Is a Bull Terrier Right for You?

The following breed review was written by author and breed selection consultant Michele Welton, Copyright 2000-2008.

If considering a Bull Terrier, your major concerns should be:

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.

Other things you should know about owning a bull terrier

Toys – think indestructible.

Never leave a soft/stuffed animal, ball or rope toy with a bully unattended. These are good toys to interact with your dog, but should not be left within reach unless you are watching them.

Good toys for use in a crate or when the dog is a little less supervised include nylabones, kongs or natural beef bones. Do note that nylabones come in many varieties. Look for the word �durable� and past 3 months of age, avoid any �gummy� nylabone products.

Raw beef bones, often sold in the grocery store as soup bones, are great for chewing.

NEVER give “edible” commercially sold bones such as boodah velvets, greenies or other “cornstarch type” bones. Greedy bullies eat these in large bites and they can cause a stomach or intestinal obstruction.

Avoid jumping or leaping in the air

Growing bullies develop quickly and their strong muscles allow them to do things their bones cannot handle. When playing, avoid jumping games and keep toys on the ground. If you play fetch or ball, roll the ball, do not bounce it. Long teenaged bones are prone to break if they come down too hard.

Avoid playing tug when the pup is teething and for several months thereafter

Aggressive tug play can alter the position of the front teeth. While the pup is teething and until the teeth are set, do not play tug where the force of the outward pressure on the bottom teeth can cause problems.

Sprained tail

Some dogs, for little or no apparent reason, get a sprained tail. The tail will suddenly go �dead� or the dog will have little ability to raise it. The dog is often painful and walks hunched up, hair raised and can whimper. Sometimes this happens with stress. Should this occur, keep the dog quiet for 2-3 days and the problem should resolve on it�s own.

Histiocytomas

Small raised skingrowths, often occurring on the leg or head, most often in young dogs. They occur quickly and seem to come out of nowhere. They will get worse before they get better, but do not usually require treatment.

They are not necessarily known to be hereditary, although seem common in bullies.  Some vets are quick to want to surgically remove these and this if most often unnecessary.

Bare patches on the top of the head or base of tail

There are small glands on the top of the head and base of the tail. Sometimes, there is hair loss for no apparent reason. The hair will often grow back over time, however some bullies have these bare patches long term. This is not common in our bloodlines, but it can occur to any bully.

Tail chasing

Never let any bull terrier chase it�s tail. While this is common in all breeds of dogs, it can develop into an obsessive-compulsive behavior in bullies and must be discouraged. While it is common for pups to suddenly �discover� they have a tail and check it out, it is not a cute puppy behavior. Distract the pup with a toy or other activity.

Rough play with people

Never permit the puppy to playbite or nip at hands or feet. Correct unwanted behavior immediately, nipping hands is never cute in a bully of any age.

Health Screening

The breeding of purebred dogs is not an exact science.  It is not always possible to prevent the occurrence of inherited diseases, as there are not yet definitive tests to identify carriers of genetic diseases in our breed.  A breederâ��s obligation with regard to genetic diseases is to make every effort to prevent their occurrence and to share openly and honestly all information available regarding the genetic health status of his/her dogs.

While elimination of genetic diseases is a worthy goal, the converse is that excessive culling of animals from the gene pool may have the equally deleterious effect of limiting the gene pool in the breed.

Breeders should be cautious about removing animals from the breeding pool solely because they are distantly related to an affected individual.  Breeders should be able to provide written proof (signed by a veterinarian) that their breeding stock has been checked for hearing, heart, kidney, and patella related issues.

These tests are called BAER (hearing) test, auscultation (heart) and/or Doppler Echocardiogram (heart), UPC (urine protein creatinine ratio � kidney), and palpation for checking patella luxation.

Beware of breeders who claim â��DNA profiledâ�� or â��DNA screenedâ�� in their ads.  A DNA profile is required by AKC only for identification purposes.  As yet, there are no profiles or screens which assure the absence of genetic disease associated with a DNA profile or screening.