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Finding the Best Bulldog for You

In This Chapter

Are you looking for more than just a puppy? Do you need someone who is just a phone call away when you have a question or a problem? If you’re looking for a support system, someone who helps you do your best for your Bully for his entire life, look for a reputable breeder.

In this chapter, I give you advice on finding a good Bulldog breeder. I also have some advice for you if you decide to go to a pet shop, and I let you in on some information about adopting older dogs, as well as hints for picking a healthy puppy. I also tell you a bit about registering your dog and making sure you get a pedigree.

Picking Your Pup

No matter where you get your Bulldog, finding a healthy one is important. Your dog is going to be part of your family for around eight to ten years. If you start with a sick puppy, he may never be healthy, and you’ll incur veterinary bills right away and possibly for the dog’s entire life. Ask about the parents of your dog and what their health is like. Meeting the parents or the mother gives you an idea of what your puppy may be like. Any adult you meet should be friendly, not shy or fearful.
A puppy needs to stay with his mother and siblings until he is at least 7 weeks old. If the breeder or pet store is selling younger
puppies, find another place to get your dog. Some breeders feel that eight weeks is ideal; others like to keep the puppies for 12 weeks, making sure that the puppies have all their shots and starting them on crate training and housetraining.
Ask to see the puppy area. The surroundings should be clean, well lit, and near household activity. The puppies must be healthy. If the breeder brings out individual puppies and refuses to show you where the litter lives, find another breeder.
Here are some things to look for in a puppy:

– You want a healthy puppy. If the puppy is lethargic or has a running nose or gunk in his eyes, don’t let your sympathy make your decision.


If the puppy is dirty and has open sores, leave him behind.

– Choose an active puppy (see Figure 4-1) and one who has clear eyes and a healthy nose.

– Ask for the health records for the puppy. An updated shot record and worming history should be provided, as well as the pedigree. Ask whether the parents were tested for any health problems.

– Ask the age of the puppy. If he was taken from his mother and littermates too early, he may develop socialization problems later on.

Figure 4-1: This Bulldog puppy’s play stance is typical behavior of a happy, healthy, and playful pup.

Finding a Bulldog Breeder

Serious, responsible breeders help you select just the right puppy for your family and always provide assistance for you and your dog. You can find a breeder in several different ways:

– Visit the Bulldog Club of America’s Web site at You can locate breeders in your state or in nearby states. Be prepared to expand your search if you can’t find a breeder close to you. Most breeders are also happy to recommend someone else if they’re not expecting a litter soon or don’Tip have puppies.

– If you’re friend owns a Bulldog, ask him where he found his dog. Ask whether he’s happy with his dog and the breeder. Your friend can make the introductions and recommend you to the breeder.

– Attend a dog show near you. Buy a catalog listing the owners of all the dogs entered at that show. Watch the Bulldog judging. Talk to some of the handlers about Bulldogs.


Talk to handlers after the dog show. Before the judging, limit your conversation. The handler may be too preoccupied to have a long conversation. She may be watching the judging pattern or trying to get her dog to be alert and happy before entering the ring. After the show, ask the handler whether you can speak with her. Most people are happy to answer questions about their favorite breed.

How do you know that breeders at shows or on Web sites are responsible? Well, you don’t, but odds are that if they’ve joined the national club and shown their dogs, they take the time to do the job right. Unlike many breeds, where producing a litter is relatively easy, Bulldogs are all bred by using artificial insemination, and the puppies are delivered by C-section. A lot of thought and money go into every litter.


No matter where you find your breeder, be prepared to wait for your puppy. Producing a litter of Bulldog puppies is an expensive, time-consuming process, and the litters aren’t very large. Breeders you talk to may already have a waiting list.

Even if you think that you’ve found a breeder, take the time to talk with him. If the breeder seems more interested in making a sale than in helping you understand and care for a Bulldog, maybe he isn’t the right breeder after all. Take the time to find a breeder you like and trust. Believe me, your best friend for the life of your Bulldog is your breeder.

Facing the firing squad

After you’ve found your breeder, the questioning process begins. Whether the breeder has puppies at the moment, she’ll still ask you questions — a lot of questions. You may want to reference Chapter Preparing for Your Bulldog to prepare to answer some of the following questions.
A friend of mine is a breeder. Here are the questions she asks of potential Bulldog owners:

How did you hear about me?

She wants to know whether someone she knows referred you to her. If she knows the person, she can ask opinions of you as a potential owner.

If you own or have owned a Bulldog, where did you get your dog?

If you’ve owned a Bulldog previously, you know what you’re getting into. If you rescued your dog, you may need more information from her about how to raise and train a puppy.

What books, if any, have you read about the breed?

She doesn’t want one of her puppies to go to someone who just wants a Bulldog on a whim, and she wants you to know what to expect if you own a Bulldog.

What are your expectations for your dog? Describe what you want in a dog.

She wants to make sure that a Bulldog suits your lifestyle. She knows that a Bulldog can’t keep up with a jogger, and you may be disappointed if you want a dog that’s eager to play all day.

Do you prefer a male or a female puppy? Are you willing to take a puppy of the opposite sex? If not, what creates the preference?

If you’re not firm about your preference, the breeder may match you with the best puppy for your family, no matter what the sex.

Are you interested in an older puppy or an adult?

Sometimes breeders keep puppies to see whether they display show potential. The puppies that don’t make the grade are still good pets, and one of them may be perfect for you (if you aren’t interested in showing your Bulldog).

Tell me about your household. Do you have a spouse, partner, or roommates? Children? Their ages?

The breeder wants to make sure that everyone in the family welcomes the puppy. The breeder needs to feel that children are old enough to understand how to play properly with a puppy.

Do any family members suffer from allergies?

The heartbreak from falling in love with a puppy and then having to give her up is overwhelming. The breeder wants to prevent this heartache if she can.

Who is responsible for the care and training of your pet?

No breeder wants a puppy to be neglected. No matter how responsible your children are, an adult is ultimately responsible for the care of the puppy.

Would you characterize your family as the “outdoors type” or “homebodies”?

Again, the breeder wants to make sure that the Bulldog is, in fact, the right breed for you.

Have you had a dog before? Do you have other pets (dogs, cats, birds, fish)? Please tell me about your pet-owning experience.

She wants to hear that you’re committed to spending the time and energy to care for a Bulldog.

Have you researched a veterinarian, or have you used a vet in the past? If so, please provide the name, address, and phone number.

The breeder is concerned about her puppies and wants to make sure that you have a veterinarian lined up.

Do you live in a house, townhouse, condo, or apartment? How large is your yard, and what type of fencing do you have? Please describe, including height.

Bulldogs can live happily in any style of home, but the breeder wants to know how you handle housetraining. If you have a yard where your Bully can run loose, make sure that the yard is secure and keeps your Bulldog safe.

Do you have a pool?

Many breeders don’t sell a Bulldog to a family with a pool. Bulldogs may love the water, but they’re not good swimmers. Some Bullies can’t swim at all.

If you rent, does your landlord allow you to have a dog? Please provide landlord contact information.

Typically, a breeder doesn’t let a dog go to a home where he’s not allowed. She doesn’t want one of her puppies returned or, worse, taken to a shelter.

In what rooms inside your home will your dog be permitted? How do you plan to keep your dog out of certain parts of your home if necessary?

Making some rooms off limits is okay.

Have you thought about housetraining a puppy and handling an adult dog? Where will your dog go to eliminate? How will you clean up?

More questions designed to make you think. A puppy isn’t an impulse purchase. Think about what getting a puppy means in terms of time and effort.

How many hours each day will your dog be left alone? Do you have a secure place to leave your pet while you’re away from home? Where will your pet sleep at night?

Your breeder doesn’t want your dog left out unattended all day or put in the basement or garage. Depending on the weather, certain ailments like heat stroke or frostbite can befall your dog. Leaving your dog out in the yard also provides an easy target for dognappers.

Can you devote the time needed during the critical first few months to teach manners and expose your puppy to many new experiences?

Training and proper socialization are important elements in a puppy’s development into a secure and happy adult companion.

Do you know where you can go for obedience training or socialization?

Don’t worry if you say no. Your breeder has suggestions if you want to take a class.


Don’t be put off by the questions. The breeder wants to ensure that you know what you’re getting into by choosing a Bulldog. The kind of home environment and the thought process put into purchasing a Bulldog are other factors that breeders want to know. She needs to be reassured that your home makes a great place for one of her beloved puppies.

Questioning the questioner

Prepare a list of questions for your Bulldog breeder, too. Below are some sample questions to ask. Any reputable breeder will be able to answer these questions. If you aren’t satisfied with the answers or some questions can’t be answered, tuck your tail and run:

How long have you been breeding? Is breeding a business or a hobby? How often do your dogs produce a litter?

No breeder makes a living breeding Bulldogs if breeding is done correctly. If she says that breeding is her business, look for another breeder. If a breeder produces a few litters, she’ll be able to tell you what to expect as your puppy grows.

Is a Bulldog right for me?

The breeder wants all her puppies to go to permanent homes. Asking this question gives her a chance to ask a few questions of her own and to talk about the negative aspects of owning a Bulldog.

May I see the pedigree and registration form?

You especially want to see the pedigree if you’re thinking of showing. Pedigrees also ensure that you’re getting a purebred Bulldog. A registration slip accompanies each puppy, so you can register your dog.

May I receive a health record?

Your breeder provides a health record (or at least she should) with each puppy. The record shows what vaccinations your pup has received and the dates the puppies were wormed.

What happens if I can’t keep the dog?

Most reputable breeders can take back one of their dogs at any time, but the terms may vary from breeder to breeder. Read your contract. If you return a puppy within the time period allowed for a veterinary check, you may get a refund of the purchase price. If a problem such as temperament develops later, breeders frequently offer to replace the puppy with another one. If you’ve had your Bulldog for a few years and now circumstances prevent you from keeping her, your breeder may be able to take her, and you can have some peace of mind, knowing that your dog lives in a good home. But if this last scenario is your case, you don’t get a refund. You may think that not getting your money back is unfair at first, but the breeder now has another dog to care for (and the costs incurred by that dog), and depending on the dog’s age, your dog may not find a new home.

Surfing for Bulldogs

You may be tempted to look online for your Bulldog puppy. An online search may give you the names of breeders whether you look at the American Kennel Club (AKC) Web site or the Bulldog Club of America (BCA) site. You may even find individual breeders who aren’t on either list. Some sites even sell puppies. You may get a good puppy online, but how do you know before it’s too late? You’re unable to see the parents; and even the puppy is a mystery until he arrives on your doorstep. Pictures can’t tell you about the puppy’s personality or whether he’s healthy. Don’t you want to know how your Bully was raised?
I trust certain breeders to send me a puppy sight unseen, but generally, I’d want to see the puppy and the mother before I’d buy a dog. Consider the money you may spend to purchase your dog. You want to go to a reputable breeder and visit your puppy before he comes home. You’ve invested in your Bully; now protect your investment.

Deciphering breeder contracts

After you’ve settled on a breeder, read the contract that the breeder has drawn up. Contracts can protect both you and the breeder, but make sure that you read the contract carefully before you sign. The contract may be as simple as a statement listing the dog, his pet or show quality, and instructions agreed on for care (such as agreeing to spay or neuter the puppy). Detailed contracts outline further evaluations of the dog to determine whether the Bully can be shown, the breeder can use a male as a stud, or the price was adjusted because the breeder wants a puppy back if you ever breed.

If you could turn back time

The contract may also state that if for any reason you can’t keep the dog, the Bully returns to the breeder. Breeders do have this clause to prevent dogs they’ve bred from ending up in shelters or rescues. Don’t be afraid to admit that you made a mistake or that you can’t afford the dog. Breeders rather take the dog back than see him suffer in a shelter.

Registration stipulation

The contract may also state whether the puppy is under a limited registration. Breeders use limited registration to make sure that a pet isn’t bred. Offspring from a limited-registration dog may not be registered with the American Kennel Club (AKC).

Health guarantees

The contract may include health information, or the health guarantee may be a separate document. The health guarantee gives you a specific amount of time — usually 48 hours — to take your puppy to a veterinarian for a health check. If a problem occurs within that time frame, the breeder may refund your purchase price. Breeders may also offer a replacement puppy if a major problem develops within the first year. Make sure that you understand the offerings in the contract before you take your puppy home.

Puppy co-ownership

Some breeders don’t sell a puppy outright but insist on coownership. The breeder and you share custody of your Bulldog until one or more of the following events occur:

Your Bully earns a championship title. Think about the time, the money, and the drive it takes to go to dog shows until your dog finishes. If you can’t personally get the dog finished with his show circuit, is the breeder willing to show him? Who pays the expenses? Are you willing to be separated from your dog for six months to a year while he’s being shown? Leaving your Bulldog with the breeder until your dog earns a title may be tough — it can mean months without seeing your dog!

Your Bully breeds, and the breeder gets a puppy. If the breeder sells you a puppy at a reduced price and retains coownership until she gets a puppy back, make sure that you understand what is involved in breeding a Bulldog. That “bargain” puppy you got may cost you more in the long run than a puppy you pay full price for. See Chapter Ten Good Reasons for Not Breeding Your Bulldog for information and costs associated with breeding.


Co-ownerships can and do work, but know what you’re getting into before you sign the papers. You may want that cute Bully puppy so much that you’ll agree to anything right now, but you may be sorry a year from now.

Perusing Pet Shops

A cute Bulldog puppy and the instant gratification are hard to resist when you’re able to scoop that puppy up and take him home, with no questions from a breeder and no waiting for a litter. Still, many of the same criteria apply no matter where your dog comes from.


You aren’t able to meet either of the puppy’s parents, which means that you don’t have an idea of temperament or size. Generally, petshop Bulldogs are leggier and thinner than the Bulldogs that come from a breeder.

A puppy from a pet shop may cost more than a puppy from a breeder, and you lack the benefit of the breeder’s experience. No one is available to call when you need advice. Whether your Bully has a major health problem or you can’t keep your dog for any reason, the pet shop won’t take him back.

Adopting an Older Bulldog

If you want an older dog, consider a dog from an animal shelter or from a Bulldog rescue group. The advantages to an adult dog seem endless:

– Your adult Bully may already be housetrained, and even if he isn’t housetrained, he can train faster than a puppy and wait longer between trips outside.

– An older dog doesn’t need the concentrated effort a puppy needs. Your dog still craves love and attention, but if you don’t have the time or energy to deal with a puppy’s training and socialization, an older Bulldog may be perfect for you.

– Older Bullies already “speak English.” They understand the words you use, even if they don’t always obey!

– Your dog is beyond the chewing stage. He is grateful for a soft bed and less likely to want to destroy it. He may not be as eager as a puppy to turn your good shoes into chew toys.

– Don’t worry that an older dog won’t bond with you. It’s amazing how quickly that bond can form.

The disadvantage of getting an older dog is inheriting all his bad habits. You may not know what his life was like before you got him. The Bulldog Club of America (BCA) makes this statement about rescue on its Web site: “A majority of our rescues have social, emotional, behavioral, and health issues. If you aren’t able or willing to deal with a not-so-perfect Bully, your wait may be a long one. Many rescued Bulldogs are dog aggressive and have trust issues. Some aren’t suitable for placing with children. Rarely does a happy, welladjusted Bulldog end up in our care. If you aren’t committed to dealing with housebreaking issues in an adult dog or to provide obedience training, you may not really want to take on a rescued Bulldog.”
You can still get a potentially wonderful dog from rescue, but you have to be willing to work to get that wonderful dog. The same determination to save a Bully by adopting from a shelter or applying to a rescue organization ought to be applied to turning your Bully into a cherished family member.


Take some extra time in training your dog new habits. An old dog can learn new tricks!

Considering shelter dogs

The Bulldog is a popular breed, so you may find one at your local shelter. Getting a dog from a shelter costs less than getting a puppy. Spay or neutering fees, along with up-to-date shots, are included in the adoption fee. Many shelters now foster their strays, sending them home with volunteers to monitor behavior around other dogs, cats, and children.


Some shelters keep a list of names of people who want a specific breed. See whether your shelter provides this service. Otherwise, call at least once a month. If possible, visit the shelter in person. Shelters rely on volunteer help, and frequent turnover may mean that the volunteer who said that she’d call you no longer works there.

Contacting Bully rescue groups

Dogs end up in rescue for a variety of reasons: owner death, family unwilling to care for pet, or serious health or behavior problems. Rescue workers work diligently to place Bulldogs in appropriate homes. Rescue personnel do everything possible to make a good match. They want the rescued dogs to go into permanent homes. Workers can usually tell you how the dog reacts to other animals and to children. Typically, dogs from rescue organizations are spayed or neutered and have all their shots. Many breed rescue groups have dogs available in each state. Vets, local animal shelters, and pet-supply stores often have information on how to contact these groups, and many can also be found on the Internet.

Registering Your Puppy

When your breeder registered the litter with the AKC (see Chapter Acquainting Yourself with the Bulldog Package), she received an individual registration form from the AKC for each puppy. You receive that form when you purchase your dog. Fill out the form, including your puppy’s name, and send the form to the AKC with the registration fee.


You can also register online. Previously, the litter owner had to enter the dog’s information before the new owner could register the dog online. Now the AKC registration forms include a PIN number that allows the new owner to register the dog quickly online.

Two types of registration are available: full and limited. A full registration indicates that the dog’s offspring may be registered with the AKC. A limited registration renders any offspring ineligible for registration. Limited registration may be changed to full registration at any time, but only the breeder may make the change.
The purpose of limited registration prevents a fault from being passed on if the breeder doesn’t feel that the dog meets the breed standard. A contract may call for the buyer to spay or neuter, but the limited registration ensures that owners aren’t able to register the offspring of their dog.
Limited registration also means that the dog isn’t eligible for AKC conformation events but is eligible for all other AKC sports, such as obedience and agility.


The AKC serves as the primary registry for Bulldogs in the United States. Pups sold with a Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) registration are imports who may be eligible for AKC registration, but at a cost of around $100 extra. Many importers are profit driven, and the health and family history of the pup are often hard to verify. Also, many imported puppies are taken from their mothers too early, which may set the puppies up for behavioral problems. Unless you’ve visited the breeder and had a chance to inspect the breeding facilities and go through your checklist of breeder questions, buyer, beware.

You don’t have to register your Bulldog, but I recommend it. If you decide to compete in any of the performance events, your dog needs to be registered. If you own an unregistered purebred Bully, submit a form and pictures of your dog to the AKC. If the AKC agrees that your dog is a purebred, the club assigns an Indefinite Listing Privilege (ILP) number that allows you and your Bully to compete in all performance events. You may not compete in conformation. Registering your puppy in the beginning is faster and easier, though.


Registries ensure that both a dog’s parents are the same breed. Saying that a Bulldog is AKC registered isn’t a guarantee of quality. You need to rely on the breeder for that.

by Susan M.Ewing

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