Raising and Training your new French Bulldog Puppy

The following is an excerpt from "The Complete Guide to French Bulldogs" by David Anderson. For more information visit the books Amazon Page.

Author Credit: David Anderson

Raising a French Bulldog from a puppy can be challenging because you have to deal with all of that “puppy behavior” – things like chewing on your shoes, digging in the yard, and whining at all hours of the night. Another problem you may find yourself dealing with in raising a French Bulldog is separation anxiety. In this chapter, you’ll learn some useful tips for dealing with problem behaviors – you’ll also learn about the dangers of separation anxiety and what you can do to prevent it.

Don’t Reward Bad Behavior

Being a good puppy parent is about forming a strong, positive bond with your puppy. It is also about setting boundaries and being consistent in your training. If your puppy doesn’t know what you want it to do, it can’t do it. French Bulldogs live to please their owners, so you need to be clear so your puppy can do what you want. One thing you should avoid doing as a puppy parent is rewarding bad behavior.

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You have probably had the experience of going over to a friend’s house and as soon as you walk in the door, their dog jumps all over you. Many people assume that this is a problem with the dog – that it is overly excitable or poorly trained. The real issue is with the owner. In most cases, it is an issue of reinforcing bad behavior. Think about it – when your French Bulldog puppy hops up on your lap or begs for attention, you probably coo at it and give it what it wants.

What you may not realize, however, is that you are rewarding it for doing something that you will later decide you don’t want it to do. It is cute for a tiny little puppy to be jumping up at your knees, begging for attention – when your adult dog does it, it is an undesirable action. But your dog doesn’t understand why the thing you once rewarded it for is now something you punish it for. This is your fault as a dog owner.

If you want your French Bulldog to be obedient and well-behaved, you have to reward it for being those things. But, more than that, you have to stop rewarding it for undesired behaviors – even if they seem silly or innocent. If you respond to your puppy’s every whine or bark by paying attention to it, it’s going to learn that barking and making noise gets it the attention it wants. If you find your puppy chewing on an old shoe and you turn it into a game of tug-of-war but later it gets punished for chewing on a nice shoe, your puppy is going to be confused.

Tips for Dealing with Problem Behavior

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Being a responsible dog owner is about setting clear boundaries for your dog and for its behavior and then reinforcing those rules. Your puppy is going to do things you don’t like, but there is a right way and a wrong way to deal with it. The worst thing you can do is to punish your puppy for doing something you don’t like, especially when the punishment may not immediately follow the crime. That can be confusing for puppies. This is the problem with rubbing your puppy’s nose in a pee stain hours after it had the accident – it won’t understand.

The better way to deal with problem behaviors is not to punish your dog for them, but to teach your dog to exhibit positive behaviors instead. Think about this – if you find your dog chewing on your favorite shoe you will probably yell at it to stop. But then what happens? Your puppy knows that you are upset, but may not connect your anger with the action. It can be especially confusing if later you play with it with one of its chew toys. The key is to redirect undesired behaviors to a more appropriate outlet so your puppy learns exactly what is and is not allowed.

In the case of chewing, the proper course of action is to tell your puppy “No” in a firm voice and take the shoe away. But it doesn’t end there. You immediately give your puppy one of its favorite toys to chew on instead. When it does, you praise and reward it. If you are consistent in doing this, your puppy is going to learn that you like it when it plays with its toys, but not when it chews on your shoes. Your puppy wants to please you (and it likes treats), so it’ll keep doing the thing you reward it for.

Preventing Separation Anxiety

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Another issue related to behavior that is fairly common with French Bulldogs is separation anxiety. This breed is very people-oriented and Frenchies do not do well when left alone for long periods of time. Even if you do spend a good deal of time with your dog, however, some Frenchies still develop separation anxiety. Separation anxiety happens when a dog starts to display nervous and anxious behavior when it realizes you are about to leave. When you do leave, that behavior can escalate to the point where the dog becomes destructive or even attempts to escape the house. It can be very dangerous.

Because Frenchies are prone to this problem, you should take steps to prevent your puppy from becoming anxious about your leaving the house. One thing you can do is pick an extra special toy or treat that your puppy loves, but only get it out just before you leave the house. This will teach your puppy to associate your leaving the house with something positive, not something negative.

If you notice that your puppy starts to get nervous when you are preparing to leave, you might try desensitizing it to your preparations. For example, if your puppy gets nervous when you pick up your keys or put on your coat to leave, do these things and then go sit on the couch for a few minutes. Or pick up the keys, hold them for a minute, then put them back down. Over time, your puppy’s anxious response will become less severe.

Training Your French Bulldog

As a dog owner, it is your job to make sure that you raise your French Bulldog to be obedient and well-behaved. While Frenchies generally respond well to training and they are eager to please, that doesn’t mean you won’t have to put in some hard work. In this chapter, you’ll learn about the basics of dog training including some important dos and don’ts as well as tips for using food rewards properly. You’ll also receive some insight about whether puppy obedience classes might be right for your Frenchie.

When Should You Start Training?

Many dog experts agree that it is never too early to start training your puppy. While you might not have much success teaching your eight-week puppy to sit, you can certainly start to set the stage for positive reinforcement training at an early age. The sooner you begin training your dog, the sooner it will start to become obedient to you and that is exactly what you want. You want your puppy to grow up into a well-behaved and obedient adult dog.

Dos and Don’ts for Dog Training

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Though you have the freedom to use whatever training method you choose, there are some simple rules you should follow for dog training. Rule number one is to be consistent. This applies to the commands you choose, the training sequences you follow, and the way you issue rewards. Always choose a clear verbal command that is easy to distinguish from other commands, then stick to it – if you change it, even slightly, you could confuse your puppy. You should also follow the same training sequences until your puppy identifies the desired behavior. And always praise and reward your puppy when it does what you want it to do.

The biggest “Don’t” for dog training is don’t punish your dog. We’ve already talked about how rubbing your puppy’s nose in a pee stain won’t teach it not to have an accident in the house. Unless the punishment immediately follows the behavior (and sometimes even then), your puppy won’t make the connection and you’ll just confuse it more – you might even harm your relationship, causing it to fear you or to be nervous around you. Never do anything that will put your bond with your French Bulldog in jeopardy and absolutely never abuse your dog’s trust.

Using Food Rewards

Dogs are highly motivated by food – that is why treats are such an important part of training. But there is a right way and a wrong way to use treats. First of all, make sure that your training treats are very small – you shouldn’t be giving your puppy an entire milkbone each time it performs a task correctly. Training treats should be nothing more than a bite – you don’t want to overfeed your puppy or spoil its appetite for a healthy meal. In fact, you can consider using pieces of its kibble as rewards for a training session scheduled near mealtime.

Another thing to keep in mind about food rewards is that you should only use them until your puppy identifies the desired behavior. Once your puppy gets the hang of a new command, you should start phasing out the food reward so it doesn’t become dependent on that. You should always praise your puppy for doing well; your praise becomes the primary reward.  To keep from overusing treats, you should start using them only every other time your puppy performs correctly, then every third time, then just stick to praise.

Puppy Preschool – Yay or Nay?

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As you start training your French Bulldog puppy you will come to see that it is quite the undertaking. These dogs are very smart and eager to please, but they also have a lot of energy and puppies are always a challenge to control. This being the case, you may start to wonder whether you should enroll your puppy in obedience classes or if you should hire a private trainer. The idea of hiring a trainer might sound good because it will save you from doing the hard work, but the truth is that your puppy will learn to respond to the trainer’s commands – you’ll still have to work with it so that it will respond to you.

Puppy obedience classes are great for a number of reasons. For one thing, they help newbie dog owners learn the proper way to train their puppies. These classes are also a great chance to socialize your puppy to new people and to other dogs. Just remember that you still have to work with your puppy outside of class to solidify its response – you can’t just do one hour of training per week. It should be something you do every day, two or three times a day. But keep your training sessions short and fun – about fifteen minutes each is good.

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