The dog who doesn’t cuddle

What do you do with a dog who doesn’t cuddle? 

It’s a dilemma we’ve been coping with since early July, when a foster French Bulldog puppy came into our lives. There are many breeds of dogs that are naturally more aloof. French Bulldogs, and any breed classified as a “Companion Dog” would never be classified that way. 

Too friendly would be a more apt description. One of the reasons Hope’s Torque doesn’t have Obedience titles up the wazoo is because, when he was younger, he was unable to “Sit for Exam.” He was absolutely convinced that the hand reaching out to touch the top of his head needed to be licked and the judge would welcome enthusiastic greetings. He was mistaken, but remained unconvinced.

The dog in front of us

One of the precepts of dog training is to train the dog in front of you. That means not loading old baggage onto the current dog. See who this dog is and adjust to him. 

Image of an eager white and black French Bulldog illustrating a dog who doesn't cuddle.

There are lots of reasons the foster puppy isn’t like other dogs. He spent many formative weeks sick with a deadly virus. After a week in ICU, he spent many subsequent weeks in isolation. He didn’t have the benefit of a full-time “pack.” For his own safety and the recovery home’s, it just couldn’t happen.

This puppy never learned to relax around other dogs and people. When he’s awake, he’s active. He’s busy, nosy, exploring, chewing, annoying, and exhausting. He’s also sweet, fun, smart, biddable, and a little sponge, learning at a great rate. But he’s never relaxed outside of a crate or exercise pen. 

Project not a pet

When most people look to adopt a dog from a shelter or rescue, they are probably looking for a pet, not a project. But most dogs from shelters or rescues have a history. They may not be from abusive situations, but their known circumstances have changed, and that’s usually not a good thing. 

The ironic aspect is that most newly-adopted dogs use “company manners” for the first few weeks. They don’t understand they’re home to stay. It takes about six weeks or so for the dog’s true personality to emerge. By which time the family loves the dog and is completely committed. So they take on the project that is the dog in front of them.

Commitment to change

We weren’t sure how to cope with a Frenchie who has no particular training issues, but social shortcomings. It’s relatively easy to train a dog to be calm. He can do that. But it requires our constant attention and training. Even if all the other dogs are sacked out, snoozing. He can’t. Torque would like nothing more than to cuddle with him, but the puppy has no experience and doesn’t know how. 

The two keys we preach as dog trainers are patience and consistency. Sometimes it’s hard to be patient. And the guilt is a bit overwhelming. This puppy is crated for many hours a day. Our lives can’t be paused to watch the puppy all the time. We carve out chunks of time to let him be a puppy; playing with toys, with the other dogs, going for walks. But the “down time” just isn’t there.

Progress

The puppy’s recovery continues, and he still requires lots of sleep. Almost dying takes time to get over. And in the wee hours of the morning, when Hope opens the crate door, he belly-crawls over to lay his head on her arm for a few minutes. And that very precious time gives us hope for the dog who doesn’t cuddle.

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