Tag Archives: French Bulldog

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.

Dogs put on pandemic pounds, too

We’re embarrassed to admit – we’ve let pandemic pounds creep up on the dogs. We realized the truth this week at the vet’s office. When Hope absolutely refused to put Torque on the scale.

The last several weeks Hope’s French Bulldog, Torque, has been wearing the cone of shame. Another eye injury. And weekly trips to the vet for progress checks.

Torque, a French Bulldog, has put on pandemic pounds

This week, while waiting for the vet, Hope noticed that Torque’s looking a bit thick. He’s definitely an “easy keeper” – which translates to “puts on weight by looking at food.”

We can certainly identify. Unlike the Boston Terriers, who seem to have non-stop metabolisms, Torque gains weight easily. This has been particularly painful for us because we have to carry him up the stairs from the basement. He’s not great at stairs at the best of times. Wearing a cone, they’re impossible. So our weight-lifting has included schlepping a Frenchie up a flight of stairs, multiple times a day.

Pandemic pounds

It’s been months that our regular dog activities have been suspended. And now that the weather’s cold, we’re not even spending much time outside walking, playing, or practicing. So just like us, our dog that’s prone to gaining weight is doing exactly that.

Now that we realize what’s going on, we’ll start our “Torque needs to lose weight again” regimen. And we thought we’d share, because we know if it’s happening with our dog, it’s going on with others, too. 

Great substitutes

We’ve never been able to resist the “puppy dog eyes” look – especially the pitiful one that says “I’m starving!” – even when we know it’s not true. So, to keep the volume of food about the same, and lessen the calorie count, we make substitutions. 

Replacing some higher-calorie food with low-calorie options is as simple as: fill the dog’s bowl as usual, take a handful of regular food out. Replace it with the same size handful of frozen green beans. Then put in a couple extra beans, because guilt.

Veggies are your friends

Most dogs love frozen green beans, and they work great for calorie control. You can use whatever green vegetable your dog likes. Torque adores celery and cucumbers (or raw pickles), so we use fresh veggies, too. Be aware, though, that both of those have a high water content. Which is great for calorie control, but may mean your dog has to go out more often. 

We know there are many, many diet plans, for both dogs and people. Both Fran and Hope are long-time battlers of the weight-control war and firm believers in data. The data shows that when we (or our dogs) use more calories than we consume, we lose weight. Any combination of increased calorie use and decreased consumption results in weight loss, for us and our dogs. It works the same for pandemic pounds as any other type.

Invisible to the fat dog

Torque will never know that he’s on a weight-loss journey. He’s going to be satisfied by the meals he gets, and love every bite. We’ll know we’re successful in helping our fat dog when we see his waist reappear. We’re hoping that will coincide with being able to get back to doing “stuff” with our dogs and dog friends. And the era of “pandemic pounds” will be in the past.

Bad dog mom! Forgot a dog birthday? Shame!

Hope was a really bad dog mom this week. You’d think, with only one kid to keep track of, nowhere to go, and not much to do, that she’d be able to remember important dates.

Not so much. It wasn’t until she looked at her phone Tuesday morning and saw her calendar with the notification “Torque’s birthday,” that she had any clue. Oops. As a matter of fact, she’d mentioned to someone just last week that his birthday was in November. Oops again.

Funny things, birthdays

We all know that Torque neither knows, nor cares, He has no idea what a calendar is, let alone that some dates are more momentous than others. 

It matters to us. Birthdays are more than a way of marking time. It’s a way to celebrate that one soul that matters. To let that being know they’re special, they count, their presence in our lives makes it better.

In the routine and stress of everyday life, it’s easy to take people/dogs/things for granted. Especially in 2020, we get through each day as best we can. Some are better than others. Some are truly difficult. Just like for everyone.

Birthday break

But on someone’s birthday, even a dog birthday, we get to break the routine and find a reason to celebrate. Ironically, Hope’s birthday this year was the day the pandemic lockdown went into effect here – the celebration dinner was carry-out. The first of quite a few lockdown celebrations

It wasn’t her worst birthday ever. That came quite a few years ago when she turned 26. She doesn’t know why it bothered her, but it did. Maybe passing the quarter-century mark. She was also working as a newspaper editor at the time and that was a particularly bad deadline day. And, when she got home, she found out there was fish for dinner. At the time, she loathed fish.

And she felt cheated – because on “her” day, it seemed that no one was celebrating her. It wasn’t true, of course, but it felt that way. And we learned that birthdays aren’t about presents, or cake. Not even ice cream. They’re about making that person know they’re special and enhance our lives. Because everyone needs to know they matter.

Dogs matter, too

Birthday boy Torque

The bad preparation for Torque’s sixth dog birthday has a silver lining. Now that Hope’s been reminded we have an occasion to celebrate, she’s planning a weekend bash for her boy. There will be vanilla ice cream and new toys and chews for the boys. If the weather cooperates and we don’t have more snow flurries, there may even be a meander on the local greenway so he can check out all the pee-mail. The simple joys of being a dog.

Another lesson from our dogs

Torque doesn’t know it’s his dog birthday. It also doesn’t matter to him. Any guilt Hope feels for forgetting is all hers. He does know he got to have fun playing with his mom and family. He knows he had good food, cuddles, and a comfy place to nap. And, when we get around to an actual birthday celebration, he’ll enjoy it enormously.

So, when you see notifications come up on your calendar or social media, take a minute to celebrate the person whose birthday it is. Even if all you do is post a simple “Happy Birthday!” – it lets that person know you thought of them, and they matter. 

Living in the cone of shame

It’s all fun and games until someone winds up in the Cone of Shame.

This time, it’s Torque, with a stubborn eye ulcer. It started last month, and seemed to be healing okay. A little slow, but nothing to worry about. Until, somehow, the boy reinjured it. Our first clue was when he went to rub his face on his blanket and squealed in pain. And your stomach just sinks at the sound of it.

Life’s not easy – especially in a Cone

These days, nothing is easy – for anybody. With the possible exception of our cousin the lawyer who’s spending his shut-down in his Malibu beach house. No, we’re not bitter at all. He’s a wonderful man and we love him dearly, but we do turn off his video on the Zoom calls. 

Anyway, getting back to the point, we always look forward to Spring because winter in the Chicago area is a pain; extra layers, boots, extra time, scraping ice off cars, extra slippery, etc. So the change of seasons means life gets a little easier. Except when you’re in shut down mode and have to take your dog to the veterinarian every four days so she can check on his eye ulcer.

Our vet is a very old-fashioned general practitioner. No appointments, no vet techs. You used to come, sign in, and wait. Nowadays, you come, call to let them know you’re in the parking lot. And wait. We’ve been doing a lot of waiting lately.

Hard to navigate

I (Hope) freely admit that I was a bit cavalier about putting Torque in a Cone of Shame at first. He never wore one after his neuter surgery – he’s a French Bulldog and isn’t flexible enough to reach his “bits.” And he’s generally very good about “leave it!” whether it’s something disgusting in the yard or licking his paws.

When he reinjured his eye, Torque went into lockdown, too. Not a minute without the Cone of Shame unless we were brushing or grooming him. 

The only problem was – we didn’t have one big enough to fit a Frenchie. Our other dogs, Boston Terriers and Brussels Griffons, have all had about a 12” inch neck, or close enough that our array of cones were all about that size. 

Big boy

Torque, however, has a 16 inch neck. Big dog neck, little dog height. And the big dog Cones of Shame are several inches longer. Which means that Torque couldn’t eat, couldn’t drink, and actually couldn’t fit through most of the doorways in the house with the big boy cone on. 

French Bulldog in a cone of shame

So our solution was to jury-rig a smaller cone. It keeps his eye protected, lets him get a drink, and even lets him chew on a bone. And he fits through doorways. 

With the proper-fitting cone on, Torque didn’t really move much. It’s as if putting it on him caused instant paralysis. With the jury-rigged version, he moves just fine. And delights in bashing it into our legs if we’re slow to get out of our little bull-dozer’s way. 


We’re hoping we get good reports from the veterinarians this week. There are two in the practice, and, like everywhere, business has been slow. So they both come to see Torque and seem to take great joy in regaling us with horror stories about bug-eyed dogs (like French Bulldogs) whose eyes have popped out and other grisly details. They seem to find it fascinating and intriguing. It makes us a little woozy. 

So, between one thing and everything, this Spring hasn’t been one bit easier than Winter. Except we refused to wear boots when it snowed two inches in the last week.