American Bulldog Temperament
What's Good About 'Em,
What's Bad About 'Em
American Bulldog Temperament, Personality, Behavior, Traits, and Characteristics, by Michele Welton. Copyright © 2000-2014
The muscular American Bulldog possesses great strength, tenacity, determination, and confidence.
He is best owned by active people who are interested in developing his athletic abilities in weight pulling, obedience, agility, hunting, farm work, or Schutzhund. Though usually calm and self-possessed, he must have vigorous exercise to stay fit and happy.
His attitude toward strangers varies from friendly to standoffish, and even the friendly ones make vigilant guardians. Early socialization is an absolute requirement to promote a stable, discriminating temperament.
The American Bulldog lives for his family and may become destructive if left alone too much.
Dog aggression can be a problem; he should be thoroughly socialized with other dogs from an early age. Cats, too.
Though strong-willed, he learns quickly and will respect an owner who is equally confident and consistent.
Because of public/media prejudice toward any breed resembling a "pit bull," American Bulldogs should be kept on-leash outside their yard and trained through at least basic obedience.
If you want a dog who...
- Is muscular and powerful, built rather like a Mack truck
- Looks imposing, so makes an effective deterrent, but is usually good-natured with people
- Thrives on vigorous athletic activities
- Has a sleek, easy-to-groom coat
An American Bulldog may be right for you.
If you don't want to deal with...
- A large dog who takes up a lot of space in your house and car
- Vigorous exercise requirements
- Rowdiness and exuberant jumping, especially when young
- Providing enough socialization so their protectiveness doesn't become aggression
- Aggression toward other animals
- Strong-willed mind of his own, requiring a confident owner who can take charge
- Slobbering and drooling
- Gassiness (flatulence)
- Serious health problems
- Legal liabilities (public perception, future breed bans, insurance problems, increased chance of lawsuits)
An American Bulldog may not be right for you.
- choosing the RIGHT breeder and the RIGHT puppy
- or choosing an ADULT dog from your animal shelter or rescue group – a dog who has already proven that he doesn't have negative traits
- training your dog to respect you
- avoiding health problems by following my daily care program in 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy
More traits and characteristics of the American Bulldog
If I was considering an American Bulldog, I would be most concerned about...
- Providing enough exercise and mental stimulation. American Bulldogs MUST have regular opportunities to vent their energy and do interesting things. Otherwise they will become rambunctious and bored -- which they usually express by barking and destructive chewing. Bored American Bulldogs can make a shambles of your house and yard.
If you simply want a pet for your family, and don't have the time or inclination to take your dog running or hiking or swimming or biking, or to get involved in weight-pulling, or tracking, or agility (obstacle course), or schutzhund (protection), or a similar canine activity, I do not recommend this breed. American Bulldogs were never intended to be simply household pets.
- Bounciness Young American Bulldogs (up to three years old) can be bulls in a china shop. When they romp and jump, they do so with great vigor, and things go flying, including people.
If you have small children, or if you or anyone who lives with you is elderly or infirm, I do not recommend American Bulldog puppies. The temptation to play roughly is too strong in many young American Bulldogs.
- Providing enough socialization. Most American Bulldogs have protective instincts toward strangers. They need extensive exposure to friendly people so they learn to recognize the normal behaviors of "good guys." Then they can recognize the difference when someone acts abnormally. Without careful socialization, they may be suspicious of everyone, which could lead to biting.
- Animal aggression. Many American Bulldogs will not tolerate another dog of the same sex. Some American Bulldogs have strong instincts to chase and seize cats and other fleeing creatures. If anything goes wrong in the breeding, socializing, training, handling, or management of this breed, it is capable of seriously injuring or killing other animals.
- The strong temperament. American Bulldogs are not Golden Retrievers. The best American Bulldogs are versatile working dogs, capable of learning a great deal, but they have an independent mind of their own and are not pushovers to raise and train. Many are willful, obstinate, and dominant (they want to be the boss) and will make you prove that you can make them do things. You must show them, through absolute consistency, that you mean what you say.
To teach your Bulldog to listen to you, "Respect Training" is mandatory. My American Bulldog Training Page discusses the program you need.
- Shedding. For such a shorthaired dog, American Bulldogs shed more than you might think. Their short coarse hairs come off on your hands when you pet them, and stick tenaciously to your clothing, upholstery, and carpeting.
- Slobbering. Some American Bulldogs, especially those with massive jowls, slobber and drool after eating and drinking.
- Gassiness (flatulence) that can send you running for cover. Fortunately, American Bulldogs who are fed a natural diet of real meat and other fresh foods have much less trouble with gassiness. See my American Bulldog Health Page for more information.
- Serious health problems. Hip and joint problems are common in American Bulldogs because many breeders are not bothering to x-ray their breeding stock before breeding.
To keep this breed healthy, I strongly recommend following all of the advice on my American Bulldog Health Page.
- Legal liabilities. American Bulldogs may be targeted for "banning" in certain areas, or refusal of homeowner insurance policies. Your friends and neighbors may be uncomfortable around this breed. In this day and age, the legal liabilities of owning any breed that looks intimidating and has a history as a guard dog and big game hunter should be seriously considered. People are quicker to sue if such a dog does anything even remotely questionable.
Frankly, most American Bulldogs are "too much dog" for the average household. Very few people really have the knowledge or skills necessary to manage this breed, or to provide the types of activities that keep him satisfied.
To learn more about training American Bulldogs to be calm and well-behaved, consider my dog training book,
Teach Your Dog 100 English Words.
It's a unique Vocabulary and Respect Training Program that will make your American Bulldog the smartest, most well-behaved companion you've ever had.
Teaches your dog to listen to you, to pay attention to you, and to do whatever you ask him to do.
My dog buying guide, Dog Quest: Find The Dog Of Your Dreams, will teach you everything you need to know about finding a healthy American Bulldog puppy. Health problems have become so widespread in dogs today that this book is required reading for ANYONE who is thinking of getting a purebred, crossbred, or mixed breed dog.
If you'd like to consult with me personally about whether the American Bulldog might be a good dog breed for your family, I offer a Dog Breed Consulting Service.
Once you have your American Bulldog home, you need to KEEP him healthy -- or if he's having any current health problems, you need to get him back on the road to good health.
My dog health care book, 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy is the book you need.
Raise your dog the right way and you will be helping him live a longer, healthier life while avoiding health problems and unnecessary veterinary expenses.
Please consider adopting an ADULT American Bulldog...
When you're acquiring an American Bulldog PUPPY, you're acquiring potential -- what he one day will be. So "typical breed characteristics" are very important.
But when you acquire an adult dog, you're acquiring what he already IS and you can decide whether he is the right dog for you based on that reality. There are plenty of adult American Bulldogs who have already proven themselves NOT to have negative characteristics that are "typical" for their breed. If you find such an adult dog, don't let "typical breed negatives" worry you. Just be happy that you found an atypical individual -- and enjoy!
Save a life. Adopt a dog.
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