American Bulldog

American Bulldogs are are strong, stocky dogs that look tough but have have a gentle and sensitive nature. They are friendly, affectionate and make great watch dogs.
Recommended forActive families
Breed ClassificationFoundation Stock Service
Other namesWhite English Southern Bulldog (historical)
Lifespan8-15 years
SizeMedium to large
TemperamentLoyal, friendly, gentle
Tendency to barkLow
Maintenance LevelMedium
Health Risk Higher than average probability of developing health issues during its lifetime, hence the cost to insure is above average.

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American Bulldog Bow Wow Meow Pet Insurance

Breed history of American Bulldogs

The American Bulldog is a descendant of the English Bulldog. It is believed that the bulldog was in America as early as the 18th century. Many came to the United States in the 1700’s and 1800’s, with immigrants who brought their working bulldogs with them.

Historically, American Bulldogs were bred to be a utility dog used for working the farm. Small farmers and ranchers used this all-around working dog for many tasks including farm guardians, stock dogs, and catch dogs. The breed largely survived, particularly in the southern states, because of its ability to bring down and catch feral cattle and pigs.

The breed almost died out during WWI and WWII, with the only surviving dogs kept on farms primarily in the southeastern United States. The two men who are recognized as the pioneers of bringing the breed back from possible extinction are John D. Johnson and Alan Scott.

Post WWII, Johnson gathered the best examples of the breed he could find and began a breeding program which led to the “Classic” type of American Bulldog. Scott joined Johnson’s efforts in reviving the breed and began breeding the Johnson Bulldog bloodline with other non-Johnson Bulldogs to develop what is now known as the “Standard” type of American Bulldog.

Many of today’s American Bulldogs are a combination of the Classic and Standard types, resulting in a third type referred to as “Hybrid”. Many of the American Bulldogs in Australia today are this hybrid type.

beautiful american bulldog standing on the grass

Physical description of American Bulldogs

The American Bulldog is medium to large sized, stocky and powerfully built. American Bulldogs are bigger, faster and more agile than their British Bulldog counterparts.

As there are a few types of American Bulldog, they can vary quite widely in appearance. In general, they have a broad, square-shaped head with a broad, strong jaw,  distinctive half-erect, pendant-shaped ears and almond- to round- shaped brown eyes. Their muscular build and strong legs enable them to jump very high, in some cases up to 6 feet.

They have short, coarse fur which in the past was mostly white, but now comes in a variety of patterns and colours.

Weight rangeMales 30 - 59 kg; females 27 - 41 kg
Height rangeMales 50 – 71 cm tall; females 50 – 61 cm
ColoursWhite, white combined with black, brindle, brown or tan
Coat lengthShort

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beautiful american bulldog looking at camera

American Bulldog personality and temperament

The American Bulldog is a loving, affectionate and fiercely loyal companion. They are not hostile dogs, and despite their tough looks, they have very sweet, gentle, sensitive temperaments. They are known for their quirky, clownish behaviour when happy and excited.

American Bulldogs are alert, outgoing, and confident. They may seem brave, and they can be when it is absolutely necessary, but in reality they are big softies who don’t do well with being reprimanded. They thrive on praise and treats, with rules and structure to follow. Being too hard or too strict on this breed can hamper their willingness to learn and to please.

Being guarding dogs, American Bulldogs are naturally protective of their family and property and are suspicious of strangers and strange dogs. They are family-loving dogs that  have been known to perform heroic acts in order to protect its loved ones. They can also be very stubborn and independent.

This breed does not do well being left home alone for long hours, are not well-suited for apartment life and prefer a large, fenced-in yard to roam around.

Portrait of American bulldogs on the green grass

American Bulldogs with kids and other pets

As long as the American Bulldog is socialised and trained from a young age, it is great with children and very loyal to all family members. Supervision is important, as they are large dogs who could inadvertently injur a small child. Children should also be trained on how to properly interact with and treat a large-sized dog.

Well trained and socialised, American Bulldogs will also get on well with other pets, including other dogs. Injuries to smaller animals can occur during rough or overly eager play, so they should be supervised during interactions.

Large dog doing canine scent work

American Bulldog training and exercise

American Bulldogs were bred as working dogs and so they require a decent amount of exercise. A long walk each day along with a fair amount of play time should be enough to meet their needs. They are extremely energetic and, despite being relatively inactive and mellow indoors, they’ll jump at the chance to play fetch or tug, go for a walk or run, swim, or jog alongside their owners on bikes or skateboards.

With their high energy level, American Bulldogs need to be active and have a job to do. They do well at many dog sports including Obedience and Schutzhund, or with almost any work you can give them. If they don’t get enough exercise each day they may become anxious and highly strung. The breed does not do well being left alone in a backyard, which can lead to a variety of behaviour problems.

American bulldogs can be headstrong by nature and require consistent training and rules. Early socialisation and puppy training classes are essential and rules and routines should be put in place early and adhered to as dogs grow up. They require a firm but loving hand to establish and retain good training practices.

Energy levelHigh
Exercise requirementsHigh

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American Bulldog feeding and nutrition

The American Bulldog should be fed a premium, high-quality dog food appropriate to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior), size and activity level.

Puppies should be fed a large-breed puppy food for the first 14 months of their life in order to ensure slow and steady growth, and should not be fed added calcium until they are advanced to adult food.

American Bulldogs may become overweight, so watch your dog’s calorie consumption and weight level and don’t overindulge in the treats department.

Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your American Bulldog’s weight or diet.

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American Bulldog care and grooming

Grooming an American Bulldog is a relatively easy task. They do not need to be bathed often, only as needed when they become dirty. Regular brushing with a firm bristle brush will help keep their coat clean and shiny.

Seasonal shedding will occur in the breed. They are light to moderate shedders, but do not shed heavily because they do not have a thick undercoat.

Be warned – American Bulldogs do tend to drool and need to be wiped as needed to prevent slobber all over the house.

Health issues for American Bulldogs

  • Hip dysplasia is a common condition among larger dog breeds where the thigh bone does not fit properly together with the hip joint, causing pain, lameness, and arthritis later in life. X-rays may be performed to confirm if the dog is affected, but dogs with hip dysplasia should not be bred.
  • Elbow dysplasia refers to the abnormal development of the elbow joint early in the dog’s life, and is commonly found among larger dog breeds. It can lead to pain, joint laxity and lameness. Medication may be required to control pain, and in some cases surgery may be needed.
  • Eye Problems: American Bulldogs may be prone to “cherry eye” (a non-painful condition which causes prolapse of the third eyelid), entropion (which causes the eye to roll inwardly, irritating the eyeball and leading to more serious issues), and retinal dysplasia (which causes retinal detachment and folding of the retinal tissue).
  • Demodectic mange can occur when the dog’s immune system is weakened. Caused by Demodex mites that are passed down from mother to pup, these mites are normal and present in every dog, and typically do not cause any issues. Characterised by red, scaly skin and hair loss, the disease often goes away on its own, but should still be discussed with a vet.
  • Neural Ceroid Lipofuscinosis is a rare disease which can affect American Bulldogs. It causes severe neurological impairment and affected dogs often struggle to live past the age of 2. There is no treatment or cure, but a DNA test is available to detect carriers and infected dogs.
  • Ichthyosis is an inherited skin disease causing thickened skin and painful, swollen food pads. It is a painful, itchy and uncomfortable condition for which there is no cure. Treatment often includes frequent medicated baths and ointment.
  • Other Issues: American Bulldogs may also be prone to allergies, patent ductus arteriosis (a congenital blood disorder), Tetralogy of Fallot (a congenital heart defect), hypothyroidism and epilepsy. Having short snouts, the breed is somewhat brachycephalic. This may make it more difficult for them to tolerate hot weather, especially while exercising.

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American Bulldog facts!

  • The American Bulldog was originally known as the “American Pit Bulldog”. However, its name was changed to avoid confusion with the American Pit Bull Terrier.
  • The dog “Mel” in the movie Return to Me was played by an American Bulldog named Peetey.
  • One of the main characters in the movie Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey was played by an American Bulldog named Rattler, and was voiced by Michael J. Fox.
  • In 2011 a video featuring an American Bulldog named “Bizzle” appeared in a video on YouTube in which his owner sits behind him making him appear to have human arms. The video went viral and as of 2014 had over 5 million views.
  • Despite not being recognised by the AKC, the American Bulldog is recognised by the United Kennel Club and the American Canine Registry.
  • There are two types of American Bulldogs: bully and standard. Bully-type American bulldogs are stockier, heavier and more muscular.

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