Are French Bulldogs good with Children?
For families with children, this is the ultimate question when choosing a family dog; rightfully so in the best interest of the child(ren) as well as the pet.
French bulldogs were bred with the intention of being companion animals; they were never intended as being working dogs or athletes, and as a breed they have held true to this form. This makes the French Bulldog a very good choice for families who have more time to spend loving and being near their pet and less time exercising away excess energy.
As the ideal 'house dog', the French Bulldog is often chosen for its relatively low-maintenance and easily met daily demands. As such, families often need to know how well a new French Bulldog will fit in with the rest of a household's inhabitants.
It should be noted that French Bulldogs are not especially tolerant of the occasional knocks or careless treatment that children may impose (even children who 'know better').
Generally speaking, French Bulldogs are good with children. They are a playful breed, but are not overly energetic and cannot physically handle extended periods of play and exertion. Play outside must be controlled and monitored to ensure the French Bulldog does not develop difficulty breathing due to over exertion; also, French Bulldogs are very prone to heat-related stress, and so they cannot handle periods of rough or extended play outside in the heat.
Frenchies will do well with proper upbringing and guidance for both child and dog. If your intention is to give your child an energetic playmate that can spend hours out in the yard with them, however, the French Bulldog is not a good choice.
Start With A Puppy
Breed experts recommend adopting a French bulldog as a puppy if he's to be around children. Older dogs may become easily agitated and frustrated if they're not used to children. Elder dogs are not always known for their tolerance of the occasional ear pulling or rough and tumble play little ones can sometimes impose. However if they're raised with children, they become part of the family.
French bulldogs are known for their loyal personalities. They generally become loyal companions and protective guardians. This means they won't tolerate other dogs around their "baby." These bulldogs love the undivided attention a child can give and don't like to share that love with other animals. They are, however, known to play well with other children if properly trained. To completely make your French bulldog comfortable around small children, and people in general, socialization is a must for this breed. Make sure he's frequently introduced to your child's playmates and your friends. Trips to the dog park are a good way to acclimate your Frenchie to new people and make him comfortable around strangers.
Careful With The Head
Frenchies love to rough and tumble with their owners, including children. But children must be taught to not pick up older breeds by his head. His heavy head makes him easy to drop and could result in injury. Immediately teaching your child the right way to handle his dog will result in a happy relationship.
Puppies and Children and Training Both!
It is very important to include children in your puppy's upbringing, regardless if there are any children living the home. You have both a responsibility to children in regards to your puppy, and a responsibility to your puppy regarding the children.
What every child should know about training puppies:
As a general rule of thumb, do not allow a child to handle a puppy without the supervision of an adult, and ensure that all children understand and adhere to all agreed rules of the household and lifestyle with the puppy.
It is also important to remind owners that children do have a knack for winding-up dogs - they move erratically, use high squeaky voices and often play rough and relentless. Therefore, to avoid unwanted social behaviour in later life, discourage your children from rolling on the floor with the puppy, playing chasing games and other such potentially damaging behaviour shaping activities.
Consider that your puppy will likely start to view the child as another puppy, which will not only lead to leadership issues later in the relationship, it will encourage play bites, jumping and lunging attacks, harmless as they may seem. Play bites will not stop when the "game" stops, and will quickly become a stressful problem for the children and the puppies. In addition, teaching a puppy to be chased, in particular, will break-down your later successes with recall and overall obedience and behaviour management.
If you want to include children in the puppy training process (and this is encouraged!), teach the child how to call the puppy to them and initiate gentle play with the focus on a toy instead of the child's hands or feet. Having the puppy come to you, rather than going to the puppy establishes rank in the household and builds the foundation for recall, instilling that going to the owner is rewarding.
If the puppy becomes reliant on being visited or retrieved by its owner, its less apt to care where its owner is in later life - a curious dog that has been conditioned to having its owner follow their actions will wander off with little concern over getting lost.
In addition, get the children involved in the puppy feeding routine and early puppy training exercises. Feeding the puppy will also establish their hierarchy and enable them to teach and instil a few of the most important early command words: "sit", "leave" and "wait".
Below are tips to teaching children handling skills, first through the use of their body language and voice and then through simple exercises and puppy games.
Getting children involved in puppy training
Most children, like most puppies, have short attention spans - they may show genuine desire to learn and partake in the obedience practises for the puppy, however, without the guidance and support of the senior members of the household, all good intentions are liable to back-fire for all involved. For children, it is best to keep it simple and give them rules and responsibilities that are easy to follow and assured to produce mini-victories that will build confidence in later dog handling. To start, concentrate on 2 main areas of canine communication:
Dogs rely on body language as a primary communication tool with each other. Dogs are highly perceptive with unknown depths into the complexity of these skills. Consider this fact in the non-verbal communication you have with your dog. On simple terms, hovering over a dog initiates play and standing tall commands attention, and most often the end of action. With this said, practise the following standard response exercise with children and the puppy: If at any time the puppy demonstrates unwanted behaviour during play (jumping, nipping, et. al.), immediately stop action and stand tall and completely still with your hands held closely to your chest. Do not make eye contact with the puppy, as this also is a form of body language. Should the puppy continue, or increase the behaviour, continue the ignore. The ignore offers no reward for the puppy and eventually the puppy will change their behaviour to earn a reward. Most often the puppy will resort to sitting attentively awaiting your next move - and the moment the puppy makes this choice, offer the reward!
Should the puppy resume the unwanted behaviour upon receipt of the reward, repeat.
Additionally, remind children that dogs, most especially puppies, read flailing arms and legs as invitations to play. You may think you're telling the dog to stop or go away, but what you are really telling the dog is "I'll keep playing if you keep playing".
The Use of Voice
Often times, it's not what you say, but how you say it. Body language plays a part in how a dog responds to a command, but without the careful use of the voice, many dogs tune it out as literally the foreign language that it is. Teach children how to earn a response from a puppy by focusing on the following key areas of the voice.
Using Command Words
Determine a short list of command words children may use with the puppy. Command words should be single words, such as "sit" or "off" and should have direct meaning, such as "put your bottom on the ground" and "do not jump on me". These words should be used exclusively and not coupled with additional words. For example, to a puppy "sit" and "sit down" or "sit here" or even "sit sit sit" are not all the same command - avoid confusion and keep it to one word.
Once you have identified your command words, practise how to use the words through careful and creative vocal pitch, volume and inflection.
Vocal pitch plays an important factor to getting the response you desire - low pitch signifies authority or confidence, high sounds are associated with excitement, fear or threat (depending on the situation). It is ok to use a high pitch, if you are trying to initiate play, or as a tactic for recall, but as a general rule, dogs respond to commands that are relatively low-pitched and with meaning.
With this said, have children practice their commands using a firm, clear and low vocal pitch - teach them to tell the puppy what they want them to do instead of asking them to do it.
Dogs don't respond to loud noises as humans do - loud noises may startle them, and it may get their attention, but it won't earn long term results. While there is a time to yell "NO!" at the top of your lungs (to stop a puppy from running towards trouble), dogs will ultimately respond better to "Sit!" versus "SIT!!!".
With this said, tell children not to yell or scream command words. Although they may experience some frustration, the lack of firm, calm creativity of the voice will get tuned-out over time.
Commands are typically verbs, because you are asking your dog to do something. Take this one step further and say the command as if it were an adverb, in other words, how you want the puppy to perform the task. Give the word a purpose. Here is an example: Instead of saying "down", or worse, "DOWN!!!" experiment with a creative "DOoowwwn" which makes best use of pitch + volume and clearly communicates, "I command you to perform this action".
Have children record and/or remember when the puppy responds and when they do not and teach them to be consistent with what is working. When voice is varied, the puppy will remain interested, when it isn't, you will all find that commands may blend together into a big mass of mush before you get them to respond.
How to Play with your Puppy
Games have a variety of benefits for both you and your dog! Games are excellent bonding opportunities and are mental, physical and emotionally rewarding - not to mention positive outlets for a puppy, discouraging self-inventive dangerous and/or destructive choices. As importantly, games teach puppies particular behaviour, behaviour shaping that will play a key role in steadfast obedience in later life. The more your puppy learns, the easier they are to teach, and the quicker they learn new things.
Everything you do with your dog teaches him something! Make sure that the games you play foster the behaviours and attitudes you want ... Good games promote cooperation and control.
Puppy Obedience Games
How to Play with your Puppy
Teaching obedience need not be formal, complex and something you wait to introduce once the puppy reaches a certain age, rather it can be incorporated into literally everything you do from the moment you welcome your new puppy into your home. The following exercises and games are easy to teach and will set the foundation for future learning. The following games are also easy for children to practise, provided the guardian had worked with the puppy extensively first and is thoroughly assured that the puppy has a soft mouth, the first exercise in the list:
How often do we hear that puppy bites hurt? It is because puppy bites do hurt. Puppy teeth are sharp and puppies need to be taught how to take food gently from human hands. The moment you bring your new puppy home, start teaching them to have a soft mouth.
Note: It is paramount to be absolutely and without a doubt sure your puppy has a soft mouth before allowing any child to offer food to them, regardless of its age or size.
Hold a tiny titbit in your hand and show the puppy. The puppy will likely lunge at the food in the attempts to steal it. The idea here is to deny the puppy the food unless they take it gently from your hand and on your terms. With this said, should the puppy lunge, calmly vocal correct, "ah ah" and pull the food away from them.
The puppy will soon understand that lunging offers no reward, so they will most likely sit attentively, focused on the food in your hand. When they do this, slowly bring the food forward and gently offer it to them, but not yet releasing the food into their mouth. Allow them to mouth it in your hand, but immediately pull away again, should you feel any amount of pressure from their mouth or teeth, or any other part of their body. Once the puppy learns that the only way to keep the titbit in their mouth is by keeping their mouth soft, you may release the food. Repeat over and again until the puppy's mouth is soft 100% of the time.
What's your name?
A really great game to have a child practise with the puppy is the name game. Regardless of whether you believe you puppy knows its name, teaching a puppy that they are rewarded when they look at you pays dividends in later learning. Have the child hold a tiny titbit in their hand (yet not obvious to the dog as to distract them) and have them say the puppy's name. The second the puppy responds to the name (by making eye contact), offer the reward and repeat its name. Practise a few times in a row and in different environments with varying distractions.
Sit is the first command most puppies learn - it is also the easiest command to teach. In addition, sit is a multi-purpose command that will be used in combination with countless future commands and obedience exercises. Therefore, teach early and practise often.
Have the child hold a tiny titbit in their hand (although in this case, it is ok to have the puppy smell the tidbit). Stand tall and hold the titbit high on the chest and close to the chest (adults may demonstrate this exercise on their knees as to be close to the same height as the child) - the natural response for the puppy is to look up at the titbit in the hands, which will naturally cause their bottom to touch the ground in the sit position. As soon as this happens, say "sit" and reward with the treat. Once the dog is automatically sitting when the hands are held to the chest, start saying the command word first and only rewarding when the puppy sits.
Wait is an excellent early command word to teach that has many useful benefits both now and later. Wait, different from stay, is a command that teaches a puppy to keep focus on you until further instruction is given. The choice is made by you, not the puppy.
Put the puppy in a sit and place a titbit on the floor about 1-2 feet in front of them. Give the command word "wait" and keep eye contact with the puppy. Should the puppy make a move for the food, pick it up before they can get to it and give the vocal correction "ah ah". Put them in a sit again, say "wait" and repeat the exercise. When the puppy has successfully waited for a few seconds, pick up the treat and give it to them with high vocal praise, "good puppy!". Very slowly increase the amount of time the puppy waits before you give the treat.
Hide & Seek
Put the puppy in a sit-stay (may require two players - outside of the puppy). Show the puppy a treat and go hide, calling the puppy's name once hidden. The puppy is to search until you're found. This game teaches a puppy to come when called and how to find you when you can not be seen, also teaching the art of scenting.
Show the puppy a ball or toy and invite a controlled game of fetch. Start the game with a command word the puppy is learning such as, "sit" or "wait". Throw the toy a short distance and encourage the puppy to both get the toy, but to come back to you. Use simple command words through the process such as, "get it" and "bring it" and make a big fuss for every successful stage of the game. End the game on a high note and when it is still interesting to the puppy. Remember that established leaders get to decide the rules of start & stop and how the game is played.
Present the puppy with a toy and invite play. As with the game Fetch, but even more importantly with this game, you are in charge of the rules using commands such as, "take" or "OK" and "drop" or "out". End the game with possession of the toy and keep the toy until the next game.
This is another leadership exercise that also teaches self-control. Should the puppy get over-stimulated during this exercise, end abruptly and use sparingly. If the puppy plays aggressively, do not engage in this game.
Tricks exercise your dog's mind, teach focus and enable you to bond together. Simulate the desired behaviour (i.e. getting your dog to give you a paw) and reward the behaviour several successful times in a row before you introduce its name "shake" - otherwise the word will have no meaning. Do no overwork any given trick, just revisit it often and always end on a high note.
Similar to tricks, mind games exercise and build brain power (and are a lot of fun!). Teach your puppy the name of its toys, family members, location of its bed, etc. Hide your car keys and tell the puppy to "go find" or write a love note on a piece of paper and teach the puppy to deliver it to the person next to you... be creative!