Are English Bulldogs High Maintenance Pets?

There are no other dogs like English Bulldogs.

Their low-hanging jowls, bowed legs, and powerful underbite gives them an intimidating look. But they are also fun-loving lapdogs that love to cuddle.

And English Bulldogs are unquestionably high-maintenance dogs. Due to their short face and flat nose, they have trouble breathing when they need to cool down. They also need regular teeth to care to make sure they are safe from any gum diseases

Making an English Bulldog a member of your family takes more effort than adopting many other kinds of dogs.

They are highly intelligent and have a stubborn streak. They have serious health concerns, which can add up to higher maintenance and vet bills.

You will always know they are around because their short snouts make them breathe loud, but they also snore. And have gas.

English Bulldogs look like the toughest dog on the block, and there are days you will think they are the toughest dog to take care of. But they will reward your efforts with years of fun and affection.

So, let’s take a closer look at both the wonderful potential and the special needs of English Bulldogs and how much maintenance you need to be ready for in case you decide to make one a part of your family.

Special Health Needs of English Bulldogs

Part of the charm of English Bulldogs is that they have a short head and a short nose.

Veterinarians classify them as one of the few “brachycephalic” breeds that have both.

A veterinary research trial found that all English Bulldogs tested had breathing abnormalities due to short faces and flat noses.

This unusual anatomy has several effects on an English Bulldog’s health:

  • English Bulldogs have trouble breathing when they need to cool down. Dogs in general beat the heat by panting, since they can’t sweat. English Bulldogs have extra difficulty panting to cool off. This makes them great companions to sit by you underneath the air conditioner but not great jogging buddies in the summer on the trail.
  • English Bulldogs snore. In fact, they snore so loud that they can keep the whole family awake. This is such a serious problem that we will address it in more depth in a separate section.
  • English Bulldogs’ flat faces give them problems with their teeth. You will need to brush your dog’s teeth (with a doggie toothbrush and canine-friendly toothpaste) at least a few times a week to prevent gum disease and tooth loss.
  • All those wrinkles can catch dirt and bacteria. You will need to clean them with a clean damp cloth once or twice a week. That’s especially necessary because of the next problem:
  • The short faces of English Bulldogs increase the risk of regurgitation when your English Bulldog eats too fast.

The British Veterinary Association points out that there is another problem with female English Bulldogs that have not been spayed: They often need a Caesarean section to give birth to puppies.

They simply can’t breathe hard enough to give birth.

Since snoring is an issue with every English Bulldog, let’s consider what you will need to do to deal with the issue.

English Bulldogs Need Intervention to Deal with Snoring

Even if everyone in your household is a sound sleeper, the kind of snoring that affects the family English Bulldog also involves sleep apnea.

Obstructive sleep apnea is a serious health issue for dogs the same way it is a serious health issue for people.

To deal with this issue, you will need to be prepared to:

  • Make sure your English Bulldog’s sleeping place is cool, well-ventilated, and comfortable. This reduces the intensity of snoring.
  • Keep your English Bulldog on a diet. Because English Bulldogs enjoy a sedentary lifestyle, it is easy to feed them too much. Obese English Bulldogs snore more.
  • Make sure indoor air isn’t too dry for your English Bulldog. This is especially if you use forced air heating in the winter or if you live in a desert climate. Placing a humidifier by your English Bulldog’s sleeping area can cut down on snoring.

Regular Skin, Nails, and Teeth Care is Essential for English Bulldogs

English Bulldogs are wrinkly. All of those wrinkles catch dirt and most of them catch drool.

The way to clean the skin in the wrinkles is with a warm baby wipe or a damp cloth. You don’t want to leave the folds or a wrinkle wet.

Depending on activity level, some English Bulldogs will need their wrinkles cleaned every week, and some will need cleaning every day.

It’s important to take care of the wrinkles on the tail and at the base of the tail, too.

The less often your English Bulldog walks on asphalt or concrete, the more often she will need a nail trim.

Puppies may need nail trimming as often as once a week. Even though English Bulldogs have big paws, you need to be careful about trimming their nails.

It’s best to watch a professional dog groomer do a trim a few times before you try it at home.

Important to Prepare Your Family Before Getting English Bulldog Puppy

English Bulldog puppies are adorable, but they aren’t as sturdy as English Bulldog adults.

If you have young children, you need to make sure they know how to be gentle with their puppy to avoid harming it.

If you have toddlers, you should not leave them alone with your new puppy unless you are there to supervise.

Make sure everyone understands that chase is an outdoor game. You don’t want to give your English Bulldog puppy the impression that your home is unsafe because they are always being chased around in it.

And you don’t want an adult English Bulldog barreling through your home and knocking people off their feet because it was OK for them to run around when they were puppies.

English Bulldogs get very possessive about food. Everyone needs to know to leave them alone when they are eating.

Also, everyone needs to know to limit food treats for their English Bulldog. English Bulldogs have a tendency to become obese.

Finally, make sure your valuables are out of reach—of your children. Even teenagers may use a watch, a ring, or a necklace as a toy to play with the Bulldog.

Puppy-proof your Home Before Getting an English Bulldog

There are many similarities between baby-proofing your home and puppy-proofing your home.

Before you ever bring an English Bulldog puppy home, you need to make sure all cleansers, chemicals, auto maintenance supplies (oil and antifreeze, in particular), strings, cords, and wires are securely put away.

You also need to:

  • Make sure your cat’s litter box is high enough that your Bulldog can’t reach it (in case you also have cats, of course). You may have to train your cat to use the litter box in another place before you bring your English Bulldog puppy home.
  • Make sure you are ready to supervise your puppy at all times when she is outdoors. It’s important to ensure puppies don’t eat mulch or gravel or get into lawn care supplies. Don’t take puppies outside in the summer if they aren’t current on their heartworm medication.
  • Make sure your English Bulldog has different places in your yard to play and to go to the bathroom. This helps your puppy know when it’s time to play and when it’s time to take care of bathroom needs.

Training English Bulldog Can be Challenging

English Bulldogs were bred for the anachronistic custom of baiting bulls, torturing the bull so it could be eaten for meat.

Until the 1700s, there was a very common superstition that animals had to be tortured to be edible. English Bulldogs were part of the procedure for making beef edible.

As a small animal used to provoke a large animal, English Bulldogs had to develop some special skills.

They had to learn how to avoid being trampled by the bull.

Ironically, in the modern era, when no one needs a bull-baiting dog, those same skills are what give them the ability to be so adorable.

English Bulldogs are intelligent animals. They may seem not to have a lot going on in the brains department, but they are natural entertainers who have the ability to charm their way to get what they want.

Most English Bulldogs are very stubborn. The hardest part of training your English Bulldog to play fetch, for example, will be getting to let go of the object they have fetched.

Because English Bulldogs usually have a stubborn streak, it’s important to start training them as puppies, and it’s important to use a firm, consistent, gentle approach.

If you make exceptions to the rules, your English Bulldog will conclude that maybe you aren’t really in charge.

This means that from the very beginning, if you come home from a long day at work, you must make sure your English Bulldog obeys the rules.

No matter how cute and cuddly your English Bulldog may be, you must enforce your rules.

Everyone in your home has to be your English Bulldog’s alpha-dog. There must be no doubt that your English Bulldog must obey your rules.

English Bulldogs have Some Off-putting Habits

If you are going to get an English Bulldog, you need to know that they can generate buckets of drool.

They tend to be gassy.

You may reach the point in the relationship with your English Bulldog that you think of their farting and belching as their way of thanking you for their meal, and you will have to get used to wet spots around the water bowl, too.

Quiet nights watching TV with your English Bulldog on the couch will be punctuated by noises that don’t come from your TV.

The problem with flatulence in English Bulldogs is aggravated by the fact that they eat too fast.

You can get an English Bulldog feeding bowl that holds food at an angle so the dog doesn’t swallow as much air while eating.

Eating and drinking are peak slobber time. You should get into the habit of having clean towels around to deal with drool when your English Bulldog eats and drinks.

It also helps to tie a bandana around your English Bulldog’s neck to catch the drool.

Grooming Your English Bulldog is Easy

You won’t need to spend a lot of time grooming your English Bulldog.

English Bulldogs only need to be bathed when they get dirty.

Bathing them too often will dry out their coats. An English Bulldog may need a weekly application of vitamin E oil or coconut butter on their nose to keep the skin from drying out, but otherwise, they just need a weekly brushing.

Brushing will be easier if you make it an activity after playtime.

Your English Bulldog will be worn out by playtime, and come to treat brushing time as an easy, playful activity.

On the downside, English Bulldogs may come to expect to be brushed every time they go play and want to be brushed even if their playtime has run long, and you have other things to do.

Many owners enjoy brushing their English Bulldogs as much as their English Bulldogs do. Petting your dog is a calming, relaxing activity.

Get into the habit of checking your dog’s skin when you brush their coat.

Look for sores, rashes, and imperfections.

Groom your dog over a white surface, so you can see any fleas or ticks that fall out.

You will need to remove them into an outdoor trash can and give your dog appropriate treatment.

English Bulldogs Are Great with Families

English Bulldogs are friendly, loyal, entertaining, and patient—a perfect pet for children.

They will put up with young children with the same patience that you do.

They are extremely loyal and will protect their human family if needed, but mostly they want to relax and enjoy life.

English Bulldogs like to stay physically close to their people. They will plop down next to you and wait for the next opportunity to make you smile.

They will follow you around the house like a noisy, bulky shadow.

English Bulldogs may occasionally give you a disapproving look, but they thrive on making you happy.

How to Make English Bulldog Gets Along With Kids

It helps to buy your English Bulldog as a puppy from a breeder.

This way you can meet the parents when your potential pet is still dependent on its mama, or even before the puppies are born.

You can judge from the canine parents, especially the father, what kind of temperament their puppies will have.

The best English Bulldog breeders will make sure any health issues are addressed and any required shots are given.

And they will spend time making sure your English Bulldog is socialized.

About the time an English Bulldog puppy is weaned from its mother, at the age of four to seven weeks, its brain is laying down the circuits that report “This is my friend.”

This is the time of an English Bulldog’s life. It is important to provide enriching opportunities to interact with different kinds of people, different places, different pets, and household objects ranging from the doggie door to the vacuum cleaner.

English Bulldogs that have a rich social life at this stage are friendlier and easier to manage for the rest of their lives.

They will be happier if you have to move, or if the humans in your household move away.

Adopting an adult English Bulldog that was socialized as a puppy can go very well.

Adopting an older rescue Bulldog that did not have socialization experiences as a puppy can be challenging.

What you need to ask the breeder before you adopt

English Bulldogs that get loving care as puppies are much easier to maintain as adults.

You need to make sure you are buying your new English Bulldog from a breeder who isn’t in the business just for the money.

You need to deal with breeders who genuinely love the breed.

Here are some of the questions you can ask your breeder before you buy:

  • Does the new puppy come with a guarantee? Usually the breeder will make guarantees concerning the health of the dog. You will guarantee regular veterinary care and spaying or neutering on schedule, as stated in your contract. The contract will also specify what happens to your English Bulldog if you are no longer able to take care of him.
  • Has the puppy had genetic testing to rule out common inherited health problems? Has the puppy been evaluated for patellar luxation, hip dysplasia, tracheal hypoplasia, eye issues, congenital deafness, cystinuria, and hyperuricosuria? If your breeder can’t give you this information, you shouldn’t make a lifetime commitment to a puppy you don’t know you will be able to care for.

Make sure you visit with any dog you are thinking about adopting before you take them home.

Observe how well they play with other puppies. Pay attention to how all the other puppies in the litter behave.

If English Bulldog puppies still with the breeder keep their tails tucked or shrink away from you, that is an indication of the kinds of problems you can have when they are adults.

You want to select a happy puppy from a litter of happy puppies.

The best puppy to adopt may not be the first one that comes out to greet you.

English Bulldog puppies that aren’t afraid, but that hang back to take a good look at you, too, maybe the easiest to train.

Are English Bulldogs Really High-maintenance Dogs?

Yes, they are!

There is a lot to do to keep your English Bulldog happy and healthy in your home, but most of it is done upfront.

If you give your English Bulldog the right start, you will enjoy many years of canine companionship.

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