English Bulldog | Complete Breed Characteristics Guide

Written by Dr. Marcelle Landestoy, DVM

The English Bulldog is a very distinct breed. It is known for its medium-sized stockiness and wrinkled face. However, despite its rather intimidating appearance, its nature is actually quite calm.

Using my experience as a veterinary doctor, I’ve put together this one-page guide for Bulldog owners. Read on to learn more about this popular breed and what you can expect from living with these dogs.

1- About the English Bulldog

  • Average Weight: 40 lbs for females, 50 lbs for males
  • Average Height: 14-16 inches from the floor to shoulder
  • Life Expectancy Maximum: 10 years
  • Calorie Needs: about 1,500 for young, energetic dogs and 1,300 for less active ones

Other Statistics

  • 80 percent of the puppies have to be delivered by cesarean section due to the heads being too big to go through the birth canal.
  • In 2004, a study of 180 English Bulldogs found that 36 passed on from cardiac-related diseases and 32 from cancer. Only nine percent passed on naturally from old age.


The Bulldog is almost impossible to miss. Their stocky bodies, smushed-up faces with hanging jowls make them unique.

They love to nap in your lap but make no mistake, they are not lazy.

2- The Rich History of the Bulldog

It’s not certain when bulldogs first started being bred. There is some disagreement as to whether they have Pug DNA or are simply a result of breeding smaller dogs.

However, evidence suggests that they have been around since at least the fifth century.

The English Bulldog was originally bred to do a barbaric job. First, they helped butchers monitor their livestock before the slaughter.

By the 15th century, they were used to help farmers and ranchers catch horses, cattle, and boars.

They were also used to bait bulls in bullfights. That is, biting onto the bull’s nose and staying on it until either the bull or the dog was killed.

It could also corkscrew itself around the bull’s neck with the same result.

Bull baiting and fighting was finally banned in the U.K. in 1835.


Afterward, the Bulldog was exported to Germany and the U.S. In the U.S., they acted as fence boundaries for hogs and cattle.

Meanwhile, Germany bred them down to create the Boxer dog.

John Johnson is credited with being the first to breed the American Bulldog from herding English Bulldogs on his family’s farm in rural Georgia in the 1930s. In the 1960s, he partnered with Allen Scott from Alabama.

However, they disagreed on the ways that the American Bulldog should be bred. As a result, they did their own breeding experiments separately.

Johnson’s result was the larger, short-muzzled type that most of us still know to this day. Scott’s was the more high performing athletic type.

Today, the Bulldog is a popular mascot. It represents over 250 schools and over 32 colleges.

However, the Mack Truck mascot remains the most famous. In the U.K, it’s the mascot of Churchill Insurance.

3- Interesting Facts about this Breed

  • Most puppies are birthed by cesarean section. This is usually due to the puppies’ heads being too big to go through the birth canal.
  • They were bred with wrinkles for a very nasty reason. In case they were cut in the face by the bull, the blood wouldn’t drip into their eyes.
  • The exact markings are different on every single dog. They come in 10 different colors and four different markings. The American Kennel Club has a full list.

4- Bulldog Characteristics


This breed is a good pick for a brand-new dog owner. They adapt well to apartment living since they don’t require much exercise.

They have a high affection level for their owners. They can tolerate being alone for fairly long periods of time. However, they do not adapt to extreme temperatures well.


Bulldogs are highly affectionate with their owners, kids, and strangers. However, some tend to be aggressive and dominate other dogs.

Health and grooming needs

Their shedding and grooming needs are very minimal. However, some are prone to genetic health issues.

They are also prone to weight gain. They drool a lot, so they’re not your ideal dog if you’re compulsively neat.


They have a “what’s in it for me?” attitude when it comes to training. That is, they tend to respond best when they know that there’s an award behind it.


They don’t have a high drive to chase prey around and prefer to lie around high-action and mental concentration tasks.

Physical needs

Bulldogs are not known for being highly intense or vigorous. Their energy levels and exercise needs are not the highest among all dog breeds.

However, when they get involved in a good game of play, they give it their all.

Size of the Breed

The English Bulldog is considered to be a medium-sized dog. As stated above, they are 14-16 inches from the floor. On average, the females weigh about 40 pounds, and the males weigh about 50 pounds.


In general, they are of a very gentle, calm, and even-tempered nature. However, like with any other dog, it’s environment shapes it’s personality and demeanor.

How They Behave with Children

English Bulldogs tend to be great around children. Their natural guard and nurturing instincts, overall, serve both them and the kids well.

Especially puppies make good play companions for kids. They’re willing to get messy and are better at handling the children’s’ naturally curious behaviors more than most other dogs.

They seem to be very intuitive at sensing feelings and are likely to give your kid an affectionate nudge whenever they feel sad.

However, if your child is an infant, watch out for curiosity about their small toys and teething rings.

English Bulldog puppies love to test their jaw and bite power by getting things into their mouths.

However, that can change as the dog ages. Once they become fully mature after about three years of age, they slow down.

As a result, they’re not up for playing as much. If a child tries to push the dog to play, they may misinterpret the child’s intent as malicious and bite them.

However, they can have a gentle, calming influence on children who are rambunctious and rowdy.


How They Behave with Other Pets

Other dogs can be a tricky situation for English Bulldogs. They are known to get along with puppies and other small dogs.

If your dog is female, she may be inclined to step in as a substitute mother for the first.

If you have more than one other pet in the home, it’s best to introduce your English Bulldog to one at a time. If your other pets are dogs and at least one tends to be the dominant one, introduce your Bulldog to that one first.

Make sure you understand all your pets well so that you can make the best introductions for them.

It’s best to have them meet in a divided place such as a crate or through a closed door.

It’s always best to start socializing them with other dogs when they’re puppies.

Otherwise, if it hasn’t had any exposures to other pets or people since puppyhood, it’s best to adopt it as an only pet.

When your new dog behaves well for the first time, be sure to praise it and give it a treat.

When you’re outside, be sure that first-time introductions occur when your dog is leashed.

5- Bulldog’s Health

As stated above, it has about a 10-year life expectancy.

There is, unfortunately, some evidence that we have overbred the English Bulldog.

About 80 percent of their puppies have to be born via cesarean section due to their heads being too big for the birth canal.

Having short legs and a short muzzle with a big head seems to be responsible for many of their health issues. Since they’re not the most active breed, they tend to put on weight very easily.


As stated above, cardiac diseases and cancer tends to, unfortunately, be very common with them.

Their stockiness tends to be hard on their hearts. Those that pass on due to old age tend to live for about 11 years.

Fortunately, there are some things you can do to help keep your Bulldog healthier longer:

Never get them from a puppy mill. They’re only after your money and playing on your sympathy.

Pet stores also often use puppy mills and/or don’t check the animals that they get. If you want to adopt from a breeder, there are ways you can check whether they’re reputable.

1- They’re registered with the Bulldog Club of America and/or the American Kennel Club (AKC). They usually register the puppies with the AKC.

2- They usually ask for a deposit of $500, which is your down payment for bringing your puppy home. They will also have you fill out an application.

Some of them do home inspections. Be aware that they might not have puppies readily available. If they don’t, they’ll put you on their waitlist.

3- Generally, the breeder will charge very high prices. This is a good sign as English Bulldogs can be hard to breed, and the female must often be artificially inseminated.

The mother often needs a lot of help to keep the puppies healthy, and there’s no reason the breeder shouldn’t expect to be compensated for it.

On average, the total cost of getting your dog from a reputable breeder is between $1,500 and $5,000. However, some of them charge higher than that.

4- Both parent dogs will have been tested and been proven free of genetic orthopedic issues through the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals.

5– They have in-depth knowledge about English Bulldogs’ health issues.

6– They don’t breed either parent until they’re both at least two years old.

7- They keep pedigree charts on every puppy.

8- They never separate the puppies from their mothers earlier than eight weeks. Most don’t start putting them up for adoption until 10 weeks.

They only put them up for adoption after they’ve had their first set of vaccines and de-worming sessions.

Keep this in mind

They don’t need much exercise, but it doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be exercised at all.

Two brisk walks or games of fetch for about 15-20 minutes usually does the job. However, you can’t go to any extreme with an English Bulldog. They can’t be exposed to extreme heat or coldness.

If you’re not planning to become an English Bulldog breeder, please spay and neuter.

It’s not only because of the off-chance of unplanned puppy litters but also because not doing so can lead to diseases like testicular, ovarian, and breast cancer.

The best age to neuter is between eight and 12 months, six if it has mounting and spraying issues.

Especially if they’re left alone for more than about a full work day’s worth, they get stressed and depressed very easily.

With English Bulldogs, stress can lead to premature aging and resulting in health complications. As a result, it is essential to provide lots of love and comfort to your dog.


How to Know if Your English Bulldog is at the End of Its Life

  • Lethargy and extreme fatigue. As in that, they’re at a point in which they’ve lost all interest in everything that used to interest them. They only wake up to eat and go to the bathroom.
  • Complete loss of appetite. The digestive system is one of the first things that shut down when the English Bulldog is about to pass on. As a result, they often can’t keep anything down. It is recommended to continue putting out fresh food and water but never force them to eat or drink.
  • If they’re in distress or pain, they may cry or howl. You can consult with your veterinarian about ways to make your dog’s passing as painless as possible.

If you want to end your dog’s suffering quickly, it might be well to have your veterinarian put it down.

How to Keep Your English Bulldog Comfortable at the End of Its Life

Animals seem to be very intuitive at knowing when the end of their lives is near, and the English Bulldog is no exception.

However, even if it can no longer respond, your dog will greatly appreciate having you by its side. Here are a few other things you can do to keep it as comfortable as possible.

  • Give them a soft spot to lay on where they can be near you as much as possible. If it’s never been comfortable in your bedroom, you can set up a cot, sleeping bag, or a pillow and blankets next to or near your dog’s spot.
  • Its temperature will probably start to drop as its body shuts down. Keeping a heating pad under your dog’s bedding will help to keep it warm.
  • Stay near your dog as much as you can. Gently pet your dog and reassure them that you love them. Try to stay as calm and positive as possible as animals pick up on emotions quicker than we do. Again, the English Bulldog is no exception.
  • Whatever else you do, keep the chaos in your home to a minimum. Now is not the time to do things like blare loud music, talk too loudly, turn the volume on your television, computer too loud, etc.

6- Grooming and care

English Bulldogs can be bathed anywhere from weekly to every six weeks, depending on its lifestyle and health conditions.

Regular bathing intervals are also necessary to keep their coats in top condition.

Selecting products with the ingredients to match your Bulldog’s skin and coat is essential to prevent irritations and allergic reactions.

After bathing, it is recommended to massage them in a circular motion with a grooming mitt.

This helps to stimulate the release of loose hairs and natural oils. You can finish off with a hydrating spray that allows the skin and coat to lock in fresh moisture.

Their facial wrinkles also need some special attention as bacteria and stains can get trapped inside of them. Special facial scrubs are available for use in between baths to maintain hygienic freshness.


This is recommended on a weekly to a twice-weekly basis. If you can’t afford the special scrubs, you can use cotton balls or pads dipped in peroxide. However, don’t let it get near the eyes.

Since their hair is very short, they don’t shed much, and they don’t need any cutting or trimming.

The only time an English Bulldog ever needs to be trimmed is by your veterinarian’s recommendation.

That’s usually due to a health issue or the dog scratching itself to the point of tearing the skin; however, weekly brushing is recommended to keep the loose hairs out.

7- How to Feed Your Bulldog

Like with just about any other dog, it depends on your Bulldog’s size and weight.

For adults, the average is half a cup to two cups a day. Puppies burn through calories much quicker, so they need to be fed about three times a day.

Puppies between two and four months should have about a third of a cup three times a day. Then starting at five months, they can start to have half a cup twice daily.

They are considered adults at 12 months and will need to follow the recommended guidelines listed in the box’s or bag’s chart.

Be sure to store the food boxes or bags someplace that your dog can’t reach. Otherwise, it may try to sneak extra food out for itself.

Three Different Types of Food

Dry Food

This most commonly comes in flakes or cereals. They’re not very filling, so they’re best used for treats and rewarding new good behavior.

They can also be used for occasional treats in between meal snacks.

Semi-moist Food

This has the chewiness of the dry food combined with a degree of filling moisture.

It’s mostly for those who are unsure whether dry or moist is the better way to go. However, I would recommend that you ask your local veterinarian if you’re unsure.

Every dog’s food preference is as different as two snowflakes. If it turns its nose up at one kind of food, that means it doesn’t like it. You may have to try a few different brands before knowing which one to settle on.

Wet Food

Wet food is the best for keeping your dog hydrated and energized. It’s cooked in high temperatures for freshness.

However, it, unfortunately, has a short shelf life once opened. It can get all over your dog’s face at times when it’s over-eager.

The Best Brands for English Bulldogs

Pedigree-Adult Dry Dog Food w/ Chicken, Rice & Vegetable Flavor

This comes in bags between three and a half pounds to 33 pounds. It’s made in the U.S.

It contains the right amounts of Omega-6, antioxidants and fatty acids, and no artificial flavoring. The first helps to maintain your dog’s shiny coat.


Pedigree-Choice Cuts

This is made from real meat, a combination of chicken casserole, beef and noodles, and grilled chicken. This is excellent for combining with dry food.

Ziwi-Peak-Air Dried Dog Food

This comes in six different flavors, including Mackerel and Venison. It contains 96 percent fresh ingredients, including green muscle and kelp.

It does not contain peas, legumes, or potatoes. It also does not contain growth hormones or antibiotics.

Natural Balance – Ultra Premium Wet Dog Food

This is made with real beef and comes in many flavors, including liver and lamb. It is mixed with potatoes, rice, and carrots.

It does not contain any artificial flavors or coloring and promotes digestive health.

Some Other Foods that English Bulldogs Can Eat

  • Dairy – as long as it’s in small quantities and your dog’s not lactose intolerant
  • Fish – including tuna and shrimp. Fish contains Omega-3 fatty acids, which promotes a healthy coat and skin
  • Peanut Butter – as long as it doesn’t contain any artificial sweeteners, salt, or sugar
  • Some fruit – blueberries, goji berries, bananas, cucumbers, and watermelons are safe for English Bulldogs. However, be sure to take the seeds out of the watermelon first.
  • Vegetables – surprisingly, English Bulldogs need about as many vegetables a day as we do. Cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, peas, and sweet corn are safe for English Bulldogs to eat and are often included in their dog food brands.

What Can English Bulldogs Absolutely Not Eat?

  • Raw bread dough – the yeast ferments in their stomachs, which can cause air bubbles and even ruptures
  • Mushrooms, onions, and asparagus
  • Grapes – they cause everything from nausea to kidney shutdowns in dogs. Others include apple cores, though not the apples themselves, avocados, tomatoes, and cherries
  • Bacon – it can actually cause digestion and pancreatic issues
  • Macadamia nuts – they can cause pain, tremors, and difficulty walking
  • Human chocolate – though dog-friendly chocolate treats are fine

When it comes to bowl placement, with an English Bulldog, it’s better to go low because they struggle to keep their heads high. It’s also easier on their digestion.

8- What’s the Difference Between the English Bulldog and the American Bulldog?

The first difference is that the American Bulldog does not share the wrinkled face.

They are also more muscular. Another significant difference is that the American Bulldog needs to be exercised regularly to stay fit, happy, and healthy.


They are built for farm work, hunting, agility and weight-pulling.

The American Bulldog also tends not to have as many health issues.

The American Bulldog’s temperament varies from friendly to standoffish. They must be socialized early to develop a good sense of distinction.

Unlike the English Bulldog, they can’t stand to be left alone for long periods of time and can become destructive if they are.

The American Bulldog closely resembles the Pit Bull. As a result, it must be kept on a leash at all times when being walked.

Another thing that the American Bulldog has in common with their English counterpart is their minimal grooming needs.

They also have very similar markings and coloring.


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Veterinary Hospital Director at UCE
Dr. Marcelle is a general veterinarian with a Small Animal Medicine Specialty | Director of the UCE School of Veterinary Medicine | Certified by the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society