The English Bulldog

History:

The English Bulldog breed originated in England where they were used in a practice called bull baiting. This practice involved the dog grabbing onto the bull's nose and roughly shaking it as spectators placed wagers to see which dog was first to pin down the bull. Over the centuries the Bulldog's high tolerance for pain was developed to enhance their abilities to excel in this brutal sport. Even the wrinkles on their head are said to have had a purpose: to direct the blood that resulted from the grip on the bull to flow away from the eyes so they wouldn't be blinded. The sport reached its last chapter in 1835 when it was made illegal by the Cruelty to Animals Act.

Today's Bulldogs are bred to be affectionate and kind. Dedicated, patient breeders started selecting only those dogs that had a docile temperament for breeding. Aggressive and neurotic dogs weren't allowed to reproduce. By focusing their attention upon the temperament of the Bulldog, these breeders transformed the Bulldog into the gentle, affectionate dog we see today. Unfortunately, the Bulldog's unique body and head structure makes him prone to health problems, especially respiratory and joint difficulties. They can quickly become overweight if they don't get enough exercise. Too much weight stresses their bodies and may aggravate existing health problems.


Personality:

Sociable and sweet, but with a reputation for courage that makes him an excellent watchdog. He's dignified rather than lively and has a kind although occasionally stubborn nature. The Bulldog is friendly and easygoing; he gets along with everyone. He can be a slow learner, but once he knows something, he's got it for good. Bulldogs don't tend to be barkers. Usually their appearance alone is enough to frighten off intruders.


Size:

  • Mature male bulldogs weigh about 50 lbs
  • Mature female bulldogs weigh about 40 lbs
  • Show dogs may be about 10 lbs heavier
  • They stand 12 to 15 in. at the shoulder

Life Expectancy:

Up to 10 years


Health:

Not all Bulldogs will get any or all of these diseases, but it's important to be aware of them so you can be informed when you interview breeders and can know what to look for throughout your Bulldog's life.

Both parents should have health clearances: documentation that a dog has been tested for and cleared of a particular condition. In Bulldogs, you should expect to see health clearances from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals for hips, elbow, and knees, and from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF), certifying that the eyes are normal. Health clearances are not issued to dogs younger than 2 years of age. That's because some health problems don't appear until a dog reaches full maturity. For this reason, it's often recommended that dogs not be bred until they are two or three years old.

The following conditions may affect Bulldogs:

  • Cherry Eye: This is a condition in which the gland under the third eyelid protrudes and looks rather like a cherry in the corner of the eye.

  • Dry Eye: This condition is caused when natural tear production is inadequate. Signs include a dry appearance or blue haze to the eye.

  • Entropion: This is a condition in which the eyelashes turn inward and rub against the eye, causing irritation. It may require surgery to correct.

  • Inverted Or Reverse Sneezing: This isn't really a health problem but generally occurs when nasal fluids drip down on the Bulldog's soft palate, causing it to close. It also can occur when your Bulldog gets something in his nose.

  • Brachycephalic Syndrome: This disorder is found in dogs with short heads, narrowed nostrils, or elongated soft palates. Their airways are obstructed to varying degrees and can cause anything from noisy or labored breathing to total collapse of the airway.

  • Head Shakes. This resembles a fit, but it affects only the head. It's seen as an involuntary shaking of the head from side-to-side or up-and-down. Sometimes, this is violent.

  • Demodectic mange. Also called Demodicosis. All dogs carry a little passenger called a demodex mite. The mother passes this mite to her pups in their first few days of life. The mite can't be passed to humans or even other dogs - only the mother can "give" these mites to her pups. Demodex mites live in hair follicles and usually don't cause any problems. Demodectic mange can be localized or generalized. In the localized form, patches of red, scaly skin with hair loss appears on the head, neck, and forelegs. It's thought of as a puppy disease, and often clears up on its own. You should take your dog to the vet anyway because this can turn into the generalized form of demodectic mange. (Enlarged lymph nodes often are a sign that this will occur.) Generalized demodectic mange covers the entire body and affects older puppies and young adult dogs. The dog develops patchy skin, bald spots, and skin infections all over its body. Dogs that develop localized or generalized demodicosis should not be bred because the condition is considered to have a genetic component.

  • Hip Dysplasia. This is a heritable condition in which the thighbone doesn't fit snugly into the hip joint. Most Bulldogs appear to have hip dysplasia based on their hip x-rays, just because they tend to naturally have shallow hip joints, but it's unusual for them to have the associated problems with lameness unless they're allowed to become overweight or are exercised too much during their period of rapid growth.

  • Tail Problems. Some Bulldogs have screw tails, inverted tails or other types of "tight" tails that can cause them to have some skin problems. You should keep your Bulldog's tail clean and dry to prevent infection.

  • Patellar luxation. Also known as "slipped stifles," this is a common problem in small dogs. It is caused when the patella, which has three parts - the femur (thigh bone), patella (knee cap), and tibia (calf) - that do not properly line up. This causes lameness in the leg or an abnormal gait, sort of like a skip or a hop. It is a condition that is present at birth although the actual misalignment or luxation does not always occur until much later. The rubbing caused by patellar luxation can lead to arthritis, a degenerative joint disease. There are four grades of patellar luxation, ranging from grade I, an occasional luxation causing temporary lameness in the joint, to grade IV, in which the turning of the tibia is severe and the patella cannot be realigned manually. This gives the dog a bowlegged appearance. Severe grades of patellar luxation may require surgical repair.


Highlights:

  • Bulldogs can be stubborn and lazy so it's important that they get their daily exercise to keep them fit.
  • Bulldogs can't tolerate heat and humidity and are sensitive to cold weather. When your Bulldog is outdoors, watch him carefully and take him inside immediately if he starts to show distress.

  • Bulldogs wheeze, snort, and snore. They also are prone to sleep apnea.

  • Bulldogs are well-known for having flatulence. If this problem seems excessive with yours, talk to your vet.

  • Bulldogs' short noses make them prone to a number of respiratory ailments.

  • Bulldogs can have pinched nostrils that make it difficult for them to breathe and may require surgery to correct.

  • Bulldogs are greedy eaters and will overeat if given the chance. Since they gain weight easily, they can quickly become obese if you don't monitor their food intake. 

  • Like every dog, Bulldogs need early socialization-exposure to many different people, sights, sounds, and experiences when they're young. Socialization helps ensure that your Bulldog puppy grows up to be a well-rounded dog.