The English Bulldog is calm, confident and loving. Their coat is low maintenance and comes in a lot of gorgeous colors and patterns. With a distinctive thick set body and wide head, their iconic look has earned them a lot of fans.
But unfortunately, this cute face and body comes a host of health problems and a very short lifespan of around 6 years.
What’s in this Guide to the Bulldog:
- English Bulldog At A Glance
- In-depth Breed Review
- English Bulldog Training And Care
- Pros And Cons Of Getting A English Bulldog
English Bulldog FAQs
Our readers’ most popular and frequently asked questions about the Bulldog.
- Are English Bulldogs good pets?
- Why are Bulldogs so expensive?
- Are Bulldogs aggressive?
- Are English Bulldogs smart?
Breed At A Glance
- Purpose: Originally bull baiting, now a companion
- Weight: 40 – 50 lbs
- Temperament: Calm, confident, friendly
- Lifespan: 6 – 8 years
English Bulldog Breed Review: Contents
- History and original purpose of the English Bulldog
- Fun facts about English Bulldog
- Bulldog appearance
- English Bulldog temperament
- Training and exercising your Bulldog
- English Bulldog health and care
- Do Bulldogs make good family pets
- Rescuing an English Bulldog
- Finding a Bulldog puppy
- Raising an English Bulldog puppy
- Popular Bulldog mixes
- Products and accessories
The Bulldog we know and love these days is a far cry from their ancestors.
History and original purpose of the English Bulldog
As their name suggests, the Bulldog was originally bred for the sport of bull-baiting.
This was an activity where dogs were set upon a tethered bull, and bets laid on their survival.
As a result, these were physically very fit, strong, and probably quite ferocious dogs to cope with this horrendous ‘game’.
He doesn’t look a great deal like the modern Bulldog of today.
Bull baiting become illegal in 1835, and the breed was kept alive by some enthusiasts, who began selectively breeding the ancestors of our modern dogs.
And there were some changes to the original design of the dog.
Some claim that the original Bulldogs were crossed with Pugs, which explains the receding muzzle and their small size.
Others dispute that this happened or was even possible.
Whatever the process involved, today’s English Bulldog is a very different dog indeed to the fighting machine we see in old paintings.
Show Bulldogs emerged
The breed has continued to change in appearance over the last fifty years or so.
The image below shows the changes that have taken place in the skull.
These changes have arisen as a result of selective breeding.
Along with a changing interpretation of the breed standard in the show ring.
Basically, the more time passes the more their features have been exaggerated.
Bulldog breeders have come into a lot of criticism in the last few years.
The public has become more aware of the potentially harmful effects their structure has on their health.
English Bulldog appearance
This is an iconic dog, with a very characteristic look.
The modern day Bulldog is heavy-set, with a broad skull.
His eyes sit low in his face and his muzzle is short with a tipped back nose.
The lips hang low around his mouth.
His jaw is undershot, causing his bottom teeth to protrude over the upper teeth.
And his body is broad, deep and has stocky limbs.
His tail is curled.
These are medium sized dogs in terms of their height. However they are by no means small.
Average weight for a female should be around 40lbs, with males weighing closer to 50lbs.
Being overweight is very bad for your dog, and you should keep your Bulldog slim with a tucked in tummy.
Bulldogs come in a range of colors, but are likely to be one of the following:
Or a combination of two or three of the above.
They can also have a wide variety of markings.
Having a black mask or tips. Being brindle, piebald or ticked across their body.
English Bulldog temperament
A far cry from their fighting routes, Bulldog temperament is known to be calm, courageous and friendly.
They are confident dogs, who are loyal and affectionate to their families.
Although they have been bred as fighting dogs in the past, modern Bulldogs are not generally aggressive towards humans.
They are friendly and loving in nature.
A pet Bulldog will be a playful, active puppy to have in the house.
Training and exercising your English Bulldog
This breed responds best to positive reinforcement training techniques. They are strong willed dogs.
As a result it is easier to motivate them using rewards than to resort to aversives.
These intelligent dogs love to learn. And as Bulldogs can not cope with much physical exercise, keeping their mind busy and engaged is especially important.
Socialisation to a range of people, animals and locations will help your dog to carry that innate confidence on into adulthood.
Make sure that your puppy has positive experiences around other dogs and becomes familiar with any other types of pet he might meet.
Due to their fighting dog heritage, some Bulldogs can still be wary of other dogs.
Getting them to meet lots of dogs when they are still in the period of socialization will help to reduce the likelihood of this becoming a problem for your puppy later on.
Some individuals are more active than others.
Although they would all love to have a good walk or play each day, many are not physically capable of coping with anything above a very low level of exercise.
It all depends on the severity of their respiratory problems.
But if you want a dog to take jogging, hiking or out in the hot weather, a Bulldog is not a good choice for you.
This is a breed that does best in cool climates and it is really important that you don’t exercise a your dog in hot weather.
Or let him lie out in direct sunshine on a warm day.
English Bulldog health and care
As you’ve probably sadly realized by now, Bulldog health is really very poor.
The Bulldog’s unusual appearance is due to its profoundly shortened muzzle and undershot mouth.
The body is also stocky, with wide spaced legs and is often furnished with a tiny corkscrew tail.
All of these breed characteristics unfortunately go hand in hand with some very serious health issues.
These are profoundly brachycephalic dogs.
Humans like the appearance of brachycephalic dogs, probably because it makes the dog look more like us. More human.
We find that kind of cute.
But it comes at a heavy price for the dog.
Breathing problems, dental problems, eye problems, all these derive from the shape of the bulldog’s head.
But that is just the beginning.
Bulldogs also suffer from back problems, hip problems, whelping problems and more.
All as a result of their body structure.
On top of all that, like most other breeds, there are a range of inherited disorders to consider.
Let’s start by looking at the dog’s breathing.
The key issue with this particular dog’s face is that we humans have created a dog with a very shortened skull.
But that all the other ‘tissue’ is still much the same as it would be for a dog with normal facial bones.
So, essentially we have a dog with the facial tissue necessary to cover and line a normal dog’s muzzle, but with nowhere to put it.
Inside or out.
And that causes a lot of trouble for the dog.
Bulldog breathing problems
The soft palate inside the Bulldog’s mouth may not fit the space available, leaving it to project into the dog’s airway at the back, partially blocking it.
Their nostrils may be closed rather than open (stenotic), and the airway itself may be too small. Sleep apnea in the breed is very common.
This results in a dog that has a compromised ability to breathe. So much so in some cases, that he may need major surgery to enable him to breath freely.
Not only does the shortened face lead to breathing problems, the flat-faced dog is also unable to cool himself effectively.
This is because dogs lose heat through panting.
And the efficiency of this heat loss is dependent on the area of moist tissue that extends along the length of the normal canine muzzle.
Bulldog cooling problems
A dog’s cooling process is comprised when their muzzle is too short.
It’s a bit like you taking a normal radiator out of your living room and replacing it with a much smaller one.
A dog’s muzzle is his radiator.
So a flat-faced dog loses less heat too than he should, and as a result his body overheats as soon as he starts to exercise or as soon as the weather warms up.
The Bulldog breed council have important information on this page about keeping your dog cool in hot weather.
Brachycephalic dogs have just as many teeth as other dogs. But less space to put them in.
Consequently they suffer from overcrowding and have a greater potential for decay.
If you have a Bulldog puppy, you need to clean his teeth for him, and get them checked regularly by your vet.
The English Bulldog’s facial bones are not long enough to stretch out the skin on his face, so the skin falls into deep folds either side of his nose.
These folds can rub on the surface of the dog’s eyes and make them sore.
The folds are also prone to collecting dirt and becoming infected.
There is more eye trouble ahead for the Bulldog puppy though.
Because his flattened skull results in shallow eye sockets.
It is relatively easy to scratch or damage his eyes as they protrude from his head.
Bulldog screw tails
As a result of their breeding, Bulldogs are prone to spinal problems caused by deformities in their vertebrae.
You can read about this in some detail in this article: Screw tails and hemivertebrae
Serious and painful back problems may arise in screw tailed puppies.
As a result the tails themselves can become ingrown, or inverted.
Bulldog mating and whelping problems
The body shape of this breed can prevent them from naturally mating. Therefore insemination often has to be used instead.
Whelping is equally difficult, and most bulldog puppies these days are born by caesarian section.
It is so commonly required in this breed, that it isn’t even covered by insurance policies.
This is reflected in the price of puppies available for sale.
Bulldogs are prone to painful bladder stones, but there is now a DNA test available to try and screen all breeding stock for this unpleasant disease.
If you are buying a bulldog puppy, you need to make sure that the parents have been screened under the scheme for this disease – called hyperuricosuria or HUU.
How long do English Bulldogs live?
Although the lifespan of the Bulldog is widely reported as being up to 10 years, this is sadly not the case.
A Kennel Club health survey from that looked at 180 Bulldog deaths, found that the average lifespan of the breed was just over six years.
Other studies have found them falling between 6 and 8 years.
This is a very short lifespan for a dog.
Most of us tend to hope that our dogs will be around for ten years or more, at least.
As we have seen in this article, part of the problem for these dogs is that their conformation is badly designed. The other is down to genetic diseases.
Bulldogs problems are both externally visible and hidden inside. A very sad combination, leading to a very short lifespan.
Caring for this breed of dog can be a time consuming task because they are prone to dental problems and skin infections.
You will therefore need to check your dog’s mouth daily.
Look for any signs of tooth decay or unpleasant smells that could indicate gum or tooth problems.
Their skin folds are prone to infection too, and need to be kept scrupulously clean and dry.
You will need to make a regular visual inspection of your dog’s facial folds, neck folds and the folds around his tail base.
Wipe away any dirt or debris with damp cotton wool.
If your dog has a screwed tail you will need to clean this area carefully every single day.
Ensuring that it is dirt free and kept dry, to reduce the chances of nasty skin infections developing here.
English Bulldogs have short low maintenance coats, which require a brief brush once a week at most.
Their fur is short, straight and smooth.
Do English Bulldogs make good family pets?
This is a breed that tends to get along well with the children they live with, and that enjoys being petted and played with.
They are almost all very affectionate with their families, including the smaller members.
However, as with any dog supervision around young children is vital.
This enables you to protect them both from accidentally hurting each other.
They also benefit from early socialisation, to give them the best chance of feeling happy and confident around people of any age.
However, they don’t make good family pets when you take into account their severe health problems.
The heart ache, and expensive treatment, is enough to put many potential puppy parents off.
Rescuing an English Bulldog
At present there is no way that I can in good conscience recommend that you buy a Bulldog puppy.
These dogs have lovely personalities. But the price your puppy has to pay for his cute nature and iconic looks is very high.
These dogs are so structurally unsound that their quality of life is very poor, not to mention very short.
But that doesn’t mean a Bulldog is out of your reach, because there are some loving, loyal dogs waiting for homes.
English Bulldog puppies
English Bulldog puppies are incredibly cute.
They have wonderful personalities and appearances that may people find adorable. However, the breed in general is very unhealthy.
English Bulldog price
The price for one of these puppies might shock you a little.
Puppy cost is high for a number of reasons. The main ones are popularity and the difficulty of breeding these dogs.
As we have seen, Bulldogs can rarely give birth naturally.
The breeder will have incurred a huge c-section cost before the puppies have even arrived.
You can expect to pay between $1,000 – $3,000 for a puppy in the US.
In the UK the cost will be somewhere in the region of £2,000 – £4,000.
Popular Bulldog mixes
Many people are concerned about the disabilities that we have bred into these dogs.
Fortunately, there are a number of breeders trying to create healthier alternative Breeds.
One notable example is the Leavitt Bulldog.
This is an attempt to recreate the type of dog seen in our old painting above, but with a better temperament that more reflects the modern dog’s nature.
You can find out more about these dogs here
Levitt Bulldog or Victorian Bulldog breeds are a better options.
And there are some first generation mixes that are proving quite popular too.
Comparing the English Bulldog with other breeds
The English Bulldog is a fairly unique breed in terms of looks. One that it is often compared with is the adorable little French Bulldog.
Sadly, the severe health problems associated with this breed are off putting.
But there are some other lovely breeds which have some similar traits to the Bulldog, but are healthier in general.
Pros And Cons of Getting A English Bulldog
The English Bulldog has a wonderful personality.
But sadly there are more things to take into account when choosing whether to bring one home.
- Breathing problems
- Skin problems
- Eye problems
- Short lifespan
Products and accessories
Here are some things you’ll want to stock up on:
English Bulldog breed rescues
Rescuing is a great way to bring an English Bulldog into your family.
Here are some rescues you might want to check out.
- Bulldog Rescue Club of America
- Long Island Bulldog Rescue
- Georgia English Bulldog Rescue
- Illinois English Bulldog Rescue
- Buckeye Bulldog Rescue
- Lone Star Bulldog Rescue
References and Resources
- Gough A, Thomas A, O’Neill D. 2018 Breed Predispositions to Disease In Dogs and Cats. Wiley Blackwell
- O’Neill et al. 2013. Longevity and Mortality of Dogs Owned In England. The Veterinary Journal
- Schalamon et al. 2006. Analysis of Dog Bites In Children Who Are Younger Than 17 Years. Pediatrics
- Duffy D et al. Breed differences in canine aggression. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 2008
- Strain G. Deafness prevalence and pigmentation and gender associations in dog breeds at risk. The Veterinary Journal 2004
- Packer et al. 2015. Impact of Facial Conformation On Canine Health. PlosOne
- The Bulldog Breed Council
- The British Bulldog Club
- The Leavitt Bulldog Association
- Can the Bulldog be saved?
- The Bulldog club of America
- The Bulldog Rescue and Rehoming Trust
- O’Neill et al. 2013. Longevity and mortality of owned dogs in England. The Veterinary Journal.
- Adams et al. 2010. Methods and mortality results of a health survey of purebred dogs in the UK. JSAP.
- Ryan et al. 2017. Prevalence of thoracic vertebral malformations in French bulldogs, Pugs and English bulldogs with and without associated neurological deficits. The Veterinary Journal.
- Mazzucchelli et al. Retrospective study of 155 cases of prolapse of the nictitating membrane gland in dogs. Vet Record.
- Hendricks 1992. Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome. Veterinary Clinics of North America: Small Animal Practice.
- Torrez and Hunt. 2006. Results of surgical correction of abnormalities associated with brachycephalic airway obstruction syndrome in dogs in Australia. JSAP.
- Evans and Adams. Proportion of litters of purebred dogs born by caesarean section. JSAP.
- Riecks et al. 2007. Surgical correction of brachycephalic syndrome in dogs: 62 cases (1991 – 2004). JAVMA.