Bulldog dog breed
John Walton
Written by John Walton

You wouldn’t believe that this small, pudgy dog breed was originally created to drive cattle to market, but there’s more to the bulldog than meets the eye. They’re plucky, gentle companions who are great additions to any family. However, don’t expect them to be an energetic breed. Lying around on the couch or in the grass is much more preferable to the bulldog than chasing a ball all day.

Breed Characteristics

AdaptabilityAbove Average
TrainabilityAbove Average
Health and GroomingAbove Average
All Around FriendlinessHigh
Exercise NeedsAbove Average

Dog Breed Group:Companion dogs
Height:One foot to one foot three inches at the shoulder
Weight:Forty to fifty pounds
Life Span:8 to 12 years

The English bulldog has gained a reputation of being a tough and tenacious dog breed, and is used as a mascot for a variety of organizations, such as the United States Marines and several universities. The breed was originally created in England for the sole purpose of bullbaiting, which was a very bloody sport. However, this ferocious disposition has been removed from them entirely, and you won’t find a more gentle and loving breed.

English bulldogs are quite low to the ground, but they are also quite wide, giving them a «waddling» kind of gait. They’re also quite muscular in appearance, retaining characteristics from their original purposes. But what they lack in size, they can certainly make up for in biting power. They have strong, muscular jaws with a very noticeable underbite with protruding lower teeth. The eyes tend to be round and small, and the ears are typically folded by like a rose. Their short stubby tails are held quite low on their bodies, which add to the charm of their rolling gait.

Despite his size, the bulldog is actually quite heavy and stocky, and it can be more difficult than you originally thought to pick him up. This difficulty can be minimized if you exercise proper care in ensuring that he doesn’t become too fat with a moderate amount of exercise. They’re prone to becoming obese due to his laid back nature.

Main Highlights
  • Bulldogs have a reputation of being quite stubborn and lazy. He’s not a breed who will jump at the first opportunity to go for a walk when you pick up the leash. He’d much prefer to lie inside all day, waiting for the next meal to be presented to him. It’s important, however, that you exercise him every day in order to ensure that his body and mind both remain active.
  • Because of the shape of the bulldog’s face, he is prone to overheating. He doesn’t do well during the summer months or when it’s humid outside. If you do have him outside, be sure to look out for signs of overheating, and be sure to take him back inside immediately or provide him with sufficient water for drinking. Many bulldog owners provide kiddy pools in a shaded spot for their bulldogs to wade into when they get too hot. They are definitely a breed that should be kept indoors.
  • Bulldogs are also known to being quite sensitive to cold weather, and for having a propensity for flatulence.
  • Breeding practices have shortened the muzzles of the bulldog, which makes them more prone to sleep apnea. A day won’t go by where you won’t hear your bulldog snoring, wheezing, or snorting. However, this also makes them prone to respiratory illnesses and are also sensitive to anesthesia.
  • At any given opportunity, a bulldog won’t miss out on the chance to overeat. He may ingest as if he is starving, and you shouldn’t take that as a sign that you’re not feeding him enough. Putting more food in his bowl will only lead to more eating. They can gain weight quite easily and become obese if their food intake isn’t carefully monitored.
Breed History

The bulldog that you see today is not the same breed he originally was when he was brought to England by the Romans. The very first recorded mention of the dog is in the 1500s, back when they were used for bull baiting. This bloody sport involved the dog taking on an un-castrated bull, for the sport of grabbing it by its nose and shaking it furiously for the purpose of tenderizing the bull’s meat. This belief was so strong, that there were laws stating that the bull had to be baited before it was fit for slaughter. However, the sport led to the death of many dogs.

Every characteristic of the bulldog was bred for the purpose of this sport. They were bred to be low to the ground, minimizing the chances of the bull getting its horns underneath them to toss them into the air. Their mouths and powerful jaws were designed to be strong, making them able to latch onto the bull without being shaken off. The flat nose allowed them to breathe while maintaining this grip, and even the wrinkles on the top of the head served the purpose of diverting any blood out of the dog’s eyes so that he could still see. He was also bred with an extremely high tolerance of pain so that he could endure throughout this barbarous sport.

Once bull baiting was finally outlawed throughout the country, many believed that the breed would all but disappear. He wasn’t a very affectionate companion, and had no other attributes that would help him serve another purpose. However, there were many who still admired his strength and persistence, and wanted to repurpose the bulldog so that he wouldn’t become extinct. Breeding practices focused on giving them a more gentle disposition so that they could be more compatible within the home. Eventually, once these breeding practices were successful, they started showing up in conformation shows in 1859. Two years later, a bulldog named King Dick won at the show in Birmingham.

When the breed was brought over to America in the 1880s, it was revised to what has become the «American Bulldog» to be more concise. However, protests ensured that the British standard wouldn’t disappear altogether, and the two breed standards were maintained. It was officially recognized as a breed by the American Kennel Club in 1890, and became the most popular dog breed in the 1940s and 1950s. The English bulldog stands as a testament to the rehabilitation as an entire breed and giving them a new purpose so that they wouldn’t disappear altogether.


They can be quite small and low to the ground, but the bulldog is much heavier than it appears. Mature bulldogs can weigh anywhere from forty to fifty pounds, and stand roughly 12 to 15 inches at the shoulder.

Personality and Character

Long has aggression been bred out of the breed to create a sociable and friendly dog who is also quite courageous. This makes him an excellent watch dog, but he won’t rush to your aid to defend you now that he’s no longer a fighter. He can be quite stubborn, which makes it more difficult for training to be ingrained into him. He is very easy going with a laissez-faire attitude, so he can tolerate a lot, especially from children and other animals. He doesn’t tend to bark very much, but his «vicious» appearance tends to frighten off most intruders.

When picking out a puppy, choosing one that curious and playful is the best way to go. You should choose a puppy who is willing to approach new people and to be held. Refrain from choosing a puppy who is being a bully and beating up the other puppies, as this can be a sign of stubbornness and make him more difficult to train in the future. Early socialization is also key so that their behaviour can be more well-rounded and more people- and animal-friendly.

Health and Potential Problems

Bulldogs are prone to a variety of diseases that can decrease the quality of their lives. Not all bulldogs will succumb to these diseases, but being aware of them prepares you for the future so that you know what you’re getting into before you purchase or adopt your first bulldog. Some of these health problems don’t appear until the reach the age of maturity, so just because you don’t see signs of a disease or condition when they’re a puppy doesn’t mean that they don’t possess it.

  • Cherry eye: dogs are known for having inner third eyelids that help to protect the eye and prevent infections. The gland behind this eyelid can start to protrude  and resembles something like a cherry. It’s a condition that can be easily rectified with a surgery.
  • Dry eye: natural tears help to keep the eyeball lubricated so that the eyelids can move over it more easily. Dry eye is when the tear gland is not producing enough tears. When this occurs, the eye can appear to have a blue haze on it and a dry appearance. Medication can be prescribed in order to relieve the pain of the condition and help to keep the eye moist.
  • Entropion: eyelashes grow outwards from the eye in order to keep debris out. However, sometimes they can turn inward and rub against the eye. This can cause irritation. Surgery may be required in order to correct the condition.
  • Inverted/reverse sneezing: this isn’t a life-threatening health problem, and it occurs when the fluids in the nasal cavity drip into the soft palate. This can cause it to close and make it difficult for your dog to breathe. Your dog may start to panic when this happens, so it’s best to help your dog calm down until the condition passes.
  • Brachycephalic syndrome: this syndrome is prominent in dog breeds that have short heads, narrow nostrils, and elongated soft palates. This biological construction results in their airways being obstructed, so that your dog may suffer from noisy or labored breathing; in the most severe cases, there can be a total collapse of the airways. Treatment depends on the severity of the condition, and includes surgery to widen the nostrils and oxygen therapy.
  • Head shakes: this may look like a fit, but it only affects the head. The shaking of the head is usually side to side or up and down, and sometimes these shakes can be quite violent. Many vets believe that this condition may be related to stress and/or low blood sugar. Honey can be administered in order to raise the blood sugar levels, or keeping the dog calm if it is stress-related. If the condition doesn’t seem to be related to either stimuli, you should take your dog to the vet immediately to ensure that he isn’t in pain.
  • Demodectic mange: the bulldog is known to carry the demodex mite, which is then passed on to the puppies at birth. Thankfully, this mite cannot be transmitted to humans or other dogs. The mites within the hair follicles, but only have an effect on a dog when their immune system becomes compromised or weakened. In these cases demodectic mange can develop, and can be localized or generalized. In the localized form, patches of red scaly skin with hair loss can develop. These normally appear on the head, neck and forelegs. This version of mange happens in young puppies and clears up on its own. In the generalized form, there can be swollen lymph nodes, and the mange covers the entire body. Older puppies and adult dogs are more affected, and they should be taken to the vet immediately.
  • Hip dysplasia: this is a hereditary condition that causes degradation of the hip joint over time. It doesn’t present until the dog starts to get into his senior years. Maintaining your bulldog’s weight and not overdoing exercise can minimize the damage and pain that is caused from this condition. Supplements can definitely help to relieve the pain and prevent the degradation from occurring too quickly, and should be attempted before surgery is considered as an option.
  • Tail problems: bulldogs are known for having screw tails where they are held very closely to the body. This can appear cute, but this increases the chances for skin problems due to folds and debris getting between them. Be sure to clean your dog’s tail on a regular basis, especially if he enjoys rolling in grass and dirt, in order to prevent infections from occurring.
  • Patellar luxation: this is a common problem in small dogs, where the patella region of the leg doesn’t fit together properly. This leads to an abnormal gait and can lead to lameness and pain. It is a condition that is present from birth, but doesn’t present itself until the dog is much older. The rubbing together of the bones can lead to arthritis, and have varying degrees. The most severe grade requires surgery in order to repair the damage.
  • Pregnancy problems: because of the shape of the bulldog with a large head and wide shoulders, it can be difficult for pregnant mothers to give birth. It’s quite common for delivery to be assisted with caesarean sections in order to remove the puppies. This can make bulldog breeding exceptionally expensive, and should only be attempted by experienced and knowledgeable breeders.
Care Features

When it comes to exercise, bulldogs don’t particularly thrive in this area. They remain mostly inactive indoors, but should be taken for a short daily walk. They prefer the relaxed lifestyle, lounging around in whichever room their owners are in. This makes them quite suitable for any kind of home, especially apartments.

You may believe that all dog breeds are suitable for swimming, but you couldn’t be more wrong with the bulldog. The size and shape of their heads drags them straight down into the water, making it quite easy for them to drown. Measures should be taken to prevent your bulldog from getting into a pond or swimming pool to prevent this from happening.

When it comes to obedience training, his stubborn nature can make it quite difficult. However, once he learns something, he won’t forget it any time soon. Training sessions should be fun for him, with plenty of repetition and positive reinforcement. Any harsh attempts will results in his stubborn nature flaring up and ignoring you altogether.

Feeding Schedule

The bulldog may have a stocky appearance, but that doesn’t mean that he requires a lot of food to maintain his bulk. Due to his low energy levels, only 1/2 a cup to 2 cups of food is required throughout the entire day. Any more than this, and you run the risk of exposing your bulldog to becoming obese. This added weight can put a toll on his leg joints and make him more prone to arthritis and other joint ailments, especially with his wide gait. Take into account the energy levels, metabolism, age and size of your dog to be sure that you are providing enough nourishment. The quality of the food also makes a difference, as higher quality brands tend to provide more nourishment and keep him full for a lot longer.

Coat, Color and Grooming

Bulldogs have a very short coat that consists of straight, smooth hair. It’s very finely textured and glossy in appearance. His skin is usually loose, resulting in wrinkles on the head and other areas of the body, like the neck and shoulders. They come in a variety of coat colors and markings. His coat should be brushed at least once a week with a firm bristle brush in order to remove any debris between the wrinkles. His face should be wiped with a damp cloth on a daily basis in order to keep it clean and prevent bacteria from growing between the folds. If you do notice some irritation of the skin, you can use baby wipes, or seek a soothing ointment from your vet. The nose should also be cleaned with a damp cloth and petroleum jelly can be applied to keep his nose from drying out.

Shedding is not a big problem for the bulldog, and the more often he is brushed throughout the week, the less shedding that will occur within your home. His nails should be trimmed once or twice a month, and the teeth can be brushed a few times a week in order to remove tartar and bacteria. Because of his protruding bottom teeth, care should be taken and regular examinations should be done to ensure that none of his teeth are infected or missing.

Children And Other Pets Compatibility

His gentle and amicable nature makes the bulldog the perfect dog to have around children and other animals in the home. They are known to being less sociable towards strange dogs. His very tolerable of any antics from a child, and won’t resort to become violent in retaliation. He’s much more likely to get up and walk away once he’s had enough of their punishment. Supervision should still be exercised, however, in order to prevent any ear or tail pulling. Children should also be taught to never interact with a dog while he is sleeping or eating, or to pull his food away from him. Some dogs can be protective of their food, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Bulldogs are a dog breed that proves that looks can be deceiving. Their underbite may give them a mean look, but they’re absolutely cuddly and friendly. They’re the living embodiment of how a breed has been entirely altered and given a new purpose in life. Altered from the purpose of bull baiting to becoming one of the most popular companion animals, the bulldog still retains their tenacity and fearlessness that makes them a good watch dog that doesn’t bark a lot. If you’re interested in bringing a bulldog into your home, take the time to do the research you need, and speak with some other bulldog owners so that you can prepare yourself for what is ahead.

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.

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