Back to Articles

English Bull Terriers What's good about 'em What's bad about 'em

If you want a dog who...

Is moderately sized with a muscular build
Looks very unusual, with an egg-shaped head, large prick ears, and tiny triangular eyes sunk deeply in his head
Has a short easy-care coat
Is rowdy and clownish, full of energy and fire
Thrives on lots of exercise and vigorous athletic games
Looks imposing, so makes an effective deterrent, but is usually non-aggressive with strangers
An English Bull Terrier or Miniature Bull Terrier may be right for you.

If you don't want to deal with...

Vigorous exercise requirements
Rowdiness, exuberant jumping, and a tendency to play rough
Destructiveness when bored or left alone too much
Aggression or fearfulness toward people in some lines, or when not socialized enough
Aggression toward other animals
Strong-willed mind of his own, requiring a confident owner who can take charge
Serious health problems
Legal liabilities (public perception, future breed bans, insurance problems, increased chance of lawsuits)
An English Bull Terrier or Miniature Bull Terrier may not be right for you.

If I were considering a Bull Terrier...

My major concerns would be: Providing enough exercise and mental stimulation. Bull Terriers, whether Standard or Miniature, are very active dogs who MUST have regular opportunities to vent their high energy and to use their busy minds to do interesting things. 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.

If you simply want a pet for your family, and don't have the time or inclination to take your dog running or hiking or biking or swimming, or to get involved in weight-pulling, or agility (obstacle course), or advanced obedience, or tracking, or a similar canine activity, I do not recommend these breeds.

Bounciness. Young 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, including people.

If you have small children, or if you or anyone who lives with you is elderly or infirm, I do not recommend Bull Terrier puppies, especially the Standard size. The temptation to play roughly is simply too strong in many young Bull Terriers.

Providing enough socialization. Many Bull Terriers 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 could lead to biting. Some Bull Terriers go in the opposite direction -- without enough socialization, they become fearful of strangers, which can lead to defensive biting.

Animal aggression. Many Bull Terriers, especially the Standard size, will not tolerate another dog of the same sex. Some won't tolerate the opposite sex, either. Many Bull Terriers, both Standard and Miniature, have strong instincts to chase and seize cats and other fleeing creatures. If anything goes wrong in the breeding, socializing, training, handling, or management of these breeds, they are capable of seriously injuring or killing other animals.

The strong temperament. Bull Terriers are not Golden Retrievers. They 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, "Respect Training" is mandatory. My Bull Terrier Training Page discusses the program you need.

Shedding. Bull Terriers shed much more than you might think. Their short, coarse hairs come off on your hands when you pet them, and stick tenaciously to your carpeting, upholstery, and clothing. In addition, people with sensitive skin may react adversely to the "pokes" of the harsh hairs.

Serious health problems. From heart disease to kidney disease to eye disease to deafness, Bull Terriers are risky in the health department.

To keep this breed healthy, I strongly recommend following all of the advice on my Bull Terrier Health Page.

Legal liabilities. Bull Terriers are NOT Pit Bull Terriers, but they are often lumped together by public officials and the media as potentially dangerous dogs. 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. Very few people really have the knowledge or skills necessary to manage these fiery, high-energy breeds, or to provide the activities that keep them satisfied.

Not all English Bull Terriers are alike!

There are energetic Bullies, and placid Bullies.
Hard-headed Bullies, and sweet-natured Bullies.
Serious Bullies, and good-natured goofballs.
Introverted Bullies, and Bullies who love everyone.

If you acquire a Bull Terrier puppy, you can't know for sure what he or she will grow up to be like. Because a good number of purebred puppies do NOT grow up to conform to the "norm."

If you're considering an adult Bull Terrier...

There are plenty of adult Bull Terriers who have already proven themselves NOT to have negative characteristics. If you find such an adult, don't let "typical breed negatives" worry you.

When you acquire a puppy, you're acquiring potential -- what he one day will be. So "typical breed characteristics" are very important. But when you acquire an adult, you're acquiring what he already IS.


Go To Top