Just like humans, many of our canine counterparts have struggled with a checkered past, but none as notably as the ‘bull’ breeds. English Bulldog temperament has been in question for many years.
Pitbulls, Bulldogs, Bull Terriers, and other ‘bull’ breeds all suffer from a stigma. But does a dog’s ancestry define his future? Does his origin dictate who he can be today?
The English Bulldog falls into the Bull category, and many of the above questions apply to him. Unfortunately, most of the answers to those questions are not as black and white as we may like them to be.
Typical English Bulldog Temperament
The typical English Bulldog temperament is mild mannered, calm, and loving. Despite their formidable appearance this breed is kind and gentle in general. However, they do come with serious health problems, and the temperament can vary from dog to dog.
While it is true that genetics and breeding history can influence temperament, it is also equally true that environment, training, and socialization can play a vital role in the ultimate outcome of a dog’s personality.
Still, while there are many things to adore about the English Bulldog, there are also many things to be aware of.
In fact, you may be surprised to learn that temperamental issues are the least of your concerns when it comes to this breed.
Read on to learn more about the English Bulldog and whether or not he would be the right pet for you.
So, Just Who is the English Bulldog?
Also known as the ‘British Bulldog’, or simply the ‘Bulldog’, the English Bulldog is a squat, muscular dog with a distinctive pushed-in face.
It’s almost as if he didn’t realize the glass door was closed and ran head-first into it!
Despite being the poster child for bad breeding practices, and despite his sad history as an aggressive bait dog for blood sports, the English Bulldog currently sits as the 4th most popular dog in the United States, according to the American Kennel Club (AKC).
What Was the English Bulldog Bred For?
The English Bulldog, renowned for his muscular frame, large head, and massive jaws, started as a hunting and guarding dog and was bred for the cruel practice of bull-baiting beginning in the 1500’s.
Bull-baiting was a blood sport where people would bet money on whether or not the Bulldog would be able to pin the Bull down by his nose and hold him on the ground for a certain period of time.
As you can imagine, many Bulldogs were horrifically killed or maimed during these events.
Because of his past in blood sports, we would be remiss if we didn’t address the notion that the English Bulldog of today has an aggressive disposition, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Today’s account of the modern-day Bulldog is quite the opposite of the Bulldogs of old.
In fact, the American Kennel Club describes this breed as an affectionate, calm, and inquisitive dog who makes an excellent family pet that is gentle and great with children.
However, due to irresponsible breeding practices that have altered the physical appearance of the English Bulldog over centuries, this breed is one of the least healthy breeds in existence today.
What Does the English Bulldog Look like?
Just like with personality, the Bulldog of today also looks quite different from his bull-baiting ancestor.
The Bulldog of old was larger and leaner, with a face that resembled the modern-day boxer rather than the modern-day Bulldog.
Today’s Bully has that famous pushed-in face and a prominent underbite.
He stands up to 15 inches tall and weighs up to 50 pounds.
He is bow-legged with a wide head, with either a straight or curly tail and a large jaw.
His forehead is wrinkled, and he has long, hanging jowls that give him somewhat of a permanent melancholy expression.
Unfortunately, the negligent breeding practices that led to the Bulldog’s squished face also led to an unusually large head size.
As a result, Bulldog pups are almost always born via Cesarean Section.
So, Considering Their History, Are English Bulldogs Aggressive?
Despite their history in bull-baiting and blood sports, modern-day breeders of the English Bulldog have worked to decrease aggressive tendencies, and thankfully those efforts have proven successful.
Today, English Bulldog temperament is said to be mild-mannered, and they rarely show aggression or territorial behaviors deemed dangerous to people or children.
Veterinarians say that this breed is less aggressive than many others.
Still, if you are considering adding an English Bulldog to your family, we recommend early socialization and obedience training to ensure healthy development and a well-rounded dog.
What Is A Typical English Bulldog Personality Like?
As stated above, typical English Bulldog temperament should not show aggression.
So, no, he’s not a bully!
In fact, he is actually said to make a fantastic family pet with a special affection for children.
He may be a little stubborn and he may be a bit dim (the English Bulldog is one of the least intelligent dog breeds), but he makes a friendly, easy-going pet who enjoys family time and gets along famously with other household pets.
Are English Bulldogs Good Guard Dogs?
Although the Bulldog is known for his gentle, friendly nature, he is protective of his family and will bark and alert you if there is something suspicious going on outside of his domain.
Keep in mind, of course, that what’s suspicious to a Bulldog may not be suspicious to you, like that shady looking chipmunk or the neighbor’s slinky cat who keeps giving him the side-eye across the street.
Are English Bulldogs Good with Kids?
As previously mentioned, this breed does very well with children.
He’s friendly and curious, and very mild-mannered. You can expect him to form a very strong bond with the youngsters in your home.
A Look at the Many Health Issues of the English Bulldog
Sadly, the very thing many people find most appealing about the Bulldog is the very thing that makes him most vulnerable: that adorable, pushed-in face.
In addition, low genetic diversity sets this breed up for many health issues.
Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome
Because of his squished face, the Bulldog is prone to a very severe respiratory issue known as Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome.
The name of the syndrome quite literally translates to ‘shortened head’ and refers to the Bulldog’s upturned nose and flattened face. Due to the structure of the Bulldog’s skull, the air passages in his nose are more narrow than normal.
This causes serious breathing issues that can lead to chronic distress in the breed, as well as constant panting, problems eating, loud snoring, and even sleep apnea.
The Bulldog is also more predisposed to obesity, which can worsen Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome. To learn more about Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome, refer to this article.
Other Health Issues
Due to the irresponsible breeding practices throughout the Bulldog’s existence, he is also more predisposed to several other major health concerns, including overheating, serious skin problems such as allergies, eczema, dry skin, and acne, as well as orthopedic issues like arthritis, hip dysplasia, and Degenerative Spine Disease.
If the English Bulldog has a curly tail, also known as a cork tail, he can suffer from Hemivertebrae.
A potential owner should also watch out for Cherry Eye, joint and ligament injuries, idiopathic head tremors, digestive issues that cause vomiting and regurgitation, fold dermatitis, and heart disease.
To top it off, the English Bulldog is more predisposed to developing cancer than any other breed.
This chart shows some of the many health problems English Bulldogs face because of breeders’ reckless breeding practices over time.
Something else to keep in mind when considering a Bulldog as a pet is that although Bulldog’s mature slowly, they age quickly, showing signs of age as early as five years old.
In fact, their average lifespan is rather short, considering the average lifespan of a breed of their size is 12-14 years.
If not confronted with the numerous health issues discussed above, the average lifespan of the English Bulldog is still only eight years old.
Do English Bulldogs have a good temperament?
Yes! And they would be an ideal pet for many homes if it weren’t for the numerous health issues the breed faces.
The English Bulldog temperament and quirky look would make him the perfect pet otherwise!
It’s important to keep in mind that while the Bulldog is a gentle breed who does well with children, there is a great chance you will be setting yourself up for a sad and expensive journey when dealing with this dog because of all the serious health issues he is predisposed to.
Still, if you are willing to overlook the health issues and you have the ability to care for him if any of the above ailments should occur, then by all accounts you are likely to love your English Bulldog while you have him!
References and Further Reading
- Niels C. Pedersen, Ashley S. Pooch, and Hongwei Liu. 2016. A genetic assessment of the English bulldog. Canine Genetics and Epidemiology.
- Thomson, Keith Stewart. 1996. The fall and rise of the English bulldog. American Scientist.
- K.J. Stafford. 2011. Opinions of veterinarians regarding aggression in different breeds of dogs. New Zealand Veterinary Journal.