Bull Terrier Dog Breed Information
Bull Terrier Dog: The Bull Terrier dates to approximately 1835 and was probably created by crossing a Bulldog with the now-extinct white English Terrier. These “bull and terrier” dogs were later crossed with Spanish Pointers to increase their size. They were known as gladiators for their prowess in the dog-fighting ring.
In 1860, fanciers of the bull and terrier, in particular, a man named James Hinks, set about creating an all-white dog. The striking animals became fashionable companions for gentlemen and were nicknamed “White Cavalier” because of their courage in the dog-fighting ring and their courtliness toward people. While they’re no longer used for fighting, white Bull Terriers still go by that sobriquet to this day, a tribute to their sweet disposition (which of course is shared by colored Bull Terriers).
The first Bull Terrier registered by the American Kennel Club (AKC) was Nellie II in 1885. Twelve years later, in 1897, the Bull Terrier Club of America was formed. The colored Bull Terrier was made a separate variety in 1936, and the Miniature Bull Terrier became a separate breed in 1992.
Well-known fans of Bull Terriers include General George S. Patton, whose white Bull Terrier Willie followed him everywhere; actress Dolores Del Rio; author John Steinbeck; and President Woodrow Wilson. One well-known Bull Terrier is Patsy Ann, who greeted each ship that docked in Juneau, Alaska during the 1930s. Beloved by tourists, she was photographed more often than Rin Tin Tin, and in 1934 she was named the official greeter of Juneau. Today, Patsy Ann’s spirit lives on in a bronze statue that was commissioned and placed on the Juneau wharf in 1992.
A Bull Terrier appeared in Sheila Burnford’s book “The Incredible Journey,” as well as the first film version of it, but that film didn’t have the same effect on the breed as Budweiser’s 1980-era commercials starring Bull Terrier Spuds Mackenzie. When the ad campaign aired, the breed’s popularity soared.
A colored Bull Terrier made history in 2006 when Ch. Rocky Top’s Sundance Kid (Rufus to his friends) became the first colored Bull Terrier to win Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show. The only white Bull Terrier to win the prestigious event was Ch. Haymarket Faultless in 1918. The breed’s appearance has changed quite a bit — for the better, breeders say — since then.
Today, Bull Terriers rank 61st in popularity among the breeds and varieties registered by the American Kennel Club, up from 85th in 1996. Miniature Bull Terriers rank 129th.
English Bull Terrier Puppies
There is a Standard Bull Terrier (medium-sized) and a Miniature Bull Terrier (mid-sized) that are considered separate breeds. But they have similar temperaments: sweet-tempered, yet also rowdy and clownish, full of fire and determination. This muscular, forceful, vigorous dog does best with active families, for he has a high energy level that comes in spurts and bursts.
He needs frequent brisk walks, occasional vigorous games of ball, and total immersion in the family, i.e. LOTS of companionship and interactive play sessions. If ignored, Standard and Miniature Bull Terriers will become bored, and mischief will surely follow. Youngsters who are neglected can be especially rambunctious: happily devouring your furniture and excavating great caverns in your yard. Most Bullies greet strangers with enthusiastic bounding (often knocking the guest over) and face kissing. However, aggression and timidity are present in some lines, and early socialization is important to develop a stable attitude.
An English Bull Terrier should not be kept with another dog of the same sex, and cats may or may not be safe. Bull Terriers can be very possessive of their food – do not allow another pet or a child to approach a Bull Terrier when he is eating.
At some point, if you have not raised this breed with consistent leadership, he will likely challenge your ability to control his actions. Such dominance attempts must be met with calm assertiveness. Keep training sessions brief but frequent to keep drilling home the commands he needs to learn.
Some Bull Terriers are enthusiastic “talkers” who grunt and mumble to themselves; it’s quite amusing.
Miniature English Bull Terrier
If I was considering a Bull Terrier, I would be most concerned about…
- Providing enough exercise and mental stimulation. Bull Terriers, whether Standard or Miniature, are very active dogs who need lots of opportunities to vent their high energy. Otherwise, they will become rambunctious and bored – which they usually express by destructive chewing. Bored Bull Terriers are famous for chewing through drywall, ripping the stuffing out of sofas, and turning your yard into a moonscape of giant craters.
- Bounciness. Bull Terriers (up to about three years old) can be bulls in a china shop. When they romp and jump, they do so with great vigor, and things can go flying. If you have small children, or if you or anyone who lives with you is elderly or infirm, I do not recommend Bull Terriers, especially those of Standard size. (Unless you happen to find a calm adult dog for adoption.) The temptation to play roughly is simply too strong in young Bull Terrier.
- Providing enough socialization. Many Bull Terriers are friendly and love everyone, but some have protective instincts toward strangers. All Bull Terriers need extensive exposure to friendly people so they learn to recognize the normal behaviors of “good guys.” Then they can recognize the difference when someone acts abnormally. Without careful socialization, they may be suspicious of everyone, which is very difficult to live with.
- Potential animal aggression. Many Bull Terriers will not tolerate another dog of the same sex. Some won’t tolerate the opposite sex, either. Many Bull Terriers have strong instincts to chase and seize cats and other fleeing creatures.
- The strong temperament. Bull Terriers have an independent mind of their own and are not pushovers to raise and train. They can be manipulative, and many are willful, obstinate, and dominant (they want to be the boss) and will make you prove that you can make them do things. You must show them, through absolute consistency, that you mean what you say.
To teach your Bull Terrier to listen to you, I recommend “Respect Training.” My Bull Terrier Training Page discusses the program you need.
- Shedding and irritating hairs. Bull Terriers shed much more than you might think. Their short rough hairs stick tenaciously to your clothing and furnishings. In addition, people with sensitive skin may develop a rash from contact with the harsh hairs.
- Potential health problems. From heart disease to kidney disease to eye disease to deafness, Bull Terriers are risky in the health department. Read Bull Terrier Health.
- Legal liabilities. An English Bull Terrier is a completely different breed from an American Pit Bull Terrier, but they are often lumped together by public officials and the media as potentially dangerous dogs. Thus, English Bull Terriers may be targeted for future “banning” in certain areas, or refusal of homeowner insurance policies. In this day and age, the legal liabilities of owning any breed that looks intimidating and has a fighting heritage should be seriously considered. People are quicker to sue if such a dog does anything even remotely questionable.
Frankly, most Bull Terriers, both Standard and Miniature, are “too much dog” for the average household to manage.
Miniature English Bull Terrier For Care
The Bull Terrier needs someone at home during the day. Leaving a Bull Terrier to entertain himself is about as smart as leaving a creative and intelligent child unsupervised in a room full of explosives. For one thing, they’ll eat just about anything, and many die from gastrointestinal blockages that aren’t discovered until it’s too late. Rawhide toys can be especially problematic. Bull Terrier-proof your home!
A Bull Terrier needs half an hour to an hour of physical and mental exercise daily. He’ll enjoy going for walks, chasing a ball, or testing his wits against an interactive toy. He’s also capable of competing in agility and obedience trials. Be sure to always walk him on the leash so he won’t run after other animals or go off exploring on his own.
Bull Terrier puppies are bouncy and into everything. High-impact exercise can damage growing bones, so until your puppy’s full-grown, at 12 to 18 months of age, beware of bone-jarring activities such as jumping on and off the furniture, playing Frisbee, or running on slick wood or tile floors. These can all stress or injure the still-developing joints and ligaments.
Early and consistent training is essential. You must be able to provide leadership without resorting to physical force or harsh words. A Bull Terrier isn’t the easiest breed to train, and you’ll be most successful if you appeal to his love of play with positive reinforcement techniques while still remaining firm and consistent in what you expect.
Bull Terriers can be difficult to housetrain. Follow the housetraining program closely; the crate method is best. A crate will also prevent your Bull Terrier from destroying your belongings or otherwise getting into trouble.
Bull Terriers are suspicious of strangers and can be aggressive toward other animals (especially dogs of the same sex) and people. Take him to puppy socialization classes as early as possible, as well as to dog-friendly public places so he can get used to many different situations, people, and dogs. He should also learn to welcome visitors to your home.
English Bull Terrier Puppy
The Bull Terrier should do well on high-quality dog food, whether commercially manufactured or home-prepared with your veterinarian’s supervision and approval. Any diet should be appropriate to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior). Bull Terriers need a good diet that includes natural calcium, especially when they are youngsters. One expert breeder gives the dogs a little yogurt or whole milk in the morning and in the evening before bed. She also recommends adding some naturally high-calcium food like broccoli to their diet when they are going through periods of rapid growth and bone development.
Some dogs are prone to getting overweight, so watch your dog’s calorie consumption and weight level. Treats can be an important aid in training, but giving too many can cause obesity. Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times.