Miniature Bull Terrier (MBT): Dog Breed Profile

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

Miniature Bull terrier sleeping on couch

Chiara Benelli / Moment / Getty Images

The miniature bull terrier, or MBT, is a compact canine with a larger-than-life personality. Part of the terrier family, these dogs have tenacity but are teeming with affection and antics. Their demeanor and appearance are largely similar to the standard bull terrier—with the characteristic triangular eyes and egg-shaped head. But make no mistake about it, the MBT is a breed all its own with a devoted ‘egghead’ following.

Today the mini bull terrier makes a popular pet and excels as a canine competitor, particularly in agility. However, these dogs require a firm but patient owner and aren’t necessarily the best choice for a first-time dog owner. If you’ve got what it takes to keep one step ahead of the MBT, you’ll fall in love with this breed’s unique character. 

Breed Overview

Group: Terrier

Height: 10 to 14 inches

Weight: 25 to 35 pounds

Coat: Short, coarse coat

Coat Color: In various colors including solid white, black, and more or white with colored markings, including brindle

Life Expectancy: 10 to 13 years

Characteristics of the Miniature Bull Terrier

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

History of the Miniature Bull Terrier

One look at the Miniature Bull Terrier and you’ll see that this dog is a breed all its own. The characteristic egg-shaped head and triangular eyes give few insights into the breed’s history. However, we know that, like all miniature breeds, the MBT was bred down into a smaller package from the standard type of the breed.

The standard bull terrier is commonly thought to have been developed in the mid-1800’s from a cross between the old English bulldog, the English white terrier, the English greyhound, and Dalmatian. From this canine conglomeration emerged a terrier that excelled at hunting and killing rats in ‘sporting events’ where spectators placed bets on the outcomes.

Seeing the breed’s tenacity, hunters started breeding a miniature version to serve as smaller ‘ratters’ that could hunt small prey even in tight quarters. The miniature bull terrier today holds onto the tenacity of the terrier and often exhibits a strong prey drive, however the playful and sweet nature of the mini is what makes this breed stand out as an outstanding companion animal.

One of the most famous mini bull terriers is the icon for shopping superstore Target. Bullseye, aptly named for the red circles adorning a snowy white coat has been appearing in print and television ads for the company since 1999. Interestingly, this is also the same year that the MBT gained official breed recognition from the AKC. 

Miniature Bull Terrier Care

Training a mini bull terrier will likely be your greatest delight and biggest challenge. Owners of an MBT simultaneously sing their praises while lamenting their stubborn streak. This is typical for terriers, and the mini bull terrier got a full-size dose of ‘tude.

Patient, consistent, and firm training will go a long way in helping this pint-sized terrier learn to listen and obey your commands. It’s highly beneficial to enroll your dog in obedience classes from the start to help establish good pack leadership principles.

Keep in mind that these dogs are very smart and without enough mental and physical exercise, they’ll find their own way to stay occupied. Frequently described by breed enthusiasts as ‘a 3-year-old in a dog suit’ they’ll keep you entertained but also spring plenty of surprises on you.

Some people say that bull terriers are particularly dog aggressive, but other experienced owners point out that good socialization is the key—as it is with any dog breed. Still, it’s wise to keep in mind that this breed was developed to hunt small game so their prey drive is strong and might overrule good training on occasion. Some people say that their mini bull terrier can’t be trusted off leash, while others find it possible—as long as they let their pooch choose his own path.

The stubborn streak of mini bull terriers sometimes leads to a state of ‘shutdown.’ More than one MBT owner has reported carrying their dog back from a walk where he or she decided against taking one single step more. This mental shutdown can also occur during training activities or when your MBT is protesting some new change in routine. These types of challenges require patience and determination to work through, and it’s also important to make training a mentally stimulating activity for your MBT.

Like many terriers, the mini bull terrier has a big heart inside its deep chest. These dogs tend to show tremendous loyalty to their owners and family. While not overly clingy, they do love to be around their people and can become bored or destructive if left alone for excessively long periods of time. They reportedly do well with children, but it’s important to make sure that your dog is socialized from puppyhood with kids at a variety of ages. The energy and enthusiasm of an MBT makes a great playmate for older kids that love to run and romp.

A few solid walks each day will help keep your bull terrier in shape and out of trouble. These dogs also seem to enjoy athletic challenges, like agility, flyball, rally, and more. Introducing a number of activities into your MBT’s routine is a great way to prevent boredom while keeping your dog fit and healthy.

Grooming a mini bull terrier is pretty simple. These dogs only need brushing once a week or so, ideally with a grooming mitt. They benefit from an occasional bath to keep doggy odor away, but it’s not necessary to go to any great lengths to keep your MBT’s coat looking great. You should know that this breed is at least an average shedder; some dogs shed less and others seem to shed more, but either way the short, coarse hairs are bound to show up on your floors, furniture, and clothing.

Miniature bull terrier puppy on grass
Chely / Getty Images
Brindle miniature bull terrier portrait
Marcelo Nancinovic / Moment / Getty Images
White mini bull terrier profile of head
Quicksnap Photos / Moment Open / Getty Images

Common Health Problems

With a sturdy build and ready-t0-go personality, the Mini Bull Terrier isn’t frail or feeble. However, the breed does have some common health problems to be aware of. The National Breed Club recommends that you ask a breeder for health tests from both parents (and the puppy where applicable) for heart and kidney disease, deafness, luxating patella, and primary lens luxation. Deafness is particularly seen in solid white bull terriers, though the problem has been noted in dogs with coats of various colors as well. The breed is also prone to allergies; these can be environmental or food-related.

There is some debate as to whether or not the breed’s iconic egg-shaped head contributes to temperament disorders. At the very least, it has been suggested that inbreeding for the shape of the head and the miniature size has caused some health problems for the breed. Look for a breeder with solid pedigrees and a healthy lineage to help minimize the chances of issues related to inbreeding.

In summary, mini bull terriers sometimes cope with the following health conditions:

Diet and Nutrition

Mini bull terriers should be fed a quality diet, with special caution against overfeeding. The breed has a tendency towards becoming overweight, so don’t make it a habit to give too many treats or feed table scraps to an MBT.

The breed’s tendency towards allergies sometimes means that they struggle with traditional dog food formulas. Some MBTs do better on a limited-ingredient diet to combat allergies and maintain a healthy coat and skin. 

Pros
  • Friendly and affectionate

  • Highly intelligent

  • Compact size suitable for apartments or houses

Cons
  • Can be stubborn

  • May not tolerate other dogs well

  • May shed considerably

Where to Adopt or Buy a Miniature Bull Terrier

While the mini bull terrier has been gaining notoriety, thanks in part to the breed’s role in major marketing campaigns, they’re still a relatively rare terrier to find. Breeders exist that specialize in the mini bull terrier, but you might also find your pint-sized pal at a rescue.

Local or regional bully-breed rescues sometime have mini bull terriers in need of a good home. It’s always a great idea to check with rescue organizations first, before considering buying a puppy from a breeder.

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

If you think you’d like to make a mini egghead part of your pack, do your homework on what it takes to find the right dog for you. Mini bull terriers are appealing because of their small size, but they still carry a big commitment in terms of time, training, and energy.

Other dog breeds you may want to consider also: