Your Bulldog is anxious to grow up, and you’re scrambling to keep up with her this month. Between 7 and 8 months, you’ll have moments when you feel like you have a new dog you’ve never seen before. Her personality changes as she inches toward adulthood and she discovers she has to deal with other dogs differently from how she did when she was a puppy. She’ll temporarily forget a lot of her training, too.
All is not lost, however. Most of her behavior is typical teenage mischief and not a cause for major concern—as long as you deal with it and don’t let it become habit. The training you’ve done up to this point gives you the tools you need to handle her behavior. Basic obedience practice solves many seemingly unrelated difficulties, and you’ll spend time this month reinforcing her training and teaching her self-control and manners.
Her teenage exuberance provides hours of fun and laughs for you and your family, and you’ll enjoy even the most challenging times with your Bulldog puppy.
Her body is ahead of itself this month, and she can’t figure out where those longer legs came from. Her behavior strays into uncharted territory, and she often leaps before she looks, so be prepared for lots of action!
Understanding Dog Adolescence
In Bulldogs, adolescence lasts from about 7 months until 2 to 2½ years. With that kind of time span, it’s not a phase you can just wait out. However, if you’re prepared to deal with it, you’ll emerge at the other end with a well-behaved adult dog. Enjoy her youthful enthusiasm and energy now, though, because she loves to do things with you and thrives on the attention you give her.
Hormones play a big role in your puppy’s adolescent behavior, and right now, her sexual maturity is far ahead of her mental and emotional maturity. If your pup has already been spayed or neutered, you’re not completely off the hook because her brain development also plays a role. Major changes are happening in her brain, and her self-control, judgment, and emotions are still developing. Like human teenagers, she doesn’t have enough experience yet to make mature choices, and she doesn’t understand the consequences of her changing body. But of course, she wants to be all grown up and do what the big dogs do, so she plays the role of an adult and learns from her mistakes.
The first thing you might notice is that she asserts her independence. She “forgets” her name, takes off, ignores you at the park, and refuses to obey obedience commands. Or she grabs your shoe and plays keep-away to get out of doing what you’ve told her to do. Treats don’t always work anymore, and her appetite fluctuates from day to day.
Your Bulldog has had 7 months to learn to read your body language and facial expressions. She knows if you mean it when you say something to her, and she’s at the stage when she’ll call your bluff. To deal with this, use authoritative posture—stand tall and straight when you’re dealing with her to help her understand you mean it.
You’ll find her bossy-barking at you when she wants something or urine-marking your belongings as she tries new behaviors—bullying, marking, mounting, and maybe some aggression. She’ll take teenage rebellion to new extremes, becoming possessive of her toys or barking at or ignoring you when you tell her to get off the couch. She’ll also suddenly become overprotective of her territory and bark at every car driving by or person coming to the door.
Right now she’s conflicted, and she’s trying to balance teenage insecurity with her endless energy. She still depends on you, but she also needs to rebel. She does remember what you’ve taught her, but she needs to be reminded there are consequences when she misbehaves. Purely positive training might not be enough to keep her attention, and firm but kind discipline has its place this month. What works today might not work tomorrow though, so keep trying different things.
Helping Your Puppy Gain Coordination
An adolescent Bulldog doesn’t know she has hind legs, and when she remembers, she trips over them. She runs with her front legs, and her back end just kind of follows. To improve her overall coordination, you can run her through activities that require her to concentrate on her feet and legs when she moves. You’ll be surprised how hard it is for her.
Cavalettis: Place some pieces of 2×4 lumber on the ground about as far apart as her stride, and walk her over the boards. She’ll stumble at first, unaware that the boards are even there. Adjust the distance apart so she can comfortably trot over the boards. When she’s mastered the task at ground level, put them up on bricks, about 3 inches off the ground, and try again.
The platform: Place a 2×2-foot piece of plywood on blocks. Have her jump up, guide her with a treat to turn around in a circle once, and ask her to sit.
Fast and Fearless
Teenage Bulldogs are big, strong puppies, and they know how to use their strength. They’re pushy and impulsive at this age, and they have no maturity to hold them back. Your little bull in the china shop isn’t intentionally torturing you—she’s just acting her age. When you get frustrated, she’ll do her best to make you laugh.
The same adolescent who reacts fearfully to fireworks will be strangely oblivious to danger when she’s plunging through brush and brambles, icy water, and other physical challenges. Her common sense is on vacation for the next few months, so you have to protect her from herself. You don’t want her to learn the hard way that some things, like ice-covered lakes, are actually dangerous.
From dangerous weather conditions to holiday safety hazards, your Bulldog needs to be protected from an assortment of seasonal mishaps. By educating yourself and taking precautions each season, you’ll keep your canine buddy safe.
Spring Safety Hazards
It’s the season to begin hiking, camping, and enjoying outdoor activities. Bulldogs aren’t really meant to be hikers, so don’t expect yours to climb mountains or go for miles like a Labrador Retriever will.
Do some short conditioning walks with your pup before you head out for longer expeditions to get her muscles in shape. Even then, remember she’s still a puppy, so don’t overdo it.
Your dog’s paw pads are soft and susceptible to cuts and scrapes at the beginning of the season. Walking on asphalt or concrete can cause road burn, so build up slowly while her feet toughen.
As the weather warms up, fleas, ticks, and poisonous snakes become active. Be prepared for these pests by using preventatives on your puppy. Consider rattlesnake avoidance training and a rattlesnake vaccine for your dog if you live in areas where these snakes are common.
TIPS AND TAILS
Snake avoidance training has become popular in many areas of the United States where people and rattlesnakes live in close proximity. Training methods vary but have the same general goals: dogs are exposed to live snakes (whose mouths have been taped shut or are otherwise disabled) so they can recognize the sight, sound, and smell of a snake and alert you to its presence even if they can’t see it. Most trainers use electronic collars during this training.
Mosquitoes are at their worst during humid summer months, and that increases your puppy’s risk of contracting heartworm. If she’s not already on a preventative, you need to have her tested for the parasite before you can safely put her on a heartworm prevention program. Take care of this chore by mid- to late spring, or keep her on a preventative year-round.
At Easter time, keep Easter baskets, fake grass, wrapped candy, and chocolate bunnies out of your dog’s reach. Most varieties of lily, Easter or otherwise, are toxic to your pup. If she eats a petal, leaf, or even just the pollen, it can cause an upset stomach; if she eats enough, kidney damage could result. Make generous use of your puppy’s crate during the holiday to keep her safe and out of trouble.
Springtime also means gardening, when lawns are fertilized and gardens are sprayed with pesticides. Anything from weed control to garden mulch can be toxic to your pup. Cocoa mulch, for example, which contains the same poisonous ingredients as chocolate, is particularly deadly. If you fertilize or spray, follow the manufacturer’s guidelines carefully, let the grass dry completely before letting your puppy walk on it, and wash her feet if you think she’s been exposed. And don’t let her eat plants or mulch.
Although you take these precautions to protect your dog at home, public parks and other neighborhood homes also might have these hazards—sometimes unbeknownst to you. Always be aware when you’re out and about, and ask to be put on notification lists about spraying in public areas where you frequently walk. Also see Appendix C for a complete list of household and yard hazards.
Summer Health and Safety Hazards
Heat exhaustion is the single most dangerous summer hazard for a Bulldog, and your dog’s body temperature can rise to unsafe levels, which can lead to organ failure. Humidity increases the risk of heat exhaustion.
We discussed the dangers of heat in Month 5, but it’s worth repeating: Bulldogs cannot tolerate heat, and the combination of heat and excitement can be deadly. Dogs have a limited number of sweat glands, they perspire mainly through the pads on their feet, and they pant to cool themselves. When you’re out and about, never leave your pup in a hot car. Any temperature above 70°F is too hot to leave your dog in the car, even if you’ve parked in the shade with the windows open. The car can heat up to 100°F in 15 minutes or less. Being left in a hot car is the most common cause of heatstroke in dogs.
Lightly exercise with your dog in the early morning or evening, and keep her indoors during the heat of the day. When you are out, place your hand on the sidewalk, sand, or road where you’ll be walking with your pup. If it’s too hot for your hand, it’s too hot for your dog’s paws. She can be seriously burned.
Always keep cool, fresh water available for your Bulldog. In fact, consider putting out two water bowls in case she dumps one during the day, or tie a full bucket to a fence so she can’t drag it around and play with it. Many puppies love an ice cube treat on a hot day, so add crushed ice or ice cubes to her bowl. Or leave a faucet dripping into her bowl so she can get water even if she runs out. Be sure she also has access to cool shade if she’s outdoors when it’s too hot in the garage or doghouse. A kiddie pool filled with a couple inches of water gives her a cool spot to beat the heat.
More dogs are lost, killed, or injured on the Fourth of July than any other day of the year. And it’s not just one day. People shoot off fireworks for a week or more before and after the holiday. (If you live near the local high school, fireworks are part of many halftime shows and homecoming games, too. New Year’s Eve is another noisy, terrifying night for many dogs.)
A panic-stricken dog afraid of fireworks will do things she’d never consider any other time: rip the leash out of your hands, tear through a fence, or run into the street. Many dogs don’t react until something blows up right in front of them. Protect your puppy by keeping her at home and indoors on the holiday.
If your Bulldog is frightened by the noise, take steps to relieve her anxiety. Some dogs are happiest in their crates in a quiet place. You might need to outfit her with body wrap products like ThunderShirt that soothe your dog by putting pressure on acupuncture points. Or turn on the television or stereo to mask the sounds from outdoors. An exceptionally terrified dog might need medication. Plan ahead and visit your vet for a prescription or to find out about the use of essential oils or aromatherapies. Don’t use over-the-counter sedatives on your dog though.
Don’t overly comfort your puppy or try to soothe her when she’s frightened of fireworks or thunderstorms. Your anxious tone and body language tell her she really does need to worry. There’s nothing wrong with holding her so she feels more secure, but act happy and confident so your dog will realize nothing is wrong.
You can desensitize your dog to the sound of fireworks or thunderstorms. In the off season, play a tape of the sounds at low volume, and entertain your Bulldog puppy with a game or otherwise distract her while it plays in the background so she learns to associate the sound with fun or a chew toy. You might have to start at some distance away from the sounds. When she reaches a point where she recognizes the tape and looks to you for her reward, you can increase the volume slightly and move closer to it.
Fall Safety Hazards
As cold weather approaches and drivers winterize their cars, beware of antifreeze in driveways and on the roadways. This greenish liquid’s sweet taste is especially attractive to dogs, and your pup can lick enough off her paws to cause kidney failure and even death. If you think your dog has stepped in antifreeze, wash her feet with Dawn dish detergent or olive oil and then call your veterinarian.
Halloween can be a challenge for your pup. Remember when you were socializing your puppy and invited your guests to wear big hats and raincoats? For your dog, Halloween is all those scary-looking people times 10. Trick-or-treaters wear wigs and masks and carry large, flapping bags. If your pup barks when the doorbell rings, this is either a great time to practice her obedience or a better time to put her in her crate in the back bedroom.
Burning candles, jack-o’-lanterns, and other flammable decorations tempt your Bulldog to investigate. Costumes for pets and people can include choking hazards like string and ribbons. Wooden sticks from caramel apples, candy wrappers, and gum can cause serious injuries, and poisonous chocolate lurks in those goodie bags.
Winter Safety Hazards
If your puppy must be outside in extremely cold weather, be sure she has access to a doghouse or other protection from the cold and dampness. Remember, she’s still a puppy, and even if she does have a double coat, she doesn’t have enough fat to stay warm. You might consider buying her a sweater to wear outdoors in winter.
A Bulldog can get hypothermia if she gets wet to the skin. The first sign is shivering, a physical reaction that helps her retain heat by elevating her metabolism. Take your puppy indoors immediately if you see her shivering, and warm her body by drying her and wrapping her in blankets. Then, take her to the vet immediately.
When a dog is hypothermic, her blood retreats to the main trunk of her body to protect and heat her internal organs. That means her paws, tail, the tips of her ears, and other extremities are susceptible to frostbite. A dog with frostbite on her feet might limp, and the affected area will be pale and hard to the touch. Dry the area, and apply warm, not hot, compresses. Then, take her to the veterinarian for further care.
When you exercise with your puppy outside in cold weather, don’t overdo it. Cold air and high altitude cause your puppy to burn more calories and get tired faster. Also beware of frozen water and thin ice. Be sure you know where rivers, ponds, and streams are located, and keep your puppy away from them. If she does fall in icy water, send for help but don’t go in after her. Adult dogs can survive in freezing water longer than humans can; puppies are more vulnerable.
Monitor your pup when she’s outside in cold and snowy weather. Snow hides familiar landmarks, and your pup might not realize she’s left her own yard if you’re not there to show her the way. With all the snow, she can’t distinguish the curb or driveway and might wander into the street. Snowplows have a hard time spotting dogs when they’re plowing, which could spell disaster. Also, put your Bulldog inside when you use the snow blower. She’ll want to be where you are, and as much fun as she might have chasing it, the hard-thrown snow could injure her.
TIPS AND TAILS
After winter outings, wash your dog’s feet to prevent irritation from road salt. Salt dries out your pup’s paw pads and leads to painful, cracked skin. If her feet are really dry and irritated, apply vitamin E oil or a lotion with lanolin.
It might not look pretty, but during her first few winter holidays, it might be a good idea to deck the halls with exercise pens and pet gates to protect your holiday decorations and your pup. And beware: your adolescent male might pee on the Christmas tree—after all, it’s okay to urinate on trees when he’s outdoors!
Decorations make fun, crunchy noises when they break in her mouth, and crinkling cellophane sounds like a package of dog treats, but ribbons can tangle in her gut and cut off her circulation. As she makes her way to her favorite spot at the window, she could get tangled in extension cords and crush gifts. Ornaments look like toys to her, and candles can light her fur on fire when she gets too close.
Food is equally hazardous this time of year. Cakes and candies wrapped under the tree don’t fool her nose—she knows there’s food in that box. Chocolate is especially dangerous, remember. When food is set out for guests, block your pup’s access.
Leftover turkey is also tempting. You might want to feed her table scraps, but don’t. Fatty meat, skin, and gravy can cause pancreatitis, a potentially fatal disease, so dispose of the carcass where she can’t get to it. Remember, poultry bones are brittle and can break in your dog’s mouth, throat, or stomach, causing life-threatening injuries. Freeze them until trash pickup day if you have to so they’re out of her reach.
You go to a lot of trouble selecting the right food for your Bulldog puppy, and what does she do? She eats kitty litter! As frustrating as that can be, continue to adjust her food according to her growth, and be prepared for her to make some unusual diet choices of her own.
How Much Food Does Your Pup Need?
Although her growth is slowing down, your Bulldog is still eating more than she will when she’s an adult. When she reaches 75 to 80 percent of her adult weight, she’ll still need up to 125 percent of the calories she’ll require when she’s mature.
How much she needs to eat varies by her size and activity level. In the spring and summer, when she’s most active, she’ll burn more calories. In the fall and winter, she’ll burn calories when she’s outside because of the cold, but in general she’ll spend more time indoors and not be as active overall.
The type of food you feed is another factor to consider. Premium foods offer more condensed nutrition, so you don’t have to feed as much.
The best way to decide how much food is enough for your puppy is to keep track of her condition and weight. See Appendix B for instructions on how to determine if your Bulldog is overweight, underweight, or just right. When in doubt, consult with your veterinarian.
The Icky Things Bulldogs Eat
Although dogs eat things we think are disgusting, to her, they are delicious. Dogs have been natural scavengers since before they were domesticated, eating waste left behind by the nomadic tribes they followed. Today, when your dog eats cat litter or horse manure—or even her own feces—she’s just repeating behavior that’s been part of her nature for tens of thousands of years. Because she considers it completely normal, punishment doesn’t usually eliminate the problem. And as you’ve probably learned by now, Bulldogs will eat anything.
Dogs have fewer taste buds than humans and aren’t as discriminating about what they eat, and there are nutritional as well as behavioral reasons for why they eat feces. If she isn’t digesting all the nutrients in her food, they’re passed through her body and out in her stool. The stool then becomes a source of additional nutrition. Feces are also a natural source of digestive enzymes and B vitamins. A mother dog eats her puppies’ feces to clean the den, hide their scent, and protect them from predators. Puppies often eat the stool of older dogs and their littermates as a natural way to establish their intestinal microflora. Stool-eating is self-rewarding and may become a habit if you’re not careful. When dogs don’t get enough exercise and live in a relatively boring environment, for example, they might pick up this habit. The best defense is to pick up feces as soon as your pup deposits it.
Microflora are microorganisms that live in an animal’s digestive tract and perform various functions, such as building the immune system, producing vitamins, and preventing growth of harmful bacteria.
Cat feces have a high protein content that’s attractive to dogs. But if a dog ingests clumping kitty litter attached to that feces, it could cause an intestinal blockage. The easiest way to avoid this problem is to use pet gates to block your puppy’s access to the litter box and be sure the box is kept clean.
If you want to use aversion training and make her avoid the feces, use a foul-tasting liquid like bitter apple or pepper sauce. Spray some in your puppy’s mouth so she’ll recognize the taste and smell and want to avoid it and then spray it on the feces. If you don’t introduce her to the taste beforehand, this method doesn’t work very well.
Dogs who eat horse and cattle manure are searching for another type of nutrition. Manure is full of digested plant matter, like hay and grass. Alfalfa hay also is a source of protein. Dogs are carnivores, but they do include plants in their diet. Dogs might eat manure if they aren’t getting enough plant matter in their diets, or just because it’s a natural instinct, like stool-eating.
Whatever kind of poop your Bulldog chooses to eat, she runs the risk of picking up intestinal parasites—one more reason to prevent this nasty activity.
When Your Pup Eats Grass
All dogs eat grass; it’s a perfectly normal behavior. Grass provides nutritional value in your dog’s diet and is a source of fiber and roughage high in potassium and digestive enzymes. Your only concern with your dog eating grass is if your lawn is chemically treated with fertilizers, herbicides, or pesticides that could make her ill.
Your dog might vomit after eating grass. If this happens a few times a year, it isn’t anything to worry about. A dog with a tummy ache occasionally eats grass to make herself throw up whatever is irritating her. This might prevent her from getting seriously ill from something she ate.
If your dog eats grass and vomits every week, a more serious reason might be to blame. It could mean gastric upset, parasites, or food sensitivity, or she might be trying to compensate for something that’s missing in her diet nutritionally. Try switching brands or flavors of food. A different protein or carbohydrate source might work better for her. You also could add some lightly steamed vegetables such as carrots, kale, or zucchini to her diet.
Bulldogs can suffer from occasional coat problems, and a hundred different causes could be to blame. Besides adolescent hormonal fluctuations, let’s look at some other possible reasons for coat problems and how to treat hot spots.
Addressing Skin and Coat Problems
A healthy coat is a sign of a healthy dog. Your dog’s coat should be shiny, and her skin should be clear, with no dandruff, red spots, or scaling.
TIPS AND TAILS
You may have heard that white Bulldogs have more skin problems than other colors. They shouldn’t just because of coat color, but their light-colored coat and pink skin pigment makes issues more noticeable. They are more susceptible to sunburn.
A dull, dry coat along with dandruff or inflamed skin indicates that more than just the semiannual shedding is taking place. A health problem such as chronic allergies, hypothyroidism, autoimmune disease, or poor nutrition could be the issue, so make a vet appointment. After your vet rules out health concerns, you can look for other problems that could be the cause. We go into more detail about health problems that affect your Bulldog’s skin in Month 12.
Too-frequent baths can remove natural oils and lead to a dry coat. If you need to bathe your pup often, don’t use shampoo every time, just when she really needs it. The other times, just rinse her well with water. Be sure to use a dog-specific shampoo when you use one. Human shampoos will dry out her coat more than those made for dogs. Frequent brushing distributes oils, removes dirt, and makes her coat shine. That might be all she needs on a regular basis.
If your dog swims in a pool, chlorine can dry out her coat. Salty seawater also dries her coat. Be sure to rinse her thoroughly after she swims in either type of water.
Your pup’s food might not contain enough of the nutrients she needs to keep her coat healthy. For example, a protein deficiency can lead to dryness, excessive shedding, and ear infections. The problem could be caused by grain rather than meat as the primary protein source in the diet. A fat or fatty acid deficiency can cause a dull coat, dry skin, and itching, too.
Parasites like fleas or sarcoptic mange make your Bulldog scratch constantly, leaving patches of bare skin. It only takes saliva from one flea to cause an intense reaction in some dogs. Another parasite, demodectic mange, is aggravated by a depressed immune system. It doesn’t necessarily cause itching, but it does affect the coat dramatically, causing patches of hair loss and red crusty skin.
Internal parasites (worms) can affect a coat’s condition as well, making it feel wiry and dry. Your vet can analyze a stool sample to identify and treat worms.
If your Bulldog has itchy skin or hot spots, give her a cool, medicated bath to soothe her skin. Cool water relieves itchy skin, while warm or hot water aggravates the itching. Don’t use oatmeal shampoo. Although it soothes the itching, it’s a grain, and dogs with grain sensitivities could have an additional allergic reaction.
Dealing with Hot Spots
A hot spot is a moist, inflamed circle of skin your dog licks or scratches at until it’s raw. One of many causes could be to blame, including allergies, fleabites, flea dirt, or a vaccine reaction. Hot spots usually develop in warm weather and rarely in winter. They can appear anywhere on the body, but you’ll often find them behind your dog’s ears, in her wrinkles, on her neck, and where her legs meet her body—all places that hold moisture and bacteria close to the skin.
Always dry your Bulldog thoroughly whenever she gets wet. A damp spot can cause bacteria to grow on an already dirty spot on the skin, which then festers and becomes a hot spot. If not tended to, the hot spot will get larger and more irritated as your dog continues to bite at it. You might have to put an Elizabethan collar on her to prevent licking because chewing and licking can cause a secondary infection that must be treated with antibiotics.
To treat a hot spot, apply cool, wet compresses to loosen the crusty outer layer and soothe the skin. If it’s not too painful for your pup, trim the hair around the spot and clean it twice daily with mild, perfume-free soap or antiseptic solution.
Here are some more suggestions to relieve hot spots:
- Wash with cool green or black brewed tea. The tannic acid in the tea helps dry out the spot so it can heal.
- Apply aluminum acetate solution (available from your pharmacy) three times a day using a spray bottle or compresses. This also helps dry out the spot and speeds healing.
- Add hydrocortisone cream to relieve itching. Apply just enough to rub in completely. Don’t use too much, or your pup will lick it off.
- Use aloe vera cream or gel to ease pain and help hot spots heal.
If the hot spot does not respond to treatment in a day or two, a visit to your veterinarian is in order.
Socializing your Bulldog is an ongoing process. When she reaches adolescence, she goes through some major changes. Don’t stop socializing her now. This is a critical time for her development, and she needs to continue her socialization.
Socialization was an easily acquired skill when she was a puppy, and most Bulldogs are naturally friendly throughout their lives. But during adolescence, your pup undergoes so many hormonal, physical, and emotional changes, sometimes it might seem like it’s too much trouble to take her out much in public. Continue taking her out, though, because the consequences of not socializing your dog now are hard to overcome later.
If your puppy is isolated during adolescence, she quickly becomes desocialized. She’s no longer positively reinforced for friendly encounters with other dogs and people, she has no way of working through her lack of confidence, and she cannot develop the social skills an adult dog needs to get along in the world.
Your Bulldog is developing a healthy sense of caution at this age that will serve her well in adulthood, when she’s learned there are consequences to leaping without thought into every situation. You might think your dog is overly careful, but she’s practicing the art of self-preservation and will grow more confident as she settles into her new role as an adult dog.
Dealing with Dog-to-Dog Aggression
Your Bulldog’s relationship with other dogs changes dramatically as she reaches adolescence. No longer on her “puppy pass,” she can’t just roar up to other dogs and expect them to love her. She has to learn new methods for interacting with other dogs.
Other dogs will treat her differently when she reaches puberty. She’ll be more assertive as she tries to establish herself as an equal and no longer a puppy in the group, and she’ll be challenged by older dogs and put in her place. These are natural behaviors, and your dog needs to experience them. If she goes unchallenged, it reinforces any aggressive or pushy tendencies she has, and she never learns she must restrain herself around other dogs and mind her manners.
For males, it starts with competition for females. He’s interested in them in a different way now, and play behavior turns into courtship behavior. The females won’t put up with it, and the other males aren’t going to let him take over their turf. Intact females are the least likely to get along with each other. They also compete, and rather than flirt with males, they argue with each other.
Altering prevents some conflicts among dogs. After a Bulldog is neutered, he’s no longer competing with other males, so they don’t challenge him. Spayed females don’t provoke competition among themselves, either. But altering isn’t a substitute for continued socialization. You’ll still observe marking, mounting, and pushy behavior, even in altered dogs of both sexes. If you start seeing aggressive behavior in your Bulldog, male or female, consider altering now.
TIPS AND TAILS
Play is important during adolescence and allows your pup to develop her canine instincts. Stalking, chasing, mounting, and other natural doggie behaviors all are part of puppy play sessions. These activities take on new meaning in adult play, though. Dogs trade roles as they play and relearn how to interact, but adolescent dogs sometimes don’t know when to stop, and they might not read their playmate’s body language correctly in the heat of the moment. Be sure to supervise so play doesn’t get too rough.
Even the best-socialized dogs can lose their temper and get in a spat. Dogs’ personalities vary, not everyone is meant to be best friends, and even puppies who formerly played well together might have the occasional dustup. It’s almost inevitable that your Bulldog will get in a few tussles during adolescence. The question is, how serious are these encounters?
Many dogfights are simply arguments, not real fights. Everyone makes lots of noise, but no one has a mark on them when all is said and done. You also might see some competitive growling and snapping over preferred sleeping spots or a favorite toy. One dog usually gives in and then it’s over. In these cases, the puppies have learned effective bite inhibition from other puppies.
That doesn’t mean fighting is okay. When two dogs clearly don’t like each other, there’s not much you can do about it except separate them. It’s important to continue socializing your dog to other friendly dogs, however, so don’t give up.
You can help prevent dog aggression when your pup meets new dogs. New encounters can be high-stress situations, filled with excitement, anticipation, and frustration. The worst thing you can do is hold the leash taut while the dogs sniff each other. If you do, your dog thinks she’s restrained and can’t escape. She assumes there’s a reason you’re tense, which could trigger a fight. It’s hard to make yourself do it, but relax your hold and let the leash hang loose from her neck. If both people are holding back their dogs, the dogs could feel that tension and explode at each other when you let go.
Introduce unfamiliar dogs on neutral territory, not at home. Instead, go for a walk with the other owner and their dog. Start the dogs far apart, and as everyone calms down, walk closer together.
Don’t reward an aggressive reaction, and don’t comfort your dog, either. Use your jolly routine and treats, and only reward her for good behavior and for paying attention to you.
If you feel your Bulldog is developing a real aggression problem or that it’s escalating, work with a trainer or behaviorist. Someone who is experienced in evaluating dog behavior can give you a realistic picture of what’s going on, and together you can develop a plan to prevent aggression from becoming a habit.
TIPS AND TAILS
Dog-to-dog aggression isn’t just about sex. A teenage Bulldog may suddenly become possessive of his toys and food, challenging any dog who dares go near “his” things. If you have multiple dogs, feed them in separate rooms and pick up toys that cause disagreements.
Hopefully you’ll never encounter an aggressive dog, but if you do, you need to know how to handle the situation. When you’re out with your Bulldog, carry treats to toss away from you and distract the aggressor. Speak in a high, happy tone, and yell “Treats!” or “Cookies!” or some other term you hope the other dog will recognize.
Also carry pepper or citronella spray. Be careful when you aim at an oncoming dog so it doesn’t blow back in your face.
Pay attention to the dogs in your neighborhood so you know if any are a threat. Some might be territorial and bark every time you walk past their house. If they’re in the front yard, they might consider the sidewalk and street their territory, too. They might be all bluff and bluster, but they might not be. Either way, try to avoid aggressive dogs. Cross the street or turn around if you can.
If you do encounter a strange dog, speak firmly to him and tell him to sit. He might stop in his tracks and obey. If he’s really agitated, though, don’t run. This encourages him to chase you and triggers his prey drive. Remember how you learned to catch your runaway Bulldog in Month 5? You ran so she’d chase you. In this case, that ploy works against you.
Stand sideways and don’t look the aggressor in the eyes. You’ll be much less threatening, and he might go on his way after he decides you’re no harm. If your puppy is still small, pick her up. With bigger dogs, drop the leash. This might diffuse the situation because your dog isn’t getting signals from tension on the leash. If they’re going to fight, you don’t want to be tangled up in the middle of it. If a dog does attack you, curl up in a ball and protect your face and neck.
If the worst happens and your dog gets in a fight, think twice before jumping into the fray. Most fights are over in a few seconds, and you won’t have to intervene. If the dogs are really fighting, you’re risking your own safety if you try to stop it. In the midst of a fight, instinct takes over, and a dog will bite anything that gets in her way. The worst thing you can do is grab a dog by her collar during a fight. She won’t realize it’s you, and she might turn and bite you, thinking another predator is attacking her from behind. Keep your hands and body out of the action for your own well-being.
That said, if you decide to try and stop a fight, here are a few tips that might help you stay safe:
- Bang together two metal dog dishes or cooking pots. When the dogs are startled by the noise, they might separate long enough for you to intervene and safely remove your dog.
- Avoid screaming or hitting the dogs. They don’t hear you or feel the blows. And if they do, it just adds to their arousal.
- Spray water from a garden hose at the face of the attacking dog.
- If you’re indoors, wedge a chair or broomstick between the dogs to pull them apart.
- Lift the aggressor by his hind legs to throw him off balance, which might force him to let go. If someone is there to help you, have her do the same with the other dog.
When the dogs are separated, leash them and take them out of each other’s sight. It might not be safe to touch your dog by the collar yet, so put the end of the leash through the loop at the end to make a noose to slip over her neck, and tighten it.
When everyone has calmed down, inspect each dog for injuries. You might be surprised to find no large bite wounds. Small puncture wounds are hard to find, and they might not bleed. Look carefully around your dog’s neck and face for punctures in pairs from the canine teeth.
If you do find a bite wound, treat it immediately. Puncture wounds close up and trap the bacteria in the wound. Because a dog’s mouth contains a lot of bacteria, bite wounds usually get infected. Clip the hair around the wound, and wash and rinse the wound thoroughly with water or antiseptic solution. Then take your dog to the vet immediately because she will need antibiotics.
Larger bite wounds, even just 1 inch long, might need stitches. Your vet might even put a drain in the wound for a few days to allow the bacteria to escape.
One day your Bulldog is a cyclone whirling through the house; the next, she sleeps all day. One day she is the perfect obedience student; the next, she seems to have forgotten everything you’ve ever taught her. All this is typical for her age. She hasn’t forgotten her lessons, but they’re submerged under a wave of adolescent distraction.
Although she’s testing her limits—and your patience—this month, your pup needs her family to fall back on when adolescence overwhelms her. The rules and structure in her life are her safety net, so be sure you’re there to remind her.
Being Proactive (Rather Than Reactive)
A teenager in the house means something’s always happening, and it’s a challenge to stay one step ahead of her this month. By taking a few preventive measures and limiting her freedom a bit, you can prevent her from getting into mischief, keep her safe—and save yourself a lot of angst.
Just because she’s a teenager, doesn’t mean it’s time to give her the car keys. You have to assume she’ll get into mischief. She’s still a puppy, so continue to crate her at night and when you can’t supervise her. Look at things from her perspective, and set her up for success. She can’t chew up your clothes if you shut the bedroom door, for example. And she can’t get into the trash if you keep the wastebasket in a closet.
Continue to reinforce her training because her knowledge will deteriorate if you don’t reinforce her skills during this turbulent period. Enforce the household rules, and remind her when she forgets. You’ve probably relaxed a little because you know she knows what she’s supposed to do, but remember that she’s testing the waters right now. If you slack off, she’ll take advantage of every opportunity. If she discovers she can get away with jumping on you occasionally, for example, she’ll keep trying.
If you’ve just adopted or rescued a young Bulldog, congratulations! Bulldogs are adaptable and can love their new family with incredible devotion. Although an untrained teenage Bulldog can be a handful, she’s far from a lost cause. Enroll in an obedience class, and read through this book from the beginning as if you just adopted a small puppy. Take advantage of this honeymoon period when she’s soaking up information about her new surroundings, teach her house rules from the first day, and she’ll be a treasured family pet in no time.
Dealing with Mounting
Adolescent dogs, both male and female, begin mounting when they reach sexual maturity. Mounting is normal canine behavior, just like barking, digging, or chewing. It’s less acceptable because it embarrasses you when your dog mounts a guest’s leg or humps a stuffed animal in the middle of the living room. Owners often assume the reason is sexual, but there are other reasons, too. You need to look at the context of each incident to understand what’s really happening with your dog.
Anxiety and arousal (excitement, not sexual) contribute to a dog’s actions. Mounting is a form of displacement behavior, a way of acting out to relieve her energy or stress. If she’s uncertain of how to react to a situation, or if she’s overly excited about the arrival of guests, mounting relieves her tension.
Displacement behavior is an act that occurs out of context in response to an internal emotional conflict such as stress or anxiety.
Sometimes a dog engages in mounting hours after the exciting event, particularly if she’s still anxious after being punished for misbehavior she doesn’t understand. For example, you might come home and find she’s been emptying the wastebaskets. You’re angry, and whether you punish her or not (you shouldn’t), she’s worried. She needs an outlet to release that anxiety.
She also might learn that mounting works as an attention-getting device. You immediately react and try to stop her, and she learns to use the act as means to get you to interact with her.
Try to anticipate when she’ll mount someone or something, and step in to interrupt the behavior. If she’s mounting people, attach a leash to her when company comes, and direct her to a toy or pillow instead. Spaying or neutering decreases mounting behavior but doesn’t eliminate it completely.
Getting Enough Exercise
Most dogs today spend long hours at home alone. They don’t get enough stimulation, mental or physical, and they have no outlet for their energy. Your canine needs daily exercise to develop her muscles and her mind.
If you can find a large, fenced-in field with plenty of interesting smells, she’ll entertain herself tracking rabbits, birds, and other scents. Free-range exercise such as this isn’t as stressful on young bones and joints.
Don’t forget to give her short breaks during her exercise. She’ll run until she collapses just to please you, so be sure to quit while she still wants more. Take it easy during hot, humid weather because she’ll tire quickly. Also remember that repetitive pounding on hard pavement or jumping on hard surfaces could injure her.
While you train your Bulldog during the coming months, you’ll develop the fine skill of infinite patience. She’ll challenge your skills and creativity as you endure her endless puppy antics.
Have a good laugh with her, and keep training because she’s learning even when she’s not listening very carefully.
Working with a Hyper Dog
Owners of teenage Bulldogs often conclude their dog is abnormally hyperactive. An adolescent male fidgets, can’t relax, and is always moving. It seems like he can’t concentrate, has trouble learning, and doesn’t remember what you taught him from one day to the next. Females aren’t exempt from hyperactive behavior either.
Bulldogs don’t completely mature until they’re 2 or 3 years old, and within the breed, there’s a huge variation in energy level, so you can’t predict how your particular dog will behave. Other factors contribute to a hyperactive personality, too. Her environment, health, socialization, training, and the amount of exercise she gets all play a part in her activity level.
TIPS AND TAILS
At home, practice sit and down dozens of times a day with food treats. It doesn’t have to be a stay. You just want her to respond and have enough self-control to stay put for a few seconds. Down is more difficult for her, but she’ll get better as you practice. Put her dinner kibble in your pockets, and spend the evening doling it out while you work together. You’ll hold her attention and keep her occupied, and soon she’ll be following you around, offering sits and downs when you didn’t ask for them!
Spaying and neutering helps reduce a dog’s frenzied behavior. Once the sex organs and the accompanying hormones are removed, she’s not as distracted or constantly on the lookout for intact dogs.
If your Bulldog is raiding the trash, lunging at everyone and everything while on walks, and too excited to even notice you giving her commands, ask yourself some questions:
- Are you accidentally rewarding her with attention when she misbehaves? Remember that even yelling is attention.
- Did you encourage exuberant greetings and wild play when she was little? If so, she’s just doing what she was taught.
- Is she getting adequate exercise every day?
The absence of bad behavior is hard to recognize sometimes, so pay attention so you can catch her doing something right and reward her. She’ll learn what behaviors get attention when you consistently reward her for good behavior.
Unfortunately, when the adolescent crazies hit, some owners give up on their puppies. What was previously cute is no fun anymore. Your Bulldog is wild in the house, dragging you on walks, and rudely jumping on everyone she meets. Some owners throw up their hands and declare she’s too much trouble to deal with. The less you take her out in public or allow her indoors, the more her behavior declines, and she ends up in the backyard or, worse, a shelter. So don’t let that happen.
Self-control is a developed skill, similar to when you build muscle memory by practicing a sport. Your Bulldog is currently in “react-first, think-later” mode, and she needs to learn to think first, even when she’s excited. Help her make correct decisions rather than trying to control her behavior by manhandling her.
An excited dog needs calm handling, but many owners instinctively react by yelling and grabbing their dog, which just fires her up more. She learns that you’ll stop her, and she doesn’t learn to stop herself. By moving slowly and speaking quietly, you tell her there’s no reason to act wild. That advice is easy to give, but it’s hard for almost everyone to do. Rather than try to defuse a situation in the heat of the moment, practice when you’re not in the midst of a crisis.
Practice sits and downs while on your walks so she starts to expect you’ll occasionally ask her to do something. When you take her out—which you should do every day no matter how hard it is—watch for opportunities to practice her self-control. You might not walk more than a block, but that doesn’t matter.
For example, if you see someone walking toward you, focus your Bulldog’s attention on you by asking for a sit and rewarding her before she notices the oncoming person. Start your routine far enough away that she can be successful. When she gets the idea, start closer on future walks. With enough repetitions, she’ll see an oncoming person and look to you—an occasion you should mark with a huge jackpot of treats and praise.
TIPS AND TAILS
The middle of a hyperactive frenzy is not the time to teach your dog a settle-down cue. Instead, practice with your dog in a quieter setting so she can learn it without distractions. It’s easy to ignore your pup when she’s quietly sitting or lying at your feet, but this is the behavior you want, so watch for it and reward her when you see it.
Teach your puppy to settle down on command. It’s probably easy to get her mildly riled up with a tennis ball or toy. Then simply stop. Hide the toy in your pocket, don’t look at her, cross your arms, and ignore her. At some point, she’ll be puzzled at you and stop jumping around. She might even offer a sit to get a reaction from you. Still ignore her until she’s calm. Then praise her quietly and bring out the toy again. Repeat this sequence several times, and you’ll soon discover that she calms faster each time because that makes you produce the toy.
Give both the active and the quiet phase a name, like “Whoopee!” and “Cool it.” Gradually extend the settle period to a few seconds and work up to a minute or more. Always praise her for settling, even when you don’t have a toy. You can now transfer this behavior to a situation where you need it. She won’t be perfect the first time, but with practice, she’ll learn.
Knowing When You Need Help
Pet owners are not professional dog trainers and shouldn’t have to be. A frustrated owner with a frustrated dog won’t make much progress. If you just can’t handle your Bulldog yourself, get help from a trainer or behaviorist. Many options are available.
You could sign up for a beyond-the-basics class and repeat it if you need to. You’ll absorb more information now that you’ve had more real-life experience with your puppy. Agility classes will burn off some of your Bulldog’s energy, although she’s too young to do any jumping on hard surfaces. If you’re looking for a professional dog trainer, check with the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (ccpdt.org) or the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (apdt.com).
Private lessons might be necessary. Sometimes it helps to have a trainer come to your home, where the problems are occurring. You spend time working together on the particular issues you’re having with your Bulldog, and the entire family gets individual attention and can try different solutions.
Sending your young Bulldog to boot camp, a board-and-train program, might seem extreme, but professional trainers get quicker results. If you’re an inexperienced dog owner, it’ll be easier for you to learn to handle your dog if she’s already had some training—then you both aren’t beginners. If you decide to go this route, be sure you get instruction as well, and ask about training methods and types of equipment used. Puppies don’t need to be trained with electronic collars or other harsh devices, for example. Get references from other clients, too.
If you’re dealing with aggression or other potentially serious behavior in your Bulldog, consult an animal behaviorist or other professional with advanced training in behavior modification. A qualified consultant can evaluate your situation and help you work through your dog’s specific issues.
Several types of consultants are available, and each has an advanced level of education and experience. Specific organizations train and certify these experts, and they often maintain a database of professionals you can contact for help. Here are some of the organizations and associations you might hear about:
International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC; iaabc.org): A member of the IAABC has been tested and certified in assessment, counseling, and behavioral science. Members also must submit references and case studies demonstrating their skills.
Association of Companion Animal Behavior Counselors (ACABC; animalbehaviorcounselors.org/acabc_members): The ACABC certifies specialists at several levels: Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT), Certified Canine Behavior Counselor (CBC), and Board Certified Companion Animal Behaviorist (BCCAB). Each requires increasing levels of education and continued training in the field, along with supervised internships.
Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists (CAABs; certifiedanimalbehaviorist.com): CAABs have an advanced degree (an MS/MA or PhD) in the science of applied animal behavior and have demonstrated expertise and experience in diagnosing and treating behavior problems.
Veterinary behaviorists: These are board-certified veterinarians who have a specialty in animal behavior and have completed a 1- to 3-year residency program in veterinary behavior. They have conducted research, published findings in academic journals, and passed 2-day exams. These are the only behavior specialists who can prescribe medication for your dog. The American College of Veterinary Behaviorists (dacvb.org) maintains a database of behaviorists in the United States. You’ll need a referral from your veterinarian.
TIPS AND TAILS
No magic pill fixes behavior problems. If you spend a lot of money on professional advice, also commit to working with your dog until her issues have improved to an acceptable level.
Many training methods are available. In recent years, positive reinforcement instead of punishment methods have gained favor, and with good reason. It’s much more fun for you and your puppy if you’re rewarding her for doing something right instead of punishing her all the time for doing something wrong.
Clicker training, in which you use a handheld clicker as a signal to your dog that she’s done the right thing, is one such positive reinforcement training method. Besides being fun, clicker training is based on scientific principles and research developed decades ago with dolphin training. It’s based on Ivan Pavlov’s famous operant-conditioning research, in which he rang a bell before feeding a group of dogs. The dogs associated the bell with food and salivated in anticipation.
The idea behind clicker training is simple: you can’t force a dolphin to do something. You can’t lure her or shape her into position to show her what you want. So instead, trainers “marked” the correct behavior with a click, followed immediately by a food reward. (Sound familiar? That’s what you’re doing when you praise your dog while she’s sitting and then give her a treat. The click, or your praise, marks the sit and tells the dog food will follow.) The trainers took a sound that had no meaning to the dolphins and gave it meaning. The dolphins knew a treat was coming when they heard the conditioned reinforcer, the click.
Timing is critical in clicker training. It’s impossible to deliver the praise and food reward at the exact second the correct behavior occurs. Therefore, you must click as your dog performs the behavior so she understands what brought her the food reward. Your puppy will happily run through her entire repertoire of behaviors until she finally does the one thing you were waiting for and get the click.
To use the method effectively, we recommend you find a good book and a trainer to get you started. Any lesson can be broken down into steps and taught with clicker training, and many owners find it a lot of fun and much easier for teaching their puppy.
You and Your Puppy
When your teenage Bulldog slows down enough to notice you, seize the opportunity to enjoy her company.
Time for a Belly Rub!
Teenagers need a lot of rest, and after a frantic day of running and playing, your Bulldog needs some quiet time—although she might not think so. As long as you’ll play, she’ll be up for a game, so quit before she exhausts herself.
If you cut off the activity cold turkey and expect her to settle down, she won’t do it. She’s still wound up and ready to go. Instead, after an active play session, take her for a quiet walk or, better yet, give her a belly rub or a massage. It will relax you both at the end of a long, active day.
TIPS AND TAILS
Write down the stories of your pup’s crazier moments. Bulldog owners love sharing puppy stories.
Living with a Teenage Bulldog
Attitude is everything when you have an adolescent Bulldog, so don’t take it personally.
Remember when you were a teenager? You stayed out late, didn’t listen to your parents, had to be doing something with your friends every minute, and thought you were invincible. That’s what your puppy is going through now. She’s full of life and having a blast, so you might as well sit back and enjoy it. When she rips up the couch, take a photo so you can laugh about it later.