Finding and Selecting the Perfect English Bulldog for your Family

Finding and Selecting the Perfect English Bulldog for your Family

The following is an excerpt from "The Complete Guide to English Bulldogs" by David Anderson. For more information visit the books Amazon Page.

Author Credit: David Anderson

If you have reached this part of the book, you are probably starting to feel really excited about the possibility of getting your Bulldog. Whether you were interested initially because of a mascot, a friend who has one, or were just curious, if you have been thinking that a Bulldog sounds perfect for your lifestyle, it is time to learn about what you need to look for in your Bulldog.

You have several important decisions to make, starting with deciding if you want a puppy or a rescue. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. It is also important to do as much research as possible before adopting either because one is a lot of time dedicated to training, while the other is a lot of time dedicated to getting to know the dog’s personality.

Adopting from a Breeder

All purebred dogs come with established health problems that are fairly well documented. Breeders should be well aware of the risks, and great breeders will be upfront about the problems. They will also keep track of their dogs so that they can provide details to prospective puppy parents about the genetic history of each puppy. Proper breeding and tracking of the parents can help to breed puppies that are far less likely to suffer from the ailments that are common in Bulldogs.

Finding a Breeder

Finding the right breeder takes a considerable amount of time because there are many considerations when looking for a purebred puppy. Take some time to research breeders online and see how they have ranked. You want to find someone who is fully invested in the puppies and is willing to dedicate time to helping you be the best puppy parent possible. Their interest is in finding a good home for their puppies. The interest that a breeder takes in the puppy after it leaves home is indicative of how well cared for the parents are and how healthy the puppy will likely be.

English bulldog sitting
Photo Courtesy – Guillermo Arango

The first thing you need to do when looking for the right breeder is to look for someone who clearly loves their dogs and is willing to put in the extra effort and attention to raise them right. They should begin some of the initial training too. If you find someone who posts regular pictures and information about the parents and the progress of the mother’s pregnancy and vet visits, that is a very good sign. The best breeders will not only talk about their dogs and the plans for the parents in the future, they will stay in contact with you after you take the puppy home and answer questions as they arise. These are the kinds of breeders who are likely to have waiting lists and posts about their puppies and the information their new families provide. The active interest in knowing about what happens to the puppies later shows that they care a great deal about each individual dog.

You will need to plan for hours of research and prepare a list of questions for each of the breeders you talk to. It is likely that for each breeder you call, the conversation will last about an hour. That is for each breeder you contact. If a breeder does not have time to talk and isn’t willing to talk with you later, you can cross them off of your list. After you have talked with each of your possible breeders, compare their answers.

The following are some questions to ask.

  • Ask each breeder about the required health tests and certifications they have for their puppies. These points are detailed further in the next section, so make sure to check off the available tests and certifications for each breeder. If they don’t have all of the tests and certifications, you may want to remove them from consideration. Good breeders not only cover all of these points, they offer a guarantee against the most harmful genetic issues.
  • Make sure that the breeder always takes care of all of the initial health requirements in the first few weeks through the early months, particularly shots. Puppies require that certain procedures be started before they leave their mother to ensure they are healthy. Vaccinations and worming typically start around six weeks after the puppies are born, then need to be continued every three weeks. By the time your puppy is old enough to come home, the puppy should be well into the procedures, or even completely through the first phases of these important health care needs.
  • Ask if the puppy is required to be spayed or neutered before reaching a certain age of maturity. It is possible that you may need to sign a contract that says you will have the procedure done, which you will need to plan for prior to getting your puppy. Typically, these procedures are done in the puppies’ best interest.
  • Find out if the breeder is part of a Bulldog organization or group. Many of these have minimum requirements that must be met for all of their members.
  • Ask about the first phases of your puppy’s life, such as how the breeder plans to care for the puppy during those first few months. They should be able to provide a lot of detail, and they should do this without sounding as though they are irritated that you want to know. They will also let you know how much training you can expect to be done prior to the puppy’s arrival in your home so you can plan to take over as soon as the puppy arrives. It is possible that the breeder typically starts housetraining (in which case, you are very lucky if you can get on the wait list with them). You will also want to find out if they can provide information on how the puppies have been performing and how quickly they have picked up on the training. You want to be able to pick up from where the breeder left off once your Bulldog reaches your home.
  • See what kind of advice the breeder gives about raising your Bulldog puppy. They should be more than happy to help guide you to doing what is best for your dog because they will want the puppies to live happy, healthy lives even after leaving the breeder’s home. You want a caring breeder who is more interested in the health of the puppies than in the money they make. Yes, you could end up paying a considerable amount of money, but you should also get recommendations, advice, and additional care after the puppy arrives at your home. Breeders who show a lot of interest in the dog’s well-being and are willing to answer questions during the dog’s entire life span are likely to breed puppies that are healthy.
  • How many breeds do they manage a year? How many sets of parents do the breeders have? Puppies can take a lot of time and attention, and the mother should have some down time between pregnancies. Learn about the breeder’s standard operations to find out if they are taking care of the parents and treating them like valuable family members and not as strictly a way to make money.

Health Tests and Certifications

This one is critical for the health of your puppy, and your breeder should be able to provide you details about the testing conducted prior to a puppy being placed. Benjamin De Jesus of Champion Bullies put it succinctly: “Genetic health issues can be minimized by getting a Bulldog puppy that comes from a breeder that breeds ethically and sticks to Bulldog standards. A good breeder will never breed a sire or dam that has health issues!” If a breeder does not give you this information, do not adopt from that breeder.

To start, you need to know what kinds of health problems Bulldogs tend to have. The following are the health tests required by the Bulldog Canine Health Information Center & Ambassador for Health Program:

  • Patella Luxation (can be done through OFA)
  • Cardiac Evaluation (can be done through OFA)
  • Tracheal Hypoplasia (can be done through OFA)

They recommend the following tests:

  • Hip and elbow dysplasia evaluations (OFA evaluation)
  • Thyroid (can be done through OFA)
  • Eye examination by someone who is a member of the ACVO Ophthalmologist (they should be registered with either the )
  • Autoimmune Thyroiditis
  • Congenital Deafness
  • Hyperuricosuria
  • Cystinuria

Breeders who are members of a Bulldog association, club, or organization are already showing that they are serious about ensuring that their dogs and puppies are healthy. Being a member of a Bulldog organization requires that a set of requirements are being met, so it shows that they are reliable and predictable in the way they treat the puppies.

For more information, you can visit OFA.org. Bulldogs that are not properly bred can suffer from many ailments, so you need to take the time to find a breeder who tests their breeding Bulldogs and the puppies.

Contracts and Guarantees

Contracts and guarantees are meant to protect the puppies as much as they are meant to protect you.

If a breed has a contract that must be signed, make sure you read through it completely and are willing to meet all of the requirements prior to signing it. The contracts tend to be fairly easy to understand and comply with, but you should be aware of all of the facts before you agree to anything. Beyond putting down the money for the puppy, signing the contract says that you are serious about how you plan to take care of the puppy to the best of your abilities by meeting the minimum requirements set forth by the breeder. Since they focus on your behavior toward taking care of your dog, it is a good sign that breeders want to verify that you are serious about taking care of your puppy. It is probable that the contract will include spaying or neutering the puppy once it matures. It may also say that the breeder will retain the registration papers of the puppy, although you can get a copy of it.

English bulldog handled by owner
Photo Courtesy – Chanda Barnes

The guarantee states what health conditions the breeder guarantees for their puppies. This typically includes details of the dog’s health and recommendations on the next steps of the puppy’s care once it leaves the breeder’s home. Guarantees may also provide schedules to ensure that the health care started by the breeder is continued by the new puppy parent. In the event that a major health concern is found, the puppy will need to be returned to the breeder. The contract will also explain what is not guaranteed. The guarantee tends to be very long (sometimes longer than the contract), and you should read it thoroughly before you sign the contract. Guarantees are fairly common with Bulldogs because of how old the breed is. The guarantees state what the breeder is guaranteeing with your new dog. This usually includes information on the dog’s health and recommendations on what the pet owner’s next steps should be. For example, it may recommend that you take your puppy to the vet within two days of arriving at your home to ensure that the dog is as healthy as it is believed to be. In the event that a major health concern is found, the puppy will need to be returned to the breeder. It will also explain what is not guaranteed.

In addition to the price of getting your dog, Bulldog contracts ensure certain behavior by the new human parent of a Bulldog puppy. Bulldog contracts usually come with a requirement to have the dog spayed or neutered once the dog reaches maturity (typically six months). The contract may also contain naming requirements, health details, and a stipulation for what will happen if you can no longer take care of the canine (the dog usually goes back to the breeder). They also include information on what will happen if you are negligent or abusive.

Puppy Genetics – The Parents

Good breeders always take the parents’ history very seriously and track vet visits and other data points. This is particularly true if the breeder is part of an organization. You will want to review each of the parent’s complete history to understand what traits your puppy is likely to inherit. Pay attention to their learning abilities, temperament, clinginess, and any personality trait you consider important.

This could take a while, but it is always well worth the time you spend studying and planning for the puppy. The more you know about the parents, the better prepared you will be for your puppy. The great breeders will have stories and details about the parents so that you can read about them at your leisure, as well as getting a good feel for the breeders.

Selecting Your Puppy

You want to have a visual of your puppy before you bring your new family member home. See if the breeder will provide videos and pictures so that you can check out your puppy after it is born and as it grows in the first few weeks after birth. You also want to get any data on your dog’s vet visits and shots.

Selecting a Bulldog puppy is pretty much the same as picking any kind of puppy. A lot of it is entirely up to you and what you want in a dog. The experience can be highly entertaining and enjoyable – and ultimately very difficult. As much fun as it is, you do need to be careful and serious so that you are not swayed by traits that you may find bothersome later.

As you look over the puppies, notice how well each puppy plays with the others. This is a great indicator of just how well your puppy will react to any pets you already have at home.

English bulldog sleeping
Photo Courtesy – Kirsty Hazell

You also need to look at the puppies as a whole. If you notice that a majority of the puppies exhibit aggressive behavior or seem to tend toward being mistrustful, you may not want to select a puppy from the litter. Similarly, if the puppies appear to be terrified of you, such as keeping their tails tucked or shrinking away, that is an indication of the kinds of issues you may encounter with your puppy and training. What you want is a litter that is full of friendly puppies, even if they do not start to greet you immediately. Sometimes they just want to play with their siblings or figure out what is happening before acknowledging you.

Next, notice if there is at least one puppy that is very eager to meet you. Many people take that as a sign that the puppy is the right one for their family. However, that is not always the case. Keep in mind that the puppy or puppies that greet you are more forward and demanding than the ones that sit back and analyze the situation first.

The puppies that hang back may be afraid, or, more likely, they just want to understand the situation before they get involved. They are not the alpha types that their eager siblings are. These are your more patient and tame puppies, ones that may be easier to train.

Pick the puppy that exhibits the personality traits you want in your dog. If you want a forward, friendly, excitable dog, the first puppy to greet you may be the one you seek. If you want a dog that will think things through and let others get more attention, this is mellower dog that may be better for your home.

Adopting an Older Dog

The one thing that is universal about puppies is that they are a lot of work. If you miss a day or two of training it may feel like you are back to square one. Older Bulldogs can offer you a way to get your Bulldog without having to dedicate several years to training. You can find older Bulldogs in shelters, rescues, and even from breeders. Breeders will take back puppies if a person does not treat the dog well or if a person can no longer take care of the Bulldog for some reason.

Benefits

Older dogs give you more immediate gratification. You don’t have to go through those sleepless nights with the new puppy or the endless frustration that comes with early types of training. Older Bulldogs let you get right into enjoying your dog as you go out on adventures together. All intelligent dogs require a lot of time and attention as puppies. Bypassing that is a major part of the appeal of older dogs.

English bulldog walking
Photo Courtesy – Kathleen Marks

Older Bulldogs not only have the basic training already done, many of them already know tricks, so you can start exploring the world of what they know and what they still have to learn. This is an incredibly rewarding, funny, and enjoyable experience, just like getting to know a new friend. You can also start your own training. This part is nearly as much fun because the older Bulldogs have the attention span and ability to learn incredibly fast (if they are in the mood), and you will be able to recognize when they are ready to learn and when they are disinterested in the activity.

Better still, they can help you start improving yourself. If you want to get more exercise, an older Bulldog will help you get started immediately (instead of trapping you in the home trying to teach him the basics). You also have a wide range in possible activities, and your Bulldog will be more than happy to join you as you explore new places or get a new look at old ones.

Adult Bulldogs are ideal for individuals and families who do not have the time or patience to work with a puppy.

Rescues

The Bulldog clubs have their own rescue groups, in addition to their own breeders. Bulldogs that you get through the organizations and breeders have most of the necessary information that is required to sell puppies, meaning you will have the medical history and vaccination information on the dog (although if the human parent was negligent or abusive, the medical history and information may not have been tracked while the dog was with them).

It is very easy to contact the organization to see about adopting an adult Bulldog. They will require you to apply for the adoption simply because they want to ensure that the dog gets a great home – a place where the dog will be able to live out the rest of his or her days. They will also try to match you up with an adult dog that is ideal for the environment you offer and the lifestyle you live.

Warning about Socialization

Bulldogs that are not properly socialized at an early age can show signs of aggression as they age, and this may make them unsuitable for your home. For a breed with the kind of history that Bulldogs have, you have to be very cautious about rescuing a Bulldog without having any history on the dog. You do not know how it was socialized or what kind of experiences it has been through. This can make them challenging in the beginning, and you will need to dedicate as much time to monitoring your Bulldog as you would a puppy. They are going to be nervous, and that increases the chance that they will be aggressive. Depending on what they have been through, there are situations that you will definitely want to avoid with your Bulldog.

Introduction to Children and Other Pets

Introducing a rescue Bulldog to your home is a bit different than introducing a puppy because you probably don’t have a complete history of the dog. As personable as they are genetically, if a Bulldog is not properly socialized, introducing a rescue to children and pets can very risky.

Rescues may not have much or any history on a Bulldog, in which case you will not know exactly what to expect when you bring your Bulldog home.

As Benjamin De Jesus of Champion Bullies said, “Adults may or may not get along with other dogs. It all depends on what environment the Bulldog was previously raised in, something you will never know if you get a dog from a rescue or shelter.” If the people taking care of the dog prior to you adopting it cannot tell you about the dog’s past or how the Bulldog has interacted with other dogs and animals in the shelter, you probably do not want to bring the Bulldog home if you have children and other dogs. It is very risky if a Bulldog has had negative experiences. These dogs are better suited to a single person or a couple without pets and who have the time to dedicate to learning about the dog and helping to socialize it as much as possible. It definitely takes as much patience and understanding as with a puppy, but you also have to be constantly aware of your surroundings. If you can’t do this, look for a rescue Bulldog with a known history that is accustomed to a life like the one you can provide.

To read more from "The Complete Guide to English Bulldogs" by David Anderson, or purchase on Amazon, visit the link below:

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