In 2013, the English bulldog ranked fifth in popularity with American owners, reports the American Kennel Club, and for good reason. This stout, muscular dog makes a loyal family pet with little need for exercise or special grooming. They are vulnerable to numerous health problems, though, and are intolerant to the heat; recognize these and other distinct qualities before inviting one to become part of your home.
Bulldogs tend to bond well with children and have a playful side, when play is initiated. They are gentle and docile, but protective of their families. Although intelligent, bulldogs are stubborn and resist training; they do best learning simple commands. Their intelligence shines through when it comes to manipulating owners and learning to get their own way.
English bulldogs' close-to-the-ground stature and stocky build were an asset in their original roles as bull bait. The dog features a disproportionately large head and heavy front body. Their shape makes natural birth difficult; 80 percent of bulldog puppies are born via cesarean section. Their coats are fine, short and shiny, coming in colors such as white, red, red brindle, fawn and spotted. With a heavy, squat body perched on short legs, bulldogs appear to shuffle or waddle as they walk.
Their short snout and easily collapsed airway compromises breathing, so going under anesthesia for basic medical procedures can be risky. Their protruding lower jaw and short snout also make them prone to snoring, wheezing and drooling. English bulldogs’ teeth can be a challenge to keep clean, so regular dental care is a must. The characteristic wrinkles around the tail and face can become cluttered with dirt, so a daily wipe down is necessary to prevent irritation and eczema. Bulldogs dislike swimming and are actually in danger of drowning because of their large skulls.
Expect a purebred English bulldog to live eight to 12 years. They are vulnerable to cardiac and respiratory diseases, hip dysplasia -- in which the hip joint degenerates and loses function -- and cherry eye -- in which the normally recessed "third" eyelid droops into the visual field and causes infection. The bulldog's characteristically stocky body and short snout are the reason he's more likely to develop these problems.
Andrea Cespedes is a professionally trained chef who has focused studies in nutrition. With more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, she coaches cycling and running and teaches Pilates and yoga. She is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer, RYT-200 and has degrees from Princeton and Columbia University.