Descendants of the English Bulldog, American Bulldogs were originally bred as working dogs to hunt feral pigs in the American South.
English Bulldogs (often simply called 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 WW2, the breed was nearly extinct but was brought back by two breeders who ultimately created the American Bulldog.
Today, American Bulldogs are more popular than ever. Their protective nature and lovable personality make them the perfect companion.
Find out everything you need about American Bulldogs with our in-depth guide.
How much does dog insurance for American Bulldogs cost?
The average ManyPets policy for an American Bulldog was $54 per month in 2022. This is significantly higher than the average cost across all breeds and ages which was $37 per month. The higher price reflects the fact that American Bulldogs are, unfortunately, susceptible to a number of health conditions. Learn more about insuring your bulldog.
American Bulldog popularity
American Bulldogs have gained significant popularity not only in their US homeland but also around the world. Although they’re still often used in the US for protection, hunting, and as farm dogs, they’re also popular family dogs due to their loving and friendly nature.
American Bulldogs have also graced the big screen in films like 1993’s Homeward Bound and 2003’s Cheaper by the Dozen!
While American Bulldogs are popular throughout the US, they are—not surprisingly—most commonly found in high-population states like Texas, California, and New York.
American Bulldog training
American Bulldogs are fairly easy to train thanks to their intelligence and love of learning new things. However, they do have a stubborn streak, so it’s important to keep training consistent and make sure they don’t get away with bad behavior. Remaining firm when training—without shouting or punishing—will encourage your dog to respect you. With time, this will make them more likely to follow your commands.
Breed bad habits
American Bulldogs are a large breed with a lot of energy, so behavioral issues arise when their exercise needs aren't met. They also need lots of attention, so they can chew or bite things around the house out of boredom and develop separation anxiety, especially if they’re left alone too long. Therefore, the best owners will be those with a lot of spare time.
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 they're usually very affectionate once they’re used to new people.
When training your American Bulldog, it's best to start early. Their naturally protective nature can cause problems with barking at strangers and other dogs, so socializing as a puppy will help. They also love attention, so owners may find they respond best to positive reinforcement when training, rewarding good behavior with treats or praise.
They love to chew on things, so you may want to give them a toy when they're looking around 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 behavior.
And remember: Training your American Bulldog doesn't have to be boring. They're a playful breed with lively personalities, so teaching them 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 American Bulldog genders apart by looking at them. Males are considerably bigger than females, sometimes by as much as 20 pounds.
The personality differences are usually unnoticeable, and temperament usually comes 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 are socialized from puppydom will be more likely to determine this.
Female size information
Height: 20-23 inches
Weight: 60-79 pounds
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: 22–25 inches
Weight: 75–99 pounds
American Bulldog breed health
Like all dogs, American Bulldogs are prone to specific 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.
Like other dogs, American Bulldogs are also prone to catching viral diseases like rabies. Vaccination is recommended to prevent the spread of these diseases.
American Bulldogs are expected to live for around 10 to 12 years.
Common health issues
Potential 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 are crucial to limiting pressure on the joints. Although the condition is incurable, surgery can alleviate symptoms in severe cases. These surgeries can be quite expensive—sometimes as much as $3,500 or more per hip or elbow.
Breathing issues: American Bulldogs are a "brachycephalic" or flat-faced breed, which means they have short 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 stabilize 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 alleviate 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 allergies with age and adult dog’s symptoms can often be managed pretty 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: A disorder caused by the lack of thyroid hormone in the body, hypothyroidism in dogs can result in hair loss, obesity, and dry skin. They may also experience behavioral changes like anxiety and defensiveness and be more susceptible to skin infections. Although dogs with this condition often need thyroid replacement treatment for the rest of their lives, 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 left untreated, causing serious problems. The issue usually resolves on its own, but 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 incurable, and dogs usually need to be euthanized 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.
"American Bulldogs are generally healthy dogs. However, like all breeds, they're prone to certain conditions," says veterinarian 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 colors 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 colors for American Bulldogs include:
Black, white, and black
White and brown
White and tan
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.
In addition, 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 behavior around the house due to boredom or restlessness.
You’ll need to be careful when walking your dog in hot temperatures. Brachycephalic breeds, like American Bulldogs, are more at risk of heat stroke than other dogs. You shouldn’t walk them in temperatures over 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Pet parents in hot states like Texas or California, where temperatures can regularly reach over 100 degrees Fahrenheit in summer, may need to be especially cautious.
As short, single-coated dogs, American Bulldogs also struggle to exercise in cold or rainy weather. They may need to wear a coat for protection and shouldn’t walk in temperatures below 45 degrees Fahrenheit.
As American Bulldogs are active dogs that need a lot of exercise, you’ll need to find other ways to burn their energy indoors when walking isn’t possible. This could mean playing fetch or teaching them new tricks.
Protein-rich, high-quality foods will provide your American Bulldog with the best nutrients. But 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 veterinarian to help you build a balanced diet will ensure your dog’s dietary needs are being met; managing this on your own can be difficult.
Like most breeds, the average adult American Bulldog needs 12–14 hours of sleep a day. However, puppies 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.
“Caring for your American Bulldog involves making sure they have the right amount of exercise and nutrition to help promote a healthy body condition,” says Dr. Ronngren.
“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 Bulldogs are a loving breed. They’re very protective and affectionate toward their families. 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 socialization 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.
Will American Bulldogs tolerate other pets?
As with all dogs, socialization starting from puppyhood is key to American Bulldogs getting along with other pets.
Although they may be defensive at first, with time and slow introductions, the breed will usually warm up 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 of time. They also require lots of physical and mental stimulation, so if you don’t have a lot of spare time, this breed may not be the right one for you.
American Bulldog coat and grooming
An American Bulldog’s coat is smooth, short, and dense.
Although short and fine, an American Bulldog’s coat sheds significantly 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 American Bulldogs need grooming?
American Bulldogs are pretty low-maintenance and require relatively little grooming. However, they tend to drool, so be sure to wipe between any folds in the skin to avoid bacteria buildup, as this could cause infections.
Generally, American Bulldogs need bathing every two to three months. However, this will depend on their activity; unless they get muddy, it probably won’t be required very often.
Your pooch’s nails should be trimmed every few weeks at home with dog-safe clippers or at your groomer’s. 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 allergic reactions to this.
American Bulldog bark sound
American Bulldogs are 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 that of other dogs. This is something to consider if you have neighbors close by or live in a flat, as the noise could be a disturbance.
They often bark when protective or territorial, especially if a stranger enters the house. Although this is part of their nature, it can be annoying for neighbors, so good training and socialization 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 pretty stubborn, so training will take patience and experience. Therefore, they may not be well 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!