The American Bulldog is a walking contradiction: powerful yet friendly, serious but silly. This big-hearted breed is happy to play with you and your kids—with one eye watching out for strangers. Occasionally clown-like (like their cousins, the English Bulldog), these dogs are also industrious, bred to work on farms and ranches. You’ll enjoy a wide range of activities with this active and quite clever breed, from hikes to training exercises. For those who want a dog with both brains and brawn, the American Bulldog is the whole package.
American Bulldogs are best for homes with pet parents who enjoy an active lifestyle. They do well with other dogs and kids if they've been trained and socialized from an early age.
American Bulldog Traits
American Bulldog Temperament
The American Bulldog’s temperament is rather infectious, in part because they take their playtime seriously. Agile and alert, your American Bulldog will follow your cues, whether you’re training them to sit or you’re ready to throw the ball—again and again.
Their personalities are easy to love; they have a confident demeanor and are known for their almost clown-like antics when excited, making them an excellent family companion. They do well with kids and babies; even with their powerful bite force, American Bulldogs aren’t likely to bite.
The American Bulldog breed’s default mode is genial yet protective. This breed is quite family-oriented but may be distant with strangers at first. Their characteristic aloofness to outsiders helps make them great guard dogs.
The breed’s intelligence is well-regarded—and “capable” is their middle name. With consistent training and established rules and boundaries, this powerful pup can learn with the best of them. As a working breed, they were known for their wild pig and cattle catching abilities, making them indispensable on southern ranches in the US.
How to Care for a American Bulldog
The American Bulldog breed needs minimal work when it comes to grooming, which is good because you’ll be spending all that extra time exercising and training this active, assertive dog.
American Bulldog Health
American Bulldogs are prone to several health issues. Pup parents need to be aware of some of these issues so they can help their dog live the healthiest life possible. If you’re getting your pup from a breeder, be sure your pup is screened and ask for copies of the parents’ health records. If you’re adopting through a rescue, be sure to get a copy of the dog’s vet wellness check.
- Joint Dysplasia: This joint abnormality is seen in the hips and elbows, and a dog with dysplasia may run, jump and climb less than usual. It’s an inherited condition commonly seen in medium to large dogs and treated with joint supplements, medications, rehab therapy or surgery.
- Knee Ligament: The CCL or cranial cruciate ligament is similar to the ACL in humans and helps stabilize the dog’s knee. Most often, the issue is a rupture or partial tear. Symptoms of this often genetic condition include pain, swelling and lameness; surgery is usually the go-to fix, depending on your dog’s age.
- Cherry Eye: Did you know dogs have a third eyelid? If your American Bulldog has cherry eye, you’ll see a red mass (like a cherry) near the inner corner of the lower lid. Surgery is the treatment, which saves your dog’s sight and avoids dry eyes.
- Bone Cancer: Often found in the long bones (arms, legs), the cause for this condition is unknown, though vets feel it may have a genetic or environmental component. Removal of the limb to take out the tumor is required, along with chemotherapy and/or radiation.
- Deafness: Deafness, which can occur in one or both ears, may be acquired via drug exposure or infection. But deafness could also be hereditary and is linked to dogs with light coats and eyes. While there’s no treatment for inherited deafness, dogs actually do well with the condition. Acquired deafness is usually permanent but may improve over time without intervention.
- Skin Conditions/Scaling: This dry, flaky skin ailment may be caused by allergies or the environment (think food or parasites like fleas or mites). A special diet may be the treatment or medications, depending on the cause.
- Spinal Issues: Degenerative myelopathy (DM) is often genetic in nature and affects the spinal cord, leading to weakness and hind limb paralysis. While the condition isn’t typically painful, treatment isn’t that effective, though physical therapy may help.
- Neuronal Ceroid Lipofuscinosis: NCL is an inherited, progressive (and rare) neurological disorder that starts showing up between 1 and 2 years of age. The most obvious symptom is behavioral changes in the dog, and the pup will usually lose coordination and eyesight. It can be discovered through a DNA test, and at this time, there are no treatments.
American Bulldog History
Curious about the American Bulldog’s origin? This proud pup carries an imported pedigree, having been brought over from across the pond as a descendant of the English Bulldog, which was originally bred for bull baiting. (Bull baiting was a “sport” where Bulldogs attacked chained cattled to bring them to the ground. Thankfully, this horrific sport was outlawed in England in 1835.) Back in the 17th century, early settlers packed these working dogs with them for service on farms and ranches. The American Bulldog became a utility player, stepping in to accomplish many tasks, such as guarding livestock and catching cattle and feral pigs. In fact, were it not for their success as an excellent catch dog in the southern states, we might not know the breed today.
The American Bulldog’s history is also closely intertwined with that of two men who strove to revive the breed in this country, saving it from near extinction after World War II. John D. Johnson and Alan Scott were able to breed the last few native American Bulldogs in the southern US, resulting in two types (the Scott type and the Johnson type) that thrive today. These breeds differ in appearance; the Johnson American Bulldog sports a bigger, stronger build, a larger head and short muzzle, and the Scott American Bulldog has more lithe features, such as an athletic, small-boned frame and a longer muzzle.
While not recognized as an American Kennel Club (AKC) breed , the American Bulldog has been recorded in the Foundation Stock Service in 2019, which means that they’re well on their way to becoming approved by the AKC.
Are you looking to add an American Bulldog as a family member? It depends on the breeder and the region where you live, but generally, this type of puppy will cost between $1,800 and $3,500, but for that, you usually are getting a dog who’s been screened for health and temperament issues. Check out the AKC puppy finder to find a reputable breeder. You can also seek out local American Bulldog rescues to find a worthy, loving dog to call your own, or keep an eye out for the breed at your local shelter.
Do American bulldogs shed?
Yes, American Bulldogs shed, albeit lightly and seasonally. But by keeping up on your dog’s coat brushing, you’ll help any excess fur naturally fall away.
Are American Bulldogs Pitbulls?
The question of “Are American Bulldogs pitbulls?” is a tricky one. “Pitbull” is a generic term that refers to the types of dogs who descended from Bulldogs and terriers (similar to how “hound” is used generically). In this case, yes, an American Bulldog is a pitbull, since the breed’s ancestors are Bulldogs. However, American Bulldogs aren’t American Pit Bull Terriers, even though they have a similar build and look.
Are American Bulldogs aggressive?
American Bulldogs may be aggressive toward other dogs, particularly unfamiliar ones of the same sex, in part because of their protective and somewhat dominant nature. But with consistent training and early socialization, this breed is considered a loving family dog that does well with kids and other pets.
How long do American Bulldogs live?
American Bulldogs can have a generous life span, often living between 10 and 12 years. Providing your dog with the proper diet and exercise can help your pup live a full life.
What are the most popular American Bulldog names?
Popular American Bulldog names usually find their inspiration from this breed’s strong appearance—or they’ll skew “alpha male”—even for females! Some examples might include Ace, Rocco, Rufus, Bruno, Boomer, Duke, Spike, Thor, Apollo, Captain or Zeus. Get more dog names here.
What are the most common American Bulldog mixes?
The most common American Bulldog mixes are:
- American Bulldog-Pitbull mix (Pitbull Bulldog mix)
- American Bulldog-Staffordshire Terrier mix (American Bull Staffy)
- American Bulldog-English bulldog mix (EngAm bulldog)
- American Bulldog-Boxer mix (Bulloxer)
- American Bulldog-Labrador mix (American Bullador)
- American Bulldog-German Shepherd mix (American Bulldog Shepherd)
Looking for a true best friend? You’ll quickly find one in the American Bulldog. While lots of exercise is necessary, the playtime and walking you’ll experience with your pup will be great times to bond. Families of all kinds admire this agile, athletic breed and count themselves lucky to own such a loving, loyal pet.
Expert input provided by veterinarian Carly Fox, DVM, a staff doctor at Animal Medical Center in New York City, and certified dog trainer and American bulldog expert Brooke Trometer of Cypress K9.
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Top American Bulldog Names
These are the top American Bulldog names as chosen by Chewy's pet parents!