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Getting to know the English Bulldog

English Bulldogs, also known simply as Bulldog, are considered easy going, low maintenance dogs. Kind, friendly, dignified, stubborn—if these terms appeal to you as characteristics you’re looking for in a canine companion, an English Bulldog may be the right breed for you.

Origins of the English Bulldog

There certainly is no mistaking the look and rolling gait of the English Bulldog who can trace his roots to 13th century England. This dog was used for “bullbaiting” during the reign of King John who considered it a sport to stake a bull in a field and having it fight a pack of dogs—hence the name bull dog. (This barbaric and grisly pastime was outlawed in 1835 when England banned blood sports.)

When bull baiting was outlawed, Bulldogs faced extinction until admirers of the breed began the process of taking this dog from fighter to family companion. If it weren’t for Bulldog enthusiasts who worked to transform the breed from fighter to family pet they would almost certainly have perished. They bred out the dog’s fighting instinct and they eventually became sweet family companions. Later, the English Bulldog was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1886.

A national symbol of England, the Bulldog and was likened to the jowly, tenacious Prime Minister Winston Churchill. In America, the breed is a mascot for many sports teams. Handsome Dan, the Yale University Bulldog mascot was considered the first sports animal mascot. The Bulldog is also the face of the US Marine Corps and the Mack Truck Company.

Characteristics of the English Bulldog

The face and body of the English Bulldog are unmistakable: The look of this dog is one that suggests strength, vigor and great stability.

The Bulldog has a low-slung, heavy-set body with a massive short face and head, wide shoulders and sturdy limbs. The Bulldog is medium size, although he can weigh up to fifty pounds (averages between 40-50 pounds). He has short hair that requires little grooming other than brushing.

Having short muzzles, and a propensity towards obesity, they may have difficulty breathing and this can be exacerbated in high heat and humidity. Because they are prone to weight issues, he does need exercise to keep him healthy. However, So, walks and other exercise should be done in the cooler morning and evening hours.

Stairs and swimming pools are safety hazards for Bulldogs. Bulldogs may enjoy wading in water, but should not be allowed to be in water that is above their bellies and must be supervised at all times.

Bulldogs will shed regularly and sometimes profusely. Regular grooming with a soft brush will help with hair removal. Their other grooming needs are pretty low key, but you will want to clean between and beneath any skin folds on your Bulldog.

Personality of the English Bulldog

The Bulldog puppy is frisky and active. An older Bulldog much prefers to spend his time snoring on the sofa. In general, the Bulldog is also: kind, courageous (but not aggressive or vicious), resolute, dignified, and stubborn (but sensitive).

This breed loves to chew and should have access to chew toys to keep her from chewing inappropriate items. They are also known to be a resource-guarder of their food. It’s important that you start taking food out of her bowl when she’s young to teach her not to be protective of her food bowl.

This is a friendly breed, but socialization with people and other dogs is important. Training will require patience and repetition because this dog is stubborn and not as eager to please his owner as other breeds may be.

The Bulldog barks rarely, if ever, and this makes him an ideal companion for apartment dwellers (as long as he doesn’t have to climb too many stairs)

English Bulldog’s Health Issues

Bulldogs have many potential health concerns that crop up in their life, which spans about eight to ten years. Potential health issues include:

  • A tendency toward obesity
  • Prone to congenital orthopedic issues
  • Heart disease
  • Adult onset hip dysplasia
  • Skin issues
  • Respiratory issues
  • Overheating

Overheating is a dangerous situation for the English Bulldog. As such she should not be left in the hot sun or without ample water. This dog needs to be in a cool, air-conditioned space if the weather is hot and humid. Pay attention to your Bulldog and if you notice his tongue is lolling out and has a bluish tinge, instead of its normal pink, he is overheating. Cool him down immediately by applying cool cloths to his skin and giving him ice.

Ask your vet what type of food you should feed your Bulldog and how much. Overfeeding of this breed is easy and can quickly lead to your Bulldog becoming an unhealthy weight and that leads to more health issues. Keeping the Bulldog at a proper weight and having regular health checks at your veterinarian’s office will help assure she lives as long, and as healthy a life as possible.

Training your English Bulldog

Ask anyone and you will find that a Bulldog is easygoing, devoted and sweet. This is a breed who wants to please his owner. As with all dogs, socializing your Bulldog, taking her to a puppy training class and introducing her to other humans is important to her happiness.

Your Bulldog loves to chew and will be a chewer for his life. Make certain you have proper and safe toys for your Bulldog to enjoy. Tug-of-war is also a favorite pastime of Bulldogs. Even though this is a fun game, your Bulldog will need to be taught the importance of releasing or “dropping” items on command. This is important to his health in case he gets something in his mouth that is harmful. Food protectiveness is a trait you will need to work on with your Bulldog. Teaching her to let people take food from her bowl will help alleviate any food guarding behaviors.

Is an English Bulldog the right dog for you?

An English Bulldog is an ideal family companion and one who bonds quickly and deeply with his family. There are issues a new Bulldog owner needs to take into consideration. If you have the financial resources to get a Bulldog and provide the care he will need throughout his life, it may be the right breed for you. Knowing that your pet may only be with you for a decade is something you’d need to prepare yourself for before you bring a Bulldog into your life. Just as you would with any breed, take your Bulldog for training classes and assure he is properly socialized.

The English Bulldog is definitely right for you and your family if you want to snuggle up on the couch with a drooling pup who will welcome your love and attention!

Editor’s Note: With so many dog breeds to choose from, trying to find the right fit for your home and family can be overwhelming. Here are tips for finding the right-sized dog for you.


Robbi Hess, award-winning author, is multi-petual: She shares her home with two Devon Rex kittens, three adult rescue cats, a mini poodle, a Goldendoodle, three lizards and two ferrets. When not caring for her pets, she is an editor, speaker, time management and productivity guru, content creator, social media manager and blogger. She writes at All Words MatterMy Divas Dish, and is the story editor and chief cat herder at Positively Woof.

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