American Bulldog

The American Bulldog was developed as a general purpose working farm dog in the American South, with a specialty in catching hogs and cattle.  The breed is a direct descendant of the now-extinct Old English Bulldog and is widely considered to be the modern breed that is closest in appearance, temperament, and use to its ancestor.  The American Bulldog was nearly extinct mid-way through the 20th Century, but was revived due to the efforts of two breeders, Dr. John D. Johnson and Alan Scott, who subsequently developed two distinct lines which were named for them.  In recent years, the American Bulldog has been seeing a massive surge in popularity and is one of the fastest growing breeds in the United States.  Many have classified this breed as a type of Pit Bull (a member of a group of dogs collectively referred to as Bully Breeds), but this is entirely inaccurate and viewed with much distaste by the vast majority of both American Bulldog and American Pit Bull Terrier fanciers.  Both varieties of American Bulldog are sometimes referred to as Southern Whites, Old Southern Whites, and American Pit Bulldogs.  The Scott-type is also known as the Standard or Performance-type, and the Johnson-type is also known as the Bully or Classic-type.

Breed Information

Breed Basics

Country of Origin: 
Size: 
X-Large 55-90 lb
XX-Large 90-120 lb+
LifeSpan: 
12 to 15 Years
Trainability: 
Moderate Effort Required
Energy Level: 
Varies From One Dog To The Next
Grooming: 
Brushing Once a Week or Less
Protective Ability: 
Very Protective
Hypoallergenic Breed: 
No
Space Requirements: 
House with Yard
Compatibility With Other Pets: 
Known To Be Dog Aggressive
May Be Okay With Other Pets If Raised Together
May Have Problems With Non-Canine Pets
Not Recommended For Homes With Existing Dogs
Not Recommended For Homes With Small Animals
Litter Size: 
3-10 Puppies
Names: 
Southern Whites, Old Southern Whites, American Pit Bulldogs, Scott-type: Standard or Performance-type, Johnson-type: Bully or Classic-type

Height/Weight

Males: 
70-150 lbs, 22-27 inches
Females: 
60-120 lbs, 20-25 inches

Kennel Clubs and Recognition

UKC (United Kennel Club): 
History: 

 

Because the American Bulldog and its ancestors developed in a time before written records were kept of dog breeding, there is much mystery surrounding its early ancestry.  What is clear is that the breed’s origins began with the English Mastiff or Bandog.  Although the exact origin of the Mastiff remains unknown, it has surely been present in England for at least two thousand years.  The Mastiff was initially primarily used as a war dog and guardian of noble estates, but English farmers quickly discovered that the breed could also be used for agricultural work.  At the time, it was a common practice for English farmers to let their livestock run free on commonly owned land.  The cattle and pigs raised in this manner were half feral and almost impossible to work with.  The great strength and massive jaws of the Mastiff allowed the dog to grab a hold of these beasts and hold them in place until they could be collected or killed.  Eventually, the agricultural necessity of bull-catching became an incredibly popular sport known as bull-baiting.  In bull-baiting competitions, a bull would be chained to a stake in the middle of a ring or pit.  Pepper would be forced up the bull’s nose to enrage it, and dogs would be sent in to combat it.  The dog had to hold onto the bull until it ceased fighting, a process that could take over an hour and often resulted in the death of one or both combatants.  Bull-baiting remained one of the most popular sports in England for many centuries.

 

Unfortunately, the Mastiff is not ideally suited to bull-catching.  Its large size meant that it had a high center of gravity and was easily forced down by the might of the bull, as well as providing a large area for the bull to gore or kick.  As most mastiffs were bred to spend their lives on a chain, the breed lacked the ideal athleticism.  Overtime, a distinct line of bull-baiting Mastiffs were developed that were smaller, more aggressive, and more athletic and energetic than the property guarding mastiffs.  These lines were probably distinct for centuries but regularly interbred.  As late as the 1576, the renowned dog writer Johannes Caius made no mention of the Bulldog, although he did discuss bull-baiting Mastiffs.  Beginning in the 1630’s, numerous references appear that clearly distinguish the Mastiff and the Bulldog, and it is highly likely that the two breeds were fully separate by that time.  Some have suggested that the difference may be the result of the addition of Spanish Alano and/or German Bullenbeiser blood, but no one can say for certain.  This is only that portion of the history of the Mastiff and Old English Bulldog that most pertains to that of the American Bulldog.  For more information on these dogs please see the articles on those breeds.

 

Due to the popularity of bull-baiting, the Bulldog became one of the most popular and recognizable dogs in England.  The breed’s popularity first soared during the 17th and 18th Centuries, right at the time that the American Colonies were being settled.  Many Old English Bulldogs were brought to the New World by British settlers.  Bull-baiting never caught on as a sport in America, but these dogs did find plenty of use.  Beginning in the early 1500’s, Spanish explorers had released hogs and cattle in Florida and Texas in order to provide food and leather for future colonists.  Unlike most domestic animals which cannot survive without human protection, these beasts returned to a wild state eventually becoming wild hogs and Cracker and Pineywoods Cattle.  These creatures grew long horns and tusks and became extremely aggressive.  Initially, the English settlers saw such animals as a valuable source of food, but they quickly became major agricultural pests. Just a few hogs could completely destroy an entire year’s crop in one night.  This was financially troubling for large plantation owners whose crops were often worth the equivalent of millions of dollars today but could result in starvation for those families who grew crops to feed themselves.  Old English Bulldogs were almost immediately tasked with hunting and catching wild hogs and cattle in America, just as their ancestors had been doing for countless centuries in England.  Scenthounds were used to locate the animal, and then Bulldogs would be released to catch it and hold on until hunters could kill the animal with knives or subdue it with ropes and chains.

 

Eventually, most of the cattle were caught and redomesticated, but such was not the case with the hogs.  Among the smartest, toughest, and most adaptable animals on Earth, wild hog numbers continued to grow at a rapid pace, and they continued to spread northwards.  At the time, the Bulldog was the only dog living in the United States capable of hunting hog without a very high likelihood of death; the breed was used extensively wherever hogs were found.  Until recent decades, wild hogs were almost entirely limited to the southern states, and working Bulldogs were almost entirely limited to the American South as well (although a considerably smaller number worked as catch-dogs on Midwestern farms as well).  Eventually, plantation owners came to realize that their working Bulldogs also made excellent guard dogs for their homes and estates, and the breed came to serve that purpose as well.

 

Working Bulldogs were very common throughout the American South until the 1830’s, when a series of events started.  In that decade, Bull and Terriers were first introduced to America, almost immediately after their development in England.  Bull and Terriers were the result of crossing Old English Bulldogs with rat-killing Terriers, and were considered the ultimate dog fighting competitors as they combined the size, power, courage, and tenacity of the Bulldog with the speed, intense dog-aggressiveness, ferocity and willingness to fight to the death with little provocation of the Terrier.  In America, Bull and Terriers eventually bred true and became known as American Pit Bull Terriers.  American farmers quickly discovered that the same traits that made the American Pit Bull Terrier an excellent dog fighter also made it a premier hog hunting dog.  The breed eventually became widely recognized as the best hog hunting dog in the world, and it began to replace the working Bulldog.  Additionally, a very large number of working Bulldogs were used to develop the American Pit Bull Terrier, therefore preventing them from perpetuating their own breed.  Perhaps even more damaging to the working Bulldog in America was the American Civil War, which began in 1861.  Although both sides still argue as to why the war was fought, all agree that it ended with a decisive Northern victory.  The war ended legal slavery in America and permanently destroyed the Plantation system.  Additionally, countless farms had been burned to the ground in an attempt to destroy the Southern will to fight.  The Bulldog suddenly found itself homeless and without masters, and the breed’s numbers began to fall.  Luckily for the breed, traditions die hard in the American South, and many fanciers continued to keep their beloved Bulldogs often at great expense to themselves and their families.

 

At the same time that the Bulldog was experiencing problems in America, the breed was undergoing a complete transformation in England.  After the Bull and Terrier had stabilized and no longer needed regular infusions of Bulldog blood, the breed began to die out.  A number of fanciers determined that this was unacceptable and began to breed Bulldogs for the show ring and companionship.  The animal that they created was so drastically different from its ancestor that it is now regarded as an entirely different breed.  The modern English Bulldog quickly became very popular in the United States and began to further replace the older type.  In England, this process was completed shortly after the turn of the century and the Old English Bulldog was lost forever.  In America, it was never quite completed and a number of older type Bulldogs continued to work as farm and hunting dogs in rural regions of the South and Midwest.  The more popular show and companion Bulldog became known as the English Bulldog or simply Bulldog.  Ironically, the Old English Bulldog was now found only in rural America and became known as the American Pit Bulldog or Old Southern White.

 

Although the breed retained a number of fanciers and breeders, the working Bulldog continued to decline.  By the end of World War II, it was on the verge of complete extinction.  Luckily for the breed, it found a champion in John D. Johnson.  Johnson, who spent his entire life except for Word War II in Summersville, Georgia, owned his first American Pit Bulldog in 1927, at the age of three.  Named Prince, the dog accompanied him on countless adventures throughout his childhood and permanently entrenched a love of the breed in him.  At the time, the breed remained well-known in the region although it was increasingly rare.  Johnson acquired his first female American Pit Bulldog at the age of 14 and started breeding the same year, initially selling puppies for $5 apiece.  The first sire Johnson used was Prince’s brother from a subsequent litter.  Johnson continued breeding Bulldogs until he entered World War II, placing his dogs in the care of his family while he was away.  Upon his return, Johnson realized that his beloved breed was in severe danger of extinction.  He made up his mind to save the American Pit Bulldog and began collecting what he considered the finest surviving examples.  He spent essentially all of his money doing so, but with limited resources was only able to purchase a limited number of dogs.

 

Johnson began breeding his dogs, attempting to keep them as pure as possible.  To maintain genetic diversity, he refused to breed any dogs closer in relation than half siblings, and never bred dogs which shared more than one grandparent if he could help it.  After World War II, Johnson almost exclusively bred from his own lines, although he did introduce one of Alan Scott’s dogs and a single AKC registered English Bulldog from the North, which Johnson considered atavistic.  Johnson used his dogs for hog hunting, cattle catching, personal companionship, and protection.  By the 1960’s, Johnson had inspired a number of other fanciers to continue his work.  Many of these breeders used Johnson’s dogs in their lines, but also collected their own working Bulldogs from throughout the South.  Easily the most famous and influential of these other breeders was Alan Scott.  Alan Scott began his breeding efforts with two of Johnson’s dogs, but soon acquired other animals from Georgia and Alabama.  Whereas Johnson favored a more traditional Bulldog look, Scott favored a more athletic-looking longer-snouted dog.  Although the two initially worked together, their relationship quickly soured.  Johnson claimed that Scott was not selective enough about the dogs he entered into his lines and that many of them were heavily influenced by the American Pit Bull Terrier and other breeds such as the Great Dane.  Scott and his supporters countered that Johnson had introduced Bullmastiffs and other breeds, which Johnson always denied.  Scott also claimed that Johnson cared too much for appearance and not enough about working ability to which Johnson replied that Scott did not care enough about appearance and purity.  The two sides both found fanciers to continue on their work and to this day there are two major lines of American Bulldog.

 

In the 1970’s, John D. Johnson registered his breed with the National Kennel Club (NKC) as the American Pit Bulldog.  However, he quickly became dissatisfied with that organization and switched his allegiance to the Animal Research Foundation (ARF).  Upon switching registries, Johnson decided to change the breed’s name to the American Bulldog to avoid confusion with the American Pit Bull Terrier, which Johnson considered an entirely separate breed.  Although he had no problem with his dogs entering the show ring (and in fact entered many himself), it was always Johnson’s intent to maintain the American Bulldog as a working dog with the body and temperament to match.  Remaining a committed ARF breeder until the day he died, John D. Johnson passed having bred his beloved American Bulldogs for more than 80 years.  His kennel continues operating under the care of his many admirers.  Some years prior to his passing, John D. Johnson provided dogs to David Leavitt which would go on to be part of the foundation stock of the Olde English Bulldogge.

 

As a result of the work of Johnson, Scott, and other dedicated breeders, the American Bulldog began to make a slow comeback in the 1980’s.  The breed built up both population and reputation.  Numerous lines were founded, and many different registries were formed for the breed.  Not all breeders were as dedicated to purity as Johnson, and several other breeds probably unofficially entered American Bulldog lines at this time such as the American Pit Bull Terrier, Bullmastiff, English Mastiff, Dogue de Bordeaux, and Boxer, although this is much disputed.  In 1993, an American Bulldog appeared as Chance, one of the major characters in the Disney film Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey, exposing an entire generation of children to the breed.  The American Bulldog continued to earn a reputation as a tireless and willing worker, affectionate companion, and fearless protector.  By the end of the 1990’s, there were dozens of different breed registries available to the American Bulldog along with an even greater number of breed clubs dedicated to these dogs.  Essentially all registries treat Johnson and Scott’s lines as different varieties of the same breed, and often include other lines as well.  In 1998, the American Bulldog earned full recognition with the United Kennel Club (UKC), the second largest pure bred dog registry in both the United States and the world.

 

Unfortunately, the American Bulldog’s rise in popularity has not come without setbacks.  Although quite large, the high value attached to purebred American Bulldogs has meant that some commercial breeders have used the breed in puppy mills.  These commercial breeders care nothing for temperament, conformation, or health, only the money that they can make.  Although usually better intentioned, the inexperience of so-called backyard breeders has caused similar problems.  Additionally, many people have been acquiring American Bulldogs based on the breed’s fame and reputation, without considering whether this dog is actually a good match for them.  The American Bulldog is highly energetic, extremely driven, and often dominant and standoffish.  Many unprepared families decide to let their American Bulldogs loose on the streets or turn them in to animal shelters and increasing numbers of breed members are now being euthanized.

 

Of greater concern for the American Bulldog is breed specific legislation, which puts restrictions on the ownership of certain dog breeds or bans them altogether.  Due to a series of highly publicized (and often inaccurately reported) attacks allegedly committed by Pit Bull-type dogs, along with a connection to dog fighting and organized crime, Pit Bull-type dogs earned a largely unfair reputation for viciousness and came under increasing legal scrutiny.  At some point in the 1980’s, the American Bulldog became closely associated with the American Pit Bull Terrier, although the two dogs are very different (As someone who has owned and considers himself a fancier of both breeds the author will attest to these differences personally).  This connection is probably due to the fact that many unscrupulous Pit Bull breeders crossed their dogs with American Bulldogs to develop guard dogs and that many Pit Bull owners were forced to lie about the breed of their dog to avoid punishment.    As a result, the American Bulldog is often included in Pit Bull bans, and many proponents of such legislation insist that the American Bulldog is a type of Pit Bull, even though fanciers and breeders of both dogs loudly insist otherwise.  When Pit Bull bans that include the breed are counted, the American Bulldog is now either the second or third most commonly targeted breed for legislation in the United States, after only Pit Bull-type dogs and possibly the Rottweiler.  In addition to legal bans, American Bulldogs are often expressly banned from apartment complexes, housing developments, airline flights, dog parks, and insurance policies.

 

Largely as a result of the immense and growing popularity of the American Pit Bull Terrier overseas but also partially due to the breed’s reputation as an exceptionally skilled hog hunting and personal protection animal, American Bulldogs are becoming very popular internationally.  American Bulldogs can now be found throughout the world, in dozens of countries and every continent except Antarctica where all dogs are banned.  The American Bulldog is now banned in many countries, even ones where it has never been found, as a result of its connection to the American Pit Bull Terrier.  However, the breed is much less frequently banned than that the Pit Bull, and its numbers continue to grow.

 

Throughout the years, Johnson and Scott’s lines have become increasingly mixed, and with the possible exception of Johnson’s Kennel there are probably no purebred dogs of either line remaining.  There are also numerous hybrid lines between the two which are more or less recognized depending on the line and the organization.  The two types do remain quite distinct although they continue to be regularly interbred.  Although both types have their admirers, there is very little discussion of every splitting the breed.  Most fanciers think that both types have good qualities that can benefit the other, and in any case feel a high degree of genetic diversity is always desirable.  Up to this point, there has been essentially no interest in registering the American Bulldog with the American Kennel Club (AKC) on behalf of either the AKC or American Bulldog fanciers.  The multiple varieties of American Bulldog mean that the breed almost certainly could never have a unified standard that meets AKC rules and guidelines.  Additionally, American Bulldog fanciers, who still primarily care about working ability and temperament, are among the strongest and most vocal critics of the AKC, which many believe ruins the health, working, abilities, and temperament of breeds with breeding practices designed to promote appearance conformation.  Although no official polls have been taken, it is a virtual certainty that a large majority of American Bulldog fanciers would be strongly opposed to AKC recognition, and this will not occur for the foreseeable future, if it ever does.

 

The American Bulldog has proven extremely influential in the development of other dog breeds.  Beginning in the 1800’s, it was used to help develop the American Pit Bull Terrier, and therefore its descendant the American Staffordshire Terrier.  In recent years, there has been a major increase in interest in Molosser-type dogs in general and Bulldog-type dogs in particular.  Many different breeding programs have sought to develop either entirely new breeds or recreate older ones.  The American Bulldog is probably the most popular breed to use in these efforts, as it is widely regarded as being the closest living survivor to the Old English Bulldog in addition to its reputation as hunting and protection animal.  American Bulldogs definitely went into the development of the Alapaha Blue Blood Bulldog, Antebellum Bulldog, Olde English Bulldogge, and the Banter Bulldogge, and almost certainly were used to develop the American Mastiff Panja, American Bandog, and American Bully as well.  American Bulldogs are also very frequently crossed with Catahoula Leopard Dogs to create Catahoula Bulldogs, which are now considered by many to be the ideal hog catching dogs.  The breed is also one of the most commonly used in the development of so-called designer dogs, which are essentially nothing more than crosses between two purebred dogs.  The American Bulldog is usually only crossed with other Molossers to develop hybrid dogs, but has been occasionally crossed with other dog types.

 

Although usually considered a rare breed because it is not recognized with the AKC, American Bulldogs are now considerably more popular and numerous in the United States than many AKC registered breeds.  The breed is currently one of the fastest growing in American (and possibly the fastest), and all signs point to major growth continuing for the foreseeable future.  At current growth rates, the American Bulldog will probably become one of America’s most popular breeds, although it will probably not overtake such dogs as the American Pit Bull Terrier, Labrador and Golden Retrievers, and the Beagle.  Unlike most modern breeds, a very large number of American Bulldogs are still used for their original purpose and countless breed members still catch hogs and cattle on the farm or in the field.  However, the primary purpose of the breed has almost certainly shifted to personal and property protection, tasks at which this dog is also very well-suited.  Additionally, this highly intelligent and adaptable breed has increasingly found work in search-and-rescue, law enforcement, the military, and therapy.  American Bulldogs have also competed with success at the highest levels of a number of dog competitions, especially weight pulling, schutzhund, competitive obedience, agility, and conformation shows.  Although the American Bulldog continues to be primarily bred for working ability, an ever increasing number of families are keeping breed members exclusively as companion animals or companion/protection animals.  For families that are able and willing to meet the American Bulldogs substantial exercise and stimulation requirements, the dog often makes a very affectionate and intensely devoted pet.

 

Appearance: 

 

The American Bulldog is one of the most variable of all modern breeds in terms of appearance.  The breed ranges tremendously in size, build, head size and shape, muzzle length and shape, and coloration.  There are two distinct lines of American Bulldog, the Scott/Standard/Performance Type and the Johnson/Bully/Classic type, but the two lines have been so heavily mixed that almost all breed members exhibit characteristics of both.  In general, the Johnson type is larger, more stockily built, with a larger head and shorter muzzle, while the Scott type is smaller, more athletically built, with a smaller head and longer muzzle.  Although many breed fanciers may dislike the comparison, Johnson Type American Bulldogs tend to look more like an English Bulldog and Scott Type American Bulldogs tend to look more like American Pit Bull Terriers.

 

Regardless of type, the American Bulldog is a large to a very large dog.  On average, male American Bulldogs stand between 22 and 27 inches tall at the shoulder, and females stand between 20 and 25 inches.  It is far from uncommon for individual dogs to be up to two inches taller or shorter than this, and not unheard of for the difference to be as much as four inches.  Both varieties of American Bulldog are immensely powerful and tremendously muscular.  The Johnson Type tends to be significantly bulkier than the Scott Type, but individual dogs range from being sturdy but lean to thick and tank-like.  However, under no circumstances should one of these dogs appear overweight.  The weight of the American Bulldog is heavily influenced by height, gender, build, and type and ranges more wildly than almost any other dog breed.  Males usually weigh between 70 and 150 pounds, and females usually weigh between 60 and 120 pounds.  The natural tail of American Bulldogs is long and whip-like.  A sizable majority of owners keep the dog’s natural tail as is greatly preferred by most standards, although some choose to have it docked short.

 

The head and face are the primary differences between the two major types of American Bulldog.  The heads of both varieties are very large and broad, but not nearly to the extent to the English Bulldog.  The head is usually flat and quite square in Johnson Type Dog, but often slightly wedge-shaped in Scott Type dogs.  The muzzle and head connect very abruptly to one another, at an almost right angle.  The muzzle and top of the skull should both be straight and parallel each other.  The major difference lies in the muzzle.  Johnson Type dogs have a very short muzzle that is very reminiscent of the English Bulldog, approximately 25 to 30 % the length of the skull.  Scott Type dogs have a considerably longer muzzle which is more similar to that of the American Pit Bull Terrier and should be approximately 30 to 40% the length of the skull.  The lips of both varieties are thick and loose but not overly pendulous.  Most American Bulldogs have a slight under bite which is seen as preferable, but an even bit is considered acceptable.

 

Both varieties tend to have some facial wrinkles, although the Johnson type often has significantly more.  The nose of the American Bulldog is large with wide nostrils.  Black is the preferred nose color but some dogs may have red or brown noses as well.  The eyes of the American Bulldog are medium in size and should be completely unimpeded by wrinkles or hair.  Although all colors of eyes are acceptable, dark brown is strongly preferred in written standards, but blue is favored by many fanciers.  Some owners choose to crop the ears of their American Bulldogs but this is strongly disfavored.  The natural ears of this breed are small to medium in size and extremely variable in terms of shape and direction.  They may face forwards, to the sides, or even almost backwards and may be rose, drop, or semi-prick in shape.  The overall expression of most American Bulldogs is one of toughness, intensity, intelligence, and courage.

 

The coat of the American Bulldog is short, close, and varies from soft to prickly in texture.  Ideally, the hair should be an inch or less in length.  American Bulldogs can come in any color and pattern except for solid black, solid blue, any color of merle, and tricolor (white with tan and black markings).  All of these dogs must exhibit some white on their coats, at least 10% of total body area.  Additionally, a solid black mask on the muzzle is a disqualification.  In practice, most breeders and owners greatly favor dogs that are as white as possible, and most breed members are either heavily or entirely white.  Occasionally, an American Bulldog will be born with improper coloration.  Such dogs are either penalized or disqualified in the show ring and should not be bred, but otherwise make just as suitable working dogs and companion animals.

 

Temperament: 

 

American Bulldogs are bred primarily as working dogs and have the temperament one would expect of such and animal.  American Bulldogs are intensely devoted to their masters, with whom they tend to form very close bonds.  This is a breed that demonstrates incredible loyalty and would unhesitatingly lay down its life for its loved ones.  When raised in a single person home, American Bulldogs tend to become one person dogs, but when brought up in a family they usually form equally strong attachments to all family members.  This dog wants to be in the constant company of its family, which can often lead to separation anxiety.  American Bulldogs are usually big softies with their loved ones and they can be incredibly sweet.  Many of these dogs think that they are lapdogs, which can be a problem if someone doesn’t want a 150 pound dog on their lap.  When well-socialized, most American Bulldogs are trustworthy around children.  However, breed members that have not been properly introduced may be nervous around children or mistake them as a potential threat.  Additionally, most American Bulldogs are never quite aware that young children cannot play as roughly as adults and may accidentally injure a small child during boisterous play.

 

American Bulldogs are highly protective, and most breed members are very suspicious of strangers.  Proper socialization is absolutely vital for this breed, otherwise they may come to see any new person as a potential threat and develop aggression issues as a result.  Once socialization is complete, most of these dogs will be polite with and tolerant of strangers but usually aloof and distrusting at the same time.  This breed does often take a while to warm up to a new such as a spouse or roommate but will usually come around to form close friendships.  American Bulldogs make excellent watchdogs as they are protective, alert, and territorial, and their appearance is more than enough to deter most potential wrongdoers.  This breed also makes an excellent guard dog that will not allow any intruder to enter their territory unchallenged.  Though this breed generally gives a very persuasive display to attempt to intimidate intruders, they are definitely willing to use force if they feel it necessary.  Under no circumstances would one of these dogs tolerate physical harm coming to a family member, and this breed is completely fearless and absolutely relentless in their defense.

 

American Bulldogs generally do not do well with other animals.  In particular, breed members of both sexes frequently display very high levels of dog aggression.  These dogs suffer from all forms of dog aggression including territorial, possessiveness, dominance, prey-driven, and same-sex.  If very carefully trained and socialized from a young age, most American Bulldogs will have fewer dog aggression issues, but some breed members are never trustworthy with other dogs.  Most American Bulldogs do best as either an only dog or with a single member of the opposite sex.  Owners do have to be aware that even the least dog aggressive American Bulldogs will almost certainly never back down from a confrontation that finds them.  If anything, American Bulldogs are even more aggressive towards non-canine animals.  This dog was bred to bite down hard on some of the most dangerous animals in the world and to never let go.  The majority of breed members are highly prey driven and will pursue any creature that comes into view.  If left alone in a backyard for any length of time, an American Bulldog will probably bring its owner home “presents” of dead animals ranging in size from cockroaches to raccoons.  This breed does have a well-earned reputation as a cat killer, but most will not trouble individual cats that they were raised alongside (although strange or new pet cats would probably not be safe).

 

American Bulldogs are extremely intelligent dogs, and many who own them swear that they are the smartest dogs that they have ever known.  This intelligence can be greatly problematic as it is not unheard of for a 12-week old puppy to figure out how to open doors or jump on counters.  It also means that this breed bores very, very quickly.  Many of these dogs get bored so quickly that they become destructive minutes after their family leaves.  American Bulldogs have such a great need for mental stimulation that they do best when provided a “job” such as hunting, competitive obedience, or regular games of Frisbee.

 

This high intelligence combines with a strong working drive means that American Bulldogs are very trainable dogs.  This breed excels at the highest levels of a number of canine sports such as schutzhund, competitive, and agility and is probably capable of learning any task at which a dog is capable other than those that require a total lack of dominance and defensiveness.  It is commonly believed that the American Bulldog is one of the most trainable Molosser-type dogs.  However, inexperienced owners will find this breed very difficult to train.  American Bulldogs are usually very dominant and will absolutely not obey someone whom they believe is lower in the pack order than themselves.  Owners who are unable to maintain a constant and firm position of dominance will probably find themselves with an out of control dog.  This can create an awkward situation where the dog is completely obedient to one owner and entirely refuses to respond to another.

 

This breed is perhaps the most energetic and athletic of all Molossers, and is one of the few that is capable of performing hours of vigorous activity.  Consequently, American Bulldogs have very high exercise requirements.  This breed should get a minimum of between 45 minutes and an hour of vigorous physical activity every day, but would preferably get more.  This breed tends to want to exercise in short spurts and will run around crazily for 15 minutes and then completely crash.  An under exercised American Bulldog will almost certainly develop behavioral issues such as destructiveness, excessive barking, hyper activity, over excitability, nervousness, and aggression.  Once an American Bulldog has gotten the exercise that it needs, this breed tends to be very relaxed in the home and will spend hours laying around.

 

Potential owners need to be aware that this breed is among the “doggiest” of all dogs and that they can be quite a handful.  American Bulldogs love to dig in the dirt and will destroy a garden in moments.  They will drop a tennis ball in your lap for hours, bark loudly, chase cars, knock over the trash can, snore, whip your legs with their tail, and have regular room-clearing episodes of flatulence.  This breed makes an excellent companion for the right family, but is definitely not a refined and gentle aristocrat.

 

Grooming Requirements: 

 

American Bulldogs have very low grooming requirements.  This breed should never need to see a professional groomer, only a regular brushing is necessary.  These dogs do shed, and many of them shed very, very heavily.  Many breed members leave an avalanche of white hairs in their wake all year long and this dog would be a very poor choice for an allergy suffer or someone who simply hates the thought of cleaning up dog hair.  The stiffer hair of some American Bulldogs resiliently clings to fabric even after vacuuming and can even stick in a foot like a splinter.

 

Health Issues: 

 

Because there are so many different American Bulldog registries, it has proven nearly impossible to conduct accurate health surveys on the breed.  As a result it is difficult to make any generalizations about the breed’s health.  Most sources seem to believe that the breed is in relatively good health compared to other Molosser breeds.  However, due to lack of testing and genetic screening by many American Bulldog breeders, hip dysplasia has become a major problem in the breed.  It is impossible to know what percentage of American Bulldogs suffers from this condition although it is probably quite high.

 

Hip dysplasia is caused by a malformation of the hip joint which prevents the leg bone and hip from connecting properly.  Overtime, this problem causes discomfort, pain, arthritis, difficulty moving, and sometimes even lameness.  Although hip dysplasia is genetically inherited, the timing and severity of its onset can be impacted by environmental factors.  There is no commonly accepted cure for hip dysplasia, but there are a number of treatments available for it symptoms.  As most of these treatments are lifelong and expensive, they can become burdensome.  There are several screening tests available for hip dysplasia, and responsible breeder are beginning to use them to attempt to reduce the condition’s prevalence.

 

A full list of health problems to which the American Bulldog is believed to be susceptible would have to include:

 

 

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