An American bulldog is a much livelier and athletic addition to your family than his English counterpart who loves to doze the day away. This muscular chap is much more affectionate than his appearance might suggest, but be prepared to put in some work with him to prevent behavioral problems.
In general, the American bulldog is loyal, brave and dependable with a reputation for performing heroic feats to protect his owners. He likes a strong pack leader who is firm and confident with him. He socializes well with other people, although he may show aggression to other dogs unless you make it clear to him that this is not acceptable. He does need a fair amount of physical and mental stimulation through walking, training and play or he might become harder to handle.
The American Bulldog Association recommends testing a bulldog pup's temperament and drives before you buy one. Apart from sociability, the key drives are prey, defense, food and fighting. If you want your bulldog primarily as a pet, then you should look for a pup with balanced drives. However, owners who want an American bulldog as a guard dog, or one they can enter in canine sports competitions should look for a dog with a stronger prey drive. When viewing a litter, the puppies should be excited to see you. Pups that are indifferent or fearful of you are not suitable pets, according to the Association.
An adult American bulldog weighs about 100 pounds, so if he shows signs of aggression you need to nip it in the bud quickly. He isn't born aggressive, but if he feels fear, or isn't treated right, as a puppy he is more likely to show aggression in similar situations later on. His training and socialization process should start at six weeks while he is still with his mother and siblings. When you get him home, always avoid using harsh discipline with him. Yelling at him can create an aggressive attitude. From 14 weeks start socializing him with other people and other dogs to remove any fear of strangers which might trigger an aggressive response. If you feel your pup is developing aggressive tendencies, contact a specialist dog trainer for advice and classes.
Obedience And Barking
An American bulldog takes well to training, but there are a few key things you need to remember. He likes consistency, firmness and reassurance. He doesn't much like it if you waffle when giving him orders, or forget to give him the exact command words you taught him. He won't react badly, but he may just choose to forget everything you've taught him and revert to pre-training behavior. You also need to make sure that when you train him in certain command words that your sweetie uses exactly the same ones. Also, pretty much all dogs bark, but bulldogs do like to express themselves this way for all sorts of reasons. You'll never get him to stop completely, but if you decide he is barking excessively, seek advice from a trainer about ways to restrict barking to when it is really necessary, such as alerting you to a real threat.
Based in London, Eleanor McKenzie has been writing lifestyle-related books and articles since 1998. Her articles have appeared in the "Palm Beach Times" and she is the author of numerous books published by Hamlyn U.K., including "Healing Reiki" and "Pilates System." She holds a Master of Arts in informational studies from London University.