Everything You Need to Know About Bulldogs

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Bulldogs are sweet, loyal companion dogs that make it impossible not to fall in love with them. (Just ask Chrissy Teigen.) If you’re in the market for one of these endearingly thick sweethearts, read on for all the info you need to know before adding one to your family.

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Types of Bulldogs
Bulldogs are members of the bull breed family. Full disclosure, we talk about English Bulldogs here. French bulldogs are a different story. Frenchies are pointy-eared, tiny versions of their English relatives, originally bred in the 1800s by mating said relatives with (the now-extinct) toy bulldogs. American bulldogs and boxers fall into this bull breed category, too, but are also very different animals. 

Breed History
English bulldogs are non-sporting canines. According to the Bulldog Club of America, the bulldog’s history is, well, cringe-worthy. They were originally bred for bull-baiting, a horrible practice in medieval Europe that involved forcing the dogs to taunt and bite bulls. No, thank you! After someone smart was like, “Let’s outlaw this!” in 1835, a group of kind-hearted dog lovers got together to save bulldogs from succumbing to the vicious behaviors humans had designed them to display. Today, bulldogs have been bred to be kinder, gentler and generally more playful pups—yet physically they still resemble their rough ancestors and, occasionally, some of their ancient nasty behavior seeps out.

A few of those nasty behaviors include stubbornness and aggression. Bulldogs can be super territorial of their food, so weaning them off this tendency early is key (see Training below). For the most part, bulldogs are known for their loyalty, friendliness and chill factor. They can spend all day snoozing on a chaise, but don’t worry, they also love to play. Tug-of-war is to bulldogs what tennis is to Serena. They also chew like it’s their job, so move any shoes you don’t want annihilated out of reach.

Adult bulldogs reach 14 to 15 inches tall and can weigh up to 40 to 50 pounds. Females are generally smaller than males by about 10 pounds. 

Due to their specialized breeding history, bulldogs are muscular and dense. They are also a dysplastic breed, which means their hip sockets are shallower than those of most dogs. Because of this, a bulldog’s femur only fits loosely into its hip socket, causing their idiosyncratic waddling gait and potential bone and joint issues. Some have straight tails while others have little curlicues.

Notable Features
English bulldogs have short, glossy coats that come in a variety of colors. They’ve got small, floppy ears, furrowed brows and loose skin hanging all over their jowls. Then there’s that signature bulldog snout. They’ve got cute little noses smushed right up into their faces.

Life Expectancy
English Bulldogs typically live only eight to ten years. 

Because bulldogs can be stubborn, training early is critical. You’ve got to be firm and consistent, otherwise nothing will stick. Bulldogs are eager to please, says the American Kennel Club, but you do need to show ’em who’s boss. Oddly enough, it’s important to train your bulldog to eat ice cubes as a puppy. Since bulldogs can develop breathing issues and overheat easily (see Health Issues below), getting them used to ingesting ice is smart, in case you’ve got to cool them down quickly later in life.

Companion Level
Bulldogs are wonderful companions and great with kids. Their sturdy build and calm demeanor make them troopers when it comes to strong kid grips and rough petting. Plus, they are loyal lovers and enjoy company. However, make sure they are trained not to bite people early on. If a child startles them, they could snip. When it comes to other pets, bulldogs are more often than not on board and ready to mingle. They tend to be more aggressive when it comes to same-gender doggie playmates, so two males in one household could cause issues.

As with most dogs, bulldogs run the risk of becoming overweight, so feeding them enough to maintain their thick build without overdoing it is key. It’s also worth mentioning they drool excessively, especially after mealtime. So…look out for that. 

Purebred English bulldogs cost anywhere from $1,000 to $4,000, depending on the breeder. First and always, make sure the breeder follows the BCA’s Breeder Code of Ethics and practices healthy, humane breeding. The reason bulldogs are so expensive is the mating and birth processes are highly complicated (aka all bulldog babies are the products of artificial insemination and C-sections). Of course, you can always adopt a bulldog from a shelter!

Bulldogs are big shedders. Brushing them at least once a week (preferably three times) is encouraged. And beware: The skin on their faces piles up into folds, which can cause skin ailments when dirt or moisture gets caught in the wrinkles. Be sure to watch for itchy, red skin and clean between these folds often. 

Activity Level
Bulldogs can pack on the pounds easily (join the club) so regular exercise is necessary. A brisk walk or rambunctious tug-of-war is great. Just watch out for heat, water and stairs. High temperatures don’t mix well with their short snouts, so overheating is a danger. And while they can swim, deep water easily gets into their noses increasing the likelihood of drowning. Finally, going down stairs is tricky for their shoulder-heavy bodies. Don’t let them tumble!

Noise Level
Bulldogs aren’t really barkers, but they do snort, sneeze, snore and slobber a ton. 

Health Issues
Bulldogs definitely have their fair share of potential health issues. The BCA and Michele Welton, a vet technician and dog breed advisor, highly recommend finding a vet with lots of bulldog experience so they’re ready to tackle your pup’s unique needs. (For example, bulldogs don’t handle anesthesia as well as most other breeds, so working with a vet well-versed in bulldog anatomy is best.) The biggest health issues bulldogs face are respiratory- and mobility-related. Due to a pesky disorder called brachycephalic syndrome, caused by their short snouts, breathing can be difficult and may require surgery if your bulldog also suffers from narrow nostrils, an elongated soft palate or a narrow windpipe. Bulldogs also experience more hip dysplasia than any other breed. Roughly 72 percent of bulldogs experience joint or bone problems due to bad hips in their lifetime. Some bulldogs develop eye ailments like extra eyelashes, flipped lids or irritated corneas.

Weird Facts
Bulldogs have notoriously bad gas. You’ve been warned. 

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Freelance Writer

Sarah Ashley is a Chicago-based freelance journalist. She has covered pets for PureWow for six years and tackles everything from dog training tips to the best litter boxes. Her...