Your Bulldog puppy isn’t quite a teenager yet, but he’s not a baby either, and he grows dramatically between months 4 and 5 (weeks 16 through 20). In this month, we talk about physical changes like teething and growth, and we look at how you can monitor his health through all the changes he’s going through. Also, by now he’s completed his vaccines so you can take him out in public to continue and expand his socialization.
In addition to his physical changes, his behavior is rapidly changing, too, as he grows and gains confidence. You’ll see him exert his independence, and he’ll test your limits to see what the rules are and what he can get away with. You have a good foundation in place to guide you both through this headstrong month, and your consistent training and guidance will prevent behavioral problems before they become entrenched habits. Your priorities right now are exercise, teaching, and plenty of chew toys.
Your Bulldog is ready for a license, microchip, and ID tags. And of course, your active puppy will give your entire family hours of laughs and fun.
Think of your puppy as a preteen right now. Some physical characteristics are permanent, but his awkward proportions and teething pain are, thankfully, temporary.
Males and females often look a lot alike at this age. At the same time, puppies from the same litter might look very different from each other because they develop at different rates.
His housetraining should be almost complete by now. He should be able to hold it for 2 hours during the day and sleep through the night.
All Paws and Legs
During his fifth month, your pup’s body grows rapidly and at different rates. He’ll reach approximately 60 percent of his adult height this month and about half of his adult weight.
For a while, he’ll look out of proportion and clumsy because he’s growing from the outside in. His paws, nose, and ears will be too big for his body—almost adult size.
An adult who will eventually weigh 60 pounds weighs about 25 to 30 pounds at 5 months. Note these are estimates based on a dog who falls within the breed standard when mature.
The breed standard is a description of the ideal Bulldog as developed by the Bulldog Club of America, the parent club of the breed in the American Kennel Club (AKC). The standard specifies guidelines for size, color, structure, and temperament.
His brain is developing, too, and by 5 months old, he’ll have a maturity level similar to what you’d expect in a 10-year-old child. He’s still very much a puppy, and he’s approaching puberty. He’ll be very active and always a step ahead of you this month, much to his delight.
This month, his adult molars along the sides of his mouth start to come in, followed by his canine teeth—the two upper and two lower fangs in the front. His teeth won’t reach their maximum height until he’s 10 to 12 months old, so that means he’ll continue to chew voraciously during the next few months to ease his teething pain.
Except for his canines, his adult teeth come in behind his puppy teeth. If his puppy teeth aren’t loose and falling out by 6 months, have your vet examine his mouth. If his puppy teeth don’t fall out soon enough, his emerging adult teeth can come in crooked and cause bite problems.
As he grows, your Bulldog pup needs plenty of exercise, but don’t rush it. At this age, self-directed play—exploring, sniffing, and rolling in the grass—is just as important as walks or running. Be sure he gets plenty of rest breaks because too much repetitive exercise harms his bones and soft tissues that are still developing.
Don’t allow him to jump off the couch or bed, either. He’s especially susceptible to fractures at this age. In large, heavy-boned breeds like Bulldogs, most performance people don’t jump a dog any more than elbow height until the dog is at least 18 months.
Tug-of-war games can injure the soft tissue in a puppy’s neck. Instead, drag a toy for your puppy to chase or toss a ball.
You need to be aware of chronic breathing problems that afflict some Bulldogs and how they can affect two very important health concerns: anesthesia during surgery and heat sensitivity.
Also, vaccines and heartworm prevention are priorities for your puppy during his fifth month because once his vaccines are completed, he can safely venture out in public with you.
Breathing Problems in Bulldogs
A Bulldog’s brachycephalic head is uniquely shaped, and this sometimes contributes to breathing problems when certain additional defects are present. Symptoms of breathing problems to be aware of include heavy breathing, coughing, gagging, retching, and vomiting. These cause swelling and inflammation, which make it even harder for your dog to breathe. Reverse sneezing, where your dog inhales and snorts at the same time, is common and normal in Bulldogs and usually isn’t a cause for alarm.
TIPS AND TAILS
Pay close attention to your dog’s normal breathing—both when he’s awake and when he’s asleep—so you’ll recognize when something is wrong.
In an elongated soft palate, the palate (the roof of the mouth) partially obstructs the opening of the windpipe and causes difficulty breathing. By the time your puppy is 6 to 8 months old, your vet will be able to tell if this is a problem in your dog. If so, it can be surgically corrected, but most vets wait until the dog is 12 to 14 months old to do the surgery when they can evaluate the adult size of the dog’s skull.
A hypoplastic trachea is a condition in which the windpipe is too narrow. There is no cure for this, but some medications can help the dog breathe easier.
A correctly built Bulldog has wide, well-opened nostrils. If the nostril openings are too small—called stenotic nares—the sides of the nostrils are pulled in when the dog inhales, making the openings even smaller. Surgery can correct this problem.
Laryngeal saccules occur when small pouches protrude into the larynx and inhibit breathing. They can be surgically removed.
In addition, obesity can contribute to breathing problems in your bulldog as he ages.
TIPS AND TAILS
Avoid feeding your Bulldog peanut butter. It’s thick and gooey, sticks to your puppy’s palate, and could interfere with his breathing.
Bulldogs and Anesthesia
At some point, your Bulldog will need anesthesia—for neutering, teeth cleaning, etc.—and your vet will have to take extra precautions to be sure he is safe during and after the procedure. This is why it’s so important to have a veterinarian who has experience treating Bulldogs.
During anesthesia, your dog is getting oxygen, which is, in essence, breathing for him. Veterinarians are careful to use a quick-acting (and quick-recovery) anesthesia so the dog is not under any longer than necessary. They then must monitor the dog carefully after he wakes up to ensure he’s breathing well.
With structural abnormalities like those Bulldogs have, your dog has compensated throughout his life and learned to breathe differently. When these conditions are corrected, he has to learn to breathe properly all over again, and the vet needs to monitor his progress carefully, especially immediately after surgery to be sure he doesn’t panic or choke.
Dealing with Hot Weather
The combination of heat and excitement can be deadly for a Bulldog. They don’t have sweat glands like humans do, so dogs cool themselves by panting. And because of their brachycephalic head, when your Bulldog gets warm or overexcited, the back of his throat and palate swell, which causes him to pant more, which causes them to swell more and ultimately to close completely, cutting off his breathing. This is a life-threatening situation and all too common in Bulldogs.
TIPS AND TAILS
Be prepared at all times to deal with overheating in your Bulldog—this is critical. It’s essential that you take action as soon as he starts to breathe heavily. As his face takes on its adult shape, the risk will only get worse. Bulldogs have lots of energy and love to run and play, but on warm (not even hot) days, too much can be fatal. Overexcitement and stress can cause similar reactions.
Here are some tips to help you keep your puppy safe:
When your Bulldog is panting, he may develop a lot of mucus in his mouth. Use your finger to clear the excess saliva from his mouth and throat. Sometimes a squirt of lemon juice helps, too.
Monitor your dog’s breathing when he’s outside in the hot sun because he won’t regulate himself. If it’s too warm for you to wear a sweater, it’s too warm for your dog. He can overheat just sitting quietly in the sun.
Carry water at all times, and teach your dog to drink out of a spray bottle. Also use the sprayer to mist his coat when it’s warm. Don’t let a heavily panting dog drink too much water at a time, though, because it could cause him to throw up and inhale bits of vomit into his lungs.
When you’re out and about, bring towels you can soak in water and drape over your dog.
Invest in a small battery-powered fan to cool him wherever you are.
Bring ice cubes along on outings. Teach him to suck on or eat the cubes to cool himself.
When you need to crate your Bulldog, use a wire crate that allows more air circulation.
If your Bulldog is panting hard, act quickly. Don’t wait until he’s overheated. Symptoms to watch for include heavy panting, bright red gums and tongue (which might turn blue or gray in later stages), body temperature above 104°F, difficulty walking, and even collapse and unconsciousness.
To cool your Bulldog, place him in a cool, well-ventilated area, on a cool floor if possible, and turn on a fan to keep air moving over his body.
Use water-soaked towels to cool his head, neck, feet, and stomach. Wrap ice packs (or a package of frozen vegetables) in towels so they’re not too cold against his skin.
If there’s a hose nearby, spray him down with cool water. Check to be sure the water coming out of the hose is actually cool, not hot from the sun.
Take him to the vet immediately, even if he seems to recover. He could have experienced damage to his internal organs. Continue to cool your Bulldog with wet towels while you transport him to the vet’s office.
We cover more first-aid information, including CPR, in Month 6.
Finishing Puppy Vaccines
If you didn’t finish your Bulldog’s vaccines last month, be sure to schedule a vet visit this month to get his last DHPP booster. The series should be complete by the time he’s 16 weeks old. He also gets his first rabies vaccine this month.
Considering Additional Vaccines
After your pup has completed his core vaccines, discuss additional vaccines with your veterinarian so you can decide together when and if your puppy needs them.
Noncore vaccines should be administered based on your geographic location, lifestyle, and risk of the disease. Consider the environment your Bulldog will be exposed to—outdoors, near other animals, in tick-infested areas, etc. Regional considerations also come into play—for example, if you live in an area with rattlesnakes.
Here are some other vaccines to discuss with your vet:
Bordetella: One of the many causes of kennel cough, bordetella is an upper-respiratory bacteria that causes coughing, sneezing, and other symptoms similar to the common cold in humans. Kennel cough is highly contagious and spreads from dog to dog rapidly. Healthy adult dogs recover quickly, but in puppies, it can progress to pneumonia. There are several strains of kennel cough, and the vaccine doesn’t protect against all of them.
The vaccine is given intranasally, orally, or by injection. Although Bulldogs rarely get kennel cough, boarding kennels and dog daycares require the vaccine. Most owners choose the oral vaccine because the intranasal one can cause breathing issues. To be effective, a booster should be administered a week before exposure to other dogs. So if you’re going to board your puppy, he should receive the vaccine at least 1 week before going to the kennel followed by a booster every 6 to 12 months.
Lyme disease: Transmitted by a bite from a tick, Lyme disease is one of several tick-borne diseases. If your dog spends time in the woods, or if ticks are common in your area, discuss this vaccine with your veterinarian. (Note it doesn’t protect against other tick-borne diseases, though.) The initial vaccine is two doses, 2 to 4 weeks apart, followed by an annual booster at the start of tick season, which could vary depending on where you live.
Leptospirosis: Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease transmitted by skin contact with the urine of infected animals, primarily rats and mice. It also can contaminate streams, rivers, and lakes, where a dog might ingest it. Dogs should receive this vaccine only if you live in an area where there have been known cases of the disease. Two doses are recommended, 2 to 4 weeks apart, along with an annual booster. Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease and is, therefore, transmissible to humans.
Rattlesnake venom: This vaccine protects against western diamondback rattlesnake venom; it also provides some protection against the eastern diamondback rattlesnake. If you live in an area where these snakes are common, the recommendation is two doses, 1 month apart, and a yearly booster. Consider attending a rattlesnake avoidance clinic to help teach your Bulldog to stay away from them, too. (We’ll talk more about this in Month 8.)
Heartworms and Preventatives
Heartworm is caused by a parasitic worm and is transmitted to your dog by mosquitoes. Formerly confined to the Southeast, today it affects dogs throughout the United States.
The mosquito bites an infected dog and ingests the heartworm larvae in that dog’s blood. Then the mosquito moves on to your dog, bites, and injects the larvae into your dog, where they migrate to the bloodstream. There they grow into mature heartworms and attack the pulmonary arteries that lead from the lungs to the heart, which can lead to heart failure.
You can prevent heartworm infestation by administering a monthly prescription preventive that kills the immature larvae before they have a chance to grow or reproduce. The medication can be started any time after your puppy reaches 8 weeks of age and well before mosquito season begins in your region.
Once a puppy reaches 6 months old, your veterinarian will need to do a heartworm blood test before beginning the medication. Then, your Bulldog will require an annual retest. Some people discontinue the preventative during the winter months, so a retest is required before you restart in the spring.
Symptoms of heartworm include coughing, weight loss, vomiting blood, and ultimately heart failure and death. Treatment of heartworm is long and hard on your dog. Arsenic is used to kill the worms, and the dog must be strictly confined. Too much exercise can cause a large mass of worms to go into the lungs and cause serious complications.
During treatment, the worms die slowly over a period of 4 to 6 weeks and their bodies are passed into the lungs, where your pup’s immune system destroys them. When that step is complete, your dog is treated with another medication to kill the surviving larvae. A heartworm test at the end of treatment confirms that the parasites are completely gone.
As you can see, although treatment is an option, prevention is by far the best choice for dealing with the threat of heartworm.
Safety in the Car
Now that his vaccines are finished, your puppy can go out in public with you. Confine him in a crate so he can’t wander around the car or look out the windows, and be sure to anchor the crate so it doesn’t fall over when you go around a corner. Or put him in a harness and attach it to a seatbelt so he faces forward. Lower a couple of windows about 1 inch to equalize the air pressure in the car and keep it cooler inside. Give your pup a toy he loves when you put him in the car so he makes positive associations with car rides.
TIPS AND TAILS
An airbag is dangerous to puppies, so disable it or put him in the backseat (like you would a human baby).
If your puppy develops a phobia of riding in the car, retrain him to think of it as a fun experience. Take him on short trips to fun places. If every car ride takes him to the vet or boarding kennel, no wonder he gets nervous about the trip!
You also could give him treats or meals in the car. If he won’t get in, start by feeding him next to the car and work up to a treat on the running board, a treat on the car floor, and one on the seat. Don’t start the engine or go anywhere; just let him get used to the idea that the car isn’t a bad thing.
Then start the car and turn it off immediately while he’s in the crate or backseat. Sit in the car with the engine running for a minute or two while he eats and then shut it off and let him out. Gradually progress to where you drive to the end of the driveway, down to the corner, and around the block.
Your puppy’s appetite might fluctuate this month because his growth is uneven—one day his legs are longer, the next his feet are growing, and then nothing might change for a week. Teething pain also contributes to his occasional lack of appetite. This is normal and nothing to worry about, unless you see symptoms of illness.
Monitoring Your Puppy’s Weight
There’s no hard-and-fast rule about how much a Bulldog should weigh at any given age. If you hear or read that his weight should fall somewhere between 25 and 35 pounds, that’s not very specific, so you really need to look at your dog’s body condition to accurately assess his weight (see Appendix B).
Even though a young puppy gets a lot of exercise, he can still eat too much and get fat. An overweight puppy has a higher risk for injury because his bones aren’t strong enough yet to carry the extra pounds. If you can’t feel his ribs or see that his tummy has a little tuckup behind his rib cage (see Appendix B), cut back on his food a bit. Give him a little more in the morning and less at night so he’ll have extra calories to get him through his active day.
A more common problem in Bulldog puppies is that they’re too thin. A heavy-looking Bulldog is not necessarily fat; his thick coat and muscular front end are naturally heavy-looking. Many stay thin up until their second birthday, when they are completely finished growing. Feel his ribs or ask your vet to be sure your pup is getting enough to eat.
TIPS AND TAILS
If his coat is shiny, his eyes are clear, and his body feels and looks good, you’re feeding him the right amount. If his coat is dingy, his eyes are runny, or his tummy looks bloated all the time (not just after he’s eaten), he might have worms and need another round of deworming treatment.
Switching to Adult Food
If you haven’t switched him to adult food yet, do it now. As you did when you first brought him home and changed brands of food, make the switch gradually. Mix 25 percent of the adult food with his puppy food for several days. Then go to 50 percent of each for a few days. Complete the transition after a week or so.
Now is also the time to switch your Bulldog puppy to two meals a day (unless he is too thin). Many puppies gradually stop eating the midday meal on their own, but if yours doesn’t, start by gradually cutting back the amount you give him at his midday meal and adding it to his other two meals so he’s still eating the same volume but at fewer mealtimes. Right now he’s consuming 3 to 5 cups a day.
Paying Attention to the Feces
A puppy’s bowel movements provide important clues about his health. (Examine a fresh stool for an accurate assessment.) It should be formed and solid, not runny or extremely dry. Blood or mucus could be a sign of illness, a sudden change of food, or a result of eating something he shouldn’t. A very black stool could have digested blood in it. Also look for foreign objects such as grass, gravel, fabric, or bits of plastic from a toy or bone. Freshly deposited feces also could contain live worms if he’s infested.
While you’re changing your pup to adult food, check for loose stools or diarrhea. Cut back on the new food, or slow down the transition if he has loose stools. You also can add 1 tablespoon of yogurt or a probiotic for pets to his meal to help his digestion.
Keep an eye on your puppy’s stool volume, too. A large amount of stool could mean your puppy isn’t absorbing his food well. Or you might be feeding him too much. To remedy this, decrease his food a little or change to a higher-quality food. Dogs who have a small stool volume are using their food to its maximum potential.
As your Bulldog grows up, he’ll require regular grooming sessions—and more often during shedding season. His ears, eyes, face wrinkles, and tail also need regular attention so you can catch problems before they become chronic.
Brushing Your Bulldog
Some Bulldogs have a double coat, and some don’t. To tell if your dog has a double coat, push the coat backward, against the direction it grows. A double coat will be much thicker, and you may not be able to see your puppy’s skin. Both types of coat are correct in a Bulldog.
Bulldogs shed lightly year-round and heavily twice a year, usually in the spring and fall.
The undercoat (if he has one) starts to shed first, followed by the outer coat. You might want to brush him daily during shedding season because frequent brushing speeds up the shedding process and the sooner the old coat comes out, the sooner the new coat grows in. Brushing also distributes the natural oils in your Bulldog’s coat and keeps it healthy and shiny.
Females shed heavily about 12 to 16 weeks after their heat cycle—about the same time they would be blowing coat (shedding) if they were weaning a litter of puppies. Even if a female isn’t bred, she’ll normally drop coat at this time. Spayed females don’t shed like unaltered females do because they don’t have the hormonal signal from a heat cycle.
You’ve been teaching your puppy to tolerate and even enjoy grooming, so getting him used to brushing shouldn’t be much of a problem. If the weather is nice, you’ll save yourself a lot of cleanup later if you brush him outside. To begin, use a rubber curry, massaging him in a circular motion to loosen the dead hair and bring it to the surface. Next, brush him with the slicker, starting at his rear end and working your way forward, brushing in the same direction his coat grows. His coat is heaviest under his throat and along his shoulders, so pay extra attention to these areas.
Be careful as you brush. A slicker with metal pins can scratch him, so don’t use too much pressure, especially near his skin.
Next, use the brush against the direction his coat grows to loosen more fur. (This is the one time you brush against the grain.)
On his face and outer ears, use a damp cloth rather than a brush or comb and then be sure to dry his face completely.
When you’re finished brushing, run the damp cloth over his entire body to pick up any stray hairs and remove static electricity or dandruff. You can wipe his coat with a fabric softener sheet in dry weather to remove static electricity.
Bulldogs shouldn’t have doggy odor. If yours does, check his ears for a problem. If his coat is dry and he has dandruff, he could have a skin condition or allergies. If you’ve left soap in his coat after a bath, it also could cause irritation. (See Month 6 for more on bathing your pup.)
Dealing with Tearstains and Face Wrinkles
Bulldogs often get runny eyes, which causes tearstains—reddish brown streaks running down his face from the inside corner of his eyes and into his face wrinkles. This is especially common in white dogs. In addition to tears, food and dirt can get trapped in his face wrinkles and cause irritation and infection. Puppies also are likely to get acne.
Clean under his eyes, and wipe out his face wrinkles daily with a damp cloth or a baby wipe. Or use a cotton ball dipped in peroxide followed by some baby powder. Gold Bond powder, or a generic version, is good to use on wrinkles (and tight tails—more on tails in the following section) and helps keep the wrinkles dry to prevent skin infections. If his skin is irritated, apply some antibiotic ointment for 4 or 5 days.
Your vet might refer you to a canine ophthalmologist who can determine if flushing out your pup’s clogged tear ducts would be beneficial. The ophthalmologist will conduct an in-depth examination of your puppy’s eyes, checking for entropion (when the eyelid rolls inward and causes the eyelashes to irritate the eyes), ectropion (when the eyelid rolls outward, exposing more of the eye to irritation), juvenile cataracts, or other possible problems.
If your vet agrees, eye drops or saline solution might help prevent further irritation. Pet supply stores carry products that fade the tearstains, but most stains don’t go away completely until the hair is replaced by new growth.
TIPS AND TAILS
If your pup has a dry, scaly nose, dab a bit of petroleum jelly or coconut oil on it to keep it moist and healthy. Be aware he might rub his face on the furniture when you first apply it.
Cleaning Your Bulldog’s Tail Area
Bulldogs have naturally short tails; they’re not docked. The tail either hangs straight down (called a spike tail) or is twisted close to the body (called a screw tail). It won’t grow any longer as your pup grows. Often there’s an indentation under the tail (called a tail pocket) that can trap moisture against your pup’s body and cause a yeast infection.
When you’re wiping out your pup’s wrinkles, wipe the underside of his tail and underneath his tail, too. A little talcum powder or Gold Bond powder can help keep the area dry. Apply antibiotic ointment if his skin gets irritated.
Cleaning His Ears
Bulldogs collect a lot of excess earwax and are susceptible to ear infections. They also are prone to allergies, which can cause redness and inflammation in the ear area.
Wipe out his ears every week so he’s used to the procedure and will be more tolerant if he needs treatment. After he runs outdoors in tall grass, check for dirt, grass seeds, ticks, and moisture in his ears, and dry and wipe out his ears thoroughly.
Using a soft, barely damp cloth or paper towel wrapped around the end of your finger, hold the ear leather (the flap) up and away, and wipe his ear from the inside to the outer edge. Also clean out all the nooks and crannies. This is all he should need on a regular basis. Cleaning too often removes the protective layer of wax that protects his inner ear, so don’t overdo it.
If his ears are especially dirty, use a cotton swab to gently clean his ear canal. If your puppy doesn’t cooperate, this might take two people—one to keep him still and one to clean his ear. Again, hold the ear leather up and out, turn the cotton swab in one direction as you put it in, and hold it in the same direction as you reverse out of the ear so you won’t redeposit the dirt. Don’t go too deeply because you don’t want to damage your puppy’s eardrum. Also, if your puppy thrashes around, you don’t want to accidentally poke into his inner ear.
If something gets down in his ear canal, it can cause an infection. If you see reddish-brown gunk in his ears or they smell bad, he could have a yeast infection in his ear caused by water, an infection caused by a foreign object, or even ear mites. A Bulldog with an ear problem will shake his head, hold his head at an odd angle, scratch at his ears, and even whimper as he tries to ease his discomfort. He might even be unwilling to let you touch his ears. Visit the vet for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.
TIPS AND TAILS
If your Bulldog develops chronic ear problems, your vet might recommend medication or regular cleaning with an ear wash product. Squirt the ointment into his ear, and massage the base of his ear where it meets his jaw line to push the medication deeper into his ear canal. Your pup will immediately shake his head, which is good because it distributes the ointment in his outer ear. If you use an ear wash, thoroughly dry his ears after cleaning. A diet change also might help chronic ear problems.
Finally your Bulldog puppy is able to go out with you and meet the world. He can accompany you on walks, to the park, to family activities, and on other outings.
As bold and confident as he is at home, he’s now on unfamiliar turf, so he might be uncertain his first few times out. But that will soon change as he meets new friends. And do introduce him to new friends. That’s part of his necessary socialization. By teaching him to like and respect new people now, you’re preventing future problems.
The Jolly Routine
Actions speak louder than words, so when your puppy is uncertain or frightened, show him by your behavior that there’s nothing to be afraid of.
Select an item that makes your puppy wag his tail when he sees it—a ball, a squeaky toy, a stuffed animal, or another small toy. When you’re out and about and spot something you know will scare him, like a large truck driving by, pull out the toy. If possible, before he can even react to the scary thing, act happy, play with the toy, and pretend you’re having a wonderful time. Expect your puppy to be confused, but keep going. After a minute or two, put away the toy and ignore him. Wait about 5 minutes, pull out the toy again, and repeat your excitement. You’ll know your routine has started to ease his fears when he wags his tail as soon you produce the toy.
You might not have time to head off his fear, but this is a good starting point to distract him from what frightens him. It could take several weeks of repetition to change his attitude about whatever scares him, but those few weeks hardly compare to a lifetime of fearlessness.
Socializing to Strangers
When you’re out in public with your puppy, you are his protector. Well-meaning strangers will charge up to him, hands outstretched, to say hello. Children will crash toward him and throw their arms around him.
As you try to keep people from overwhelming your pup, they’ll respond, “Oh, it’s okay! I love dogs!” That’s good for them, but this isn’t about them; it’s about your puppy. And after a few of these bulldozer encounters, your pup will hide in fear or take off in the opposite direction when someone approaches him. Worse, he might feel cornered and snap.
Don’t let that happen. Turn into a linebacker, and block all comers from your puppy. Don’t be afraid of being rude. After all, you wouldn’t let them charge at your children, would you? If you do your job, your puppy won’t feel he has to defend himself from others.
A dog who grows up fearful of strangers will think he has to take matters into his own jaws when danger approaches. He’ll bark aggressively and even bite to protect himself—or you—when someone approaches.
TIPS AND TAILS
Important: do not let new people try to pick up your puppy. Bulldogs are top heavy, and unknowing strangers can easily underestimate his weight and drop him.
Hold up your hand to stop unwanted advances from well-meaning people. If your puppy seems happy and ready to interact, let him approach the person first. Have the person stop, stand sideways to your puppy (which is less imposing), and even crouch down so he’ll feel safe. Use your jolly routine so your puppy understands everything is okay.
Let him check out the person and decide for himself if he wants to say hi. If he still isn’t comfortable, respect his wishes and don’t force him. Put a serious look on your face and explain he’s “in training.” Hand the person a treat, invite them to toss it in your puppy’s direction, and move on.
Socializing to Children
Bulldogs love children, and the feeling is often mutual. At home or in public, your Bulldog will meet children of all ages and, you hope, love each one immediately. Tell children you meet to “ask the puppy” if he would like to meet them. If your puppy says no, ask them to respect his feelings today because he may be tired.
How do you know if your puppy isn’t in the mood to play? He’ll hide behind you, crouch down, avoid looking at the kids, or move away.
If he’s ready to say hi, put two fingers through his collar to keep him from jumping on the child. Have the child stand quietly and speak nicely to the puppy—not in a high, squeaky, excited voice—and let your pup choose to approach the child, not the other way around.
Have kids pet him on his chest or his back where he won’t dive for their fingers, and let them put a treat on the ground for him to eat.
If children want to hold your puppy, ask them to sit on the ground and let the puppy crawl into their laps. They shouldn’t pick him up. Because Bulldogs are so front-heavy, they’re hard to balance and far too easy to drop, especially for little people.
Going for a Walk
Enjoy daily walks with your Bulldog, so he can experience new sights, sounds, and smells. A walk is also the perfect time for your puppy to practice sitting, staying down, walking politely, and paying attention to you. Carry treats to get his attention when you need it.
Don’t worry about how far you get on your walks. There’s so much to experience, you might not travel much of a distance as he meets people, sniffs, and explores. Besides, he doesn’t have much stamina yet, and a short walk will wear him out, especially in warm weather.
Right now, walk your puppy on a 4- or 6-foot leash. A long line or retractable leash won’t give you enough control, and he could easily pull it out of your hands if he gets frightened and runs. Also, don’t let him off leash in parks, on trails, or at the beach unless you’re in a fully fenced enclosure.
The world is full of exciting new smells and sounds. Your pup will encounter trash in the gutter and gum on the sidewalk. He’ll know where the nearest restaurant is and quickly recognize the scent of other dogs. Busy traffic will smell like burning rubber, and honking horns and police sirens will startle him. Use the jolly routine to help him gain confidence when you see him getting overwhelmed.
There are a few places you shouldn’t take him yet. Street fairs and festivals have hundreds of people jammed together, loud music, food smells, and lots of traffic. Remember, his eye level is below your knees, so all these unfamiliar things coming at him from above can be terrifying. Work up to crowded situations slowly. And don’t take him to Fourth of July celebrations or anywhere fireworks are being used.
Visiting Dog Parks
Visits to the dog park can do more harm than good at any age. You have no way of knowing if all the dogs there are vaccinated or trained, and many owners chat with each other and ignore their dogs, allowing them to misbehave unmonitored, bully other dogs, squabble over toys, and even fight. There’s no “lifeguard” on duty enforcing rules or asking owners to remove rude or aggressive dogs at dog parks. Remember, you alone are your dog’s protector.
Bulldogs naturally play rough … very rough. He could quickly get himself into trouble because his natural play style is frightening to other dogs, and any kind of aggression from others could teach your puppy that this type of behavior is appropriate. You don’t want your Bulldog to grow up to be a bully, so if you see other dogs playing rough or acting aggressively at the dog park, take your pup and leave.
At peak periods, usually early evenings and weekends, the dog park can get crowded and play can get out of control easily as the dogs become overstimulated. A normal dog can quickly be overwhelmed, much less a shy or sensitive puppy. If you must go to a dog park, take him on quiet weekday mornings when the park isn’t so busy, especially when he’s young and it’s new to him.
TIPS AND TAILS
Wherever you are, be a responsible dog owner and clean up after your puppy. Carry pickup bags, and either deposit them in nearby trash cans or take them home with you to dispose of. In some jurisdictions, you can be cited if you’re caught leaving your dog’s droppings.
Your young Bulldog’s behavior changes dramatically this month as he asserts his independence and explodes with endless preteen puppy energy. By now you have realized that Bulldogs aren’t couch potatoes; they are agile and active like any dog. They’re also very smart. Prepare yourself with consistent puppy management techniques and a sense of humor, and you’ll get through this fun and challenging period with your sanity intact.
Your Shadow Disappears
While your puppy is busy physically growing this month, his mind is equally busy absorbing everything it can. He has endless energy and very little self-control, he’s easily distracted, and he’ll use any excuse to ignore you. During this period of creative obedience, he’ll tease you by coming close to you and then quickly taking off again or grabbing toys and playing keep-away. Busy, busy, busy! How will you get him under control?
Be sure your puppy gets plenty of exercise, training, and mental stimulation this month. It might seem harder to get his attention, but keep working on handling and control exercises. And know you can demand more from him now because he’s not an infant anymore.
Reward your puppy when he checks in with you. If he looks your way or comes back to you at random times, he might be looking for reassurance. You want him to know you are there for him and that looking to you is always a good thing.
If he’s not listening to you, hook a leash to his collar and let him drag it when you’re there to supervise. That way, you’ll be able to pick up the leash and get his attention to enforce your instructions when necessary.
Motivating Your Bulldog Puppy
A distracted Bulldog isn’t paying much attention to you, and once you get his attention, he might not listen anyway. It takes some extra effort to keep your puppy in the game, whether it’s formal obedience commands, on a walk, or just coming indoors after a romp in the yard. Very much the independent thinker, your Bulldog will ignore you until you offer something he just can’t resist.
So how do you motivate your Bulldog? The simple answer is food. If that doesn’t work, try better food. How you use food and other motivators determines your success. If you don’t reward your dog, he’ll decide it wasn’t worth the trouble and will ignore you next time. If the reward is a measly piece of kibble, he’ll turn up his nose and find something better to do.
Bulldogs have a wicked sense of humor! If he knows what’s coming and it never changes, he’ll quickly get bored and invent something more entertaining.
Here’s how to mix it up and battle boredom:
Vary the treats: Surprise him with a wonderful smelly treat, like chicken or liver sausage instead of the usual biscuit.
Vary the amount: Sometimes give him two or three treats, one after the other, instead of just one. Once in a while, give him an entire handful.
Vary the timing: Break out the treats when you’re not training, ask him for a sit, and reward him with a special goodie. He’ll never know when something wonderful might be coming his way!
Add other rewards: Be unpredictable. In addition to treats, give him a tummy rub, take him on a walk, or engage him in a game to keep him eager to find out what’s next.
Your Bulldog responds to your body language and tone of voice more than he hears the words you say, so talk to your puppy as you train him.
Some people, oftentimes women, politely ask their dog to comply: “Puppy, sit?” If you do this, your puppy hears that you’re not sure about what you’re saying and will test you. Another approach is baby talk, which tells him it’s playtime rather than training time. Either way, he gets confused.
Others, including many men, take the words obedience command seriously. They stand up stiff and straight in an authoritative pose and bark out a gruff “Sit!” Their harsh tone and overpowering body language make the puppy think he’s done something wrong. About this time, the owner thinks his dog is a sissy, and the puppy decides his owner is a tyrant.
Another excuse you’ll hear is “He knows what to do.” Yes, but he doesn’t want to do it unless it’s fun, and a Bulldog needs lots of convincing. So make a big happy fuss when he does something right to encourage good behavior.
Give your pup a command once; say it firmly; expect him to comply; and reward him with happy body language, a treat, and warm and loving praise. You’re not just teaching an obedience command here; you’re building a relationship of mutual respect and trust.
Remember that a behavior your pup does perfectly in the living room might suddenly disappear from his memory when you take him to the park. Practice with your Bulldog in different locations, and he’ll eventually learn that “Sit,” for example, means “Sit” wherever he is.
Keeping Your Bulldog on Leash
Months 4 through 8 are considered the “flight period” of a puppy’s development. If he learns he can take off and get away with it, you may never be able to break him of this habit.
When you two are away from the house—whether you’re taking a walk down the sidewalk in your neighborhood, hiking in the woods, or romping in open fields—never let your puppy off leash. He’s impulsive, distracted, and prone to developing selective hearing. In other words, he ignores you. If he gets lost, whoever finds him might keep or sell him. (Remember, Bulldogs are often stolen.)
In addition to the leash, make liberal use of the sit command and treats to get his attention back on you while you’re out on walks.
You’ll know it when you see it—suddenly your Bulldog puppy will cut loose and take off around the yard or house (or both!) for no apparent reason, moving so fast his rear end looks like it’s in front of his chest. This zooming is pure puppy exuberance, so let him run and burn off some steam. Zooming is a better activity for outdoors, where random items in his path—like furniture and children—won’t interrupt his fun.
Dealing with Chewing
At 5 months, your Bulldog puppy is still teething, so expect to see him chewing this month. And not just chewing—Bulldogs destroy. Continue to provide him with sturdy chew toys. As he gets bigger, some of the old toys and bones may no longer be safe, so monitor what he’s got around him and in his mouth, and remove the unsafe toys. When his adult teeth are in, he’ll continue to chew to ease his gum and mouth discomfort.
Monitor his behavior, too, and redirect him to appropriate chewies. Don’t give him household items like old shoes because he’ll have trouble telling which ones are his to chew and which ones he should leave alone.
Also take steps to ensure he just can’t chew certain things. Don’t put a bed in his crate, for example. Keep your family’s clothes picked up and all shoes put away. Close bedroom doors. And use a bitter spray product, available at pet-supply stores, on items you don’t want him to chew. If you don’t have bitter spray, you could use mouthwash or red pepper sauce mixed with water instead. (Be careful not to spray your homemade mixture on surfaces that will stain or fade.)
If you find he’s chewed something, put him in another room so he doesn’t see you clean up the mess. If he watches you, he’ll be fascinated that you’re paying so much attention to what he’s done, and he’ll do it again for you.
Working on Bite Inhibition
The last critical window for your puppy to learn proper bite inhibition is 16 to 20 weeks. His puppy classes are teaching him not to bite hard or bully other puppies, and friendly adult dogs are teaching him his dog manners. You are continuing to socialize him to people of all sizes and ages, you’ve taught him not to play-bite, and you handle his body regularly so he’ll let you touch him anywhere.
You can’t guarantee your puppy won’t ever be hurt or frightened enough that he would bite someone. But if he’s been taught never to touch a person’s clothing or body with his teeth, his reaction is likely to cause much less damage—hopefully just a growl or nip instead of a full-on bite. Your veterinarian and groomer, among others, will thank you.
If he does touch you with his mouth, abruptly end the game and leave. Give him a minute or two to ponder his crime and realize the fun stopped when he put his mouth on you. When you return, ask for a sit, a down, and a few minutes of calm. Then return to what you were doing together.
Help him learn that he can play hard and still respond to your commands. Get him excited and then ask him to settle by doing a sit or down. Be sure he’ll stop and calm down for anyone who’s going to play with him, too. He’ll soon learn that roughhousing does not have to include biting of any kind.
Correcting Your Puppy
By now, your Bulldog puppy has an idea of right versus wrong in many situations, but because he is an independent fellow, you might have trouble getting him to quit whatever he is doing. Never correct your dog unless you have caught him in the act. Punishing him for something he did earlier (like chewing pillows while you were at work) is meaningless to him.
Commonsense discipline has its place while you’re raising your puppy. It’s never necessary to hit him. Instead, use a sharp phrase like “Ack!” or “Psssst!” or clap your hands loudly to interrupt what he’s doing. For a dog who still ignores you, you might bang together two metal dog dishes.
When you’ve interrupted his behavior and he turns his attention to you, praise him and redirect him to something else. Have him do a sit or down (even if you have to physically put him in position), or isolate him from you for a few minutes so he knows you mean it. Expect your Bulldog to test you again and again and remain patient with him.
When a mother dog corrects her puppies, her discipline is swift and over with immediately. Do the same as her: forgive him and move on.
TIPS AND TAILS
Don’t use his name when disciplining your puppy. If he hears “[Name], no!” he’ll eventually think his name is a correction, and you don’t want that.
Outgrowing Bad Behavior—Not Gonna Happen
“He’s just a puppy” is an excuse that isn’t going to work for much longer. If he realizes there are no consequences when he misbehaves, he won’t know his behavior is unacceptable. And any bad habits he’s forming now will be much harder to deal with when adolescence is in full swing next month, so work with him before it gets too bad. Remember, a habit takes much longer to break than to make.
Sure, you’re tempted to let him get away with unacceptable behavior like jumping on you once in a while because it’s tiring to supervise him constantly. But by doing this, you’re inadvertently rewarding his bad behavior. When he gets away with something sometimes, he’ll try it again and again. Bulldogs are especially persistent!
On the other hand, if he never gets rewarded, he’ll eventually quit trying.
Don’t forget to praise your puppy when he’s doing something right. When he’s learned a behavior, it’s easy to take it for granted. But if you don’t reinforce it, the behavior will begin to deteriorate, and suddenly you have a puppy who acts like he never learned it in the first place. For example, praise him when he runs up to you and doesn’t jump on you to encourage that repeat behavior.
The entire family needs to be consistent with discipline and training. When one person in the family allows the puppy on the couch and someone else doesn’t, he soon figures it out and will jump on the couch when the enforcer isn’t around.
Enforce all the house rules, all the time, and make liberal use of the crate for short time-outs when you can’t watch him. Loving discipline, plenty of exercise, and readily available chew toys help you and your puppy negotiate this stage together.
Scientists call this age the avoidance period. Your Bulldog puppy is no longer hanging on your every word, and because there’s so much to see and do in the world, he wants to do all of it right now!
This month, continue to break his lessons into small steps so you can keep his attention and improve his chances for success. Practice a lot this month, and train thoroughly, always being patient but firm.
Also be sure to keep training fun or he’ll quickly lose interest. A few 1-minute training sessions throughout the day have a bigger impact on him than one 10-minute session, and he’ll learn to look forward to these short lessons.
What’s in a Name?
Your dog’s name should be a wonderful word he happily responds to. Does your puppy know his name? Does he react to it? If he doesn’t, it’s time he learned.
Load up your pocket with treats, and take him out in the backyard or for a walk. Let him get distracted, sniffing at the grass or another mildly interesting scent. Say his name once, in a normal voice, without a loud or urgent tone. Does he turn and look at you, or does he ignore you? If he looks at you, give him a treat and do a happy dance.
Usually, when you say a person’s name, you expect them to look at you, and you then tell them what’s on your mind. You wouldn’t say the person’s name and then ignore them. But often that’s exactly what we do to our dogs. If your puppy isn’t listening, practice getting his attention and rewarding him when he responds to his name.
TIPS AND TAILS
Your puppy’s name is not a command. If you mean “Come,” say, “Rover, come,” not just “Rover.” And never use his name as punishment. That’s a surefire way to get him to ignore you when you call.
How many names does your puppy have? Is he Roofusgoofus when he’s being a darling little puppy, and Roofus-Bad-Dog when he’s into mischief? Is he Roofus-Johnson-Come-Here-Right-Now when he misbehaves? All these names could further confuse him.
Don’t waste the power of your puppy’s name. If you say his name, have a reason for doing so, and give him something to do when he responds to you.
Reinforcing Household Rules
As adolescence approaches, your preteen Bulldog will test the rules again and again, and you’ll wonder where all his training went. The more consistent you are in enforcing household rules now, the more control you’ll have in the coming months. In fact, if he hasn’t mastered some basic obedience by the end of this month, he’ll only get more difficult to train.
Sit, down, and walking on a leash should be your training priorities right now, and you should use them often. Have him sit before you feed him, or have him lie down by your chair when you’re watching TV. Your puppy might be pushy now, poking you to be petted, but have him earn him attention by asking him to sit first.
If your pup is misbehaving, hook a leash to his collar and let him drag it around while he’s in the house. When he’s misbehaving, pick up the leash and lead him away from trouble, and don’t reward him with playtime. If you grab him when he has something in his mouth, you’ve rewarded him by touching and interacting with him. Even if you’re stern with him, to him, negative attention is better than no attention at all.
If he’s not allowed on the couch, he will try it this month. Rather than pull him off, pick up the leash and hold it with steady pressure to get him off the sofa, like you did when you were teaching him to walk on leash. He should respond to the pressure of the leash and get off the couch. Reward him with praise when he does.
Your puppy needs to learn “inside rules,” and especially that he needs to settle down while he’s in the house. You can use his ex pen to confine him temporarily, or if he’s really rambunctious, he could benefit from a tie-down—a leash looped over a shut-door doorknob, affixed to a large or heavy piece of furniture, or attached to a large eye screw fastened to the wall. (A chain leash is excellent for this because he can’t chew it. Otherwise, spray the leash with bitter spray or mouthwash to prevent chewing.) Either way, he can be within eyesight of his family while still enjoying some freedom. Give him a chew toy to occupy him, and with his limited mobility, he should settle down and relax.
Children in your house need to follow inside rules, too. Don’t let them play wild chase games or throw balls for the puppy indoors. Unless everyone is consistent with his training, he won’t understand that he has to settle down.
Cutting Back on Treats
When you first teach your puppy a new command, you reward him with a treat every time he does the right thing. But you don’t want to carry food in your pocket for the rest of your life. So how do you make your puppy comply without depending on treats forever?
Start by adding praise to the treat reward. Every time he complies, praise him with a word like “Good!” along with the treat. Gradually, he’ll associate the word with the treat and recognize you’re pleased. Always use an upbeat happy tone of voice when saying “Good!” Remember, he reads your tone and body language more than what you say right now.
As he gets used to being rewarded with “Good!” gradually fade back on treats. First, hide the treats in your pocket and don’t pull one out until he sits or does whatever you’re asking him to do. A treat is not a bribe; it’s a reward. Continue to praise him, but begin to occasionally skip the treat so he never knows when he’ll get one. Don’t use a pattern because he’ll quickly figure it out. For example, if you give him a treat every third time, he’ll pick up on that, and he won’t respond nearly as enthusiastically the other two times. Mix it up so he doesn’t know what to expect.
When you’re teaching your Bulldog a new behavior, you reward him with a treat every time he complies. When he knows a skill, you can wean him off, or fade, the treats by skipping an occasional treat reward while still using verbal praise. Eventually, he’ll get a treat only once in a while for his best effort. If his response isn’t reliable, you might be reducing the number of treats too quickly.
It might help to think of yourself as a slot machine. If you played the slots and got $1 back every time you played, the activity would get pretty boring. But if you won $50 once in a while—just often enough to keep you playing—and even won $1,000 one time, you’d play all night in hopes of getting another big win. It’s the same with your puppy. Occasionally, give him a jackpot of a handful of extra-tasty treats he doesn’t usually get. This motivates him to keep playing the obedience game so he can get the jackpot again. If you fade the use of treats too fast, he’ll lose interest. If that happens, back up a little and give him treats more often.
You don’t always have to use treats as his reward. Interrupt a training session with a game of fetch, or pull a squeaky toy from your pocket. Releasing him from working might be enough reward for your pup. Mix up his rewards with tricks and fun time, and you’ll always have a reward handy when you need it, even if you don’t have a pocket full of cookies.
Remember that when you’re a teaching a new skill, give your puppy a treat and praise every time he does something right. Don’t reduce the frequency until you’re sure he understands the exercise.
Before you teach him to stay, your Bulldog puppy should always sit promptly when you give the “Sit” command (which you taught him in Month 4).
Stay has three components: time, distance, and distractions. However, you can’t work on all of these at the same time because your pup will get confused. So begin by lengthening the time he stays and then work on distance, cutting back the time to almost nothing. Once he stays when you walk away from him, you can start building time back into the exercise. In coming months, as his stay gets better, you can start adding distractions.
As always with a puppy, your body language helps him stay. Have him sit at your left side on a loose leash. Step off with your right foot, and pivot in front of him, several inches away. (If you crowd him, he’s more likely to stand up.) If he stays sitting, praise him, give him a treat, pivot back into position at his right side, and release him by touching him and saying “Okay.” Practice pivoting into position and back without letting him stand a few times until he’s used to it and then take a short break.
If he has trouble staying as you pivot, put your finger against his muzzle as you turn. That should be enough to stop him from moving.
When you taught your Bulldog to sit, you gave him a treat as soon as he sat. Now, as you teach him to stay, pivot in front of him and wait a few beats. Give him a treat if he stays put during that time. He might look confused, and if he makes eye contact, smile at him and say nothing. (Too much eye contact will intimidate him and make him stand up.)
Gradually increase the time he sits to about 15 seconds. This takes a lot of concentration, and he’s probably sitting there worried he’s supposed to be doing something, so intersperse a few random treats and instant releases to vary the length of time he’s sitting.
If he stands up before you can release him, put him back in the original position and try another, shorter stay. Don’t restart where he came to you; go back to the beginning. Don’t say anything while you move him; just put him back in the sit. Keep practicing until you can get a 30-second stay. As you walk together and at other times of the day, ask him to do short stays to reinforce his training.
Next, add the hand signal and command word. Before you pivot in front of him, put the palm of your hand in front of his nose and say “Stay.”
When he’s consistently holding a stay, you can throw in some variations. This time when you pivot, step farther away, about 1 foot. He might try to get up and move closer to you, and he’ll be watching you intently, waiting for a signal that it’s okay to move. As soon as you so much as twitch, he’ll try to stand up. When he does, before he’s all the way up, lean into him and he should sit back down. He’ll read your body language and know to go back into the sit.
Don’t repeat the word “Stay” over and over, and don’t stare into his eyes. Relax your posture as if to tell him “We aren’t going anywhere,” and quietly praise him during his stay.
TIPS AND TAILS
To release your pup from the stay, always go back to him and touch him. You want him to relax and wait patiently; otherwise, as soon as you step toward him, he’ll think he’s finished and stand up. Praise him quietly as he stays, walk back to him, praise him again, and touch him as you say “Okay” to release him. Don’t ever call him to you from a stay, or he’ll be anxiously watching for a command.
Practice variations on the stay—up close, farther away, and for various lengths of time. When he’s working well at 1 foot away for 30 seconds, try standing farther back, about 18 inches. As you step backward, he might think you want him to come with you, so be sure to keep the leash slack. Say “Ack!” and lean toward him if he starts to get up. Go back to him and release him immediately if he stays in the sit. If he doesn’t, put him back in position and don’t step away as far next time. Mix it up with some stays where you’re right in front of him again. Each time he’s successful, touch and release him. Quit when you’re ahead and right when he does something correctly.
It’ll probably take you a full month to get a steady 1-minute sit-stay from 4 feet away—remember, that’s a lot of work for a little puppy. Doing something, like a sit or a down, is an action concept. Not doing anything, like stay, is a little harder for him to understand.
When he grasps the idea of the sit-stay, the concept of down-stay is easier for him to learn. But down is a submissive behavior, and in a strange location, the position can make the dog vulnerable. Bulldogs are a dominant breed, so down can sometimes be challenging to teach them. Persist, and he will get it.
Teach him the down-stay in small increments, as you did the sit-stay. As you work, first add time and then reduce the time as you add distance. When he stays better with you at a distance, rebuild the time.
Teach him to relax while he’s down. If he’s lying in a sphinx position, up on both haunches, he’s ready to spring into action, so teach him to roll onto one hip instead. Watch him when he’s resting, and figure out which hip he usually chooses.
Assume that as you face him, he usually rolls to his right hip. So as you put him in a down (which you taught him in Month 4), hold a treat in your right hand and push the treat back toward his left hip. As he follows your hand, he’ll roll onto his right hip. If he doesn’t get it, you can help him by putting pressure on his left hip with one hand. When he gets the idea, have him roll onto his hip every time he does the down. Making this an automatic part of the down helps you both be more successful.
The hand signal for down-stay is the same as for the sit-stay: put your open palm in front of his face as you give the command “Stay.” Stand up straight, and pivot in front of him. (If you bend over him or look him in the eyes, he’ll get right up.) Stand relaxed with your weight on one hip. He needs to see that nothing is going to happen so he can relax. If he fidgets, say “Ack!” but don’t go back to him unless he gets up. When he’s still, go back and release him. If he gets up before you let him up, put him back in place and start over a little closer to him.
Your funny Bulldog will try to creep toward you. When he moves forward, correct him with your voice. He’ll stop, and a few seconds later, he’ll creep forward again. Bulldogs love this game. When he creeps, go back to him without a word, stand him up, take him back to the starting point, and put him back in his down-stay. If you have to, put a piece of tape on the floor to remind yourself where you started.
When his stay is solid for about 30 seconds and you’re 2 feet away, add a small variation. Fidget a little, and shift your weight slightly while you have him in a down-stay. This teaches him to stay even if you move. He’s not to get up, no matter what you do, until you release him.
Going Up and Down Stairs
Your Bulldog puppy needs to learn to climb and descend stairs safely. His balance isn’t very good yet, he’s front-heavy, and he’s likely to roll head over heels and get injured in the process. In fact, you both could take a dangerous spill. So teach him that the stairs are a place of calmness, where he climbs and descends one step at a time at a leisurely pace.
TIPS AND TAILS
Until you’ve taught him to be comfortable with stairs, use baby gates at the top and bottom of any stairways in your home to keep your puppy safe. It’ll be less stressful for you both if you start teaching him about stairs at home without outside distractions. If you don’t have stairs, introduce him to them where he’s already comfortable, like a friend’s home or a quiet corner at the park.
One or two stairs aren’t nearly as frightening to your pup as a full staircase, so start by teaching him to go up and down one or two steps, preferably carpeted stairs, which are easier for him to negotiate without slipping. When he’s mastered a few carpeted stairs, you can introduce him to a full-length staircase or take him out in public to try it.
Start with a pocket full of really tasty treats, like cheese or chicken, and a hungry puppy on his leash. Or do this at mealtime and use his kibble. Kneel on the floor next to the foot of the stairs and have him come over to you. Lift up both of his front paws, place them on the bottom stair, give him a treat, and let him go. After a few tries, he’ll put his feet up on his own when you lure him with the treat.
After a few repetitions of this, place the treat farther up and back toward the second stair so he has to lift his rear feet onto the stair to get to the treat. When he gets one back foot up, praise him and feed him. When he gets all four feet completely on a stair, praise him quietly and have him stand or sit there for a second.
As you gradually add more stairs, have him stop on a stair and sit or lie down for a treat. This keeps it from becoming a race to the top or bottom. To make it more fun, set a treat on each stair and let him sniff his way up. As he goes down, have him stop and sit often for a treat.
When he’s familiar with one set of stairs, introduce him to new locations. You might have to start over the first few times until he discovers that most stairs are similar.
If you have open stairs with no vertical backs, like those going to basements or second-floor apartments, have him practice climbing and descending those stairs, too, because they’ll look entirely different to him and seem much scarier. They’re also more dangerous for your pup. If he gets in a hurry, he could slip, his leg could slide through the opening, and he could break a leg or tear a muscle. Practice these stairs as if he’s never seen a staircase before so he understands how to go up and down safely.
Teaching a Flawless Recall
Calling your puppy to you should always result in a reward for him when he obliges. Up until this month, he probably came joyously when you called and followed you everywhere. Now you’re seeing a suddenly independent puppy who might ignore you completely or at least until it suits him.
Someday you might encounter a situation when he needs to stop what he’s doing immediately and come to you right now before he heads into danger, such as into traffic while darting after the neighbor’s cat. To be ready for this, practice the recall. And to make it more effective, train when lots of distractions—other dogs, cars, people, rabbits, and good smells—are around to compete for his attention. He needs to learn that despite anything and everything around him, when you tell him to come to you, he must drop everything and come to you.
TIPS AND TAILS
In your Bulldog’s mind, “Come” from 20 feet away is very different from “Come” from 6 feet away. Don’t call him to you if you can’t enforce the command; otherwise, he’ll learn that he doesn’t have to respond and you’ll just be background noise.
Start teaching him the recall at home, and move to working outside after he understands the command. When you practice at parks or other places you regularly take him, hook a long line to his collar so he’ll learn that the rules are the same no matter where you are.
Begin by taking him to an enclosed area, and let him wander for a bit. Keep a treat shaker with you to grab his attention if you need it.
When he’s 10 feet away, call him to you using your best happy voice. As soon as he looks at you, jump up and down excitedly and encourage him to come to you to see what you’re going on about. Continue praising and encouraging him while he comes toward you. If he doesn’t come, go to him and lure him in with lots of happy talk and treats, even if he only comes a few feet toward you. Now let him go back to what he was doing. He’ll learn that coming to you doesn’t necessarily end his fun. And don’t be a pest; just call him once or twice each 5-minute session.
If you have trouble getting his attention, rattle your treat shaker. Don’t try to drag him to you because he’ll refuse to move at all. He’ll also decide this game is no fun.
As he gets better, add distractions. This is where the kids can have some fun, playing catch or dancing around to interrupt his focus. Be sure they understand that as soon as you call your pup, they are to freeze and not look at him. As he gets good at the game, they can continue distracting him while you call. Take turns holding the line so he’ll come to everyone in the family.
Have the kids help you play the recall game. Each person has a handful of tasty treats, and one at a time, calls your dog. Everyone else stands still and ignores him. Give him treats and make a fuss over him when he comes and then have the next person call him.
When you’re at parks or other larger places, have him check in occasionally, reward him, and let him return to play. Teaching him to come when called is not a one-day project, so practice often and in many places.
Catching Your Pup
The day might come when your Bulldog gets away from you and refuses to come—he’s just having too much fun to stop and come to you. Picture the recall as he may see it: you’re at the park, he’s running and playing, and he sees you take out the leash—a sure signal the party’s over. Behind you, he sees the car—another sign it’s time to go home. Forget it, he’s not coming!
You’re bound to be angry and frustrated, but don’t let it show. Who wants to come to someone who is yelling and mad at them? He’ll tuck his tail and take off in the other direction.
Here are some methods to help you catch him; these also work while you’re training him:
Crouch down to his eye level, open your arms wide, and happily call him. When your body language is happy, he’s more likely to respond.
As he approaches you, stand sideways to him. A full frontal greeting is intimidating and might cause him to back away from you.
Change the picture he sees. Don’t get the leash out until you have your hands on him. Or never put it away, but keep it hanging around your neck or from your back pocket rather than in your hands.
Don’t call him with your car or the exit gate right behind you in his line of sight. Stand where it looks like this is just another checking-in recall.
Carry a squeaky toy or ball, and let him see you playing with it. Toss it in the air, juggle it, and dance around like you’re having a great time. All that fun is hard to resist.
Fall down on the ground. Make a big drama of it, and he’ll wonder what’s up and come running. He’ll be licking your ears and climbing on you in no time.
Turn around, yell to him, and run away from him. He’s likely to give chase.
You’ve finally got him leashed up, and you want tell him what a bad dog he is for not obeying. Don’t. The last thing he did was come to you, and he thinks any punishment or reward is for that action. You can’t punish him for something he did 5 minutes ago because he won’t make the connection. Praise him, tell him he’s a wonderful dog, and take him home for more recall practice.
You and Your Puppy
You’ll have a lot of fun with your puppy this month, especially as you take him out in public more with you, so he needs to wear identification in case he gets lost.
He also needs some attention and guidance to keep your friendship on the right track. His antics might frustrate you at times, so prepare yourself with items like food-dispensing toys that will occupy him when you need a break. The kids also need guidance on developing a good relationship with the puppy.
IDing Your Pup
Identification is your puppy’s ticket home if he gets lost. When your Bulldog reaches 4 months, he has had his rabies vaccine, and most communities require that he be licensed. An ID tag includes your personal contact information, and a license has the animal control jurisdiction’s info—both means of getting in touch with you if your pup is found. In addition, if you haven’t already, now is the time to microchip your puppy and register the number, another link to you.
The well-dressed Bulldog should always wear his ID tag, which should include your name and phone number, including the area code. Consider putting both your mobile and home phone numbers on the tag so if someone finds your puppy, you can be contacted wherever you are. If the sound of jingling tags bothers you, order a collar with your phone number printed on it, or use a pouch that attaches to his collar and holds all his tags quietly. Or purchase tags that slip onto and lie flat against his collar. The latter are less likely to catch on something and get lost.
There are many good reasons to license your Bulldog. Anyone who finds your dog will be more willing to handle him if they know his rabies status, and if he bites someone, his vaccine record is on file. Animal Control will notify you and hold your dog longer than they will an unlicensed dog. Some jurisdictions also give your dog a free ride home. Penalties for having an unlicensed dog are much higher than the cost of the original license, so take the time to get your pup licensed.
TIPS AND TAILS
The lettering on plastic ID tags wears down quickly, and as the plastic ages, the likelihood of it breaking increases. Engraved metal tags last much longer. Whichever type you use, be sure it has a heavy ring or S hook. Put each tag on a separate ring, so if one is lost, the others are still attached.
All 50 states have dog-licensing laws, and either city or county agencies issue the license. You’ll submit his rabies vaccine certificate with the license application; your vet might even send it in for you.
If your dog loses his collar, a microchip provides lifetime identification he can’t lose. You also can prove ownership if someone steals him, an unfortunately common occurrence with Bulldogs. Many breeders have the microchip implanted in their puppies before they leave for their new homes. (You have to add your info after you adopt your pup.) The chip, which is the size of a piece of rice, is encased in biocompatible glass to prevent infection and is injected between your pup’s shoulder blades. The chip operates on a radio frequency, is not a tracking device, and doesn’t require a power source to be activated. When someone runs a scanner over your dog, it reads the chip like a UPC code on an item at the grocery store.
When the chip is implanted, you pay a nominal one-time fee for lifetime registration with a national registry such as American Kennel Club Reunite (akcreunite.org), American Veterinary Identification Devices (avidid.com), or HomeAgain (public.homeagain.com). When the chip number is registered with a national database, it can be traced back to you. Most registries provide a collar tag so whoever finds your dog knows to have the dog scanned. Shelters, veterinarians, and rescue groups usually have their own scanners. If your dog is lost, contact the registry immediately. Most have a 24/7 telephone hotline.
Numerous manufactures make microchips, and in recent years, universal scanners have been developed that can read most brands and frequencies. These scanners are labeled “ISO compliant” by the International Organization for Standardization. Be sure the chip you purchase is compatible with ISO scanners. More than 160 countries follow these standards, and dogs have been reunited with their owners from around the world. Some countries even require a microchip before you can import a dog.
Shelters usually scan the dog all over because some microchips migrate elsewhere in the body, like down his shoulder or leg. Newer chips have a small hook that anchors the chip, and layers of connective tissue grow over it to hold it in place. Ask your vet to scan the microchip during your dog’s yearly health checkup to be sure the chip is still in place and active.
TIPS AND TAILS
A microchip does not include your personal information, just a number. If you don’t register your dog’s microchip, the shelter can’t find you and the chip is useless. Before you register the chip, find out what registry your local shelter uses to increase the chances of your dog getting back to you if he’s lost. Many people designate their veterinarian or breeder as the secondary contact. Be sure to update your contact information with the registry if you move or get a new phone number.
Global positioning systems (GPSs) for dogs are becoming quite popular. With these, a small tracking device is attached to his collar and interacts with satellite and cell phone towers to follow his movements. You download an app to your smartphone and receive an email or text message if your dog leaves the designated safe area you’ve set up. The prices for these devices have fallen dramatically in the past few years, so it might be something worth considering.
Frustrated Owner = Confused Puppy
A new Bulldog puppy can be a shock to the household, especially if your last dog was very old and you’ve forgotten what it’s like to have a puppy. Or maybe this is your first dog and you had no idea he was going to be this active … or destructive. When the cute factor wears thin—usually right after he chews up the couch pillow or committed some similar crime—what can you do?
First and foremost, remember he’s still a puppy, and Bulldog puppies are very active. What he’s doing—chewing, play-biting, digging—are all normal puppy behaviors, and he hasn’t developed much, if any, self-control yet.
Also know that a tired puppy is a good puppy. Playtime, especially with you, solves a lot of puppy problems. Mental as well as physical exercise tires your puppy, too.
Puppies learn by doing, and this month he’s testing his limits. If he doesn’t try things, he won’t learn. And if you never have to say “no,” how will he know the rules?
Remember, too, that one correction doesn’t mean lesson learned. He’s a baby, and he’ll forget. Be patient and consistent, and keep teaching.
When you get angry, your puppy is confused and sees you as unpredictable. He might not understand why you’re so upset; he just knows to get out of your way. When his behavior is too much, put him in his crate with a chew toy, hand him off to someone else, or go for a walk by yourself.
Don’t give up—get help. Before you get completely frustrated, talk to your veterinarian, puppy class instructor, or someone who can see what your puppy is doing and offer constructive suggestions. Your breeder probably can draw on her years of experience and help you through this. What works for one puppy might not work for yours, and there’s more than one way to approach any problem.
It’s bedtime and you’re tired, but your puppy won’t settle down. What to do? Consider soft music with a low, pulsing beat that simulates his mother’s heartbeat. CDs and videos specially made to comfort and quiet your dog are available.
Introducing Food-Dispensing Toys
The way to your puppy’s heart is through his stomach. Food-dispensing toys entertain your puppy and keep him from wolfing down his food. Many kinds are available, but hard plastic is best for Bulldogs. The dispensers come in various shapes—balls, cubes, etc.—so look for one he can’t chew up.
Put a mixture of his kibble and treats in the toy. Add one piece at the opening so it falls out right away and he gets rewarded, and he’ll soon be batting and rolling the toy all over to make more food come out. (Know that this is a noisy toy if he’s on a hard floor.) Separate him from other dogs while he’s playing because bigger dogs will probably try to take it away from him—sometimes aggressively—because food is involved.
Another type of food-dispensing toy is an interactive puzzle, such as those made by Nina Ottenson. These toys are graded by difficulty, and some are made specifically for puppies. To get to the food prize, he has to manipulate the puzzle by stepping on a piece, picking it up, rocking it, or pushing it.
You can make your own version of a food puzzle by putting treats in each cup of a cupcake tin, placing a tennis ball over each cup, and letting your puppy figure out how to remove the ball and get to the treat. Don’t be surprised if he figures out pretty quickly that he can dump the entire tin by stepping on it!
Here’s another inexpensive, and easy, DIY treat-dispensing toy idea: drill a hole or two in a piece of 2-inch diameter PVC pipe and clean up any rough edges or pipe shavings. Fill it with treats, put ends on it, and give it to your pup. He’ll love trying to get the treats out of the holes.
Puppy and Kids: Building the Friendship
The bloom is off the rose, and your puppy isn’t brand-new anymore. How do you keep the kids involved and build the relationship between your puppy and your children?
When other children come over, tell your kids your puppy is a baby and can’t speak for himself, so it’s their job to recognize signals the puppy is tired or doesn’t want to play. Explain to them that when your puppy turns his back, avoids eye contact, won’t come to them, or tries to leave, he’s tired and ready for his nap. A child will proudly assume the role of puppy protector.
It’s also important for you to teach your puppy to respect your kids. A toddler or elementary school-age child won’t like a puppy who jumps up or knocks them down. The child might try to tell the pup what to do, and your puppy won’t listen.
These little people aren’t much bigger than he is, and he might see them as littermates. Help your children use their own body language to stop the pup from jumping on them or playing too hard. Put the puppy on his leash, and have the kids practice getting him to calm down by standing up straight and still, not looking at him, folding their arms, and ending the game.
Ensure that your puppy responds when the kids say “Sit” or “Down.” Let your child reward the puppy while you hold the leash and enforce commands if necessary.
TIPS AND TAILS
Snap a second leash on your puppy so both you and your child are attached to him. Then, when he doesn’t listen, you can help your child get him to respond.
Teach your kids to respect your puppy, by establishing rules for their interactions with him. He will match his energy level to them, and everyone will stay safe. Point out that they wouldn’t like it if the puppy did these things to them, so they need to respect the puppy’s feelings, too.
Here are some rules to establish with your kids and your puppy:
- No jumping on or falling on the dog.
- No kicking, hitting, or throwing things at the puppy. (When toys become weapons, take them away.)
- No teasing the puppy and enticing him to chase.
- Don’t sit on the puppy or wrap your arms tightly around his neck or head.
- Leave the puppy alone when he’s in his crate. No poking fingers in the crate. No teasing.
- Leave the puppy alone when he’s eating.
A child might become jealous of the attention your puppy gets when guests visit your home. Children also might get envious of each other if the puppy spends more time with their siblings or with Mom and Dad. To avoid this, involve the children in the puppy’s training. They can take turns giving commands, praising, holding the leash, and providing distractions. Help them teach the puppy tricks, like shake, they can demonstrate when people visit. Or move the puppy’s crate into different rooms every few nights so he spends time with everyone. You also could have your child prepare the puppy’s meal and give it to him. Have your child make the puppy sit before setting down his food bowl.
You can’t expect an elementary school-age child to take complete responsibility for the care of a puppy. In fact, if it becomes a required chore, he might resent the puppy. But one very important job, like putting down his food dish, helps a child bond with the puppy and also feel a sense of accomplishment.
Promote harmony between your children and your Bulldog by encouraging your kids to play games with him. Hide and seek is one option. Have one child restrain the puppy while another child hides and then have the hidden child call the puppy. When he finds him, have a little party and then switch sides.
Find the treat is another fun game for kids as well as your pup. Let your Bulldog watch the child hide a treat in plain sight. Release him and then praise him for finding it. Gradually hide treats in harder places or out of the room so he has to look harder. You don’t want him digging up the couch looking for a treat, so establish some guidelines with the kids about good, and bad, hiding places.