We’ve all seen the photos. The gorgeous, lithe blond with flowing locks, accompanied by an Afghan Hound or Golden Retriever whose looks mirror hers. The stubby, pugnacious-looking little guy accompanied by, of course, a Pug. And the stubborn, assertive type, stocky and muscular, walking a…….wait for it……Bulldog.
Whether or not you look like you’re dog, its safe to say that if you have a bulldog, you already know that they have one of the most unique personalities in the canine world. And as enjoyable as they can be, the breed does come with some special challenges.
For starters, training a bulldog isn’t a task for the faint of heart. Nor is the job of interpretation; bulldogs are far more clever than they let on, and their people-like ways make it easy to forget that they’re actually dogs.
On the plus side, rewards are always remembered, and most of the training comes down to praising and rewarding the dog, and establishing a link between what you want and the reward.
First things first, though – getting to know your dog’s personality will make subsequent work and training much easier.
The bulldog is very stubborn by nature, and selective deafness is a prominent trait. Bulldogs are one of those “show me” breeds – they tend to need to know there’s something in it for them if you want them to do something, and they also need to know you’re going to get what you want as long as it’s reasonable.
For instance, if you want the dog off the sofa because it’s dinner time, consider it done. But if the dog needs to go out and its raining, selective deafness can quickly kick in. While it’s not very appropriate to train dogs as if they were humans, the description of bulldogs as 3-year old toddlers in dog suits can be both accurate and appropriate.
Vexing though this can be, its also a huge part of what makes them lovable. The most important element of the relationship is authority; you have to be in charge, and bulldogs need to know where they can and can’t go, when play is too rough, and so on. The operative rule here is don’t encourage an 8-week old puppy to do anything you wouldn’t be able to cope with from a fully grown 50LB mass of muscle!!
And then there’s the sulk. Yes, bulldogs sulk, and the truly confusing corollary to this is that sometimes you’ll have no idea what you did to upset them. A bulldog that feels he’s been hard done will literally sit staring at the floor or the wall, and interrupting the sulk is near on impossible. They love to be the center of attention, which is quite endearing when they’re puppies, but our amusement can also encourage the behavior, so its important to understand the pluses and minuses that come with the sulk.
Another unique quirk of bulldog behavior is speech. All right, not literal speech, but bulldogs like to talk to their people, and sometimes this can be misunderstood as growling, especially if they have a toy, because bulldogs will also growl to invite you to play. Consider it part of the lingo; bulldogs growl at each other when they play and they shout if they don’t like what you’ve done to them, so its very important for you to take a bulldog Berlitz course so you don’t misunderstood this behavior as aggressive.
On the plus side, bulldogs are very quick learners, and in some instances they remember things for years. Two years ago I put the remains of a chewed up toy on top of the fridge in the kitchen, and right until the day my dog thought it was still up there, to the point where he’d sit barking at the fridge to give up his favorite toy. The toy was long since trashed, of course, but the flip side of this kind of association can simplify bulldog training considerably. And there are times when you’ll see behaviors you wouldn’t believe was possible from a dog unless you’d actually seen them yourself.
Having noted all this, the bulldog’s people-like personality is what makes them so lovable. They’re rarely nasty, and they’ll put up with an awful lot from their humans. Bulldogs are also happy simply to be part of the family, they’re consummate listeners, and there isn’t a better hot water bottle in the world when you want something warm and comforting to lean on you. Bulldogs also have exquisite radar; it’s not unusual for them to know when you need a hug or you’re just feeling low and miserable.
Once you’ve been sucked in by the bulldog’s personality, though, it’s easy to forget that they not only have the most appalling manners, but that they’ve managed to get you to overlook them. The various “piggy noises” that emerge from various bulldog orifices will either be something you learn to live with or something you can’t stand.
Bulldog Gas and Flatulence
Flatulents are a problem in bulldogs. While it can be linked to diet, in most cases its one of many things on a seemingly endless list entitled “It’s A Bulldog Thing.” Farting and belching are a regular part of the bulldog background soundtrack, and believe it or not you’ll eventually learn to find snoring as comforting as a ticking clock that becomes essential to your own sleep habits.
And…there’s more. Bulldogs can be noisy and messy eaters, and for some reason known only to them they never swallow the last mouthful of water, preferring instead to trail it around the floor. This makes spotting them easy, but it can become a chore to be continually drying the floor or wiping your bulldog’s chin.
Bulldog Companionship And Need For Love
One of the most important things to remember about your bulldog is the need for human companionship. They don’t fare well in a kennel environment, nor are they outdoor dogs. They’re hardcore house dogs that adore furniture, particularly when given their own, as some bulldog owners are wont to do. They’re also relentless bed hogs, so if you value your privacy, get a big dog bed. Bulldogs are notorious for taking up an entire double bed, pushing you to the edge and pinning the duvet under them so they get all of it and you get none.
Back on the positive side, if you’re not a fan of dog noises in general, there are several you probably won’t hear from your bulldog. They generally don’t whine, and barking is uncommon, although some do make a kind of “ooof” that gets reasonably close.
The arrival of a second dog that does bark can often lead to hilarious results, most notably in the look of surprise on your bulldog’s face when the companion dog “teaches” the bark. (“Hey, I can do this, too!”) There’s another sound that’s more or less a seal bark, along with a low howl that seems to be the bulldog equivalent of whining. Shouting is yet another unique form of bulldog communication that can either be a warning or play enthusiasm, so educate yourself accordingly.
Bulldogs and Loud Noises
Noises can be loud and confusing when bulldogs play. At times they sound like an organized dog fight, because of the constant growling. And bulldogs are one of the few breeds that know what to do with a football, which is handy for football-crazed adults, children and those interested in a new canine form of fantasy football.
Aggression toward people is relatively rare for bulldogs, but not unheard of. Bulldogs know full well that their jaw strength is far greater than that of most breeds, so as long as the aggression hasn’t progressed too far they tend to exercise remarkable restraint in this area, partly because of their nature, and partly because biting is mostly defensive in almost all dogs.
Aggression towards other dogs, though, is a different matter entirely. Bulldogs were originally bred and trained to fight and protect, and the differences in their jaw and facial structure can make their expressions harder than usual for other dogs to read. When a bulldog gets in a “fight or flight” scenario with another dog, having the bulldog choose the fight option can be a very nasty piece of business. And the danger potential is compounded by the bulldog’s superb memory; bad experiences with other dogs tend to get imprinted into the memory circuitry for a very long time.
Jealousy is a closely related issue. Bulldogs will fight over human attention, food and toys, so its important to watch multiple bulldogs carefully in situations where this is a potential issue. This is especially true if you or someone you know has a bitch in heat, and due diligence caution should also be exercised with dominant males.
As is the case with many breeds, the language of aggression can be quite complex in bulldogs. Some will simply pretend to be aggressive, as daft as this sounds, because they’ll remember the time that a growl meant they could keep their toy or their sofa. Bulldogs are probably more territorial than most breeds due to their guarding/fighting background, and growling that does represent aggression can generalize very quickly into other situations.
With that in mind, its important to never leave any dog unattended with a child, especially small children who push a dog’s boundaries and stress threshold more than most adults because they don’t realize the consequences. It’s easy for a screaming child to confuse a dog, for instance, so its important to teach kids as soon as possible NOT to treat the bulldog like the cuddly stuffed animals they appear to be.
The Lighter Side of A Bulldog
On the lighter side, one of the bulldog’s favorite past times is what we call “The Upside Down Moment”. Flat on his back, wriggling his body so his back rubs on the floor and making the strangest noise you’ve ever heard – they love it!
The bulldog also has a very unique way of releasing energy, which I refer to as the “wall of death.” This is exactly what it sounds like; it usually occurs in the evening and comes out of the clear blue when your bulldog takes off like he has a rocket up his backside, literally bouncing off the furniture, running around the table and in and out the door. It’s usually wise to step back and stand still when this occurs to keep from getting flipped upside down or otherwise injured.
While the “wall of death” definitely sounds odd to the point of strangeness, the list of phobias bulldogs can display can be downright bizarre. This is probably because bulldogs are set so low to the ground and are so prone to territorial and protection behavior, which makes them liable to think they’re being charged or threatened by a wide array of household appliances and flotsam and jetsam.
Our list includes bin liners, empty carrier bags, tin foil, baking trays, ironing boards, mops and brooms, vacuums, lawn mowers, wheelbarrows and washing machines, but it can include anything that has recently changed position in your house. Feel free to add accordingly, especially if you choose to rearrange your furniture, a task you should undertake at your own peril.
The Cutest Things About Bulldogs
Finally, no exploration of the bulldog personality would be complete without a brief reminder of one of their most prominent and cutest traits. Their strongest “drive” and characteristic may be their ability to unconditionally love everyone they come in contact with; there’s nothing more enjoyable, endearing and heartwarming than a bulldog trying so hard to wag his or her tail that the entire back end wiggles along with it.