Breed Group:
Terrier Dogs

Middle Age: 5 years

Geriatric Age: 11 years

Life Span: 11 to 14 years

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Bull Terrier Background & History

The Bull Terrier breed originated in the early 19th century, when a Bulldog was crossbred with–a now extinct–English Terrier. Pioneered by a man named James Hinks, in the middle of the century, a breeding call was set in motion to create all-white Bull Terriers. These Bull Terriers were nicknamed ‘White Cavalier’ due to their gentlemen like personalities and their performance in the dog fighting rings. These all-white Bull Terriers are still present today.

Towards the end of the 19th century, Bull Terriers were later imported to the US and had a quick surge of popularity in the states, in which they were recognized by the AKC in 1885. Later, during the beginning of the 19th century, they became glamorized by both celebrities, politicians, and the famous (from the likes of General S. Patton to actress Dolores Del Rio).

Nowadays, while they aren’t used for dog fighting anymore, their presence is still prominent in the states, and they rank in the middle of the AKC’s most popular dog list.

Bull Terrier Temperament & Personality

These independent, fiery little dogs have both spunk and charisma. They love to be the center of attention and are predominantly extroverted. A huge lover of people, they’ll fall in love with the family and immediately think of themselves as a member on par with anyone else in the house (that means all the other humans).

Not only are they spunky, but they’re also fearless. In their minds they’re as big as a Great Dane and as elegant as a white stallion. However, due to this confidence, they can also be incredibly stubborn, overly dignified, and even jealous of their owner if they don’t feel like they’re getting enough attention. That’s why early socialization and puppy classes are important. By keeping them constantly stimulated, trained, and around others, you negate the possibility that they become introverted or possessive. It also helps the housebreaking process moving forward, as sometimes they can be rather rebellious.

Another attribute to early-socialization is you can nip their ‘canine aggression’ in the butt. These dogs can be prone to be aggressive towards other dogs, and this needs to be addressed and mitigated from the get-go.

Training a Bull Terrier

Training a Bull Terrier isn’t as easy as one would think, given the size. These are dogs that require the same amount of time and devotion as a larger, working-class canine. If they’re left alone at home, they’ll have a field day. In other words, they’ll destroy everything. In fact they’re such chewers and random-object-eaters that many die from gastrointestinal blockage. It’s important to learn the kind of toys that can be left out, as some are not ‘Bull-Terrier-resistant.’

It’s important that with this dignified breed, you as the owner assert your leadership immediately. They don’t need a firm hand constantly hanging over them, but they need to know and respect you as the alpha. Bull Terriers respond best to positive reinforcement in the form of praise, treats, and playtime. In other words, the reward system.

Naturally bouncy and giddy–also smart enough to get into things they shouldn’t–they’ll need both mental and physical stimulation to keep them levelheaded. Don’t think that because they’re home dogs you’re not going to have to take them out much. Simply put, these dogs are a handful. That’s why puppy classes are a must, as they’re the most active in their earlier years.

In terms of housebreaking, crate training is often recommended. One it helps teach them obedience, and two it reinforces the idea and paradigm of the home place. It will also help stop their schemes around the house, and keep them from destroying things.

Bull Terrier Exercise Requirements

A Bull Terrier generally needs around thirty minutes of exercise a day, usually best accomplished with walks. However, they can be awfully energetic in their puppy years, and might need more than that (or simply some ample time spent running around the yard). Do note, while these canines are compact with muscle, they do tire and won’t be the best companions on long stretches of activity.

Being that these dogs are rather intelligent for a ‘home dog,’ they’ll need mental stimulation too. Use the time spent exercising to train the canine, play fetch, and allow them to try and ‘beat’ an interactive toy. What these dogs love is a challenge. Create that environment for them and you’ll have a properly stimulated little Bull Terrier that just wants to cuddle you into dreamland at night.

Also, if they don’t receive their exercise, they’ll be especially bouncy in the house. They have a tendency to jump off things and hurt themselves, or run too hard on slick surfaces. Properly exercising your Bull Terrier will help decrease the risks of injury and bad behavior.

Bull Terrier Lifespan & Longevity

A Bull Terrier typically lives anywhere from 11-14 years.

Bull Terrier Breed Popularity

The Bull Terrier currently ranks 57th in the AKC’s most popular list of 155 registered dog breeds. While a huge favorite and a very homey dog, their stubbornness and ineptitude in dealing with children keep them hovering in the midrange of popularity. Still, these bullheaded, lovable, energetic canines are a great fit for the household, and can be incredible companions. Some people simply can’t understand why they’re so popular, and other people love them for that very reason.

Bull Terrier Feeding Requirements

The recommended amount of food for a Bull Terrier is 1-3 cups of high-quality dry food per day, split into two even meals. These dogs can have fickle stomachs, so it may take a while before you can create a consistent, balanced diet that will pair well with their digestive system. Give them time and see if they prefer to eat more in the mornings or nights, if they’re glutinous about their food or if they reject it, then react accordingly.

As with all dogs, age, metabolism, weight, and activity-level are integral factors that need to be considered when creating their diet. If you find your Bull Terrier–which can be prone to obesity–is gaining weight, reduce their portions and up their exercise. Keep a keen eye on their frame as they adjust to their diet to avoid any rapid weight gain.

Bull Terrier Grooming Suggestions

The Bull Terrier’s single coat has short hair, is hard to the touch, and often glimmers beneath the sun (especially those that are all white). As a general rule of thumb, a White Bull Terrier is completely white in color. If there’s any other coloring, they’re considered Colored Bull Terriers (even if they’re dramatically whiter).

They don’t shed much. Meaning, maintaining their coats is a simple process. A weekly brushing with a rubber mitt or a curry brush should suffice. They are seasonal shedders, so when they’re losing some hair (it’s often little), add in a couple more brushing sessions during the week to mitigate the situation.

In terms of hygiene, brush their teeth 2-3 times a week to avoid tartar and bacteria buildups. Clip their nails once a month. Check their ears, nose, mouth, eyes, and skin for inflammation, redness, infection, or parasites. These processes should begin immediately, so to accustom your Bull Terrier to the grooming and checkup routine ongoing. They can be a bit timid at first, but ease them into the process by familiarizing them with the routine and your touch.

Are Bull Terriers Good with Children?

The bearish and sometimes aggressive characteristics of the Bull Terrier makes them a poor fit for a household with small children. Even if trained correctly, sometimes they’ll just play too rough, or they won’t understand childish antics and grow frustrated with their consistent badgering. This breed is better suited for older children that already understand how to approach and interact with a canine.

Of course, early-socialization is important when it comes to the canine and children’s relationship. By introducing them while they’re both in their youth, and developing strict guidelines for their interactions, you mitigate the poor behavior of the Bull Terrier, and up the chances that the dog is better apt to be around children.

Common Bull Terrier Health Problems

Bull Terriers are generally healthy and have life expectancies that are longer than most dogs. They’re not commonly prone to health implications or illness, but as with every breed, it’s important the breed can provide health clearances for the parents. These health clearances should be issued by certified establishments, and be available upon request. Bull Terrier health issues include:

Hereditary Nephritis: this is a condition often found in Bull Terriers that directly affect the kidney. It’s a disease that’s caused by an undeveloped or abnormal kidney. Hereditary nephritis is typically fatal, and the Bull Terrier will die before reaching three years of age. However, urine tests can be done at any time to determine the functionality of the kidney. These tests should be administered annually.

Deafness: Bull Terriers can often be affected by deafness in one or both ears. That’s why it’s important that they undergo a BAER test to be sure they’re not hearing impaired. This condition can be hereditary, thus it’s important that the parents are tested as well. Since this condition often only affects one ear, usually the Bull Terrier will adjust to their impaired hearing and live a normal life.

Heart Disease: these organ-related diseases seem to affect the Bull Terrier more than other dogs—although they’re not excessively prevalent. Similar to Hereditary nephritis, this condition occurs when the heart doesn’t develop properly, and eventually leads to failure. Heart murmurs are easily detected, which adds importance on the veterinarian checkups done for a Bull Terrier. Not only should their urine be tested, but EKGs can be done to determine the status of their cardiovascular system.

Other Resources

National breed website: Bull Terrier Club of America
Rescues: Bull Terrier Rescue

Health Issues Associated with this Breed: