Breathtaking First 12 Months of a [Better] Bulldog Puppy
In Search of a Leader
Your adolescent Bulldog is beginning to look like an adult, but he’s still very much a teenager. Around this time you’ll see his attention span improve, he’ll be pushy and maybe a little aggressive as he tests his new status, and he’ll be more watchful and protective of you. He needs your leadership now more than ever to maintain his good behavior.
Enjoy his company and the challenges he presents. He’s a lot of fun, and he joyfully delights in his time with you.
Between 8 and 9 months, you’ll see subtle differences in your Bulldog’s physical appearance. His growth has slowed dramatically, even though he isn’t yet his full adult height. His coordination also improves.
Internally, his bones are developing and hardening. He might still look light-boned and slightly out of proportion until he’s about 18 months old because he hasn’t developed much muscle mass yet. His rapid growth stresses his bones and ligaments so he’s at extra risk for injury this month. By next month, most of his teething pain will end as his teeth will have set in his jaws.
Males Looking More Masculine
If he’s neutered, he’ll mature differently from an intact male. A dog of either sex stops growing at some point, and his bones begin to harden and thicken. It’s the sex hormones that put the brakes on the height, and if a dog is altered, he’ll continue to grow a bit taller and lankier than he would have if left intact. These differences are barely noticeable in Bulldogs because they have a naturally heavy, stocky build.
Last month, he still looked a little gangly and his body might have seemed longer than it should be. This month he starts developing more muscle in his rear, and as he does, his body starts to look more in proportion. His rib cage fills out and broadens. His head becomes larger as it grows in width and breadth. His neck thickens, and the coat around his neck gets heavier. Again, if your dog is neutered, these changes aren’t as dramatic.
Females Looking More Feminine
Males look obviously male, but females are harder to define based on looks. Most of the female characteristics stay the same whether or not the dog is spayed because it’s the absence of testosterone that makes them look female. Females also have a feminine head when compared to a male, as well as overall lighter bone structure.
There’s a lot going on inside your puppy’s body this month as he continues to grow and develop. His energy level may differ wildly from day to day, and you’ll need to watch for signs of injury or other limb problems that might develop.
Occasional Lack of Energy
Glucose is the form of sugar found within the bloodstream. It’s formed from carbohydrates during the digestion of foods and is then used as energy. Puppies digest their food faster than adult dogs, and this sometimes prevents absorption of all the nutrients in their food. What’s more, a puppy who overexercises expends the nutrients in his body faster. The combination of the two can cause low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), which makes him tired.
If your puppy is eating a poor-quality food, the carbohydrates in his diet might not be as easily digestible as they should be. This can affect his ability to produce enough energy to keep up with his needs. If your pup seems to have a frequent problem with low energy, look at his food to see if it might be contributing to the problem.
Your young Bulldog might be tired for other reasons, too. During growth spurts, he uses a lot of energy to build his muscles and bones, and he might need more food. Don’t let him get fat, though. If he looks like he’s getting heavy, cut back on the amount you’re feeding him. His caloric and energy needs may vary from week to week this month, so pay attention and feed him accordingly.
Parasites like intestinal worms or heartworm also can contribute to a puppy’s lack of energy. Look for other symptoms, like a dull coat, coughing, or watery eyes if you suspect parasites.
TIPS AND TAILS
If your puppy seems overly tired all the time, take him to the vet for a checkup to rule out serious disease and to treat parasites.
If Your Puppy’s Limping
A puppy might limp for several reasons. He could have slipped and twisted a leg while playing, for example, in which case the limping might go away in a few hours. Or it could be something more serious because several conditions can occur in adolescent Bulldogs. Pay close attention to your dog’s symptoms, and take notes on what you see so your veterinarian can make an accurate diagnosis.
Most bones start off as cartilage, a flexible connective tissue that gradually hardens and is replaced by bone. The longest bones in your puppy’s body are his limbs. These long bones must grow even longer so your puppy can get taller and wider to physically support his adult weight.
We talked about growth plates in Month 7 and the effect the spay/neuter surgery has on the timing of when the plates close. In this section, we want to look at this and other problems that might cause lameness in a young Bulldog. Some scientists believe feeding a food too high in calcium could contribute to injuries—a good reason to switch from puppy food to an adult formula if you haven’t already.
TIPS AND TAILS
A dog shouldn’t run or jump on hard surfaces like asphalt until he’s at least 18 months old and his growth plates have closed. Because their bones are still soft, teenage dogs are especially prone to leg and growth plate fractures. Such fractures could affect the final length and angle of the bone when he matures, and he may permanently move with an uneven gait. He’ll also be more susceptible to arthritis in the joint where the fracture occurred and in other joints affected by his off-balance movement. A fractured growth plate must be surgically repaired.
A torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is a soft tissue injury rather than a bone problem. A hard-playing Bulldog can leap up and land wrong, tearing this knee ligament. Other causes include making a sudden turn while running, slipping on a hard surface, or being hit by a car. Overweight dogs are at higher risk because their knee joints are weaker from carrying too much weight. With a torn ACL, your puppy will be in intense pain and limp because the tear allows the tibia and femur to grind against each other.
A partially torn ACL might heal with treatment, including limiting his activity for 8 to 12 weeks and low-impact exercise like swimming or walking when he’s ready to start moving again. Your vet also will prescribe anti-inflammatory medications.
Another option for a completely torn ACL is surgery, which involves a recovery time of at least 6 to 8 weeks, during which time your pup is restricted to leash walking with very limited exercise.
If the injured ACL isn’t treated, the dog usually develops arthritis. Also, because the one leg is injured, the opposite leg bears more weight, which sometimes causes the ACL to rupture on that side, too.
Patellar luxation, or dislocated kneecap, is a condition in which the rear kneecap pops out of position. You’ll see your Bulldog touch the ground every third or fourth step with the affected hind leg. The abnormal gait can come and go; you won’t see it for weeks and then it suddenly reappears. An affected dog can show symptoms while still a puppy. Other dogs don’t have a problem until they are 2 or 3 years old. As the dog ages, tissue breakdown may cause arthritis and pain, and the dog will carry most of his weight on his front legs.
A veterinarian can diagnose the condition by palpating (moving) the joint. Surgery is possible to stabilize the joint in a young dog but is not usually recommended. Many dogs live their entire lives with the condition and suffer no ill effects. The condition is thought to contribute to the risk for a torn ACL, too.
TIPS AND TAILS
Recent research has shown no one treatment works for all dogs’ ACL or patellar luxation cases. It’s important for you to have a consultation with your veterinarian or orthopedic specialist as to what works best for your pet. You also might want to get a second opinion.
The Nose Knows
Scientists estimate that a dog’s scenting ability is millions of times more advanced than that of his human companions, and up to one third of his brain is devoted to scenting and analyzing what he smells. Although Bulldogs have shorter noses and may have smaller nostrils than other breeds known for their scenting ability, your Bulldog still can smell thousands of times better than you can.
The canine nose is divided into two cavities with a vertical dividing wall of tissue called the nasal septum. The nasal cavity contains a maze of bony structures that, along with the sinuses and nasal septum, communicates with the olfactory nerve, which sends scent information to the brain. Often a dog will “lick” the air with his tongue and bring the scent to his nose to absorb it.
When a scent reaches the brain, it goes to areas that process memory, pleasure, and emotions, making associations between them. As your puppy encounters new smells, he builds a memory bank of scents and what they mean to him. Just like you remember the smell of Thanksgiving dinner and all the fond memories associated with that experience, your puppy learns that some smells mean good food, some mean a thing tastes bad, and others signify a memorable experience. But with the ability to process thousands or even millions of odors, by the time he’s an adult, he’s a virtual encyclopedia of scents!
Your puppy’s nose is ideally constructed for poking around in the dirt. When he sniffs, his nostrils dilate and mucus in his nose filters out bacteria, dirt particles, and other matter, which he then exhales.
As if that wasn’t amazing enough, a structure called Jacobson’s organ (or vomeronasal organ) resides in the nasal cavity. This organ communicates with different parts of the brain and can process “smells” that aren’t actually odors but actually chemical messages passed from one animal to another. It’s the Jacobson’s organ that makes a newborn puppy able to recognize his mother’s milk and allows her to recognize her own puppies. It also enables a dog to recognize the “scent” of fear in humans.
Pheromones play a big part in communication between dogs, and Jacobson’s organ is able to detect and interpret quite a bit of this information. For example, one dog can recognize if another is an adult or puppy, male or female, altered or intact, or ready to breed.
A pheromone is a chemical secreted by an animal (including humans). Other animals, usually of the same species, can interpret this chemical.
Dog food can influence your puppy’s behavior, as mentioned earlier, so it’s important that you know what you’re feeding your puppy and serve him the best food possible.
The Links Between Food and Behavior
Puppies who are fed diets high in cereal grain carbohydrates sometimes have signs of hyperactivity, are unable to concentrate, don’t retain what they’ve been taught, and just can’t seem to hold still. Although a teenage Bulldog certainly exhibits all these symptoms regardless of what you feed him, you might see a noticeable improvement in his behavior simply by changing his food.
Protein contributes to the serotonin levels in your dog’s body. Just like in people, serotonin affects his mood, sensitivity, and sleep cycle. Serotonin is produced by tryptophan (the chemical that makes us sleepy after we eat a big turkey dinner on Thanksgiving), and tryptophan comes from eating meat. If too many carbohydrates replace protein in his diet, it can cause a shortage of serotonin in the body, which results in hyperactivity, aggression, and restless sleep.
The types of carbohydrates in food also play a role in your pup’s behavior. Carbs with a high glycemic index raise his blood sugar rapidly and cause a sugar high, a sudden increase in energy followed by a dramatic letdown and sleepiness. Rice and corn are two carbohydrates with a high glycemic index, and both are common dog food ingredients due to their low cost.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter involved in the transmission of impulses between nerve cells. It’s found in the brain, blood platelets, and intestinal tract. The glycemic index is a scale that measures the speed at which the body converts carbohydrates into sugars.
Carbohydrates with a lower glycemic index digest slowly and are easier to digest. This provides a balanced blood sugar level, which evens out your dog’s behavior. Oatmeal, apples, barley, and beans are all low-glycemic index foods.
The Debate Over Foods
You want to give your dog the best care possible, and feeding a quality food is part of that mission. But it’s not easy to know if you’re feeding your Bulldog the right food. The choices are endless, and marketing claims and pretty packaging don’t always tell the entire story.
If you’ve chosen to feed your Bulldog commercially made dog food—which is how most people feed their dogs—it’s important that you educate yourself about the food yet remain skeptical. Don’t believe everything you hear or read. Many passionate people fervently believe they know how your dog should be fed. Most aren’t scientists, however, and they might not have facts to back up their claims. Therefore, always consider the source and make your own decisions.
Dogs were fed table scraps or horsemeat from the local butcher until the early twentieth century, when Ken-L Ration introduced the first canned dog food in the 1920s. Quality wasn’t much of an issue in those early time-saving and convenient foods, and pet food companies didn’t invest in much research. Easily available, inexpensive ingredients like wheat and surplus horse and mule meat were the basis of most dog foods. Things soon changed as horses became less common when more cars hit the roads. During World War II, tin was scarce, so canned dog foods were less available. By the 1950s, kibble was on the market. Convenient and sold as “better than table scraps,” it soon took over the pet food industry.
Today’s dog food manufacturers spend millions of dollars researching ingredients as well as canine health. They’ve developed unique protein sources like duck and lamb plus veterinary diets that address allergies, kidney disease, and other particular health problems.
The manufacturing processes used today are a mixed blessing. Although you get a food with quality ingredients, the process used in making the food destroys some nutrients. Most modern pet foods are cooked under pressure at such a high temperature that it destroys some minerals, enzymes, and vitamins. The manufacturer then has to add ingredients like fat and other nutrients back into the food after cooking, along with preservatives to prevent rancidity. They also often use synthetic chemicals, which are harder for your dog to digest, as well as artificial flavors and coloring.
Cost is a huge factor in dog food manufacturing. Some companies use less-expensive ingredients like cereal grains, by-products, and meat that’s not fit for human consumption. Leftover ingredients from processing human foods; from slaughterhouses; and imported from overseas, where countries have less-stringent regulations, are also sometimes included.
Although there had been dog food recalls over the years, the 2007 recalls involving Menu Foods brought the issue of pet food safety to the public’s attention. At that time, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) forced a recall of more than 100 different brand-name products. More than 6,000 pets became ill, and more than 3,000 died because wheat gluten imported from China was contaminated with melamine. Soon after, contaminated corn and rice gluten also were discovered.
TIPS AND TAILS
Since 2007, recalls have affected many brands of dry food, wet food, and treats. The FDA maintains a database of all recalls at fda.gov. Log on and search for “dog food recall” to find a complete list sorted by brand name.
Commercial food manufacturers aren’t trying to kill our pets with tainted ingredients. Although not all food is made with high-quality ingredients, remember that dog foods must reach minimum nutritional standards set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) and other federal and state agencies. Price is one factor you can look at, but the quality of the ingredients is the key factor.
Grocery store and generic (private label) brands are usually the least expensive and include grains and by-products as their main protein sources. Artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives are often used, too. Many dogs are just fine on these foods, but some develop skin or digestive issues.
Premium foods contain a wide variety of ingredients, and some are better than others, although they still might contain synthetic preservatives or other chemicals. The price is higher as well. Most of these foods are found in pet supply or feed stores.
Super-premium foods are usually made with the best ingredients. You still might see some artificial additives on the label, but on the whole, these brands strive to use healthy ingredients. Many varieties and mixtures of ingredients are available in this category.
Natural foods cannot claim to be natural if any synthetic chemicals or additives are used during processing. The FDA doesn’t regulate the use of the word natural but states “‘natural’ can be construed as equivalent to a lack of artificial flavors, artificial colors, or artificial preservatives in the product.” AAFCO regulates the use of the term, but its regulations allow a lot of leeway. If a label says, for instance, “Natural, with added vitamins,” the vitamins could be synthetic.
Organic foods earn this designation based on the way the plant and animal ingredients were raised. Although the U.S. Department of Agriculture doesn’t specifically certify organic pet food at this time, most companies follow the guidelines for human organic foods. To be labeled organic, the food must contain at least 95 percent organic ingredients, and the other 5 percent must consist of approved ingredients. Organic foods must be raised with no fertilizers, pesticides, growth hormones, antibiotics, or genetically modified sources.
With all these choices and factors to consider, choose a food based on your budget and your dog’s overall health.
Feed your Bulldog twice a day. A dog who eats just once a day can suffer from low blood sugar and hunger, which can contribute to stress, irritability, and aggression.
In addition to your regular grooming routine that includes brushing his coat, cleaning his teeth, and trimming his toenails, pay attention to your dog’s seasonal grooming needs. Bulldogs may need some extra care during different times of the year.
Spring Grooming Needs
Spring is a heavy shedding season for Bulldogs, and you might need to brush him every day to keep his fur from taking over your house.
After outings in spring and summer, check your puppy carefully for foxtails, especially if he’s been in unmown grassy areas. One blade of grass can let loose hundreds of tiny barbed seedlings, and dried foxtails are most dangerous because they’re sharp and can penetrate his skin easily. Foxtails are so small they’re often hard to see, so to deal with them, inspect your dog’s entire body every day, including his ears, rear end, between his toes, in the folds around his face and neck, and his armpits.
During exercise, the vocal folds that protect your dog’s windpipe won’t close completely when he exhales, which increases the chances he could inhale foxtails or other foreign bodies. If your puppy suddenly develops an explosive sneeze, suspect a foxtail or other foreign body in his nasal passage. He might rub or paw at his nose, have a nasal discharge, or get a nosebleed. Or a foxtail can penetrate his skin and migrate into his bloodstream, eventually lodging in his lungs, causing an abscess. If you suspect this, schedule a vet visit to have the foxtail removed before it causes serious problems.
If your dog has seasonal allergies, he might show signs during the spring when plants and grasses are in bloom. Rinsing him off with cool or distilled water can ease the irritation.
A dog’s eyes are vulnerable to seasonal pollens and debris, too. A bit of grass can severely irritate his eye, scratch his cornea, or cause other eye injuries, and he might rub at his eye, blink a lot, or squint. If you see a discharge, or if his eyes appear excessively watery, inspect them to be sure nothing is under his eyelids. You might be able to remove any offending matter by pulling out his lower eyelid and gently sweeping it with your finger or a wet cotton swab. Be careful not to scratch the eye itself as you do this.
Use an eye rinse or artificial tears (saline solution) to wash out your puppy’s eye to remove small irritants. This cleanses the surface of his eye as well as the surrounding tissue. Wipe the skin around his eyes with a towel to remove any discharge, too. If his eyes are still irritated, use a cool, wet compress on one eye at a time. If this doesn’t clear up the problem, have your vet examine him to rule out an injury. Eye irritation also might be a symptom of allergies, and your vet can help you determine what the problem is.
Your vet might prescribe an antibiotic ointment to heal your puppy’s injured eye. To administer the ointment, pull down on his lower eyelid and apply the ointment on the inner surface of his eyelid, not on his eyeball. Then rub his eyelid gently over his eyeball to spread the medication.
TIPS AND TAILS
Your Bulldog might love riding with his head out the car window, but that’s not a safe idea. It puts him at risk for an eye injury from flying debris and dust.
Fleas and ticks are coming out about now, too, so if you discontinued preventatives during the winter, restart them now.
Summer Grooming Needs
Your Bulldog is probably more active during summer months, so he’ll need more baths to keep him clean and smelling nice. Always rinse him off after he swims in a pool, ocean, or lake. Chlorine and salt water are both extremely drying to his coat, and fresh water carries bacteria and parasites that can make him sick.
During your weekly grooming sessions, check his mouth to be sure no bits of sticks, seeds, or other debris are stuck between his teeth or lodged in his mouth.
As your Bulldog matures, you need to determine how often you should clean and powder his nose wrinkles and tail pocket (as often as daily or as infrequently as once a month) because these areas need more attention in hot, humid weather. You can use a drying, mildly medicated powder such as Gold Bond powder. Some dogs even learn to tell you when their wrinkles or tails need attention.
A dog’s fur usually protects him from direct skin contact with two summertime hazards, poison oak and poison ivy, whose leaves and branches contain oil that can cause allergic reactions. Learn what these plants look like, and keep your dog away from them. If he runs through the woods, gets the oil on his coat, and you touch him later, you can be infected, too. If you think he’s been exposed, put on gloves and then thoroughly bathe your puppy.
If he does get the oil on his skin, he might get an itchy rash, just like you would. Especially vulnerable are areas where his hair isn’t as thick, such as his tummy, inner legs, and muzzle. If your dog ingests some of the plant, he can suffer from vomiting or diarrhea, or his airway could swell, which is an emergency in a Bulldog. If this happens, take him to the vet immediately.
Fall Grooming Needs
Bulldogs shed their summer coat in the fall and grow in a heavier winter coat. For several weeks during this time, he’ll need extra brushing to remove the loose hair. His coat will pick up more debris during the fall, too, like bits of fallen leaves and dead flowers.
Fall outings also mean he’ll track in mud and dirt. Both are easier to brush off when he’s dry, if you can wait.
Winter Grooming Needs
If you live where snow falls, your Bulldog may love romping in it. Clean his feet after these chilly outings to remove ice from between his toes and road salt from his paw pads. Don’t leave him wet, especially if he’s gotten soaked to the skin. Dry him well with towels, and use a hair dryer on low temperature to finish the job.
Your Bulldog might get a dry coat from being in a heated house all day during the winter months. Regular brushing helps distribute the oils in his skin and coat, and a humidifier also might help his dry skin.
Your puppy is growing and doesn’t look so much like a puppy anymore. Strangers often don’t react to an adult dog like they do a puppy, and your Bulldog needs to learn how to interact with people differently now that he’s bigger. Pay attention to how other people greet your dog so you can ensure his safety and theirs.
When People Don’t Like Your Dog
How could anyone not love a Bulldog? It happens. Some people won’t even recognize he’s a Bulldog and might mistake him for one of the other bully breeds. Respect the feelings of others, and don’t force your dog on anyone. If someone appears to be afraid, don’t try to talk him out of it; you don’t know their history or fears. Avoid the person, keep your dog at a distance, and let them approach you when and if they choose to do so.
You can help ward off fears and prejudice by tying a bright bandana around your pup’s neck, tucking a flower on his leash, or having him wear a bright cape. You’ll break down barriers just by having a friendly looking dog.
TIPS AND TAILS
Some people are afraid of dogs, and a lunging, barking Bulldog is not a good canine ambassador. You can help put others at ease if your dog is well behaved and polite when he meets people.
Meeting New People
So many people, especially children, will want to rush up and pet or hug your Bulldog. Protect him from their ill-informed enthusiasm by introducing your pup to new people so both parties are comfortable—because even the nicest dog likes to take his time to get acquainted. Instead of allowing the onslaught of enthusiastic greetings, say “Let me introduce you” to those who want to meet your puppy.
Always allow your dog to approach the person. A large human looming over a dog is scary. (Remember the socialization process in Months 1, 2, and 3?) Think of how you’d feel if someone much bigger than you got in your personal space. You’d probably immediately back up until you were comfortable. A dog interprets someone coming straight at him as confrontational; likewise, to him, someone who looks straight into his eyes and holds his gaze is challenging him. At this age, he might even see it as an attack on you and try to protect you. This viewpoint is noble, but it’s still inconvenient if he defends you from the wrong person.
You might find your Bulldog purposely stands between you and the person you’re talking to. In this case, he’s being protective of you, and you need to alleviate his fears. If you stand face to face with the other person, he might see them as a threat, so walk side by side with the person so your dog sees you are friends.
A person meeting a new dog should never put her face right in the dog’s face—exactly what a child does when she hugs a dog. As she throws her arms around your dog, he’ll feel trapped and unable to leave. Many Bulldogs love the attention and will wiggle and kiss their new friend, but don’t take that chance. Your dog might someday decide he doesn’t care for the stranger who’s mauling him with affection. Or when he doesn’t feel well, or the person steps on his toes, pulls his sore ear, or otherwise accidentally hurts him, he might not remember his manners when responding.
When you meet someone who doesn’t feel comfortable with an overly assertive dog, have her stand sideways to your dog, which makes her seem smaller and less threatening, and tell her not to make eye contact. To encourage a shy dog to approach someone, have the person crouch on the ground while still facing sideways. Invite the person to scratch your Bulldog’s chest rather than pat him on the head. Patting is annoying, and stroking is much more pleasant for your pup. And a hand coming at your dog from below is less threatening than a hand approaching his face.
Every outing is an opportunity to practice your dog’s social skills. Continue to incorporate obedience commands into your walks so he’ll respond to you when he has the chance to show off for someone new.
Getting Out and About in Nature
Bulldogs aren’t built for long hikes in the woods, but they certainly can enjoy leisurely walks in the park or around your campsite. A well-socialized city dog might be terrified during his first hike in the woods, or he might love it. The safest way to begin hiking is with your Bulldog puppy on leash until he knows his way around the area and you’re sure no predators are nearby. Wild animals move silently in their natural environment, and you might never realize they’re close. Your dog can sense them, though. Snakes, bears, crocodiles, mountain lions, coyotes, poisonous toads, and even raccoons can seriously hurt you or your Bulldog. If he appears anxious or reluctant to go on, listen to him and turn back.
Many parks require that dogs be kept on leash to protect both you and the wildlife. Early in the morning, the scent from all the nocturnal creatures who were out and about the night before will be heavy, and your dog will love absorbing all the new smells … until he encounters a deer. He might react fearfully and bark, or he might get excited and chase. Either way, if he took off running, he could easily get lost in this unfamiliar territory. Always keep him on leash until you’re sure he’s well-enough trained to stay with you. And never let him off leash in areas where that’s prohibited.
If he’s never seen one, an encounter with something as harmless as a tree stump can cause your dog to approach cautiously until he’s familiar with his surroundings. Teach him to climb over logs and cross streams, and get him used to carrying a backpack, and soon he’ll be an eager companion for your days outdoors.
As your teenager develops, he’ll undoubtedly test your patience and misbehave. If you continue to work to establish a good relationship with your Bulldog and pair that with calm and consistent leadership and discipline (not necessarily punishment), your pup will trust you and behave properly.
How Adult Dogs Show Leadership
Adult dogs earn a puppy’s respect and compliance by using gentle but firm discipline. They chastise unruly puppies with just enough aggression to make their point and no more. A mother plunks a paw on top of a pup to stop him from harassing her, puts her mouth over the puppy’s muzzle, or gets up and leaves when a puppy bites on her teats too hard. A puppy who oversteps his bounds with other adult dogs receives a snap and a roar that sends him packing. The adult then settles back into her nap, and the pup minds his manners from that point on.
When a dog rolls another dog over or pins him to the ground, she’s either playing or putting an offender in his place because he was too pushy. A submissive dog rolls over voluntarily and shows his tummy to appease the aggressor; he isn’t forced. That’s usually the end of the discussion. Pinning a dog to the ground and holding him there or grabbing his neck is likely to start a fight.
We’d do well to follow the example of our canine friends. Discipline misbehavior with the minimum amount of force needed to stop the behavior, and no more.
Is Dominance a Dirty Word?
Dog behavior is often compared to that of wolves in a pack. The example given is usually one of a dominant wolf who rules the pack and forces the others to submit to him in order to retain his position.
In recent years, wolf-pack theory, especially as it relates to dogs, has been disproven. The concept of an alpha wolf who is dominant, with the rest of the pack deferring to him, was based on observation of unrelated wolves living in captivity. These wolves were thrown together in an artificial situation and had to establish some sort of social order to get along.
According to the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior, dominance is a relationship between two or more individuals established by force and submission in order to gain power over resources.
In the wild, wolves live in family groups with a dynamic entirely different from that of captive wolves. Their relationship is one of cooperation and respect, not aggression and violence. A breeding pair of wolves leads the pack, and youngsters are born, grow, and leave the pack to form their own family units. Oftentimes the pack includes a very young litter of infants and older adolescents who haven’t left the pack yet. Leadership shifts among members of the pack all the time, depending on what they’re doing. The females are in charge when it comes to caring for the pups, and the males are in charge when it’s time to forage for food.
Dominance has become a controversial term in dog training and behavior, and experts debate the meaning and how it applies to our relationship with our pets. You might have been told you have an “alpha,” or dominant, dog and, therefore, you must be the dominant one or he’ll take over the household and become aggressive. You might think you have a permanent problem that can’t be fixed. Not necessarily. What you have is a typical Bulldog.
Being a Kind and Fair Leader
Rather than think of yourself as having to be dominant over your dog, think of yourself as his leader, much like parents act toward their children. A parent leads the family and provides resources: food, clothes, money, and shelter. The child looks to her parents for care, education, and protection and respects their authority. That’s really what we do for our dogs, too.
What is a leader, and why does your dog need one? A good leader is respected. His followers listen to him and go along with his example. A leader sets limits, establishes rules, and enforces them consistently and fairly. When your leadership is well established, your dog feels secure and happy because he knows what’s expected of him. Your puppy has had rules since he was in the litter with his mother and siblings, and he learned early what he could and couldn’t do.
A dog without a leader feels he has to make decisions for both of you, and they will be doggy decisions, not necessarily what you would choose. Your puppy needs you to step in when you see him taking over a situation. This reassures him that you will protect him and he doesn’t have to respond to every little thing.
A Bulldog is more likely than other breeds to declare himself the boss, or at least try to take over that position. Dogs thrive on consistency, and your Bulldog learns how to earn what he wants through good behavior. You might not be thinking about being a leader all day, but your dog is watching you 24/7, taking mental notes. What should he do? What do changes in your behavior mean for him? Should he test the boundaries to see if the rules have changed?
You love your dog, and it’s tempting to spoil him, or at least be lenient when he’s misbehaving. After all, he’s still a puppy. But spoiled dogs are like spoiled children—they always want more. The more you cater to your dog, the more he’ll demand to be petted, fed, constantly entertained, etc. And he’ll throw a tantrum or act out when he doesn’t get his way. Bulldogs even have been known to go so far as to bite their owners. Leadership is especially important with this breed.
Leaders love their dogs. They aren’t overly harsh or dominant. Being a leader doesn’t mean you can’t pet your Bulldog or hug him, either. When you have a problem with a rude, hyper, or misbehaving dog, that’s when you have to reinforce the rules and reestablish your authority. Leadership and respect are earned, not freely given.
TIPS AND TAILS
Your household is not a dictatorship. Every member of the family should be a leader in your Bulldog’s eyes, and he should respect the children as well as the adults. He’ll quickly learn who he can manipulate, so avoid conflict by having a family agreement that everyone enforces the rules the same way.
Think of a reestablishing-your-leadership program as “no free lunch”—a concept introduced by canine behaviorist William E. Campbell decades ago to help owners deal with doggy dictators. Dole out your attention and resources. If he sticks his head under your hand to be petted, ask him to sit first. When he wants to come indoors, have him do a down. Before you present his food dish, have him perform a trick. Ask for something meaningful so he has to make some effort to respond. An impatient Bulldog will hold out until he wears down your resistance and gets his food.
Be clear when you respond to his behavior. Say “Yes” or “No,” and don’t ignore him or avoid an issue. Use your body language to show him you’re confident and in control. Don’t beg him to comply, and don’t repeat yourself. Tell him; don’t ask him. Practice dozens of downs, sits, stays, leave its, and waits—all commands you’ve been working on and he should know. Two minutes once a day and scattered moments here and there make a big difference in how he responds to you.
Don’t get angry at him; it just confuses him and makes him think you’re unpredictable. Aggression in the form of hitting, yelling, grabbing, or throwing him down on the floor is likely to be met with aggression in return. He sees it as protecting himself from an irrational attacker. Any kind of negative handling or yelling can cause him to shut down and refuse to cooperate. The next thing you know, you have a dog who bites in frustration.
A good leader does not throw his dog on the ground in an alpha rollover to prove he’s dominant and that the dog must submit. How would you feel if your boss threw you against the wall when you disagreed with him? That’s an exaggeration, of course, but a good example of how your Bulldog feels if his beloved owner is suddenly aggressive and cruel. There are better ways to earn your puppy’s respect.
An alpha rollover is a punishment that’s supposed to mimic how wolves establish their dominance over each other. A person forces his dog to the ground and holds him on his side or back until the puppy “submits” and stops fighting. Do not try this at home, and don’t let a “trainer” do this to your dog. Trainers who years ago advocated the alpha rollover now have retracted their endorsement because you’re more likely to get bitten than earn your puppy’s respect.
Dealing with a Rude Dog
Does your teenage Bulldog block your path as you try to walk? Does he crash through doors ahead of you? Lean on you? Charge out of his crate? Take off with your shoe? Grab food? If so, he’s rude, and he needs to know who the leader is at your house.
When your space invader crowds you, do it right back to him. Lean toward him; don’t bend over, but just push slightly with your body until he backs off. Don’t move out of his way or go around him if he blocks you. Shuffle your feet and keep moving forward in short steps to push him out of your way. Don’t use your hands either; he sees hands as the human version of mouthing and playing. He understands a body block because that’s what he does. Remember, he reads your body language before he hears what you say.
TIPS AND TAILS
Horse trainers have perfected the art of using their bodies to move horses. By moving toward a horse’s back hip, trainers can move the horse forward. By putting on “pressure,” or leaning forward toward the horse, they make him back up. Try the same type of movement with your Bulldog.
When you see a total body block coming at you full speed, take a couple quick steps toward him and aggressively push your hands toward him in a “Stop!” motion. This should startle him and make him veer away. You don’t want to turn it into a game, so don’t reward him or praise him a great deal. Just say “Good dog” and move on to another activity, like asking for a sit. When he’s pestering you for attention, stand with your arms folded, tilt your chin up, turn your body away, and ignore him.
Doorways are a big issue for dogs. Fights often start between dogs as they jostle with each other, trying to crowd through the door at the same time. Your puppy’s excited to go out or in, and he doesn’t want to be left behind. He’s impolite and impatient, and as soon as he sees you head for the door, he leaps up and gets there before you.
Teach your puppy that calm behavior gets him what he wants. As soon as he starts to rush the door, stop and walk away. When he comes back in and settles down, start again. After a few tries, he’ll watch you carefully. If he runs up behind you, block his way to the door. Without saying anything, herd him back into the room with your body, not your hands or the leash. If you drag him by the leash, he’s not learning anything except that you’ll do the work. He’ll soon figure out that he has to wait behind you. It’s not an instant process, but eventually he’ll understand.
Here’s another exercise you can try: with your Bulldog on leash, open the door. As he dashes out, shut the door behind him with you still on the inside holding the leash. Whoops! That isn’t the result he had in mind! In a few seconds, he’ll whimper or scratch at the door. He can’t leave because he’s still attached to you, but he’s not actually with you, either. Let him in and try again. After a few tries, he’ll hesitate and look at you before racing out. Praise him when he does, walk through the door, and let him follow you. Remember that you taught your pup to wait in Month 7. This is the perfect time to use that command.
If he charges out of his crate the second you open the door, that’s the next behavior to address. Never open the crate door for a dog who’s whining, scratching, or otherwise demanding to be released. Instead, ignore him; if he sees he has your attention, he’ll continue fussing much longer. Wait until he’s quiet before opening the door. When you do open it, don’t let him come crashing out. Quickly shut it in his face if he tries to charge. Do this as many times as you need to until he hangs back. Then quietly let him out and calmly go about your business.
Continuing Use of the Crate
This is the age of mischief for your puppy, and the crate is an important tool for preventing trouble during adolescence. Your puppy looks grown up, and he sleeps through the night without incident, so you might be tempted to leave him loose at night or in the house during the day. Don’t.
A 9-month-old Bulldog isn’t mature enough to handle the responsibility of entertaining himself for long periods of time alone. By putting him in his crate, he’ll feel secure, and he won’t feel like he has to investigate every sound he hears. When he’s excited in anticipation of your return, he won’t be able to act out by tearing up a pillow or blanket that smells like you. If he gets hungry, he can’t raid the trash. When he realizes he can’t act on his adolescent impulses, he gives up and takes a nap. He also learns self-control in the process.
Continue to develop your Bulldog’s skills this month with more advanced challenges. He’s capable of learning more complex concepts because his attention span is no longer that of a little puppy. He can remember his new lessons much better for the same reason.
Solving Problems with Leash Walking
By 9 months old, your Bulldog is really strong. You can’t drag him or hold him back when he’s distracted—and at this age, everything distracts him. Walking quietly at your side is not a natural canine behavior, and when you don’t let him rush off every time he sees something that interests him, he’s likely to mutiny and try all kinds of different maneuvers to get out of walking at your side.
Solving this problem requires your full attention. This is not the time to be pushing a baby stroller or talking on your cell phone.
First, use a 4-foot leash, or take up the slack in your 6-foot leash, so he doesn’t have as much length available for his antics. The clip on the leash should hang down, and the rest of the leash should form a U shape. If you let too much length hang down, he’ll walk over it and become tangled. Hold your hands at waist level, where you’ll have more control.
If you continually hold the leash tight, you’re doing his thinking for him. He assumes the leash is supposed to be that way, he doesn’t have to pay attention to you, and he knows right where you are. When he’s on a loose leash, he makes mistakes and learns from them, and in the process, he learns self-control. When he’s walking at your left side, you’re tempted to pull tighter if you hold the leash in your left hand. Take your left hand off the leash, and hold it in your right hand at your waist.
To prevent pulling, you need to be more interesting than his surroundings. You get to decide when it’s time to stop and sniff, not him. If you see something you know will make him pull, turn his attention to you and reward him before he starts pulling. If you need to, lure him with a treat right in front of his nose as you walk past the tempting distraction. You can reward him for his good behavior with “Go sniff!”
Sniffing is an important part of your dog’s walk and helps tire him out. Allow him to sniff occasionally, as long you control when and for how long. You’ll find he’s much more cooperative during the walk and tired when he gets home.
If one method isn’t working for you, you can teach your dog to walk nicely in other ways. For example, stand still and don’t move a muscle when he hits the end of the leash. Hold the leash at your waist, and don’t pull back against him. Make no eye contact, and ignore him until he looks at you to see what you’re doing. Then calmly praise him. If he immediately lunges ahead, stop again.
Or if your dog is pulling ahead, stop and back up slowly. When you do this, instead of reaching his goal, he’s moving farther away. After he stops pulling, you can start walking forward again.
If he balks or refuses to go forward, walk in the opposite direction. Turn around, walk right past him, and keep going. If he still doesn’t follow you, walk in a circle around him. If he refuses to move at this point or pulls in the opposite direction, stop and work with him until he sits. When you resume walking, stop after just a few steps and ask him to sit again, and reward him when he does what you ask. You can use treats if that helps keep his attention.
When your pup cuts in front of or behind you, block him with your leg, calmly turn into him, and start walking in another direction. If he runs behind you from the left, pull the leash in front of you to the right so he can’t get all the way around you. Then do an about-turn and walk into him. This also works if he tangles himself in the leash or wraps it around your legs.
TIPS AND TAILS
When walking your Bulldog, start calm and end calm. He must sit quietly while you put on the leash and walk politely out the door. If he starts acting wild, you must stay calm or his behavior will escalate. When you get home, he must sit politely while you remove the leash.
Your Bulldog might take the leash in his mouth because he knows you’re going to give him a correction and he wants to avoid it. This is a telling action. Have you jerked on the leash too often? Are you nagging him? The simplest solution is sometimes the best—let him carry a toy in his mouth while you walk. If that doesn’t work, spray the leash with pepper spray or chewing repellent before your walk. Spritz a little in his mouth, too, so he recognizes the taste and smell.
If you try to jerk the leash out of his mouth, he’ll quickly turn it into tug-of-war. To combat this, you might want to switch to a chain leash, which hurts his teeth when he bites it. Chain leashes are chew-proof, but they’re also uncomfortable on your hands, so consider wearing garden gloves with them. Horse-supply stores have stud chains for horse leads that are 12 to 18 inches long. You can attach one to his collar and then attach the leash to it.
Does your pup bump into you as you walk? You might think he doesn’t realize he’s doing it, and sometimes he’s certainly oblivious to his own body. But most of the time, he knows exactly what he’s doing. His motivation is similar to pulling on the leash here—he keeps track of where you are, but he doesn’t have to pay attention. He’s also being very pushy and rude! Bump him back, but overexaggerate the move. Don’t be subtle. Bump him to the left or make a hard turn or about-face to the left. Don’t lean back into him, or you both will be thrown off balance.
Your puppy also might lean against you when you’re standing still or put a paw on your foot. Again, by doing so, he knows right where you are so he doesn’t need to pay attention. He’s also invading your space. Step away quickly so he loses his balance. He won’t fall all the way to the ground, but he will pay closer attention to you.
Maybe you’ve seen other Bulldogs dragging their people down the street, or perhaps your pup has done this to you. This is a common problem, but it’s also the toughest to fix. While you work on correcting this, your walks might not take you very far from home as you practice sits, downs, and short stays. Do plenty of U-turns so he has to pay attention and see what you’re going to do next. As you turn, talk and joke with your Bulldog, saying “Hey, you missed it! Where’d you go?” Make it a game. Every once in a while, when you do a sudden turn, pull out his favorite toy or treat and reward him with it when he follows you.
TIPS AND TAILS
If your wild child just can’t settle down for a walk, take the edge off his energy by playing a game of fetch in the backyard before your walk. He’ll love both the game and the walk with you, and you’ll benefit from a slightly worn-out pup.
If you’re using a no-pull harness or a prong collar, you and your dog might become dependent on these tools. Practice with a trainer so you both can learn to walk without them. If you have to use severe equipment to control your Bulldog, you’ll never get to the point where you can let him off leash because he won’t be listening to you.
Teaching “Watch Me”
When your Bulldog is distracted, the “Watch me” command helps him return his attention to you. You can teach this command in several ways.
Place treats or kibble in both of your hands, let your dog see them, and then hold your arms out sideways at shoulder level. He’ll probably sit in front of you or leap at your hands to get the goodies. If he does, wait. At some point, he’ll stop focusing on the goodies and look at you. When he does, praise him and deliver a treat immediately. After a few tries, he’ll be staring at your face to get those treats, ignoring your hands completely. Now you can use the words “Watch me” just before he makes eye contact and praise him for looking at you.
You also could hold a treat right in front of your dog’s eyes and as you bring the treat up to your face, say “Watch me.” When his eyes shift from the treat to your eyes, praise him and give him the treat. If he looks away before you can give him the treat, don’t give it to him. He only gets a treat when he maintains eye contact. Do this only a few times and then quit. You don’t want to fill him with treats.
When you have him paying attention, back up while moving the treat to your nose. This helps him focus on you while you’re moving. Then you can add zigzags, circles, and other variations.
You also can teach him to watch while he’s sitting at your side so he doesn’t have to swing in front of you. Then he’ll know how to keep his eyes on you when you’re out on a walk and you ask for his attention.
Teaching “Stand” and “Stand-Stay”
When your veterinarian is examining your Bulldog, wouldn’t it be nice if your dog stood quietly while he was being handled? Beginning obedience competition requires a stand for exam exercise during which your dog must stand still while the judge runs her hands over him. Advanced competition requires a moving stand, where the dog stops while walking and remains in a stand-stay as you continue moving forward.
To teach your Bulldog to stand, kneel facing his side while he’s sitting. Tweak his skin where his rear leg meets his belly, and lightly poke him up into a standing position while saying “Stand.” He’ll quickly learn to stand when you touch that spot.
You also can lure your dog from a sit into a stand. Stand facing him as he sits, take one step back while holding a treat just out of reach, put pressure on the leash, and tell him to stand. When he knows the command, turn the motion of luring him with a treat into a hand signal.
You and Your Puppy
Earlier in this chapter, you learned about your Bulldog’s incredible nose and talent for scentwork. In this section, you learn how to harness that talent by developing his brainpower and putting his scenting skills to good use—all while having fun together.
Challenging Your Bulldog’s Mind
Scientists have shown that dogs can learn up to 300 words. With that potential, your Bulldog’s brain is full of opportunity. He may never be a hunting or herding dog, but Bulldogs are just as smart and talented as any other breed. He has the potential to do great things and, like a child, he must practice using his brain to develop these skills.
Give your Bulldog puzzle games to challenge his mind. Present him with interactive games, and he’ll figure out how to slide open a compartment to find a treat. Teach him the names of different objects during scenting and retrieving games as well as the names of specific locations in the house. Surely he recognizes the words walk and dinner by now, so begin adding more. Teach him to go to his bed or crate, to ring a bell hanging from a doorknob to go outside, or to find his toy, all by just saying key words.
Challenging Your Bulldog’s Nose
You might not be interested in or ready for competitive sports, but you can have fun with your young Bulldog in many other ways.
Nosework: An activity you can enjoy together at home, in public, or in classes and workshops, nosework is a fun, easy way for both of you to learn search dog skills as you train your pup to search for his favorite treats and toys. You don’t need a lot of equipment or training; all you need is a motivated puppy and his favorite food or a toy reward.
Nosework starts out easy, with your Bulldog searching for a treat that’s hidden under or in one of a group of cardboard boxes. The challenges get progressively harder as your dog builds his skills and learns the game.
If you’re interested, you can check out training workshops and trials where your dog can earn nosework titles searching for a specific scent such as birch. For more information, visit the National Association of Canine Scent Work at nacsw.net. The first step is an odor recognition test (ORT), during which your pup demonstrates he knows how to search for a scent. Then your Bulldog can earn titles beginning with Nosework 1 (NW1), where he identifies one target odor, up to NW3, where he identifies three target odors under increasingly difficult conditions. Dogs can continue to get elite titles for multiple qualifying rounds as well as titles for identifying different elements like anise and clove.
Nosework, tracking, and barn hunts are sports your Bulldog can begin as young as 6 or 7 months old. He’s too young to do a lot of strenuous jumping or running at this age, so scentwork is a perfect outlet for his energy. He gets to use his mind, build his confidence, and spend time with you, and you learn to read your dog’s subtle communication signals and recognize when he realizes he’s on the scent.
Tracking: Tracking was one of the first performance events held by the American Kennel Club (AKC), back in 1936. Originally part of what were called Obedience Test Field Trials, tracking became a separate event in 1947. Today’s rules remain similar to the original tests: your Bulldog demonstrates his scenting ability by following a human scent and finding “lost” articles, such as gloves, dropped by the tracklayer along the way. The handler (you) has no idea where the track goes, so it’s completely up to your dog to find and follow the trail.
Before your dog competes in an actual test, he must earn a certification to compete. To do so, he attempts a basic Tracking Dog (TD) track while being observed by an AKC judge. If he completes it successfully, he’s eligible to participate in official AKC tracking tests. Unlike the other canine sports that require several outings and qualifying scores, a dog earns his AKC title after one successful track.
The levels are as follows:
Tracking Dog (TD)
Tracking Dog Excellent (TDX)
Variable Surface Tracking (VST)
For a TD, the dog must follow a track in an open field that’s 30 minutes to 2 hours old and 440 to 500 yards long. A flag marks the beginning of the track, a second flag marks the direction of the first leg, and the track includes three to five legs, or changes in direction. An article such as a glove or wallet is placed at the end of the track, and at the beginning of the test, the dog is presented with another article that contains the scent he’s supposed to track.
When he moves up to TDX level, your Bulldog must follow a longer and older track: 800 to 1,000 yards long and 3 to 5 hours old. A TDX test includes five to seven changes of direction and two crosstracks made by humans. No flag indicates the direction of the first leg of the track, and four articles are placed throughout—one at the starting flag, one at the end, and two more along the track itself. Whereas a TD is conducted on an open field, a TDX might contain natural and man-made obstacles along the way such as gullies, plowed land, woods, vegetation, streams, fences, bridges, or lightly traveled roads.
In the VST, dogs face a much more difficult challenge. The track is 600 to 800 yards long and presents a varied tracking environment. The dog trails a scent 3 to 5 hours old in an urban setting rather than in the wilderness over at least three types of surfaces such as concrete, asphalt, gravel, sand, or mulch. Tracks may be laid along the sides of buildings and fences or through buildings with two or more openings, breezeways, shelters, or roofed parking garages. There are no obstacles, as on a TDX track, and a VST track contains four articles along the way—one each of leather, plastic (rigid or semirigid), metal, and fabric.
The AKC also offers an optional tracking title, the Tracking Dog Urban (TDU), in which the track is plotted on surfaces like roads, pavement, and parking lots. This test is less difficult than the VST in that the track is shorter (400 to 500 yards) and is only aged 30 minutes to 2 hours. The TDU does not count toward the Champion Tracker title.
A dog who has earned three titles—either the TD or TDU along with the TDX and VST—becomes a Champion Tracker (CT). The AKC issues the dog a Champion Tracker certificate and permits the use of the letters CT preceding the dog’s name.
TIPS AND TAILS
You can get started with tracking by taking classes offered by local obedience clubs. Your breeder may know of a tracking group in your area; the AKC website (akc.org) also lists tracking clubs by state.
Barn hunts: Barn hunts are an exciting sport for all breeds of dogs, not just terriers. Both the Barn Hunt Association and the United Kennel Club offer barn hunt titles to all breeds. (The AKC recognizes titles but doesn’t offer barn hunt.)
A barn hunt tests the hunting and teamwork of dog and handler. The dog follows a scent through a maze of straw bales to the end to find a rat (safe in a protected, aerated tube) within a set amount of time. Dogs who complete the challenge are awarded a leg toward their title.
Dogs can start by taking the Barn Hunt Instinct Test (RATI). Judged on a pass/fail basis, the dog has 1 minute to get to three tubes laid out side by side and correctly identify the one tube that contains the rat.
For the Novice Barn Hunt (RATN), the dog must qualify at three different hunts. In each, the dog must enter an official tunnel, climb over bales of hay, and indicate the correct tube containing the rat, all within 2 minutes. Besides earning a qualifying leg toward a title, first through fourth place ribbons are awarded based on the fastest times. One Bulldog owner tells a story about her Bulldog at a barn hunt: instead of climbing over a bale of hay, he shoved it out of the way to get to the hidden rats!
For the Open Barn Hunt (RATO), the time increases to 2 minutes, 30 seconds; the tunnels are more complicated; and your Bulldog must find two rats.
At each level the difficulty increases, and your Bulldog can earn additional titles: Novice Barn Hunt (RATN), Open Barn Hunt (RATO), Senior Barn Hunt (RATS), Master Barn Hunt (RATM), Barn Hunt Champion (RATCh), and Master Champion (RATChX).
To learn more about barn hunts, visit the Barn Hunt Association at barnhunt.com.