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Today marks 310 days since Rocco was born.

He's a great little guy. Very smart. A slight stubborn streak. Quiet, rarely barks. Playful with dogs and children. I would recommend the breed to anyone who has the time for a dog in their lives.

Before getting Rocco I did a lot of research on the breed, and tried my best to find answers about French Bulldogs. I wanted to know what to expect, and the best way to train my little guy. I figure I would outline some of what we went through and if you found this page as a French Bulldog owner, I hope it helps.

House Breaking: When I got Rocco, I took off a week from work. My entire week consisted of taking him out, every hour on the hour. Yes, I did this for an entire week. I would set my alarm and scoop him up, walk outside and when he went to the bathroom, I would say "Parktime. Parktime.", I didn't yell it, just quietly said it. My sister taught me this, because she trains seeing eye dogs for the same thing - teaching them that the word "Parktime" means - time to eliminate. The key was being consistent. Hourly walks. Saying "Parktime" and it did take me longer than a week, but he figured it out in about a month. Also I rewarded him with treats & petting when he would pee right after I said "Parktime".

Crate Training: My personal opinion on crate training is that no dog should be left in a crate all day. Also I think French Bulldogs have a good personality for crating. They are easy going dogs, with a low energy level. That was part of the reason why I bought my Frenchie. I knew I would be working during the week, and wanted a friend when I got home or on the weekends. Also, I could afford a dog walker. When he was a puppy I would have the walker come twice a day, so he wasn't alone for longer than 3 hours between walks. Once he reached three months I had the dog walker come once a day.

My dog walker has a "doggy day care" option, where she picks up Rocco, and drives him to her home. He hangs out at her home, with her dogs and other ones she watches, from 10am to 4pm - he was exhausted by the end of the day from all the playing. I did that after he reached three months until he was five months during the week. After he reached six months, I scaled that back a bit, so that he did the day care on Tuesday and Thursday, and got a walk once a day on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

At first, Rocco did pee in his crate. This was when he was six weeks old until about twelve weeks old. It didn't happen every day, but I spent a lot of days coming home from work and cleaning his crate. He eventually was able to hold it longer as he got older.

Food: Frenchies do best with all-natural foods. I fed him Wellness at first, but found that it caused a lot of gas & loose stool. I switched to Candidae, and found the Chicken & Rice did a good job with his flatulence. Be very careful when doing your dog food research. I used to think Iams (Procter & Gamble) and Science Diet (Colgate-Palmolive) were good brands until I found out they are owned by big companies, which uses filler and additives, not whole food. I measure every 3/4 cup of food that I feed Rocco. I am very judicious with the amount of "treats" he gets - and only give treats when he works for them. There's nothing worse than seeing an overfed dog.

Exercise: Rocco gets a decent clip of exercise. Daily walks during the week, and the doggy day care keep him content. On the weekends, I usually take him out for a long walk or the dog park each day. I think a Frenchie can get a solid 30 minutes to hour of exercise (which can be a long walk) or playtime (with other dogs or the owner) and be happy. A tired dog is a happy dog.

Training: I took Rocco to a dog trainer at three months. I detailed that experience in another entry which you can read in detail here. Even after that training, I still train him at least twice a week doing puppy pushups (sit, down, stand) and stay & come. Part of the training is being consistent and firm. Here's a perfect example of what I mean:

I was at the local dog park yesterday. The wind blew down branches and leaves into the park and Rocco LOVES chewing & eating branches and leaves. So when he would try to eat a branch, I would use the "Leave It" command, and if he already had it I would use the "Drop It" command. He listened. I must have used it about 30 times, but it was like a crack addict surrounded by coke rocks - he was loving all the branches. But that didn't matter, I didn't just give up or get excited. Kept on him. I watched another owner try to command her Labrador. It was useless. She had a pleading command voice, "Baxter, no! Come on Baxter! Don't eat that Baxter!". She talked to him like he was a six year old human, not a dog. I don't do that with Rocco. Firm commands, and if he doesn't listen, I will approach him and correct.

French Bulldogs have a stubborn streak. Training them takes patience and sometimes it wears on you when for the 1,000th time you say "Leave it" or "Drop It" and he doesn't listen. Happened this morning, where I said "Drop It" while he was walking & chewing on a stick. I had to stop him, reach in his mouth, and remove the small stick. He looked at me with a "It wasn't me!" look and I kept walking.

If you can't do this or won't do this the French Bulldog will walk all over you.

Sleeping Arrangements: When I am watching TV, I will invite him up to lie on my lap. Some experts may say this will send mixed signals, but I think the difference with Rocco is that he doesn't jump up on me and lie down. He will calmly sit and stare at me. This could go on for 20 minutes. Then I will pick him up and put him on my lap. He is usually asleep within 10 minutes after that.

At night Rocco sleeps on the dog bed, in my room, at the foot of my bed.

Walking issues: One of my biggest problems that Rocco and I had were issues with walking. From the first day I got him, my French Bulldog wouldn't walk more than 10 steps before just coming to a complete halt. It was almost comical, because it was almost like him being dragged down the street...then he would walk for a little while...and get dragged some more. It was very, very frustrating.

The fix was somewhat simple - you can't give in. It sounds cruel, but if you stop for your dog, that means he wins. Because then he starts to think that if he stops, you will stop. The more you stop, the more he will stop. Eventually, HE controls the walks.

I would keep walking, and praise him when he walked well. I also gave him treats when he would walk by my side. If he stopped, I would keep walking, with him resisting, down the street. It wouldn't be him getting literally dragged, but he was resisting and walking behind me. Just being consistent, he broke out of it. Today, he still occasionally just comes to a dead halt while I am walking him. I don't stop. Just keep walking and just realize this is part of being a Frenchie dog owner.

Another thing I did was early on, around the house, I would tie the leash to my belt. Everywhere I went - the kitchen, the bathroom, the laundry, etc - Rocco would be leashed to me. This was also important to get him used to always walking with me.

Overheating: I haven't had a summer with Rocco yet. So I will have to write more on this later. The last warm day we had, I had him out for an extended period of time. He was breathing hard and it was different than other days. He was stopping on me much more than normal, and I actually got a bit worried and carried him to the last 1/2 block.

Snoring: My Frenchie snores a bit, but it's not as bad as I expected. I was expecting him to keep me up at night and was worried about him sleeping in my room. He's fine. When I watch TV and he sits on my lap, he snorts and snores slightly. Otherwise it isn't a big deal.

Health Problems: I was aware of health problems of purebred dogs. Early on, Rocco had lots of issues aside from the normal vaccinations. He had canine flu, kennel cough, an eye infection (twice!) and ear issues (wax). You MUST be prepared to deal with this. I bought VPI insurance, and didn't get it for minor things but for major issues. To date, I have spent a good deal of money on the vet bills (I would hazard its well over $1,000). But since he was neutered, I haven't had any issues (that's 4 months so far...)

I don't think it was anything more than a puppy & living in a city environment with many other dogs which contributed to those issues.

Walks: One thing I do, since I am living in the city, is take Rocco just about everywhere I go (unless it is a Supermarket or a Mall). Otherwise, walking about Hoboken, he goes to the stores with me. Often, I ask permission if I can bring a dog inside the store. If they don't allow it, I sometimes keep him leashed outside only when I can see him when I am inside the store. This, again, is a personal issue. I want him to get out of the house as often as possible for exercise - and not keep him trapped inside.

On nights where I am going out to a bar or restaurant, like on a Friday or Saturday, I have been letting him stay outside the crate. So far he has been good. I tried to see if I could leave him out during the workday when he was 7 months old and he did well for about 4 weeks until I found one day that he chewed on my wood furniture. Bad, Rocco, bad. So, he's back in the crate again - we will try it again in a few months.

Once he reaches adulthood and is out of his chewing phase, I will allow him full access of the apartment and see how he adjusts.

That's about it. If you own a Frenchie and have any questions, feel free to shoot me an email. I will help as best as I can.

My Baby Boy Rocco!

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Ok, i'm kidding with that headline.

I won't be one of those gushing types who thinks their dog is a baby with fur. You know who they are. They dress up their dogs in pink colors and talk to them in a "coo-coo" squeaky voice and blow them kisses like their dog is a two year old.

But, that doesn't take away that Rocco was the best decision I have made in a long time.

I'm bad with change. I like to think things through, weigh the decisions, worry a bit about how things MAY change drastically, and then usually shelve my idea and go back thinking about it later.

Like one thing I was worried about was waking up every morning to walk him. I love to sleep. A lot. I'm the kind of person who falls asleep in cars, trains, airplanes, at the doctors office, while watching TV, I sleep in until 11am on weekends - then take another nap around 3pm that same day.

I didn't like the idea of waking up EVERY DAY at 6am to have to walk my dog.

Good news is that I got used to it. Even better news is that it actually forces me to get up, rather than hit the snooze button, and i'm getting into work on time. That's rare for me.

Plus, Rocco has been good about our morning walks. I go out, we do our business in less than 5 minutes, and he gets fed while I take a shower. He plays with his toys, I get out of the shower and he runs over to lick the water off my ankles while I towel myself dry. He's funny like that.

He only takes 10 minutes out of my mornings, and it was well worth it. What was also made things easier was our time we did with dog training.

I got him into dog training early. We have been practicing a lot, and last night we had our second class with Joana Watsky of Sit And Stay. This time it was a group lesson, held in the Elks Club on 10th and Washington. There were about 12 owners and dogs, being taught various commands by Joana. Rocco did great, he was excited to see the other dogs, but listened to me when we did our commands.

The other owners noticed he was well trained. Some were having issues with their dogs, and I told them what I did with Rocco while we trained to get past some of his walking issues or his fear of stairs.

While talking to the other owners outside, I was telling them how you have to be patient. You have to be consistent. I told them how puppies make mistakes (Sorry Randy!) and you just have to work through it. I told them that Rocco knows when it is time to pee.

I was telling this to a young couple who owned a yellow lab puppy. They looked at me incrediously, like I was lying.

I turned to Rocco and said "Park Time!", which is his command word for "It's time to pee, dude!"

Rocco sniffed for a moment and squatted on the sidewalk.

The lab owner's eyes went wide while watching Rocco and said, "NO WAY!"

After he was finished, I moved Rocco aside, and the tell tale pee spot on the sidewalk was there. I winked and said, "Like I said, he's a good boy."

Thanks to my sister Stacey for that training tip!

It's been now almost two weeks with my new dog, and I figure it is time for an update to those who haven't seen my updates on Facebook.

My new puppy's name is Rocco. He's a French bulldog and this week he will be 10 weeks old. I have a dog walker who sees him twice daily, and send me text messages on how he's holding up. I am doing crate training, and not using wee-pads. He's usually not alone longer than 4 hours.rocco1.jpg

The first week, he was waking up around 2-3am, and needing to be walked. The last couple of days he has slept through the night, and even this morning was fast asleep when my alarm went off at 6:45am.

He's a very smart doggie. Took only a few days to teach him to respond to "Rocco" and to learn the command "sit". I have scheduled some puppy training from Joana Watsky in a few weeks, to go over what I need to know about raising a puppy. I have been getting a ton of advice from my two sisters, also. My one sister has raised 6 seeing eye dogs, and my other sister has had about 5 different dogs over her lifetime, some rescues and some from breeders.

Rocco's a puppy, and he gets a lot of attention on walks. But, as a puppy, I can't really take him on super-far walks. Our greatest walk was walking from my condo at Newark and Willow over to Church Square Park on 4th and Willow. He had fun chasing pigeons at 7am on Sunday morning. I don't bring him into the dog run yet, because he's not done with his shots yet. He and I have been running into a few problems on walks. He's a bit stubborn, and I expected this before he arrived. We have been working through this by using some tough love (translation: I walk slow, shuffle my feet and keep my leash fixed to my side. He resists a bit, but eventually follows) and a few pieces of kibble when he walks well along side of me. Our normal early evening walk is about a good 30 minute foray, about 10 square blocks or so (maybe walk to 4th street up from Clinton to Park and then along Park back home).

I used Garden State Animal Hospital on 90th and Kennedy in North Bergen for Rocco's care. I won't use the Hoboken Animal Hospital on 6th and Washington after the whole debacle I had with my cat Honey a few years ago (long story short is my cat was misdiagnosed and it cost me $1,500 in unnecessary surgery - also I hear many stories about that particular hospital overcharging pet owners for frivolous things). Others have recommended the Animal Hospital on 6th and Grand. I have a car, and going to Garden State Animal Hospital isn't too far, and the vet there is a specialist in French Bulldogs, so I like that a lot.rocco2.jpg

He's so far been a very good boy, a few #1 accidents in the condo but I blame myself for not seeing the warning signs fast enough. I'm sure he will get the get the hang of only going outside when his puppy bladder gets bigger and his control is better. I'm taking him out every hour, and 15 minutes after meals & naps.

Every single walk I hear the "Ohhhhh myyyy Godddddd" squeal from a girl who sees Rocco. At first it was funny and I still laugh now, but there are times when i'm just hoping he can go to the bathroom, and have to wave people off. I have been up to Washington Street twice, trying to get Rocco used to people, dogs, sights and sounds. He's been doing very good.

I'm also hoping to find a grass field that is fenced in somewhere in the vicinity where I can take Rocco off leash. If you know of someplace to go (someone suggested Liberty State Park, but I read the rules and it says dogs must be kept on-leash). Have a suggestion? Email me.

Been running into another minor problem with EATING well. Since I have gotten him, my "diet" (not much of a diet, but more about eating right) has been in total flux. Far too often I forget to eat, and I weighed myself the other day and was down 4 pounds between the poor eating and numerous walks. I'm trying this week to get back on track with my diet and exercise, with the last two weeks things have been a bit out of order.

I'll see about getting some new clearer SLR pictures on here in the next week or so.

puppy4.JPG

Well with all the serious talk going around Hoboken these days, how about something fun, and refreshing.

Ever since I bought my condo there seemed to be something just, missing, from my life. I lived with roommates in Hoboken since I moved up here and in some ways they were like a surrogate family or friends that were always at home with me. Now that I lived in my condo alone for two years, it's a bit empty. Even when I lived with roommates and would be watching TV or playing on my computer, it was nice to know there was someone else in the house. Now certainly there's not an exact parallel between a human roommate and a dog, but there's also something there, too. I could have had a cat or a bird or maybe some fish...but I wanted a dog for a very long time.

As some of you know from my Facebook updates, and posts over the last year or so, I have been doing a ton of research into getting a dog. There were lots and lots of factors to consider.

Like...is it right for the dog? I asked Opportunity Barks' Leigh Siegfried about that a few weeks ago, I wrote:

"Hello, I live by myself in a condo. I had dogs all my life, growing up, and my family members and many friends have dogs. I'm an active person, with a fairly busy life, but my weekends & nights are mostly free. I'm interested in getting a new furry friend, but i'm torn with a dilemma. I work about 9-10 hours a day. I certainly can get a dog walker for an afternoon walk, but the dog would be alone most of the day. Is this fair to the dog? I kind of feel guilty for locking up a dog in my condo all day. I'd be around for nights and weekends to be with the dog."

and she replied:

"Look, if everybody that had a dog didn't work 8 hours a day, there would be a lot MORE homeless dogs out there! I think you may want to consider a low energy dog that may already be in foster care, so that the foster folks know that
1. the dog IS crate trained
2. the dog IS comfortable being left alone for hours at a time
3. the dog IS house broken

That sounds like a win-win to me. And remember as you get to know your dog better, they may be able to afford freedom in the house and can get out of the doggie "condo" themselves. Even in a crate, a dog should have multiple things to chew on- kongs, bones, yada, that helps make crate time, less boring and gives a dog access to things to stimulate them.

You can also consider dog daycare if the dog enjoys being around other dogs too, and some walking services even offer mid-day hikes!"

At the time, I was looking to adopt. I did some looking around, getting in contact with various shelters, and viewing what they had available. But, I didn't have a dog jump out at me that was perfect for both me, and the dog.

Some of the factors was that I wanted a low energy dog, a companion breed, that could handle being alone in my home while I was at work. I had my heart set on French Bulldog, Bulldog, Boxer or Boston Terrier. I looked at lots of other breeds, for example, a Labrador Retriever...but didn't think it was fair to have that kind of dog in a condo all day alone.

I know some people are adamantly against dogs being alone at all, but I think Leigh presented a logical argument. The breeder was found by my sister, while we were looking on Petfinder for mixed breed dogs. The French Bulldogs were already 8 weeks old...and available from a registered AKC breeder in Southeast Ohio.

There are friends of mine that very much wanted me to find a homeless dog for my home, and in a way I do feel guilty for not looking longer. But I had to make a decision that was right for me...and right for a dog entering my home. At the end of the day, everyone needs to be happy and this was my decision. I hope that one day I can have more dogs in my life, once I have a home with a backyard, and can help rescue or foster dogs.

I'm very excited at this new chapter of my life. I'm certainly up for any advice from other dog owners and already reading up on what I have to do to "puppy proof" my home.

I don't have a name yet. I have been thinking of a bunch of names and given advice on names like Erving, Scrapple, Rocky, Ben, Will, Krimpet.

Thoughts? Ideas? Comments. Shoot me an email at philly2hoboken@gmail.com. Also if anyone can suggest a dog walker in Hoboken, i'm all ears.

In case you didn't understand my title...

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