What You Need to Know Before Buying an English Bulldog

English Bulldog with all his wrinkles loves people.

Eight-month-old English Bulldog, Maggie, joined our family as a foster dog. The goal was to prepare her to find her forever family. This “wild child” came with so many problems that it took months to train her to a pup people would adopt.

This English Bulldog loves people but can be stubborn.

Maggie’s previous owners bought her from a dog broker, and some research determined she was the product of a puppy mill. Puppy Mill dogs often come with a plethora of health and genetic issues, and Maggie was no exception.

Once her owners purchased her at age 6 weeks, they kept her crated up to 10 hours a day while they worked. Just imagine what that kind of life would do to a small puppy!

Maggie, the English Bulldog, had a mind of her own.
One-year-old English Bulldog, Maggie

When she came to us, she was not housebroken and not at all interested in achieving that goal. I spent 5 months working diligently with her before she could be trusted loose in the house without leaving puddles.

Maggie surely invented the term “hyper-active English Bulldog,” because they aren’t usually very energetic. She would zoom through the house several times a day with more energy than should be allowed for one chubby little girl.  Even with 2 long walks and several short ones throughout the day, Maggie overflowed with energy!

Although this little dog’s behavior was not typical of the average English Bulldog, she created a strong interest for us in the breed. Before you consider adding one of these “bullies” to your family, there are a few facts you should know.

Are English Bulldogs Good Family Pets?

English Bulldogs make good family pets
Maggie greeting our grandson.

In general, yes they are. However, English Bulldogs are strong and could bowl over a young child.  Unless properly raised and trained, this breed often tends to dominate. They do require an owner who understands the dominance trait and how to conquer it without ruining a dog’s spirit.

Maggie adored our grandson, Josef and looked forward to his visits. That love of children depends on how the dog is raised.

English Bulldogs possess the funniest personalities of any breed. To begin with, their appearance is comical, and their antics keep life interesting.  The dog loves its family and wants nothing more than to be with them.

How High Maintenance Are English Bulldogs?

As dog breeds go, an English bulldog owner should expect problems and prepare for them. Health issues seem to follow them everywhere. Grooming can be time-consuming for such a short-haired dog, and skin eruptions and fur loss are common. This breed may display many wrinkles or only a few. The more the wrinkles, the more work with cleaning them.

Common Health Problems of English Bulldogs

Because many health issues are specific to the breed, owners should choose a veterinarian with knowledge of English Bulldogs and their health problems. From their vulnerability to heat to skin allergies to cancer, your vet will become a necessary ally in caring for your pet.

Medical Conditions in Brachycephalic Dogs

Brachycephalic dogs all possess those adorable, smushed-in faces that attract us to them. This trait that we find so cute causes several respiratory issues in English Bulldogs.

These dogs don’t pant properly to regulate heat, making them vulnerable to heatstroke. Breathing, sleeping and exercise may be compromised to some degree.  Those snorting, snuffling sounds we laugh at are usually caused by narrowed nostrils, a large tongue and an elongated soft palate. Surgery may be required to correct one of those issues, and care is required to prevent the dogs from overheating.

Many Bulldogs Suffer from Cherry Eye

Cherry eye is the slang term for a prolapsed third eyelid. This causes a swollen, red or pink lump in the corner of a dog’s eye.  Several dog breeds are known for this tendency, and English Bulldogs top the list. Expect to pay for surgery to correct this problem.

Anesthesia Is Risky

I suggested above that choosing a vet who is familiar with the breed is important for English Bulldogs, and that goes double when it comes to surgery requiring anesthesia.  Bullies require special care with the use of anesthesia, because it’s easy to give them too much.  A veterinarian who understands the breed and needs of brachycephalic dogs knows this.

English Bulldogs Vulnerable to Skin Issues

If your pet has ever suffered from skin allergies, you know how difficult this is. We dealt with severe skin allergies in our Harlequin Great Dane and worried Maggie would suffer the same fate.  But fortunately, Maggie’s previous owners knew to choose her food carefully.

No Cheap Food for These Dogs!

Cheap food does not work for English Bulldogs! Avoid the skin breakouts, loss of fur, licking and constant itching and scratching by learning to read the ingredients label on dog food packages. Buy a quality food and expect to pay more for it. Our Maggie grew up eating Orijen, and we later switched her to Fromm’s Dog Food.

Stay away from dog food that contains grains, by-products and any artificial colors, preservatives or chemicals of any kind.  For a list of what ingredients are good and not so good in dog food, click here.

Symptoms of food allergies to watch out for include excessive gas, chronic diarrhea, ear inflammation and infections, frequent licking of paws and itchy skin.

English Bulldogs Are Renowned for Flatulence

Bullies fart and are known to clear out a room with their odors!  When English Bulldogs eat, they inhale too much air because of their brachycephalic faces, causing gas to build up. You can’t stop a bulldog from farting, but you can lessen the occurrence through diet.

Good Grooming Makes Your Bullie Smell Better

While English Bulldogs don’t require the amount of brushing and work like long-haired dogs, they do need a lot of skin care to cut down on the smell. Yes, English Bulldogs smell! Though you may not eliminate it completely, special care of the dog’s skin will lessen the impact.

Those cute bulldog wrinkles pack a powerful punch!  The folds collect bacteria and grow yeast, resulting in a nasty odor. If not cleaned regularly, all that bacteria may result in infections.

If your English Bulldog is wrinkled enough to possess a deep tail pocket, expect to clean that daily. The tail pocket sits at the base and on top of the tail. The folds in that area create pockets of skin that need regular attention.

To clean your dog’s wrinkles, ask your vet for a recommendation. You want something with a drying agent so the wrinkles and pockets don’t retain moisture. Witch hazel is one product that works.

Anal Glands May Need Regular Attention

The anal glands sit on either side of the dog’s anus and secrete a nasty-smelling substance. While disgusting to us, the glands serve a purpose in dog-language. Other dogs learn a lot about each other from sniffing those glands.

In many breeds, the glands empty regularly when the dog poops, but English Bulldogs often require help. You will know by the odor and if your dog starts the butt-scooting routine.

How Expensive Are Bulldogs?

Let’s say you need a healthy budget to own an English Bulldog.  The initial cost can run anywhere from $1,500 to $4,000, but that’s just the beginning. Because these Bullies have so many health issues, you must be prepared to pay for them.

The reason this breed costs so much relates to their birth. English Bulldogs require Cesarean births because the babies’ heads are so large.  The cost of this surgery raises the price of the litter. Add in the potential for more veterinary expenses and the cost of quality pet food and the price increases.

Should You Get an English Bulldog?

Juggle the costs involved with the dog along with the time needed for cleaning wrinkles and caring for the animal. Decide if you can handle those two issues plus any time involved in health care. Then think about the quirky, funny personality and laughing face of an English Bulldog. If the positives outweigh the negatives, this might be the perfect dog for you.

We enjoyed Maggie’s antics and happy smile for 8 years until she succumbed to lung cancer. When her breathing became more labored, we and the vet knew it was time to end her misery. Two years later, we still miss her laughing face and bright eyes searching for mischief.


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