A Bulldog may not be the right choice for every family. Living with a Bulldog can be very rewarding, but you must be committed to meeting the Bulldog’s particular needs.
Some things to consider:
Bulldogs are perpetual children: they never grow up. A Bulldog does best in a loving environment, free from fear and neglect. They are happiest when with people and require lots of attention from people. When left alone, Bulldogs can be very destructive. They may chew throughout their lifetimes. They may need to be crated when they are not being supervised. A Bulldog should never be left unattended in your backyard. Not only is it dangerous to your Bulldog’s well being, but Bulldogs are often targeted for theft.
Possible Health Problems
Bulldogs have numerous known genetic defects and are subject to various illnesses that affect many breeds. Common Bulldog health problems you may encounter include: elongated soft palate, small trachea, allergies, dermatitis, demodetic mange, eye lid anomalies, hip dysplasia and heart problems. Some of them have a tendency toward self-mutilation (especially if they have itchy skin), so owners should watch carefully for signs of skin irritation and scratching.
Care by a qualified veterinarian must be available. Since not all veterinarians are knowledgeable about the health problems Bulldogs may have, you should consult experienced Bulldog owners or your local bulldog rescue to find a capable veterinarian. Any veterinarian who will be doing surgery on your Bulldog should have previous experience with putting Bulldogs under anesthesia.
Danger of Overheating
Bulldogs are extremely intolerant of heat. They must be kept in an air-conditioned area with limited trips outside when the outside temperature is over 80 degrees or the humidity is high. Close supervision is required during outside activity, especially in spring and summer to prevent over-exertion leading to over-heating. They also are not usually capable of prolonged physical activity whether the temperature is very warm or cold: a Bulldog is not for someone who enjoys taking a dog for long walks through the countryside.
“The Importance of Temperament”
When selecting a pet, the most important breed characteristic to consider by far is its temperament or disposition. Failure to thoroughly investigate temperament is the biggest mistake anyone can make in selecting a pet, especially a Bulldog.
In my experience, far too many people select a dog based solely on its physical appearance, and those who do so usually live to regret it. People who shop for a pet the same way they shop for a new car, a piece of furniture or designer jeans should never own one.
If it is a status symbol you want, please do not even consider buying a Bulldog! You and the dog are sure to be disappointed in each other. For one thing, the modern Bulldog cannot tolerate isolation. Some breeds are able to thrive on only occasional human contact, but Bulldogs simply cannot stand to be ignored. They crave attention, and they will do almost anything to get it.
To the dismay of their owners, many Bulldogs prefer to pursue the role of a lapdog. They fail to comprehend that some humans find their typical weight of 50 to 60 pounds less than comfortable on their laps.
It is nearly impossible to lavish too much love and attention on a Bulldog – and only he decides when he has had enough of it. When he has had enough loving, he will finally wander off somewhere to find peace and quiet. If you’re not a hands-on type of dog lover who enjoys close and frequent contact and a few wet kisses, a less affectionate pet may better satisfy your needs. The Bulldog’s constant craving for attention and the need to entertain humans and be entertained by them is not for everyone.
There is a limit, however, to how much strenuous physical activity a typical Bulldog can safely tolerate. Their short muzzles and narrow windpipes, relative to the size of their bodies, limits their oxygen intake and causes them to become easily winded. This can result in acute respiratory distress and sometimes death. Like it or not, most Bulldogs do not have great physical endurance. They are more like short-distance sprinters than long-distance runners. Bulldogs don’t realize this; your own common sense must prevail.
Neither do Bulldogs respond obediently to heavy-handed physical discipline. Despite 1000 years of selective breeding, most Bulldogs I am familiar with, both male and female, instinctively detest and resist violence or the threat of it. This is especially evident with regard to children. A screaming child immediately causes grave concern and routinely triggers a decidedly protective response. They seem to sense trouble, and they are likely to intervene in their own special way to end the disturbance.
Nonetheless, Bulldogs are not easily provoked by other dogs unless they are seriously threatened or attacked. A Bulldog that has been carefully bred for temperament and lovingly cared for and properly socialized from birth likes to meet other dogs and strangers. Visitors to the household are always welcomed, often enthusiastically. It never occurs to a Bulldog that other dogs and other people might be less than friendly. An intruder might even be a welcome guest, but it is difficult to say what might happen when you are away.
Modern Bulldogs are not by nature good guard dogs or attack dogs. However they are fairly reliable watchdogs. They will normally alert you to any unusual activity in the home or yard.
A common misconception is that Bulldogs are “one-man” dogs. It may sometimes seem apparent that one family member is preferred over another, but Bulldogs regard each family member as their own personal property. Bulldogs can be possessive to a fault. You don’t own them, they own you, and don’t ever forget it! If you can’t appreciate their possessive nature, you certainly will not appreciate their inherent stubbornness and determination. Training takes lots of patience, but they can be successfully trained for obedience and agility competition.
Unless they choose to behave otherwise, I don’t believe there is a more obstinate creature alive. And while a Bulldog might appear to be lazy or stupid, that’s only a facade. Originally published in the AKC Gazette December 1999