Bull Terriers

There’s no mistaking the Bull Terrier for any other breed. With his football-shaped head, muscular body and unmatched swagger, this is a dog that commands attention anywhere he goes. He’s also an icon, seen at the side of owners from General Patton to Princess Anne, and in advertising campaigns for beer -- the famous Spuds MacKenzie -- and department stores. He's a high-energy tough guy with a soft heart, crazy about kids and strongly attached to his family.

Traits, Personality and Behavior

The Bull Terrier is a people dog, plain and simple. He's happiest when he's with his family so he's a terrible choice for an outdoor dog. However, that isn't to say he wants to lie adoringly at your feet. He'd much rather you got up and came outside with him, and went on a short stroll of, say, 10 miles.

Those excursions might be a lot more fun if he weren't an infamous leash-tugger with a tendency to go chasing after every dog, cat and squirrel he sees. Be prepared to train him to listen to you -- something he'll have a hard time seeing the value of much of the time.

Training isn't optional with this breed, unless the idea of a dog weighing between 45 and 80 pounds dragging you all over the neighborhood and ignoring every word you say in your own house appeals to you. Train your Bull Terrier from puppyhood on, with an emphasis on consistency, and you'll have a well-behaved, well-socialized canine family member.

Bull terriers can be protective, especially if they think their family is in danger, so be careful to socialize them around strangers and not encourage aggressive or guarding behavior. They can also be protective of their own space, toys, and food. This behavior has to be caught early and corrected consistently, as it can lead to serious problems.

Bull Terriers are big eaters so it's important that their owners keep an eye on their weight. Grooming is a breeze with Bull Terriers; just brush him a couple of times a week to keep shedding to a minimum, and make sure his nails are trimmed and his ears are clean

Note: The Bull Terrier is sometimes considered one of the breeds known as a "pit bull." The pit bull breeds are victims of an ugly propaganda campaign seeking to convince average people, unfamiliar with the dogs, that they're dangerous, unstable and deadly. If you bring a Bull Terrier into your family, you may find yourself dealing with the prejudices of your neighbors, family and friends, as well as irrational and unfair laws and insurance regulations. Research local ordinances carefully to be sure that you can own a Bull Terrier in your area.

Health Issues Common to Bull Terriers

The Bull Terrier is fairly healthy, but can be affected several genetic health problems. In the hope of controlling the genetic diseases that already affect the breed and prevent any new ones from emerging, the Bull Terrier Club of America, participates in a program operated by the Canine Health Information Center (CHIC). It requires that breeders test all their breeding dogs for problems that occur in the breed including deafness, heart disease, knee problems and kidney disease.

Additionally, the BTCA recommends additional genetic testing for all dogs who will be used in breeding, including hip dysplasia, zinc metabolism syndrome, pyloric and dysfunction, and screening dogs who will be bred for severe atopy (allergies), and entropion (ingrown eyelids).

Bull Terriers also suffer from a fairly high rate of allergies that can cause skin itching and secondary infections, including ear infections.

Condition Risk Profile Cost to Diagnose and Treat
Craniomandibular Osteopathy High $500-$2,000
Panosteitis Medium $200-$800
Compulsive Behaviors High $500-$3,000

7 Tips to Bring Home a Healthy Bull Terrier Puppy

Don't ever, ever, ever buy a puppy from a pet store or Internet site that offers many breeds and popular mixes or that ships with no questions asked. If you buy a puppy from these sources, you'll be more likely to get an unhealthy, unsocialized and difficult to house-train puppy and will be supporting the cruelty of high-volume puppy mills.

Start your search for a good breeder on the website of the Bull Terrier Club of America, which maintains a referral list for breeders; choose one who has agreed to be bound by the club's Code of Ethics, which prohibits its members from selling puppies to pet stores and outlines the responsibilities of its member breeders to the dogs they produce and the people who buy them -- including providing a lifetime safety net for the dog if his new owner should be unable to keep him.

Choose a breeder who is willing- in fact, eager- to go over the health histories of your puppy's parents and their close relatives, and discuss how prevalent particular health concerns are in his lines.

Do not purchase a puppy from a breeder who cannot provide you with written documentation that the parents were cleared of health problems that affect the breed. Having the dogs "vet checked" is not a substitute for genetic health testing, and any breeder who says her lines are free of all these problems, or that they're not a concern, is either lying or knows almost nothing about Bull Terriers. Look for your puppy elsewhere.

Consider an adult dog from a shelter or a rescue group. Many of the health and behavior problems in Bull Terriers aren't apparent in puppyhood, but by adopting an older dog, most of them can be ruled out. Since a Bull Terrier can live to be 12 years of age, even an adult dog will be with your family for a long time.

Puppy or adult, take your Bull Terrier to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot visible problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.

Make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. In states with "puppy lemon laws," be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.

Pet Insurance for Bull Terriers

Pet insurance for Bull Terriers costs more than for mixed breed dogs. This is because they are much more likely than mixed breed dogs to make claims for hereditary conditions that are expensive to treat.

Embrace dog insurance plans offer full coverage for all breed-specific conditions (excluding those that are pre-existing) to which Bull Terriers are susceptible. The best time to get pet insurance for your dog is when he's a healthy puppy. You can't predict what will happen in the future, and pet insurance is the one thing you can't get when you need it the most.