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American bulldogs

Breed overview

  • Breed group – Guardian dog group (United Kennel Club)
  • Height – 23 to 27 inches (male), 22 to 26 inches (female)
  • Weight – 75 to 120 pounds (male), 60 to 90 pounds (female)
  • Coat length & texture – Smooth, short, and stiff
  • Coat color – All white or white with patches of tan, black, brindle, or brown. The American Bulldog Association’s breed standard states that bulldogs must be at least 15% white. They should not be blue, black and tan, tri-color or merle, or have a full black mask.
  • Exercise needs – Frequent
  • Intelligence – High intelligence
  • Barking – Rarely
  • Life span – 10 to 13 years
  • Temperament – Alert, outgoing, friendly, and confident
  • Hypoallergenic – No
  • Origin – United States
  • Shedding – Low

American bulldog fun facts

  • The American bulldog initially served as a cattle dog and property protector in the southeastern United States. The breed descended from the English bulldog.
  • According to the American Bulldog Association, there are two types of American bulldogs. The “bully” type is slightly smaller in length and heavier than the “standard” type.
  • Don’t let those rolls fool you — American bulldogs are active and need plenty of exercise.
American bulldog close up

American bulldog temperament and characteristics 

American bulldogs are typically friendly, loving, and loyal animals. They like to play but sometimes roughhouse. Many American bulldogs make great family pets, including in homes with young children or other animals. Monitor your American bulldog with small children who haven’t learned the do’s and don’ts of caring for dogs. Even the sweetest pups may grow tired of having their eyes poked or ears pulled by a child.

That said, American bulldogs were initially bred as protection animals. Sometimes, these characteristics may show up in an American bulldog. They are fiercely loyal to their family and view them as members of their “pack.”  They may instinctively view strangers, including people and other animals, as threats.

Early training is important. It can help keep your dog and others safe in stressful situations. Socialization with humans and other animals is also critical to helping these protective pups be more comfortable and trusting around strangers and unknown animals.

Common American bulldog health problems

American bulldogs can make wonderful companion animals, but owners must understand their pet’s medical needs. American bulldogs tend to live 10 to 13 years and are susceptible to various health conditions that may affect their breathing, eyes, ears, and skin.

If you understand the potential conditions and symptoms your American bulldog may experience, you’re more likely to get them the care they need. Prompt care can prevent conditions from worsening.

  1. Brachycephalic airway obstructive syndrome (BAOS). An American bulldog’s flat face is adorable, but it makes the pups more prone to BAOS . These dogs have elongated soft palates, and it pushes against the windpipe. It can be tough to breathe and sometimes requires surgery.
  2. Respiratory tract disorders. Brachycephalic breeds like the American bulldog are more likely to have issues with their upper respiratory tract. Symptoms include snorting and wheezing. American bulldogs are also prone to pneumonia.
  3. Heart conditions. As a brachycephalic breed, American bulldogs have a higher risk of heart disease. The breed is particularly prone to pulmonic stenosis , a disease that interferes with blood flow to the pulmonary artery and sometimes the heart and lungs.
  4. Obesity. American bulldogs can become obese. Give them plenty of exercise and refrain from feeding them too many high-calorie treats to help prevent this condition. A dog’s daily diet should consist of 90% food with a seal from the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) and no more than 10% treats.
  5. Eye disease. Corneal ulcers are more common in American bulldogs. Trauma to the eye typically causes ulcers. Severe ulcers can cause blindness, so pet parents should call the vet immediately if they suspect their pup has one.
  6. Neoplasia. Neoplasia happens when there is an uncontrolled growth of cells. It’s often a sign of cancer, and research shows it’s a leading cause of death in bulldogs.
  7. Hip dysplasia. Because American bulldogs are larger breeds, they’re prone to hip dysplasia. This condition occurs when the ball and socket joints don’t fit together as they should. Hip dysplasia is painful, and your pup may have trouble walking.

Costs of caring for an American bulldog

The cost of treating the health problems an American bulldog may experience typically depends on how severe the condition is when diagnosed. BAOS procedures can cost anywhere from $200 to $1,500. Treating pneumonia may cost upwards of $200 for medication or $2,000 for a hospital stay. Cancer treatment may also have a five-figure price tag. Other conditions, like obesity, may not cost anything to treat. You may simply need to get out more for walks and watch your dog’s diet.

Pet health insurance may help lower out-of-pocket costs. Pet parents will enjoy more benefits if they sign up early in a pup’s life. Alternatives include pet savings accounts and finding financial aid in your area.

History of the American bulldog

The American bulldog first descended from the English bulldog. Historians vary on their exact origins, but bulldogs may have been in America as early as the 17th century. What we do know is the Bulldog Club of America was formed in 1890. American bulldogs worked primarily on cattle and hog farms in the Southeast. They also served as protection animals for people and property.

The American bulldog nearly became extinct after the end of World War II, but returning veterans John D. Johnson and Alan Scott worked with other breeders to preserve these lovable dogs. Today, the two best-known lines are known as “Scott” dogs (standard) or “Johnson” dogs (bully). Many American bulldogs are a hybrid of the two, according to the United Kennel Club.

American bulldog sleeping

Caring for your American bulldog

Caring for a new puppy of any breed can be overwhelming. You’ll need to make your first trip to the vet and schedule your dog’s vaccinations. Here are some other basics specific to American bulldogs.

Exercise

American bulldogs’ ancestors worked on farms and ranches. Today, these working dogs still prefer to maintain an active lifestyle. Daily walks are essential and help prevent obesity and heart disease, two conditions these dogs often develop. For dogs in warmer climates, walks should be kept on the short side to avoid overheating, about five to 10 minutes.

This breed does best in a household that can help them get their energy out and stay fit. Some of the bulldog’s favorite games may include fetch and frisbee. Because of their flat face, American bulldogs are more prone to heat stroke and exhaustion, so be sure they stay cool and hydrated in hot weather.

These pups need constant physical and mental stimulation, so they do best with a family who can be around to meet these needs.

American bulldog running

Grooming

American bulldogs have short coats that don’t require much grooming. They make ideal pets for owners who don’t want to be on a first-name basis with a groomer. Still, regular maintenance is a must.

Diet and nutrition

Healthy American bulldogs at an average weight do best on dog food with the AAFCO seal. American bulldogs are prone to obesity, so be sure not to overfeed them. Though those wrinkly flat faces are adorable, resist the urge to treat them every chance you get. A dog’s diet should consist of 90% dog food and no more than 10% treats. Lower-calorie dog treats are best in moderation.

The dog food bag will generally tell you how much to feed your American bulldog each day based on their weight. Then, you’ll want to divide it by two, as dogs typically eat twice daily. Generally, a 60-pound spayed or neutered adult dog should consume 1,334 calories per day versus  2,245 calories per day for a 120-pound spayed or neutered dog. Dog foods also differ in calories per cup, and nutritional needs differ from dog to dog. Factors include weight, activity level, and more.

An American bulldog puppy will need to eat more frequently — about three to four times per day — until they are about four months old.

👉 You should always refer to your vet for food portioning. Dogs with specific conditions may require special diets.

Training your American bulldog

American bulldogs were bred as working dogs and the breed still naturally possesses that innate ability to please. Therefore, American bulldogs typically do well with training as long as the owners are committed and consistent.

Early training and socialization are important. The American bulldog won’t hesitate to protect their family if they perceive a threat. Training and exposing them to different environments, like having visitors over or going to a park around strangers, normalizes these activities and helps them remain calm. The Humane Society recommends training dogs using positive reinforcements rather than negative techniques, like yelling or physical punishment. Remember to always keep it positive. Rewarding your dog with treats will build trust between the two of you.

American bulldog sitting on grass

Breeds similar to the American bulldog

You may have your heart set on an American bulldog, or you may still be open to another breed. Either way, it’s a good idea to look into alternatives. Here are a few breeds that are similar to the American bulldog.

  1. Pug. These flat-faced pups are smaller than American bulldogs and weigh about 14 to 18 pounds.
  2. Boxer. These fun-loving pups are excitable and affectionate, much like the American bulldog.
  3. Labrador retriever. This popular breed also loves physical activity and is another great choice for people looking for a running buddy.

Frequently asked questions

Is an American bulldog a good family dog?

American bulldogs are loyal and friendly. They are typically good with children, but every dog is different. A rescue organization or shelter can provide more information on whether the specific American bulldog you’re interested in would be a good fit for your family.

Is the American bulldog recognized by the AKC?

Currently, the American bulldog is not a recognized breed by the American Kennel Club. As of now, the AKC lists the American bulldog under Foundation Stock Service, a classification given to breeds on their way to receiving full recognition.

What is the difference between an American bulldog and an English bulldog?

The English bulldog is an ancestor of the American bulldog. English bulldogs are generally shorter and stockier. English bulldogs weigh 45 to 55 pounds, while American bulldogs are 60 to 120 pounds, based on gender and type.