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.