American Bulldog
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Chewy EditorialBehavior / Breed Lists

American Bulldog Dog Breed: Facts, Temperament and Care Info

Courageous, loyal and headstrong, the American Bulldog has evolved into a gentle breed that is sometimes mistaken for American Pit Bull Terriers. Pet parents who are dedicated to proper socialization and training, can expect a loving, protective family companion.

American Bulldog Facts

Officially recognized by the United Kennel Club and a member of the American Kennel Club’s Foundation Stock Service (a breed recording service for purebred dogs not currently registrable with the AKC), the American Bulldog comes in a variety of colors and bears a sturdy appearance, with the American Bulldog weight averaging between 75 and 100 pounds.

  • Breed Group: Foundation Stock Service (AKC)
  • Height: 20-25 inches
  • Weight: 75-100 pounds
  • Life Span: 10-12 years
  • Coat: Short
  • Color: Solid colors such as white, white with colored patches, and brindle, with standard breed colors limited to white, with or without various markings

American Bulldog Characteristics

American Bulldog

Illustration: Chewy

American Bulldog History: From Past Protectors to Current Companions

According to the UKC, the American Bulldog can actually trace its lineage back to England, where they were bred as cattle working dogs and trained for bull baiting, a vicious blood sport in which bulls were pitted against another animal, often dogs. Fortunately, England banned bull baiting in 1835, which then created less demand for the breed, although not for long thanks to breed enthusiasts.

The original American Bulldog appeared in the United States possibly as early as the 17th century. However, breed experts say that modern American Bulldog history began at the end of World War II, a time when the breed nearly had become extinct. John Johnson, a returning United States war veteran, and Alan Scott, an American breeder, regenerated interest in the American Bulldog, selectively breeding the remaining dogs that had served on Southeastern farms as protectors and large-animal catchers.

They ultimately disagreed on what the ideal American Bulldog should look like, which resulted in two types. The Johnson dogs, aka the “bully” type, are bulkier, bigger-boned dogs with larger heads and shorter muzzles. The Scott dogs, or the “standard” type, are more athletically built, smaller-boned and have longer muzzles.

Although some American Bulldogs still work on farms, this pup mostly has become a loving companion and effective family watchdog.

Given the breed’s popularity, many potential pet parents are curious about the average American Bulldog price. American Bulldog puppies can cost anywhere from $1,800 to $3,500, although prices can fluctuate both higher and lower. Not all American Bulldog breeders are created equal, so it’s advisable to do thorough background checks before purchasing a pup. If you’re open to welcoming an adult American Bulldog into your home, consider adopting through a local shelter or an American Bulldog rescue.

What does an American Bulldog look like?

 American Bulldogs are considered pit bulls, which is the general term used to describe various bully breeds, including the American Pit Bull Terrier. But there are distinct differences between the American Bulldog and the American Pit Bull Terrier. While both are built strong and muscular, American Bulldogs weigh more and are taller than American Pit Bull Terriers. American Bulldogs also have facial wrinkles, an underbite, a wider chest and less-defined muscles.

The American Bulldog is a medium-to-large, muscular, stocky breed. They stand 20-27 inches tall and weigh 75-100 pounds, with males typically taller, heavier and more muscular than females. The chest is deep and fairly broad, the back broad and muscular, shoulders muscled and strong, and ribs well-rounded. Their legs are strong, straight and moderate-to-heavy boned, and they trot with a powerful, yet effortless gait.

The American Bulldog has several distinctive features, including a large and wide head, a broad muzzle, prominent cheek muscles, a large and wide nose, and powerful jaws. The muscular neck is consistent with their historical role in bull baiting, and the tail is naturally thick at the base and tapers at the end.

The eyes are round or almond-shaped and typically dark brown in color. The medium-sized ears can either sit upright or drop forward or backward.

The coat is short and soft to the touch. White American Bulldogs are the standard, and they may have markings of tan, brindle, black, red or brown.

American Bulldog Facts

Illustration: Chewy

American Bulldog Temperament

The American Bulldog temperament is similar to that of the English Bulldog, consisting of a gentle, quiet nature, mixed with strong protective instincts. The American Bulldog is an alert, friendly dog and very family oriented. The breed especially loves children, but can be suspicious, standoffish or occasionally friendly toward strangers.

American Bulldogs are a powerful guardian and working breed who need exercise and guidance or their strength can get them into trouble. Their exceptional strength and stamina make them eager for nonstop games. It’s a good idea to keep your American Bulldog on a leash when not on your own property, to avoid any misunderstandings with strangers—two- or four-legged.

American Bulldogs can make good family pets and are extremely loyal. They are known for their heroic protection of their chosen humans. Early socialization is important with any dog, but particularly vital with American Bulldogs. Because of their prey drive, take care when interacting with unknown dogs or smaller pets like cats.

Keeping Your American Bulldog Healthy: 4 Issues to Watch Out For

The average American Bulldog life span is 10-12 years, and American Bulldogs are known to be healthy overall. There are some American Bulldog health issues to be aware of, though. To help avoid them, be sure to seek regular preventive and wellness care from your veterinarian.

Joint Dysplasia

American Bulldogs are known to develop joint dysplasia in the hip, shoulder and elbow, which can predispose affected joints to early onset osteoarthritis. Avoid joint dysplasia by feeding a healthy large-breed puppy food, exercising puppies appropriately and only purchasing dogs from breeders who certify their animals to be free of joint dysplasia, either through PennHip or the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals.

Learn more about hip dysplasia in dogs here.

Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Problems

In the American Bulldog, the ACL in the knee can tear, causing severe hindlimb lameness. The exact cause of ACL tears is unknown, but conformation, genetics, ligament laxity and obesity all have been implicated in the disease. When a dog tears their ACL, the knee joint becomes unstable, predisposing the joint to early onset osteoarthritis, pain and loss of mobility. Surgical treatment is available and recommended early to avoid development of osteoarthritis.

Cherry Eye

Otherwise known as prolapsed nictitating membrane, cherry eye is named for the appearance of the condition. A tear gland prolapses out, resulting in a red lump that protrudes on the inner corner of the eye and causes irritation and excessive tearing. Treatment is surgical replacement of the gland.

Learn more about cherry eye in dogs here.

Bone Cancer

Bone cancer, or osteosarcoma, has been reported in American Bulldogs. This aggressive cancer often spreads and grows quickly. Amputation of the affected bone and chemotherapy are the recommended treatments. Even with treatment, however, prognosis is poor.

Caring for Your American Bulldog

American Bulldogs are relatively easy to care for, requiring good nutrition, moderate exercise and light grooming.

Grooming

Do American Bulldogs shed? Yes. American Bulldogs have short hair that they lightly shed year-round. Generally, though, their haircoat is easy to care for with weekly brushing using a brush like JW Pet Gripsoft Bristle Brush.

Nutrition

Like all breeds, proper nutrition is a cornerstone to American Bulldog health. Since obesity is a common problem for dogs in the United States, knowing how much to feed your dog is as important as what to feed them. American Bulldogs will live longer and healthier if they are kept at a healthy weight (typically 75-100 pounds for this breed). Consult your veterinarian when determining your dog’s ideal weight.

The best dog food for American Bulldogs is a complete and balanced large-breed diet. A dry large-breed dog food, like Royal Canin Size Health Nutrition Large Breed Adult, is uniquely formulated to support the bone and joint needs of these large-breed dogs.

It is critical to avoid overfeeding American Bulldog puppies because obese puppies are predisposed to health problems like osteoarthritis. Feed an appropriate amount of large-breed puppy food, like Purina Pro Plan Focus Puppy Large Breed Dry Dog Food. Use the feeding chart on the bag as a guide or ask your veterinarian how much to feed your puppy.

If you choose to cook at home or feed raw, consult with a veterinary nutritionist to formulate a complete and balanced diet.

Learn more about raw dog food diets here.

Exercise

American Bulldogs are moderately active dogs who require at least 30 minutes of exercise per day. Make exercise fun and interactive, whether it is brisk walking, running or playing fetch with your dog. Using a throwing tool like Chuckit! Classic Launcher can save your arm as you give your American Bulldog a fun workout.

In order to grow properly, American Bulldog puppies need less-strenuous exercise than adult dogs, so they do not make good jogging partners until they are done growing, which takes 12-15 months. Ask your veterinarian for exercise recommendations for your puppy.

Chewing is also an important mental exercise for your American Bulldog. You can support their habit by giving your American Bulldog safe and durable items to chew, like a KONG Classic Dog Toy.

Training Your American Bulldog

The American Bulldog originally served as a “catch dog” who caught and held livestock for the butcher or farmer, or game for hunters. For this reason, breeders developed a dog with a tenacious, stubborn personality and a powerful and formidable physic.

This translates into the dog’s training potential. American Bulldog training can be difficult to master because many members of this breed want to be in charge. Like other large breeds, these athletic dogs seem unaware of their size and strength, so they accidentally can knock over and injure children or unwary adults.

The strong-willed American Bulldog needs an experienced handler, requiring consistency and kindness during training.

Early socialization and training can help counter their exuberance and offer these dogs structured play and work that keeps their brains engaged. Once your American Bulldog understands how to please their trainer, they’ll be eager to work for your smile. The breed excels at obedience, weight-pull competitions, agility and Schutzhund (German for protection dog).

Positive training techniques always are preferred but are even more important with powerful dogs like the American Bulldog where coercion isn’t an option. Training should be fun, with rewards like tug-toys, such as the KONG Tug Dog Toy, or yummy treats that they receive only during training, like American Journey Training Bits Soft & Chewy Grain-Free Beef Recipe.

In most cases, American Bulldogs are a people-loving breed who wants to please and will work for praise if given the chance. Without structured activity, like regular training and play to exercise, American Bulldogs easily become bored, which can lead to destructive behaviors.

The American Bulldog is a powerful, strong and determined breed who has a big heart and demonstrates loyalty. Given the right type of training and environment, this pup can make an excellent addition to the family.

Read more:

By: Dr. Sarah Wooten, DVM, CVJ; Amy Shojai, CABC; Paula Fitzsimmons

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