A complete guide to the Bulldog breed. Giving you information, tips and advice for owners and prospective puppy buyers.
The number of Bulldog puppies registered in the UK has increased steadily. More than doubling over the last ten years.
Also known as the English or British Bulldog, this iconic dog has certainly found a place in a lot of people’s hearts and homes.
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.
Consequently, there were some changes to the original design of the dog.
Some claim that the original Bull dogs were crossed with Pugs, which explains the receding muzzle and the diminishing 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.
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.
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.
Bull dogs have straight or screwed tails. Screwed tail Bulldogs require more care than their straight tailed counterparts.
English Bulldog Care
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.
Their fur is short, straight and smooth. With no curling or feathering to it, it is easily managed with a normal dog brush.
Bulldogs come in a range of colors, categorised by the Kennel Club as one of the following
- Fawn & Brindle
- Fawn & White
- Fawn Brindle & White
- Red Bulldog
- Red & White
- Red Brindle
- Red Brindle & White
They can also have a wide variety of markings. Having a black mask or tips. Being brindle, piebald or ticked across their body. They can also have white markings in places.
These are medium sized dogs in terms of their height. However they are by no means small.
An adult Bulldog can weigh around 50lbs or more.
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 Bull dog slim with a tucked in tummy.
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 Bull dogs 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. This charming puppy will then in all likelihood grow into a calm, friendly older companion.
Bulldogs and Children
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.
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.
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.
These are not dogs that are particularly prone to barking or guarding.
They do however make a lot of noise, snorting, grunting and snoring in their sleep. Most of this is down to their breathing problems.
These respiratory noises might sound cute, but they are actually indications of some serious underlying health problems.
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.
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, which we will look at in greater detail in the Health section below.
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.
Bulldog Health Problems
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. Brachycephaly means that the facial bones have been radically shortened, relative to the proportions of the dog.
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’, the skin on the face, the palate, the teeth, the tongue, the lining of the mouth etc, in many brachycephalic dogs, 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 bulldog 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.
Bulldog Eye Problems
The 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. As a result of this structure, they can even ‘pop’ out of their sockets. This can understandably very alarming for those that love them, and very distressing for the dog.
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.
The skin folds around the tail, and under the tail itself need special care and cleaning.
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.
This is reflected in the price of puppies available for sale.
Bulldog Bladder Stones
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 – its called hyperuricosuria or HUU.
Under the Kennel Club’s breedwatch scheme, the Bulldog is rated Category Three. Category three breeds are
High Profile Breeds – Breeds where some dogs have visible conditions or exaggerations that can cause pain or discomfort.
Make sure that you know how best to keep your puppy as healthy as possible.
A Kennel Club health survey from that looked at 180 Bulldog deaths, found that the average life span of the breed was just over six 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.
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.
Before you reach for your cheque book and commit to your new Bulldog puppy, you need to be confident that this is the right breed for you.
Is A Bulldog The Right Breed For Me?
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
English Bulldog Mix & Bulldog Alternatives
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. Although these dogs are still in worse health than many other equally lovely breeds of dog.
If you adore Bulldog personalities then a Boxer is a slightly healthier alternative, although not without their problems.
Miniature Schnauzers, Border Terriers and Labrador Retrievers all make lovely pets without the desperately sad health problems.
Further Bulldog Information
- 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