This sweet and gentle dog belies his "sourmug" nickname.
- Dog Breed Group
- Companion Dogs
- Life Span
- 8 to 12 years
Adaptabilitybased on 6 ratings
Trainabilitybased on 6 ratings
Health & Groomingbased on 6 ratings
All-around friendlinessbased on 4 ratings
Exercise needsbased on 4 ratings
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Bulldogs originally were used to drive cattle to market and to compete in a bloody sport called bullbaiting. Today, they're gentle companions who love kids. A brief walk and a nap on the sofa is just this dog breed's speed.
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What do England, the U.S. Marines, Yale University, University of Georgia, and dozens of other schools all have in common? The dog they have all chosen to represent their tough, tenacious characters. That dog? Why, it's the Bulldog, of course!
Sometimes called the English Bulldog or the British Bulldog, the breed originated in England and has a bloody past. It descended from fighting mastiffs that were brought to the British Isles by the Romans and was used in a bloody sport called bullbaiting. Today, however, the Bulldog only slightly resembles his ancestors in appearance. And all of the ferociousness that he exhibited in the bullbaiting pens? Gone for good. Despite his still ferocious appearance, you'd be hard-pressed to find a dog with a sweeter, more loving disposition.
Bulldogs are never mistaken for other breeds of dogs. They are a medium-size dog with a thick-set, low-slung body. Their short-muzzled head is massive and square. They have broad shoulders and chests, with thick, sturdy limbs.
Although Bulldogs are low to the ground, they are wide and muscular. Their broad heads have cheeks that extend to the sides of their eyes, and the skin on their foreheads should have dense wrinkles. A Bulldog has a droopy upper lip and his lower jaw is undershot, meaning that his lower teeth stick out farther than his top teeth. The Bulldog's jaws are massive and strong, intended for latching on to his opponent and holding on.
Bulldogs have round, dark eyes. Their ears are small and thin, folded back like a rose. Their short tails are carried low on their rumps.
The Bulldog's muscular body leads him to have a distinctive gait. Because his stocky legs are set at each corner of his body, he moves with more of a waddle than a walk. It resembles sort of a loose-jointed, shuffling, sideways roll. Because their shoulders are much wider than their rear ends and they have such large heads, it's difficult for the females to whelp puppies without assistance. Most have to have caesarean sections to deliver their puppies, so breeding a Bulldog is an expensive proposition.
Despite cartoon depictions of them as ferocious dogs, today's Bulldogs are bred to be affectionate and kind. They are, indeed, resolute and courageous, but they aren't out to pick a fight. They often have a calm dignity about them when they are mature, and while they are friendly and playful, they can be a bit stubborn and protective of their families. Bulldogs love people. They seek people out for attention and enjoy nothing more than languishing next to their masters, and perhaps snoring while sleeping with their heads in their laps.
Unfortunately, the Bulldog's unique body and head structure makes him prone to health problems, especially respiratory and joint difficulties. They can quickly become overweight if they don't get enough exercise. Too much weight stresses their bodies and may aggravate existing health problems.
The Bulldog is popular dog in the U.S., but he's not for everyone. He's surprisingly heavy for his size, and if you need to pick him up, say to take him to the vet, it can be a challenge. Inside the house, Bulldogs tend to be inactive, preferring to sleep until it's time to eat again. They love children, but don't expect them to spend hours chasing a ball or running with the kids in the backyard. Your Bulldog may engage in such play for a while, but then you'll find him back at your side, content to watch the world go by and look up at you happily with that face that only a mother - or a devoted Bulldog fan - could love.
- Bulldogs can be stubborn and lazy. Your mature Bulldog may not be very enthusiastic about going to a walk, but it's important that he is exercised every day to keep him fit.
- Bulldogs can't tolerate heat and humidity. When your Bulldog is outdoors, watch him carefully for signs of overheating and take him inside immediately if he starts to show distress. Some people put kiddy play pools filled with water in a shaded spot for their Bulldogs to lie in when the weather is warm and everyone is outside. They definitely are housedogs and should not live outdoors all of the time.
- Bulldogs are sensitive to cold weather.
- Bulldogs wheeze, snort, and snore. They also are prone to sleep apnea.
- Bulldogs are well-known for having flatulence. If this problem seems excessive with yours, talk to your vet.
- Bulldogs' short noses make them prone to a number of respiratory ailments.
- Bulldogs can have pinched nostrils that make it difficult for them to breathe and may require surgery to correct.
- Bulldogs are greedy eaters and will overeat if given the chance. Since they gain weight easily, they can quickly become obese if you don't monitor their food intake.
- Because of the size of their heads and fronts, Bulldogs have difficulty giving birth. Most require caesareans to deliver their puppies. It isn't advised for inexperienced breeders to try to breed them.
- As a short-nosed breed, Bulldogs are sensitive to anesthesia. Be sure to talk with your vet about this before any surgeries are done.
- To get a healthy pet, never buy a puppy from a backyard breeder, puppy mill, or pet store. Find a reputable breeder who tests her breeding dogs for genetic health conditions and good temperaments.
The Bulldog is a much different dog today than his ancestors. Descended from ancient mastiff-type dogs, the Bulldog breed was developed entirely in England. The first mention of the breed was in 1500, a description of a man "with two Bolddogges at his tayle..." The then-fierce dogs were used in a practice called bull baiting, which involved the dog grabbing onto the bull's nose and roughly shaking it.
Bull baiting actually had a purpose; it was thought to tenderize the bull's meat. For many years, this practice was said to "thin" the blood of the bull and make its flesh tender after it was butchered. This belief was so strong that many areas in England had laws requiring bulls to be baited before they were slaughtered.
More than that, it was a popular spectator sport in a time when there were no professional sports, TV shows, movies, or video games. The angry bull would toss the dog up in the air with its horns if it could, much to the delight of the watching crowd. The dog, on the other hand, would attempt to latch onto the bull, usually at its snout, and pin it to the ground through the force of its painful bite. Upcoming bullbaitings were advertised and crowds wagered on the outcome of the struggle.
These early Bulldogs were taller and heavier than today's Bulldog, and they were bred to be especially adept at this bloody sport. Typically, they crept on their bellies toward the enraged bull so he couldn't get his horns under their bodies and toss them up in the air. And their wide mouths and powerful jaws were impossible for the bull to shake off once the Bulldog had a firm hold on its snout. His short, flat nose enabled the Bulldog to breathe while holding onto the bull's snout. He needed to be tenacious to hang onto the bull no matter how much the bull tried to shake him off. The Bulldog's high tolerance for pain was developed to enhance his ability to excel at this barbarous spot. Even the wrinkles on his head are said to have had a purpose: to direct the blood that resulted from his grip on the bull to flow away from his eyes so he wouldn't be blinded.
In 1835, after many years of controversy, bullbaiting was outlawed in England, and many thought the Bulldog would disappear since he no longer had a purpose. At the time, the Bulldog wasn't an affectionate companion. The most aggressive and courageous dogs had been selectively bred for generations to be bull-baiters. They lived to fight with bulls, bears and anything else that was put before them. It was all they knew.
Despite this, many people admired the Bulldog's stamina, strength, and persistence. These few decided to save the appearance and breed them to have a sweet, gentle temperament instead of the aggression needed for the baiting arena.
And so the Bulldog was re-engineered. Dedicated, patient breeders started selecting only those dogs that had a docile temperament for breeding. Aggressive and neurotic dogs weren't allowed to reproduce. By focusing their attention upon the temperament of the Bulldog, these breeders transformed the Bulldog into the gentle, affectionate dog we see today.
Breeders started showing Bulldogs in conformation shows in England in 1859. The first dog show that allowed Bulldogs to be shown was at Birmingham, England in 1860. In 1861, a Bulldog named King Dick won at the Birmingham show. One of his descendants, a dog named Crib, was later described as being "close to perfection."
In 1864, the first Bulldog breed club was formed by a man named R.S. Rockstro. The club had about 30 members and its motto was "Hold Fast." A member of the club, Samuel Wickens, wrote the first breed standard, using the pseudonym Philo-Kuon. The Bulldog's breed standard reportedly was the first one written in the world. The club unfortunately disbanded after only three years.
In 1875, another Bulldog club was founded, and it developed a breed standard that was similar to the Philo-Kuon. This breed club is still in existence.
Bulldogs were brought to the United States, and a brindle and white Bulldog named Donald was shown in New York in 1880. A Bulldog named Bob was registered with the American Kennel Club in 1886. In 1890, H.D. Kendall of Lowell, Massachusetts founded The Bulldog Club of America. It was one of the first breed clubs to become a member of the new American Kennel Club. In the beginning, the club used the British breed standard, but thought it wasn't concise enough, so they developed the American standard in 1894 for what they called the American-bred Bulldog. The English protested about the name and also some of the items in the new standard. After a lot of work, the standard was revised and accepted in 1896. This standard is still used today.
The American Kennel Club recognized the Bulldog in 1890. During the 1940s and 1950s, Bulldogs were close to the top 10 breeds in popularity. Today, the Bulldog ranks 12th among the 155 breeds and varieties registered by the AKC, a tribute to his solid credentials as a companion.
More than anything else, the Bulldog is a triumph of the human ability to rehabilitate an entire breed and make it into a desirable, affectionate companion through thoughtful, dedicated breeding practices. In the 1800s, cities such as Rome passed laws that Bulldogs couldn't be walked on the streets even on leash due to their ferociousness, and yet, a few years later, the Bulldog was already becoming known as one of the friendliest and most tranquil of dogs. All because some dedicated breeders had patience, knowledge, and a vision of what the Bulldog could be at its finest.
Mature male Bulldogs weigh about 50 pounds; mature females about 40 pounds. Show dogs may be about 10 pounds heavier. They stand 12 to 15 inches at the shoulder.
Sociable and sweet, but with a reputation for courage that makes him an excellent watchdog, the Bulldog is a lover, not a fighter. He's dignified rather than lively and has a kind although occasionally stubborn nature. The Bulldog is friendly and easygoing; he gets along with everyone. He can be a slow learner, but once he knows something, he's got it for good. Bulldogs don't tend to be barkers. Usually their appearance alone is enough to frighten off intruders.
Temperament is affected by a number of factors, including heredity, training, and socialization. Puppies with nice temperaments are curious and playful, willing to approach people and be held by them. Choose the middle-of-the-road puppy, not the one who's beating up his littermates or the one who's hiding in the corner. Always meet at least one of the parents-usually the mother is the one who's available-to ensure that they have nice temperaments that you're comfortable with. Meeting siblings or other relatives of the parents is also helpful for evaluating what a puppy will be like when he grows up.
Like every dog, Bulldogs need early socialization-exposure to many different people, sights, sounds, and experiences-when they're young. Socialization helps ensure that your Bulldog puppy grows up to be a well-rounded dog. Enrolling him in a puppy kindergarten class is a great start. Inviting visitors over regularly, and taking him to busy parks, stores that allow dogs, and on leisurely strolls to meet neighbors will also help him polish his social skills.
Like all breeds, Bulldogs are prone to certain diseases and conditions. Not all Bulldogs will get any or all of these diseases, but it's important to be aware of them so you can be informed when you interview breeders and can know what to look for throughout your Bulldog's life.
Buying from a responsible breeder will help ensure that you get the healthiest Bulldog possible. A puppy from a reputable Bulldog breeder will be vaccinated and dewormed before you take him home. Responsible breeders use only physically sound, mature (at least 2 years or older) dogs, and test their breeding stock for genetic diseases pertinent to the breed.
Both parents should have health clearances, documentation that a dog has been tested for and cleared of a particular condition. In Bulldogs, you should expect to see health clearances from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals for hips, elbow, and knees, and from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF), certifying that the eyes are normal.
Health clearances are not issued to dogs younger than 2 years of age. That's because some health problems don't appear until a dog reaches full maturity. For this reason, it's often recommended that dogs not be bred until they are two or three years old.
Overall, Bulldogs can have a lot of health problems. They are wonderful dogs, but be sure you're willing to monitor their health closely and can afford any medical treatment they may need. The following conditions may affect Bulldogs:
- Cherry Eye: This is a condition in which the gland under the third eyelid protrudes and looks rather like a cherry in the corner of the eye. Your vet may need to remove the gland.
- Dry Eye: This condition is caused when natural tear production is inadequate. Signs include a dry appearance or blue haze to the eye. Your vet can perform a test to determine if your Bulldog has dry eye and prescribe medication you can administer to relieve the pain of this condition.
- Entropion: This is a condition in which the eyelashes turn inward and rub against the eye, causing irritation. It may require surgery to correct.
- Inverted Or Reverse Sneezing: This isn't really a health problem but generally occurs when nasal fluids drip down on the Bulldog's soft palate, causing it to close. It also can occur when your Bulldog gets something in his nose. It sounds a lot worse than it is. Try to calm your Bulldog by stroking his throat and this should pass quickly.
Brachycephalic Syndrome: This disorder is found in dogs with short heads, narrowed nostrils, or elongated soft palates. Their airways are obstructed to varying degrees and can cause anything from noisy or labored breathing to total collapse of the airway. Dogs with brachycephalic syndrome commonly snuffle and snort. Treatment varies depending on the severity of the condition but includes oxygen therapy as well as surgery to widen nostrils or shorten palates.
- Head Shakes. This resembles a fit, but it affects only the head. It's seen as an involuntary shaking of the head from side-to-side or up-and-down. Sometimes, this is violent. This dog appears to be conscious and aware of what is happening. It may be linked to stress and low blood sugar. Breeders often suggest giving your dog some honey to bring the blood sugar level back up or distracting them to stop the shaking. If the shaking doesn't appear to be related to stress or over-excitement, you should take him to the vet as soon as possible to make sure he isn't in pain.
- Demodectic mange. Also called Demodicosis. All dogs carry a little passenger called a demodex mite. The mother passes this mite to her pups in their first few days of life. The mite can't be passed to humans or even other dogs - only the mother can "give" these mites to her pups. Demodex mites live in hair follicles and usually don't cause any problems. If your Bulldog has a weakened or compromised immune system, however, he can develop demodectic mange. Demodectic mange can be localized or generalized. In the localized form, patches of red, scaly skin with hair loss appears on the head, neck, and forelegs. It's thought of as a puppy disease, and often clears up on its own. You should take your dog to the vet anyway because this can turn into the generalized form of demodectic mange. (Enlarged lymph nodes often are a sign that this will occur.)
Generalized demodectic mange covers the entire body and affects older puppies and young adult dogs. The dog develops patchy skin, bald spots, and skin infections all over its body. Dogs that develop localized or generalized demodicosis should not be bred because the condition is considered to have a genetic component.
- Hip Dysplasia. This is a heritable condition in which the thighbone doesn't fit snugly into the hip joint. Most Bulldogs appear to have hip dysplasia based on their hip x-rays, just because they tend to naturally have shallow hip joints, but it's unusual for them to have the associated problems with lameness unless they're allowed to become overweight or are exercised too much during their period of rapid growth. If your Bulldog is diagnosed with hip dysplasia, seek a second opinion and look into other treatment options, such as supplements, before agreeing to surgery.
- Tail Problems. Some Bulldogs have screw tails, inverted tails or other types of "tight" tails that can cause them to have some skin problems. You should keep your Bulldog's tail clean and dry to prevent infection.
- Patellar luxation. Also known as "slipped stifles," this is a common problem in small dogs. It is caused when the patella, which has three parts-the femur (thigh bone), patella (knee cap), and tibia (calf)-is not properly lined up. This causes lameness in the leg or an abnormal gait, sort of like a skip or a hop. It is a condition that is present at birth although the actual misalignment or luxation does not always occur until much later. The rubbing caused by patellar luxation can lead to arthritis, a degenerative joint disease. There are four grades of patellar luxation, ranging from grade I, an occasional luxation causing temporary lameness in the joint, to grade IV, in which the turning of the tibia is severe and the patella cannot be realigned manually. This gives the dog a bowlegged appearance. Severe grades of patellar luxation may require surgical repair.
Bulldogs are inactive indoors and don't require a great deal of exercise (although they must be walked every day to keep them from gaining weight). They are indoor dogs and prefer a relaxed lifestyle. After about 15 minutes of play, they're ready for a nap. This low to moderate energy level makes the Bulldog suited to any type home, from an apartment to a house with a yard. You can take the Bulldog for a walk of a mile or two during the cool part of the day, but he'll be just as happy with a brief stroll up and down your street.
Because of their pushed-in face, Bulldogs don't do well in extremely hot (or cold) weather. They breathe heavily when they're hot and don't dissipate heat well. They're especially susceptible to heatstroke. As little as half an hour outdoors in 85-degree temperatures can kill them. Provide him with an air-conditioned environment and plenty of fresh water. Bulldogs are also not swimmers. Their massive heads drag them straight down. If you have a pool, spa, or pond, protect your Bulldog from falling in.
The Bulldog is unlikely to be an obedience-trial star, but once he learns something, he never forgets it. He learns best through fun training sessions that involve repetition and positive reinforcement through food rewards and praise.
Recommended daily amount: 1/2 to 2 cups of a high-quality dog food daily, divided into two meals.
How much your adult dog eats depends on his size, age, build, metabolism, and activity level. Dogs are individuals, just like people, and they don't all need the same amount of food. It almost goes without saying that a highly active dog will need more than a couch potato dog. The quality of dog food you buy also makes a difference — the better the dog food, the further it will go toward nourishing your dog and the less of it you'll need to shake into your dog's bowl.
It's easy to overfeed a Bulldog, but obesity can stress his joints, so he shouldn't be allowed to get fat. Keep your adult Bulldog in good shape by measuring his food and feeding him twice a day rather than leaving food out all the time. If you're unsure whether he's overweight, give him the hands-on test. Place your hands on his back, thumbs along the spine, with the fingers spread downward. You should be able to feel but not see his ribs without having to press hard. If you can't, he needs less food and more exercise.
Coat, Color and Grooming
Your Bulldog's coat should be straight, short, fine textured, smooth and glossy. He has soft, loose skin, especially on the head, neck, and shoulders. His head is covered with heavy wrinkles and he has two loose folds at the throat (from the jaw to the chest) to form what's called a dewlap.
Bulldogs come in a variety of colors: red brindle; all other brindles; solid white; solid red, fawn, or fallow (pale cream to light fawn, pale yellow, or yellow red; and piebald (large patches of two or more colors). Solid black isn't common and isn't much admired.
Brush the Bulldog's smooth, fine, short-haired coat once a week with a firm bristle brush. Wipe his face with a damp cloth every day, taking care to clean inside the wrinkles. Be sure to dry the inside of the wrinkles completely after they're washed. Some people suggest wiping the wrinkles with baby wipes that have lanolin and aloe vera. If your Bulldog's skin is irritated inside of the wrinkles, ask your vet to recommend a soothing ointment. After you've cleaned the wrinkles, wash your Bulldog's nose and apply petroleum jelly to it to keep it soft and prevent it from becoming dry and flaky.
The Bulldog is an average shedder. If you can take the time to brush him more than once a week, it will help reduce the amount of hair that gets on your clothes and furniture.
Other grooming needs include nail care and dental hygiene. Trim your Bulldog's nails once or twice a month. If you can hear them clicking on the floor, they're too long. The earlier you introduce your Bulldog to nail trimming the less stressful the experience is for both of you.
Brush the teeth at least two or three times a week — daily is better — to remove tartar and bacteria. Start when your puppy is young so he'll be used to it.
As you groom, check for sores, rashes, or signs of infection such as redness, tenderness, or inflammation on the skin, in the ears, nose, mouth, and eyes, and on the feet. Ears should smell good, without too much wax or gunk inside, and eyes should be clear, with no redness or discharge. Your careful weekly exam will help you spot potential health problems early.
Children and other pets
His amiable temperament and bulk make the Bulldog an excellent companion for children, even young ones. A Bulldog will put up with a lot from a child, although he shouldn't have to, and he'll walk away if he gets tired of being tormented.
Always teach children how to approach and touch dogs, and always supervise any interactions between dogs and young children to prevent any biting or ear or tail pulling on the part of either party. Teach your child never to approach any dog while he's sleeping or eating or to try to take the dog's food away. No dog should ever be left unsupervised with a child.
With their pacific nature, Bulldogs also get along well with other pets, dogs and cats. They may be less sociable toward strange dogs, however.
Bulldogs are sometimes purchased without any clear understanding of what goes into owning one, and these dogs often end up in the care of rescue groups, in need of adoption or fostering. Other Bulldogs end up in rescue because their owners have divorced or died. Adopting an adult Bulldog has many benefits. Adult dogs are often already housetrained and have some obedience training, and they've already gone through the destructive puppy stage.
Below are breed clubs, organizations, and associations where you can find additional information about the Bulldog.
All Breed Characteristics
Measures how well this breed potentially adapts to different environments
Measures the amount and difficulty of training potentially required for this breed
Health & Grooming
Measures how much effort this breed potentially needs to keep a tidy hound and home
Measures this breed's potential to get along with other dogs and humans
Measures this breed's potential to require lots of physical activity
Adapt well to apartment living
Contrary to popular belief, small size doesn't necessarily an apartment dog make -- plenty of small dogs are too high-energy and yappy for life in a high-rise. Being quiet, low energy, fairly calm indoors, and polite with the other residents, are all good qualities in an apartment dog.
Affectionate with family
Some breeds are independent and aloof, even if they've been raised by the same person since puppyhood; others bond closely to one person and are indifferent to everyone else; and some shower the whole family with affection. Breed isn't the only factor that goes into affection levels; dogs who were raised inside a home with people around feel more comfortable with humans and bond more easily.
Amount of shedding
If you're going to share your home with a dog, you'll need to deal with some level of dog hair on your clothes and in your house. However, shedding does vary greatly among the breeds: Some dogs shed year-round, some "blow" seasonally -- produce a snowstorm of loose hair -- some do both, and some shed hardly at all. If you're a neatnik you'll need to either pick a low-shedding breed, or relax your standards.
Friendliness toward dogs and friendliness toward humans are two completely different things. Some dogs may attack or try to dominate other dogs even if they're love-bugs with people; others would rather play than fight; and some will turn tail and run. Breed isn't the only factor; dogs who lived with their littermates and mother until at least 6 to 8 weeks of age, and who spent lots of time playing with other dogs during puppyhood, are more likely to have good canine social skills.
Drool-prone dogs may drape ropes of slobber on your arm and leave big, wet spots on your clothes when they come over to say hello. If you've got a laid-back attitude toward slobber, fine; but if you're a neatnik, you may want to choose a dog that rates low in the drool department.
Easy to groom
Some breeds are brush-and-go dogs; others require regular bathing, clipping, and other grooming just to stay clean and healthy. Consider whether you have the time and patience for a dog that needs a lot of grooming, or the money to pay someone else to do it.
Easy to train
Easy to train dogs are more adept at forming an association between a prompt (such as the word "sit"), an action (sitting), and a consequence (getting a treat) very quickly. Other dogs need more time, patience, and repetition during training. Many breeds are intelligent but approach training with a "What's in it for me?" attitude, in which case you'll need to use rewards and games to teach them to want to comply with your requests.
High-energy dogs are always ready and waiting for action. Originally bred to perform a canine job of some sort, such as retrieving game for hunters or herding livestock, they have the stamina to put in a full workday. They need a significant amount of exercise and mental stimulation, and they're more likely to spend time jumping, playing, and investigating any new sights and smells. Low-energy dogs are the canine equivalent of a couch potato, content to doze the day away. When picking a breed, consider your own activity level and lifestyle, and think about whether you'll find a frisky, energetic dog invigorating or annoying.
Some breeds do fine with a slow evening stroll around the block. Others need daily, vigorous exercise -- especially those that were originally bred for physically demanding jobs, such as herding or hunting. Without enough exercise, these breeds may put on weight and vent their pent-up energy in ways you don't like, such as barking, chewing, and digging. Breeds that need a lot of exercise are good for outdoorsy, active people, or those interested in training their dog to compete in a high-energy dog sport, such as agility.
Friendly toward strangers
Stranger-friendly dogs will greet guests with a wagging tail and a nuzzle; others are shy, indifferent, or even aggressive. However, no matter what the breed, a dog who was exposed to lots of different types, ages, sizes, and shapes of people as a puppy will respond better to strangers as an adult.
Due to poor breeding practices, some breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, such as hip dysplasia. This doesn't mean that every dog of that breed will develop those diseases; it just means that they're at an increased risk. If you're buying a puppy, it's a good idea to find out which genetic illnesses are common to the breed you're interested in, so you can ask the breeder about the physical health of your potential pup's parents and other relatives.
Good for novice owners
Some dogs are simply easier than others: they take to training better and are fairly easygoing. They're also resilient enough to bounce back from your mistakes or inconsistencies. Dogs who are highly sensitive, independent thinking, or assertive may be harder for a first-time owner to manage. You'll get your best match if you take your dog-owning experience into account as you choose your new pooch.
Dogs who were bred for jobs that require decision making, intelligence, and concentration, such as herding livestock, need to exercise their brains, just as dogs who were bred to run all day need to exercise their bodies. If they don't get the mental stimulation they need, they'll make their own work -- usually with projects you won't like, such as digging and chewing. Obedience training and interactive dog toys are good ways to give a dog a brain workout, as are dog sports and careers, such as agility and search and rescue.
A vigorous dog may or may not be high-energy, but everything he does, he does with vigor: he strains on the leash (until you train him not to), tries to plow through obstacles, and even eats and drinks with great big gulps. These dynamos need lots of training to learn good manners, and may not be the best fit for a home with young kids or someone who's elderly or frail. A low-vigor dog, on the other hand, has a more subdued approach to life.
Being gentle with children, sturdy enough to handle the heavy-handed pets and hugs they can dish out, and having a blasé attitude toward running, screaming children are all traits that make a kid-friendly dog. You may be surprised by who's on that list: Fierce-looking Boxers are considered good with children, as are American Staffordshire Terriers (aka pit bulls). Small, delicate, and potentially snappy dogs such as Chihuahuas aren't so family-friendly.
**All dogs are individuals. Our ratings are generalizations, and they're not a guarantee of how any breed or individual dog will behave. Dogs from any breed can be good with children based on their past experiences, training on how to get along with kids, and personality. No matter what the breed or breed type, all dogs have strong jaws, sharp pointy teeth, and may bite in stressful circumstances. Young children and dogs of any breed should always be supervised by an adult and never left alone together, period.
Potential for mouthiness
Common in most breeds during puppyhood and in retriever breeds at all ages, mouthiness means a tendency to nip, chew, and play-bite (a soft, fairly painless bite that doesn't puncture the skin). Mouthy dogs are more likely to use their mouths to hold or "herd" their human family members, and they need training to learn that it's fine to gnaw on chew toys, but not on people. Mouthy breeds tend to really enjoy a game of fetch, as well as a good chew on a chew toy that's been stuffed with kibble and treats.
Potential for playfulness
Some dogs are perpetual puppies -- always begging for a game -- while others are more serious and sedate. Although a playful pup sounds endearing, consider how many games of fetch or tag you want to play each day, and whether you have kids or other dogs who can stand in as playmates for the dog.
Potential for weight gain
Some breeds have hearty appetites and tend to put on weight easily. As in humans, being overweight can cause health problems in dogs. If you pick a breed that's prone to packing on pounds, you'll need to limit treats, make sure he gets enough exercise, and measure out his daily kibble in regular meals rather than leaving food out all the time.
Dogs that were bred to hunt, such as terriers, have an inborn desire to chase and sometimes kill other animals. Anything whizzing by -- cats, squirrels, perhaps even cars -- can trigger that instinct. Dogs that like to chase need to be leashed or kept in a fenced area when outdoors, and you'll need a high, secure fence in your yard. These breeds generally aren't a good fit for homes with smaller pets that can look like prey, such as cats, hamsters, or small dogs. Breeds that were originally used for bird hunting, on the other hand, generally won't chase, but you'll probably have a hard time getting their attention when there are birds flying by.
Some dogs will let a stern reprimand roll off their backs, while others take even a dirty look to heart. Low-sensitivity dogs, also called "easygoing," "tolerant," "resilient," and even "thick-skinned," can better handle a noisy, chaotic household, a louder or more assertive owner, and an inconsistent or variable routine. Do you have young kids, throw lots of dinner parties, play in a garage band, or lead a hectic life? Go with a low-sensitivity dog.
Dogs come in all sizes, from the world's smallest pooch, the Chihuahua, to the towering Great Dane, how much space a dog takes up is a key factor in deciding if he is compatible with you and your living space.
Tendency to bark or howl
Some breeds sound off more often than others. When choosing a breed, think about how the dog vocalizes — with barks or howls — and how often. If you're considering a hound, would you find their trademark howls musical or maddening? If you're considering a watchdog, will a city full of suspicious "strangers" put him on permanent alert? Will the local wildlife literally drive your dog wild? Do you live in housing with noise restrictions? Do you have neighbors nearby?
Tolerates being alone
Some breeds bond very closely with their family and are more prone to worry or even panic when left alone by their owner. An anxious dog can be very destructive, barking, whining, chewing, and otherwise causing mayhem. These breeds do best when a family member is home during the day or if you can take the dog to work.
Tolerates cold weather
Breeds with very short coats and little or no undercoat or body fat, such as Greyhounds, are vulnerable to the cold. Dogs with a low cold tolerance need to live inside in cool climates and should have a jacket or sweater for chilly walks.
Tolerates hot weather
Dogs with thick, double coats are more vulnerable to overheating. So are breeds with short noses, like Bulldogs or Pugs, since they can't pant as well to cool themselves off. If you want a heat-sensitive breed, the dog will need to stay indoors with you on warm or humid days, and you'll need to be extra cautious about exercising your dog in the heat.
Some breeds are more free-spirited than others. Nordic dogs such as Siberian Huskies were bred to range long distances, and given the chance, they'll take off after anything that catches their interest. And many hounds simply must follow their noses, or that bunny that just ran across the path, even if it means leaving you behind.
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