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Norwich Bulletin - 9/25/2005

The Charm Of Bulldogs

He looks fierce as he stands there with his bowed legs and a grumpish look on his wrinkly face, but the truth is that the Bulldog's intimidating look, is nothing like the dog's actual personality. The Bulldog couldn't be sweeter!

The breed was actually created for the purpose of fighting and baiting bulls during the Sixteenth Century, and it continued to the mid Nineteenth Century. The dogs were trained to tease and torment the bulls to get them ready for bullfights. This wasn't a great job for the dog as many were killed or seriously injured by the bull's sharp horns or strong hooves.

In 1835 England became enlightened and made bullfights illegal. This left the Bulldog with no use and the breed risked fading into oblivion. But thanks to breeders who believed that the dog's unique appearance and strong devotion and loyalty to humans warranted preservation, a serious breeding program was developed to change the dog to fit into a different part of society. In 1859 Dog Shows began to be held in England and the breeders saw their chance to get the popularity of the dog back again. It worked.

One of the problems with the early breedings of Bulldogs was that the aggressive personality needed to face bulls, now had to change if the breed was going to survive as a family companion. Breeders have worked hard in the last 150 plus years to improve and mellow the temperament of this breed into a docile, friendly and dignified dog.

And yet, they have managed to keep the breed's characteristics that made him a one of a kind type of dog, i.e. the massive head and jowls, wrinkled face, broad shoulders, sleek coat and above all, its courageous spirit.

The biggest change in the breed's personality is that nowadays the Bulldog would rather sleep than pick a fight. They are also the perfect size for families because they are big enough to handle small children and yet small enough that they won't be knocking down those same small children. However, breeders also caution that as good as these dogs are with kids, they need to be socialized with children at a young age and the children need to be socialized as to dogs too!

There are definitely health and grooming issues to be taken into consideration if you want a Bulldog. These canines can be prone to breathing problems, skin infections, eyelid deformities and degenerative hip, knee and shoulder diseases. So as wonderful as the dog's personality may be, you need to be aware of potential health issues which many times do not become apparent until the dog is older. So owning a Bulldog could mean large medical costs down the road.

To minimize skin problems, a Bulldog should be bathed weekly and have a daily face wash. Using diaper rash cream in skin wrinkles to repel moisture is also a good idea and their noses should be kept moist. It is definitely a good idea to get your pet Bulldog from a show breeder as these are the people that are breeding for health and personality - two things that you want to make sure you get in a Bulldog. Remember, sick or aggressive animals do not do well in a show ring so a mellow temperament and good skin are a must for a show breeder!

Bulldogs love food and it is important that they not be allowed to get overweight. Their life span is only about ten years and if they are obese, they can have more health problems earlier on in their life. You want to give your Bulldog exercise, but you also have to be careful in hot weather.

Bulldogs are brachycephalic, which means they have a short face and that pushed in nose makes breathing a little bit harder. A Bulldog is extremely sensitive to heat and can quickly succomb to heatstroke with disastrous results. If you are going to have a Bulldog, you need to have air conditioning in the summertime. A kiddie pool and dishes of ice are also welcome extras for the hot months.

A Bulldog has a typical docile nature, but remember that they are 40 or 50 pounds of low to the ground pure muscle and they need some level of training and discipline. Some dogs can become aggressive and it is usually due to environment rather than genetics. Bulldogs are a dominant breed by nature, and so they require early training (puppy classes) and socialization in order for their owners to comfortably handle them.

Bulldogs may appear slow, but in truth, they are very smart and trainable as long as owners remember that they have physical limits and the length of training sessions may have to be shorter than those for other breeds. Once they learn the behavior you are seeking to teach them, they have excellent memory!

Although they look fierce, the Bulldogs friendly nature and quiet tendencies make them a poor choice for a guard dog. They don't bark much, are very loving and just want to be with their people, be it in an apartment or the country. These dogs are happy to be at home and really do like couch potato owners! As long as you are not the extremely active jogger who wants their dog with them while exercising, a Bulldog can pretty much fit into any lifestyle.

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