If you want a laid-back, lovable, family companion who is content to nap on the couch, the English bulldog may be a good fit. Easy to train, good with children of all ages, and requiring minimal grooming and exercise, the English bulldog is equally perfect for busy families and quiet singles.
Physical characteristics of the English bulldog
Their build makes English bulldogs unmistakable. They are short and sturdy, typically about 14 to 15 inches tall, and often weighing between 40 and 50 pounds. Their thick torso is supported by short legs that curve into a bow-legged stance and their large, round head is covered in loose wrinkles that create a furrowed brow and prominent jowls. A distinctive underbite gives them a pouty appearance. Finally, they have small floppy ears on their head, and a tightly curled, short corkscrew tail at the other end.
English bulldogs come in a variety of colors and patterns, including:
Personality and temperament of the English bulldog
The English bulldog’s endearing mug is a perfect accompaniment to its affectionate, friendly personality. An ideal family dog, English bulldogs are typically good with children of all ages. They tend to train easily, and pick up on new concepts quickly. Although puppies can be boisterous and rowdy, they quickly mature into mellow, quiet adults who rarely bark. Most English bulldogs are happy to nap all day, but don’t mistake their laid-back nature for laziness—they are happy to accompany you on a walk if you ask.
Common health concerns for the English bulldog
People choose English bulldogs for their charming personalities, but their love often comes at a high price. This breed comes with a long list of potential health problems, many of which can be expensive, so maintaining a good relationship with a veterinarian and regular wellness checks are important. The high disease risk also lowers average life expectancy. Although not every English bulldog will experience a major health problem, watch for the following:
Moisture accumulates in the English bulldog’s characteristic wrinkles, and can progress to a skin infection if not cleaned and dried regularly.
Brachycephalic airway obstruction syndrome
Brachycephalic breeds (i.e., those with a short muzzle) often have small nasal openings, narrow airways, and an elongated soft palate that interfere with normal breathing, and English bulldogs experience more severe problems than other brachycephalic breeds. Affected dogs wheeze, snort, and snore, and can easily develop respiratory distress if they are overexerted or become overheated.
Canine hip dysplasia (CHD)
CHD causes hip joint degeneration and arthritis and is common in many medium- and large-breed dogs. Affected dogs experience hip pain, lameness, and muscle degeneration, and treatment often includes lifelong medications to decrease joint inflammation, or surgical hip replacement. Before adopting an English bulldog puppy, ask the breeder if a veterinarian has evaluated the parents for hip dysplasia or if documentation can be provided that certifies the dogs as CHD-free.
Sensitivity to environmental allergens can cause severe itching, and chronic skin and ear infections in English bulldogs. Allergic responses to substances such as pollen are often seasonal, but sensitivity to other allergens, such as food ingredients and dust mites, can cause year-round problems.
The third eyelid can protrude out of its pouch and form a bulging pink mass at the inside corner of the eye. The gland may intermittently protrude, but will not permanently stay in place until it is surgically replaced and tacked into position.
The notoriously large head of English bulldog puppies, paired with the abnormally narrow birth canal of the females, leads to significant birthing problems. Most pregnant females have scheduled cesarean-section births to prevent danger to the bitch and her pups.
The English bulldog’s characteristic wrinkles can cause the eyelids to roll inward, and hair to rub against the eye surface. Chronic irritation causes corneal trauma and ulceration. Treatment includes surgical reconstruction of the eyelids to prevent further trauma.
Other common health concerns include:
- Dental abnormalities
- Bone and joint problems
- Elbow dysplasia
- Spinal deformities
- Skin problems
- Demodectic mange
- Keratoconjunctivitis sicca, or dry eye
- Gastric dilation volvulus
- Heart disease
- Laryngeal paralysis
Caring for the English bulldog
The English bulldog’s short hair coat requires only occasional brushing, along with regular baths and nail trims. The deep wrinkles—mostly restricted to the face and around the tail—need to be regularly cleaned and thoroughly dried to prevent infection from moisture accumulation.
English bulldogs’ teeth are often misaligned and crowded, causing significant dental tartar accumulation that can advance to painful periodontal disease and tooth loss. Teeth should be brushed daily to prevent tartar build-up, and professional dental cleanings performed annually. Your veterinarian can show you how to brush your dog’s teeth, which is surprisingly easy and quickly accepted by most dogs.
The relaxed attitude of English bulldogs can lead owners to believe they do not need exercise, but they can become overweight without regular moderate activity. A short daily stroll is ideal, as most English bulldogs tend to overheat easily. They should not be taken outdoors in extreme temperatures, and must live indoors with air conditioning during the summer. When outside, they must be watched closely for signs of heat stress. Also, most English bulldogs cannot swim and should never be put into water and expected to doggy paddle.
The English bulldog is the perfect dog for you if:
- You are looking for a lovable family dog
- You are willing to visit your veterinarian regularly to ensure good health and detect problems as early as possible
- You have little time for exercising a dog
- You want a dog who is happy to spend most of the day curled up on your bed
- You live in an apartment without a yard
- You plan to purchase medical insurance for your new pet