Bulldogs are known for their dedicated demeanor and adorably wrinkled appearance. Unlike other breeds, they require a few special considerations when it comes to exercise, training, and grooming. For tips on navigating your Bulldog’s first year and beyond, we’ve turned to Brenda Fontanos, AKC Bulldog breeder and owner of Font A Nose Bulldog in Lebanon, Oregon, and dog trainer Louise Daigle of Red Pointy Dog Training in Strafford, New Hampshire.
Growth Stage: Between 8-16 weeks
Training goal #1: Socialize Bulldogs with other dogs
Bulldogs are social creatures who adore spending time with humans and other dogs, which is why it’s critical to get them used to meeting new canines and people. Most importantly, you’ll want to keep all interactions with new people and pups fun. “Proper socialization involves quality interactions, not a lot of random ones. So, curate your puppy’s friend list to make sure they are only interacting with other dogs that will behave appropriately towards them,” says Daigle.
Daigle recommends the AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy program to teach your puppy manners and get them socialized to other dogs.
Training goal #2: Get Bulldogs used to grooming
Wrinkles are adorable but can house bacteria and yeast if not cleaned several times per week with peroxide and dried with cornstarch. Fontanos says it’s important to get puppies used to grooming from day one. “Gently wipe their wrinkles down daily with paper towels or soft tissues to keep them dry and get the pup used to being handled,” she says.
Daigle recommends making a game out of grooming sessions. “Smear some peanut butter or canned pumpkin on a lick mat, chew toy, or even the front of your refrigerator. Let your dog get interested and allow them to start licking at the goodies,” she says. Then, once the pup engages with the treat, you can begin handling them and wiping down their wrinkles.
“Use this game in the beginning for things that may not be scary like simple petting and brushing before you try cleaning their faces and paws,” she says.
Training goal #3: Show Bulldogs what to chew
Bulldogs love to chew on everything in sight, especially when they’re teething. Give your Bulldog a sturdy rubber toy to chew on, recommends Fontanos. “If they get a hold of something they shouldn’t be chewing like a shoe, distract them and quickly replace that with the acceptable chew item,” she says. Most importantly, always praise Bulldogs when they’re chewing on something acceptable to positively reinforce the behavior.
Puppy stage: By 6 months
By this age, your Bulldog puppy should play nicely with other dogs, chew on appropriate toys, and be ready to continue basic obedience lessons.
Training goal #4: Teach basic commands to your Bulldog
Start training your pup with basic commands like “Sit,” “Stay,” and “Leave-It.” Then move on to commands like “Drop-It.”
Bulldogs have a strong grip once they bite down on toys, so it’s imperative that they learn the “Drop It” command. “The most important piece in training ‘Drop It’ is to never simply take the item from your dog,” says Daigle. This could lead to resource guarding.
“Instead, you should always trade the dog up for the item they have,” she recommends. For example, if your pup has a sock in their mouth, offer the pup a treat, which is more desirable than the sock, and to eat the treat, the dog must release the sock.
Training goal #5: Potty train your Bulldog
To avoid unwanted accidents within the home, you must potty train your pooch. Fontanos recommends taking the pup out every hour on the hour to the spot where you want the dog to eliminate during the day, for several days. You’ll also want to take away food and water three to four hours before bedtime and give your pup a potty break just before you go to sleep and first thing in the morning. And, she recommends crate training your pup too.
“Crating Bulldog puppies when you’re asleep keeps them out of trouble, keeps them from chewing things you don’t want them to, and prevents accidents,” she says.
Training goal #6: Exercise your Bulldog in cool temperatures
Bulldogs are a brachycephalic breed because they have short muzzles that make breathing difficult on hot, humid days. For this reason, Fontanos recommends exercising your Bulldog very early in the morning or late in the evening, avoiding the extreme heat of mid-day. “If your dog is panting a lot, it’s time to take a break and get your dog cooled down with some room-temperature water.”
Always bring ample water for your dog, recommends Daigle. And she says that you can outfit your pup on warmer days to keep them cool too. “There are a number of cooling jackets now that can also be quite effective in keeping our pets’ temperature within the normal range.”
Of course, you can always exercise your pup inside anytime with the air conditioner on when it’s hot outside. You can even create an indoor playroom for your pup.
Growth stage: By one year
By the time your Bulldog is one year old, your pup should know basic obedience and be used to a daily feeding and exercise routine.
Training goal #7: Get your Bulldog involved in AKC activities
These pups are able to participate in activities like obedience classes, tracking, and agility as well, as long as the weather is temperate. “Bulldogs are very smart and AKC Canine Good Citizen classes teach them all the basics,” recommends Fontanos.
Daigle recommends incorporating training classes in your Bulldog’s exercise routine. “Mental stimulation is just as important to a dog’s quality of life as staying physically fit. Consider challenging your dog to learn new behaviors or take a training class,” she says. After all, teaching your Bulldog how to walk nicely on leash, stay for greeting, or even perform tricks, are wonderful ways to tire them out.
Training goal #8: Take precautions around water with your Bulldog
Bulldogs love water but are poor swimmers due to their body structure. Shallow kiddie pools are always a fun activity for a Bulldog, as long as you are around to carefully supervise your pup while they play, advises Fontanos. And, when around lakes or oceans, always be safe and outfit your Bulldog with a life jacket.