American Bulldog

7 November 2022 - 8 min read
American Bulldog

Vital stats

  • Breed type: Working
  • Size: 50 - 75 cm
  • Weight: 26 - 56 kg
  • Lifespan: 10 - 16 years


  • Size

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  • Intelligence

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  • Trainability

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  • Exercise needs

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  • Good with kids

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  • Levels of shedding

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  • Good for new owners

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  • Overall health of breed

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Descendants of the English Bulldog, American Bulldogs were originally bred as working dogs to catch pigs in southern America.

English Bulldogs are believed to have arrived in the United States in the 17th century when immigrant farmers brought them over to work on farms. After the Second World War, the breed was almost extinct, but was brought back by two breeders who created the American Bulldog. Today, the breed has become more popular than ever.

Their protective nature and loveable personality make them the perfect companion.

Find out everything you need to know about American Bulldogs with our in-depth guide.

American Bulldog

American Bulldog training

American Bulldogs are fairly easy to train, due to their intelligence and love of learning new things. However, they do have a stubborn streak, so consistent training and only encouraging desired behaviours is needed. Being concise when training — without shouting — will encourage your dog to trust you, which, with time, will make them more likely to follow your commands.

Breed bad habits

American Bulldogs are a large breed with a lot of energy, so behavioural issues tend to rise when their exercise needs aren’t met. They also need lots of attention, otherwise it can lead to behaviour such as chewing or biting things around the house out of boredom. Therefore, the best owners will be those with a lot of time on their hands.

As worker dogs, American Bulldogs have territorial instincts which can cause them to be suspicious of strangers — especially if they enter their home. They may bark at first, but once used to new people, they're usually very affectionate.

Training tips

“When training your American Bulldog, it’s important to start early. Their naturally protective nature can cause problems with barking at strangers and other dogs, so socialising as a puppy will help with this. They also love attention, so owners may find they respond best to positive reinforcement when training, rewarding good behaviour with treats or praise,” says professional dog trainer.

“The breed love to chew on things, so give them a toy when they’re looking round the house for something to play with. This will let them know what they’re allowed to chew on and stop them from settling for your shoes. Praise them when they opt for an appropriate toy to reinforce this good behaviour.

And remember — training your American Bulldog doesn’t have to be boring. They’re a playful breed with lively personalities, so teaching new tricks will give them the mental stimulation they often crave.”

American Bulldog gender differences

The most significant difference between the sexes is size: you can usually tell them apart by just looking at them. Males are considerably bigger than females, sometimes by as much as 10kg.

The personality differences are usually unnoticeable, and temperament will usually come down to how they’re raised.


Females tend to be smaller than their male counterparts, with a less muscular build.

Although some owners say females can be more territorial, how they’re socialised from a pup will be more likely to determine this.

Female size information

  • Height: 51-58 cm

  • Weight: 27-36 kg

  • Size: Large


Males are noticeably larger and stronger than females, with a stockier physique and a larger, boxy head.

Some owners say they are more playful and affectionate than females, but this usually comes down to the dog's individual personality rather than sex.

Male size information

  • Height: 56-63 cm

  • Weight: 34-45 kg

  • Size: Large

American Bulldog breed health

Like all dogs, American Bulldogs are prone to certain health issues that are often unavoidable. However, getting your pup from a reputable breeder will reduce the risk of any genetic diseases being passed down.

Life expectancy

American Bulldogs are expected to live for around 10 to 12 years.

Common health problems

Potentional health problems American Bulldogs are prone to include:

  • Hip and elbow dysplasia — Common in large dogs, hip and elbow dysplasia are genetic diseases caused by the abnormal development of the joints. Symptoms include limping and stiffness, and your dog may be less eager to go for a walk. The condition can worsen with obesity (something American Bulldogs are prone to) so efficient exercise and a nutritious diet is crucial to limit pressure on the joints. Although incurable, surgery is a possibility in severe cases to alleviate the problem.

  • Breathing issues — American Bulldogs can be classified as a brachycephalic breed, which means they have shorter noses and flat faces. This can cause breathing problems, which often worsen in hot weather, putting them at risk of overheating or collapsing. If your dog is experiencing trouble breathing, coughing, or excessive panting, you should take them to the vet immediately to get them checked. Your vet will be able to stabilise their breathing, check for obstructions in the nose or mouth, and test your pooch for any underlying conditions. Remember to limit physical exercise on particularly hot days to lessen any symptoms.

  • Allergies — American Bulldogs can be susceptible to allergies caused by genetics, food, or environmental factors. Secondary infections are worsened due to their wrinkly skin. You may notice signs of itchiness or patches of scales on the body. If your pup is showing any of these signs, you’ll need to take them to the vet to determine the problem. Many pups grow out of it with age and adult dog’s symptoms can be managed fairly easily. Depending on the cause of the allergies, treatments include avoiding certain foods, medication to control itchiness, bathing to maintain skin hygiene or an allergy vaccine.

  • Hypothyroidism — This disorder is caused by too low a quantity of thyroid hormone in the body, and in dogs can result in hair loss, obesity and dry skin. They may also experience behavioural changes like lethargy or sluggishness. Although dogs with the condition often need thyroid replacement treatment for the rest of their life, it doesn’t usually affect life expectancy.

  • Cherry eye — American Bulldogs are prone to cherry eye: a condition in which a dog’s third eyelid comes out of place, becoming swollen and red. Although it often isn’t painful, the eye can become infected if untreated, causing further problems. The issue can resolve on its own, but medications or surgery may be required in severe cases.

  • Obesity — Although they are lively dogs, American Bulldogs are prone to obesity due to their big appetites. They’re also a large breed with a lot of energy to burn, so an imbalance between exercise and diet can cause them to gain weight. You’ll want to keep an eye on this as obesity can worsen serious health conditions like hip dysplasia, putting extreme pressure on the joints. Avoid feeding your dog too many snacks and treats, and consult your vet for dietary advice if you’re worried.

  • Neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis (NCL) — Although rare, American Bulldogs can be prone to neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis: a hereditary disease that affects the central nervous system. Symptoms usually appear between the ages of one and two, and you may notice your dog constantly circling, becoming more anxious, and forgetting learned skills. As the degenerative condition progresses, they may experience seizures and blindness. Unfortunately, the disease is uncurable, and dogs usually need to be euthanised after around three years due to poor quality of life. As NCL is inherited, getting a dog from a reputable breeder that genetically tests the parents for signs of NCL will limit the risk of this disorder.

Vet tips

"American Bulldogs are generally healthy dogs. However, like all breeds, they're prone to certain conditions," says Dr. Kirsten Ronngren, DVM MRCVS.

"As a larger breed, American Bulldogs are more susceptible to hip and elbow dysplasia, which can be extremely painful if not addressed. Making sure they're getting enough exercise and appropriate food will help keep them at a healthy weight to reduce pressure on the joints. Although it's tempting, you should avoid giving your pup too many treats, as this can add to weight gain! There are absolutely ways to incorporate treats into your pet's total daily calories while still providing balanced nutrition.

Breeds in the bulldog group will have various degrees of breathing difficulties. This is a common issue we see and should be closely monitored by pet parents. Take a trip to the vet to get your bulldog checked out if you notice any significant changes in breathing, like trouble with exercise or excessive noise."

American Bulldog colours and variants

There are currently two different variations of the American Bulldog, including the Johnson and the Scott (standard), both named after their breeders. Although the population of these dogs was depleted after WW1 and WW2, these breeders set up programs to regain their numbers, increasing their popularity.

The Johnson type is often larger than the Scott, with a stockier build and larger legs. Additionally, the Johnson usually has more patches of red or brown, while the Scott is typically pure white.

The standard colours for American Bulldogs include:

  • Solid white

  • Black, white, and black

  • White and brown

  • White and tan

  • Lilac

  • Blue

  • Chocolate

American Bulldogs are often completely white but can also come with distinct brindle or fawn markings.

Caring for American Bulldogs


American Bulldogs are a highly energetic breed that requires at least 30 minutes of exercise daily, although some may need closer to an hour.

As well as this, engaging them in playful activities like tug of war or teaching them new tricks will keep them both mentally and physically stimulated. This can prevent any destructive behaviour around the house due to boredom or restlessness.


Protein-rich, high-quality foods like chicken will provide your American Bulldog with the best nutrients. However, you need to be careful about overfeeding as American Bulldogs are susceptible to weight gain, which can worsen joint issues.

They can also be prone to food allergies, so it’s important to check with your vet if you notice your dog excessively coughing, itching, or showing signs of an upset stomach.

Consulting your vet to help you build a balanced diet will ensure your dog’s dietary needs are being met, as doing this on your own can be tricky.


Like most breeds, the average adult American Bulldog needs 12-14 hours of sleep a day. However, puppies will need around 18-20 hours to support their growth and development.

Although a lot of sleeping is normal for bulldogs, excessive resting could mean there’s something wrong. You should speak to your vet if you’re concerned about this.

Healthcare tips

“Caring for your American Bulldog involves making sure they have the right amount of exercise and nutrition to help promote a healthy body condtion,” says Dr. Kirsten Ronngren, DVM MRCVS.

“They often need a lot of attention and mental stimulation, so these dogs are best suited for experienced owners who have enough time for them.”

American Bulldog temperament

How good are American Bulldogs with kids?

Despite their muscular and powerful appearance, American Bulldogs are affectionate and make great family dogs. They can get on well with kids as long as they are trained and socialised well from being a pup.

How affectionate are American Bulldogs?

American Bulldogs are a loving breed that is very protective and affectionate towards their family. Despite their size, they love to sit on their owner’s lap.

How territorial are American Bulldogs?

American Bulldogs were originally bred to be farm dogs, herding cattle and catching feral pigs, so they have natural guarding instincts. Therefore, they can often be territorial, protecting their family and home.

Although they make great guard dogs, their protective nature can cause them to bark or growl at strangers if they feel threatened. However, this shouldn’t be a problem with efficient training and socialisation as a puppy.

How friendly are American Bulldogs with other dogs?

The protective and dominant nature of American Bulldogs can cause them to be suspicious of unfamiliar dogs. However, the breed can get along well with other dogs with consistent training and introductions from an early age.

How much will American Bulldogs tolerate other pets?

Like with all dogs, socialisation while a puppy is key to American Bulldogs getting on with other pets.

Although they may be defensive at first, with time and slow introductions, the breed will usually warm to other pets — even cats!

How much attention do American Bulldogs need?

American Bulldogs love spending time with their owners and can often resort to chewing items in the house if left for long periods. They also require lots of physical and mental stimulation, so if you don’t have much spare time, this breed may not be the dog for you.

American Bulldog coat and grooming

Coat type

An American Bulldog’s coat is smooth, short, and dense.

Shedding levels

Although short and fine, an American Bulldog’s coat sheds a fair amount all year round. This often worsens when the weather conditions change in spring and autumn.

Brushing your bulldog once a week will help manage this shedding.

How often do I need to groom American Bulldogs?

American Bulldogs are fairly low maintenance and require little grooming. However, they tend to drool, so be sure to wipe between any folds in the skin to avoid any bacteria build-up, as this could cause infections.

As a general rule, American Bulldogs need bathing every two to three months. However, this will depend on their activity and unless they get muddy, it probably won’t be needed.

Your pooch’s nails should be trimmed every few weeks at home with dog-safe clippers or at your groomers. Cleaning their ears regularly will also prevent infections.

Are American Bulldogs hypoallergenic?

No — American Bulldogs are not hypoallergenic. Although short, their coat sheds an average amount, meaning dander — dead skin cells present in the fur — can spread around the house. People who suffer from allergies may experience this reaction to this.

American Bulldog bark sound

American Bulldogs are fairly alert dogs that are aware of their surroundings, so barking isn’t uncommon. They’re also a large, powerful breed, so their bark can be loud compared to other dogs. This is something to consider if you have neighbours close by or live in a flat, as the noise could be a disturbance.

Barking habits

Compared to similar dogs originally bred to be alert and guard, American Bulldogs are moderate barkers.

They often bark when being protective or territorial, especially if a stranger enters the house. Although this is part of their nature, it can be annoying for neighbours, so proper training and socialisation are needed to keep this to a minimum.

As these dogs require a lot of attention and stimulation, they often use excessive barking to communicate boredom or sadness. They can also use short, snappy barks when excited or playing.

Frequently asked questions about American Bulldogs

Are American Bulldogs high-maintenance dogs?

Although American Bulldogs are low maintenance when it comes to grooming, they require a lot of attention, walking, and playtime. They can also be stubborn, so training takes patience and experience. Therefore they may not be best suited for new owners.

When do American Bulldogs stop growing?

American Bulldogs usually reach their full potential size by around two years old. However, some larger dogs will continue growing until they are four or five years old.

Do American Bulldogs like to cuddle?

American Bulldogs are known for being loving dogs that are very affectionate with their owners. They’ll love sitting next to you and even sitting on your lap for a cuddle despite their size!