the Bull Terrier
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 a year of age 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. 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.