Tag Archives: adopting a dog

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.


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.

Adding a new dog to the family

How do you add a new dog into the family? It’s a question that has almost as many answers as families, because there’s really no “right” way to do it.

We know people who live their lives in shifts. Members of their canine family don’t get along with others, so they allot time with each and shift them around. We’re not willing to live that way, and don’t think you should, either. Our dogs have to get along. 

Make the decision

Picture of a black and tan dachshund puppy being held - a new dog in the family

The first thing to do is take Yoda’s advice: “Do or do not. There is no try.” If you go into the situation knowing there’s a way out, you’re not fully committed to making it work. Give the situation your best effort. Don’t look for an escape.

Unless you have the mellowest dog on the planet, and the one you’re considering is the same, there are going to be some bumps in the road. Puppies are selfish, annoying, and often noisy creatures. Many times adult dogs are on their “best behavior” in a new environment. Their true personalities may only emerge after several weeks.

Plan ahead for a new dog

If you are considering adding a new dog, think about your life and schedule, as well as your available space. Think about how and where the new dog will fit in. How will you adjust times? How much time do you spend caring for the existing dog? Do you have time for another? Do your current dogs like other dogs? Or does he/she take time to warm up? Is the dog food available at all times? What about toys? Is your dog possessive?

These are all things to consider – there aren’t any right or wrong answers. You just have to think about them and make a plan. Maybe the dogs do have to be in different areas until they adjust. Do you have the space? Is your dog crate-trained? Do you have another crate or exercise pen? 

Maybe you’ll have to wake up 15 minutes earlier. Can you do that? Or stay up later? Or come home at lunch to walk and feed. Puppies especially need to go outside for potty training frequently.

Actual meeting

Most experts advise letting dogs meet for the first time on “neutral” territory. Think of someplace the resident dog doesn’t feel he needs to defend.. If possible, it’s even a good idea to walk the two dogs together, on leash, away from home. 

It doesn’t have to be love at first sight. It’s wonderful, but rare. Friendly interest in the other dog is great. Ignoring is good. Hostility will need some time and effort to make it work. In that case, the best thing is to consult a professional, positive-reinforcement trainer. It can be done, but it will require commitment, consistency, and the patience of a saint. 

Make it work

Commitment is key. If you’re adopting a dog from a shelter or rescue, give it time. Dogs are adaptable, in time. Be sure your resident dog sees the same level of interaction, love, play, walking, and affection from everybody in the family. A new dog should add more joy and fun for everyone – even the other dog.