just as with any new situation for a person, a puppy or new dog needs to learn the rules of the household and how to get along with the other residents. unless you clearly establish the rules and make learning them enjoyable, it will be harder to have your dog become a happy member of your family willing to obey your rules.
playing is not only fun; it teaches useful social and survival skills. it helps form a bond between you and your puppy. your dog is a pack animal and you and your family members are part of his pack. it is important that he see himself as subordinate to each of the human members of the pack. his early play will teach him this, although he will try to assert his dominance as he gets older, just as teenagers try out the limits of their parents rules.
playing and fun walks on a leash are enough for now. try to spend at least 15 minutes playing with him actively each day - but don't overdo it. he's growing rapidly and you don't want to put stress on his still-developing bones. at this point he will enjoy lots of active play and may not have the sense to know when to stop. use common sense - if he looks like he's overdoing it, he probably is. pick him up and cuddle him while he protests; he will probably fall asleep in your arms quickly. he still takes several longish naps in the morning and afternoon.
just like children, dogs need to be old enough to reliably train to eliminate where and when you want them to. a very young puppy will not be able to succeed and you need ot have patience training them and letting them mature to the point that they are physically mature enough to do what you want.
as a start, you need to take your dog out as soon as it wakes up and after each meal. that is when they most frequently have to go. stay with them outside until they eliminate and praise them. a good reward goes a long way in getting the dog to learn the behavior you want.
if they have an accident i the house, don't stick their noses in it and tell them they are bad. unless you catch them in the act, they won't connect your message with their behavior. if you do catch them in the act, immediately take them outside and praise them when they finish.
although getting outside and exercising is important at all ages, at about six months he should start regular exercise. just start taking him for longer walks, gradually building up the distance. start with about a half-mile and gradually build up to about 2 miles a day. the dog should enjoy his walks - go in different directions and give him some time to sniff and explore. he should work towards a 30-45 minute solid trot, but he won't start at that level. like any exercise program, gradual increase is the key to sound conditioning.
of course, watch out for the summer heat. in the summer walks should be in the early morning or late evening, depending on the temperature and your schedule. if the day is oppressive, skip the walks and play in the air-conditioned house instead.
in the winter, again use common sense. if it's too cold for you, it's too cold for him. salt and chemicals used to melt snow will bother his feet tremendously. they can cause or aggravate interdigital cysts (between his toes), so wash his feet thoroughly if you walk in a salted area. if possible, avoid such areas. watch him to decide if a coat is necessary. we like them for young dogs, elderly dogs and dogs who aren't feeling quite well. a mature, well-padded bulldog probably won't want or need one except on the coldest days.
puppies like hard, solid rubber toys and puppy nylabones. do not give rawhide toys, soft rubber squeaky toys, or any toy with a squeaker or small part which could be chewed off or dislodged. if you let him play with old socks, he will raid the hamper for the rest of his life. when he's older, he'll swallow the socks whole, certainly making him sick and possibly killing him.
in addition, teaching a bulldog to play pulling games may be fun for only a while. one day you are going to want your dog to release something he's holding and the famous bulldog grip will not let it go unless he's trained to release as well as pull. this will be especially important if you want to try your hand at obedience showing.
do not give bones of any kind. bulldogs, even puppies, have especially powerful jaws and can splinter a large bone which will cause severe internal bleeding. do not teach the dogs to play with sticks - they can splinter even sizeable branches quite easily and can puncture their mouths with splinters.
don't give the dogs old shoes or old clothes to chew - they can't tell what is old from what is new and expensive and your absolute favorite. if you leave shoes around, the puppy will chew them - they prefer to chew expensive shoes when given the choice, although we did have one dog who only ate lifts and heels.
bulldog games generally involve chewing - they will play with chew toys throughout their entire lives. your puppy likes to chase balls (hard rubber or nylabone only) or other toys when thrown where he can see them. he doesn't catch them - most bulldogs aren't too good at that - but he likes running, pouncing, shaking and carrying toys. most bulldogs like to play tug-of war - just make sure that you teach the dog to release what's in its mouth on command when it's young or you may have a problem when it's older.
most bulldogs love wading pools and water. he'll probably like the hose or sprinkler. just make sure the water is shallow and the puppy can get in and out easily. supervise - don't let him swim in the lake or river. even though bulldogs swim instinctively, they shouldn't be allowed in water that's more than elbow deep unless supervised closely.
we've heard of bulldogs drowning when there was any kind of current or wake from boats. their heavy breathing makes it easy for them to inhale water. in addition, if they panic, swelling of the throat tissue could result in closing off the airway even if they don't inhale water. if you take him out in a boat, which we don't recommend, a life jacket made for dogs is a necessary safety precaution.
be careful about games near stairs. he may accidentally fall down and injure himself or may decide to explore stair climbing before he is ready. one of the best dogs we've ever owned fractured his shoulder falling down a flight of stairs when he was three months old. bulldogs can take a lot of pain and not show it, but he could carry the limp with him the rest of his life. you can teach him to climb stairs when he's ready, but you need to supervise him whenever he has access to stairs until he really has it down pat. again, he has no real fear of falling at this age.
even if you think his mouthing behavior is cute as a puppy, you won't in another two months - at that point you'll have a much harder time teaching the dog and the nips will turn into real bites. they need to be taught that chewing and biting people is unacceptable. this can be done by sharply saying their name and "no" when they chew. you can detach the puppy by putting a finger on each side of his mouth in front of where the jaws attach and squeezing progressively less gently until the mouth opens.
even if you think his behavior is cute now, you won't in another two months - at that point you'll have a much harder time teaching the dog and the nips will turn into real bites. they need to be taught that chewing and biting people is unacceptable. this can be done by sharply saying their name and "no" when they chew. you can detach the puppy by putting a finger on each side of his mouth in front of where the jaws attach and squeezing progressively less gently until the mouth opens.
another trick is to fold his lip over his teeth. biting himself a couple of times will prove discouraging. it shouldn't take too long (a week or two) before they learn not to bite. in more difficult cases you can coat your hand or arm with a product like bitter apple. the dog will quickly learn that it doesn't taste good when he bites people.
this training is best done by an adult. consistency and firmness are the keys to successful training. a mature, motivated child of 11 or 12 can probably learn to handle the puppy consistently, but younger children should be supervised until they and/or the puppies have developed some self-control. ultimately, your puppy will make a wonderful child's pet, but he has some maturing to do first.
in addition, your dog should be taught to permit people, especially children, to take food from his bowl while he is eating. dogs may be protective of their food and need to learn not to nip or bite. by controlling the situation, you can safely teach your dog to become a good member of your household.