Other Names: English Bull Terrier, Bully, Varkhond
Country Of Origin: England
Dog Group: Terrier
Recommended For: Families, couples, single owners
Maintenance Level: Easy/moderate
Lifespan: 10-14 years
Temperament: Loyal, independent, friendly
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Good For the First-Time Owner: No
Good With Children: Yes
Good With Other Animals: Sometimes
Good With Strangers: Sometimes
Good For Apartments: Yes
Exercise Requirements: Daily walking
Can Live In Hot Weather: Yes
Can Live In Cold Weather: Yes
Can Tolerate Being Left Alone: Yes
Bull Terriers are the only breed known to have triangular-shaped eyes.
The Bull Terrier has a long and sometimes unfortunate, and has developed a reputation for being an aggressive dog breed.
However, much of this behavior is down to how the dog is raised, and Bull terriers don’t necessarily have a naturally dangerous temperament.
Like many other Bull Terrier breeds, they were originally bred for use in blood sports, which is another reason for its aggressive reputation.
However, with the right kind of socialization, a Bull Terrier can make an excellent and loyal family dog.
Color: White, fawn, brindle, red, black, or tri-color
Height: 18-22 inches (both males and females)
Weight: Males – 55-65lbs, Females – 45-55lbs
Personality and Temperament:
Bull Terriers are a moderately intelligent breed and are very sociable.
However, the breed can easily develop a stubborn streak with incorrect training, so it’s best to start proper nurturing early.
Bull Terriers can be very independent, and so are known sometimes to ignore their owners.
For this reason, it’s best for them to be trained by an experienced dog owner.
Training isn’t hard if done with confidence, and the breed is capable of learning a range of complex commands.
It’s a good idea to take Bull Terrier puppies to obedience classes as soon as possible so they can socialize with other dogs and learn the importance of obedience.
When it comes to other dogs, Bull Terriers will generally be fine, providing they’re socialized correctly.
Check Out: Bull Terrier vs Pitbull Comparison
Their reputation for aggression means that other dog owners can be very wary around them, so it’s vital to train your Bull Terrier how to act around other animals.
Bull terriers love attention from other dogs, so it helps them to learn how to control their excitement.
Even though the breed isn’t dangerous, owners should be wary about keeping them around small pets, such as rabbits or guinea pigs.
Bull Terriers still have a very strong prey drive, which can sometimes lead to accidents.
It can also be potentially dangerous to keep them in a house with cats considering the breed’s prey drive, so Bull Terriers are best if kept as an only pet unless you’re confident in your training ability.
Bull Terriers can make a great choice as a family pet if they’re socialized correctly. They generally love playing with children but should be introduced to them from a young age.
If you’re looking to adopt an adult Bull Terrier just make sure it’s been raised around children.
They are a very sociable breed when given the right upbringing, and can make a great addition to the family.
However, due to the importance of training with Bull Terriers, and the need for a confident and experienced handler, the breed isn’t suitable for first-time owners.
Bull Terriers are known for being strong and confident dogs that can be very independent, which isn’t what an inexperienced owner should choose.
However, if you’ve got enough confidence and dog handling skill, a Bull Terrier can be a good choice.
Bull Terriers are a reasonably energetic breed, and their use as a fighting dog means they’ve got pretty good stamina.
As a result, they need quite a bit of daily exercise.
A Bull Terrier should be walked for between 30 minutes and an hour every day, but will happily take as much exercise as you want to give them.
They can be a great companion for long walks, as long as it’s not too hot.
Their size means that they can be a good choice for apartment living, but owners will need to make adjustments to their care routine.
For example, it would be helpful to give the dog more exercise to compensate for living indoors.
Similarly, you should spend plenty of time playing with them around the apartment to keep them happy and engaged.
Bull Terriers are affectionate and enjoy human attention but can be very defensive and protective if they think they’re under threat.
Again, the right kind of socialization from an early age is essential if you want your Bully to be good around strangers.
Bull Terriers do tend to bark a lot if they feel threatened, and it’s very difficult to train this behavior out of them.
Although they are quite sociable, they can tolerate being left alone. This makes them the right choice for working owners, but it does mean that they need plenty of attention and stimulation while you are in the house.
It’s helpful to establish a clear routine and provide the dog with toys or chews during the day to keep them entertained.
They were bred in England, but their short coat means they can happily live in hot climates without too many problems.
In cold climates, it can be helpful to give them a coat in the winter to keep them warm.
Their coat and muscle structure mean that they’re not suitable for outdoor living.
Bull Terriers have a short, shiny coat that’s quite hard and coarse. They shed reasonably consistently throughout the year, and this can be controlled with weekly grooming.
This is best done with a grooming mitt or soft brush.
Owners should brush their dog’s teeth several times a week to avoid dental problems.
Similarly, their ears should be checked every few days for wax or debris. Trim their nails when needed, which will be more often if living in an apartment.
Common Diseases and Conditions:
One of the most common conditions that Bull Terriers suffer from is deafness.
All puppies are checked at birth for deafness, although it can be hard to tell until the dog is slightly older.
Deafness occurs around 20% of pure white Bull Terriers and about 1.3% of colored dogs.
Another common condition is skin allergies. These can develop at any point in the dog’s life, and usually occur as itchiness or a rash.
Flea and tick bites can often trigger an allergic reaction in Bull Terriers, and owners usually won’t be aware until it happens for the first time.
Reactions often don’t go further than hives and itchiness, so it’s not too difficult to manage.
Other than that, Bull Terriers can also suffer from common purebred conditions, including luxating patellar, heart disease, and hip dysplasia.
The breed is also prone to problems with their eyes, nose, and mouth due to the shape of their head.
The Bull Terrier was one of several breeds to come from the Bull and Terrier breed, which was developed as a rat-catcher and fighter.
It was bred by crossing a Bulldog, which was fast, with a Terrier, which was strong and aggressive.
The resulting dog was much better at fighting and could be trained to be much more dangerous.
“Bull and Terrier” breeds eventually divided into the ancestors of:
- Bull Terriers
- Staffordshire Bull Terriers
- American Pit Bull Terriers
- American Staffordshire Terriers
A man named James Hinks then decided to breed a Bull and Terrier with an English White Terrier, looking for a dog with a nicer head and better legs. (image source)
While Bull Terriers didn’t look how we know them today, they did start to develop the characteristic head shape early on.
The breed was immediately popular, and other breeds were introduced to avoid the problems with deafness.
Bull Terriers continued to be used for blood sports long into the 20th century, and it’s only been in the last 40 years or so that people chose them as family pets.
The breed has now developed to include a miniature Bull Terrier too, which is also popular as a companion pet.
The only real difference with the mini Bull terrier is the size.
Breed standards expect a maximum weight of 14lbs, which is considerably lighter than the standard size.
Now that the breed’s reputation is starting to die off, they’re becoming more popular in shows and as companion animals because people realize how friendly and loyal Bully terries can be.
Bull terrier Health
As with any purebred dogs, there are certain diseases that are known for the breed to be predisposed to. It is the responsibility Bull Terrier fanciers to educate themselves and others about health issues of their dogs. Many funds from local to national clubs go to research the etiology and treatment of these diseases and hopefully in our best effort for prevention, treatment, and ultimately elimination.
The very first point I would like to address is for potential new owners of a Bull Terrier is to research your breeder carefully. A reputable breeder will provide a reasonable guarantee of some form on the health of your new puppy. Feel free to ask questions about the health screening results of the parents. A responsible breeder will be happy to answer any questions you may have about the results, but as I was told when I was looking for Ursa, “Buyer beware.” This doesn’t mean that your dog will be free of all health issues, but rather you have helped eliminate a certain percentage of possibility. Now with that said, let’s move on to the genetic diseases.
In simplest terms, this is when the kneecap slips out of place. The range can be mild to severe and depends on how shallow the groove is. The parents can be checked for this when they are two years old by an orthopedic veterinarian. It is always wise to limit a puppy/ adolescence bull terrier’s strenuous activity to help not cause undue strain on young joints. Just ask your breeder if the parents were checked for luxating patellas.
Kidney disease in Bull Terriers is divided into three forms. The first is renal dysplasia which results kidney failure. The disease causes the kidney’s cells to develop improperly, resulting in a nonfunctioning kidney/s.
The second form is Hereditary nephritis. This is also fatal, but with a slower progression. Research has not been able to determine a specific age to test for because it can range in age from as early as 2 years up to 8 years. The best prevention (until DNA testing becomes available) is testing breeding dogs every year for Urine-Protein/ Urine-Creatinine Ratio.
The most recently discovered kidney disease is Polycystic Kidney Disease. You may also hear it as PCKD. It is very common to be seen inconjuction with heart valvular problems. Currently, the most reliable diagnose is made from an ultrasound of the kidneys.
The issue of heart disease in Bull Terriers is primarily seen in the form of congenital heart disease. The two forms commonly seen is Mitral Valve Dysplasia and
Mitra valve dysplasia presents as a “leaking” valve between the two chambers of the heart, the left atrium and left ventricle. Usually the mitral valve does not shut completely which causes the blood that should be pumped entirely into the aorta to supply the body with oxygenated blood from the left ventricle; to leak back into the left atrium. The result is a murmur. It is called Mitral Regurgitation. When the mitral valve is narrowed, it is difficult for the blood to leave the left atrium. This is called Mitral Stenosis. Dogs with this condition can affected mildly or severely. Most dogs can live active normal lives, but with age the condition can worsen and they can die of heart failure.
Sub-aortic Stenosis is the narrowing of the aorta, the major artery carrying the blood supply away from the heart. The condition leads to pulmonary edema which results in left-sided heart failure.
There are several tests your veterinarian can perform to screen for these conditions, x-ray series of the chest, ECG or electrocardiography to measure the heart’s electrical activity, and a cardiac ultrasound or echocardiography. Many reputable breeders test their dogs with cardiac color doppler ultrasound for very accurate diagnosis. If you would like to learn more about the heart’s anatomy, or unfamiliar with the terms mentioned above, I recommend you visit here for a brief lesson in cardiac anatomy.
The explanation of this is obvious, the Bull Terrier is deaf, but the degree of hearing can vary. It can be either unilaterally (one-sided) in which the dog is able to hear in one ear, or bilateral (both ears affected) in which the dog can not hear at all. Deafness can occur in both whites and coloreds.
The best test to determine a puppy’s hearing is called BAER or brain stem auditory evoked response, and the test can be done by many veterinarians. Most responsible breeders will test their puppies several weeks after birth and will provide you the results of the BAER testing. Dogs that are found to be either unilaterally or bilateral deaf should not be bred, but can live a very normal bullie life.
A tragic condition in which a puppy’s immune system is unable to metabolize zinc correctly. These puppies are usually very underdeveloped and die within several weeks after birth.
Cryptorchidism is when the one or both testicles do not descend into the scrotum sac. A very simple surgery can be done to correct this, but the best thing to do is to neuter the dog. You would not want to breed a dog who had this condition and it would be very possible the dog would be sterile anyway. This is not a fatal condition in any form, but the easiest way is to check is to simply feel for both testicles in the scrotum sac. Remember though, young puppies can take some time for the testicles to descend. Your breeder should know how to check for this themselves.
Hip dysplasia occurs in many breeds, and the best way to help prevent it is having both parents’ hips checked by an orthopedic vet. This would probably be done at the same time the dog’s patellas were checked.
The basic explanation of this condition is when the ball and socket of the hip and femur joint do not fit correctly. It can be either the ball the femur is malformed, or the socket is not deep enough for the ball to fit into. The degree of hip dysplasia varies from slight to severe, and the degree of pain and crippling effect varies as well. It usually worsens with time and there are surgeries that can repair the affected joint much like a human hip replacement procedure.
Demodectic mites live on all dogs and even us. Don’t worry I won’t gross you out with microbiology, but this is a very different form of mange than it’s much devastating cousin, sacroptic mange. Sacroptic mange is highly contagious and very unpleasant, and if left untreated it can be fatal. It is associated with intensive pruritus (itching) and tends to be rapid spreading and generalized.
Demodectic mange is a result of stress on the immune system. It is common for young dogs reaching sexual maturity to have an episode of demodectic mange. Generally, (though there is debate on this topic) it is not considered a “faulty” immune system unless it develops during adulthood or becomes generalized over the body. It is genetic and is most often presented in a few dime size patches on the head or on the body. It usually is not irritating and should be carefully watched to prevent a secondary infection from forming. Most Bull Terriers who are affected during adolescence will clear up on their own once their body’s system get back in order. It should always be diagnosed by a veterinarian and the treatments can vary.
The pyloric valve is the valve that helps control the movement of food from the stomach and into the intestine. Obviously, this condition can be determined when the dog dog has problems with digestion. It does not occur frequently, and can be controlled with medications. The most common symptoms are sudden vomiting and frothing of the mouth after eating. A projectile vomiting can be associated as a symptom. There is no particular test done for preventative measures, but breeders who know their lines would know not to breed a dog who had this condition.
Sometimes a bullie can become over excited and with pressure on their throat, cause themselves difficult breathing. They can fall over with the lack of oxygen. It hasn’t been proven to be a genetically disposed condition. It is debatable if these affected dogs should be used in a breeding program.
Skin allergies can be a nightmare to keep up with. Owning a dog personally who suffers, I can speak from experience. Skin allergies vary in degree (like humans) and can be a result of a contact dermatitis (when an allergen touching the skin causes the allergic reaction) or a food/drug dermatitis (when the allergen is digested causing the skin’s allergic reaction.)
The only way to stop the allergy is to remove the allergen ideally. This can be difficult because there can be many allergens causing the reaction and difficult to pinpoint. The most concern about atopy is the secondary skin infections that can occur due to the irritated or broken skin. This is a result of a faulty immune system, and the best support I have found with my guy, Austin, is a dietary change and supplements to support his weak immune system. It has been said that whites can have more sensitive skin, but Austin is brindle and coloreds can be affected as well.
There are three major behavioral problems known to Bull Terriers. The first is a type of obsessive compulsive disorder called “Spinners.” These are dogs who start with a very benign appearing behavior of chasing their tail, spinning, or an object; but it does not end there. These dogs obsess over these behaviors. If mild, sometimes it is a result of the dog’s boredom and with professional advice and some changes it can be reduced, but is severe cases drug therapies can help.
The second is Pica. This is another form of obsessive compulsive disorders in which the dog will eat anything, and I mean anything. These dogs are commonly referred to as “eaters” and this goes beyond the normal teething phase of a Bull Terrier. There is drug therapies that seem to help this condition as well. These are the dogs that must be crated at all times when they are not supervised and are often in emergency vet offices for intestinal obstructions.
The most serious behavioral problem for Bull Terriers is called “Sudden Onset Rage Syndrome.” This is when a dog (usually who just awoke from sleeping) turns into a mean and dangerous dog for moments. When the episode is over, the dog is usually dazed and tends not to appear to have memory of the event. The kindest thing to do in these cases is to euthanize the dog.
Like many other dogs, Bull Terriers do have certain needs. This list will exempt the normal care expected of any dog with annual veterinarian visits, puppy shots, heartworm preventative, proper shelter, food, water, and of course love. It is expected that you are aware of these things, my list rather specifies certain items you should have on hand for your Bull Terrier for an emergency and special things to do when raising a Bull Terrier. Any ideas or suggestions are, of course, welcomed.
First and foremost, please have your Bull Terrier trained. It can be either in a group class situation or trained privately. Bull Terriers do require a clear definition of who the boss is in the relationship. Training started at a young age will help prevent behavioral problems that can start very early. And besides, it is a great place to show off your dog and to help social behavior with strangers and other dogs. Early socialization is of great importance with Bull Terriers.
Bull Terriers require a lot of patience, especially during the puppy months. These times can be very trying for you and your dog. As you will learn their mouths are purpose built. There is little to persuade them not to destroy. It is a good idea to provide quality chew toys that can stand up to a young Bull Terrier’s teething phase.
Bull Terriers are known for their ability to not be discriminatory in their eating habits. Please use caution in what items you may choose to give your Bull Terrier as a toy. They are very strong and can destroy an innocent toy very quickly. Please do not let your dog play with toys without supervision. Large pieces can be broken off and obstruct their intestines. See my Frequently Asked Questions section on toys that we do recommend and don’t recommend.
Here is a list of items you should have on hand for any emergency for your beloved bullie. It was suggested by group members of the
- Hoflin-Bull Terrier list.
- Emetic – hydrogen peroxide or Ipecac
- Anti-diarrheal – Pepto Bismol or my preference of Kaopectate
- muzzle; or pantyhose for the same purpose
- Anti-flatulant – simethecone
- generic Benadryl
- Isopropyl alcohol
- syringes – no needle; for giving liquid meds
- Styptic pencil/powder
- Nail trimmer
- Vet wrap
- Cotton gauze pads
- A large blanket, towel, or quilt in case you may need a gurney.
- triple buffered aspirin; DO NOT give this to a bleeding dog!!!!!
- rectal type thermometer; I use the plastic just to be safe from our bouncy bullies
- ear drying drops
- sunscreen; highest you can get for children
- Betadyne for cleaning wounds
- Rescue Remedy/Tranquility Formula (for animals & people)
- Sm/Med flashlight (handy to inspect injuries up close)
- Tweezers & scissors
- Echinacea; for immune support
- Vitamins C & E
- Stridex pads; for the ever loving bullie tail syndrome
- Aloe Vera Gel (great for burns, sunburns, and relieving itchy insect bites, etc.)
- phone # list….vet, 24 hr clinic, poison control, etc.
- Dog Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook
- baby’s tube socks for wrapping injured or cold feet
- 1 pint minimum sterile water
- super glue is great as a temporary fix for pad wounds
- glucose and electrolytes (powder form in individual sachets – add to water – then no leakage/breakage)
- A crate! Preferably an airline style one.
I use a 400 to 500 size dependent on the size of the dog. It is your dog’s and your savior at times. It provides a safe haven for your dog when you are not able to supervise their behavior. Contrary to opinion, it is not cruel and dogs do like them if introduced properly. Remember this is not your house of punishment, but rather a sanctuary of relief.
A good sensitive skin shampoo works well with bathing these guys. They do not have a need for a strong shampoo so the sensitive skin kind works best, especially if your bullie might have allergies to the perfumes other shampoos have in them. You do not need to bath a bullie very often. Their coat is short and harsh. My preference is once a month unless needed for the days of digging in the yard.
Also, when grooming your dog, be sure to clean their ears well. The ears can act like big spoons for dirt, so make sure you keep your grooming routine to include the ears, as well. For nail cutting, start young. It’s no fun to wrestle your much stronger Bull Terrier for a match of nail cutting. If introduced to the grooming routine at a young age, nail cutting, (and for show bullies; whisker cutting) will be easy.
I think that for NON breeding bullies it is a good idea to have a pro-creatinine/uria test done every 2 years to keep a good profile on your dog’s kidney function. For breeding bullies it should be done every year as to monitor clearance of renal disease (see our genetic disease page.)
Bull Terriers are unlike most breeds and will baffle you at times. They will love you infinitely. Enjoy your short time with them because when they are gone you will ever wonder how you survived life without one.
Bull Terrier Facts & Figures:
- There are quite a few famous Bull Terriers. For example, one appears in Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist, another in Toy Story, another in Babe, and many more.
- Nancy Drew has a pet Bully throughout the book series, written by Carolyn Keene. The dog’s name is Togo.
- Interestingly, Bull Terriers are known as one of the few dog breeds that suffer from OCD. This commonly manifests as tail chasing and digging.
- Juneau, in Canada, used a Bull Terrier as their official greeter. Patsy Ann, the Bull terrier, could tell when ships were approaching, even though she was deaf. She would then meet them at the docks.