Schedules, Accidents, and Patience – Successfully Housetraining your English Bulldog

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

Author Credit: David Anderson

Housetraining is probably the thing that you are least looking forward to doing with your puppy. If you are lucky, the breeder may have already started the housetraining. According to Sandra Fulton-Cooper of Bodanna Bulldogs, “A good breeder has taught your pup to stay clean. Potty training is consistency and repetition. Stick to a schedule.” If you have found a good breeder, it is likely that you will be picking up where the breeder left off. You will want to continue the training in the same way as the breeder has been training the puppy.

Two rules should be followed during this time.

  1. Your puppy is not to be left to roam the house free when no one is around to monitor the puppy. Your Bulldog won’t be pleased with the idea of being in a soiled crate, so that is a deterrent from using the bathroom when you are not around.
  2. Your puppy should have constant, easy access to the locations where you plan to housetrain. If you cannot provide this, you will need to have frequent trips outside as your puppy learns where he is supposed to do his business.

Once you have your training plan, be prepared to enforce all of the rules and restroom schedule. You have a few decisions to help you better prepare and plan for the task ahead of you.

Understanding Your Dog

English bulldog on leash
Photo Courtesy – Amanda Arteaga

Every Bulldog is different, so you are going to need to work with your puppy as an individual to figure out what works best. However, there are some things that are fairly universal for puppies. They almost always go soon after eating and drinking. As Melissa Riley of Stone Quarry Bulldogs recommends, “One of the first things your puppy will do when he wakes up is urinate. Puppies generally eliminate within 10 to 15 minutes of eating; they usually start to sniff around for a place to go before they actually do. Take your puppy to the same place to go every time, so they learn that is where you want them to go and always praise puppy afterwards.”

It may take a while before your puppy understands just what you want in those early days if they have not had training prior to arriving in your home.

Consistency is key with all dogs, no matter their personality or breed. Food is a great motivator, but you need to stick with small treats, or a piece of kibble to keep the puppy from overeating. As your puppy shows signs of being motivated by seeing you happy (for example, they get excited when you do or react by wanting to play when you talk), start using praise as much as treats to reinforce the puppy using the bathroom in the right place.

You will need to tailor the schedule to your puppy’s needs. To start, always plan to take the puppy outside to the bathroom after eating and sleeping. If you successfully get outside right after these two activities, you have a much better chance of getting the puppy to the right place to do business.

Key Words

All training should include key words, even housetraining. You and all family members should know what words to use during housetraining, and you should all be using it consistently. If you have paired an adult with a child, the adult should be the one using the keyword during training.

It would be best to watch a few videos providing some hints and tips on training and the words that are often used. You have to be careful not to select words that you use inside the home because you don’t want to confuse your puppy. Selecting the right word is a lot trickier than you might think because you use some of the words in conversation more often than you might expect (particularly if you are potty training a child at the same time).

Inside or Outside

English bulldog adult
Photo Courtesy – Amanda Arteaga

Eventually you are going to need to train your Bulldog to use the outside only, but depending on the time of year and your individual Bulldog, it may be necessary to start inside. In the middle of a snowstorm is not the time to be teaching your puppy that going outside is required. It is also difficult to teach a Bulldog when it is extremely hot. Both of these conditions will make it far more difficult to train your Bulldog to go outside. Be aware that if you have to start inside, you are going to need to purchase extra pads so that you don’t run out. You will also need to expedite the timeline to train your puppy where the only acceptable places to go are in the home.

If you are able to start outdoor training, know that you are going to need to go out every two or three hours – including in the middle of the night. After a few weeks, you will be able to go outside less frequently, but in the beginning the best way to train is by going outside a lot so that your puppy learns to keep all business outside.

Puppies (and most dogs) tend to use the bathroom after waking up and after eating their meals. Even if it is out of the schedule, make sure you take your puppy out during these times because it is very likely the little guy will need to go. This will make it a bit easier to train him if you are telling your puppy to do something the Bulldog wants to do already.

If you have an area chosen for the restroom, teaching is easier. The Bulldog will begin to associate that area of the yard for one purpose. When you get there, the expectation will be easier to understand faster than if you let the puppy sniff around and go anywhere in the yard. It also makes it a lot easier to clean up the yard as you won’t have to hunt for where the puppy went – it’s all in one place.

Leashes can help in the early days too. If you gently lead the puppy to the area, it will become obvious over time that the Bulldog should go there to use the bathroom, then playtime might be in the cards.

They Are Intelligent – But You Still Need to Be Consistent

You have to be consistent in your approach to training a Bulldog so that they learn to listen to you. They are intelligent and stubborn, which means you really cannot make exceptions. You will need to plan for this based on when your puppy arrives so that you can keep them going to the same place to use the bathroom. If it is going to be too hot or cold, train them by having pee pads inside your home.

As difficult as it is, you need to take a firm, consistent approach, no matter how cute the puppy is. Fight the urge to consider something good enough or close enough. Your Bulldog needs to use the designated area and learn to hold it when inside. This won’t happen if you make exceptions. Bulldogs watch you for cues, and if you send mixed signals, your Bulldog is going to opt for what is easiest.

Positive Reinforcement – It’s about Respect

English bulldogx walking
Photo Courtesy – Amanda Arteaga

Positive reinforcement works incredibly well for Bulldogs, even the puppies. Take a few pieces of kibble with you when you are teaching your puppy where to go. Learning that you are the one in charge will help teach the Bulldog to look to you for cues and instructions. They may try to push you a bit, to convince you that it’s okay to let things slide because they want to enjoy time with you – not be forced to do something.

While you are being firm and consistent, when you puppy does the right thing, you have to lavish the little pup with praise. This is just as effective because Bulldogs love to see their people happy. They want to hear that they are good, and if you give them an extra treat or kibble, this will put them over the moon.

Knowing what you want will make it easier for your Bulldog to start to do things the way you want them done. By focusing on this aspect, you are establishing the respect needed for all future training.

Punishing your Bulldog is strongly discouraged. Punishment trains your Bulldog not to do something when you are around or to do it where you won’t find it. The lesson you want to teach is not the one your Bulldog learns, so stick with positive reinforcement – they understand that very well. Training a Bulldog (or any dog) is not exactly like teaching a human, so you can’t take the same approach.

Regular Schedule, Doggy Door, or Newspaper

The last decision you need to make is how you plan to conduct the training. A good bit of the decision will be based on what you have already considered. Your Bulldog is likely to need to go to the bathroom after the following activities:

  • After waking (both after naps and after night)
  • After spending two or three hours in a crate or their puppy area
  • After eating
  • While walking
English bulldog park
Photo Courtesy – Amanda Arteaga

Watch your Bulldog for cues and to determine what activities make the little pup have to go. Start tailoring your schedule around your puppy’s unique needs.

Puppies have small bladders and little control in the early days. If you have to train him to go inside, there needs to be a single designated space, and you need to stock up on the appropriate pads for the puppy to have somewhere to go that isn’t the floor. The pads are better than newspaper and can absorb more. You will need to plan to transition to the outside as quickly as possible before the Bulldog learns that inside is acceptable – this will be incredibly difficult to retrain later if you let them go inside for too long.

When out for walks is the perfect time to train your puppy to go. Remember, you can use a leash in the backyard to help get the idea of walks and potty across a little clearer.

It’s All on You – Bulldogs Have the Brains, You Bring the Patience

Those brains can make training activities enjoyable, but it can be a problem with housetraining if your Bulldog is stubborn. Guillermo Arango of Bulldog Territory recommends, “Teach the puppy what it is allowed to do. Be consistent, patient, and correct it when it does something wrong.”

You will need to carefully monitor your puppy. They will usually give you some indication that they are looking for a place to go. Also, taking them to use the bathroom before going to bed and immediately after waking will make it easier to reinforce the activity.

Remember that going outside for the bathroom should be the only activity that you do while you are training. Don’t allow for distractions or play. Go directly to the spot and ensure the puppy goes to the bathroom. They have to know that going out to a certain area is business only.

To read more from "The Complete Guide to English Bulldogs" by David Anderson, or purchase on Amazon, visit the link below:

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