House  Manners

     Stirring up the most anxious feelings for the new dog owner is the contemplation of housetraining.   French bulldogs have a bad "rep" in regard to this facet of their socialization.  After housebreaking a countless number of puppies of this breed and a few other breeders  in a  different size and temperament, I can assure you of two things: (1)  In spite of the dog's ancestors being amongst a gene pool  thousands of years in your history, there is no French Bulldog that cannot be housetrained;  (2) Rate of progress to 100% success will coincide with  your own consistency in  observation, understanding,  and communication with , and control of your dog within his environment.


     Understanding your pup's deepest instincts will lead to success in all facets of domesticating what once by nature was a wild pack animal.   The canine's deepest urgings are to be a sociable creature living within a set order of rules. The canine was a den-dweller  where gathered with others of his kind, his existence was safe, warm, and clean.  As young wild pups, the litter followed their mothers out of the den as soon as they could waddle on puppy legs.  Their strongest sense being that of scent, could identify their own "out-out" spot and relieved themselves in their own area.

     Since the pups do not differentiate between the inside and outside of your home, the mat or a pee pad on your flooring, you must establish good communication between yourself and the puppy or adult dog.  Your space is too roomy and being separated from a mother and a pack with order, the dog must learn a new rulebook of order (humans tend to call this "structure" or "routine") or he will establish a den(sleeping area) and an "out-out" area.


    Before making the puppy or dog a member of your "pack", decide on his den and where the "out-out" place will be. Consider options for the training program that work best with your lifestyle and buy the necessary "tools" to establish a den and "out-out" place.  You should decide on a mealtime hour(s), whether to paper or pee-pad training vs. a strict schedule of frequent outdoor walks or blending the options into your program.   Regardless of the housebreaking routine you choose, stock up on rewards, remembering that "food" is the primary reward used in behavior management. For puppies, it is the quickest ways and means to successful results.


    It requires "barriers" and control of the environment to establish a doggie den.  This requires a crate for crate training, a small room (not as effective because rooms are too roomy), an exercise pen plus crate, and perhaps baby gates.  A barrier can even be concocted from cardboard boxes to be used on a temporary basis.


    Fortunate are those with a fenced yard and doggie door, however, the French Bulldog is a perfect lapdog and companion pet for apartment dwellers.  For security reasons, we have never put doggie doors in our household exits, and I actually doubt that a rapid rate of success in this training will happen unless you participate.  Remember, the dog's ancestors walked outdoors with the litter of pups following - that instinct is still a strong inclination within the heart of your modern-day pooch....probably stronger within the yearnings of the French bulldog who somehow can act so independent but in reality depends on closeness of his owner companion for most every function.  I am totally convinced that this breed models after those humans in his den-space. The quickest way to the goal is to lead the way.

    For apartment dwellers, a collar or harness  and lead is necessary to journey to  the dog's territory.  For those with a yard with or without a fence, lead the way to the "out-out" space you have chosen to become  the dog's own "territory".   Sometimes it is helpful to take an exercise pen outdoors to limit the territory that you are establishing for elimination.  Remember this is serious business, so fold hands behind your back or cross your arms, refusing to convey any notion that this trip is for playtime. Look in every direction but at your pooch so the only stimulation it receives from you  is your "cue" word reinforced by body language.  "Out-out", "do your biz", "go potty" are possible vocal cues. A handclap works well for a physical cue.  After a few successful potty walks, you'll see that your dog will look toward you to see if you are going to appreciate his efforts by exclamations of praise, handclaps, and hopefully the reward of pats.  playtime or a bit of doggie biscuit.   

   For young puppies of this breed in the fiercest of winter weather, I began using piddle pads indoors just a few years ago.  Dogs that are trained to use these pads do not easily differentiate between these pads and throw rugs until they are much much older so give this careful thought because not all will transfer learning from a pad indoors to a spot  outdoors.  There are benefits from paper or piddle pad training, i.e., avoiding  taking frequent walks in cold winter winds or when the dog is ill, particularly for a breed that more easily can catch a respiratory infection.  As the dog matures, most seem to prefer the outdoors for elimination so behavior can be modified.  Once the dog is crate trained, an exercise pen might be set up indoors with a small crate in one corner, toys and food dish available and a piddle pad in the opposite corner which is one way of arranging the environment and training the dog when owner is away for several hours.


   Only to the human's reasoning is a crate (kennel) punitive or cruel.  To the descendants of a wild den animal, the crate enclosure is a safe haven, protective, cozy, and the French Bulldog likes moments, even hours, of seclusion.  The French Bulldog tends to be very territorial about his "stuff" so a crate provides his private space for meals, napping, chewing on his nylabones or chew hooves as he chills down to head for a nap several times a day.  After separation from his littermates and other pack members, he may whimper and whine off and on the first day in his new den, but confirm this is his safe haven by ignoring his whimperings. Within 24 hours, you will find he expects his food dish served to him inside his new den per the mealtime schedule you have ordained for him. Avoid changing the timing of his daily routine  for at least two weeks after arrival so his psychic and body become finely tuned to your schedule and timing of events.  This reinforces his security and feeling of well-being as a member of your pack.  The structure is his new rulebook of order.  As with maturity of toddlers, the territory and structure can be expanded and modified as the dog matures but through at least 6 months of puppyhood, it is best for both of you to be very consistent about structure, routine, and expectations.   The crate is a tool to help both of you reach 100% success.


    You will watch your new companion dog go from some degree of anxiety to appreciation of his crate with 48 hours of arrival if you will follow this process:

    I use the phrase "kennel up" , "kennel"  or "in" when the dog is put into the crate for the first time.  Of course, the French Bulldog will turn around to face the door. I never toss a treat - that would be too much like a bribe.  With a tidbit of a doggie treat in my fingers, I say "good boy" and let the dog take the treat from my fingers.  The pooch needs to recognize his source of supply!

    His agenda may be full of potty walks, playtime, encounters with the family's children, meeting the neighbors and their dogs, but his mealtimes are delivered privately - in his crate.   His special chew toys or favorite stuffed animal are conveniently kept in his crate.  Leave the room. Disregard the barks or whines of the first 24-48 hours.  Praise the dog when it is quiet and comes out of the crate for the next venue. 


     1. On awakening in the morning or after a naptime.
     2. Upon exiting the crate for any reason.
     2. 5 minutes after finishing a meal.
     3. After 20-30 mins. freeplay for young puppies.
     4. Before your scheduled bedtime and lights out.

     Keep in mind that puppies under 12 weeks of age have little awareness of their physical needs.  To punish a puppy under 4 months of age is teaching it covert behavior, fearfulness, to hold off and urinate or poo in its crate (known as its "safe haven").   Control and holding off for walks is affected by the mealtime schedule, weather that leads to drinking more water, distractions caused by change of environment, increase of activity in the environment, schedule being "off" for the day, and the owner's lack of consistency or lack of observations.  When there is an accident, the environment ABSOLUTELY MUST BE CLEANED of any residual odor. There are a number of enzyme cleaners available for flooring of any type so include an enzyme pet odor cleaner in your "toolbox".