Don't let the wrinkly outer skin folds and wobbly gait fool you. Underneath that unmistakable appearance is a buff bulldog with muscles just waiting to spring into action. If your loving bulldog has become more of a couch potato, there are healthy, safe ways to build muscle through diet and the right kinds of exercise.
Differentiating English and French bulldogs
The dog most often called the bulldog is the English bulldog, not to be confused with the French bulldog. Both have the distinguishing flat and adorably wrinkled face, but English bulldogs are much larger, standing 14 to 15 inches tall at the withers (shoulders) and weighing up to 40 pounds for females and 50 pounds for males. French bulldogs, affectionately nicknamed "Frenchies," stand 11 to 13 inches tall and weigh under 28 pounds. Although the body is more defined on the seemingly more muscular French bulldog, that doesn't mean English bulldog muscles are lacking.
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Reassess your bulldog's diet
Before attempting to increase or change a dog's exercise routine, check out the quality of his diet. First, dogs should be fed according to their stage in life, preferably with commercial dog food specially prepared and marked for puppies, adult dogs, and seniors and fed in the amounts and number of times daily recommended by your veterinarian.
If you prepare your own dog food, make sure each meal is nutritionally complete with protein, carbohydrates, and fiber in amounts appropriate for the dog's age. Puppies need more protein than adult dogs, so ask your vet the types and amounts of food you should feed your dog. Table scraps are no-nos because they're high in fat and often contain ingredients that are toxic to dogs, like onions and garlic. While increasing the protein in your dog's diet to build muscle sounds logical, you do so at the expense of other nutrients in a balanced diet, so consult your vet first.
It's easy for dogs to become overweight by feeding them too much or too often, and overweight dogs accumulate fat rather than build muscle, have a harder time exercising, and face big health risks. So, make every calorie count by ensuring that it's nutritious and count every calorie, including those in treats. If you know you give your dog six treats during daily training/play sessions and each treat is four calories, allot 24 calories in his daily diet for treats.
Choose exercise carefully for buff bulldogs
Exercise is critical to bulldog health and, like food, different exercises are appropriate at different life stages. For example, puppies should not do jumping exercises until their bones have finished forming completely. Senior dogs often have issues like arthritis, which can make some exercises painful. Still, it's important to begin exercises with bulldogs early so they get used to doing them and continue exercises through a dog's senior years.
A bulldog's flat face makes it more difficult to breathe while exercising, especially in heat and humidity, so stop if you notice excessive sweating and panting. Teach stretching as a puppy by saying the word "stretch," holding a treat above her head, and rewarding her with the treat when she reaches for it. Repeat for every exercise you teach: Hold up a treat, name the exercise, move the treat in the direction you want the dog to move, and reward her with the treat. When it's too hot to go outside, play hide and seek by hiding in a different room and calling your bulldog to find you.
Balance exercises are great for French and English bulldog muscle-building because dogs have to work to stay steady. Place puppies on varied surfaces, like tile floors, hardwoods, bricks, stones, and small pillows, and for adult dogs, add props, like plastic bins, wooden crates, and large pillows. When seniors can't step up on objects, do figure eights: Place two objects a distance apart, guide the dog to weave through them, turn, and weave back, varying the distances for flexibility and mental stimulation. After about 20 minutes of exercise, lead your bulldog to a shady place or in front of a fan to cool off with a big bowl of water nearby.