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Grooming Your Bulldog

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Bulldogs aren’t difficult to groom; you don’t need a lot of fancy brushes, combs, or clippers. But Bulldogs still need occasional grooming — all dogs benefit from brushing and baths. Grooming time also allows you to check your dog for cuts, scrapes, or unusual bumps. Regular clipping of nails and checking of eyes and ears can catch any little problems before they become big problems.


Proper grooming keeps your dog an appreciated member of the family (and a better smelling one to boot). Grooming equals good health, and the time you spend grooming your dog helps to form a bond between you and your Bully.

Brushing Your Bulldog

Brushing removes dead hair and skin, spreads oil throughout the coat, and stimulates blood flow.
Bulldogs don’t have elaborate coats or thick fur, so you don’t need a lot of different types of brushes to brush your Bulldog completely and thoroughly. To brush your Bulldog properly, however, you need the following items:

Squirt bottle for water: Spritzing your dog’s coat before brushing keeps the hairs from breaking. Add a dash of Listerine to help clean the coat.

Bristle brush: Boar’s bristle brushes are expensive, but they last forever.

Curry comb: This comb’s stubby rubber nubs loosen and remove head hair.

Brush from the nose to the tail. It’s best to have your Bulldog standing when you’re brushing him, especially if you’re getting him ready for a show and want his coat to look as nice as possible (see Chapter Showing and Showing Off Your Well-Trained Bulldog, and also the sidebar in this chapter, “Putting your Bully on the table”). When your Bulldog is standing, certain portions of him are more easily reached. However, if your Bully isn’Tip going to a show and prefers to recline during the brushing process, that’s perfectly okay.
To brush your Bully:
  1. Spritz him lightly with water from your squirt bottle.
  2. Use the curry comb to work through his fur to remove loose and clumped hair.
  3. Use the bristle brush to brush away all the loose hair.
Don’t forget to brush his legs and tail!


Your bed makes a wonderful grooming surface. I recently discovered this fact because the weather was way too hot outside to set up the grooming table. We have a fairly high bed in our bedroom, and we keep a sheet over the bedspread because one of our dogs sleeps with us. The dog needed grooming, so I hoisted my boy up on the bed and brushed away.

The bed provides a big surface for both you and your dog. You can sit on the edge of the bed and easily groom his feet. The bed also offers a soft platform to encourage your Bully to roll over on his side for brushing. That is virtually impossible on a grooming table without ending up in an argument. After grooming your dog, pull off the sheet, shake the hair in the trash, and throw the sheet in the washer.


Make sure that you use a rubber mat or some other type of nonskid surface for a base when grooming your Bully. You don’t want your dog to panic because he can’t grip a smooth surface, and you don’t want him sliding off.

Putting your Bully on the table

At the top of my shopping list is a grooming table. The older I get, the more I don’t want to kneel to do anything. A grooming table also helps you control your dog. He can’t easily scoot away from you during the grooming process if he’s on a table.
Planning on showing your Bully? Then you need a grooming table. If you don’t plan to show, you may not need a specific grooming table, but do think about what you can use in your own home: a rubber mat on top of the clothes dryer, a work bench in the basement or garage, a sheet on top of your kitchen table.

Getting the Skinny on Skin Care

The Bulldog breed tends to be more susceptible to skin problems than other breeds. Problems range from dry, flaky skin to serious allergies to mange. A dog with fleas may end up with hot spots. But Bulldogs’ face wrinkles require the most attention and care in the grooming process.

Wrinkles are beautiful

Wrinkles give a Bulldog his characteristic look and add to his charm, but these face folds need to be kept clean and dry. Some dogs’ wrinkles need cleaning only a couple of times a week, but other dogs need their wrinkles cleaned every day. Because air can’t get into the bottoms of the wrinkles, skin in the fold can become red, raw, and infected. If you notice a smell or any goop in the wrinkles, you need to clean them more often.
Use a damp cloth, cotton balls, or baby wipes. Baby wipes with aloe are a good choice because the aloe soothes the skin and helps moisturize, or you can mix water and dog shampoo. If you use shampoo, mix a tiny drop of it in a cup of warm water, and use a cotton ball to dab the wrinkles with the solution. Afterward, make sure that you rinse the wrinkles well to prevent further irritation. No matter what you choose to clean your dog’s face, make sure that you thoroughly dry the wrinkles when finished. Use some petroleum jelly in the deep wrinkles to soothe the skin and add a moisture barrier.


Popular drying agents like powders or cornstarch aren’t recommended for Bulldogs because they can clump on and irritate the skin.

When wrinkles appear raw or irritated, use a general antiseptic ointment or a diaper-rash cream to treat the area. And while you’re taking care of the wrinkles, put a dab of petroleum jelly, vitamin E, or Bag Balm on your Bully’s nose to help maintain the softness.

Acne — not just for teenagers

Your Bulldog doesn’t have to be a teenager to get acne. Wrinkles make a lively place for bacteria to grow, and this growth may result in pimples on your dog’s face and chin. Plastic dishes can also cause this problem, so I recommend using ceramic or stainless steel. Most of the time, minor breakouts respond to gentle washing and a daily treatment of antibiotic cream. You can also use a product called Oxyio, available in most drugstores. Acne that doesn’t seem to go away merits a visit to your veterinarian. He may prescribe an oral antibiotic for your dog to help clear up the problem.

Alleviating skin allergies

If your Bully has skin problems — redness, flakiness, itchiness — for no apparent reason that you can think of, he may have allergies. Canine allergies — just like human allergies — stem from foods, molds, and pollens and cause itchy skin. Discomfort can be seasonal and chalked up to “something in the air.” Continuous irritations can result from a number of reasons, but your dog’s food is the most likely culprit.
If you suspect that your Bully’s skin problems are due to allergies, make a trip to the veterinarian. He may run tests to pinpoint the cause of your dog’s discomfort, or he may suggest a food made of all one product. These special diets have just one ingredient, like duck. Then, by gradually adding other foods, you can determine the exact cause of the allergy. Allergy food testing is a lengthy process, and fortunately, most dogs don’t need to go this route.

Halting hot spots

A flea-saliva allergy in your dog may drive him to continuous biting and scratching, which can create hot spots. Hot spots are red, weeping sores caused by dogs biting their own skin. I use a triple antibiotic salve on hot spots, and the ointment seems to work. When hot spots don’t get better within a few days or continue to get larger, check with your veterinarian.

You also need to manage the flea infestation in your dog. For more on controlling fleas, see “Making fleas flee” in Chapter Recognizing and Tackling Bulldog Health Issues.

Managing mange

Mange, a persistent, contagious disease of the skin causing inflammation, itching, and loss of hair, poses another skin problem in Bulldogs. If you suspect that your dog has mange, take him to the vet right away to determine what’s causing the mange and what treatments are needed.
Two types of mange, both caused by tiny mites, may affect your dog:

Sarcoptic mange: Symptoms accompanying Sarcoptic mange include intense itching and, with advanced cases, skin lesions and hair loss. Treatments are done internally with a prescription of ivermectin and externally with sulfur dips to help ease the irritation. Using a monthly flea and tick preventative effectively protects your pet against mange-causing mites. Make sure to disinfect the dog’s bedding thoroughly or simply throw it away.

Demodetic mange: The second type of mange passes from the mother to her puppies and affects puppies between the ages of 3 and 10 months. With Demodetic mange, you may notice hair loss around your dog’s eyes, lips, or forelegs. Extreme cases include hair loss at the tips of the ears. A special shampoo may be recommended, and ivermectin comes in handy again. Demodetic mange, if not widespread on the dog’s body, may go away on its own. If the mange spreads significantly beyond small, localized areas, treatment can last up to one year. Veterinarians diagnose Demodetic mange through skin scrapings, but this type of mange doesn’t cause the itching that Sarcoptic mange does.

Bringing up the rear

Your dog’s tail doesn’t need much attention, but on some Bulldogs, the tail sits in a pocket that can harbor bacteria. If your dog has a tail pocket, meaning that there’s a thick fold of skin surrounding the base of his tail, make a special effort to keep that pocket clean and dry with daily wiping. For a tight tail pocket, you may need to use cotton balls instead of a washcloth or a baby wipe. After washing the tail pocket, make sure to dry it thoroughly. Rub a bit of antibiotic cream in the pocket for added protection. A bit of petroleum jelly acts as a moisture barrier, just as it does for wrinkles. If the tail seems irritated or infected, your veterinarian can give you an antifungal ointment, as tail infections are frequently yeast infections.

Puppy Pedicures

If you walk your dog on paved roads or cement sidewalks, you may be one of the lucky few who never need to clip or grind his dog’s nails. Otherwise, like the rest of us, include nail care in your grooming routine.


If, for some reason, you can’t deal with trimming or grinding your dog’s nails, hold your head high, and take your Bully to a groomer for his pedicure. No matter how those nails get short, make sure trimming happens. Long nails spread your dog’s foot (splaying) and make walking difficult.

Cutting the nails

Nail trimming doesn’t rank high on your Bulldog’s list of most popular events for dogs. However, your Bully doesn’t feel pain when you clip his nails unless you accidentally cut the quick (a tiny vein that runs through the center of your dog’s nails), so don’t let your dog tell you otherwise.


From the puppy stage, start trimming and get your Bully used to having his feet handled, even when you’re not preparing to do the nails. Hold a paw in your hand. Give your pup a treat, tell him he’s wonderful, and then let him go so that he associates paw handling with happy moments.

You need to buy a pair of special nail clippers intended for dogs. You get what you pay for, so invest in a good set. Ask your breeder or your veterinarian for recommendations.
When you do start to clip the nails, use sharp clippers, and cut quickly. Do one foot at a time in the following pattern: Trim nails, give treat, release to play, repeat pattern. The pattern helps your dog release the anxiety associated with trimming. The break time allows you to recoup between trimmings, especially if you’re worried about hitting the quick.


Cut nails where they curve around to a point to avoid the quick. (If the thought of hitting the quick terrifies you, take off tiny amounts of the nail at first.) See Figure 8-1 for proper placement of the cut for nail trimming. If your dog has white nails, you can see the quick, which somewhat resembles a smaller, dark nail inside the actual nail, and avoid cutting it. If your dog has black nails, you’ll need to make an educated guess, but the general rule is never cut the nail past the pad of the foot. With regular trimming, the quick shrinks, and over time, the risk of hitting the quick lessens. 

Figure 8-1: Where to trim your Bulldog’s nails to avoid cutting the quick.
If you do happen to hit the quick, use a bit of styptic powder (available at your local pet-supply store or at a drugstore) to stop the bleeding. If you plan to trim your Bulldog’s nails yourself, purchase styptic powder to have on hand in case of bleeding. If bleeding occurs, coat the end of the nail generously with styptic powder, and keep the paw elevated until the bleeding stops.

Grinding the nails

If, for whatever reason, you just can’t cut the nails yourself, don’t feel bad. I can’t either. I can rip fleas apart with my nails, clean oozing wounds, and scoop out eye and ear gunk, but I just can’Tip clip nails. However, I can grind nails.
A grinder is a motor-driven tool with an abrasive round drum. Think of a small version of a power sander, and you have the idea. The grinder acts as a file and grinds away the unwanted nail. Many dogs who hate having their nails cut don’t mind the grinder at all, and when using a grinder, the risk of cutting the quick is eliminated. (Ask your breeder to recommend a grinder.)

Get your dog used to the grinder gradually. Turn on the grinder when you’re grooming your dog, so he gets used to the motor’s noise. Hold a paw against the handle of the grinder, and let him feel the vibration. When your dog seems comfortable with the noise and shaking of the tool, try a nail. Just as recommended with nail cutting, grind one set of nails at a time, and take a break. Give treats (offer a variety of treats). In no time at all, your Bulldog quietly lets you grind his nails without a fuss.

The “Eyes” Have It

Generally, the grooming process doesn’t include regular eye care. But occasional dust and dirt particles from the outdoors cause eye irritations. To rinse out your Bully’s eye(s), squirt a mild eye solution in the eyeball. Pet-supply stores carry many brands of eye solutions, or ask your vet to recommend one. Eye problems greater than the minor particle in the eye should always be referred to a vet. A scratched or swollen eye with seeping requires a veterinarian’s examination.
Tear stains, on the other hand, can be treated at home. Your Bulldog’s tears run down his face and can leave stains. Not all Bulldogs get eye stains, but if yours does, the discoloration isn’t harmful to your dog. If you’d prefer your Bulldog’s face stain free, check with a groomer or your veterinarian for stain-removing products, or try these helpful products and concoctions:

Boric acid or ointment: Gently rub the stain with a piece of cotton soaked in boric acid, or use a dab of boric acid ointment, which you can find in most drugstores.

Hydrogen peroxide and cornstarch: Make a thin paste of hydrogen peroxide and cornstarch. Apply carefully to the stain, let dry, and then brush off. Apply daily.

Tear stain remover, diaper rash cream, and medicated body powder: Clean the tear-stained area with the tear stain remover dry. Apply a thin layer of diaper rash ointment, and dust with medicated powder. Tears tend to roll off instead of staining the face.

Ears to Good Health

Make checking and cleaning your dog’s folded-open ears another part of your grooming routine. Potential infections grow anyplace where air can’t freely circulate, so it’s best to keep your Bully’s ears clean to prevent problems. You can buy ear-cleaning products or use a cotton ball soaked in hydrogen peroxide. Gently clean the earflap and just inside the ear.


Never, ever push and poke into the inner ear of your Bulldog; you can seriously injure him.

Ear mites, while not common, can be a problem with regard to ear health, as they can cause redness, swelling, and bleeding from constant scratching. Pay attention when your dog shakes her head or scratches at her ears. These indicators relay messages of potential problems. If you suspect a problem with your dog’s ears, schedule a visit with your veterinarian.

The Whole Tooth and Nothing but the Tooth

Tooth decay plagues humans more than dogs, but that doesn’t mean that dogs aren’t susceptible. Bulldogs can develop plaque, which, if not removed, hardens to tartar. Possible complications from tartar include abscesses of the gums. Or the bacteria from abscesses can circulate in your dog’s system and lead to pneumonia or heart, liver, or kidney problems.

Brusha, brusha, brusha

If you start cleaning your dog’s teeth when he’s a puppy, he’ll soon get used to the routine. Toothbrushing may not be your favorite activity to share with your dog, but statistics show that 75 percent of all dogs have some kind of periodontal problem by the age of four. So include your Bulldog’s mouth and teeth in every health check.
Your veterinarian can give you recommendations on what products to use on your dog’s teeth and can show you the proper way to keep your Bully’s teeth clean. To brush your dog’s teeth, you can use:
Most veterinarians and pet-supply stores also sell special pastes that come in a variety of flavors for brushing your dog’s teeth. Make sure that you use a paste made especially for dogs; never use human toothpaste for your dog’s dental care.

Professional cleaning

Eventually, your veterinarian may recommend a professional cleaning for your dog’s teeth. This procedure entails anesthetizing your dog so that the vet or technician can remove tartar buildup and clean and polish your dog’s teeth. If cracked or broken teeth are found, they can be pulled during the procedure.
Not all dogs are alike, of course. Some dogs may need their teeth cleaned every six months; others may go their entire lives without a professional cleaning. Your veterinarian checks your dog’s teeth during the annual checkup, but if you ever notice the following problems, contact your vet:


When treating older dogs, veterinarians usually recommend blood tests before the cleaning to ensure the dog’s safety under anesthesia. The blood tests may help your veterinarian detect other health problems as well.

Bathing Your Bully: Water, Water Everywhere

Your Bulldog may not need a bath often, especially if you keep him clean with regular brushings and wrinkle cleanings, but one day your dog and your bathtub will need to meet. Unless you have a large stationary laundry tub in your basement, use your own tub as the designated bathing area. Get organized, gathering every item you need before you find and heave your dog into the tub.

Preparing the bathing area

Before you start your Bulldog’s bath, collect the following supplies:

Baby wipes: Used for cleaning wrinkles.

Cotton balls or swabs along with commercial ear-cleaning solution: If you haven’t already cleaned your Bully’s ears on the grooming table, choose bathtime as the time to do it.

Dog shampoo: Don’t use human shampoo, no matter how much you like the smell — the pH balance in shampoo differs for dogs.

Flexible spray nozzle, pan, or pitcher: Attach the spray nozzle to the faucet, or use a pan or pitcher to pour water over your Bully. (Spray nozzles are easier to use and get all the soap out of your dog’s coat.)

Grooming apron or an old sweatshirt: This is for you to wear. Be prepared to get wet. Your dog will shake one or more times, and you will get wet.

Hair dryer: Use either a special dog dryer or your own. Remember to set the dryer on low or air only.

Rubber mat: Prevents the dog from slipping in the tub.

Stack of towels: Get more than you think you need. Use a couple to kneel on, or get a pillow or a rubber pad to protect your knees.

After you’ve gathered all your supplies and before you put your dog in the tub, run the water to the desired temperature — warm enough to be comfortable but not too hot. If you try to place your pooch in the tub and the water runs too hot at first, you may scald your dog’s paws, and cold water may shock your dog into a panic. Test the water temperature on the inside of your wrist, just as you do a baby bottle of formula. When in doubt, go cooler rather than warmer.

Preparing your pup

Now go get the dog. Bathtime usually ranks at the bottom of any dog’s list of favorites. Inevitably, your Bulldog sees right through your loving voice and desire to pick him up for a simple cuddle and knows to run and hide.
So you may have to put him on a lead, pick him up, or lure him with treats to get him into the bathroom with you. But after you have him cornered and you’re both in the bathroom, close the door. If you own other pets, you don’t want them wandering in and distracting you or the dog, and after you suds up your Bully, you don’t want him escaping to spread suds and water throughout the house.


Ideally, avoid shampoo near your dog’s face, and clean the face separately. Before you hoist your dog into the tub, you may want to protect his eyes and ears:

– Some groomers recommend a drop of mineral oil in the eyes to protect Bulldogs against soap, but others feel that the oil just spreads the soap.

– Put cotton in your dog’s ears to prevent water and soap from leaking in the ear canal. Cotton works if you can keep your dog from shaking her head vigorously and dislodging the cotton. So try the cotton if you want to, but if your dog persists in shaking, just be careful around the ears. Use a damp cloth to wipe the ears clean, and don’t use any shampoo at all around the ears.


Because of your Bulldog’s short, upturned nose, water can easily trickle into the nose and from the nose into the lungs. A Bulldog can easily drown in a small amount of water. If you’re using a spray nozzle, be careful not to get water in your dog’s nose.

Washing your Bulldog properly

Now you’re ready to begin bathtime:
1. Lift your dog into the tub.
No matter how low your tub, don’t allow the dog to climb in on his own. Bulldogs slip easily and may hurt themselves.
2. After he’s in the tub, wash the face wrinkles first.
Use water only, and clean his face and earflaps. If you purchased special ear cleaner, use that now.
3. Wet your dog all over.
4. Squirt shampoo on your hand, and begin to lather your dog.
Scrub gently, paying close attention to dirty spots and sensitive areas of the body.
5. Rinse your dog thoroughly.
Rinse. Repeat. Rinse again; rinse a third time. And rinse again. Leaving any trace of soap on your dog causes skin irritation and itching.
6. Rinse him some more.
Drench areas around the tail, especially if your dog has a pocket for his tail. Thoroughly douse your dog with water behind the elbows, between the toes, and on his stomach.


Use some vinegar in the final rinse to get rid of any soap scum and leave your Bulldog’s coat shiny and squeaky clean.

7. Let your dog shake off.
I prefer letting him shake while he’s in the tub. You’d be amazed at how much water a dog can shake off. Hold up a towel (or close the shower curtain), and let your Bully shake that water in the tub instead of all over your bathroom.
8. Lift your dog from the tub.
Don’t let him scramble out on his own.
9. Dry your dog thoroughly.
Use a couple of towels to get him as dry as possible. Then finish drying in one of two ways:

If you opt for a hair dryer, and you don’t own a special dog dryer, use the lowest setting possible. The “air only” setting (if it’s an option on your dryer) offers the best experience for your dog. Bulldogs have very sensitive skin, and you can easily burn your dog with too high a dryer setting.


Never cage-dry your Bulldog. Cage drying involves putting your Bully in a crate with a dryer blowing hot air into the crate. Bulldogs overheat in cage-drying situations.

After you clean and dry your dog, you may want to keep him indoors to enjoy his clean, shiny coat. After he’s outdoors, the odds increase that he’ll head straight for the nearest mud puddle.

Removing the sticky stuff

You may occasionally find that your dog gets into something that you can’t easily get off. Here are some helpful household products to remove the goo:

Baby oil. Rub a small amount of baby oil on your fingers and then rub into the stain.

Hairspray. Soak hairspray on the spot and then peel or pick off the sticky goop.

Ice cubes. Use an ice cube to freeze the sticky spot. The substance becomes brittle and flakes off your dog’s coat. Be careful not to hold ice too long on any one area.

_ Nail-polish remover. Soak a cotton ball with nail-polish remover and then apply to the sticky spot.

– Peanut butter. Try applying peanut butter on gooey substances.

All these ideas work, although my favorites include the ice cubes and peanut butter. No matter what method you choose, make sure that you protect your dog’s eyes and wash and rinse the spot(s) completely. These products may cause skin irritations if left on too long.

Bathing in a pinch

Your Bulldog desperately needs a bath, but you’re out of dog shampoo. What do you do? Make your own. Try the recipes and hints below to get you out of those sticky situations when shampoos and removers aren’t readily available.
Homemade shampoo
16 ounces Dove liquid dishwashing detergent 16 ounces water
16 ounces apple-cider vinegar
4 ounces glycerin
Combine ingredients in an old shampoo bottle (or large cup), and swirl together. You can leave out the glycerin (which you probably don’t keep on hand), but in that case, reduce the amount of soap. You can make shampoo for now and save some for later. If you don’t want a large quantity, keep the recipe proportions the same but reduce the amounts.
Recipe adapted from
Oatmeal shampoo
If your Bulldog suffers from dermatitis, try making a shampoo that includes oatmeal.
1 cup oatmeal
1 cup baking soda
1 quart warm water
Mix oatmeal and baking soda, and pour into water. Oatmeal shampoo makes a soothing rinse for your ailing Bully.


If your dog gets stuck with gum, tree sap, or road tar, remove all or most of the substance before trying one of the items from the previous list.


Grooming allows you to notice anything out of the ordinary going on with your dog, from lumps and bumps to rashes or areas of hair loss. Use this time to check for external parasites as well. See Chapter Recognizing and Tackling Bulldog Health Issues for more information on parasites.

by Susan M.Ewing

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