American Bulldog: Dog Breed Characteristics & Care

History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

American bulldog

Aleksandr Zotov / Getty Images

The American bulldog is a large non-sporting breed from the United States with a sturdy body, broad head, muscular shoulders, and a longer face than other popular types of bulldogs. This stocky, strong dog is also an affectionate and protective pet, and its love of children makes it a great choice for families. Despite its large size, the American bulldog often thinks it belongs in its owner's lap.

These dogs have powerful jaws and box-like heads, but even with their hearty looks, they're quite agile and light on their feet. With an American bulldog as a pet, you can expect ultimate loyalty, strength, and friendliness. They are happy, faithful companions who are always ready for work or playtime.

Breed Overview

Group: Foundation Stock Service

Height: 22 to 25 inches (males); 20 to 23 inches (females)

Weight: 75 to 100 pounds (males); 60 to 80 pounds (females)

Coat: Smooth, short coat

Coat Color: Typically white with patches of brindle, red, black, brown, or gray

Life Span: 10 to 12 years

Temperament: Friendly, loyal, playful, protective, confident

Hypoallergenic: No

Origin: United States

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Characteristics of the American Bulldog

The American bulldog does best with experienced owners who have time to train and exercise their dogs often. Since this breed is protective of its family, socialization is key in puppyhood to ensure your dog does well with strangers, other dogs, and even cats. Using positive reinforcement training will encourage your American bulldog to show off its friendliness to everyone it meets, as this breed can have an especially affectionate temperament once familiar with new people.

Regular exercise is important for these strong dogs to beat boredom, which can manifest as bad behavior at home. American bulldogs love brisk walks with their owners, and their enthusiastic personalities are great for playing with adults and kids alike.

Affection Level High
Friendliness High
Kid-Friendly High
Pet-Friendly Medium
Exercise Needs High
Playfulness High
Energy Level Medium
Trainability Medium
Intelligence Medium
Tendency to Bark Medium
Amount of Shedding Low

History of the American Bulldog

English bulldogs were originally used for bull baiting in 17th century England, a gruesome sport involving dogs fighting bulls. The practice has since been eliminated, and bulldogs dazzled their way into the lives of families across England (even becoming a national symbol).

English bulldogs were brought to North America to use their strength and determination as farm dogs. Farmers bred them with other working dogs to get the best all-around breed for their specific jobs. Their intelligence, loyalty, and agility made them helpful for both herding and hunting.

According to the AKC, the American bulldog breed's population was severely depleted during WWI and WWII. Thanks to two determined breeders, John D. Johnson and Alan Scott, these dogs were repopulated and went on to become the popular companions they are today.

As the breed developed, American bulldogs were known as friendly pets that were a must for families across North America. Their intimidating looks and strength made them a great breed to represent competitive sports teams.

The United Kennel Club recognized the American bulldog as a distinct breed in 1999, and the breed joined the AKC's Foundation Stock Service in 2019.

Bulldog baseball mascot
Bulldog baseball mascot, May 1917. Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

American Bulldog Care

The American bulldog makes a wonderful family pet, but this breed also requires significant exercise and training to be a healthy, well-mannered companion. In the grooming department, these short-haired dogs don't require much aside from basic care.

Exercise

American bulldogs do best with at least an hour of exercise per day, which owners can provide through daily walks or playing in the yard. Along with helping your dog maintain its health and a suitable weight, exercise is a great way to keep this breed mentally stimulated.

Without enough exercise, American bulldogs are prone to find their own entertainment—which can lead to destructive behaviors like chewing on furniture or getting into off-limits items at home. This breed is best suited for active families that enjoy plenty of playtime with their dogs. Your American bulldog will be happy to join you on walks, runs, hikes, and games like fetch or tug-of-war.

Grooming

Minimal grooming is required for the American bulldog’s short, fine coat, but this breed does shed year-round. These dogs typically enjoy grooming, and weekly brushing will significantly help owners manage shedding.

Though their coat is relatively low-maintenance, American bulldogs are known to have issues with excess drool. Their slobber is natural; just be sure to keep any wrinkles free from excess moisture to avoid bacteria buildup or infections. Like other dogs, American bulldogs require regular baths, nail trimming, and ear cleaning. Their nails should be trimmed every few weeks to avoid overgrowth and pain, while ears should be cleaned as needed to prevent infections.

Training

Consistent training is a must for this breed. American bulldogs are naturally protective (sometimes to a fault), but they do love to learn. Training your dog in basic obedience can begin as early as six to eight weeks of age, and socialization is necessary once puppies have received the necessary vaccines to be safe in public.

American bulldogs can need a helping hand when it comes to acceptable behavior around strangers and other animals. This will help your dog become a friendly companion and avoid unnecessary aggression. Since these dogs do best with love and attention from their owners, they also respond very well to positive reinforcement methods. Offer treats, affection, and playtime as rewards for desired behavior. Training should be consistent and ongoing throughout the dog's life.

American bulldog puppy
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American bulldog running outside
White_bcgrd / Getty Images 

Common Health Problems

Like other purebred dogs, American bulldogs can be prone to certain genetic health concerns. Responsible breeders will test prospective parent dogs before breeding to avoid passing these problems down to puppies.

The following are conditions to be aware of with this breed:

  • Elbow and Hip Dysplasia: Common in large dog breeds, dysplasia is caused by a malformation in the dog's joints as they age.
  • Neuronal Ceroid Lipofuscinosis: This hereditary disorder affects your dog's central nervous system. Genetic tests can determine whether this disease is present in specific bloodlines.
  • Allergies: American bulldogs can develop allergies caused by an overactive immune system. While many puppies grow out of it, these symptoms are manageable in older dogs. Your veterinarian may recommend a food allergy test if symptoms like redness, itchy skin, or licking paws are present.
american bulldogs as pets illustration
Illustration: The Spruce / Emilie Dunphy

Diet and Nutrition

American bulldogs do best on high-quality dog food with meat protein listed as the first ingredient. Avoid overfeeding to prevent unnecessary weight gain, which can cause joint issues. Your veterinarian may also recommend omega-3 fatty acids for joint health.

Along with maintaining the proper nutrients, it's important to be aware of any food allergies your dog may have if they struggle with red, itchy skin. Talk to your veterinarian to determine a suitable diet and portion sizes for your dog based on their age, weight, activity level, and specific medical needs. Allergy tests provide the most definitive results, but owners can also slowly switch between different protein options to find the best results.

Where to Adopt or Buy an American Bulldog

American bulldogs are a popular breed in many regions of the United States, so finding this breed shouldn't be a major challenge for prospective adopters. Check your local shelters to meet American bulldogs in need of forever homes in your area, or reach out to breed-specific rescues to meet a variety of dogs.

If you're set on starting with a puppy, it's essential to research responsible breeders before adopting. Always ask for a health guarantee and the litter's family medical history. The right breeder should also allow you to meet the litter's parents and see the conditions in which their dogs are kept.

To start your search, check out these resources for breed-specific rescues, the national breed club, and the AKC:

American Bulldog Overview

Pros
  • Friendly, loving companions for kids and adults alike

  • Great for active owners

  • Low-maintenance coat

Cons
  • Prone to drooling

  • May require a specialized diet

  • Needs plenty of exercise and socialization to be well-mannered

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

If you love the American bulldog, you might also like these similar breeds:

There are plenty of different dog breeds that can join your family. With a little research, you can find the perfect match to bring home!

FAQ
  • Is an American Bulldog a Pit Bull?

    While the two breeds may look alike in many ways, the American bulldog is not the same as an American pit bull terrier (APBT). American bulldogs are much larger, and the APBT can have more varieties in coat color. Both breeds have a similar temperament, exercise needs, and socialization requirements to become well-mannered pets.

  • Is an American Bulldog a Good Family Dog?

    If its owners provide the proper training and socialization, American bulldogs can become great family pets. This breed needs plenty of exercise to stay healthy, but with the right care, American bulldogs are known for being especially loving and protective of their families.

  • Do American Bulldogs Bark a Lot?

    American bulldogs aren't as prone to barking as some dogs that were bred to alert, but they can still become vocal. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to train your dog that discourage excessive barking.