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Honest FAQ for American Bulldogs

By Michele Welton, Dog Trainer, Behavioral Consultant, Author of 15 Dog Books

American Bulldog

Described as "all the dog anyone could ever want, and too much dog for some," I would tweak that to "too much dog for MOST." The American Bulldog belongs with active owners who want to develop his working drives and athletic abilities in weight pulling, dock diving, advanced obedience, or protection dog sports.

What kind of temperament and personality does the American Bulldog have?

The most descriptive words that come to my mind regarding American Bulldog temperament and behavior are:

powerful, vigorous, courageous, determined, energetic, confident.

I give you my honest opinions about American Bulldog temperament and personality traits and characteristics – positives AND negatives – in my dog breed review, American Bulldog Temperament and Personality Traits (What's Good About 'Em, What's Bad About 'Em).

What were American Bulldogs used for?

The ancestors of the American Bulldog arrived in the United States with the first settlers. These all-purpose working dogs were used for controlling unruly cattle and semi-wild hogs, hunting wild boar, and protecting their homestead and family.

What traits would help American Bulldogs accomplish their work? That's right... great strength, athleticism, courage, toughness, determination, independent thinking, strong drives to chase and grab other animals that run, territorial instincts, and loyalty to his owner.

How big are American Bulldogs? Height and weight?

Size is quite variable: 20-27 inches at the shoulder, and 60-120 pounds, which puts them in the LARGE category.

What colors do American Bulldogs come in?

The majority are white with patches of black, brown, tan, red, or brindle. They might also be solid white.

Do American Bulldogs come in different "types"?

Yes. The best-known lines are the John D Johnson (aka "Classic" or "Bully") line, and the Alan Scott (aka "Standard" or "Performance") line.

  • The Johnson line is heavier with a shortened face and a rolling gait – think of an English Bulldog, though not nearly as extreme.
  • The Scott line is more athletic with a longer muzzle and a tighter, springier gait.
  • However, most American Bulldogs today are not one or the other, but a hybrid blend of these lines.

Some lines of American Bulldogs are specifically bred for showing in the conformation ring, while other lines emphasize the breed's hunting skills, primarily against wild boar.

How much exercise do American Bulldogs need?

A lot. American Bulldogs were not developed to walk around passively in your house and yard. If you don't provide enough vigorous exercise and challenging mental stimulation, an American Bulldog is capable of destroying houses and yards. Don't get this breed unless you're going to get him involved in weight pulling, protection dog sports, etc. Anything less is just wasting the breed.

Do American Bulldogs need a fenced yard?

Absolutely, preferably with a high solid fence. Why? and best and worst fences.

Are American Bulldogs easy to train?

Yes and no. If you are an assertive person who can "read" and respond to a strong-willed working dog and establish a healthy leader-follower relationship, an American Bulldog learns readily.

If you're more of a mild-mannered, peaceful, live-and-let-live kind of person... don't get an American Bulldog. This breed is not for easygoing beginners.

Are American Bulldogs easy to housebreak?

They're average.

Are American Bulldogs friendly with people?

It varies. Some American Bulldogs are friendly and good-natured with almost everyone. But most are loyal to their own family, and a bit standoffish (though still polite) with strangers. American Bulldogs who threaten innocent people are not typical of the breed.

American Bulldogs often have protective instincts, but without actual protection training,  they are not effective protectors. But they can still be excellent deterrents... as long as you stay in charge and immediately stop any unwarranted aggression.

Are American Bulldogs good with children?

Usually they are very tolerant, and yet... I don't recommend American Bulldogs for children younger than about age 10. This is a very strong, vigorous breed that could knock over a small child. In addition, bulldog breeds can have issues of resource guarding, which means being possessive of their food and chew toys. I don't allow children (or other pets) near an American Bulldog who is engrossed in his food or bones.

Are American Bulldogs good with other dogs?

Most American Bulldogs are dominant and pushy toward other dogs of the same sex – pitched battles may ensue. Also, because of the strong prey drive of certain AB lines, it's a risk to keep those predatory dogs around smaller dogs who might run.

Are American Bulldogs good with cats?

Very, very iffy. Some might be fine with a cat in their own family... or not. I just wouldn't risk it.

How much do American Bulldogs shed?

American Bulldogs are average shedders, which might surprise you if you thought shorthaired breeds shed less. Not true at all. American Bulldogs actually shed more than you might think, and those short coarse hairs can stick tenaciously to your clothing and furnishings.

Are American Bulldogs hypoallergenic? Good for people with allergies?

If you're allergic to dog dander, no. If you're allergic to canine saliva, no. American Bulldogs are not hypoallergenic dogs at all.

How much grooming do American Bulldogs need?

Just an occasional quick brush to sweep the dirt, dander, and loose hair off your dog's skin.

What's a good training schedule for training American Bulldog puppies?

Here's the puppy training schedule I use for American Bulldogs: Puppy Training Schedule.

What behavior problems do American Bulldogs tend to have?

American Bulldogs can be a major handful between 6-24 months of age. Boisterous, rowdy, like a bull in a china shop, young American Bulldogs are all about chewing – whether destructive or otherwise is up to you!

This critical adolescent period is when you must teach calmness, establish the right leader/follower relationship, and respond properly to behavior problems.

Behavior issues in American Bulldog adults tend to center around pulling on the leash, and aggression – people-aggression, cat-aggression, dog-aggression, or possessiveness of bones or food.

What health problems might American Bulldogs have?

American Bulldogs have sky-high rates of hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia, which cause lameness and crippling arthritic pain. I would never, ever acquire an American Bulldog pup unless BOTH parents had OFA certificates for hips (with a rating of Good or Excellent) and elbows (with a rating of Normal). I settle for nothing else with this troubled breed.

What breeds are similar to the American Bulldog?

American Pit Bull Terriers, especially those from performance lines, can be similar to American Bulldogs. The Alapaha Blue Blood Bulldog, a rare breed maintained in the Deep South, shares similar roots as the American Bulldog, was used for the same purposes, has a similar appearance, etc.

Where can I buy an American Bulldog puppy?

Show breeder, performance/working breeder, pet breeder? Read my article.

Where can I adopt an older American Bulldog?

Rescue group or humane society/shelter? Read my article.

I just got a new American Bulldog. Which pages should I read first?

  • American Bulldog Health, which includes my advice on feeding, vaccinations, and daily health care. These pages are very important, because if you start your American Bulldog puppy off on the wrong foot, he will probably experience health problems later on. Starting off right is essential.
  • Training American Bulldogs, which includes my advice on respect training, housebreaking, and socialization. Again, you must start your American Bulldog puppy off on the right foot by teaching him what he needs to know, and you must avoid doing the wrong things with him so that he doesn't develop bad habits that will be much harder to fix later on.

Do male dogs or female dogs make better pets?

Ah, let the debate begin! Honestly, male American Bulldogs have pros and cons, and female American Bulldogs have pros and cons. Visit Male Dogs versus Female Dogs

There's an adorable American Bulldog puppy at the pet shop. The store manager assures me they only buy from responsible breeders. Could this be true?

No responsible American Bulldog breeder would ever place one of their American Bulldog puppies in a pet shop for resale. To find out more about pet shop puppies, visit Pet Shop Puppies: Buying a Puppy From a Pet Store.

How do I pick the best American Bulldog puppy from a litter?

You can do puppy personality tests. Visit How To Choose a Good Puppy.

What's the best dog food for American Bulldogs?

3 Best Ways To Feed Your Dog Healthy Food.

I have to take my American Bulldog to the vet soon for shots. Which vaccinations does he really need?

The schedule of vaccinations that dogs really need has changed dramatically – but unfortunately most vets are not telling you this, because a good chunk of their income depends on frequent vaccinations. Please don't get any more shots for your American Bulldog until you've read my article on Puppy Shots and Dog Vaccinations.

What are the pros and cons of spaying and neutering my American Bulldog, and when should it be done?

Spaying and neutering are often recommended too early, which can lead to health problems later in life. Visit Spaying Your Female Dog or Neutering Your Male Dog for the straight scoop on the safest (and riskiest) times to spay or neuter.

I have a question about American Bulldogs that I don't see answered on your web site.

It's probably answered in one of my free online books.

Michele Welton with BuffyAbout the author: Michele Welton has over 40 years of experience as a Dog Trainer, Dog Breed Consultant, and founder of three Dog Training Centers. An expert researcher and author of 15 books about dogs, she loves helping people choose, train, and care for their dogs.

My best-selling books – now available  FREE  on my website

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