Courageous, kind, lovable, and easy going, the Bulldog makes a delightful canine companion. This breed ranks fourth of the 193 breeds that are registered with the American Kennel Club, and it’s easy to see why. They’re friendly nature and adaptability make this member of the Non-Sporting Group a good fit for all types of living environments and they do well with people of all ages.
The Bulldog, also known as the English or British Bulldog, is the ancestor of the original bulldog, which was used for bull baiting, a gruesome activity that involved packs of dogs fighting a staked bull. These dogs were courageous and had a high threshold for pain. Records indicate that ancestral bulldogs originated in England during the 13th century.
In 1835, the “sport” of bull baiting was outlawed, but the activity continued in underground dog fighting rings. The dogs that participated in this illegal activity needed to be faster than their ancestors, but they also had to maintain their courageous tenacity and their ability to withstand pain. To create a dog that would meet these criteria, bulldogs were crossbred with different types of terriers, which lead to the development of the first versions of bull-terrier breeds, including the Bull Terrier and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier.
As the popularity of bull baiting declined, the future of the Bulldog was bleak. To maintain the breed, those who took a liking to the Bulldog began working on transitioning the dog from a fighter to a friendly companion. The aimed to improve the appearance of the dog to make more aesthetically pleasing, and they worked on taming the ferocity of the breed. The result was a pleasant, calm dog that enjoyed being with people. The general public became enamored with this new version of the Bulldog. In 1886, the breed was registered with the American Kennel Club. The breed is also the national symbol of England and serves as the mascot of various sports teams, as well as the US Marine Crops and prestigious American institutions of higher learning, including Yale and the University of Georgia.
Characteristics of the Bulldog
Next, we’ll go into the appearance and temperament of the bulldog.
The Bulldog has an unmistakable appearance. It’s a medium-sized breed, standing 14 to 15 inches tall and weighing between 40 and 50 pounds; generally, females are smaller and males are larger. Both genders of a robust, squat build. Their heads are covered with loose, wrinkly skin, their noses are short and pushed in, and they have an under bit, which is flanked by loose chops; a distinctive feature of this breed. They have a jaunty walk, which perfectly reflects their merry disposition.
The coat of the Bulldog is short and smooth. They vary in color; common colors include fallow, fawn, brindle, red, and white. They can also feature a combination of these colors, and these hues can be mixed into their coat or displayed in specific markings. Their eyes are dark, inviting, and calm, which accurately showcases the personality of this docile, even-tempered breed.
The Bulldog is hailed as one of the friendliest, most easy going dog breeds in the world. Generally, they love to interact with people of all ages, and are patient with other animals. Their calm disposition is quite surprising, due to their historic use as a bull baiting breed; however, when they are roused, this typically sweet-natured breed can become a force to be reckoned with.
Bulldogs are considered a low-endurance breed, and as such, they do not require a tremendous amount of exercise. They can be quite contented spending their days lounging away in their dog bed or curled up in the laps of their human companions. Despite their love of relaxation, they do enjoy playing, too; they like to chase toys, but usually not for long. Due to their strong jaws, any toys that these dogs are presented with should be durable; rope and tug toys and well-made rubber dog toys are the best option for this breed. While they do like to play, Bulldogs should not be over-exerted. Since they are short-nosed dogs, they can suffer from breathing problems, which can be aggravated when they engage in a lot of activity.
While Bulldogs do possess a number of desirable traits, this breed does have tendencies that may be considered undesirable. Some can be aggressive chewers, particularly during puppyhood when they are teething and exploring their world. Adults can also chew, especially when they are bored. To avoid problematic chewing, present puppies with durable and appropriately sized puppy teething toys and adults with well-made chew toys for dogs. Other Bulldog trait that some may find unpleasant is their tendency to snort, wheeze, grunt, and snore. As a short-nosed breed, these dogs can have a hard time breathing, so it’s not uncommon for Bulldogs to produce loud snuffling sounds. Additionally, because of their dropping chops, this breed has a tendency to drool and slobber. Lastly, while Bulldogs are generally quite patient and even-tempered, they can be possessive of their food. It’s not uncommon for this breed to snap at people and other animals when they are eating; therefore, a Bulldog’s dog bowl should be put down away from others so that they can eat alone and without distraction.
Despite they few undesirable traits that Bulldogs possess, the adaptability, generally sweet-natured, and easy going disposition of this breed makes it a great pet for families with small children, other animals, and the elderly. Compared to other breeds, Bulldogs have a short life expectancy; on average, they live for 8 to 10 years.
Caring for a Bulldog
Like any breed, it’s important for those who are interested in welcoming a Bulldog into their family to understand how to properly care for this dog. When cared for appropriately, health complications that can shorten their already short life expectancy can be avoided.
Bulldogs should be fed a well-balanced diet that is comprised of healthful ingredients and offers a blend of essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. A well-rounded meal consists of proteins, healthy fats, and easily digestible carbohydrates. They can be fed both wet dog food and dry dog food, or a mixture of the two; however, there are some considerations that need to be made when selecting dog food for Bulldogs.
The Bulldog has a very hearty appetite, and their love of eating can lead to obesity. Excessive weight can be problematic for this breed, as it can complicate any breathing difficulties that they may be suffering from as a result of their pressed-in noses. Closely monitoring your Bulldog’s caloric intake is important; feeding him a dog food for weight loss can help him maintain a healthy weight. They also have a tendency to gulp their food and inhale a lot of oxygen while they eat, which increases the risk of bloat, a condition that can be life-threatening. To avoid these complications, opt for a dry kibble that is small in size and consider using a slow feeder to prevent fast eating.
Bulldogs are also prone to excessive flatulence. This is due, in part, to the large amounts of air that they ingest while they are eating. It can be further complicated by foods that are difficult to digest, such as gluten-based ingredients. Feeding a Bulldog a grain free dog food that is made with high quality, healthful ingredients can help to minimize flatulence and ensure the overall health of your pet. Lastly, the Bulldog is prone to sensitive skin. Some ingredients used in commercial dog foods increase the risk of allergic reactions. To off-set these problems, consider feeding your pet a limited ingredient dog food for allergies
There are several reputable dog food brands that offer well-balanced formulas that are made with healthful ingredients and meet the nutritional needs of Bulldogs. Some options to consider include Natural Balance dog food, Wellness dog food, Taste of the Wild dog food, and Blue Buffalo dog food, as these brands are all made with natural ingredients and are free of artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives; and, they offer recipes that are ideal for Bulldogs.
- Coat care and maintenance
- Foot care
- Dental health
As far as grooming goes, Bulldogs aren’t as demanding as other breeds; however, they do require regular maintenance to ensure their coats, skin, nails, and teeth remain in good condition.
While their coats may be short, you should expect moderate to heavy amounts of shedding and their coats can become matted. As such, they should be brushed several times a week to facilitate shedding and prevent the fur from becoming lumpy. Brushing also nourishes the skin, as it helps to release natural oils , which is important for this breed, as they tend to suffer from sensitive skin. Use a soft-bristled dog brush and a slow, gentle motion to avoid damaging the skin and coat.
Only bathe your Bulldog as-needed. Frequent bathing will strip your pet’s skin of essential oils, which can increase the risk of dryness of cracking, as well as damage the coat. When your pet does need a bath (he is starting to smell or he is visibly dirty), use a high quality dog shampoo that is free dyes, perfumes, and other harsh ingredients. Never leave your Bulldog unattended in the bath. This breed is top-heavy and has short legs, and therefore, they are not good swimmers. Bathing in shallow, lukewarm water is recommended.
The face of a Bulldog requires special attention. Dirt and debris can build-up in their wrinkles, which can result in the formation of bacteria that can lead to odor and infection. Use a clean, soft, wet cloth to clean between the folds on his face on a daily basis. Be gentle, and use a slow, sweeping motion, as the skin between the folds tends to be highly sensitive. If you notice dry spots developing between his wrinkles, or anywhere else on your pet’s body, use a cotton ball to apply coconut oil for dogs to nourish the skin.
Like all breeds, the nails of a Bulldog need to be kept trim. Excessively long nails can cause pain and a variety of other problems. Once a month, use a sturdy nail clipper for dogs to trim his nails. If you aren’t confident in your abilities to trim your pet’s nails or your dog is resistant, have a groomer or a vet trim them for you.
To prevent the buildup of tartar and plaque, which can cause bad breath and decay, consider brushing your pet’s teeth on a weekly basis. Use a toothbrush and toothpaste that is made specifically for dogs. You can also offer your pet dental chews, which can help to control plaque and tartar buildup.
Exercise and Activity
Bulldogs are moderately active, meaning that they do not need a tremendous amount of activity. While these dogs are quite content to lounge about, they do need exercise and activity. Exercise helps to strengthen your pet’s body and aides in weight management, which is important for this breed. A short walk daily should suffice for exercise. Play is another way to present your dog with both physical and mental stimulation. Playing with your pet also facilitates human-canine bonding. Select durable toys for this breed, as Bulldogs have a powerful jaw that can damage delicate toys quickly. Pet owners are encouraged to engage in play; however, offering your dog toys that he can engage with on his own is also recommended. Automatic fetch machines, for example, can be a great tool for play and exercise that your dog can manipulate on his own.
The Bulldog is quite tenacious, and as such, they tend to be set in their ways. Early training is a must for this breed to prevent undesirable behaviors. Using positive reinforcement goes a long way with this breed. Praise and treats are effective training tools; however, be mindful of the treats that you are offering. As Bulldogs are prone to obesity, low calorie treats are recommended.
In addition to teaching your pet the basic commands, such as “sit”, “stay”, and “heel”, it’s particularly important to focus on food training. This breed can become food aggressive. To avoid problems, work with your pet so that he understands and accepts that his food can be taken away or touched while he is eating.
In regard to housebreaking, crate training is highly recommended. Select a dog crate that is properly sized for your pet; he should be able to stand up and turn around with ease, but there should not be excess room. Establishing a routine is important. Have your pet stay in his crate when you are not able to readily bring him outside; but, do not leave your dog in his crate for a prolonged period of time, as this breed yearns for companionship and could develop anxiety or aggression of left confined for long. As soon as your pet exits his crate, take him to his designated bathroom area. Also, be prepared to bring your dog outside within 10 to 15 minutes after eating or drinking.
Bulldogs are generally healthy dogs; however, they are prone to certain health issues. Being aware of these concerns and knowing how to prevent or treat them will ensure your pet lives a healthy life.
Some of the most common health issues that are associated with the Bulldog breed include:
- Brachycephalic Airway Obstructive Syndrome (BAOS). Since this breed has a short snout, Bulldogs are prone to BAOS, a condition that is marked by several respiratory problems. Breathing can become labored, especially when over-exerted or in hot, humid weather. Being mindful of the amount of activity he is engaging in and keeping him in air conditioning when during hot weather can prevent complications. Other problems that are associated with BOAS include snorting, snoring, grunting, and snuffling.
- Hip dysplasia. This condition is common among many breeds. It occurs when the hip socket is malformed, and as such, the joint does not function properly, which can lead to pain, reduce mobility, and increase the risk of arthritis. Offering your pet a dog joint supplement may offset the complications that are associated with this condition.
- Skin conditions. Bulldogs have sensitive skin and can suffer from various afflictions. Dermatitis, eczema, and acne can occur. Offering your pet a high quality dog food that is free of harsh ingredients, bathing sparingly and with a gentle dog shampoo, washing between the facial folds on a daily basis, and brushing on a regular basis can help to prevent these problems. Coconut oil that is made specifically for dogs, as well as fish oil for dogs, can also be helpful.
- Cherry eye. This condition occurs when the third eyelid prolapses, and is common among short-nosed dogs, like the Bulldog. Avoid excess strain on the face and neck and keep an eye on your pet. Veterinary care should be sought if cherry eye occurs.