Bull Terrier Temperament & Personality
One characteristic that stands out about the Bull Terrier is that it clearly wants to be your best friend. It is an affectionate, fun-loving dog with a strong need to please, amuse, love, and protect its owner. Life with a Bull Terrier is fun. The dog is warm, friendly, playful and entertaining in its ways. It often behaves in a manner that people find engaging, “cool,” and even charmingly mischievous, goofy, or droll.
It is always in high spirits, especially when it is with its people. It demonstrates its loving and adoring nature by trying in its special way to make life light, fun, and enjoyable for its owners. It is clearly a loving and happy dog to have around. A lot of people find the Bull Terrier endearing because of its vibrant, affectionate, playful, and devoted disposition.
The Bull Terrier has a robust, muscular, and big-boned physique. It strides around in a spry and jaunty way that suggests power, dexterity, and agility. Its long head is shaped like an egg (a trademark of the breed) that is somewhat flat on top. Its neck is long, brawny, and arched. Its ears are small, upright, and pointed.
Its eyes – set high up along the head, are tiny, dark, close-set, and uniquely triangular; they glint with intelligence, determination, and good humor. Its nose is black and slopes downward toward the tip. Its short tail starts out thick near the body and tapers off toward its end.
The Bull Terrier is a muscular and somewhat stocky breed. On the average, a male Bull Terrier weighs from 25 to 29 kilograms (55 to 65 pounds) while a female Bull Terrier, from 20 to 25 kilograms (45 to 55 pounds). Both male and female can measure up to 22” in height. The Bull Terrier also comes in the miniature variety which can grow 14” high (maximum) and weigh up to 15 kilograms (33 pounds).
The Bull Terrier has a short, flat coat that has a fine, shiny gloss but is rather rough to the touch. Its coat provides little by way of protection from the cold; it is more suitable for warm climates. Its coat can be either white or colored. The dog can have a solid white coat or a white coat with colored markings on the head. A colored coat can be fawn, red, brindle (tiger-striped pattern), or tri-colored – either solid or with white markings.
This breed of dogs was developed around the middle of the 1800s in England. The first Bull Terrier was a result of crossbreeding the Bulldog with the English Terrier. Bull-baiting was an infamous but highly popular sport in England during the 13th century. Bulldogs were released to attack and enrage a chained bull.
People made bets on the results. During the 1800s, bull-baiting, together with other forms of blood sports, was outlawed. However, similar activities continued to be held underground. Indoor pit dog fighting – where dogs were pitted against each other in tavern cellars, became popular with the masses. Bulldogs were popular contenders in this sport.
Bulldogs were eventually seen as too slow and heavy to figure well in the sport. They were thus crossed with terriers to produce a breed that combined the power of the former with the energy and fiery spirit of the latter. The Bull Terrier was one of the resulting breeds. Pit fighting soon lost its appeal as the law caught up with it.
Breeders tried to crossbreed the now unemployed Bull Terrier to refine its looks and sweeten its temperament. Succeeding crossbreeding with the Spanish Pointer and subsequently with the Dalmatian and the white English Terrier resulted in a sturdy and stylish white dog. This version came to be referred to as the “white cavaliers,” – which found great favor among the gentry as a pet.
Around the 1900s, the white version of the Bull Terrier went through crosses with the Staffordshire bull terrier resulting in the reintroduction of color in the breed. The resulting genteel version of the Bull Terrier made it popular as a companion dog among members of the upper crust of society.
The present-day Bull Terrier is widely regarded as one of the most amiable breeds – an ironic turnaround considering that it has as its predecessor the fearless and ferocious gladiator Bulldog of one of medieval England’s blood sports.
The Bull Terrier of today, although it is strong and protective, is regarded as an affectionate charmer rather than as a fighter. It is playful; it makes friendly overtures to both adults and children. It is animated and energetic. It shows a love for fun and humor that borders on the goofy. Most people find its playful antics both comic and endearing.
The Bull Terrier has a strong presence that reflects intelligence, sensitivity, devotion, and loyalty. It is highly spirited; it usually refuses to take a backseat to anything or any person. The Bull Terrier loves to be around people. It is always ready for action or play. It is not timid or cautious. It is not a dog that backs away from people or activities.
The Bull Terrier’s feisty spirit can come across as bold and courageous. It can also seem aggressive, especially when the dog lacks early training in socializing with dogs and other animals. Its sweet and outgoing disposition can turn into jealousy and possessiveness when the aggressive behavior is allowed to go undisciplined.
The Bull Terrier overflows with energy. It loves fun and action. It dislikes staying inactive or alone for long hours. It has a strong-willed and go-getting spirit that predisposes it to always be on the look-out for vigorous playtime and high-intensity exercise. When it fails to get the attention it needs, it is likely to use its pent-up energy in unconstructive behaviors like excessive barking, chewing, or tail chasing.
The Bull Terrier likes to have a fun and busy life. It is not likely to do well when it is forced to spend long periods of time on its own. It is likely to be in its best behavior when its owner can give it a lot of attention and opportunities for active, energetic play.
The Bull Terrier, especially as a puppy, requires a lot of exercise and attention. It has an exuberant personality that does not take too well to placidly staying still. It needs exercise – a lot of it, in fact. It is happy to be taken around for walks but is even happier when its owner adds exciting, highly interactive, and diversified activities to its daily routine.
When it is not given enough exercise, it is likely to become mischievous and a bit destructive. It health may eventually suffer. The exuberant and agile Bull Terrier will profit from a wide range of exercises. It is likely to appreciate a combination of mental and high-energy physical exercises.
If you own a Bull Terrier, you have many options when it comes to physical exercises that your pet is likely to enjoy.
- Take your dog with you when you go walking, jogging, or running.
Give both yourself and your pet a healthy round of exercise by putting a harness on your dog when you exercise and have it follow your lead. Your exuberant pet is likely to enjoy accompanying you and burning off energy, to boot.
- Play fetch using Frisbees, sticks, or balls.
Any dog enjoys the old reliable game of fetch. Have your Bull Terrier chase a Frisbee, its favorite ball, or just any old stick. The game is likely to keep your pet occupied for hours, if you have the time to spare. Make sure to play indoors or within a confined area outside when you train your Bull Terrier to bring the object back to you before you venture playing the game in a wide open area.
- Play tug-of-war.
This is another game that your pet can play for hours. Use an old sock, a worn-out shoe, or any toy for the game. You can also get a specially designed rope toy specifically manufactured for this game. These toys are designed not to hurt your dog’s teeth or to fall apart in its mouth.
Some dogs can get too excited or agitated when playing this game. Stay in control and stop the game when your Bull Terrier becomes too aggressive.
- Take it swimming.
Your pet will enjoy swimming several laps in a clean pond if you have one in your neighborhood. You can also to get an inflatable pool for this purpose. Your pet is likely to especially enjoy this form of exercise on a hot summer day.
- Design an agility course for your dog.
Use cones, cans of soups, or old cardboard boxes to design an agility course that your Bull Terrier can walk or jump through. Another option is to search the market for an inexpensive specialist agility kit. Going through the circuit repeatedly will not only teach your dog to be more sprightly and responsive; it is also an excellent outlet for pent-up energy.
- Have it play find-the-treat.
Hide several treats or your dog’s favorite toys in one room and have your dog play the find-the-treat game. The game is a good mental exercise as well and will keep your Bull Terrier occupied when you don’t feel like exercising with it.
A Note of Caution:
Bull Terriers are lively, vivacious, and intelligent dogs. They are full of zip and will take immediately to chasing a ball or compete with an interactive toy. If your dog is not fully grown (below 1 or 1 ½ years old), take some precautions. Keep your dog from recklessly bouncing around your furniture or skidding on slick tile or wood floors to prevent it from undermining the growth of or injuring its immature bones, ligaments, and joints.
Health Problems and Care
The Bull Terrier is generally a healthy breed. But like all other breeds, it needs to be monitored so that any health issue can be addressed as soon as it arises. It is prudent to watch out for the following health concerns:
Deafness is a common health concern among white dogs. Although not as common among colored dogs, the condition can also arise in colored Bull Terriers. A dog that is deaf in one ear can live a relatively normal life. However, one that is deaf in both ears needs special handling and training techniques.
To check your dog’s hearing, take it to a testing facility for the Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response Testing or BAER.
Some dogs suffer from lens luxation, a condition that occurs when the ligament that holds the lens of the eye in place weakens, causing the lens to be displaced. The problem can be treated with medication or surgical treatment. Severe cases may warrant removal of the eye.
Spinning is a condition characterized by the obsessive chasing of tail, a condition that usually starts when a puppy is about six months old. A dog suffering from this condition can spin for hours and will not stop even to drink or eat. A veterinarian is likely to prescribe Prozac, anafranil, or phenobarbitol for it.
A mild case of tail chasing can also be a dog’s response to boredom. In this case, it is prudent to give your dog the attention and exercise it probably needs.
- Skin problems
The Bull Terrier, especially if it has a white coat, is prone to skin irritation in the form of sores or rashes. It is also highly reactive to pollen, mildew, dust, detergents and other airborne allergens and chemicals. Regularly check your pet’s skin and treat signs of irritation right away. To keep your pet safe from sores, see to it that beddings are clean and soft.
Check the food that you give your pet for chemical additives. A veterinarian may recommend steroids or antibiotics for severe cases of skin irritation.
- Heart disease
Bull Terriers are not particularly prone to heart conditions. If your veterinarian suspects a heart murmur, however, he may suggest an echocardiogram (cardiac ultrasound) to diagnose the condition.
A Bull Terrier can outgrow a heart murmur or live with the condition for years without problem. If the condition requires treatment, it is usually provided in the form of medication or surgical intervention. The life span of the Bull Terrier is placed between 10 to 15 years.
Nutrition and Feeding
No two dogs are the same. The amount of food your pet needs depends on a number of factors including age, size, build, as well as metabolism and level of activity. See to it that the dog food you give is nourishing and of high quality. Veterinarians suggest that you measure the food you give your dog. Recommended daily amount ranges from 1 ½ to 4 ¼ cups.
Whether you feed your pet home-cooked meals or commercially manufactured food, see to it that your dog gets all the nutrients necessary for growth and wellbeing. Feed your dog two meals a day; do not simply leave food on its bowl all the time. See to it that your dog has easy access to clean, fresh water.
Do not overfeed your dog. Watch its weight and calorie consumption. Prevent it from getting obese. Use treats to train your pet but use them prudently. Consult your vet if you have questions about your pet’s diet and weight.
The Bull Terrier’s coat requires very little care. It does not shed much. It is easy to groom. Brush the coat with a dog glove or a soft-bristle brush to get rid of loose hair and dirt and to give it a glossy sheen. Inspect your pet’s ears regularly and clean them as needed. Trim the nails often. Long, untrimmed nails may create discomfort and pain when the dog walks or runs.
Because of its bias for action, the Bull Terrier needs someone who can harness its energy and channel it in the right direction. The dog needs discipline and house rules. Otherwise, it is likely to be boisterous and undisciplined – and make up its own rules as it goes about merrily. Because of this tendency, the Bull Terrier is not the best choice for owners who are timid in instilling discipline or have never owned dogs before.
Housetraining a Bull Terrier may be a bit challenging. Use a housetraining program and apply the techniques faithfully. The crate method seems to work best for the Bull Terrier as it prevents your pet from getting into deep trouble and wrecking your things. The Bull Terrier is naturally predisposed to be suspicious and aggressive towards strangers and other animals.
Start puppy socialization training at the earliest time possible. Help your pet get used to new people, pets, and situations by taking it to public places that are dog-friendly. The Bull Terrier is stubborn and does not take too well to correction-based training. However, being a fun-loving, frisky and playful dog, it responds well to training that incorporates creative play, games, and the use of toys and rewards.
Start training early. Provide firm and consistent leadership without using harsh language or physical force. Incorporate fun and use a lot of positive reinforcement. A Bull Terrier tends to excel when it finds training fun and creative. If you approach your role as trainer with consistent and confident leadership, wit, creativity, humor, and patience, you can train your dog to excel in a lot of things.
Bull Terriers do well in fly ball, carting, freestyle, weight pull, and agility dog sports. They are also well-known for their excellence in search-and-rescue operations and bomb-detection, as well as in serving as therapy dogs.
Children and Other Pets
The Bull Terrier makes a good playmate for a child old enough to enjoy rough-and-tumble play. However, its boundless energy may not make it the ideal playmate for younger children.
The Bull Terrier tends to be protective of “its” kids. When other kids come to visit your home, teach them how to approach your pet. Stay around to supervise play. Keep in mind that your pet may feel agitated when it sees “strangers” wrestling, teasing, or playing roughly with your kids. It may feel that it has to protect your kids and become more assertive than necessary.
A male Bull Terrier, especially if unneutered, can be quite aggressive when there are other male dogs around. It can also be a bit hostile around cats and other furry pets.
Rescue Groups and Breed Clubs
Some people who get Bull Terriers without really knowing what they are getting into eventually abandon their pets or leave them in the care of dog rescue organizations. If you want to foster, adopt, or simply get more information about the Bull Terrier, if may be a good idea to visit or call any of the following organizations:
- Bull Terrier Club of America
- Big Apple Bull Terrier Rescue
- Miniature Bull Terrier Club of America
- Bull Terrier Club of America Rescue Support Committee
The following points may help you decide whether or not the Bull Terrier is the ideal dog for you:
- The Bull Terrier is a headstrong and frisky dog. It needs an owner who can provide strong, confident, and patient leadership – and who has a strong sense of humor and is fun-loving, to boot. A timid or first-time dog owner may find this dog too challenging to handle.
- The Bull Terrier needs a lot of exercise. It is not likely to thrive in cramped quarters. If you want a Bull Terrier for a pet, you should have the energy and enthusiasm to give your dog between half an hour to a full hour of active play, exercise, and mental stimulation every day.
- It is at its happiest when it is with its people, its “pack.” It needs constant companionship. It is likely to do well in a home with people who are active, fun-loving, and appreciative of a dog that is smart, devoted, and willful.
- If you have young kids, a Bull Terrier may prove to be too rough and spirited for your home. On the other hand, the dog is likely to be a tireless, faithful, and good-humored playmate for active older kids.
- The Bull Terrier tends to do better in warm climates. Its fur doesn’t provide ample protection against chilly and damp weather conditions. Keep your dog indoors and provide suitable clothing and blankets during cold days.
- Grooming-wise, the Bull Terrier does not need much. Give it a brushing once a week with a soft-bristle brush, as well as the occasional wipe-down with a soft, clean, damp cloth and it is good to go.
- There are provinces, states, and cities which ban or restrict the ownership of Bull Terriers. Check the laws in your area before deciding to get a dog of this breed.
Similar Breed: American Staffordshire Terrier Dog Breed [Full Guide]
There are four keys to having a happy, well-adjusted pet Bull Terrier:
- See to it that the dog gets early socialization training with people, as well as with other pets.
- Give your dog ample exercise.
- Train your dog with a firm, confident hand and a lot of fun and positive reinforcement.
- See that it gets sufficient quality time with the family that it adores.
If you meet all these requirements, you will not find a companion dog that is as affectionate, loyal, fun-loving, and entertaining as a Bull Terrier.