Developed in the American South, the American Bulldog is an all-purpose working dog that was used in farms to catch cattle and hogs.
Today, it is a popular and extremely loyal family companion as well as a reliable guard dog, which has won over the hearts of dog lovers and fanciers from around the world.
This beautiful dog breed came close to extinction during World War II and is still not recognized by the AKC for a number of reasons.
There are multiple types of dogs from this breed that can vary in appearance and size, including the Johnson Type which is Bully or Classic, and the Scott type which is the Standard and Performance type. There are also hybrids of both types too.
To find out more about the American Bulldog, and whether it is a suitable dog breed for you, read on.
The American Bulldog is stocky and muscular, but also agile and built for chasing down stray cattle and helping out with work on the farm. In fact, some are known to jump six feet or more into the air.
- Temperament: loyal, happy, and energetic
- Height at the shoulder: 20-28 inches
- Weight: 60-120 lbs.
- Life expectancy: 10-16 years
- Breed Group: Guardian dogs
About the breed
American Bulldogs are intelligent, family-loving and happy dogs that can become the perfect family pets when bred, trained and socialized properly.
They have high energy levels, which is why they are more suitable for homes with securely fenced yards, but even if you live in an apartment, you can still get a dog from this breed, as long as you provide it with the extensive physical and mental exercise it needs to spend the excess energy it has, as well as to keep it happy and well behaved.
If you have an outdoor space, it is useful to know that these dogs are excellent jumpers, and can easily jump up and over 3 feet, so you should make sure that the fence is high and secure enough to keep them safely inside the yard.
Keep in mind that some American Bulldogs can reach a massive size of 120 lbs. and over, so they do need sufficient space at home too.
Also, these dogs are prone to separation anxiety and do not appreciate being left alone for long hours, especially if their needs for mental and physical stimulation haven’t been met. In these cases, an isolated American Bulldog can become bored, destructive and even show aggression.
These strong and muscular dogs have strong protective and prey instincts, which need to be tamed and controlled at all times. This makes this dog breed suitable only for experienced dog owners, who have the confidence, patience, and the time to socialize and train the dog in a timely manner.
American Bulldogs are sturdy and can reach a height at the shoulders from 20 to 28 inches, and a weight of 60 to 120 and more pounds. They have large heads, very strong jaws and their ears can be drop, semi-prick or cropped.
Their coats are soft and short and can vary in color, with the exception of solid black, merle, blue or tricolor. They require minimal grooming.
The ancestors of the American Bulldog were used in England as guard dogs, and for catching cattle. Unfortunately, the breed became the most popular one used for a brutal “sport” called bull baiting.
The American Bulldogs today are more agile and taller than the English Bulldogs.
During and right after World War II, the breed nearly became extinct. Thankfully, there were two devoted fanciers that were determined to revive and popularize the American Bulldog once again. One was John D. Johnson, and the other was Alan Scott. Both men took the time to keep careful records of the breeding process, along with the health and the working abilities of their dogs.
This is when the two lines of Bulldogs appeared – the Johnson Type which is Bully or Classic and the Scott type which is Standard or Performance.
The Bully-type dogs are lighter and smaller, with large and round heads, while the Standard type is larger, heavier with wedge-shaped sleeker heads.
Most of today’s American Bulldogs are a cross between the two types.
Thanks to these devoted breeders from the mid-20th century, today the American Bulldog is a highly popular breed in the US and around the world.
The American Bulldog was recognized by the UKC (United Kennel Club) in 1999. The American Breed Club has also recognized the breed, and both have adopted a standard for it.
At the moment, it seems that neither the fanciers and breeders of the American Bulldog nor the AKC have an interest in getting the breed recognized officially by it.
American Bulldogs get very strongly attached to their owners and their entire families. They are great with the children but can cause accidental injuries to toddlers and very young kids because of their size and strength.
These dogs are not suitable for homes where there are already other dogs or other pets. They can get along with other pups, but if they have been raised together. In general, American Bulldogs are known to be aggressive with other dogs and animals.
If socialized properly, they can behave themselves around your invited guests, but are suspicious of strangers, and are strongly protective.
They are often mistaken for American Pit Bulls and American Staffordshire Terriers, but the American Bulldogs do not fall in the category of the Dangerous Dogs Act of 1991 and differ from the other two breeds in many ways.
The personality of each and every dog depends on its genetics, as well as on its socialization and training – this is especially true for American Bulldogs.
You should always choose a reputable breeder who is careful about the temperament of the dogs, as well as for their health.
Meeting the mother of the puppy will help you get an idea of what to expect when it grows up.
American Bulldogs may look fearsome, but they are actually very affectionate and friendly pups. They are also smart and intensely devoted to their owners which makes them superb family pets.
Thanks to their natural intelligence, the dogs from this breed are easy to train and are very adaptable.
American Bulldogs do have high exercise needs and love playing games with their families, so make sure you have the time and energy to spend as much time with your pup if you are planning on adding a dog of this breed to your household.
When they are young they can be quite boisterous, and as they grow old, the American Bulldogs will still need to go on long walks, runs, hikes, cycling trips, or engage in activities that will allow them to spend all that overflowing energy they have.
They are gentle towards children, and can sometimes act like giant lapdogs.
These dogs are extremely loyal, brave, and confident with their families or owners.
It is advisable that these strong-willed pups are trained and socialized from as early an age as possible. Training should be done with confidence, firmness, and fairness so that the owner can earn the respect of these dogs and establish himself or herself as the pack leader.
Allowing a dog of this size and strength to become dominant is not advisable, and can even be dangerous.
Without the daily mental and physical stimulation they need, American Bulldogs can easily get bored and start chewing on furniture, and belongings and become destructive.
These pups thrive on spending time with their humans and are prone to separation anxiety, so do not isolate them outdoors, leave them in a kennel, or leave them alone at home all day long.
Due to their strong protective instincts, American Bulldogs can be very suspicious of strangers, and aggressive to other dogs and animals.
This is why socializing with the puppy is extremely important. You should start meeting your puppy with your friends, your vet, your groomer, and other people you know, as well as with other friendly dogs, in order to polish its social skills.
They are among the top best guard dogs, and will fearlessly protect you, your family, and your property from dangerous people and intruders.
Their temperament is brave, determined, and confident, but never overly shy or aggressive.
American Bulldogs are known to have a very high tolerance for pain, which can make it difficult to spot when the dog is ill or in pain.
With the right training and socializing, the American Bulldog can easily become the best, most loyal, and fun-filled four-legged companion of any owner or family.
Due to the variety in the sizes of the different dogs from this breed, the calorie requirements for each pup can vary quite a bit.
Since some dogs can weigh 60 and others can weigh 120 pounds, it makes sense to feed your dog in accordance with its size and weight.
You should also feed it according to its activity level, age, and metabolism.
Highly athletic mid-range sized dogs may require 2,700 calories per day, while couch potatoes of the same size may need only 1,400 calories.
If you are planning on feeding your American Bulldog with the highest quality dog food which is highly digestible, then it will need much smaller portions to stay fit and healthy.
You may consider choosing a dog food that is rich in omega fatty acids in order to promote the health of the skin and the short coat of your pet.
The suitable commercial food for the American Bulldog are dog foods for large or giant breeds with high activity levels.
If you prefer to prepare the dog’s food yourself, make sure that you check out which human foods and ingredients are unhealthy and can be toxic to dogs.
Also, do not feed your pup with too many table scraps and human snacks, especially fatty, salty or sweet ones.
These dogs can easily become overweight and even obese, especially after they are spayed or neutered, or as they age, so keep an eye on their weight, and adjust their food type, portion size, and activity level accordingly.
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The soft and short coat if the American Bulldog sheds moderately, so it does not require extensive brushing and grooming.
A weekly brushing should do the job of removing the dead hairs, dispersing the healthy oils of the skin and coat, and keeping the dog looking great.
At the same time, the American Bulldog drools and slobbers quite a lot, so be prepared to keep its face and body clean by wiping it, as well as for mopping up after your pup.
Bathe your pet every few months or when needed only.
If you can hear the nails of your dog clicking on your hard floor, then you should trim them. Use dog clippers but be careful not to cut into the “quick” of the nail which is a blood vessel running through it.
A rule of the thumb is to check and clip the nails of your dog once a month in order to prevent painful splintering and discomfort when walking.
Ask your groomer or vet for advice on how to safely trim your pup’s nails without causing it pain and bleeding.
You should also brush the teeth of your pup twice or three times a week with canine toothpaste. This will help keep the teeth and gums healthy and will prevent bad breath.
As part of the grooming regimen, remember to clean the dog’s ears with a dog ear cleaner on some cotton. Do not try to put anything into the ear canal, and inspect the ears for redness or a bad smell that can indicate an ear infection.
Also, inspect the entire body of your pet for any sores, rashes, scratches, bumps, or other symptoms of injury or a health issue.
To get your dog used to regular grooming, it is advisable that you start training it to stay still and behave during the process from an early age. Always reward and praise your puppy when it behaves itself while you are grooming it – this is something that you will definitely appreciate in the future when the dog grows up large and strong.
As mentioned earlier, American Bulldogs have high exercise needs, not only when they are young, but when they grow up as well.
They are very energetic, curious and athletic dogs that need both physical and mental exercise on a daily basis in order to feel happy and to spend all that excess energy they have.
If you fail to provide your dog with the exercise and stimulation it needs, it can quickly get bored and engage in destructive behavior. Also, without enough exercise, the dog can become overweight and develop numerous related health problems.
The minimum exercise time for a dog of this breed is 40-60 minutes a day.
If you are a runner, jogger or cycler, your pup will happily join you.
In fact, the American Bulldog will happily join you and your family for just about any activity outside.
Homes with outdoor spaces are more suitable for the dogs from this breed, but you should make sure that the fence is high and strong enough to keep the dog inside – for its own safety, as well as for the safety of passersby and other animals outside.
Like with other large breeds, you should not over-exercise the American Bulldog when it is still young and growing. Also, jumping and running on hard surfaces, and on and off high furniture can be damaging to the dog’s bones and joints.
Make sure you feed the puppy with the appropriate dog food for large or giant breed puppies, because too many calories may cause the dog to grow more rapidly than its bones and joints can cope with.
American Bulldogs were bred to be working dogs, so they do need to be active and to be engaged with different tasks in order to stay happy, fit and well.
They are a dominant breed and thus need firm and clear guidance from a pack leader. This is why, it is recommended that only people who have the confidence, the time, and the experience with such strong watchdogs to buy or adopt American Bulldogs.
Since they are very smart animals, once you set yourself in the leadership position, they will happily learn and obey your commands.
Obedience training from a very early age is absolutely crucial for these dogs who do not know their own strength and can actually injure someone even unintentionally.
You should use positive reinforcement, with a lot of praising and rewards to promote the good behavior of your dog and abstain from using harsh punishment which can backfire at you.
Start teaching your puppy basic commands like: come, stay, sit, down, quiet, leave it, and bed from as early on as possible. This will help you control this dog with such strong prey and protective instincts, and with such strength and power.
The training of the dogs of this breed should go on as the dog grows, and continue all life, in order to keep the dog under control.
The American Bulldogs are known for their high sensitivity to voice commands, so you shouldn’t have trouble training your pup if you have the proper approach and if you are patient and consistent enough.
Socializing the puppy from day one is also key for the future temperament of your dog. Make sure you invite as many friends as possible to meet it. Enroll it to puppy kindergarten, and take the young dog to all kinds of places, where it can view different sights, hear different sounds, meet different people, and engage with other dogs.
Socializing the American Bulldog from an early age will prevent it from being shy, anxious or aggressive later on.
If you have other pets or children, you should socialize the puppy from day one after it arrives at home. Make sure you supervise any such interactions, because American Bulldog puppies can be pretty boisterous and strong, and can injure smaller dogs or children unintentionally while playing with them.
Also, teach your children to never mistreat the dog, or attempt to take away its food, or approach it when it is sleeping.
Overall, with the proper positive reinforcement training and socializing techniques, with a firm but not harsh approach, and with patience and time, the American Bulldog can become a perfectly behaved, friendly and well-rounded dog.
The American Bulldog has a pretty long life expectancy for a large-sized pup – 10 to 16 years. It is a breed that is considered generally healthy. Then again, like with all other breeds, it is prone to certain inherited and other health problems which owners should watch out for.
Here are the most common health problems which can plague the American Bulldog:
This is a genetic disease that causes misalignment and luxation of the thighbone at the hip joint of the dog.
The condition is diagnosed via X-ray screening, and in some cases may not cause any visible problems for the dog. In more severe cases, it can cause pain and lameness in the rear leg or both rear legs.
Hip dysplasia which is not too severe can be treated with supplements promoting bone and joint health. In some more severe cases – hip replacement surgery may be required.
Without treatment, the condition can worsen as the dog ages and develops arthritis, or due to an improper diet, or injury when the dog is young, as well as if the dog becomes overweight and obese.
No dogs with hip dysplasia should be bred, so always request health clearance for both parents of the puppy from the breeder.
Similar to Hip dysplasia, Elbow dysplasia is an inherited condition. It affects the front legs of the dog, namely the three bones which connect at the elbow, and the joint itself.
The bones are misaligned which can cause discomfort, pain, and lameness too.
This condition can be managed with the appropriate supplements, but oftentimes, it may require that the bones are aligned by a vet surgically or non-surgically.
Ask your breeder for documents proving that both parents of your dog do not have elbow dysplasia.
Certain forms of bone cancer
American Bulldogs are unfortunately one of the dog breeds which are more prone to bone cancers, such as Osteosarcoma than other dogs. The bone cancer usually affects larger dogs and is extremely aggressive with a tendency to metastasize to other parts of the body quickly. This makes the prognosis for the dogs with Osteosarcoma quite poor.
The most common symptoms of this type of canine cancer are lameness, swelling, joint or bone pain. The dog may seem weak and may refuse to eat. In some cases, there could be a mass growth on their skin with inflammation around the site of the tumor.
Neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis (NCL)
NCL is not a common disorder but if a dog has it, it can have a very serious outcome. It is usually diagnosed when the dog is around 2 years old. It affects the hindquarters of the dog and can cause it to fall over, and to lose its ability to move.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for this rare but serious health condition.
The good news is that responsible breeders test their dogs for NCL before using them for breeding purposes, which is why you should always go to a good breeder who cares about the dogs and the breed and not just more about the profit.
American Bulldogs can also suffer from a condition called Ichthyosis. It is a skin condition that can usually be seen in puppies as soon as they are born. It can be moderate or severe but is definitely not life-threatening.
Dogs suffering from moderate Ichthyosis have itchy and flaky skin and require frequent bathing as well as the application of ointment and other topical treatment to reduce the discomfort and alleviate the symptoms.
There are tests that can determine whether a puppy or dog is a carrier of the condition. While many carriers will never develop the condition, they still should not be bread in order to prevent the mutated gene from getting passed on to the offspring.
Nemaline myopathy is an inherited disorder of the muscles which is characterized by rod bodies in the muscle fibers. It is a genetic mutation that affects only several dog breeds – the American Bulldog, the Schipperke, and the Border Collie.
The symptoms include quick tiring, muscle weakness, and tremors. They usually appear when the puppy is 2 months old.
Due to the fact that the condition is not treatable and is irreversible, the affected puppies are usually humanely euthanized before they turn 1 year old.
Dogs can be partial carriers of the mutation which can spread on to their offspring if they mate with other carriers.
There is a DNA test for Nemaline myopathy.
Anterior Cruciate Ligament
ACL is the acute or progressive failure of the ligament which is responsible for supporting the stifle joint of the dog. The degeneration or rupture of this ligament causes lameness as well as a build-up of fluid in the joint. It can also cause muscle atrophy in the affected leg.
The condition can be repaired through surgery, and a second surgery may be required in about 10-15% of the cases.
This condition affects the tear gland of the dog’s third eyelid. It causes the connective tissue which holds the tear gland to become damaged, and as a result, the gland pops out of its pocket looking like a red cherry in the bottom corner of the eye.
Cherry eye is an inherited condition that can affect American Bulldogs as well as other dog breeds.
When the condition is caught early it can be treated with special massages, eye drops and compresses. In more severe cases, the gland may need to be stitched back to its place, or in other cases may need to be removed completely surgically.
Entropion (Eyelids Folding Inwards)
This is an abnormality of the eyelids which causes inward rolling to the eye causing the eyelashes to rub against the dog’s eye. This can cause pain, discomfort, pigmentation formation on the cornea, corneal ulcers and perforations of the cornea.
The symptoms of Entropion are squinting, excessive tearing, keeping the eye shut. Some dogs do not display any symptoms at all.
The treatment for this hereditary disorder is via a surgical correction.
Dogs with Entropion should not be bred.
Ectropion (Eyelids Roll Outwards)
This is another congenital disease of the dog’s eyelids that affects certain breeds, including the American Bulldog.
It is an abnormality that causes the eyelid to roll outwards, and gives the eye a droopy look.
It is not only a cosmetic problem because it can cause conjunctivitis, drying out of the cornea, and corneal inflammation which are all painful conditions. In severe cases, corneal damage can occur which can obstruct the vision of the dog.
The treatment is corrective surgery, but the prognosis is good.
Still, dogs with Ectropion should not be bred.
The American Bulldog is prone to certain allergies, which can be inherited or acquired. Some pups grow out of their allergies, but others may remain allergic all their lives.
Dogs from this breed can have environmental, contact or food allergies. Some of the most common types of allergies in American Bulldogs are to pollen, household cleaning detergents, flea or tick bites, mold, and certain foods.
The best way to manage the allergy in a dog is to remove the allergen completely – like avoiding the food which it is allergic to, avoiding flea infestations, or abstaining from using certain chemicals and products at home.
In case the allergen cannot be completely removed – like with pollen, grass or dust allergies, your vet may prescribe medication to alleviate the symptoms.
The common symptoms of allergies in dogs include skin irritation, rashes, hair loss, as well as digestive problems like vomiting and diarrhea.
General health advice for the American Bulldog
Owners of American Bulldogs should be wary of their dog’s potential breathing problems due to its short snout. This can cause the dog to be less tolerant of hot weather, especially when running and exercising.
It can be controlled by not over-exercising the dog when it is too hot outdoors, keeping the pup cool in the summer, and providing it with fresh water to drink.
American Bulldogs are also at a greater risk of developing kidney disorders and thyroid issues, so make sure you monitor your dog for any worrying symptoms and speak to your vet if you notice something out of the usual in the behavior and condition of your pup.
The dogs from this breed are also prone to gaining weight and becoming obese if they are not exercised enough if they are overfed, and after they have been neutered or spayed. You should always feed your dog with age-appropriate dog food, and monitor its weight so that you can adjust its diet and exercise regimen accordingly.
Obesity in canines can shorten the life of the dogs by several years.
The Old English Bulldog is the ancestor of the American Bulldog.
The Bulldogs were incredibly helpful and useful farm dogs used for rounding up hogs and cattle, as well as hunting wild boars and guarding the properties.
Unfortunately, the dogs from this breed became a popular choice for the barbaric practice of bull-baiting, in which the dogs were left to fight bulls in an arena, and for dog fights in the 17th century in England.
The dogs bred for these fights were more athletic and taller and resembled today’s American Bulldogs more.
When finally in 1835, the practice of Bull Baiting was outlawed, and breeders began working on producing less aggressive, kinder, more relaxed and heavier dogs resembling their ancestors – the English Bulldogs.
The ancestors of today’s American Bulldogs were first imported to the USA by English immigrants who took their working dogs with them when they moved to North America.
These farmers bred their dogs keeping the dog’s working qualities rather than for preserving the traits and purity of the breed. This led to the development of numerous different types of dogs from this breed around the Southern USA.
In those years, the control of vermin and feral pigs was a huge problem, and these dogs proved to highly efficient for this task.
Through the years, these Bulldogs were not considered a separate breed and were referred to by different names including White English, English White, Southern Bulldog, Alabama, and others.
With the onset of World War II, the number of Bulldogs in the country became so low, that the breed nearly became extinct.
The saviors of the American Bulldog breed were two devoted breeders called John Johnson and Alan Scott, who began breeding them once again and produced two rather different types of dogs.
Scott bred working farm dogs, and Johnson crosses those dogs with English Bulldogs. The result was the Johnson Type: Bully or Classic type, and the Scott type: Standard or Performance type.
The latter is the Standard type which is an athletic, sleek dog that is bred for performance, and the former is the Bully type which is a heavier, more muscular and bulkier dog.
No matter how different the two types of dos were, both breeders were able to maintain the working abilities and the overall health of the American Bulldog breed.
Most of today’s American Bulldogs are crosses between these two lines of dogs.
Thanks to the efforts of these two men, the American Bulldog breed persevered and regained its popularity in the 1980s.
The breed was recognized by the United Kennel Club in 1998.
Due to the varieties in the breed, as well as the lack of interest from either the American Bulldog fanciers or the American Kennel Club to register the breed, it has not been recognized by the AKC.
Today is one of the most preferred dog breeds in the US, and quite popular in other parts of the world.
Dogs from this breed have proven themselves as champions in various dog sports like weight pulling, Schutzhund, obedience, agility, conformation shows, and other events.
Thanks to the intelligence and adaptability of the dogs from this breed they are also used as police, military, search and rescue dogs, as well as therapy dogs.
The breed is regarded as one of the best and most loyal family companion dogs, an excellent and fearless guard dog and a well-rounded working dog by all fanciers of the breed.
Unfortunately, just like with any other dog breed which becomes very popular, there are many unreliable and unresponsible breeders who do not care about the health, the temperament and the well-being of the puppies they produce, who are offering dogs with low quality and are threatening to ruin this beautiful breed and its excellent reputation.
This is why, you should never buy a dog from a puppy mill, a store, or from a breeder who cannot provide you with documentation proving that the dogs have been tested for all the genetic mutations and hereditary diseases we have mentioned above.