Full Speed Ahead
Between months 5 and 6, your Bulldog puppy finishes another growth spurt and her body starts to balance out.
This is going to be a busy month for both of you. She has endless energy but not much common sense, so you’ll spend time reviewing her training and keeping her safe. Socialization is an ongoing process, so you’ll continue to introduce her to more places, people, and things.
Your puppy is prone to injuries at this age—some of which can lead to physical problems later in life—so you should assemble a first-aid kit and prepare for emergencies. If it’s fall or springtime, you might be experiencing her first major shedding season, so we share some methods to cope with all that dog hair, too.
Although your Bulldog puppy is looking more like an adult these days, she’s still very much a puppy at heart, as you’ll see in her behavior this month. You’ll also notice that the amount of sleep she needs is changing as she matures.
Looking Less Like a Puppy
A puppy grows rapidly during the first 6 months. At this point, she can look mature and well balanced, or she can still be all legs. She’s reached about 75 percent of her adult height by now but only about 60 percent of her adult weight, and at 5½ months, she weighs about 40 pounds. Keep in mind this is just an estimate, and some puppies will be taller but might not weigh much more yet.
Her adult teeth are in as well, and they’re starting to set permanently in her jaws, so the chewing continues.
All About Sleep
A newborn puppy sleeps 90 percent of the time. She sleeps less as she grows, but even when she’s an adult, she’ll still get as much as 13 hours a day of shut-eye.
Just like a teenage human, an adolescent dog sleeps more, especially during growth spurts, when she’s using energy to build bone and muscles. And considering her high activity level all day, no wonder she’s tired at the end of it!
Her sleep is different from an adult’s right now. She wakes up more often, and about 25 percent of her sleep can be characterized as “active,” when she seems to be dreaming. She twitches and whimpers or paddles her legs likes she’s running after that last ball you threw for her. In fact, scientists theorize that because a dog’s brain is similar to a human’s in some structural aspects, dogs do dream. Stanley Coren, PhD, FRSC, noted that a dog enters the dream phase about 20 minutes after falling asleep, and evidence has shown that she dreams about daily activities. Just like the dream phase in human sleep, her breathing becomes shallow and irregular, and her eyes move behind her eyelids.
If your Bulldog doesn’t get much exercise, she might sleep more than an active dog. She’ll likely adjust her sleep time so she can be active when you’re home and rest when you’re at work or sleeping yourself. Some dogs cope with extreme stress by sleeping more, too.
TIPS AND TAILS
Yawning doesn’t necessarily mean your Bulldog is tired. It’s also a stress response.
Your dog has an internal clock. In fact, you can be sure she’ll wake you up at precisely the same time every morning to ensure you can serve her breakfast. This quickly becomes a habit when you respond positively by getting up and feeding her. So much for sleeping in on Saturdays!
A 20- to 30-minute stroll is a good workout for a 5-month-old Bulldog puppy, and you can gradually increase your walk to 45 minutes by the time she’s 6 months old. This should still include lots of stops and sniffing breaks so she doesn’t get too tired.
Don’t force her to continue when she begins to show she’s wearing out. Also avoid hard pounding on asphalt or cement because her bones still aren’t fully formed. Remember, she’s ready for short bursts of exercise, not hour-long treks.
At this stage of her life, an active young Bulldog is more likely to be injured than be ill. Reckless and uncoordinated, blasting into adventure with no thought to her own safety, your puppy can be her own worst enemy right now.
It’s essential that you learn to recognize and react to accidents, illnesses, and especially emergencies. Assemble a doggie first-aid kit, or combine it with your family’s first-aid kit because many of the items are the same. (More on this in the later “Assembling Your Doggie First-Aid Kit” section.) Being prepared gives you peace of mind and the capability to act when the unthinkable happens.
Getting to Know Your Puppy’s Vitals
During an emergency, you need to assess your Bulldog’s vital signs. You also need to know what her normal heart and breathing rates are, and what her gums usually look like so you can make a comparison.
To check your puppy’s breathing rate, lay her on her right side and let her rest quietly. As you watch her chest rise and fall, count the number of breaths in a 15-second period. Multiply that by 4 to get the number of breaths per minute. The normal rate is 10 to 30 breaths per minute for an adult Bulldog and 15 to 40 breaths for a young puppy. By 6 months, her breathing rate is about the same as an adult’s. Her breathing rate is influenced by the temperature of her surroundings and her activity level as well, so keep that in mind when measuring or comparing.
To check her heart rate, again lay her on her right side. Bend her left leg until her elbow touches her chest, and put your right hand on her body where her left elbow meets her chest to feel her heart beating there. Count the beats for 15 seconds, and multiply that number by 4. Normal resting heart rate for a puppy up to 1 year old is 120 to 160 beats per minute.
Next, look at her gums (mucous membranes). When she’s healthy, her gums are pink and wet. Dark red, blue, brown, or very pale gums indicate she’s not getting enough oxygen into her blood.
Check her capillary refill time by firmly touching her outer gum with your finger and releasing. The gum should be white where you touched it and turn back to pink in no more than 2 seconds. Changing too quickly or too slowly indicates a problem with her blood circulation.
Your Bulldog puppy’s normal temperature is between 100.2°F and 102.8°F. (See Month 4 for instructions on how to take her temperature.)
When you understand what’s normal for your dog, you can more accurately assess her condition in an emergency.
What Is an Emergency?
An emergency is any situation in which you must take action immediately to prevent further injury or death. In some situations, you can treat a problem or observe your Bulldog for a while before contacting the veterinarian. If your puppy has stopped eating, for example, you have some time to look at options. If your puppy can’t breathe or seems to be choking, however, there’s no time to lose, and you must respond without delay.
Potential emergencies include the following:
Trauma: For example, if your pup has been hit by a car or fallen from a high place.
Difficulty breathing or choking: She’s gasping for air, pawing at her mouth, or panicked, or her gums are turning blue or white.
Seizures: These can be long or short in duration, single or multiple seizures.
Excessive bleeding: Characterized by spurting blood or prolonged bleeding you can’t stop by applying direct pressure.
Deep cuts: These are especially bad if bones or organs are exposed.
Snakebite: Look for bite marks on your puppy’s skin, swelling, bleeding from the bite area, trembling or drooling, difficulty breathing, or signs of shock.
Burns: You’ll see blisters, swollen reddened skin, or loss of skin and hair.
Suspected poisoning: Can present as vomiting or diarrhea; trembling or twitching; seizure; abnormal gum color; heavy drooling or foaming from the mouth; burns on the lips, tongue, or mouth; or bleeding from mouth, nose, ears, or anus.
Broken bone: Look for pain, swelling, lameness, bone protruding from skin, or a limb held in an abnormal position.
Heat stroke: Symptoms include heavy panting, bright red gum color (may turn blue or gray in later stages), body temperature above 104°F, difficulty walking, and even collapse (see Month 5).
Bloat (mostly adult dogs): Indicated by drooling, panting, retching, attempting to vomit, the inability to defecate, pacing and restless, a distended abdomen, and signs of shock.
Staying Calm, Assessing the Situation, and Calling for Help
When you’ve identified an emergency, you need to stay calm, assess the situation, call the vet if necessary, and administer CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation; more on this in the next section) if required.
It’s worth repeating: stay calm.
Panic can make people do crazy things, and you can’t help your dog if you get hurt, too. If she’s been hit by a car, for example, don’t run out into the road to get her unless it’s safe to do so. First, stop and take a deep breath.
Be sure you can approach your puppy safely. A frightened, injured dog, even your own, might bite, so speak calmly and reassuringly to her. Don’t make any sudden movements that might cause her to bolt in fear, and use submissive body language: stand or crouch sideways to her, and don’t look her directly in the eye.
TIPS AND TAILS
Shock occurs when internal organs don’t get enough blood and oxygen. Shock is common after serious injuries, especially if there’s been major blood loss. Symptoms of early shock include increased heart rate, pounding pulse, and red gums. Middle stages of shock are indicated by low body temperature, weak and rapid pulse, pale gums, and a woozy and weakened animal. Slow breathing and heart rate, weak or no pulse, depression, unconsciousness, and cardiac arrest can indicate late stages of shock, which leads to death.
To restrain your puppy, put the snap end of a leash through the loop for your hand and make a noose. Drop the noose over your puppy’s head, and tighten it without touching her.
Next, assess the situation by taking a visual survey of the scene. Observe your dog’s posture, look for blood or vomit, listen to her breathing, and check for any obvious signs of what caused the injury, such as poison or a snake.
Then check her airway, breathing, and circulation—the ABCs of first aid. Assuming you can touch her, does she have an open airway? Check her mouth and throat for obstructions, and if you can, clear any using tweezers or forceps from your emergency kit.
Is she breathing? Look at the rise and fall of her chest. If you aren’t sure, put your cheek against the front of her nose and feel or listen for her breathing. If she is breathing, move on to the next step. A dog can be unconscious and still be breathing.
If she’s not breathing, start rescue breathing immediately. (More on this in the next section.)
Does she have circulation, meaning a pulse or heartbeat? As explained earlier, lay your dog on her right side, slightly bend her left leg until her elbow touches her chest, and put your right hand on her body where the left elbow meets her chest. Can you feel her heart beating?
To check for a pulse, use two fingers on one of three places:
- High inside either rear leg about halfway between the front and back of her leg where you feel a slight recess
- On the underside of either front paw just above the middle pad
- On the underside of either hind paw just above the middle pad
If you cannot detect a heartbeat or pulse, start chest compressions immediately.
If you’re alone, call for help or dial the veterinary hospital before you start rescue breathing or CPR. If it’s after regular hours, phone the emergency animal hospital nearest you. If you have someone with you, let them call while you start CPR. Your advance call enables the hospital to be ready to help as soon as you arrive.
The veterinarian will want to know a few things:
- Is your puppy breathing? Describe her breath.
- Has she vomited or passed any stool or foreign objects?
- What’s her pulse?
- What color are her gums?
- Is your puppy bleeding? How much? From where?
- What’s her temperature?
- Has anyone administered CPR?
The veterinarian might ask you additional questions and give instructions to help you care for your dog until you can get her to the clinic.
It’s imperative that you administer CPR rescue breathing or chest compressions if your puppy has no pulse and isn’t breathing. This life-saving procedure keeps oxygen in your puppy’s system until help arrives. Continue CPR until she regains consciousness or you arrive at the vet’s office.
It’s essential that you first be certain your dog is actually unconscious. Never perform CPR on a dog who has a heartbeat or is breathing. Try to rouse her by gently shaking her body and talking to her. If that doesn’t work, continue with CPR.
First, check her airway: Tilt her head back to align with her neck to open her airway, but do not extend her neck too far up, which might cause further injury. Pull her tongue forward, and remove any foreign objects that might be in her mouth.
Administer rescue breathing: Close her mouth tightly, and wrap one hand around her muzzle to keep it closed. Take a deep breath, put your mouth over her nose to seal her nostrils, and exhale firmly. Watch for her chest to expand, or place a hand on her chest to feel if it rises. If the air does not go in, or if you detect some resistance, reposition her neck and try another two breaths.
Remove your mouth, take another deep breath, and repeat four or five times, allowing her chest to return to normal after each breath. Give her about 20 rescue breaths per minute, and continue until she revives or you arrive at the vet.
TIPS AND TAILS
If you can’t get rescue breaths into your puppy or you could not remove an object from her airway, you’ll have to perform the canine version of the Heimlich maneuver. If she’s standing, put your arms around her belly, join your hands, and make a fist. Push firmly up and forward, just behind her rib cage. If she’s lying down, place one hand on her back for support and use your other hand to squeeze her abdomen upward and forward. Either way, give five sharp thrusts to the abdomen. Then check her mouth and remove any objects that may have been dislodged.
Perform chest compressions: If your dog still isn’t breathing after the first four or five rescue breaths, check again for a pulse or heartbeat. If she has none, her heart has stopped and you need to begin compressions immediately.
With your dog still lying on her right side, position yourself so you face her and locate her heart (explained earlier). Straighten your arms; cup one hand over the other; and begin rapid, firm compressions—strong enough that your puppy’s chest moves about 1 inch. (For an adult dog, the chest should move 1 to 3 inches.) After five compressions, give one rescue breath and check for a pulse. If she still has no pulse, continue the series of five compressions and one rescue breath until she revives or you get to the vet’s office.
When your puppy is breathing and has a heartbeat, transport her to the veterinary hospital as soon as possible. Ideally, have someone else drive while you focus on your puppy.
Assembling Your Doggie First-Aid Kit
A pet first-aid kit enables you to respond quickly when your dog needs help. You can buy premade kits for pets or humans and add additional items you might need. Label your kit or storage container clearly, and keep it where you can get to it quickly, possibly in your car. Or keep several first-aid kits in strategic places.
A basic first-aid kit should include the following:
- Your veterinarian’s contact info and the phone number and address of the nearest emergency vet hospital
- A copy of your dog’s health records
- Antihistamine (Benadryl or equivalent) to treat an allergic reaction (Discuss the correct dose with your vet based on your Bulldog’s weight. Remember, the dosage will change as she grows.)
- Tweezers, needle-nose pliers, forceps, or hemostat for removing foreign objects from her mouth or throat
- Saline eye wash or artificial tears for flushing irritants from her eyes and from wounds
- Mild grease-cutting dish soap (like Dawn) for removing sticky or caustic substances from her coat
- Rubber or latex gloves
- A rectal thermometer and petroleum jelly
- Hand sanitizer
- Antiseptic solution
- Antibiotic ointment
- Hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting if she has swallowed something poisonous
- Elastic bandages
- Veterinary wrap (such as VetRap) to hold bandages in place
- Blunt-nose and pointed scissors
- Sanitary pads to bandage a bleeding wound
- Nonstick bandages
- Various sizes and shapes of gauze pads to clean and protect wounds
- A flashlight
- A pet first-aid book (You can also get a pet first-aid app for your smartphone. See Appendix D.)
You might want to keep a leash, several towels, and a blanket in your car or with your first-aid kit. You can use the leash to restrain your puppy, use the towels to clean up blood or vomit, and use the blanket as a stretcher or to keep your puppy warm.
TIPS AND TAILS
Something else to keep in your doggie first-aid kit is the number for the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (888-426-4435) or the Pet Poison Helpline (855-764-7661). Veterinarians there are on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and you’re charged a small consultation fee. Be sure to gather as much information as possible about the poison before you call.
Pet First-Aid Classes
The Red Cross and many private trainers offer pet first-aid courses that cover both dogs and cats. Classes usually last around 4 hours and train you to effectively care for your pet in an emergency situation, including learning how to handle an injured dog, assess her condition, and safely transport her to the vet. You also get lessons on what to do in specific situations like broken bones, heatstroke, snakebites, or excessive bleeding. The course trains you to do a modified Heimlich maneuver on a choking animal as well.
One of the key benefits of pet first-aid classes is that you get hands-on practice bandaging, splinting, and performing CPR using CPR mannequins. The Red Cross program also includes a book and DVD you keep with your first-aid kit for reference. The book covers common injuries and emergency illnesses and reviews all the instructions you received in the class.
Check with the Red Cross, your veterinarian, or local dog trainers for pet first-aid courses in your area.
When your puppy is injured, it can be easy to panic. But your cool-headedness is important to ensure his safety. Here’s what to do:
Bleeding: If a wound is deep or spurting bright red blood, apply direct pressure and take your dog to the vet immediately. This is an emergency. She could have a severed artery, which quickly causes major blood loss. And don’t wash the wound because that could prevent clotting. Less-drastic wounds bleed slowly, ooze dark red blood, and stop bleeding within 5 minutes.
If possible, elevate the bleeding area above the heart to reduce blood flow. Apply direct pressure with a clean cloth, sanitary pad, nonstick gauze bandage, or paper towels. When the bleeding stops, don’t remove the cloth because it could cause the bleeding to resume. If one bandage becomes soaked through, add another bandage on top of it rather than remove the first. If the bleeding doesn’t stop, have a second person apply pressure just above the wound. Secure the bandage by wrapping it against the dog’s body, and get your dog to the veterinarian.
Bleeding ear: A cut on the ear bleeds a lot, and your Bulldog might make it worse by shaking her head. The good news is that ear wounds usually look worse than they really are. Place a gauze bandage on either side of the ear, and apply pressure for several minutes to stop the bleeding. Without removing the bandage, fold the ear against your dog’s head, and secure the ear to her head by wrapping a length of gauze or panty hose over her head and ear and under her chin. Don’t wrap too tightly or interfere with her breathing in any way. You should be able to slip two fingers between the bandage and her chin.
Within 24 hours, check the wound (be careful—ear injuries can reopen easily), clean it, and apply antibiotic ointment. Take your dog to the vet if you feel it needs more attention or might get infected.
Bleeding paw pad: Your puppy’s paw pads contain many blood vessels, and they bleed profusely when cut.
Be sure you remove all the glass or other matter from the bottom of your puppy’s foot (see the later “Object imbedded in body” section), flush the foot with running water to get rid of any remaining debris, wash the area with saline solution or warm water, and dry the foot. Then bandage the foot to keep dirt and debris out of the wound. Put one strip of adhesive tape against each side of the foot, extending several inches above and below the foot, and wrap the foot and the tape with gauze, starting at the toes and ending just above the ankle. Fold the tape over the bandage, and twist it so the sticky side adheres to the bandage. Place an elastic bandage (like VetRap) over the gauze, wrapping from the toes to the ankle, tight enough to stick but not so tight that it cuts off circulation. Check after a few minutes to be sure your pup’s toes aren’t swollen; if they are, the bandage is too tight.
Now take your Bulldog to the vet. She might need antibiotics or further treatment.
TIPS AND TAILS
To make saline solution, combine 1 teaspoon salt with 1 quart warm water.
Broken limbs: A fracture might mean one or more broken bones, usually to a leg. Suspect a broken bone if your Bulldog is holding her leg in an abnormal position, she appears to be in extreme pain, or she’s unable to put weight on the limb.
Before you transport your puppy to the vet, put her in a crate or immobilize the break with a splint. The splint must cover the joints above and below the break to safely protect the limb. If your dog struggles too much, she risks worsening the injury. In that case, forego the splint and transport her to the vet as soon as possible.
When splinting a broken limb, do not reposition the bones. Place a rigid magazine, yardstick, or rolled newspaper around or on either side of the limb to prevent movement, and keep the splint in place using multiple pieces of tape wrapped around the splint and leg. Don’t wrap too tightly. If you can’t find any splinting material, use the opposite leg to stabilize the fracture, putting a piece of cloth or some kind of pad between the two legs before wrapping the legs together.
If a bone is protruding from the skin, you need to take additional precautions. Don’t move the bone, or you could cause internal damage or bleeding. Wash the area with saline solution, cover it with a sterile nonstick gauze pad, secure the pad with a covering of cloth or gauze, and tape it a few inches above and below the exposed bone. Immediately transport your dog to the veterinarian because a broken bone requires professional treatment.
TIPS AND TAILS
Your Bulldog might try to bite you if she’s in severe pain, but with her short face, you can’t properly muzzle her. You need to be able to handle her when she’s injured, so have someone grab onto her flews (her drooping upper lips) on either side of her face with both hands and hold her head steady while you administer first aid.
Burns: Cooking accidents or caustic chemicals can cause painful burns and permanent scars. Your dog’s fur might mask the seriousness of a burn, so take her to a vet after you’ve performed first aid, even if the burn seems minor. First-degree burns are the least serious and usually just cause redness and pain; second-degree burns cause blisters and swelling; third-degree burns, the most serious, damage the skin, hair, blood vessels, and deeper tissue.
To treat a burn from fire, steam, or hot water, flush the burned area for 5 to 10 minutes with cool water. This reduces the temperature of the skin and prevents further tissue damage. Don’t submerge your dog’s entire body in water, or you risk sending her into shock. Cover the burned area with a nonstick bandage or torn, clean cloth. Don’t use any type of material that might stick to the burn, and don’t apply any ointments or creams. If the burn is near your dog’s neck or head, remove her collar in case the skin swells so it won’t restrict her breathing. Then seek immediate veterinary attention.
To administer first aid for chemical burns from products like bleach, pool chemicals, battery acid, or weed killers, first protect yourself with rubber gloves, a facemask, eye protection, and protective clothing before treating your dog. If your dog tries to shake off the chemical and you’re not protected, you could be burned, too. Then, restrain and muzzle her so she won’t try to lick off the chemical. Remove her collar if the burn is near her neck.
A chemical burn will continue to burn into the tissue long after it makes contact with her skin, so flush the burned area with cool water for at least 20 minutes. If the chemical is oily, add mild dish soap to the rinse. For powder burns, attempt to brush off as much as you can before rinsing. With either kind of burn, take your dog to the vet immediately.
TIPS AND TAILS
To prevent burn injuries, keep your Bulldog out from underfoot when you’re cooking, whether you’re in the kitchen or outdoors. The smells entice her to investigate, but you might not see her when you’re carrying hot pans. She also might try to stick her nose in an open oven to see what’s cooking.
Electrical cord/shock: Even though you puppy-proofed your house, your teenage Bulldog might have found an unprotected electrical cord somewhere. If she bites it, she could get electrocuted and collapse, have a seizure, or experience other severe symptoms. If you see any of these, consider it a life-threatening emergency. If she stops breathing, perform CPR, and take her to the vet immediately.
Most electrical injuries are less severe and consist of a mild burn on her lips, tongue, or mouth, for example.
If your dog is still touching the cord, put on rubber gloves and disconnect the power before you touch her, move her away from the cord with a broom or wooden chair, or trip the main circuit breaker. Avoid stepping in water, which conducts electricity.
Keep your dog as calm as possible to keep her breathing normally and prevent her from going into shock. Flush burns in her mouth with cool water, and apply an ice pack to burned lips. Then take her to the veterinarian immediately. She could have internal damage that isn’t immediately apparent.
Insect bites or stings: When a curious puppy approaches something buzzing that’s new to her—like a bee, wasp, or hornet—the result is often a sting on the face or nose. Unless she has an allergic reaction or multiple stings, these usually aren’t life-threatening.
To treat minor stings, remove the stinger as quickly as possible if it’s still embedded in your Bulldog’s skin. Pull it out with tweezers, or scrape it with a credit card so you don’t squeeze as much venom into the wound. Soothe her skin with a paste made of baking soda and water, hydrocortisone cream, aloe vera gel, or cold compresses.
If the sting is on or near her face and starts to swell dramatically, your puppy could be having an allergic reaction that might interfere with her breathing. Take her to the vet immediately.
TIPS AND TAILS
When you travel, carry a bottle of meat tenderizer in your first-aid kit and mix it with water to make a paste to apply to bug bites or stings. (This remedy works great on people, too.)
Object imbedded in body: If your puppy comes running up to you with a stick protruding from her side, resist the urge to pull it out. Wrap a cloth around the base of the object without repositioning it, and tape the cloth in place to stabilize it. Keep your dog calm and as immobile as possible, and take her directly to the vet.
You can remove smaller objects like splinters, thorns, or porcupine quills with tweezers, a needle, or pliers. If a splinter is completely under the skin, sterilize the tweezers or needle before using them by dipping them in alcohol or running them through a flame. Grasp the object as close to the skin as possible, and pull it out slowly. After you remove the object, soak the area with a mixture of warm water and Epsom salt for 15 minutes. The Epsom salt, made of magnesium and sulfate, absorbs into the skin and reduces inflammation. Repeat daily until completely healed.
Glass or small sticks might break if you try to remove them, and you’ll need to have her examined by a vet to be sure no pieces remain in the wound.
If your dog has been stuck with more than a few porcupine quills, she’ll need to go to the vet to have them removed and her wounds thoroughly cleaned.
Fishhook in the skin: She can get a fishhook imbedded in her face or lips while tasting bait or fish. If your Bulldog has done this, push the hook farther through her skin so the barb is exposed, cut off the barb with wire cutters, and pull out the hook the way it went into her skin.
If there’s no exit wound, take your pup to the vet for removal. She’ll probably need antibiotics to prevent infection.
TIPS AND TAILS
Removing a fishhook deserves special attention because pulling out a hook incorrectly can do a lot of damage to your puppy’s skin.
Torn dewclaw or toenail: If your dog’s nails grow too long, they risk being snagged and torn. The front toenails seem to be more at risk for injury; dewclaws are loosely attached, so the entire toe is in danger of tearing. Because the nail quick is comprised of living tissue, a torn nail can be very painful. Your dog might need to be restrained while you treat the injury.
Stop the bleeding by applying pressure with a cloth or your finger. The dead portion of the nail might be split or torn, so trim it off if you can. Then apply styptic powder, cornstarch, or flour to help the blood clot.
If the dewclaw is injured, wash the area, dry it completely, apply antibiotic ointment, and tape or wrap it against the leg to keep it from flapping around and reopening the wound. Wrap the foot and take her to the vet for treatment if the tear is deep or involves the flesh on the dewclaw. She might need antibiotics or stitches to prevent infection and to repair the tear. If the dewclaw is badly injured, it might need to be surgically removed.
Speed eating and food guarding, two issues common at this age, can cause ongoing health and behavior issues if not prevented, so we look at dealing with both of those behaviors in this section.
Slowing Down Speed Eaters
At 6 months, your Bulldog puppy might eat like she hasn’t seen a bowl of food for weeks. It starts when she’s with her littermates and has to compete for a spot to nurse, and the behavior continues at the puppy bowl when she begins to eat solid food.
A dog who speeds through her dinner also inhales too much air, which causes gas and discomfort. She finishes eating long before her stomach has a chance to tell her she’s full, so she often still wants more. Then she gulps down a bowl of water. This all adds up to a tummy ache, and as she ages, this puts her at risk for bloat, a potentially fatal condition.
Here are some suggestions to slow down your speed eater:
Don’t make her compete for her food. If other dogs are in the house, feed everyone in separate rooms so they don’t feel their food is threatened.
Add water to her food and let it soak a bit before you feed her. The water causes the food to expand in the bowl and not in her stomach, so she’ll feel full faster.
Don’t use a bowl. Instead, toss her food on the floor and let her scavenge and eat one kibble at a time. Be sure to do this on a clean, hard surface like a concrete patio or kitchen floor because a hungry Bulldog will eat gravel, dirt, seeds, and anything else in her path.
Break her meal into small portions, giving her just ¼ cup at a time.
Put her meal in a food-dispensing puzzle so she has to figure out how it works to get her kibble out. This slows her down and entertains her.
TIPS AND TAILS
If you feed your Bulldog canned food or soak her kibble, you might need to clean and dry her face after she eats.
Preventing Food Guarding
Your Bulldog puppy should feel comfortable when anyone in the family reaches into her bowl, touches her while she’s eating, or takes away her food bowl. At the same time, you want to be sure she won’t bite you if you need to pick up the bowl. It’s always easier to prevent a problem rather than fix one, so it’s important you teach your puppy to welcome your presence while she’s eating.
Do this exercise once or twice a week, or once every couple days. Don’t make a pest of yourself, or she won’t be happy to see you coming.
Divide her meal into four or five portions. Give her one portion in her bowl and then sit on the floor nearby but ignore her. When she’s done, pick up her bowl, put more food in it, and again ignore her until she’s finished. She’ll learn that having you near her food is a good thing because more food is on the way.
Each time you provide more food, also add one special goodie, like a bite of cheese or hot dog. Not only does she get more food, but that food is great! She’ll start to enjoy this game.
Or you can reach into the bowl while she’s eating and add a treat. Touch the bowl while you add treats, or pick up the bowl, add a treat, and give it back to her.
Also touch your puppy’s collar while you put a treat in her bowl or pick it up. Hold her collar for a second or two, put the bowl back down, and add the treats.
Be sure you teach your kids the feeding game. When they understand what you’re teaching your puppy, they’ll enjoy helping.
Your puppy needs to feel secure enough that she doesn’t have to watch out for flying objects and can eat her meal in relative peace. This isn’t the time for a toddler to bother your pup or for any loud noises to occur next to her dish. Be sure everyone in the family leaves your pup alone when she eats. You want to be able to approach her and her bowl, but you don’t want the entire family bugging her to a point that she feels the need to protect herself or her food.
Bulldogs are usually very clean … when they stay out of mischief, that is. Minor dirt and debris brush off the surface of your Bulldog’s coat, but she’ll need an occasional bath, too.
And because they shed, it’s important that you learn to take some preventive measures to deal with all that dog hair.
Bathing Your Bulldog Puppy
You don’t have to give your puppy a complete bath the first time you introduce her to the tub. The idea is for her to enjoy a short, fun experience, not necessarily to get her clean.
To do this, confine your pup in a big tub such as a horse water trough. (If you decide to use the bathtub inside, know that the entire room could end up soaking wet.) Have her on a leash so she’ll stay in one place, or ask a helper to restrain her while you bathe her. If the tub is slippery, put a bath mat in the bottom. Use cool to room temperature water to wash your pup. Hot water will dry out her skin, and although cold water won’t bother her, you shouldn’t use ice-cold water, either.
Let your pup sniff the running water or the hose and maybe even taste it. Have your helper offer treats throughout the process, too. Place your pup in the tub, and add water until it barely covers her feet. If this is too much, just splash a little on her feet and quit. Let her out when she’s calm. She might try to jump out, but restrain her until she calms down and then let her out. Work with her over several sessions until she enjoys the water and looks forward to it.
Try to separate bath time from play-in-the-water time. You don’t want your puppy chasing the hose and biting at the water while you’re trying to shampoo her.
When it’s time for an actual bath, you can put cotton balls in your Bulldog’s ears, but don’t wet her face or head because she’ll want to shake. Wet her coat, starting at her tail end and gradually moving forward. Hold the hose nozzle close to her skin so it penetrates her coat and she gets thoroughly wet.
Squirt a line of shampoo down the middle of her back, and massage it into her coat, adding more when you need to. Take care to wash her belly and armpits, too. The hair on her neck and throat is especially thick, so add water as you wash.
TIPS AND TAILS
To avoid having the shampoo concentrated in one spot while the rest of your pup’s coat doesn’t get enough, dilute pet shampoo to 50 percent strength with water and put it in a squirt bottle. It still lathers nicely, and it rinses out much more easily.
Lastly, put some diluted shampoo in your hand or on a washcloth and wash her face. Wipe out her ears, too, but avoid getting water in them. Rinse her face with a wet washcloth rather than the hose or sprayer because it’s almost impossible to keep the soap from getting in her eyes with the latter.
Rinse her thoroughly, including between her toes, under her belly, and between her legs, until all the dirt and bubbles disappear. When all the shampoo is washed out, the water will run clear. If you leave any soap residue in her coat, it will irritate her skin, so be sure to rinse very thoroughly.
Add some white vinegar to the final rinse to make her coat shiny. Then rinse well again.
Move her someplace dry, and towel off the excess moisture. Let her sit for a few minutes with towels draped over her body to absorb some of the excess water, and when you remove the towels, stand back and let her shake. Remove the cotton balls from her ears and thoroughly but gently dry her ears.
Don’t let her run loose to dry because chances are she’ll head straight for the backyard. She’ll roll in dirt, and if she got water in her ears, she’ll rub her head along the ground. If you let her loose in the house, she’ll rub along the walls and against the couch.
Dry your pup thoroughly, especially during winter or shedding season. Moisture in her wrinkles or trapped close to the skin can cause bacterial infections and hot spots.
You also could use a hair dryer, which helps blow out any remaining loose coat. Turn the dryer on the lowest possible heat setting because a dog’s skin burns easily. Your puppy might bite at the air or be afraid of the noise at first, so begin by holding the dryer at arm’s length away from her. Never blow the dryer directly in her face, and don’t put her in her crate with a dryer blowing on her. She can’t move away from the heat if it gets too hot.
Dealing with Shedding
A deep, thorough brushing at least once a week makes for a healthy dog and a cleaner house, but it’s not enough to prevent shedding and the accompanying mess. During the spring and fall, when her shedding is the heaviest, you’ll need to brush her more often.
Some preventive measures make housecleaning chores less time-consuming:
- Invest in a good vacuum designed to handle dog hair, and change or clean the filter regularly.
- Change the furnace filters in your home more often than recommended.
- Keep your closet doors closed to keep dog hair out, and stock up on lint rollers.
- Purchase washable furniture covers to protect the furniture.
You’ll probably get used to the dog hair and barely notice it after a while. But you’ll cringe when Aunt Thelma comes to visit, sits on the couch, and is covered in Bulldog fur when she stands up.
You could teach your Bulldog puppy never to get on the furniture, but that wouldn’t be any fun. Besides, when she lies on the floor in her favorite spot up against the couch, it will still get dirty and hairy. If you really have to keep a room pristine, limit her access with pet gates. For example, let her nap on the sofa in the family room, but keep the living room off limits.
TIPS AND TAILS
When it comes time to remodel, purchase dog-friendly flooring and furniture. Hard flooring is easier to clean, while carpet gets stained and worn. Dog hair is much harder to remove from woven upholstery and Berber carpets.
Also, know that a healthy coat doesn’t shed as much. If you’re feeding a discount or grocery store brand of dog food, you might see a marked difference in your dog’s coat when you switch to a premium food.
Finally, a clean dog who sleeps on a dirty bed won’t stay clean and sweet-smelling for long, so be sure to wash your dog’s bedding regularly. Besides getting rid of excess hair, your house will smell fresher, too.
A well-socialized Bulldog is friendly, confident, and well behaved everywhere she goes. This is no small achievement, and it doesn’t happen by accident. It takes ongoing training, and this month is no exception.
Teaching “Off” and “Sit-to-Greet”
Puppies jump up because they want to be near your face and smell your breath to identify you. A cute little 20-pound puppy might not be such a bother when she jumps, but a powerful 70-pound dog quickly becomes a nuisance. You might let her jump on you sometimes, but she can’t tell the difference between your Sunday best suit and your Saturday sweats, so she needs to learn not to jump up unless she’s invited.
To teach off, you’ll first teach her to jump up on command. Pat your chest with both hands and say “Up” just as she starts to jump. Praise her, and as she backs off, say “Off.” Add a hand signal as you work: your flat palm toward her with your fingers spread.
TIPS AND TAILS
“Off” is the command for four on the floor. Don’t use “Down,” because you’ve already taught her that “Down” means something else—“Lie down on the floor.” You want your puppy to learn that “Off” means “Get off me.” It’s not punishment; it’s an instruction.
Meanwhile, as she’s learning up and off, don’t give her any attention when she’s jumping—no eye contact, no touching, no talking. Look away, stand up straight, fold your arms, and turn your back to her. Stand still, and wait her out. As soon as she stops jumping, even for a second, praise her and say “Good off.” If she immediately jumps back up, ignore her again. When she’s got all four feet down, stand quietly and praise her calmly.
Jumping up is a sign of overarousal, so you want her to lower her energy level. If you bend over her or make eye contact, this invites her back up into your face. Ask her to sit when she hits the floor so she has an alternative behavior to keep her busy. When she’s first learning and you do bend down to pet her, loop two fingers through her collar to help her keep her feet on the ground. Look away and pet her chest so she’s more likely to stay in position.
If she doesn’t back off when you ignore her, attach a leash to her collar. When you give the “Off” command, give the leash a quick snap to remind her. You also can stand on the leash and keep it tight so she corrects herself when she jumps. If you drag her off you with the leash or use your hands to push her to the floor, she’s not learning anything except that you’ll do the work for her. Your hands reward her for jumping up, and even though you think it’s a correction, she thinks it’s a game.
Off is a command you’ll use often with your excited Bulldog puppy. When she can alternate up and off on command, she understands the exercise. Practice often around the house and outdoors, and have every family member teach her to respond.
Your puppy will happily claim the couch or king-size bed for her own, and if you allow this behavior, the family will be left sleeping on the floor. To fix this, use the same method you used for the counters. Let her drag a leash, give the command “Off,” and lure her off the couch with a treat. Praise her as soon as she starts to get off. After some practice, hide the treat and don’t produce it until she gets off the couch completely.
Invite her up on the bed or couch if you want to. Some Bulldogs get possessive of their favorite spot (usually when they’re about 1 or 1½ years old) and won’t want to move, so be sure she willingly gets down when you tell her.
After she learns off, put it to good use. When your puppy charges full speed at you, hold up your palm in the off position and rush at her. Spread your fingers, put your palm right in her face, and immediately ask for a sit. As she gets the idea, use a less-dramatic hand signal and just lean toward her to remind her to stay off and sit. Eventually, she’ll decide off is a two-part command—off and sit—and she’ll sit every time.
Sometimes a rambunctious puppy doesn’t listen, so you need to use stronger measures. Fill a squirt bottle with water, and keep it handy. When she starts to jump up or is charging at you, squirt her in the face or chest. She’ll quickly learn to veer off or refrain from jumping as soon as she sees you holding the bottle.
TIPS AND TAILS
You might hear about kneeing your puppy in the chest when she jumps on you. Don’t do this. It could injure her, either breaking her breastbone or hurting her when she falls. You also might hear that you should grab her paws and hold on until she struggles to get down. Again, don’t do this. It could teach her to bite at your hands or be unwilling to let you handle her feet in other situations, like when you want to trim her toenails. Neither method builds a good relationship with your puppy.
A polite puppy greets people she meets with a sit. Once she understands how not to jump on you, expand her lesson and teach her not to jump on anyone else with a sit-to-greet. This is an entirely different exercise in your puppy’s mind.
Enlist family or friends to help you. Have them ignore your puppy and make no eye contact. Don’t let them greet or pet her until she sits quietly, and after she does this consistently, use this same method when she meets people out in public. People will be amazed at your training skills!
Add sit-to-greet to front-door greetings at home, too. Hang a leash on the doorknob, hook her up as soon as the doorbell rings, and ask her to sit and stay before you open the door. If she starts to get up, shut the door and have her return to the sit. This will take several tries before she remains sitting. When the person comes in the door, you’ll have to start all over, asking her to sit and stay. Remember to touch her and say “Okay” when she’s allowed to stand up.
When the visitor moves away from the door, quietly walk your puppy to the person to say hello and have your pup sit for petting.
If she just can’t settle down at the door, put her in her crate and let her out on leash after your guest has entered and everything is calmer.
If you see your Bulldog think about jumping but then think better of it, praise her to the skies because she is definitely the smartest puppy on the planet. She’ll remember how happy you are and try to do as well the next time she’s tempted.
Going Many Different Places
Continue to take your Bulldog to new places this month. Also return to places you’ve previously visited so she’ll remember them.
In preparation for the adolescent crazies, practice her obedience skills everywhere you go. Bring along a chew bone, and have her lie quietly at your feet while you relax on a park bench. For a new sensation under her feet, take her to a harbor if you have one nearby, and let her walk on the floating docks. Walk her across a bridge or over a freeway, too.
If you have a beach nearby, take her there. Although you’ve introduced your Bulldog to water at home, and she probably loves it, the garden hose and kiddie pool are a far cry from a lake or beach. Waves crashing on the shore, birds running along the water’s edge, the smell of the ocean and seaweed—these are all new, exciting, and potentially scary to your puppy. Bring fresh water with you for her to drink. You don’t want her gulping salty seawater that will quickly dehydrate her, and ponds and lakes might have bacteria and protozoa that can make her sick if she ingests them.
Consider bringing another dog along for your puppy’s first beach expedition. Start by allowing your pup to drag a long line. Many dogs are afraid of the approaching water and spook when a wave splashes on their feet. When she sees another dog having fun, however, she’ll be more likely to try it. Start by walking her along the water’s edge and letting her get used to the feel of the wet sand. Don’t force her into deep water, and do not throw her in.
Also don’t throw toys out in the water until she’s happily playing in the shallow waves. Then just toss it 1 foot or so and let her chase it out on a receding wave. When she’s comfortable, you don’t want her swimming to China, so keep her close enough that you can grab the long line.
When you bring her home, you’ll be glad you’ve been practicing her grooming skills as you hose her down to get the saltwater and sand out of her coat. You also might need to follow up with a full bath, depending on how dirty she is.
TIPS AND TAILS
Bulldogs and retractable leashes are a dangerous combination. The farther away from you she goes, the less control you have. Many of these leashes extend as far as 26 feet, and when she’s that far away, she might ignore your call because she isn’t used to responding from a distance yet. And one good, hard jerk when she sees another dog a few hundred yards away and she’s gone, the leash ripped from your hand and bouncing along behind her. What’s worse, if the handle retracts quickly, it could break a bone when it catches up to and hits your pup.
The training and socialization you’ve worked so hard on up to this point won’t completely prevent your puppy from her madcap adolescent activities, but you do have an excellent head start and might avoid some typical teenage behavior problems. But just in case, let’s look at some areas to work on this month.
The Age of Distraction
At 6 months, your Bulldog puppy is ready to take on the world, and sometimes she considers that human at the other end of her leash (you!) a hindrance to her plans. Expect a lot of overenthusiasm and pulling in every direction when she’s out in public, and be ready with calm and consistent training and rule enforcement. You might have to stop what you’re doing and spend a few minutes to get her attention so she’ll listen to you this month. She’s strong and determined, and you must be equally so. And always remember, she isn’t trying to annoy you—she’s a preteen.
A Bulldog isn’t going to do something unless she wants to do it. Period. She’ll use as many tricks as she can to get out of obeying you. You’ll ask for a sit, and she’ll paw at your leg. When she lies down, she’ll roll around like she has a tremendous itch that just won’t wait. She’ll whimper, snort, wrap herself around your legs, and she’ll creep forward as soon as your attention wanders. Just put her back in position, and release her when you’re ready. Repeat the exercise until she does it correctly, but set her up for success by asking for a shorter stay next time. If you give up and quit when she’s goofing around, she wins and will try to distract you every time you ask her to do something. Bulldogs love these games!
Use your body language to keep your dog calm and focused. Speak firmly, stand up straight, and use the leash instead of your hands to correct her or put her back in position.
Dealing with Digging
Bulldogs dig for many reasons, but the most common is because it’s fun! Digging rewards her with interesting smells, chewy roots, and other garden delights. You can’t train your dog not to dig, so the solution includes management and prevention. Conduct a regular perimeter patrol of your yard to find and fix any loose boards in wood fencing or broken tension wires at the bottom of chain-link fencing.
Boredom and separation anxiety cause many dogs to take up recreational digging. A young dog left out in the yard all day gets restless and needs something to do, so she makes her own entertainment. She might have seen you working in the garden earlier, so she digs up a spot that still has your scent. If you use bone meal or blood meal when you plant, she could be attracted to that smell. She might dig to bury a bone or toy or to make a cool resting place under a large bush.
Consider providing your Bulldog with her own digging pit. Set aside a small area; fill it with sand (which is easier to rinse off your puppy than dirt); and bury treat-filled toys, bones, balls, and other prizes in the sand for her to find. When you first introduce her to the pit, leave a few goodies sticking out of the sand so she gets the idea.
Of course, some dogs refuse to use your chosen spot, and this is where management comes into play as you make digging less attractive. For example, fill holes with dog feces and cover them. Put a balloon in a hole so it pops when she digs and scares her. Or place a piece of chicken wire about 4 inches down in the hole and bury it. She won’t like snagging her toenails on the wire as she digs.
If you have gophers, moles, or other underground pests, your Bulldog will do some serious excavating to try to find them. The easiest solution to this problem is to get rid of the critters. Rodent poisons usually contain molasses or bran, so they’ll also attract your dog and could kill her if she ingests any. Even if the bait is placed underground, your Bulldog might get to it. Check with your local garden center for dog-friendly methods to eliminate pests.
Your dog might dig because she sees other people and dogs walking past your house, gets frustrated, and wants to join them, so she digs under the fence. To solve this problem, you could put up a solid fence, which also reduces nuisance barking. Or line the bottom of your existing fence with concrete blocks or large rocks. You also could attach a 2-foot-wide strip of chicken wire or hardware cloth along the bottom of the fence. Place it so the top 12 inches attach to the fence and the bottom 12 inches bend out into the yard and then cover the part on the ground with rocks and dirt.
When all else fails, keep your pup indoors or build a dog run for her to stay in when you aren’t there to supervise her.
Iron Jaws and Teaching “Give”
People sometimes accidentally train their dogs to grab and bite down hard. They worry that she’ll bite their fingers as she takes a treat or toy, so they snatch their hand away as the puppy reaches for it. Or they toss the treat on the ground, which encourages the dog to lunge for it. Dogs who are aroused and excited grab in the heat of a game. Competition from other dogs also causes a puppy to grab.
Teach your Bulldog to take a treat nicely. Introduce this treat-taking lesson separately from other exercises you’re teaching your puppy because if you’re asking her to sit, for example, and then correct her for snatching at the treat, she’ll get confused.
First, choose a word to use to remind her to be gentle. “Nicely,” “gently,” “easy,” or “softly” are all good choices because they’re soft, two-syllable words, which are easier for you to say in a calming way.
If your puppy is a real shark, wear garden gloves. Put a tiny dab of squeeze cheese on the palm of your hand, and offer it to your puppy. If she grabs, simply close your hand over the cheese. She needs to lick this treat, not bite at it.
Try again. If she lunges at your hand, quickly push your hand at her about 1 inch to slow her down. As she licks the treat, use your word, “Nicely,” and praise her quietly. Say “Nicely” in a calm and friendly voice while she’s eating the treat. This isn’t a command or a warning.
When she’s taking the cheese off your palm politely, try it with a piece of kibble or chicken. Hold your thumb over the treat, and let her chew it out of your grasp. Correct her with “Ack!” if she bites your fingers, but don’t snatch away your hand.
Next, switch to holding treats between your fingertips. As she reaches in for the treat, push the treat about 1 inch into her mouth. She’ll feel your hand coming at her and back off slightly. Also hand-feed your puppy her meals (or even a portion of her meal) for a few days, practicing her new manners. Then incorporate “Nicely” into your daily routine and training sessions.
TIPS AND TAILS
A puppy who grabs treats probably also grabs toys and holds them in an iron grip. Avoid teaching your Bulldog to bite hard. As she grows up and gets stronger, you won’t be able to out-muscle her. Don’t pull toys from her mouth either. Her natural reflex is to bite down and resist. Trade her for a treat or another toy instead.
The “Give” command comes in handy around the house. You’ll have a much easier time wrestling the remote, the phone, or other contraband from her mouth using “Give” than trying to pry something from her grip.
This lesson is easier to introduce at eye level. Attach a leash to your pup, and present her with a toy you know she’ll want. Be sure to use something you can take without sticking your fingers in her mouth. Use “Nicely” to encourage her to take it gently, just like she did with food. When she has the toy in her mouth, show her a treat or another highly desirable toy, and say “Give” as she lets go of the first toy. She might drop the toy or release it into your hand. Whichever she does, praise her and then repeat the lesson several more times. Once she gets the idea, introduce the command “Take it” as you present the toy.
Diligent training is your goal for this month. Your pup is capable of performing at least 10 obedience commands by the time she’s 6 months old. She’ll be easily distracted, however, so give her plenty of reminders. With practice, she should be able to do a 1-minute sit-stay and a 1- or 2-minute down-stay by the end of this month. Keep your training lessons interesting and fun by teaching her new skills while polishing old ones.
Basic Obedience Review and Hand Signals
Your puppy should have learned the following commands so far:
Sit: Put your rear end on the floor and don’t move. Hand signal: scoop one hand upward, palm up.
Down: Lie down, roll on one hip, and don’t move. Hand signal: push your flat hand, palm down, toward the ground.
Okay: You’re finished; relax. This command releases your dog from whatever she’s doing. Hand signal: toss your hands upward happily, palms up.
Come: Stop what you’re doing and come here. Signal: wide open, welcoming arms.
Let’s go or walk: Pay attention—we’re going for a walk. Signal: step off on your left foot (when she’s at your left side).
Stay: Don’t move until I come back and touch you. Hand signal: flat palm in front of her nose as you step off on the foot farthest away from her. For example, if she’s on your left side, step off with your right foot.
Off: Put all four feet on the floor. Hand signal: flat palm, fingers spread, pushing toward the dog.
Take it: Take this item, such as a toy, I’m presenting to you. No hand signal.
Give: Open your mouth and release an item. Hand signal: flat open hand (like a plate) in front of her mouth.
TIPS AND TAILS
Because dogs are so visually oriented, they read your body language before they pay attention to what you say. A hand signal or other cue from you helps your dog understand what you want. You can use the ones described here or make up your own.
She was doing so well with her training, and now she seems to have fallen completely apart. Who is this disobedient puppy? When you lose mental control of your distracted preteen Bulldog, retain physical control by keeping her on a leash. Insist that she comply with every instruction, even when she gives you a “What? You talkin’ to me?” attitude. Training problems might actually be attention problems rather than willful disobedience.
If you slack off and let her respond slowly or get away with not responding at all, you’ll gradually lose control over your dog, just when you need it most. That should be enough to motivate you work through any training issues you’re encountering. Don’t reward your puppy if you have to ask twice or physically force her to do what you’ve asked. Show her the treat but then put it away.
Do, however, reward every sincere try. Remember as you work together that you’re not angry at your puppy; you’re teaching her. Her behavior right now is part of the learning process.
Your puppy is always learning, whether or not you are actively training, so make lessons part of everyday life rather than just structured training sessions.
Dole out your praise and treat rewards according to her response. When she’s done especially well, give her several treats and big, happy praise and then quit. When she responds slowly or late, give her mild praise with a small token treat. She’ll soon learn by your reaction which responses earn treats and exuberant praise, and her performance will improve.
Why is she testing your patience this month? Several reasons could be to blame. For one, she has reached a learning plateau. It takes about 6 weeks before a dog’s brain converts a behavior from short-term to long-term memory and it becomes a habit. While she’s processing the change, she might act like she’s forgotten even simple commands. Just keep reviewing, and she’ll catch up.
A learning plateau occurs when your puppy suddenly seems to have forgotten everything you’ve taught her. It’s common in adolescent dogs and often happens around week 5 in obedience class. The phase might last 2 days or 2 weeks, but it does pass, and you’ll see a surge in her progress when she’s through it.
She might also be confused. Take a step back in her training and treat her like she’s learning it for the first time. Remember, she’ll get mixed up if you ask her to do something in a new place or if someone new asks her to do it. Even a simple sit might befuddle her. What’s more, if she’s uncertain, and that makes you uncertain, she senses your confusion and delays her response. When you’re sure she understands what you’re asking, act like you expect her to respond.
Or she might be testing you. She could be bored with lessons or just distracted by adolescent energy. Work hard to hold her attention and keep her interested in you. Call her bluff, persevere, and reward her when she gives in. For example, if she does sit but pops right back up, wait a second. If she doesn’t settle back into the sit, walk her around you and ask again. Take a few steps and command “Sit” again. Don’t give her a treat until she sits promptly the first time you ask her.
If she rolls around and paws at your feet when you tell her “Down,” don’t touch her, and do not offer any praise, treats, or comments. Remain calm and firm, get her attention back on you, and try again until she responds. Praise her and then quit.
If she won’t come when she’s called, go get her. Don’t call her if you can’t enforce it. Always praise her as soon as she looks at you, and encourage her all the way in. Don’t wait until she gets to you.
Enrolling in More Obedience Classes
Your Bulldog graduated with honors from puppy kindergarten; she’s learning all these things you’ve been teaching her; and she’s growing into a beautiful, well-behaved young dog. So why invest time and money in another obedience class? Beginning obedience might appear to be a review of the things she already knows, but it offers other benefits as well.
You could be ahead of the curve this month, but adolescence approaches, and your puppy still has a lot to learn about self-control and good behavior. Obedience classes give her the opportunity to socialize and hone her skills in a controlled environment with new dogs and people of all ages.
As a bonus, the structure of a class motivates you and the rest of your family to continue practicing with your puppy. You’ll have the opportunity to ask questions and try different methods if something you’re doing isn’t working for your particular pup. If there’s another Bulldog in your class, watch how other owners deal with the same challenges you’ve encountered.
TIPS AND TAILS
Enjoy your pup, and realize you will have to take a different approach to training than other dog owners. Your puppy will never respond like a Sheltie or a Lab, but that’s part of the reason why you got a Bulldog, isn’t it?
Plus, your puppy gets the opportunity to practice things she knows in a new place, and you’ll find out if she really understands what you’ve taught her so far. The instructor offers new and different distractions to challenge her, too.
Teaching the Automatic Sit
While walking your Bulldog, tell her to sit every time you come to a stop. Pretty soon, she’ll automatically sit for you. When she’s first learning this skill, give her a treat and praise as soon as she sits. As she gets the hang of it, you can continue to praise and give treats less frequently. Ultimately, you won’t have to say “Sit” when you stop walking, but she’ll automatically take a seat.
Teaching “Leave It”
The “Leave it” command is different from the “Off” command. With leave it, you want your puppy to turn her attention to you and away from whatever she’s interested in. The idea is to prevent her from doing something before she gets too involved with it. You’ll use this command in many situations, such as when you accidentally drop food on the floor, when she focuses on the cat across the street instead of you, or when she thinks about rolling in something gross.
To teach leave it, put her on a leash and walk her past a treat or toy on the floor. As soon as she notices the item, say “Leave it,” turn sharply, and walk away while making happy talk and luring her attention back to you. If she gets the item before you can say “Leave it,” you’re too close, so walk by the item farther away next time.
When she focuses on you instead of the item, praise her and give her a treat from your hand. Don’t let her have the treat or toy on the floor. Practice several times, and she’ll soon look at you for a treat as soon as you command “Leave it.” She’ll be more motivated if the treat in your hand is one she likes better than the one on the floor.
Practice several times a day and with many different items. When she’s reliably looking to you, try the same exercise without turning away. Just keep on walking while saying “Leave it.” When she responds to your command, praise her and give her something else to do, like come or sit. If you release her, she’ll just dive for the treat.
You and Your Puppy
Raising a Bulldog puppy shouldn’t be all work and no play. Teach her to enjoy fun activities, but remember to enjoy some quiet time together, too. Your pup is ready and willing to do whatever you have in mind.
Having Fun in Water
Puppies are not born knowing how to swim, and your Bulldog may never enjoy it. But that doesn’t mean she won’t enjoy playing in the water. Splashing around in a wading pool might be the perfect summer activity for you and your Bulldog. Some Bulldogs do learn to swim, but don’t force her if your dog doesn’t seem interested in it or doesn’t get it after a while. The breed is not known for being natural swimmers.
Most Bulldogs aren’t able to get out of a pool by themselves. If you have a pool at home, buy a canine life vest for your Bulldog to wear, and never leave her outside unsupervised. Better yet, put a fence around your pool. Never let her play on a pool cover; it could collapse and she could fall in and drown.
Enjoying Quiet Time Together
You probably have fantasies of spending a cold winter’s night in front of a roaring fireplace, reading a good book while your devoted Bulldog sleeps on the rug at your feet. It’s probably hard to reconcile that picture with the active puppy you have today. But even a puppy needs some downtime, and so do you.
Evenings are a perfect time for her to quietly keep the kids company while they do homework or watch television. She needs to learn that life goes on around her and she doesn’t need to be in the middle of everything that happens. If you respond every time your little tornado asks for attention, she’ll just pester you more and more.
Your puppy should be able to lie at your feet without being crated or tethered all the time. As with everything else, practice makes perfect. The first few tries might be more training than relaxation, but she can learn it. If she’s restless, be patient. You can start by having her on leash at your feet for just 5 or 10 minutes each night. Give her something to chew on to help keep her occupied. It might take her a few minutes to settle down, but when she understands the nightly routine, she’ll happily comply.
A balance of training, play, and quiet companionship marks the beginning of the partnership you and your Bulldog will enjoy for years to come.