Few would call him poetry in motion, but an English bulldog's waddle, wrinkled face and curlicue tail may bring on a case of puppy love at first sight. He has an ancient history of battling bulls. However, more than a century of selective breeding has created a calm, dignified gentleman who would rather observe than fight. If you can out-stubborn him during training, his docile nature may make him your perfect four-legged friend.
Breeders have worked hard to weed out the fearless aggression that once enabled an English bulldog, identified as simply “bulldog” by the American Kennel Club, to latch onto the nose of a 2000 pound bull. However, the tenacity to hold that bull for as long his human wished has been left mainly intact. It shows up these days as a bulldog's stubborn willfulness to claim your couch as his own or take whatever path interests him during daily walks. Getting started early, as young as 10 weeks, with positive obedience training will teach him to follow your lead rather than ignore your pleas to mind his manners.
It may be hard to picture your nap-loving bulldog moving hard and fast toward an angry bull. Less athletically built than his ancestors, today's bully requires moderate exercise, but will never be your jogging companion. In fact, you should not exercise him intensely at anything for long periods. His stocky build and flattened nose put him at risk for overheating and breathing problems, especially when it's hot. However, brisk daily walks will help keep his joints healthy and body lean. If you're ready for some extracurricular fun, healthy bulldogs have energy to spare for agility, rally and obedience events.
His overall friendly nature makes the bulldog a good match for singles, couples and families housing more kids than grownups. He's known to have a special affinity for children and won't mind a lot of activity around the house. A bulldog typically gets along well with other pets, and will thrive in the city, suburbs or country as an indoor dog. Your pup needs supervision when around the very young, though, since his mature weight of 40-to-60 well-muscled pounds could send a toddler flying accidentally. A socialized and well-trained bulldog will accompany happily you on family vacations or evening trips to a dog-friendly cafe. To mix socializing with training, try an obedience class led by a reputable trainer.
This short-haired breed is prone to skin conditions, such as dermatitis, and the Bulldog Club of America recommends you help prevent issues by brushing your bulldog three times a week with a soft rubber brush to help remove dead hair and distribute his natural skin oils. His facial wrinkles need daily cleansing with an unscented baby wipe to prevent yeast or bacteria from growing. Remove tear stains quickly as well, since these can lead to secondary bacterial infection. Grooming sessions will become a special treat for your furry friend if you start in puppyhood and reward his good behavior with lots of praise.
- Chris Amaral/Digital Vision/Getty Images