Am I doing enough for my dog?
July 1, 2011 2:09 PM   Subscribe

How can I ensure my puppy's quality of life while we're both trapped at home?

A month ago, my partner and I--both first time dog owners--welcomed a 3 month old French bulldog puppy into our lives.

As I'm not currently working, I stay home with the puppy. I prepare her meals, watch her, walk her, and take her out to potty every few hours (we live in an apartment). The puppy, however, frequently seems bored at home. We have a number of rubber chew toys that she'll pay attention to, if only for a few minutes before she wanders off in search of something new to gnaw on (which I try to discourage through distraction). She'll be in a playful mood a couple of times a day, but I can only tickle her tummy and toss toys for her to retrieve for so long. Sometimes, she doesn't even seem interested when I try to engage her in play either.

We try to take her out with us whenever possible to get her used to new sights and sounds, but is all this enough for her? We're crate training her, so we'd like to have her stimulated during the day and tired out by the time it's bedtime. I'd take her to puppy socials and such, and we'll check out dog parks once the vet gives us the green light, but right now, my partner and I only have one car between the two of us, which he uses to get to work.

Perhaps I'm anthropomorphizing her, but could I do more to make her life at home better or more interesting? I want to raise a healthy, happy, well-socialized dog with strong bonds to her humans. Please advise!
posted by peripathetic to Pets & Animals (18 answers total)
How about another puppy? Two are no harder to take care of than one.
posted by wherever, whatever at 2:17 PM on July 1, 2011

Puppies need like 18-20 hours of sleep a day. Is she bored or just exhausted?

You're interacting with her a ton, and that's great. Dogs in the wild don't actually do much - sleep, look for food, eat, sleep - and they don't need constant stimulation. In fact, they need to learn to be bored or they become the kind of dog you can't leave for more than 2 hours.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:18 PM on July 1, 2011 [6 favorites]

Puppies are a challenge to raise, and you will always worry about how to keep them entertained, but Lyn Never is right when she says that for the most part, you should just try to tire them out then let them sleep. Once it's older, your dog will likely spend a lot of time just dozing.
posted by Gilbert at 2:30 PM on July 1, 2011

Does she have to work for her food? As Lyn Never says, in the wild they spend a lot of time looking for food. You can provide some of that stimulation by putting her meals in a food toy (a Kong or other puzzle toy). I've also done some training with my dog at dinnertime using her kibble as treats to wear her out when she's stir crazy. (Training in general wears her out, whether it's for her meals or not. Plus -- better behaved dog! And/or fun tricks!)
posted by katemonster at 2:41 PM on July 1, 2011

I've found that often the simplest (and best solution) to most dog problems is longer walks. Does she seem tired after your walks? If not, go for longer. My new pup was under a year when we got her and we quickly learned she needed two hourlong walks a day, otherwise she got anxious and gnawy and had energy to burn on destructive habits. In the 7 months since, she already needs less walking time to be settled and now mostly sleeps when she's at home.
posted by ORthey at 2:45 PM on July 1, 2011

How about another puppy? Two are no harder to take care of than one.

While this is generally true with cats, it is not so with dogs. It is extremely difficult to raise two puppies together. Puppies require individual attention.

An older, socialized dog is a good companion for a puppy, but a puppy plus a puppy? Mayhem.
posted by Seppaku at 3:09 PM on July 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

when i got my dog as a puppy (weimaraner), i worked from home. i did all the things you did and i also started training her early. it was only about 5 mins a day every couple of hours but he ended up learning most of his basic commands even before we started puppy classes.

also, keep in mind that frenchies just don't do a whole lot. my best friend has one and she's always been pretty much content with her walks and then napping during the day when my friend is at work. even when they are home, she just sits on the couch with my friend, either snuggling up or working on a chew toy.
posted by violetk at 3:13 PM on July 1, 2011

Are there any kids in your neighborhood? Take your puppy out in the front yard to play and see who comes to see her. If there are kids make sure to invite them to come back and play with her. You might just find a few new friends for you and the puppy.

I recommend taking her around to some places you know kids will be playing. Let her get to know kids now so she knows how to behave around little people too. Socializing isn't just for other dogs.


I am completely disgusted by your total lack of pubby pictures. How am I supposed to live vicariously through puppy owners if they don't post the required photographic proof?
posted by TooFewShoes at 3:23 PM on July 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Thank you for the excellent answers! I practically want to mark every single one as best answer, though getting a second dog is out of the question for now. Not until we're confident about our puppy-rearing abilities, and definitely not until we have more space for two dogs.

Our pup's pretty independent and not at all clingy. She's fine being bored on her own, but she's absolutely curious about other people and dogs and foreign objects on the ground when we go out. She gets crazy excited and jumpy, which is why I'm being a bit careful about her meeting the kids at the playground near us. Most dog training books say to ignore a puppy and not give her any attention when she's hyper, so we do that and instruct our friends to do the same, but it's harder with passers by or kids who want to pet her.

She's getting some training from my partner (something for him to do to bond with the puppy when he's home from work), but it looks like I should actually work on training her in short sessions throughout the day nonetheless. I'll try extending the length of her walks as well - she currently goes on three twenty to thirty minute walks each day.

Re: puzzle toys for dogs - we have a Kong, but it's empty. I've heard about stuffing it with peanut butter and then freezing it, but doesn't that get really messy once the puppy goes at it?

And all right, here are some pics of our oversized Beanie Baby!

Oh dear god. She's chewing on our coffee table now - new behaviour, and it looks like teething is taking place in earnest!
posted by peripathetic at 4:03 PM on July 1, 2011

we have a Kong, but it's empty. I've heard about stuffing it with peanut butter and then freezing it, but doesn't that get really messy once the puppy goes at it?

No. The puppy will eat every. single. atom. of that peanut butter, and kongs are designed for being chomped upon. Having said that, the puppy in question devoured the peanut butter in two minutes, not the hour or so the pet store claimed, so ymmv.
posted by Melismata at 5:06 PM on July 1, 2011

You need to exercise the puppy's brain (and do NOT bring another puppy into the mix, please, for the love of wossname). Training - teach some tricks, teach basic obedience. Five minutes here and there will make all the difference. Puppies don't need constant stimulation, but they DO need to learn and exercise their brains and bodies. Get a clicker trick book and a clicker and work with your puppy's meals.
posted by biscotti at 5:23 PM on July 1, 2011

Peanut butter alone does tend to go pretty fast in the Kong. But there are lots of other things you can do. I packed it with my pup's food layered with cheese, which went pretty quickly. I've done more complex layers, sometimes with freezing PB or melting cheese, and they last longer (sometimes more than 45 minutes). But even if it's just 5 or 10 minutes for her meal, it takes way longer than the 30 seconds it takes to inhale her food from the bowl.
posted by katemonster at 5:53 PM on July 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

I agree that puppies in general need a lot of sleep, it is also important to know that Frenchie's were bred to be lap dogs and they do that well.

Even though your pup acts super excited about people you should also try to socialize her at this age to people of all shapes and sizes. It is the best way to get her to calm down around people. I would leave the ignoring to training things only.. for example ignore her if she jumps up on you, if she is barking, or something like that. My favorite trick is to cross my arms and look away, dogs are good at reading body language.

I would say that although she is getting training from your partner you should do some on your own as well. It is an important part of bonding with a new puppy and will help the puppy learn what YOU want. Both of my dogs look for different cues between my husband and I.

I would discourage the kong with peanut butter. Exposing a young puppy to that much peanuts is asking for food allergies, as well as a bunch of calories that your not overly active dog doesn't need. Instead try one of these. Just fill it with Moxie's dry food and let her push it around making it fall out. My dogs absolutely love this game, just make sure you teach your dog how to use it so they don't try to rip it open immediately. This should be easy, since I managed and my dogs love to kill all of their toys. :)

Also, she is SOOO cute!
posted by trishthedish at 8:07 PM on July 1, 2011

This is an excellent opportunity to train your dog. Teach it the things it needs to know to be a good citizen--sit, stay, come, leave it, on/off the furniture, quiet, loose-leash walking. Still bored? Teach it tricks! Fetch! Do it with the puppy's breakfast when she's good and hungry and motivated.

Instilling these skills early will make you a much happier dog owner for years to come.
posted by thinkingwoman at 10:18 PM on July 1, 2011

Another good busy treat is to embed a lovely, stinky treat like a bit of chicken or cheese or a liver treat in an ice cube.
posted by thinkingwoman at 10:20 PM on July 1, 2011

I love little Moxie!!! A good way to keep her busy is to tie her leash to you so she goes where you go and learns your routine throughout the day. It's also a great way to bond with her.
posted by wherever, whatever at 11:51 PM on July 1, 2011

I would highly recommend crate training your puppy. It will be some effort now, but in the long term, you and your dog will be much happier for it. Dogs have a natural den instinct, so she will probably take to it really quickly. Googling "crate training" will have plenty of info to get you started.

Also, +1 to katemonster. Make her work for her food. It's never to early to start obedience training, and it will go a long way to having a well socialized pup you can trust to behave well in all situations.
posted by AaRdVarK at 9:54 AM on July 2, 2011

Honestly I think you're doing everything you need to. And damn that dog is cute!

Puppies have short attention spans, just like kids. I wouldn't be too concerned with her wandering.

I would start puppy training classes as soon as you can (although I understand having transportation issues) but in the meantime you should practice with her at home. I don't have any specific books or websites to recommend, but perhaps comb through some of the other AskMes or watch some YouTube videos. Get some small, low-calorie treats to use as rewards. Training will keep her brain stimulated and will help reinforce good habits early.
posted by radioamy at 12:50 PM on July 6, 2011

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