Bulldog (English Bulldog): Dog Breed Characteristics & Care

History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

bulldog in a pile of leaves

 www.bridgetdavey.com / Getty Images

The bulldog is a medium-sized dog breed from England known for its trademark gloomy face, wide shoulders, and endearing rolling gait. It's quite possibly one of the most recognized breeds in the world. Although you’ll often see this breed referred to as the “English bulldog,” a reference to its country of origin, the official name is simply bulldog.

Bulldogs live happily in large homes or apartments. Their main concern is that they are inside with the family. They are dignified but funny, courageous but easy-going, and tenacious but sweet—the bulldog is simply like no other breed.

Breed Overview

GROUP: Non-Sporting

HEIGHT: 14 to 15 inches at the shoulder

WEIGHT: 40 to 50 pounds

COAT: Straight, short, fine-textured, smooth, and glossy

COAT COLOR: Red, white, fawn, or fallow (pale brown), or any combination of these colors, with or without such patterns and markings as brindle, piebald, ticking, black masks, or black tipping

LIFE SPAN: 8 to 10 years

TEMPERAMENT: Willful, friendly, gregarious, docile

HYPOALLERGENIC: No

ORIGIN: England

Characteristics of the Bulldog

Bulldogs are extremely popular in both England and North America. Despite that furrowed brow and grumpy-looking scowl, bulldogs are amiable and sweet-natured companions. They are great family dogs and they get along with adults and kids alike. Bulldogs usually coexist peacefully with other pets, although some dogs of the same sex might not get along. Thanks to their extreme facial construction, bulldogs snort, snuffle, grunt, snore, slobber, and drool.

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

History of the Bulldog

In 13th-century England, the bulldog was used as a fighting dog in a gruesome sport known as bull-baiting. During this period, bulldogs looked and acted very different than they do today. In particular, they were much fiercer—not suitable pets in the least. After blood sports like bull baiting were outlawed in England, bulldogs were out of a job, but some bulldog lovers sought to save the breed. With some judicious breeding, the bulldog was toned down into the slow, ambling, sweet, and loving pet we know and love today.

Prize bulldog
Mr Smith, a prize bulldog owned by W Hiscox of Purley, June 1935. Fox Photos / Getty Images

Bulldog Care

When exercising and training your bulldog, keep these important considerations in mind. The bulldog is extremely susceptible to heatstroke. Take extra precautions with your bulldog to avoid overheating on warm days: Don’t exercise a bulldog outdoors in the heat and stay indoors with air conditioning if possible. Use fans, shade, and cooling pads, and provide access to cool drinking water.

Exercise

Bulldogs are sometimes labeled as lazy, and while it’s true that bulldogs are one of the more sedate breeds, some enjoy more vigorous activities than just lying on the couch. Bulldogs like daily walks—no more than 20 to 30 minutes, though—and some crave more brisk exercise like off-leash fetch or romping at the dog park. Some superstar bulldogs even excel at competitive dog sports like obedience and agility.

Grooming

The bulldog’s short coat is easy to care for. Brief brushing sessions two or three times a week will get rid of any loose hairs and leave the coat looking and feeling great. The deep wrinkles require special care—clean them using a cotton swab or cotton ball dipped in hydrogen peroxide and follow up with an application of cornstarch to keep them dry. Clean the ears once a week with a pet-safe ear cleanser and trim the nails weekly, as well. Bathe your bulldog monthly or when it gets dirty.

Training

Bulldogs can be difficult to train as the breed can certainly be stubborn, but you only have to look to one of the famous skateboarding or surfing bulldogs to see that they are definitely capable of learning. You just need to find the right motivation. Positive-reinforcement methods like clicker training work best. Use tasty treats and keep sessions short to maintain the bulldog’s attention span.

Bulldog skateboarding
lisegagne​ / Getty Images 

Common Health Problems

It’s no secret that the bulldog is not the healthiest dog breed. Some common health issues seen in bulldogs include:

  • Breathing Problems: Because this breed has brachycephalic syndrome, it is susceptible to stenotic nares and an elongated soft palate.
  • Eye Disorders: This breed is prone to keratoconjunctivitis sicca (dry eye), entropion, ectropion, cherry eye, and distichiasis.
  • Ventricular Septal Defect: This birth defect results in a hole in the wall separating the lower heart chambers.
  • Orthopedic Disorders: This breed is prone to canine hip dysplasia, shoulder luxation, elbow dysplasia, and patellar luxation.
  • Internalized Tail: Other names for this problem include screw tail and corkscrew tail. It refers to an inherited condition where the vertebrae form an abnormality that spirals downward, resulting in anal obstruction or other serious challenges.

Due to the multitude of health problems that occur commonly in the breed, vet bills can be quite high throughout the lifetime of a bulldog, a serious consideration when deciding to become a bulldog owner.

bulldogs as pets illustration
Illustration: The Spruce / Kelly Miller

Diet and Nutrition

Bulldogs love to eat. Their love of food can cause some to eat more than they should and put on too much weight, which adds stress to their joints. Work with your veterinarian to determine how much your bulldog should be eating daily, and feed measured meals at scheduled times. Leaving food out all the time (free feeding) or eyeballing the amounts instead of using a measuring cup can pack on the pounds.

Where to Adopt or Buy a Bulldog

Bulldogs are unique in that they nearly always give birth via Cesarean section due to the construction of their bodies. This means bulldog puppies can be pricey. Expect to pay an average price of $2,500—or between $1,500 to $4,000—for an English bulldog pup. Many adult bulldogs are available for adoption through various rescue and adoption groups. If you have your heart set on a puppy, the best way to locate a bulldog breeder is to contact the following sources:

Bulldog Overview

Pros
  • Full of personality

  • Can live in any size dwelling, from a small apartment to a big house

  • Capable of fun agility skills, like skateboarding

Cons
  • Prone to health problems, such as breathing issues, eye disorders, and orthopedic problems

  • Drools, snorts, and passes a lot of gas

  • Territorial about their food

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

Before you decide to bring a bulldog into your home, be sure to do plenty of research. Talk to other bulldog owners, reputable breeders, and rescue groups to learn more about day-to-day life with this breed.

If you’re interested in the bulldog, you may like to read about similar breeds. Look into these dogs and compare the pros and cons.

There’s a whole world of potential dog breeds out there—with a little research, you can find the right one to bring home!

FAQ
  • Why are bulldogs so possessive over their food?

    Called resource guarding, this is a serious issue that can become dangerous if not controlled. Talk to your veterinarian or professional dog trainer about ways to prevent or reduce resource guarding in your bulldog. Additionally, always feed your bulldog alone. Don’t allow other pets or people—especially children—to approach your bulldog while eating.

  • Is the bulldog a good choice for a first-time dog owner?

    The bulldog is one of the best breeds for a first-time dog owner. It's a low-key, friendly dog that doesn't require much exercise and requires basic grooming skills. However, novice dog owners should be prepared for their bulldog's potentially frequent veterinarian visits to check on health conditions.

  • Why do bulldogs pass so much gas?

    True, bulldogs tend to pass a lot of gas—a byproduct of swallowing air while breathing. To bulldog lovers, this is all part of the breed’s charm. The reason they fart so much is because of their anatomy: their short noses and flat faces make it tough to eat at a slower pace so they inhale their food which irritates their digestive system.