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 © 2000-2018
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...
- 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.
Keep in mind that the inheritance of temperament is less predictable than the inheritance of physical traits such as size or shedding. Temperament and behavior are also shaped by raising and training.
- You can avoid some negative traits by choosing an ADULT dog from an animal shelter or rescue group. With an adult dog, you can easily see what you're getting, and plenty of adult American Bulldogs have already proven themselves not to have negative characteristics.
- If you want a puppy, you can avoid some negative traits by choosing the right breeder and the right puppy. Unfortunately, you usually can't tell whether a puppy has inherited temperament or health problems until he grows up.
- Finally, you can avoid some negative traits by training your American Bulldog to respect you and by following the 11-step care program in my book, 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 small children and infirm people.
- Providing enough socialization. Many 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.
- Potential 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. 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 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 stick tenaciously to your clothing and furnishings.
- Slobbering. Some American Bulldogs, especially those with loose heavy cheeks and lips, slobber and drool after eating and drinking.
- Potential gassiness (flatulence) that can send you running for cover. However, commercial diets make flatulence worse by including fibrous or hard-to-digest ingredients. American Bulldogs who are fed a homemade diet of real meat and vegetables have much less trouble with gassiness.
- Potential health problems. Hip and joint problems are dreadfully common in American Bulldogs today because irresponsible breeders don't bother to x-ray the hips and elbows of their breeding stock before breeding. To keep this breed healthy, I 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 help you train and care for your dog
Dog training videos. Sometimes it's easier to train your puppy (or adult dog) when you can see the correct training techniques in action.
The problem is that most dog training videos on the internet are worthless, because they use the wrong training method. I recommend these dog training videos that are based on respect and leadership.
To learn more about training your dog to be calm and well-behaved, my dog training book is Teach Your Dog 100 English Words. It's a unique Vocabulary and Respect Training Program that will teach your dog to listen to you and do whatever you ask.
My dog buying guide, Dog Quest: Find The Dog Of Your Dreams, will teach you everything you need to know about finding a good-tempered, healthy dog.
My dog health care book, 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy, shows you how to help your dog live a longer life while avoiding health problems and unnecessary veterinary expenses.