her in her crate. Every time she pees in the house, she’s essentially being rewarded for her behavior. The smell remains, too, and it becomes harder for her to understand why she can’t go there again. Clean up accidents thoroughly with an enzymatic odor remover (like Nature’s Miracle) so she won’t be tempted to repeat her mistakes.
Keep track of when she eliminates, and you’ll begin to see a pattern emerge. Anticipate those times, and take her out before she asks. If she doesn’t go, confine her in her crate for 30 minutes and try again. These methods should help you catch up on her housetraining and quickly make a difference.
Handling Your Bulldog Puppy’s Collar
When your Bulldog gets too heavy to pick up, you might be tempted—especially when she’s been in some especially aggravating mischief—to take her by the collar and drag her to her crate or outside. Think again. It only takes once or twice for this action to create a hand-shy dog who avoids being caught—or worse, who snaps at you to get away from punishment she thinks will follow.
Instead, keep leashes hanging on every doorknob so you can hook her up and escort her on leash wherever you are. A puppy who hangs back and resists being dragged will usually happily follow you on a leash.
Or grab a few treats and show them to your pup. Usually, she’ll quickly stop what she’s doing and follow you. If she doesn’t want to go out, for example, let her see you put the treats just outside the door and close it. The same method works with her crate. Put the treat in her crate and shut the door with her outside. Pretty soon she’ll want to go where the treats are, she’ll happily comply with your wishes, and you’ll have successfully distracted her from her misbehavior and turned it into a learning opportunity.
Still, your puppy needs to allow you to take her by the collar without protesting. Someday, your 60-pound Bulldog will crash out the gate or front door, and you need to know you can grab her in an emergency without getting into a wrestling match. By that time, she’ll be much stronger than you, and you might not win.
You’ve been working on handling your pup. Now it’s time to focus on this specific lesson: take hold of her collar, and offer her a tasty treat while you maintain a hold.
If she shies away, start by reaching for other parts of her body where she enjoys being touched. Do this several times, and when she’s comfortable with you touching her collar, wrap your hand around it for a few seconds and release. Every once in a while, grab her collar quickly. Don’t do this often, and never do it more than once per session—after all, you don’t want this to turn into a hand-biting game. She’ll soon learn you aren’t coming at her to hit her.
Everyone in the family should practice this skill with your puppy so she trusts all of you to touch her collar.
You and Your Puppy
You love your new puppy and want to keep her safe, so select puppy-appropriate toys and supervise while she plays with them. Even though she’s still just a baby, try not to overprotect her. As you play and get to know each other, you’ll learn to read her canine body language and communicate better with her.
Choosing Safe Toys
Your Bulldog’s strong jaws can destroy toys no other puppy of any other breed could dismantle. Remember, chewing is an important part of puppy play, and it helps ease her teething pain. If you don’t provide chew toys for her, she’ll make her own—usually your designer shoes, the coffee table leg, or your pricey new phone.
There’s no magical list of safe toys. The best way to know for sure is to test them on your pup. Look to these categories:
Toys she can tear apart: Many toys are fine as long as you’re there to take them away when they start to fall apart. Stuffed animals with squeakers inside can be shredded in minutes, or they could last for days. Knotted ropes, tough fabric toys, tennis balls, and other items might be safe now, but as she grows and her mouth gets stronger and bigger, she’ll easily shred or swallow them.
Toys she can have when you leave her alone: Super-tough indestructible toys (you’ll soon learn which ones these are) will last several months before they break. A Galileo Bone, an almost-indestructible version of the Nylabone, is usually safe to leave with your pup when you’re not home. Hard rubber toys like a KONG, which you can stuff with treats and freeze, last for several months. As with other toys, check her KONG for cracks or missing chips of rubber, and throw it away when she’s started to break it up.
Real bones and chewies: These are made from real animal parts, as opposed to rubber or nylon, and you can offer them to her while she’s young if you supervise her carefully. Many varieties are available, including marrowbones, stuffed bones, smoked or filet mignon-flavored bones.
When you’ve identified some favorite chewies your Bulldog can’t destroy, set aside a few for times when you have to leave her at home alone. She’ll wear herself out chewing on her “new” toy for a while and then take a nap until you return.
Always supervise your pup to be sure these toys don’t cause diarrhea and no bits and pieces have broken off and are in her stool. Remember, even a young Bulldog puppy can break off sharp chunks she could swallow. Pieces can lodge in her intestines and cause a life-threatening blockage that requires surgery. A small chunk could get stuck in her windpipe, or a sharp sliver could perforate her intestines. Be vigilant if you give your Bulldog—puppy or adult—these toys.
TIPS AND TAILS
In general, choose heavy-duty chewies that are larger than you might think a puppy needs. And never give your Bulldog a toy she can get completely in her mouth, especially a round ball. If she swallows it, it can block her airway or lodge in her stomach and cause an obstruction.
Here are some examples of real chews you can give your puppy:
Bully sticks are made of beef muscle and are digestible. Your puppy will get hours of entertainment from a bully stick, but take it away when it gets small enough to lodge in her mouth or swallow.
Stuffed bones and knuckle bones are made from femur bones and are cut, cleaned, and sterilized. The long parts of the bone are filled with peanut butter or meat-flavored mixture, not necessarily real meat, and could contain additives and chemicals. The outside will splinter after a certain amount of chewing, so take them away when they reach this point.
Rawhide bones (not recommended for Bulldogs) are not digestible, which means a puppy’s body cannot break them down, pass them through her system, and eliminate them. Rawhides soften as your puppy chews, so she can tear off a large piece and swallow it.
Cooked bones, as mentioned earlier, are never safe for any dog. Cooking dries out the bones, making them splinter easily. Your puppy could swallow chips or sharp pieces of the bone, which could then hurt her insides.
Pig snouts are made of flesh, not bone, which your puppy can more easily digest.
TIPS AND TAILS
Choose products made in America whenever possible. Many imported chew bones are processed with chemicals that are dangerous to your puppy.
Overprotecting Your Puppy
There’s a fine line between protecting your puppy and overprotecting her. You have to allow your pup to figure out new things for herself as much as possible. She doesn’t have much experience yet, so she’ll try things and inevitably get stuck sometimes. If she’s cautious, let her take her time to learn.
For example, if she climbs into a cardboard box tipped on its side and it falls over, there’s no longer a door to escape out of. Resist the temptation to rescue her. Let her poke around and try different things to get out. Unless she collapses in a blind panic, she’ll eventually climb out or knock the box over. Then you can throw toys into the box to encourage her to continue exploring what the box will do. Will the flaps hit her as she crawls out? Does the bottom break out if she paws at it?
A puppy who is allowed to experiment grows up self-confident and eager to try new things. She develops problem-solving abilities and learns to think for herself. If you’re overprotective, she grows up shy and fearful, expecting you to step in and save her from every situation. This learned helplessness is hard to undo after she grows up. Her dependence on you will lead to separation anxiety and other unwanted behaviors.
Of course, you’ll want to protect her from a charging dog or horde of unruly children. But whenever possible, when it’s safe, let her learn about her world in her own way.
Understanding Canine Communication
Dogs have three primary ways of communicating with each other:
They’ll try to communicate with you the same way, so learn how to read your puppy and what she’s telling you. Look at the total dog, her posture, her arousal level, and what might be triggering her response.
Some behaviors are obvious, and it won’t take you long to recognize them. A play bow and bouncing around, for example, are signs of a happy puppy who is ready to interact with you.
Although a Bulldog doesn’t have much of a tail, she’ll still express happiness by wiggling her entire rear end. If she crouches and tucks her rear under her, she’s uncertain. This also could indicate fear or submission.
Her ears tell a story as well. If they’re forward and alert, she’s interested, happy, or paying attention. If she folds her ears back and down, she might be worried, frightened, or submissive.
Even her mouth helps show her state of mind. If she’s drooling or licking her lips, she might be stressed. If she’s trying to lick your face, that’s a submissive gesture she used with her mother. What might sometimes look like a snarl could actually be a smile.
In addition, look at her coat. The hair along her spine could stand up (known as piloerection) when she’s overly excited or meeting a new dog.
You’ll quickly learn the different tones of your Bulldog’s bark, from the “Someone’s here and I’m upset!” bark to the “I’m happy you’re home!” bark. Other variations include “I want something,” “I need to go out,” and “Ouch.”
A whimpering puppy could mean she wants something. She might also yelp in pain or because she wants your attention.
A growling pup might be playing with a buddy or threatening a tennis ball. Most growly Bulldog puppies are just trying out their vocabulary during play. Bulldogs—both puppies and adults—like to talk to you, especially when they’re playing with a toy.
TIPS AND TAILS
If you have a truly aggressive puppy who growls as a threat and follows it up with a warning snap or bite, get help from a qualified behaviorist now.
Our noses don’t give us even a fraction of the information a puppy picks up when she smells something. Puppies smell another dog’s urine, feces, anal glands, tail glands, and more so they can learn about the other dog’s identity, age, and sexual status. They can tell if their friend Rover peed on this bush yesterday or if a rabbit was in the backyard overnight. Smells tell your pup vital information about what’s going on around her.
The Importance of Play and Exercise
When you brought home your puppy, you removed her from her entire social group—her mom and her littermates. She needs you to be her playmate now. She needs to run, chase, wrestle, bark, and explore. Because she spent hours alone while you were at work, she’ll be raring to go when you walk through the door at night. Fifteen minutes of play here and there is hardly adequate in her eyes.
Now you know why she endlessly chases and nips at your pant legs, pesters your other pets, and just generally gets into mischief. She needs to play!
Toys and chewies help occupy her time, but she needs time with people and other animals, too—not just to teach her social skills, but also because she gets lonely, like any living being.
Exercise and play are an important part of your puppy’s development. At this age, she’s building bone, muscles, and strength, but she’s building brainpower as well. By the end of this month, she should be able to go for a 15- to 20-minute stroll with you, walking and sniffing the world around her. Let your pup tell you when she’s tired, and carry her home if you need to.
She can get exercise and stimulation in the backyard, too. Make a treat trail out in the grass, sprinkling a few treats every foot or so, and let her follow it around. When she learns the game, you can spread the treats farther apart and add twists and turns. Lots of exploring and free play make a tired but happy puppy!
If you work full-time, consider hiring a pet sitter to come in for a midday play session to keep your puppy company.
Balancing Teaching, Guidance, and Play
Right about now, you might be thinking that owning a Bulldog puppy is a lot of work. In some ways it is because you’re adding another family member who needs education, discipline, and love to grow into a socially acceptable adult.
But don’t lose sight of why you got your puppy. While you teach her new things, play with her, and redirect her misbehavior, remember that she’s just a baby, and she’s not purposely trying to get into trouble. She’s trying to figure out the world around her, and she can only do that by trial and error. She’ll learn faster through fun and play than punishment and isolation, and you’ll both have a lot of fun while you navigate these first memorable months together.