The American Bulldog Guide from A Vet’s Perspective

The American Bulldog is a breed of large, muscular dog that has become increasingly popular in recent years. This powerful canine was originally bred to be a working dog and protector, but today it is primarily kept as a companion animal. If you are considering adopting an American Bulldog, read on for a comprehensive overview of this incredible, goofy, loveable breed.  

Types Of Bulldogs

There are a few bulldog types, and the number rises as they are bred with other dogs. This guide focuses mainly on the American Bulldog. There are, however, three main types that deserve mention:

History Of The American Bulldog

The American Bulldog is a hybrid between the English bulldogs that were brought over by settlers in the 1700s (one of the earliest breeds to make its way across The Pond!) and the now-extinct Old Southern White Bulldogs.

These canine companions were an all-purpose helpmate for small farmers and ranchers throughout colonial times. Initially used for herding livestock, these strong dogs also served as guardians and catch dogs on farms throughout the Southern United States.

Many Southerners relied on their dependable bulldogs as the only way to fend off stubborn and destructive feral pigs that had been introduced into the New World without any natural predators! In addition to their formidable size and strength, they were renowned for their intelligence and loyalty toward their owners.

In addition to being brought over as farm helpers and pig catchers, English working-class folks also imported over for the popular blood sport of bull-baiting. Bull-baiting often captivated audiences in the old country; now it traveled across the Atlantic and to America.

History Post WWII

During WWII, the American Bulldog breed faced near-extinction until John D. Johnson sought out specimens to revive it. Alan Scott was fascinated with this project and began working closely with Johnson on revitalization efforts – crossing his original lines with a Northern English Bulldog that maintained its genetic athletic vigor to create two types of Bulldogs. The Standard type (Scott type), and the Bully type (Johnson/Classic Type).

The American Bulldog is on the rise! Once facing near extinction, they have experienced a surge in popularity and usage as working/protector dogs or beloved family pets. They thrive around the world performing various tasks such as ‘hog dog’ catching, cattle driving and even competing in numerous canine sports like Schutzhund, French Ring and Iron Dog competitions. Not just for work either. These stout pups are proudly shown off at events across US Kennel Clubs from ABA to AKC (who added them officially to their FSS list Nov 2019). So if you’re looking for an all-round pup who does it all – look no further than America’s own bulldog breed!

American Bulldog

Are Amercian Bulldogs purebred?

American Bulldogs are a recognized breed by the United Kennel Club and were recognized on the 1st of January 1999. It’s important for those interested in the breed to know that when it comes to purebred American Bulldogs. There are two distinct types. One bred for show purposes and one bred for working or non-show purposes.

Show-bred dogs must meet certain standards of size and shape set out by reputable organizations like the UKC. The UKC classify them as part of the guardian dog group. Working-bred American Bulldogs tend to vary more widely in size and shape. Though they’re still recognizable as members of the breed.

Are American Bulldogs recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC)?

Not at this time. Although the American Bulldog is on the cusp of achieving AKC full recognition. In 2019 they were officially added to their Foundation Stock Service (FSS) program.  The FSS program provides purebred breeds with supported development and record-keeping for future full recognition eligibility. It also means they can compete in AKC Companion Events.

So while American bulldogs won’t be able to get that all-important “AKC Registered” designation just yet – it’s only a paw away!

American Bulldog Appearance

General Appearance

American Bulldogs are a strong, stocky breed known for their powerful build and large heads. They have short coats in many different colors – everything from white to black, red or brindle! Black pigment on nose & eye rims is sought after but some pink variations can still be seen occasionally. Eye color usually tends towards a deep brown hue. However, heterochromia (two different colored eyes – usually one blue and one brown) may surprise you.

American Bulldog Types

There are two “types” of American Bulldog: The bully and the standard. I have also included the hybrid.

Bully Type

The Bully or Johnson type has a wide-set, strong stance, a stocky, bulkier build and a shorter muzzle. They often have an undershot jaw and a larger head.

Standard Type

On the flip side, Standards (The Scott type) are more athletic looking with longer muzzles giving them an overall squarer appearance.

Hybrid Type

Fortunately for us doggie fans out there, many modern Bulldogs embrace both worlds in their ‘hybrid’ form. So we tend to see a mix of both types.

Weight and Size

American Bulldogs are a stocky breed with an impressive size range, weighing anywhere from 60 to 120 lb and standing up to 28 inches tall – though some have even been known to break those dimensions.


From white and tan to combinations of browns, reds, and brindles – the possibilities are endless with the American Bulldog. The breed has an abundance of color options available. The UKC does not recognize solid black or blue coats, merles or tricolors (three colors). A full black mask is also not accepted and there needs to be more than 10% white marking on their coats.

While most American Bulldogs are white with black, red, or brindle markings. You will find the below colors typical for American Bulldogs but remember they need at least 10% white markings.

  • White
  • Black
  • Brown
  • Red
  • Fawn
  • Brindle

Breed characteristics


American Bulldogs are the ultimate family dog, full of life and overflowing with energy! They’ll adore their owners unconditionally but may not be so welcoming to strangers – a trait inherited from their farming background when they were tasked with keeping an eye out on home & livestock. This is one breed that loves nothing more than having time dedicated solely to them – which means lots (and we mean LOTS) of cuddles and quality playtime for you too!

This breed is a special one; unlike many other breeds, they don’t reach maturity until the age of two. As puppies, these canines are inquisitive yet slightly guarded around strangers – but with proper socialization and love during their formative years, they become confident adult dogs that won’t shy away from new experiences! Without regular companionship or stimulating activities though, these pups may lapse into fearfulness and aggression towards things outside their comfort zone.

Some of my favorite patients have been American Bulldogs – they have also been some of the most challenging which shows how important socialization is.


The American Bulldog’s size makes it unsuitable for many apartments or small homes due to its need for plenty of physical activity. However, those with access to larger yards may find that owning an American Bulldog is ideal. Due its intelligence and loyalty qualities make them an excellent watchdog while still being affectionate with family members.

I feel that American Bulldogs are best suited to families and people that can dedicate the time to proper socialization with people and other animals as well as who can give them the exercise that they need.


American Bulldogs are known for their strong, friendly personalities and long lives. The typical lifespan for this breed is about 10 to 16 years. While each American Bulldog is different and some may live longer or shorter, these medium-large dogs tend to enjoy active, healthy lives well into their senior years if properly cared for and exercised. 

Grooming and shedding

While their short coats make them relatively easy to groom, the American Bulldog’s dense coat sheds all year round and is worse with the change of seasons (similar to the Pitbull). So routine brushing 2-3 times per week and vacuuming are necessary in order to keep your home fur-free!

They will need their nails trimmed regularly and I highly recommend that you get them used to this from an early age to avoid problems in the future.

American Bulldog Exercise Needs

These pups love to exercise and need regular, consistent daily activity to keep up their social and physical health as well as to maintain their strong muscular form.

Without it, your American Bulldog may become frustrated or anxious, which can have even broader consequences for the pup’s health and well-being. Exercise for this particular breed might include long walks or jogs; interactive fetch games; or activities like agility courses, swimming, brushing up on obedience commands — anything that gets those powerful legs in motion!

These bulldogs, like the English and French versions, are sensitive to extreme temperatures, so monitor their health and always have fresh, cool water on hand when exercising.

A few fun exercise ideas for American Bulldogs include:

  • Running
  • Hiking
  • Jogging
  • Walking
  • Visits to the park
  • Playing fetch
  • Tug of war with a rope or sturdy toy
  • Agility
  • Swimming


American Bulldog Health Concerns

Unlike English and French Bulldogs, American bulldogs are a relatively healthy breed that can live a long life if looked after properly. Some of the more common health issues include:

1.     Hip Dysplasia, Elbow Dysplasia and Arthritis

Being a larger breed joint abnormalities and osteoarthritis are found more commonly in Amercian Bulldogs. I would recommend that you make sure that the parents have undergone PennHip/OFA and elbow scoring to lower the likelihood of your pup inheriting hip or elbow dysplasia. Keeping your bulldog at ideal body weight will help slow the onset of arthritis.

Chat with your vet about different arthritis management options if you suspect your pup may have arthritis.

2.     Breathing Difficulties

Sadly American Bulldogs are being bred with shorter and shorter snouts making some more susceptible to breathing difficulties. I wish people would stop thinking short snouts are cute as it is making our dogs miserable.

Breathing difficulties can be caused by a few issues.

  • Elongated soft palate: in over-bred dogs, this issue means that the soft palate extends into the airway, making it challenging for the dog to breathe.
  • Stenotic nares are the name given to particularly narrow nostrils and airways. If the condition is causing too much distress to your dog, they may have to undergo surgery to widen the nasal passageways.
Poorly bred Amercian Bulldog

3.     Cherry eye, entropion and ectropion

Cherry eye occurs when a small gland drops down and becomes visible in the corner of the eye, while entropion and ectropion both refer to when the eyelids curl inward or outward, respectively. If left untreated, each of these issues can be quite uncomfortable for your four-legged friend – it’s best to take them to the vet right away if you notice any of these signs.

4.     Skin allergies and sunburn

American Bulldogs have short fur, making them particularly susceptible to both skin allergies and sunburn. These tough-looking dogs are actually quite sensitive to the sun’s rays, so it’s important that you take precautionary measures while they are out in the summer heat.

They are also prone to skin allergies – mainly caused by the environment around them. These itchy irritations tend to result from a combination of factors like pollens, grasses and dust mites creating an allergic reaction and itchy inflamed skin. Food allergies are far less common.

Training Your American Bulldog

Due to its history as a working dog, the American Bulldog is highly intelligent and eager to please its owners—making them relatively easy to train compared to other breeds. However, they do have strong personalities that can make them somewhat challenging if not trained properly from a young age.

Positive reinforcement methods such as clicker training are recommended when teaching your pup new behaviors; punishments should never be used during training sessions as this could cause your pup to become timid or aggressive towards humans or other animals.

Additionally, socialization should begin from an early age in order for your pup not only learn how to interact with other people but also build trust in his environment and handlers.

Is an American Bulldog Right for You?

Overall, owning an American Bulldog requires patience combined with firmness; however when given proper care these dogs can make wonderful additions to any family!

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Are American Bulldogs good family pets?

A: Yes, they can make great family pets! They are loyal, loving and protective of their owners. However, it is important to socialize your pup from a young age in order to allow them to become confident and trusting around people. Additionally, proper training should be done in order to ensure that your pup knows appropriate boundaries and behaviors.

Q: Are American Bulldogs good guard dogs?

A: Yes, they make excellent guard dogs! American Bulldogs have a natural instinct to protect and will often bark at unfamiliar people or animals. However, it’s important that they are properly trained in order to ensure that these behaviors remain appropriate. Additionally, socialization from an early age is essential for your pup to learn how to interact with humans and other animals.  Overall, when given the proper care, American Bulldogs can make wonderful guardians for your family.  

Q: Are American Bulldogs good swimmers?

A: Yes, American Bulldogs are great swimmers! Just like Pitbull’s they have a strong natural instinct to swim, making them perfect swimmers. However, due to their short coats they should be protected from the sun while outdoors and given plenty of fluids in order to prevent overheating or dehydration. Additionally, it’s important that you provide proper supervision when your pup is in or near the water to ensure that he remains safe.

Emily Andrews