About the Breed
The character of the Bull Terrier is probably the outstanding feature which draws prospective owners to the breed. A typical Bull Terrier is active, interested, playful and clownish. It is also extremely attached to its owners or family. These all sound like attributes of the perfect dog, however there are drawbacks to these characteristics which do not suit every prospective owner or every situation.
Activity is a characteristic which is present in nearly every young Bull Terrier. The young Bull Terrier is in fact almost indistinguishable from a three-year-old child in a dog suit. All puppies are extremely "busy" and many Bull Terriers continue to be active and playful until well into middle age (5-6 years). Bull Terriers like to be doing something . For this reason they fit very well into active families where they receive a great deal of companionship and supervision. They also adapt well to quieter situations such as homes of elderly (but active) retired persons who have a great deal of time to spend with their dog. Bull Terriers do not do well in situations where they are expected to remain alone in the home or yard for long periods of time or where their physical activity is very restricted. In these situations, very much like a three-year-old child, Bull Terriers become bored and destructive. They will often chew and destroy, are difficult or impossible to housebreak, and develop unpleasant habits such as incessant barking, tail chasing and peculiar personality quirks. It would make just as much sense to leave a little boy alone in an apartment for eight or nine hours as to do this with a Bull Terrier.
Bull Terriers become very attached to their owners and their families. This usually makes them very good, natural guard dogs, but care must be taken that they are not encouraged to become possessive and jealous. While this would seem a desirable attribute for someone who wants a dog to protect his wife and family, it can be a nuisance if the dog does not distinguish between acceptable strangers and malevolent ones. Bull Terriers can also become involved in the presence of violent physical activity such as children's fist-fights or exceptionally rough play activity where they see no reason not to join in, either to play roughly (which, with Bull Terriers, often includes nipping and knocking) or, to guard the family against the physical assaults of outsiders.
Bull terriers like to join family activity and for this reason require constant and firm discipline. They can be wonderful with children if handled with common sense, both by the adults and the children. Bull Terriers will tolerate a large range of children's behavior but they will not tolerate being teased and can be rough if constantly provoked. In their formative years, as do children, Bull Terriers require large amounts of supervision. They are tireless playmates and will chase balls, follow the children and watch their games for hours on end.
Many Bull Terriers can and do enjoy the company of other dogs with certain exceptions. Male Bull Terriers who have not been altered do not, as a rule, get along indefinitely with other male dogs. There comes a time when one of the males must dominate, and there is inevitably an unpleasant fight after which the two must live entirely separately for life. A male and female Bull Terrier can live together quite happily, and two females can often share the same home. Again, care must be taken that jealousies do not arise. It is not fair to expect an older Bull Terrier who has enjoyed the full attentions of the family to want to share with another dog. This again is very similar to a young child who suddenly finds himself confronted with a baby sibling - some care must be taken to assure the older one that the youngster belongs to the whole family.
Bull Terriers as a breed are quite fortunate in being generally free of disabling genetic diseases. A puppy should be checked for deafness as this does occasionally occur and is difficult for the breeder to notice especially in a relatively young puppy. One problem common to many Bull Terriers is a propensity to skin allergies. Certain insect bites, such as fleas, and sometimes mosquitoes and mites produce a generalized allergic response of hives, rash and itching. This can be controlled by keeping the dog free of contact with these insects, but this is definitely a consideration in climates or circumstances where exposure to these insects is inevitable.
Puppies up to the age a year are also susceptible to sudden and severe lameness. This is due to a combination of the weight and density of the muscle, rapid growth rate and the active character of the breed. Great leaps, sudden changes of direction or sudden stops at high speeds produce a great deal of strain on the immature joints and ligaments of this very muscular breed. The joints are simply not "set" enough to resist the torque applied by the weight and musculature of the young dog. For this reason young dogs should not be encouraged in this type of activity until they are fully mature.
Bull Terriers shed their coats twice a year. The loose hair can be removed by a daily rubdown with a special rubber glove, the hair does shed during these periods and the white hairs are more noticeable than the colored ones on furniture and clothes.
Old age brings on the usual battery of infirmities to which Bull Terriers are not immune. A Bull Terrier may well live an active and healthy life until he is eleven or twelve which is about the normal life span of this breed.
Males and females vary only slightly in temperament. The unaltered males tend not to tolerate prolonged association with other unaltered males as previously noted. Undesirable tendencies based on the sex drive can be remarkably reduced by spaying and neutering females as well as males. There can be more difference in the temperament of families of Bull Terriers than in general between the sexes. Some families tend to be more possessive and less tolerant of other dogs than others, and some families have a tendency to some shyness and apprehension with strangers and in strange places. Some families are very bright and innovative (which can be a mixed blessing) and some are less intellectual and more placid.
A Bull Terrier which is acquired with future breeding in mind should be selected for qualities of conformation and temperament which will produce top quality puppies. The responsibilities of breeding a litter of Bull Terriers must be assumed by the owner of the mother, and it is very important that they be adhered to faithfully if the breed is to continue to be as temperamentally and physically sound as it is today.
The breeder of the litter should select a mate for his bitch which has excellent physical properties as well as a good temperament. The puppies must be placed in homes suitable to the special needs and requirements of this breed. This often means keeping puppies for months until suitable homes are found. Puppy buyers should be encouraged to have their animals assessed by an authority before they breed them, and all females which are not up to breeding quality should be kept as pets and not bred from. Breeders should also be prepared to either take back dogs which they have sold to homes which don't work out, or help the owners of their Bull Terriers place them in another suitable home.
Bull Terriers are unique in the spectrum of dogs. They have been carefully selected and bred largely by responsible and caring people who understand the legacy of their chosen breed. They can give tremendous joy or wreck havoc depending on the time and effort spent by their owners to control and develop their special character.