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Key Breed Facts
Intelligence / Trainability
Children and Other Pets
Caring for a American Bulldog
Average Cost to keep/care for a American Bulldog
Breed Specific Buying Advice
American Bulldogs are taller and more agile than their English Bulldog cousins and over the years they have become a popular choice as both companion dogs and family pets in the States. Thanks to their good looks and kind natures, they have found their way into the hearts and homes of many people here in the UK and other countries of the world. As yet, American Bulldogs have not been recognised as a breed in their own right by The Kennel Club, but they are recognised by the United Kennel Club as well as the American Breed Club and as such a standard has been set for these loyal and courageous dogs by both clubs.
The American Bulldog is often mistaken for an American Staffordshire Terrier and an American Pit Bull, but the breed is very different from both in many ways and as such does not fall under the Dangerous Dogs Act of 1991. Although intelligent and therefore highly trainable, the American Bulldog is not the best choice for first time dog owners because they need to be handled and trained by people who are familiar with the breed.
Bulldogs in their purest form existed in the States as far back as the 17th Century and were used for bull baiting and as fighting dogs. They were a firm favourite with butchers at the time. Today's modern American Bulldog's ancestry can be traced back to these original Bulldogs found at the time in many pockets of southeastern states of America. They were bred not only as fighting dogs, but also to guard and protect their owner's property and to round up hogs and cattle. At the time, they were not considered a "breed", but rather a generic type of bulldog.
No breeding records were kept with farmers and other people breeding dogs with an end goal being to create a "type" of dog that would suit their specific needs. As such, numerous bulldog types were found in different regions of southern America. It's thought that bulldogs were popular because they could control the numbers of feral pigs that had been introduced to the New World at that time. It was particularly important to keep feral pig numbers under control because there were no natural predators. As such, bulldogs became highly prized being a settler's only way of keeping vermin and feral pigs under control.
Bulldogs at the time were not considered a breed as such and they were not given their name until the 1980's. As such, back in the day they were known by quite a few different names which included the "English White" and the "White English". In some parts of the States, they were known as the "Alabama" and the "Southern Bulldog". With this said, the most common name for these dogs was simply "Bulldog" because of the task they were originally bred to do involving bulls and cattle which needed rounding up and guarding.
However, by the time World War II started, the number of bulldogs in southern American fell dangerously low and they were only saved from extinction when a man called John D Johnson together with his father took it upon themselves to find as many bulldogs as they could in order to save them from vanishing forever. Their endeavours caught the attention of Alan Scott, who started working with them with an end goal being to increase the number of bulldogs. He introduced working bulldogs he found on farms which led to the first of the American Bulldogs being bred. Johnson then crossed his line of dogs with English Bulldogs truer to type found in the north which were dogs that boasted having retained their natural athletic ruggedness.
Today, the American Bulldog is one of the more popular breeds in the States and their numbers have risen as a result. They have also become a popular choice in other parts of the world, including here in the UK thanks to their striking, athletic looks and kind natures. They have proved themselves in many canine sports which includes obedience competitions, weight pulling as well as many other popular activities.
Although, American Bulldogs are gaining popularity in the UK, they are not recognised as a breed by The Kennel Club (June 2016), but they are recognised by the American Kennel Club and the UKC. Interestingly, the modern American Bulldog's roots can be traced right back to 4 strains which were bred in Alabama, Georgia namely the Williamson, Scott, Bailey and Johnson.
Height at the withers: Males 50 - 71 cm, Females 50 - 61 cm
Average weight: Males 32 - 54 kg, Females 27 - 41 kg
The American Bulldog is an athletic, powerful looking dog that boasts being longer in the leg than their English cousins. They have large, broad heads that give the impression of these bulldogs having a tremendous amount of power. They have a well-defined stop which is both deep and abrupt being set at a right angle to a dog's muzzle. However, their foreheads are wider than they are high which adds to the breed's distinctive look.
There are two very distinct types of American Bulldogs with the first being the "Bully type" and the second being the "Standard type" with the Bully type being a little smaller and lighter than the Standard type. Their heads are different too with the Bully have a large, round head with a pronounced stop whereas a Standard American Bulldog has a sleeker, wedged shaped head.
Muzzles are thick and broad, but taper slightly from the stop to a dog's nose. They have a reverse scissor bite and noses are large and black with wide open nostrils. A Bully type dog has a definite undershot jaw and their bites can be reverse scissor whereas a Standard dog has a tight undershot jaw with reverse scissor bite.
Their eyes are medium in size and anything from round to almond shaped being set well apart on a bully's face. Their eyes can be any colour, but a dark brown is the preferred colour with dogs having black rims to their eyes. Ears can be small or medium in size and they are set high on the head, they can drop down, be semi-pricked or rose ears are acceptable too.
A bully's neck is extremely well muscled and powerful, being just as broad as a dog's neck and has a slight arch at a dog's crest before it tapers slightly from the shoulders to a dog's head. Bully's often have a slight dewlap on their neck. With this said, a Bully type dog has a thicker neck whereas in the Standard dog, their necks are that much longer.
Shoulders are extremely strong and muscular with shoulder blades being well laid back. Their front legs are heavily boned and extremely well-muscled. An American Bulldog has a compact, extremely muscular body with deep and moderately wide chests. Ribs are well sprung and their topline slopes slightly from the wither to a dog’s muscular, broad back.
It is worth noting that a Bully type dog has a shorter, slightly roached back whereas the Standard type dog's back is slightly longer and they have a flatter topline with only a hint of their backs being roached.
Loins are also broad, slightly arched and short merging into a sloping croup. Flanks are moderately tucked up and very firm. Back legs are very well muscled with dogs boasting well developed lower thighs. Their feet are medium in size and round with dogs having well arched, tight toes. Tails are thickest at the base and set low before tapering to the tip. Dogs carry their tails upright when alert but between their back legs when they are relaxed.
When it comes to their coat, the American Bulldog boasts having a short, dense and close-lying coat that can be either stiff or soft in texture. If they have any colour on their heads, it should be a colour on a white head. The accepted breed colours under AKC rules are as follows:
The colours not acceptable under AKC rules are as follows:
When American Bulldogs move, they do so with a well-balanced and smooth gait that shows a lot of power and agility with dogs covering a lot of ground with each stride. They have a tremendous amount of drive in their hindquarters and ideally when dogs move at a faster pace, they should do so in a single track with nice level, firm backs. American Bulldogs have a high head and tail carriage which adds to their confident, proud and alert look.
When it comes to faults in the breed as recognised by the American Kennel Club these are as follows:
As previously mentioned, the American Bulldog is often mistaken as being an American Pit Bull or an American Staffordshire Terrier, but they are not related whatsoever. American Bulldogs are never overly aggressive nor are they nervous dogs by nature, but rather they are known to be determined, confident and brave. With this said, they are dominant dogs by nature and being so physically strong, they are not the best choice for first time dog owners because they need to be correctly socialised and trained. American Bulldogs in the right hands and environment, are a pleasure to have around and they boast having fun-loving, comical personalities which means they enjoy playing interactive games with their owners and families.
American Bulldogs are confident, high energy and very social dogs that form strong bonds with their families. They get more outgoing as they mature, but puppies are always ready to get involved in everything that goes on in a household. It cannot be stressed enough the importance of early socialisation when sharing a home with an American Bulldog, because they are large, powerful dogs when they are fully grown which can make them harder to handle if they have not been well socialised and trained at a young enough age. The problem being that all too often, Bully’s just don't know their own strength especially when they are playing which can be a problem if there are younger children in a household.
As previously said, in the right hands and in a suitable environment, an American Bulldog makes a wonderful, loyal and affectionate family pet. However, they need to know their place in a pack and who is alpha dog in a household. In short, they are never happier than when they know who they can look to for direction and guidance. As such, they are not the best choice for first time owners, being a much better choice for people who are familiar with the needs of this type of high energy, intelligent dog. One thing worth noting is that American Bulldogs boast having a very high pain threshold. This can make it that much harder to spot when an American Bulldog is unwell or injured in any way.
Being so intelligent, they are easy to train and are known to be exceptionally obedient providing their training was started early enough for a dog to understand what their owners expect of them. They do well in households where at least one person stays at home when everyone else is out of the house because they are known to be quite demanding dogs by nature. As such, they do not like being left on their own for any length of time. If they are left to their own devices, they can quickly get bored and this can lead to American Bulldogs developing all sorts of behavioural issues which includes separation anxiety and being destructive around the home.
American Bulldogs can leap great heights and have been known to clear over 3 foot with no trouble at all. As such, garden fencing not only has to be very secure, but it must be high to keep these athletic and powerful dogs safely in.
American Bulldogs are not the best choice for first time dog owners because they need to be handled and trained by people who are familiar with their needs and who have enough time to dedicate to socialising and training their canine companions from a young age. American Bulldogs are dominant dogs by nature and therefore they need to know who is the alpha dog in a household and who they can look to for direction and guidance or they might take on the role themselves.
The American Bulldog has a high prey drive which is a trait that is deeply embedded in a dog's psyche having been bred to protect and guard as well as to round up livestock. Early socialisation and training is a must when sharing a home with an American Bulldog and care should always be taken when walking them off a lead in areas where they might meet livestock and wild animals.
American Bulldogs are inquisitive, fun-loving and comical characters by nature more especially if they have been well bred and why it is important to contact reputable breeders and to meet both parent dogs.
The American Bulldog needs enough space to express themselves as they should as such they are better suited to people who have back gardens whether in town or in the country. They are highly intelligent and need to be given a lot of mental stimulation as well as daily exercise to prevent boredom from setting in which could lead to an American Bulldog developing unwanted and destructive behaviours.
American Bulldogs are not known to bark excessively unless they are unhappy or left on their own for long periods of time. With this said, a dog would be quick to let their owners know if there are strangers around thanks to their protective natures.
Some American Bulldogs love playing around in water, whereas others don't even like to get their feet wet. Anyone sharing a home with a dog that loves being in the water should always take great care when walking their pets anywhere near more dangerous watercourses just in case their pets decide to leap in. American Bulldogs that don't like water should never be forced to go swimming because it would just end up frightening them even more.
American Bulldogs are natural watchdogs thanks to the fact this is what they were originally bred to do which is to protect and guard their families. With this said, it is not necessary to "train" an American Bulldog to guard anything because it's something that comes naturally to them.
American Bulldogs are extremely sensitive to "voice", but they are also known to be dominant by nature which is why they are better suited to people who know how to train and handle them. An American Bulldog's education and socialisation must start early as soon as puppies arrive in their new homes and their training and handling must be consistent throughout a dog's life so they understand what is expected of them.
American Bulldogs are intelligent and they like nothing more than to please their owners. However, they are powerful and extremely confident dogs and if they are not socialised early enough, correctly trained and then well handles, they can show a more assertive and dominant side to their natures which can see a dog becoming wilful and therefore much harder to control.
American Bulldogs do not accept any sort of harsh correction nor do they answer well to a heavy handed approach to their training. They do, however, respond extremely well to positive reinforcement which brings the best out of these dogs with the end result being a confident, well behaved and obedient dog. American Bulldogs have to be taught the limits and boundaries from an early age which helps them understand how far they can go, although they may well test these from time to time which is why their training has to be consistent throughout their lives.
Puppies need to be taught the basic commands straight away which includes the following:
American Bulldogs get on well with children they have grown up with in a household and more especially older children who know how to behave around them. In short, they are better suited to households where the kids are older rather than toddlers because playtime can get a bit boisterous and these dogs have no idea of their own strength which means they can easily knock a younger child over. As such any interaction between the kids and their dog should always be well supervised by an adult. Because of their size and the fact they can be so boisterous, Pets4homes advises that Bullys are not the best choice for families with babies or very young children.
Anyone who already shares a home with an American Bulldog where there are younger children should always make sure they are never left together unattended. It is also crucial for parents to teach young children how to behave around dogs and when to stay away from them, particularly when there is food around or during playtime.
They need to be extremely well socialised from a young age which has to include them meeting other dogs when out on a walk once they are fully vaccinated, although even then an American Bulldogs may well lunge at another dog it encounters. Care has to be taken when they are around small pets and animals which includes cats.
For further advice please read our article on Keeping Children Safe around Dogs.
The average life expectancy of an American Bulldog is between 10 and 15 years when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality diet to suit their ages.
Like so many other breeds, the American Bulldog is known to suffer from a few hereditary health issues which are worth knowing about if you are planning share your home with one of these high energy, powerful dogs. The conditions that seem to affect the breed the most include the following:
Although a less common disorder in the breed, Canine Neuronal Ceroid Lipofiscuionis is however, a serious health issue that can affect an American Bulldog when they are around 2 years old. The condition negatively impacts a dog's hindquarters and sees dogs falling over, but this leads to them being unable to move. Sadly, there is no treatment or cure for the disorder and dogs do not recover. Fortunately, dogs can be tested for the condition and all responsible breeders would have their stud dogs tested before using them for breeding purposes.
American Bulldogs are known to suffer from a skin condition known as Icthysosis which is often seen in puppies when they are first born. The condition can be moderate to severe, but never life threatening. Dogs with a moderate form of Icthyosis experience flaky itchy skin and need to be bathed more frequently and an ointment applied to their skin to alleviate the symptoms and to make a dog more comfortable.
Fortunately, puppies can be tested to see if they carry the damaging gene that causes Ichthyosis and whether they are carriers. A puppy that's tested as being a carrier would not develop the condition, but they would pass the defective gene onto their offspring if they were bred from. Dogs tested as being "affected" should not be used for breeding purposes to prevent them passing the defective gene onto their offspring.
American Bulldog puppies would have had their first vaccinations, but it's essential for them to have their follow-up jabs at the right time with the vaccination schedule being as follows:
There has been a lot of discussion about the need for dogs to have boosters. As such, it's best to talk to a vet before making a final decision on whether an American Bulldog should continue to have annual vaccinations which are known as boosters.
A male American Bulldog can safely be neutered when they are 6 months old and females can be spayed when they are 6 months old too.
Some American Bulldogs gain weight after they have been neutered or spayed and it's important to keep a close eye on their calorie intake and the amount of daily exercise they get to prevent obesity. An obese American Bulldog would be put at risk of developing certain health issues which could end up shortening their lives by several years.
The American Bulldog is known to suffer from certain allergies which are caused by their immune systems being overactive. The allergies can be inherited or they can be acquired and triggered by several things which includes over vaccinating a dog. Some young American Bulldogs grow out of their allergies, however, when a dog suffers from a more serious one, they can do so for the remainder of their lives and as such their condition would need to be managed on an ongoing basis. American Bulldogs known to suffer from any sort of allergy should therefore, not be used for breeding purposes.
If the allergy is acquired, the triggers could include the following:
There are two genetic tests available for the American Bulldog which are as follows:
Currently, the American Bulldog is not recognised by the Kennel Club and as such there are not breed specific breeding restrictions in place for the breed.
There are no Assured Breeders for the American Bulldog because the breed is not recognised by the Kennel Club.
As with any other breed, American Bulldogs need to be groomed on a regular basis to make sure their coats and skin are kept in top condition more especially as they are predisposed to suffering from specific skin allergies namely Icthyosis. They also need to be given regular daily exercise to ensure they remain fit and healthy. On top of this, dogs need to be fed good quality food that meets all their nutritional needs throughout their lives.
Having decided that an American Bulldog is the right choice of dog, it's important to get things ready in the home for a puppy's arrival. With this said, it's not just a house that needs puppy-proofing, but the garden too needs to be made safe for them to roam around in. All puppies like to gnaw on things and this includes electric wires and cables so it's essential that they be put out of their reach. Garden tools and other implements should be stored away to avoid a boisterous puppy from injuring themselves.
Puppies need a lot of nap time and they can sleep for anything up to 21 hours a day which they need to do so they can develop and grow properly. As such, it's important to set up a quiet area in a house for them to retreat to when they want to take a nap and ideally this should be not to out of the way but away from too much traffic. If there are children in the house, they need to be told not to disturb their pet when they are sleeping and not to approach them when they are eating too.
It's always a good idea to limit the amount of rooms a puppy can roam around in for several reasons, one of which is because they would need to be housetrained and the second being they are less likely to get into trouble. A good way of keeping them in a chosen area is to fit child gates on doors to prevent the puppy from going into any rooms that owners don't want them to go in.
An American Bulldog puppy would have been wormed before being sold and the documentation a breeder provides for a puppy must have all the details of their worming date and the product used as well as the information relating to their microchip. It is essential for puppies to be wormed again keeping to a schedule which is as follows:
There are items needed to care for a puppy which should be purchased well in advance of their arrival. The items needed include the following:
All puppies are very sensitive to loud noises so it is important to keep the volume of a television down and not to play music too loudly either because it could frighten a American Bulldog puppy and prevent them from napping as they should during the day.
Reputable breeders would always ensure their puppies vaccinated before they are sold, but as previously mentioned, it is up to their new owners to make sure they are given their follow-up shots at the right time which should be as follows:
When it comes to boosters, it's best to discuss these with a vet because there is a lot of debate about whether a dog really needs them after a certain time. However, if a dog ever needed to go into kennels, their vaccinations would need to be
When American Bulldogs reach their golden years, they do slow down in many ways and they might start showing their age with more grey hairs appearing on their faces and more especially around their muzzles. Apart from a change in their appearance an American Bulldog's personality might change too and this includes on how quick they are to respond to a command or when their names are called. The reason for this is that many older dog's hearing is not as good as it once was. Other changes to watch out for in a American Bulldog when they reach their senior years include the following:
American Bulldogs boast having short, tight, close coats which in short means they are low maintenance on the grooming front. However, because they are prone to suffer from skin allergies, it's best to give them the once over a few times a week. The earlier a skin problem is detected the better because if left for too long, it could flare up into something painful and a lot more severe. A regular wipe over with a chamois leather will also keep an American Bulldog's coat nice and glossy.
It's also important to check a dog's ears on a regular basis and to clean them when necessary. If too much wax builds up in a dog's ears, it can lead to a painful infection which can be hard to clear up. In short, prevention is often easier than cure when it comes to ear infections.
Having the right grooming tools helps keep an American Bulldog's coat and skin in top condition. The tools needed to keep a dog's coat looking good are as follows:
American Bulldogs are intelligent, energetic and inquisitive dogs. As such they need to be given the right amount of daily exercise that's combined with as much mental stimulation as possible to keep them happy, fit and healthy. Ideally, they need to be given anything from 40 to 60 minutes exercise a day and more if possible. If they are left to their own devices for long periods of time, not only will boredom set in which could lead to dogs developing some unwanted and destructive behaviours, but it could also lead to them putting on far too much weight. This can shorten a dog's life by several years.
A shorter walk in the morning would be fine, but a longer more interesting one in the afternoon is a must. These dogs also like to be able to roam around a back garden as often as possible so they can really let off steam. However, the fencing must be extremely secure and high enough to keep these inquisitive, energy dogs in because if they find a weakness in the fence, they will soon escape out and get into all sorts of trouble.
With this said, American Bulldog puppies should not be over exercised because their joints and bones are still growing and too much pressure on them could result in causing a dog a few problems later on in their lives. They should not be allowed to jump up or off furniture nor should they be allowed to run up and down the stairs for this very reason.
If you get an American puppy from a breeder, they would give you a feeding schedule and it's important to stick to the same routine, feeding the same puppy food to avoid any tummy upsets. You can change a puppy's diet, but this needs to be done very gradually always making sure they don't develop any digestive upsets and if they do, it's best to put them back on their original diet and to discuss things with the vet before attempting to change it again.
Older dogs are not known to be fussy or finicky eaters, but this does not mean you can feed them a lower quality diet. It's best to feed a mature dog twice a day, once in the morning and then again in the evening, making sure it's good quality food that meets all their nutritional requirements. It's also important that dogs be given the right amount of exercise so they burn off any excess calories or they might gain too much weight which can lead to all sorts of health issues. Obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years so it's important to keep an eye on their waistline from the word go.
Once a puppy is settled into their new homes, it is safe to change their diets, but as previously touched upon, it needs to be done gradually and carefully to avoid any tummy upsets. As a rough guide, American Bulldog puppies can be fed the following amounts every day to ensure they are getting all the nutrients they need to grow and develop properly:
When an American Bulldog is 13 months old, they can be fed adult dog food.
As a rough guide, an adult fully grown American Bulldog can be fed the following amounts every day to ensure they stay fit and healthy:
If you are looking to buy an American Bulldog, you would need to pay anything from £400 to over £1000 for a well-bred pedigree puppy. The cost of insuring a male 3-year-old American Bulldog in northern England would be £53.10 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £118.99 a month (quote as of June 2016). When insurance companies calculate a pet's premium, they factor in several things which includes where you live in the UK and a dog's age and whether they have been neutered or spayed.
When it comes to food costs, you need to buy the best quality food whether wet or dry, to feed your dog throughout their lives making sure it suits the different stages of their lives. This would set you back between £30 - £40 a month. On top of this, you would need to factor in veterinary costs if you want to share your home with an American and this includes their initial vaccinations, their annual boosters, the cost of neutering or spaying your dog when the time is right and their yearly health checks, all of which quickly adds up to over £1000 a year.
As a rough guide, the average cost to keep and care for an American would be between £90 to £170 a month depending on the level of insurance cover you opt to buy for your dog, but this does not include the initial cost of buying a well-bred pedigree puppy.