What Are English Bulldogs Like? Exploring These Powerful Pups

Updated December 28, 2021
Close-Up Portrait Of Pug Resting At Home

Known simply as Bulldogs by the American Kennel Club (AKC), English Bulldogs proved wrinkles were cute long before Shar Peis captured public attention. However, cuteness isn't the only thing these dogs have going for them. If you're looking for a faithful companion who can be quite dignified one moment and turn into a loveable clown in a flash, look no further than the English Bulldog.

Origin and History

According to the Bulldog Club of America, this breed was originally developed in England to help butchers subdue the animals they were about to butcher. This practice eventually developed into the dubious sport of bullbaiting. Early bulldogs were aggressive because they needed this quality to do the job at hand.

Once bull baiting was abolished, breeders began working to improve the breed's natural temperament, and that is how they became the loving, steady companions they are today.

Breed Characteristics

Bulldogs are one of the most recognizable breeds on the planet, and also one of the most popular. Take a closer look at what makes these dogs so distinctive.

English Bulldog breed characteristics

Appearance

According to the AKC breed standard, Bulldogs are medium-sized dogs that are quite heavy and muscular for their frame. They have very broad, wrinkled heads and extremely short muzzles with undershot jaws. The skin is looser around their necks and shoulders, and you'll find more wrinkling in these locations.

Their chests are quite broad, but these dogs are a bit more narrow in the rear. Their legs are fairly short and heavy-boned, which gives them a rectangular appearance from the side. They have short tails that are either straight or "screwed," but they should always extend downward from their base.

Males of this breed tend to weigh in around 50 pounds and stand 14 to 15 inches at the shoulder, while females reach the same height but often weigh a little less. When you compare both sexes side-by-side, the female looks slightly smaller because she doesn't display the breed's main characteristics to quite the same degree as the male does. No matter which sex the dog is, no part of the its anatomy should be out of proportion with the rest of the body. Overall balance is more desirable than any one feature.

A Bulldog's coat should be very short, smooth, and glossy. There is no fringe anywhere on the dog, and the fur should lay flat without any waves.

Bulldogs come in several coat colors and patterns, with red brindle being the most desirable according to the breed standard. Other acceptable colors include:

  • Other shades of brindle
  • Solid white
  • Solid red
  • Fawn or fallow
  • Piebald

Temperament

Upon meeting a bulldog, you should get the impression that this is an intelligent, dignified dog who seems friendly enough and knows how to cut loose and have a little fun when they want to. This dog has a steady temperament and is very dependable around children if raised with them. Otherwise, Bulldogs may tend to bowl over smaller family members during vigorous play.

This dog also makes a good guardian, but shouldn't show signs of overt aggression. It should also be noted that some Bulldogs can be overbearing and will try to dominate their human family if they don't receive early training.

Training

A Bulldog needs a fair amount of training to bring out their best qualities. Begin training them as puppies to not jump on people, because they're going to be too heavy for you to tolerate this when they reach adulthood.

It's also a good idea to begin leash training your Bulldog around 8 weeks old so your pup learns to follow you before they're big enough to try to drag you around. Your pet will also breath easier if you use some type of harness rather than a traditional collar and leash. The pressure of the collar against their throat can irritate their trachea.

Full obedience training should begin between 4 to 6 months of age. This helps the dog learn their proper place in the family, and they'll be a happier and more cooperative pet because of it.

Father and son of English bulldogs outdoor

Exercise Requirements

Bulldogs are less active than many breeds, but they can really benefit from moderate daily walks. Just don't expect your pet to go long-distance jogging with you because these dogs usually only run in short spurts.

Remember, Bulldogs are brachycephalic, meaning their muzzles are substantially shortened and they have flat faces. This reduces their capacity for exercise. That's not to say bulldogs can't be active. After all, who hasn't seen videos of these dogs manning their skateboards? They just don't have the sustained energy of an Australian Shepherd.

Health

The Bulldog's unique anatomy requires a bit of extra care to keep them safe and healthy.

Some of the more common concerns include the following:

  • Heatstroke: Due to the shape of their heads and their flat muzzles, these dogs have more difficulty dealing with the heat than the average canine.
  • Drowning: Bulldogs are not built to swim, so they tend to sink like stones. Either keep your dog away from open water, or make sure they wear a life jacket to keep them afloat until you can rescue them.
  • Obesity: These aren't the most active dogs in the world, and it's easy for them to become overweight. Obesity can lead to a host of other health problems, so try to keep exercise and meal portions in balance.
  • Sensitive to anesthesia: Veterinarians need to avoid using general anesthesia unless it's absolutely necessary. It's all too easy to over anesthetize these dogs, which can kill them.

According to the Bulldog Club of America, some of the more serious health concerns in the breed include the following issues:

Mature English Bulldog with red eyes
  • Elongated soft palate: According to the American College of Veterinary Surgeons (ACVS), this is a common condition in brachycephalic breeds, and the palate actually protrudes into the airway and sometimes causes difficulty breathing. This causes Bulldogs to snuffle and snort, and it can also cause episodes of reverse sneezing.
  • Stenotic nares: The ACVS states that this condition is often found in dogs with elongated palates. The nostrils are narrow and tend to collapse inward when the dog breaths in.
  • Eye problems: According to Lien Animal Clinic, Bulldogs are prone to conditions like cherry eye and entropion. Cherry eye occurs when a gland located under the third eyelid swells and creates a red protrusion in the corner of the eye. Entropion causes the eyelid to roll inward until the lashes rub the eye and cause irritation. Left untreated, this condition can lead to corneal ulcers.
  • Hip dysplasia: In this disorder, the ball of the hip joint doesn't fit correctly into the socket. The abnormal shape of the ball wears away the cartilage that lines the socket, and this eventually leads to bone painfully rubbing against bone. Individual dogs may be affected to different degrees, but continued degeneration of the joint typically leads to lameness.
  • Luxating patellas: This is the technical term for slipping kneecaps. This condition can cause the dog a lot of pain, and may even result in permanent lameness.

Grooming

Bulldogs don't need a lot of bathing, and they don't shed too much. Brushing them with a soft bristle brush two to three times a week will collect any loose fur and bring out a nice shine in their coat.

As for additional grooming, keep these tips in mind:

  • Pay special attention to all those wrinkles on your Bulldog's face, because they can collect moisture and create a home for bacteria and fungus. Use a pet wipe to wipe out between the folds, as well around the tail and undercarriage, to keep the dog fresh.
  • Since these dogs' ears fold over, it's a good idea to give them a weekly cleaning.
  • Clip just the tips of the nails each week to keep the dog's feet in good health.
  • Brush the dog's teeth at least once a week using a dental kit made for dogs.

Purchasing or Adopting an English Bulldog

If you're looking for an English Bulldog puppy, a good place to start is the Bulldog Club of America. They have a breeder directory available as well as helpful tips on how to find responsible breeders with quality dogs. The AKC Marketplace also has a breeder search. Expect to pay around $1,500 to $2,500, although higher-end show dogs from champion lines can cost as much as $4,000.

English Bulldog Puppy Walking In Grass

Rescue Organizations

If you would prefer a rescued dog, the search directories on PetFinder and Save-a-Rescue are good sources. You can also contact these breed-specific Bulldog rescues:

Is the English Bulldog Right for You?

Even with their health concerns and physical limitations, Bulldogs still make wonderful, fun-loving companions. If you think this might be the right breed for you, visit a few breeders and spend time around puppies and adult dogs in order to get a better idea of what it's like to live with these dogs. Only then can you decide if this dog will be a good fit for your life.

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What Are English Bulldogs Like? Exploring These Powerful Pups