English Bull Terrier Temperament
What's Good About 'Em,
What's Bad About 'Em
English Bull Terrier Temperament, Personality, Behavior, Traits, and Characteristics, by Michele Welton. Copyright © 2000-2015
The Bull Terrier is sweet-tempered, yet also rowdy and clownish, full of fire and determination.
This muscular, forceful, vigorous dog does best with active families, for he has a high energy level that comes in spurts and bursts.
He needs frequent, brisk walks, occasional vigorous games of ball, and total immersion in the family, i.e. LOTS of companionship and interactive play sessions.
If ignored, Bull Terriers will become bored, and mischief will surely follow. Youngsters who are neglected can be especially rambunctious: happily devouring your furniture, excavating great caverns in your yard, and spinning in dizzy circles, chasing their tails obsessively.
Most Bullies greet strangers with enthusiastic bounding (often knocking the guest over) and face kissing. However, aggression and timidity are present in some lines, and early socialization is important to develop a stable attitude.
A Bull Terrier should not be kept with another dog of the same sex, and cats may or may not be safe. Bull Terriers can be very possessive of their food -- do not allow another pet or a child to approach a Bull Terrier when he is eating..
At some point, if you have not raised this breed with consistent leadership, he will likely challenge your ability to control his actions. Such dominance attempts must be met with calm assertiveness. Keep training sessions brief, and use food as motivation.
Some Bull Terriers are enthusiastic "talkers" who grunt and mumble to themselves.
If you want a dog who...
- Is moderately sized with a muscular build
- Looks very unusual, with an egg-shaped head, large prick ears, and tiny triangular eyes sunk deeply in his head
- Has a short easy-care coat
- Is rowdy and clownish, full of energy and fire
- Thrives on lots of exercise and vigorous athletic games
- Looks imposing, so makes an effective deterrent, but is usually non-aggressive with strangers
An English Bull Terrier may be right for you.
If you don't want to deal with...
- Rowdiness, exuberant jumping, and a tendency to play rough
- Destructiveness when bored or left alone too much
- Aggression or fearfulness toward people in some lines, or when not socialized enough
- Aggression toward other dogs and cats
- Strong-willed mind of his own, requiring a confident owner who can take charge
- Shedding -- lots of it
- Serious health problems
- Legal liabilities (public perception, future breed bans, insurance problems, increased chance of lawsuits)
An English Bull Terrier 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 English Bull Terrier
If I was considering an English Bull Terrier, I would be most concerned about...
- Providing enough exercise and mental stimulation. Bull Terriers, whether Standard or Miniature, are very active dogs who MUST have regular opportunities to vent their high energy and to use their busy minds to do interesting things. Otherwise they will become rambunctious and bored -- which they usually express by destructive chewing. Bored Bull Terriers are famous for chewing through drywall, ripping the stuffing out of sofas, and turning your yard into a moonscape of giant craters.
- Bounciness. Young Bull Terriers (up to about three years old) can be bulls in a china shop. When they romp and jump, they do so with great vigor, and things can 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 Bull Terrier puppies, especially the Standard size. The temptation to play roughly is simply too strong in young Bullies.
- Providing enough socialization. Many Bull Terriers love everyone, but some have protective instincts toward strangers. All Bull Terriers 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. Some Bull Terriers go in the opposite direction -- without enough socialization, they become fearful of strangers, which can lead to defensive biting.
- Animal aggression. Many Bull Terriers will not tolerate another dog of the same sex. Some won't tolerate the opposite sex, either. Many Bull Terriers, both Standard and Miniature, 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 these breeds, they are capable of seriously injuring or killing other animals.
- The strong temperament. Bull Terriers are not Golden Retrievers. They have an independent mind of their own and are not pushovers to raise and train. They can be manipulative, and 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 Bull Terrier to listen to you, "Respect Training" is mandatory. My Bull Terrier Training Page discusses the program you need.
- Shedding. Bull Terriers shed much more than you might think. Their short, coarse hairs come off on your hands when you pet them, and stick tenaciously to your carpeting, upholstery, and clothing. In addition, people with sensitive skin may react adversely to the "pokes" of the harsh hairs.
- Serious health problems. From heart disease to kidney disease to eye disease to deafness, Bull Terriers are risky in the health department.
To keep this breed healthy, I strongly recommend following all of the advice on my Bull Terrier Health Page.
- Legal liabilities. English Bull Terriers are not the same breed as PIT Bull Terriers, but they are often lumped together by public officials and the media as potentially dangerous dogs. Thus, English Bull Terriers may be targeted for future "banning" in certain areas, or refusal of homeowner insurance policies. In this day and age, the legal liabilities of owning any breed that looks intimidating and has a fighting heritage should be seriously considered. People are quicker to sue if such a dog does anything even remotely questionable.
Frankly, most Bull Terriers, both Standard and Miniature, are "too much dog" for the average household. Very few people really have the knowledge or skills necessary to manage these fiery, high-energy breeds, or to provide the activities that keep them satisfied.
To learn more about training English Bull Terriers 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 English Bull Terrier 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 English Bull Terrier 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 English Bull Terrier might be a good dog breed for your family, I offer a Dog Breed Consulting Service.
Once you have your English Bull Terrier 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 English Bull Terrier...
When you're acquiring an English Bull Terrier 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 English Bull Terriers 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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