American Bulldog: Dog Breed Profile

Characteristics, History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

American bulldog

Aleksandr Zotov / Getty Images

The stocky but muscular American bulldog is an affectionate and protective pet. Their love of kids make them excellent family dogs and despite their large size, they often think they belong in your lap. With an American bulldog as a pet, you can expect ultimate loyalty, strength, and friendliness. They are happy, faithful companions who are tough and always ready for work or playtime.

American bulldogs have powerful jaws and box-like heads, adding to their stocky appearance. Despite their boxy looks, these dogs are quite agile and light on their feet. They love brisk walks with their owners. Regular exercise is important for these strong dogs to beat boredom, which can manifest as bad behavior in dogs.

This breed does best with experienced owners who have time to train and exercise them often. Socialization training is key for protective American bulldogs and works best when started with puppies. Adding positive training will encourage them to show off their friendliness to everyone they meet.

Breed Overview

GroupNon-Sporting

Height: 20 to 28 inches

Weight: 60 to 120 pounds

Coat: Smooth, short coat

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

Life Expectancy: 8 to 10 years

Characteristics of the American Bulldog

Affection Level High
Protectiveness 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

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

The English bulldog was brought to North America to become working dogs to help on farms due to their strength and determination. Farmers bred them with other working dogs to get the best all-around farm work dog. Their intelligence, loyalty, and agility made them helpful for both herding and hunting.

As the breed developed, these dogs became more attractive, friendly companion animals that were a must for families across North America. They became mascots of numerous schools and organizations, like Georgetown University and Yale. Their intimidating looks and strength make them the perfect face for competitive sports teams.

The United Kennel Club recognized the American bulldog as a distinct breed in 1999.

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

American Bulldog Care

Minimal grooming and care are required for the American bulldog’s short, fine coat, but they do shed year-round. American bulldogs typically enjoy grooming, and weekly brushing will significantly help to manage shedding.

Make sure to regularly exercise your American bulldog with daily brisk walks, playtime in the yard, and appropriate socialization to prevent boredom and destructive behavior. Without proper exercise and stimulation, American Bulldogs may turn to undesirable behavior, like chewing furniture for entertainment. These are not the right pets for couch potatoes.

Training is a must. Bulldogs are naturally protective, sometimes too protective, but love to learn. They need a helping hand when it comes to proper socialization and acceptable behavior. 

Though their coat is relatively low-maintenance, they 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 and infection. Like other dogs, American bulldogs require regular baths, nail trimming, and ear cleaning. Their nails should be trimmed every few weeks to avoid joint issues and pain and ears should be cleaned once a month or as needed to prevent infection.

American bulldog puppy
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American bulldog running outside
White_bcgrd / Getty Images 

Common Health Problems

All dog breeds have the potential to develop health problems and American bulldogs are no exception. This breed also often experiences allergies caused by an overactive immune system. If they don’t grow out of them altogether, their symptoms are manageable. It may be helpful to get an allergy test done and feed your dog an appropriate diet. Red and itchy skin or licking paws is a common sign of food allergies in dogs. If you see these symptoms, talk to your veterinarian about allergen possibilities.

American bulldogs are prone to several other conditions, including:

  • Hip or elbow dysplasia, which can be prevented by maintaining a healthy weight and adding vitamins to support healthy joints, like omega-3 fatty acids, to their diet.
  • Neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis, a genetic nervous system disorder. A genetic test can determine if the disorder will be an issue with your dog. Always ask for this test before you buy an American bulldog from a breeder.
american bulldogs as pets illustration
Illustration: The Spruce / Emilie Dunphy

Diet and Nutrition

Because American bulldogs are so active and muscular, they need food with lots of protein. The right dog food should contain meat protein as the first ingredient, omega-3 fatty acids for good health, and a small amount of carbs to prevent weight gain. Some bulldogs are prone to becoming overweight, so sticking to a veterinarian-approved diet is key.

If you are unsure of your pet’s allergies, it may be wise to try a few different protein options before settling. Switching foods can have adverse effects on dogs’ digestion, so transition gradually over several days to keep your pup healthy.

Pros

  • Friendly, family companions

  • Active dogs

  • Low maintenance coat

Cons

  • Prone to drooling

  • May require a specialized diet

  • Needs a lot of exercise

Where to Adopt or Buy an American Bulldog

There are American bulldog breeders located in nearly every state around the country. If you are getting your pet from a breeder, always ask for a health guarantee and any relevant medical history. Another option is to look at breed specific rescue organizations.

  • The American Bulldog Rescue specializes in finding forever homes for this breed and operates in the Northeastern United States.

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

If you’re interested in similar breeds, you’ll love:

Otherwise, check out some other dog breed profiles for even more information. With a little research, you can find the right one to bring home!