Few dogs live for the attention like the Bulldog does. Affectionate, easygoing and adorable, the Bulldog embodies the spirit of the term “man’s best friend.” Be prepared for lots of sloppy kisses and a constant, round-and-wrinkly shadow following you everywhere you go. But try not feel too bad when they spot another potential BFF (whether an adult, child, dog, cat or anything with a pulse, really) and go off to make friends. Bulldogs may not be the best beach buddies or hiking companions, but they’ll happily shuffle next to you on short walks and outings to the dog park. They’ll be even happier as your—unlikely and unusually heavy!—lap dog. Did you really want to go on that canyoneering trip anyway?
The Bulldog is best for homes in temperate-weather locations with a family—kids and other pets included—who will be around a lot to shower them with affection and provide all the care they need.
Bulldogs (also known as English Bulldogs) can be very humanlike: They have a deep need for love and companionship, they like a good joke and they’re sometimes stubborn when it comes to learning new things.
Their affectionate, outgoing personality is what most people love about this breed. Bulldogs bond with almost any kind of person, young or old, boisterous or quiet, and are not known for aggressive behavior. When you take your Bulldog for walks, others can’t help but stop to pet them—and your pup will be happy to oblige, charming everyone from your usually grumpy older neighbor to the toddlers at the playground and everyone in between (postal workers included!). Bulldogs are truly social creatures. But their favorite social interaction of all is curling up next to you on the couch. In fact, you’ll find that snoozing in a comfy spot is their most favorite thing to do.
When they’re not cuddling, Bulldogs will get your attention with their—perhaps unintentional—sense of humor. Some pet parents have experienced the “relocation” of belongings like slippers, books and hats, just to get attention. They will pout and sulk if they feel rebuffed, making some hilarious faces in the process. Once you give them the attention they crave, Bulldogs immediately slip into silliness and roll all over the floor with excitement and paw at you for more. It’s no surprise that Bulldog pet parents say their dogs make them laugh every day.
But Bulldogs can be stubborn, too. They’re not the kind of dog who wants to master every trick in the book just to please their humans. While they’re definitely trainable—if you have high-value treats—your Bulldog probably isn’t going to win any obedience competitions. Forget the fancy tricks like playing dead and spinning on hind legs and stick to simple things like “leave it” and “come.” Bulldogs usually don’t have a problem with returning to you when called because they simply love their humans so much.
How to Care for a Bulldog
Though the English Bulldog breed is easy in temperament, they’re not necessarily low in maintenance. Their characteristic wrinkles can lead to skin problems if not properly cared for, and since they’re not the most active dogs, gaining too much weight can also be a concern. But understanding your Bulldog’s unique needs—have we mentioned this breed is stubborn?—will help you keep him healthy and happy (and snorty) as ever!
For all the fantastic things there are about the Bulldog, there is one drawback. Their overall health is not that great. Years of breeding for the pugilistic-looking flat face have created myriad problems for the English Bulldog. That’s why many vets and animal activists recommend adopting a Bulldog who needs a home or working with a breeder who supports breed improvement by selecting for longer snouts and healthier dogs. Either way, it is important pup parents are aware of these health concerns so they can help their Bully stay healthier, longer.
- Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome: BOAS is an inherited condition that almost all Bulldogs have to some degree due to their short muzzles and the shape of their heads. Basically, BOAS means that Bulldogs don’t breathe easily. That’s why Bulldogs tire out after the smallest amount of exertion, overheat in the sun even when it’s not hot out, and breathe and snore very noisily. Keeping your Bully at a normal weight is one way to help them breathe more easily. If their breathing problems are more severe, surgery may help. Soft-palate surgery opens up the breathing passages allowing your dog to breathe more easily.
- Skin Infections: Bulldogs are prone to developing skin infections in their delightfully wrinkly skin. It is essential you clean and dry their folds every day. Signs of infection may include increased itching or scratching, a bad odor or a greasy or really dry coat. If you do suspect your pup has a skin infection, get to your vet pronto! Your vet can determine the best course of action, most often a topical medicated cream.
- Eye Issues: Cherry eye looks like a red or pink bulge in the interior corner of their eye. It occurs when their third eyelid swells and is out of place and is sometimes due to weakened connective tissue or inflammation. If your dog develops cherry eye, don’t wait to go to the vet; the condition can worsen the longer you wait to treat it. There are surgical and non-surgical treatments depending on the severity. Bulldogs also suffer from entropion, a condition in which the eyelid rolls in and rubs the eye, causing irritation. Entropion can be treated by surgery; if left untreated, blindness may occur.
- Birth: One of the distinctive traits of the English Bulldog breed is their massive head. Couple their large heads with large litters, and you’ve got one tired mama dog. More often than not, Bulldog puppies are born via c-section to safeguard the puppies and the mother.
Were you once a college athlete who now gets winded bringing the laundry upstairs? That’s basically the 800-year history of the Bulldog, also known as the English Bulldog, in a nutshell.
Though their precise origins are unclear, Bulldogs most likely originated in England and may have descended from ancient mastiff-like breeds. Sometime between the 13th and 16th centuries, the dogs were noted for their muscular builds and athleticism and were originally bred for bull baiting, in which Bulldogs were trained to bite down on a bull’s nose and roughly shake it. This brutal practice was gruesome and bloody for both the bulls and the canines; naturally, it became a popular spectator sport. Gamblers bred Bulldogs for vicious temperaments and shorter and shorter snouts, which could latch on to the bull more easily.
Thankfully, bull baiting was outlawed in 1835. By this time, the peculiarly cute, compressed faces of the Bulldog had won the hearts of the English people, who continued to breed them for their looks, not their aggression. Shortly after, Bulldogs were brought to America, where the American Kennel Club recognized them as an official breed in 1886, and the Bulldog Club of America was formed in 1898.
Today, most of the qualities that made Bulldogs such successful bull baiters have been bred out of them. Modern Bulldogs are far from athletic, and they’re one of the friendliest, least aggressive breeds around, even though they still have a strong bite force. Their lovable personalities make them the fifth most popular breed in the country. Their flat faces, though, continue to be popular symbols of pluck and determination: Bulldogs serve as a mascot for many high schools, colleges and universities (think Yale University and the University of Georgia), Mack Trucks, and the US Marine Corps.
But just because your Bulldog’s gladiator status—and your sporty college days—are over doesn’t mean the two of you can’t throw down on your living-room carpet with a rough-and-tumble game of tug-of-war.
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Are Bulldogs hypoallergenic?
No, Bulldogs are not hypoallergenic. While they aren’t heavy shedders, Bulldogs tend to drool a lot and that factors into the allergy-inducing equation.
Are Bulldogs dangerous?
No, Bulldogs are not dangerous. Though Bulldogs were originally bred to fight massive bulls, they are now considered to be one of the gentlest, easygoing breeds. Bulldogs will likely get along well with everyone in your life, from your baby niece to your elderly uncle and everyone in between.
Can Bulldogs swim?
Yes, technically, Bulldogs can swim. Is it advisable? No. The Bulldog’s special combo of short legs, short snout, and a massive head make it tricky for them to keep their airways above water. If you’re determined to swim with your Bulldog, be sure to outfit them in a well-fitting life jacket like this one and never leave their side.
What are the most common Bulldog mixes?
- Bulldog-Pit Bull mix (Bullypit)
- Bulldog-Boxer mix (Valley Bulldog or Bull-Boxer)
- Bulldog-Husky mix (Buskdoggy)
- Bulldog-Poodle mix (English Boodle)
- Bulldog-Labrador Retriever mix (Bullador)
- Bulldog-Beagle mix (Beabull)
If “easygoing,” “stubborn,” and “tons of fun” are the characteristics you look for in a significant other, then a Bulldog would be perfect as a pet for you. These funny-faced, doughy-bodied little tanks will be your best friends forever… so long as you pay them all of your attention. Yes, Bulldogs make a lot of unique noises and have a number of health issues (you and your veterinarian will be well acquainted), but truth be told, they’re also very easy, rewarding pets. They don’t need much besides your love—and air-conditioning.
Expert input provided by Jennifer Coates, DVM, a veterinarian in Fort Collins, Colo., and Sarah J. Wooten, DVM, a veterinarian in Greeley, Colo.
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