Although your Bulldog isn’t quite full size at 10 months old, you can still get a good idea of what she’ll look like as an adult. It’s hard to remember she’s still a puppy, but she hasn’t lost her sense of fun and teenage mischief. You should be able to control her exuberance better now as she learns more advanced obedience skills and starts to listen to you more consistently. Bulldogs aren’t pushovers, so continue to work with discipline and preparation for off-leash privileges.
This month we also look at how to deal with some common symptoms of illness you might encounter in your Bulldog.
At this age, she can start preparing for her Canine Good Citizen certificate, so we share information on that as well and take a look at some activities your dog and your children can participate in together.
Variation exists from dog to dog, but there are reasons why Bulldogs look the way they do. The originators of the breed put a lot of thought into what would, in their minds, make the perfect Bulldog, and the breed has been developed carefully over 200 years to produce the characteristics you see today. Those characteristics relate directly to the original job Bulldogs performed—bull-baiting.
Looking at the Breed Standard
Breed standards are written descriptions breeders can follow that define the function, ideal structure, size, proportions, coat characteristics, and temperament for a specific breed of purebred dog and how those features relate to the function of the breed. In other words, the Standard describes the features that make a Bulldog look like a Bulldog. If the dog had upright ears or a curly coat, she wouldn’t resemble the Bulldog described in the Standard. If she weighed 15 pounds or was 24 inches tall, she wouldn’t look like a Bulldog, either.
TIPS AND TAILS
The latest version of the American Kennel Club (AKC) breed standard has been in effect since 1976. To read the complete Bulldog Breed Standard, visit the Bulldog Club of America at bulldogclubofamerica.org.
At dog shows, dogs are judged on how well they conform to the Standard physically and temperamentally. There’s no such thing as a perfect Bulldog (or a perfect dog of any breed), so the dog who wins on a particular day is the one who, in the eyes of the judge, appears the closest to the description of the ideal Bulldog.
Some parts of the breed standard are purposely vague. There can be acceptable variations in the characteristics that define a Bulldog, so the breed standard has to allow for those differences. Although conformation judges look at the total dog, judges might differ in their priorities regarding the importance of specific points of the Standard. For instance, when evaluating two good examples of Bulldogs and trying to decide between them, the judge might see that one moves better than the other, so the better mover gets the top award that day. Another judge might put more emphasis on head and coat character.
When a judge looks at a Bulldog, he evaluates features like the dog’s stride, the length of her body, and if the angle of the shoulder is correct. Does she have enough, but not too many wrinkles? Are her legs able to support her muscular body? Is her nose structured so she can breathe properly? Is her temperament correct, meaning does she appear to be “equable and kind, resolute and courageous,” as stated in the Standard? The breed standard defines all these characteristics.
Comparing Your Puppy to the Standard
Although your Bulldog hasn’t reached maturity yet, you can have fun comparing her to the breed standard. Ask your puppy’s breeder for a conformation evaluation. Even as puppies go through their awkward growth stages, you can learn about general characteristics such as how tall your dog will be and what she’ll look like when she’s fully grown. Your breeder can tell you if your puppy is a show prospect when she’s as young as 8 weeks old, and puppies can be shown in AKC-approved conformation events at 6 months old.
Even if your puppy doesn’t look like a show dog, to you and your family, she’ll seem just as beautiful as any Bulldog who wins ribbons. In the long run, it won’t matter much to you if she’s too tall or is missing a tooth. In fact, some quirks make her that much more endearing to you.
Let’s explore some of the terms used in the breed standard and get a better understanding of what to look for in your Bulldog.
The perfect Bulldog must be of medium size and smooth coat; with heavy, thick-set, low-swung body, massive short-faced head, wide shoulders and sturdy limbs. The general appearance and attitude should suggest great stability, vigor and strength.
This description gives you a good idea of the overall picture a Bulldog should present. Dainty dogs—even females—or overly large dogs are incorrect Bulldogs.
Size, proportion, and symmetry:
In comparison of specimens of different sex, due allowance should be made in favor of the bitches, which do not bear the characteristics of the breed to the same degree of perfection and grandeur as do the dogs.
There are definite differences between the sexes, although they won’t be obvious until your Bulldog matures, which can sometimes be as late as 3 years old. “Grandeur” is a matter of a judge’s opinion, but males will have a larger, more muscular head and fewer wrinkles.
The jaws should be massive, very broad, square and “undershot,” the lower jaw projecting considerably in front of the upper jaw and turning up.
The nose should be large, broad and black, its tip set back deeply between the eyes.
The Bulldog’s undershot jaw and tipped-back nose allowed her to grab on to the bull and still breathe.
The skin should be soft and loose, especially at the head, neck and shoulders.
The head and face should be covered with heavy wrinkles, and at the throat, from jaw to chest, there should be two loose pendulous folds, forming the dewlap.
The loose skin on her face and body is very thick and was difficult for a bull’s horns to penetrate. The long, pendulous skin on either side of her jaws is referred to as “chops” or “flews.” The deep wrinkle, or “rope,” behind the nose allowed blood to drain away from her eyes.
The brisket and body should be very capacious, with full sides, well-rounded ribs and very deep from the shoulders down to its lowest part, where it joins the chest. It should be well let down between the shoulders and forelegs, giving the dog a broad, low, short-legged appearance.
The Bulldog’s low stance and sturdy legs made it easier for her run in low to challenge the bull’s attacks, while ensuring excellent stamina. The brisket is the chest area. Her wide body makes her front end more powerful.
There should be a slight fall in the back, close behind the shoulders (its lowest part), whence the spine should rise to the loins (the top of which should be higher than the top of the shoulders), thence curving again more suddenly to the tail, forming an arch (a very distinctive feature of the breed), termed “roach back” or, more correctly, “wheel-back.”
Although in some breeds an arched back is incorrect, this trait is very desirable in Bulldogs. But it must be properly arched, beginning behind the shoulders, rising to the top of the loins (behind the ribcage), and sloping down to the tail.
Many of a Bulldog’s features are extreme when compared to other breeds, but those features all served a specific purpose. It’s sometimes said that the Bulldog, a man-made breed, is the most extreme example of genetic manipulation in the world.
You learned about CPR and dealing with life-threatening emergencies in Month 6. Now let’s look at some other injuries and health problems you might encounter with your Bulldog and ways to treat them.
Treating Symptoms of Illness
When you realize your puppy is not well, you can take steps to treat the problem while you evaluate how serious it is. Some issues, like diarrhea and vomiting, could be minor and respond to treatment quickly. If these conditions don’t resolve, or if they accompany other troublesome symptoms, a vet will need to investigate further. Others, like seizures, might be a symptom of a much more serious problem and require immediate veterinary treatment.
Diarrhea: If your puppy is vomiting at the same time she has diarrhea, she could be seriously ill. If there’s blood in her stool, either fresh (bright red) or digested (dark red or black), take her to the vet immediately. Take a stool sample along with you for the vet to examine.
At the first onset of diarrhea, you can give your puppy antidiarrheal medication. Check with your vet to find out what brand to use and the proper dosage. To prevent dehydration, be sure your Bulldog has plenty of water available, and offer small amounts frequently. A pediatric oral electrolyte solution can replace some of the nutrients and moisture she’s lost. You’ll find this product in the children’s section at your grocery store or pharmacy.
Temporarily switch her to a high-fiber or bland diet. You can purchase a prescription diet from your vet or make your own by combining cooked white rice with boneless boiled meat or chicken with the fat drained off. As the diarrhea subsides, slowly switch your puppy back to her regular food. If the diarrhea lasts longer than 48 hours or is combined with vomiting, see the veterinarian for further care.
Seizure: Witnessing your dog have a seizure is frightening. Before a seizure, she might seem dazed or anxious. During an active seizure, she might twitch and fall over, lose control of her bowels or bladder, and not recognize you. Afterward, she might appear dazed and disoriented, or she could seem just fine. The length of the seizure can vary dramatically. A seizure lasting longer than 2 minutes is an emergency and can cause high fever or brain damage.
To protect your dog from injury during a seizure, move her away from stairs or furniture so she won’t fall or hit anything. Don’t disturb or restrain her during the seizure. She won’t swallow her tongue, so don’t put your hand in her mouth or she could accidentally bite you.
If this is your dog’s first seizure, have her examined by a vet immediately. Make a note of how long the seizure lasted, the time of day, the date, and when she last ate a meal.
There are many possible causes for seizures in dogs, include poisoning, a tumor, a bacterial infection in the brain, organ failure, diabetes, and epilepsy. If your vet can identify the cause, he may be able to treat the condition and your dog may never have another episode. The cause is often hard to identify, though, as is the case with epilepsy, and some animals will need antiseizure medication for the rest of their lives.
Vomiting: When your Bulldog eats something yucky (as puppies so often do), she might vomit to get it out of her system before it makes her sick. She could have a simple gastrointestinal upset from overeating or eating too fast and spit up foam and food. Or she might have eaten an inedible object like a toy. Bulldogs are famous for eating anything they can fit in their mouths, and sometimes an object can stay in her stomach for months before it actually causes trouble. If she doesn’t pass the object in her stool, she’ll get increasingly ill. Serious infections like pancreatitis can cause vomiting, too. If your Bulldog is lethargic or has a fever, take her to the vet immediately.
Rapid dehydration is a big risk when your dog is vomiting over a period of hours. Withhold food, but offer her small amounts of water or ice chips if she’ll take them. If she seems otherwise healthy, after 12 hours, reintroduce food in small amounts—about ½ cup at a time. If she continues to vomit, she might need to visit the vet for antinausea drugs and fluids.
Some Bulldogs have a condition called aerophagia, which means she swallows a lot of air when she eats. Aerophagia can cause another condition that contributes to chronic vomiting: reflux disease, where stomach acids and intestinal fluids move back up into the esophagus (the tube that connects the throat to the stomach). This can lead to aspiration, where she inhales her own vomit into her lungs. If this happens, she can quickly develop pneumonia and become seriously ill.
If your Bulldog suffers from chronic vomiting, you can help lessen the risk of aspiration:
- Feed her from a slightly raised bowl
- Give her several small meals throughout the day rather than one or two large meals
- Feed her a low-fat, low protein diet to reduce the incidence of vomiting.
Alternative Health Care
Dog owners who want to treat their pets with natural remedies or who find conventional medicine isn’t working for their dog might look to alternative or complementary medicine for treatment. Although your pup is probably years away from serious illness or age-related disease, some forms of alternative treatment can be used to heal injuries or resolve behavior-related problems. Meanwhile, if your Bulldog suffers from chronic conditions like allergies, you might find alternative treatments very successful.
Most veterinarians practice Western medicine, and some incorporate complementary therapies into their treatment plans. You also might find holistic veterinarians and practitioners, who treat patients solely with herbal or other alternative therapies.
A holistic veterinarian or practitioner addresses the whole dog, including mental and social factors, instead of limiting treatment to the symptoms of disease.
Acupuncture: Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese practice that’s been successfully used on animals and people for thousands of years to correct energy imbalances in the body and promote healing. Acupuncture addresses pain and inflammation from injuries, arthritis, hip or elbow dysplasia, neurological disorders, and digestive disorders.
The practitioner inserts into the skin or muscles fine needles that stimulate predefined acupuncture points. These points lie along meridians, or energy lines, that travel through the dog’s body. The meridians contain nerve endings, connective tissue, and blood vessels that release endorphins and other mechanisms to relieve pain and trigger healing. Some acupuncturists add electrical stimulation to the needles.
Your veterinarian might recommend acupuncture in addition to physical therapy or conventional medicine. The treatment usually takes 20 to 30 minutes per visit, and dogs accept it with minimal discomfort. In fact, they tend to relax noticeably during a session. To find a veterinarian near you who provides acupuncture for dogs, visit the American Academy of Veterinary Acupuncture at aava.org.
Acupressure: Similar to acupuncture, acupressure works the same energy meridians on the body, but instead of needles, the practitioner uses pressure on the acupuncture points, similar to massage, to treat allergies, diarrhea, digestive problems, ear infections, respiratory problems, and more. Your veterinarian might teach you how to use acupressure at home on a daily basis to treat your dog. Most practitioners recommend 5- to 10-minute sessions. If you find your dog resists the pressure, winces in pain, or otherwise tries to avoid the session, stop and consult with your vet.
TIPS AND TAILS
Veterinarians have advanced degrees and are licensed and regulated by law. No similar system exists for credentialing nonveterinary alternative practitioners, so it’s up to you to investigate treatments and the people who supply them to be sure you’re getting safe and appropriate care for your dog. Do some research, or ask for recommendations and check references if you’re thinking of using an alternative practitioner. Also visit the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association at ahvma.org for more information.
Chiropractic: Chiropractic therapy can relieve pain and improve a dog’s movement and is often used to treat injuries, arthritis, and hip and elbow dysplasia. During a session, the practitioner adjusts the dog’s vertebral joints, extremity joints, or head.
The American Veterinary Medical Association recommends you have a vet examine your dog before you proceed with chiropractic treatment. X-rays and other tests will help you and your pup’s doctor choose an appropriate treatment plan. Opt for a chiropractor who specializes in animals and is a member of the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association (avcadoctors.com).
Massage: Massage and other body manipulation techniques are helpful for some dogs. Traditional massage helps improve circulation, relieve pain and stiffness, improve flexibility and range of motion, and restore proper functioning to joints and limbs.
TTouch is particularly beneficial. Linda Tellington-Jones originally developed this therapy for horses, but it has been used on all species of animals. Moving her fingers in circular motions, the practitioner works different parts of the body to promote healing and behavior modification by opening the body’s awareness and releasing tension. You can learn to use the technique to relax your puppy and help improve problem behaviors when incorporated into training programs. Find out more at ttouch.com.
Homeopathy: Homeopathy is based on the law of similars and the concept of “like produces like.” In homeopathic therapy, practitioners use a substance that in undiluted form causes a particular symptom; in a highly diluted homeopathic formula, the same substance relieves the symptom. Remedies are usually diluted with alcohol or distilled water, and most are administered to your dog in the forms of drops you put in her mouth.
Homeopathy is the practice of using herbs, minerals, and natural compounds to strengthen the body’s natural defenses and cure disease.
Homeopathic remedies are used to treat a variety of health problems, such as pain, inflammation, fluid in the lungs, bruises and wounds, bleeding, skin problems, respiratory illness, allergies, and more. Some remedies address a variety of health problems at once. Practitioners do not claim to cure diseases like cancer or arthritis, but they do strive to help your dog attain the best possible overall health so her immune system can fight these diseases.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies homeopathic remedies as drugs but does not evaluate them for safety or effectiveness. Therefore, do careful research and buy only from a homeopathic practitioner or use a well-known brand name.
To find a veterinarian near you who uses homeopathic techniques, visit the Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy at theavh.org.
Considering Natural Remedies
Natural remedies make use of plants and other organic substances to treat health and behavioral issues. Although they’ve been successfully used for centuries, natural remedies shouldn’t be considered a substitute for veterinary care.
Owners generally regard them as safe and effective, but always consult with your vet and research potential side effects of natural remedies before giving anything to your dog. The quality and concentration of ingredients varies dramatically from brand to brand, and a remedy might not have the same effect on every dog.
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Neither the FDA nor any other government authority regulates natural remedies, and manufacturers’ claims about their effects have not been scientifically proven. Some natural substances can be deadly if used incorrectly.
Supplements: Glucosamine and chondroitin, two compounds found in cartilage, are sometimes added to dog food, especially senior formula dog foods, to improve joint health. When treated with these supplements, dogs with arthritis due to hip dysplasia, injuries, or aging can experience increased mobility with a decrease in inflammation and pain. For example, if a young dog is diagnosed with hip dysplasia, glucosamine can help prevent cartilage breakdown, and chondroitin can contribute to the creation of new cartilage. These supplements have been known to cause stomach problems like nausea and diarrhea, so be sure to consult with your vet before giving them to your dog.
Herbal remedies: For centuries, humans have taken advantage of the healing properties of herbal remedies, using roots, flowers, stems, or leaves, either dry or made into teas, juices, or tinctures. For tinctures, the herbs are combined with alcohol, soaked, and then the liquid is drained off. You can make your own remedies or purchase them in tablets or capsules.
Herbs contain nutrients and chemicals that can aid healing in dogs, too. They sometimes work much more slowly than traditional medicine, and it’s not unusual for one to take several months before you see any effects. Some remedies target a specific illness or emotional state; others boost the immune system and overall health. Thousands of plants contain medicinal properties. Some commonly used herbs include the following:
- Chamomile, for its calming effect
- Alfalfa, as an anti-inflammatory
- Ginger, for carsickness
- Echinacea, to boost the immune system
- Nettle, as an antihistamine
It’s important to remember that herbal remedies are medicines and can have harmful side effects if used incorrectly. Remember, too, that some plants are poisonous to animals (see Appendix C), so do careful research or work with a veterinary herbalist. You can learn more about herbal remedies from the Veterinary Botanical Medicine Association at vbma.org.
Flower remedies: Also called essences, flower remedies are homeopathic remedies made from flowers or parts of flowering plants formulated to treat health and behavioral issues. Probably the most well known is Rescue Remedy, used to treat stress and anxiety. Developed by Dr. Edward Bach in the early twentieth century, each Bach Flower Remedy includes several flower essences formulated to help restore imbalances in the body and spirit. Rescue Remedy, for example, includes star of Bethlehem, clematis, impatiens, rock rose, and cherry plum. The remedies were developed for use in people, but many are used for dogs, administered with an eyedropper, either directly into the dog’s mouth or added to her water or food. Because they’re homeopathic, they’re highly diluted, so you just give your dog a few drops.
Essential oils: Also from the plant kingdom, essential oils are made from roots, leaves, flowers, or seeds and used to heal wounds, repel insects, and treat skin problems. Unlike other remedies, these aren’t taken internally; they’re applied to your dog’s skin or fur. One of the most well known is citronella, which is made from lemongrass and repels mosquitoes. Tea tree oil (from the melaluca tree) is another popular oil known for its antiseptic, antibacterial, and antifungal properties. Some essential oils are formulated specifically for animals to treat skin irritation and repel ticks and fleas.
TIPS AND TAILS
Investigate essential oils carefully because many are safe for people but not dogs. Also, some oils that are safe for use on dogs are not safe for cats.
Pheromones: As mentioned earlier, pheromones are naturally produced chemicals dogs can sense in another animal, usually of the same species. Synthetic dog appeasing pheromones (DAPs), similar to the pheromones a mother dog releases to calm her newborn puppies, are recommended for fearful or anxious dogs or dogs with aggression issues. DAP is widely available as a spray, collar, or mister.
We’ve talked about dog food before, but it’s such a vast topic, it warrants further discussion.
From ingredients to nutrients to calorie count, it might seem like there are a hundred different ways to evaluate dog foods and figure out what’s best for your Bulldog. Try to balance the information you gather from each method without relying too much on any one absolute formula. And remember, the best way to decide if you’re feeding correctly is to look at your dog, not the label on the dog food bag.
As you learned in Month 7, dog food manufacturers are required to include information about ingredients, nutrient percentages, serving sizes, etc. on the label. They’re not required to list the calorie count, but many do. That’s how many people keep track of their own diets, so it makes sense to look at your dog’s caloric requirements, too.
There’s no one correct calorie amount your dog should consume each day. Quality of ingredients, premium or generic brands, your dog’s activity level, and her health all play a part in determining her recommended daily amount.
Recommended calorie counts are based on the measurement—for example, 1 cup is 400 calories. A healthy Bulldog who weighs 50 pounds and maintains an average activity level needs about 1,200 to 1,600 calories a day.
In general, most adult or large dog formulas have between 350 and 400 calories per cup. Premium brands have a higher calorie count than other foods, so you should feed less of these. “Light” or weight-loss formulas vary dramatically. Some have as little as 50 calories fewer than the regular formula, and some have more than 100 calories fewer per cup. Nutrient percentages may vary, too, with some containing less fat and more fiber. (For more about treating obesity in Bulldogs, see Month 12.)
If you use this method, you need to know the exact calorie count of the specific formula you’re planning to feed. If it’s not listed on the bag, call the manufacturer or visit its website to find the information you need.
Bulldogs are gassy dogs, and flatulence is a common complaint among owners. Gas and diarrhea are often temporary problems, sometimes caused by a sudden diet change, an upset tummy, or your puppy eating something in the yard that didn’t agree with her.
Bulldogs digest their food differently from other breeds. Because she breathes through her mouth and swallows a lot of air when she eats, she can’t belch easily. Food stays in her stomach 12 to 18 hours, compared to 4 hours in other breeds. This causes a gassy buildup that can mimic symptoms of bloat, a serious emergency.
If you’re worried, talk to your vet. If the problem continues and there’s no medical cause, examine her dog food ingredients list for soy, wheat, corn, beans, or cellulose that might cause excessive flatulence. Switching to a different food could solve the problem. You may not have to eliminate these ingredients completely, just select a food with smaller percentages of these ingredients.
Whole, fresh grains such as rice, oats, barley, and millet and ingredients like potatoes, sweet potatoes, and peas retain more of their nutrients and are better than processed foods. Remember, if you switch foods, do it gradually because that in itself can cause gas.
Dairy products can cause flatulence—some Bulldogs are lactose intolerant. If you’re adding yogurt or cottage cheese to her meals, stop and see if that helps.
You also might add canned pumpkin or some Metamucil to her food to increase the amount of fiber she’s getting.
Bulldogs aren’t dainty angels who never get their paws muddy. In fact, your puppy probably loves rolling in smelly and dirty things or taking part in a good digging session. When she matures, her wrinkles will hold dirt and bacteria and she might smell bad. Sometimes a good brushing and rinsing isn’t enough, and you’ll need to give her a bath.
Determining When Your Bulldog Needs a Bath
You may go a year or more before you decide you need to do more than just rinse off your Bulldog. You might see a dirty spot on her favorite cushion or bed, but that could just be surface dirt. Then again, if she’s been out running in the fields, you might find a buildup of dirt when you part her coat down to the skin. The white spots on her coat will start to look pretty dingy, too.
During humid weather in the summer, more crud can stick to her coat and she may not smell as clean as usual. And if she’s had fleas, you’ll definitely want to wash out all the flea dirt. (Don’t be alarmed when you see the bath water run red from the blood in the flea droppings.)
TIPS AND TAILS
When bathing your Bulldog, use a shampoo especially formulated for dogs. The pH level is different from what’s in human shampoos, which can irritate her skin.
Taking all this into consideration, it’s really up to you whether your Bulldog needs regular baths or not. Just be aware that if you bathe her too often, it will dry out her coat and could cause coat problems rather than solve them.
Employing Professional Groomers and Dog Washers
Even if you brush your Bulldog regularly, you still could get your pup professionally groomed occasionally, especially during shedding season.
Groomers have powerful forced-air dryers that blow out more hair than you can remove at home using a regular hair dryer. Their specialized tools remove undercoat, too. The groomer uses a raised table with a harness to restrain your pup while he works, which might be easier—and cleaner—than your home setup.
Groomers also have shampoos and conditioners that can soothe a dry or oily skin and coat. If your dog gets skunked, your groomer might be able to remove the odor with a powerful enzymatic cleaner. If your dog gets into something especially disgusting in the middle of winter and you don’t want it all over your bathroom as you attempt to bathe her, take her to a groomer. If you don’t like to, or are unable to, trim your dog’s toenails, a groomer can do the job for you. They usually trim nails à la carte, without requiring a full bath and brush.
TIPS AND TAILS
On grooming day, wash all your Bulldog’s bedding and clean her crate to remove fleas and odor.
Mobile dog-washing companies come to your door and bathe your dog in their van and supply everything, even the water. This is less time-consuming and more convenient for you—and less stressful for your Bulldog—than spending half a day at a grooming shop. If this interests you, check your phone book or online to find a good mobile groomer, or ask other dog owners you know.
Do-it-yourself dog washes are another option for less-stressful grooming. They supply a wide variety of shampoos, conditioners, and towels, and you have access to the facility’s high-powered sprayers, raised tubs, power dryers, and grooming tables to make the job easier.
We each have our own ideas about what makes a well-behaved dog and how we would like our pet to act in public. To help owners reach their goals for a well-socialized and welcome canine member of the community, the AKC has created a program that outlines canine good citizenship.
As more and more laws are enacted restricting dogs’ access to public places, we all have a duty to be sure our dogs aren’t part of the problem, but rather part of the solution.
The Canine Good Citizen Program
The AKC Canine Good Citizen (CGC) program was developed to encourage responsible dog ownership and praise owners for their training efforts. It also recognizes dogs who have good manners at home and in the community. For families just starting out with a new puppy, the program provides a clear definition of what makes a well-behaved dog and offers goals for you to strive for when you begin training. As you learn the exercises for the CGC, you enjoy time with your dog, exercise her mind, and forge a deeper bond. The best benefit is that a dog who has passed the CGC exam is a joy to live with.
The CGC is accepted throughout the United States (34 states now have CGC resolutions on the books), and the whole world has evidence that your dog is well behaved and you are a responsible owner. Carry the certificate with you when you travel to present to hotels and other public facilities. Therapy dogs often must pass the CGC test as part of their certification for visits. Animal-control agencies might require owners and their dogs to earn a CGC certificate when issues arise with the dog’s behavior in public.
Many obedience instructors use the CGC program as the basis for their beginning obedience classes and incorporate the test into graduation. Check with local trainers to find classes for the CGC test. The AKC lists evaluators you can contact for more information on its website and posts a schedule of upcoming tests in your area.
The CGC Test
The CGC test has three versions:
- The original CGC
- The Canine Good Citizen Urban (CGCU), which is formatted for city dwellers and the unique challenges city dogs face
- The new Farm Dog Certified (FDC), which tests your dog around livestock and farm situations
To earn a Canine Good Citizen certificate, your dog must demonstrate her training and good manners during a 10-step evaluation by an AKC examiner. At the same time, you sign a pledge to be a responsible dog owner.
The test for either version is challenging and requires practice before you both are ready. Passing is an achievement you and your Bulldog should be very proud of.
The CGC test is made up of 10 challenges:
1. Your dog accepts a friendly stranger who approaches and speaks to you. The evaluator ignores your dog while greeting you in a friendly manner, shaking hands, and engaging in conversation.
2. Your dog sits politely for petting by a stranger. She must sit at your side and show no aggression or resentment while a stranger pets her on her head and body.
3. Your dog accepts grooming and handling by a stranger and is presented in a clean, healthy, and well-groomed condition. Your puppy must permit a veterinarian, groomer, or other person to groom or examine her. This also demonstrates that you provide good care for your Bulldog.
4. Your dog walks nicely on a leash at your side. This test shows you can control your dog. She must be attentive to you and respond to your changes in direction to turn left, turn right, halt, and do an about-turn.
5. You can walk your dog through a crowd and keep her under control without her showing excessive shyness or resentment around strangers. Your Bulldog demonstrates that she’s under control and polite in public places. She shouldn’t jump on anyone or strain on the leash.
6. Your dog sits and downs on command and stays in place while you walk 20 feet away and return. This exercise demonstrates that your Bulldog has been trained and will remain in position. You first show she’ll do both a sit and a down. Next, you replace her leash with a 20-foot line and ask her to do either a sit or down, your choice. She must stay in position until you return to her side and the evaluator instructs you to release her.
7. Your dog comes when called. She’s still on a long line, and you walk 10 feet away, turn to face her, and call her to you.
8. Your dog demonstrates a polite reaction to another dog while owners greet each other and walk together. Two handlers and their dogs approach each other from about 20 feet away, stop, shake hands, and speak to each other. Both then continue on another 10 feet.
9. Your dog demonstrates confidence when faced with a distraction she might normally encounter, such as someone dropping a chair or rolling a cart past her. Your dog can express interest or be startled, but she shouldn’t panic, try to run away, bark, or show aggression.
10. Your dog tolerates separation from you without becoming overanxious while someone else holds her leash. This test shows that your dog can be left in someone else’s care and maintain her training and good manners. The evaluator takes hold of your dog’s leash while you leave and go out of sight for 3 minutes.
The CGCU Test
The CGCU recognizes that city dogs sometimes need extra skills to truly be a canine good citizen. Here are the 10 tests your dog must pass:
1. Your dog exits/enters doorways with no pulling.
2. She walks through a crowd on a busy urban sidewalk.
3. Your dog reacts appropriately to city distractions such as horns, sirens, etc.
4. Your dog waits on leash and crosses the street under control.
5. She ignores food and food containers on the sidewalk.
6. She allows a person to approach her on the sidewalk and pet her.
7. Your dog performs a 3-minute down-stay in the lobby of a dog-friendly building.
8. She safely negotiates stairs and elevators.
9. You can confirm your dog is housetrained.
10. Your dog enters and exits or rides dog-friendly transportation (car, cab, subway in a carry bag, etc.).
The FDC Test
If you and your Bulldog live in or visit rural areas often, the AKC offers the new Farm Dog Certified (FDC) title, which tests your dog around livestock and farm situations. For more information, visit akc.org/events/herding/farm-dog-certified-test.
If you successfully complete any of these tests, congratulations! You have a well-trained Bulldog.
The Responsible Dog Owner’s Pledge
Think about all the work you’ve put into raising your Bulldog. You deserve recognition for the care and training you provide. The Responsible Dog Owner’s Pledge represents the promise you made to your puppy when you added her to your family:
AKC CGC Responsible Dog Owner’s Pledge
I understand that to truly be a Canine Good Citizen, my dog needs a responsible owner. I agree to maintain my dog’s health, safety, and quality of life. By participating in the Canine Good Citizen test, I agree that …
I will be responsible for my dog’s health needs:
- Veterinary care, including check-ups and vaccines.
- Adequate nutrition through proper diet and clean water at all times.
- Daily exercise and regular bathing and grooming.
I will be responsible for my dog’s safety:
- I will properly control my dog by providing fencing where appropriate, not letting my dog run loose, and using a leash in public.
- I will ensure that my dog has some form of identification, which may include collar tags, tattoos, or microchip ID.
I will not allow my dog to infringe on the rights of others:
- I will not allow my dog to run loose in the neighborhood.
- I will not allow my dog to be a nuisance to others by barking in the yard, in a hotel room, etc.
- I will pick up and properly dispose of my dog’s waste in all public areas, such as on the grounds of hotels, on sidewalks, in parks, etc.
- I will pick up and properly dispose of my dog’s waste in wilderness areas, on hiking trails, at campgrounds, and in off-leash parks.
I will be responsible for my dog’s quality of life:
- I understand that basic training is beneficial to all dogs.
- I will give my dog attention and playtime.
- I understand that owning a dog is a commitment in time and caring.
Your Bulldog’s behavior improves every day, but you sometimes still suffer through moments of regression when she reminds you she’s still an adolescent. As much as you want to use positive methods to train your dog, Bulldogs often need a firmer hand to deal with their behavior.
The Bulldog Attitude
Today’s Bulldog, although loving and affectionate, has retained many qualities that made her a good bull-baiting dog. The original Bulldogs had to be stubborn, pushy, and persistent to get the job done. She couldn’t wait for a command from her handler; she had to think for herself and make her own decisions. And quitting in the midst of battle wasn’t an option.
Outright aggression is rarely an issue today, but sometimes your Bulldog can be dominant, overbearing, and assertive, especially if you ever let her get away with it. (By dominant, we don’t mean “as in a wolf pack,” which we clarified in Month 9.)
Bulldogs rarely bite strangers; if they do bite, they are more likely to bite their own owners. For example, you usually let her sleep on the bed, but one night you decide she should sleep on the floor, and she refuses to get down because that’s not how she thinks things are done around here. You disobeyed the “rules,” so she disciplines you using doggy methods—she snaps at you. This doesn’t mean she can’t ever sleep on the bed. It means you need to teach her to wait to be invited up and to get off when you tell her to.
Hormones also play a part in dominant behavior, especially in a young, newly mature male. Testosterone levels are at the highest they will ever be in males this month. This eases off to normal adult levels by 18 months, but habits—good and bad—are forming now, so be especially consistent with discipline and training.
She’ll also be the leader in a group of other breeds. As soon as a Bulldog walks in the door, her attitude and demeanor tells the other dogs who’s in charge, even if she’s still fairly young.
You need to build a good relationship with your Bulldog if you want her to listen to you and obey on a regular basis. This takes longer with a Bulldog than it does with other breeds. She’s independent and easily distracted, but she knows what you want; she just may take a few minutes to get around to doing it. She’s also a clown and will do something that makes you burst out laughing right at the moment you’re ready to quit in frustration.
TIPS AND TAILS
Bulldog rescue groups report that behavior and health problems are often-cited reasons Bulldogs are given up for adoption—usually between 4 and 6 years old. The time you spend training and resolving behavior issues while your dog is still young helps ensure you have a well-behaved family member throughout her life. If you’ve adopted a rescued Bulldog, it’s never too late, but training will take a little more time and patience on your part.
Disciplining Your Bulldog
Most people agree that physical punishment can destroy your relationship with your dog, but what are you supposed to do when positive methods don’t work and you need to discipline her?
When your Bulldog was a puppy, it was enough to stop her and redirect her to an acceptable activity. You can still do that, but you’ll have to use a lot more conviction. Stop her by saying, “No!” or “Ack!” Your tone of voice conveys your displeasure, and for some Bulldogs, that’s enough.
Be sure your dog realizes why she’s being disciplined. You must catch her in the act or she won’t understand what she did wrong. Dogs live in the moment, and she won’t comprehend why she’s being punished for something she did 2 minutes ago, let alone 2 hours ago. If you come home and find she’s destroyed the couch, she’ll look guilty because she knows you’re mad, not because she knows she did something wrong. Management is the answer to a problem like this. Put her in a crate when you’re not home.
To effectively discipline your dog, use the same methods you use in obedience training. Praise her while she’s doing it right so she understands exactly what action earned the praise. Punish her during the misbehavior, not after, so she knows what caused your anger.
To effectively discipline your Bulldog, use a strong verbal command like “Ack!” to get her attention. Your tone of voice conveys your displeasure.
When she ignores you—and she often will at first—go to her and physically stop her from whatever she’s doing. After you’ve removed her, hook a leash on her collar and either isolate her for a short period of time or ask her to perform a few commands. If you don’t help her move on, she’ll probably just go right back to what she was doing because it was so much fun. And corrections convince her you’re no fun at all, so don’t be too harsh.
Also, one good strong correction is better than nagging. “Puppy, no, honey, come here, sit down, good girl … no …” isn’t even going to get your Bulldog’s attention, and it contains so many contradictions, any dog would be confused. Repeated nagging corrections teach your Bulldog to ignore you until you get really mad. Then she knows you mean it, and she complies. A correction should last 1 or 2 seconds and no longer. Make it as firm as it needs to be for the situation, quickly said, done, and over with.
Finally, if you give your Bulldog an opportunity to earn praise right after you discipline her, she’ll forgive you instantly. Try a few obedience commands she can easily perform.
Consider this example: you’re walking with your Bulldog, and she rudely jumps up on a woman in dressy clothes, frightening and angering her. A voice correction (“Off!” or “No!”) is appropriate, but that might not be enough. You might have to give a firm pop on the leash to force your dog to drop to the ground. Then immediately have her do a sit. After everyone has calmed down, release your dog and ask for another sit so you can praise her for listening. When she puts her brain back in obedience mode, she’ll listen to you better and you can stop misbehavior before it happens.
TIPS AND TAILS
When you need to discipline your dog, use the minimum amount of force necessary to stop the behavior.
Never hit your Bulldog. Hitting her only makes you look unpredictable, and you don’t want a relationship based on fear. Even the best-trained dog might decide she has to defend herself at some point, and you don’t want her to ever feel she has to bite you or anyone else. When you lose your temper, give yourself a time-out from your dog so you can cool down.
Environmental corrections help discipline your dog when you aren’t around so she doesn’t associate the correction with you. For example, if she puts her paws up on the coffee table, booby trap it with cans full of pennies. When she hits one, it’ll fall off and startle her. Other environmental-correction devices include ultrasonic buzzers that make an unpleasant noise when she barks, a ScatMat or battery-operated mat that gives her a mild shock when she jumps on the couch, or a bitter spray that tastes terrible when she chews on something she shouldn’t.
Teaching your Bulldog self-control continues this month, and although you probably don’t dare let her off leash yet, you’ll enjoy teaching her the basic principles so she’ll be ready when her brain catches up to her body.
Teaching the Emergency Drop
If your Bulldog dashes into the street, she could be hit by a car and killed. When she decides to chase a cyclist down the road or bound into the woods after a bear, your dog needs to respond to you instantly. If she breaks her collar and takes off, you need tools to catch her.
A life-saving command, the emergency down is a lightning-fast version of the down. When you give this command, sometimes called “Drop,” she’ll probably be running away from you, so it takes some practice for her to understand it.
Start by speeding up the down. If she can’t drop quickly in front of you, she won’t be able to drop from a distance. Practice the down when you’re in different positions—at her side, behind her, with her behind you (use a mirror so you can see her comply)—and finish the exercise when she drops. When she understands the concept, you can use the word “Drop,” which has a popping sound at the end of the word to help get her attention. When she gets confused—and she will—go to her and put her in the down. Then release her by tossing her a treat.
She can’t read your body language to figure out what to do next, and she won’t have time to look back at you in an emergency. Practice while you’re standing and sitting so she doesn’t learn to look at you for physical cues. Always toss a treat behind her to release her. You don’t want her to automatically think she’s supposed to come to you unless you call her. In an emergency, you’ll either call her or go to her, so she needs to learn both scenarios.
Now you’re ready to add movement. While walking alongside her, suddenly point to the ground, yell “Drop!” and pivot in front of her to stop her forward movement. Use an urgent tone of voice to show this is an emergency. Release her by saying “Okay,” tossing a treat away, and letting her run to get it. Practice just a few times.
For the next step, attach her to a long line, and as she’s wandering around a few feet from you, give the drop command again.
This exercise is very stressful for your Bulldog, so don’t train for more than a few minutes per session. She’ll build up a lot of excitement as you work; take advantage of her energy, and make it a game. Toss treats, and let her chase them and come back to you. Occasionally, when she’s on her way back, give the drop command and rush toward her a few steps to encourage her to stop and drop. Then toss a treat behind her and let her go.
When she can drop while coming toward you, teach her to drop from any position. As she’s running around chasing treats, occasionally throw in a drop command. Give her a jackpot once in a while, too: pull her favorite toy from your pocket or feed her a full handful of treats.
The emergency drop takes hundreds of repetitions and regular practice for your Bulldog to be reliable with it. Use the command often during play sessions and walks to be sure she understands it.
Preparing for Off-Leash Control
A 10-month-old Bulldog is not ready for the responsibility of being allowed off her leash. Reliable off-leash control takes a long time to develop, and your goal is to ensure that, when she’s mature enough to handle it, she’s had the training that makes it possible.
Answer these questions before deciding if your Bulldog is ready for off-leash freedom:
- Is her recall (“Come”) always perfect and immediate? Does she consider the come a positive command?
- Does she know and reliably perform the emergency drop?
- Is her obedience reliable on leash? Can she ignore distractions and respond when you ask her to?
- Do you have off-leash control in the house? In the backyard?
If you answer “No” or “Most of the time” to any of these questions, polish her skills until you can answer “Yes” to all of them.
When your dog is off leash, you must pay attention and be ready to intervene before she does something impolite or dangerous. If your Bulldog is defiant and sometimes purposely ignores your commands, that could have fatal results.
TIPS AND TAILS
Many trainers offer a beyond-the-basics course that starts teaching owners and their dogs off-leash control. It’s a course you can take as many times as you like after you’ve completed a beginning obedience course.
You’ll need two training tools to prepare for off-leash training: a 15- to 20-foot light line and a 6- to 8-inch short leash or line. The 15- or 20-foot line is for outdoor training. The short line is a handle you can quickly grab when you’re close to her. It should be so light she doesn’t even feel the weight. You want her to forget it’s there.
You’ve been working on indoor off-leash control since the day you got her, but now she needs to perfect her responses in anticipation of new and bigger responsibilities. You can let her drag a shorter line that’s maybe 6 to 8 feet long while she’s indoors. If there’s no loop at the end, it’s less likely to tangle on furniture. (For her safety, never leave any kind of training line, collar, or leash on your dog when you can’t supervise her.)
Outdoors, tie her loosely with the long line to a tree or fence post in the backyard, walk about 10 feet away, and give her an easy command like “Sit.” At first, she’ll be confused because she’s not used to responding to you from a distance. If she doesn’t respond, move closer and try again. When she does what you ask her to do, praise her and try another command, like “Down.” When she gets the idea, you can try commands at different distances and positions, like you did when you were teaching the emergency drop.
Next, untie the line and let her drag it. Walk around the yard and give an occasional command from a distance, including come and the emergency drop. Use the line to reel her in or detain her if she stops paying attention to you.
Teach her to check in with you, similar to when you practice the recall, and drop the line and let her wander. When she’s in the midst of something, call her to you and enforce the command. Her reward for coming is that you let her go back to what she was doing. In addition to working in your yard, find fenced areas away from home that might be especially enticing to her where you can practice more.
When you’re comfortable that she no longer needs the long line, attach the 8-inch light line and work with her close to you. You can hold the light line and she won’t feel the weight of a leash, so she might try to take off, thinking you can’t control her. She’ll soon learn.
You and Your Puppy
Your children are a big part of family life, and they can enjoy spending time with your Bulldog puppy in many ways. Organized activities introduce them to dog sports and pet care. At the same time, your kids learn how to be good pet parents and about the many facets of dog ownership and care. They can even explore careers with dogs.
Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and 4-H
Children of all ages can participate in activities with their Bulldogs. Besides organized programs like scouting and 4-H, many animal shelters offer day-camp programs and workshops for groups of kids working on badges and awards.
Boy Scouts can earn several different badges while learning about their pets. To earn the Pets merit badge, a child cares for his dog for 4 months, writes a report about it, keeps records, and reads a book about his breed or other aspect of pet care. He also participates in an activity with his Bulldog, like a dog show, or teaches his dog tricks. The Dog Care merit badge introduces the Scout to responsible dog ownership as he learns about different breeds and tracks the care and health of his dog. He also teaches his Bulldog obedience commands and learns how to perform pet first aid. The Scout also visits a shelter or veterinary hospital. And to earn the Veterinary Medicine merit badge, the Scout learns about veterinary care for many different species, observes at an animal hospital, and explores other aspects of veterinary care and careers.
Girl Scouts can earn animal-related badges at each level. Brownies can earn a Pets merit badge by learning about and practicing pet care skills. Juniors can earn the Animal Habitats badge by learning about wild animals and ways to protect their habitats. Cadettes can earn the Animal Helpers merit badge by studying how dogs and other animals help people in fields like search and rescue, therapy visits, and as service animals. Senior scouts earn the Voice for Animals badge, for which they learn about volunteering and animal welfare.
Your local Cooperative Extension generally offers dog 4-H programs for your county, and kids can participate in Grooming and Handling, Obedience, Rally, and Agility. Some counties offer additional classes such as freestyle (dancing with your dog). 4-H’ers learn to keep records about their dog’s care and training, develop public presentations, and compete at county and state fairs.
Children between ages 9 and 18 can participate in Junior Showmanship at AKC conformation and performance events. Juniors show their own or a relative’s Bulldog and have the opportunity to learn more about dogs and dog shows, develop handling skills, and learn about good sportsmanship while enjoying time with their dogs.
In conformation, beginners compete in Novice classes. When a child has received three first-place ribbons in Novice, he or she can move up to Open competition.
Children are judged on their capability to present their dogs in a similar fashion as dogs in the breed ring at a conformation show. The quality of the presentation is judged, not the quality of the dog. Juniors learn to groom their dogs and present them to a judge, conduct themselves properly, and dress appropriately for judging. Top-winning juniors from around the country travel to the Westminster Kennel Club Show and AKC/Eukanuba National Championship to compete for honors. Attend some dog shows with your family and watch the junior showmanship competition to learn more about it.
In addition to conformation, the AKC has recently introduced recognition programs for children who compete in performance events like obedience, agility, and tracking. The AKC also offers other activities for juniors, along with extensive educational materials and scholarship programs. Learn more at akc.org/kids_juniors/jr_getting_started.cfm.