I am due to deviate from partisan political ramblings for a posting. Dog abuse and puppy mills are a real problem in Alberta. I want to expand on bulldogs in particular.
Jane and I have been bulldog owners for some years now. Responsible dog ownership is always an ongoing learning experience, particularly when dealing with a breed as unique as an English bulldog. Aside from the lessons in maintaining and living with these dogs, one of the harder lessons was finding out just how many bulldogs are abused and abandoned in Alberta by unprepared pet owners and unscrupulous breeders. There is a real sad trend happening in Alberta and I hope that we can reduce the number of dogs being poorly treated like this.
Jane has been active with Alberta Bulldog Rescue for awhile now and we have hosted some foster dogs over the last few months. It is heartbreaking to see such great dogs neglected like this. I know that these issues exist with all breeds of dogs but it is bulldogs in particular that we are dealing with and they are pretty unique in the dog world with their behaviour and needs.
I will start with a bit of background on how Jane and I got into bulldog ownership and later fostering.
Stewie (pictured below) was and still is our first bulldog. When we decided that we wanted to get an English bulldog, it was far from an overnight process to get one. The cost for a well bred bulldog puppy runs from $2000-$3000, there are often waiting lists to get puppies and reputable breeders are very particular about who they will sell their beloved puppies to. After a long search Jane and I found Stewie at an Idaho breeder and after being able to convince the breeder that we could provide Stewie a good home we picked him up from Hayden for an average price.
Stewie settled in excellently and soon became a solid member of our family. After a couple years though, we thought that perhaps Stewie could use some company of his own breed. While Stewie loves other dogs, they often do not care much for him due to his snorting and odd appearance. We thought that another bulldog would be the best companion for Stewie and found Lonnie (pictured below) being offered for sale locally on kijiji. This is how and where we learned about what happens with “breeder” dogs.
We knew Lonnie was an older dog from the ad and that she had been bred a couple times. The price was only $500 and with her apparently being only 5 years old, we thought she would be a good match for Stewie. Lonnie came from a central Alberta breeder and the process of purchase was glaringly different with her than it had been with Stewie. The seller had no concern about who we were or if we could care for the dog properly and we literally met to exchange the dog for a cheque in a truck stop parking lot in Calgary. No followup from the breeder ever occurred and it was clear that their only interest was in getting a cheque and moving on.
Lonnie was a beautiful dog with a very loving and cuddly personality. She and Stewie became fast friends and she settled into the household quickly. It was immediate that we noticed that some things were odd with Lonnie too though. Lonnie’s teeth were decayed down to tiny nubs and her breath was wretched. While Lonnie loved human company and playing, she did not know how to play with toys though she would sort of try. Most disturbing was that Lonny would cower at any noise or even if a person approached her too quickly. Lonnie’s cowering stopped after a few months with us so it is clear that it was a learned behaviour. She quickly learned that nobody in our house was going to strike her.
On visiting with our vet it was determined that Lonnie was quite a bit older than what we had been told. It is impossible to tell for sure how old she really was but the vet was confident that 5 was a large understatement of her age. She had been bred multiple times as could be seen by the c-section scars and the condition of her teats but again it was impossible to tell just how many.
Unfortunately after about 8 months with us Lonnie acquired a case of chronic diarrhea. With many visits to the vet and countless experiments with medications and food changes we simply could not beat this disorder and Lonnie began radically losing weight. Upon an x-ray it was found that Lonnie had tumours throughout her entire body including one that was pressuring her trachea. There was little choice left and we had to have Lonnie put down last January (Stewie refused to eat for days after Lonnie was gone).
We certainly do not regret having gotten Lonnie and are happy to have been able to give her one good final year as a part of a family.
Jane and I had been watching the Alberta Bulldog Rescue group on Facebook for some time. After the Lonnie experience, we saw a trend happening in the facebook updates as abandoned female breeder bulldogs were commonly turning up with the rescue group. With bulldogs being so expensive and hard to come by I had figured that there would be little need for fostering or rescuing them. I was quite wrong. With the high demand and high price, unfortunately the breed draws the most unscrupulous of breeders who hope only to make a few bucks.
As with most puppy-mill operations, bulldog bitches are kept kennelled and bred essentially mercilessly. These breeder dogs often never get to leave their kennel environment and are often killed through having been sedated too many times for c-section procedures. The internet has provided a new means for breeders to squeeze just a few more dollars from these poor dogs as they get posted on sites like kijiji and sold to unsuspecting people such as Jane and I.
Below are pictures of Phoebe (French Bulldog) and Karma. Both of these girls stayed with Jane and I for a little while until foster homes were found. Both were breeder dogs. Karma was a very passive and affectionate dog and she has been permanently adopted. Phoebe is very playful and while blind in one eye and having had three c-sections and one natural litter, she loved wrestling with Stewie with gusto. Despite her age, she was not housebroken due to kennel living. That has been rectified since. Phoebe is still seeking a permanent family to join by the way.
I am going to go into extended details of what makes bulldogs unique and how they can be very difficult and expensive to own. They are excellent dogs but they are most definitely not for everybody.
Many people get these cut-rate breeder dogs from internet sites like Jane and I with the best of intentions. Not everybody who buys one of these dogs is prepared for the amount of maintenance required and the vet bills that often can and will run into the thousands of dollars. If people have not been properly briefed on what bulldogs are all about before they purchase one, they can be in for many rude awakenings. Unfortunately this leads to many bulldogs being abandoned or neglected when people find they simply can’t take proper care of (or afford to get treatment for) their bulldog.
I am going to list all of the downsides of bulldogs below as it is important that people who are considering getting one know what they are getting into. There are many upsides to the breed, but it is more important initially for a person to know what they do not want first.
Did I mention that bulldogs are expensive?
It is not just that multi-thousand dollar purchase price that makes bulldogs expensive. Due to overbreeding and poor breeding practices by many unprincipled breeders, bulldogs are often loaded with all sorts of health issues. Many bulldogs have allergies and need specialized foods that cost a small fortune. Cherry eye is very common and requires expensive surgery. Hip problems and breathing issues are common among bulldogs along with digestive challenges.
Between his cherry-eye surgeries, an anaphalactic episode, a digestive infection and simple regular visits to the vet Stewie has already cost us much more in vet bills than he did in his purchase price.
Nobody should own any kind of dog if they can’t afford basic veterinary care for their pet at need. That goes doubly so for bulldogs. I saw a person posting on kijiji begging for somebody to sell them a bulldog saying that they had saved $500 but would make up the purchase price deficit with love. I wish I was kidding here. Vets do not accept love in lieu of payment and I really hope that nobody sold a dog to that person. If that person does get a bulldog, I expect that the Alberta Bulldog Rescue group would be seeing it soon.
Bulldogs are gross in many ways!
I am not talking about common occasional farts as all dogs are prone to doing. Bulldogs are flat-faced and gulp their food which leads to excessive gas. Any trip to google can determine that English bulldogs far and away are considered the most flatulent dogs on earth. Bulldog farts not only smell terribly they are loud and sound grossly almost human.
While talking about the flatulence can be funny, that actually is a serious issue to some people. I remember speaking with a fellow at an off leash park who had a French bulldog that was somewhat new to him. He was feeding it all sorts of new foods and diets in hopes of ending the farts. He found the smell of his dog unbearable and embarrassing and was seriously considering getting rid of the dog for that reason alone. If you can’t handle gas, do not get a bulldog.
Bulldogs are not the top droolers but they are well capable of it. They love sneezing and honestly seem to try to do so with a human target. Their nose-ropes are legendary.
Bulldogs snort and gag regularly. They seem to take pleasure in vomiting at least once weekly and they snore very loudly.
Dedicated bulldog lovers find the above traits endearing in many ways (though nobody likes the farts). If you are easily grossed out however, bulldogs are not for you.
Bulldogs are lazy!
Stewie is in one of his favorite poses in the picture above. He likes to creatively sleep in all sorts of circumstances.
While bulldogs can have some profound spastic moments, they tire quickly and spend most of their time resting. Their endurance is very limited with activity and it cannot be stressed enough: bulldogs can’t handle heat! No dog should be left in an environment that is too hot but bulldogs can and will die at temperatures that other dogs are comfortable with. Bulldogs are not great with cold either and are not “outdoor dogs”. To keep a bulldog living in an outdoor kennel without full temperature control is simply outright abuse and in Calgary’s climate it likely will kill the dog.
If you want a hiking, biking, jogging etc. partner then a bulldog is not for you. The breed simply can’t do those things. One more reminder: most bulldogs can’t swim. Never toss one in the water.
Bulldogs are passive.
Bulldogs were bred centuries ago for the incredibly cruel sport of “bull baiting”. The sport was banned in the early 1800s but the breed was kept by aficionados. What breeders did was kept the strong build of bulldogs but purposely bred out all the aggression. Many people view bulldogs as some sort of tough dog and some foolishly get them thinking they are getting such. Realistically bulldogs are incapable of aggression and they make terrible guard dogs. I have encountered aggressive bulldogs but that is typically due to abuse of the animal.
If you want a guard dog or a tough dog, then a bulldog is not for you.
Bulldogs are high maintenance.
Those cute wrinkles on the face of a bulldog are irresistible. Those same cute wrinkles are also traps for all sorts of gunk and buildup which will cause terrible infections if the wrinkles are not cleaned regularly. Their ears can get pretty gunky and their anal glands often need expression. Bulldogs can’t reach their nether regions for a tongue cleaning as other dogs can. While some who hate seeing dogs lick themselves may see that as a plus, keep in mind that if the dog can’t clean it, then we have to.
If you don’t want to do regular and sometimes gross maintenance on a dog, then bulldogs are not for you.
Upsides of bulldogs.
Enough on all the downsides. Bulldogs are some of the friendliest and most loving of dogs that you could ever find. If you want a dog that loves kids, bulldogs are for you.
Bulldogs are beautiful to those who appreciate the breed. If you like attention while walking having a pair of bulldogs at the dog park is a sure way to turn heads. They are exceptional and fun to take out.
Bulldogs need very little exercise. One or two good walks around the neighborhood are more than enough to keep a bulldog content. If you are not too mobile, bulldogs are a good breed as opposed to some dogs that require hours of heavy activity regularly. Bulldogs make good urban dogs as they love interaction with people and don’t need the space that other dogs may.
Bulldogs are natural clowns and their odd habits and tricks are an endless source of entertainment. Bulldogs not only look weird, they act weird. I truly see bulldogs as being more like another species of animal rather than a breed of dog. Their neurosis while disturbing to some is entertaining to weirdos like me. 😉
Now after all of that, should you choose to get yourself a bulldog I would like to suggest a few things.
Please begin by looking into the Alberta Bulldog Rescue group. The perfect dog may already be waiting for adoption. Please be patient when considering the bulldog rescue group. It is volunteer run and all processes take some time. Homes for prospective adoptees must be inspected and adopting the dogs is not free. The rescue group is truly seeking “forever” homes for these dogs and must ensure that the home is appropriate. It would be terrible if a dog that already found itself in the rescue society’s care found itself back in there yet again due to being adopted into the wrong home. One abandonment is enough.
If you are looking to go to a breeder please take every precaution to ensure that the breeder is principled and cares for dogs well. Any good breeder will invite you to see their facilities! If somebody is asking a few thousand dollars for a puppy, it is not at all unreasonable for a prospective buyer to see where the dog came from. While excuses about disease control and such are trotted out by some breeders who jealously hide their location and keep people from visiting for some reason, those are simply nothing more than excuses. While it is understandable that a breeder does not want a train of gawkers coming and going from their facilities, mitigating infection and limiting the visitors to serious buyers is easy to do.
There is pretty much no real regulation regarding dog breeding or protection of these dogs from puppy-mill environments. The best way to halt these nasty facilities is simply to stop buying from them. Check references and see for yourself if the breeder is principled and good to their dogs. There are many good breeders out there who love their dogs and care for them well. It is up to buyers to be patient and to seek them out.
So after a couple thousand words, I do hope that I have helped inform about the unique breed that bulldogs are and the problems that we are having in Alberta due to puppy-mills churning them out. Please consider lending a hand to the bulldog rescue group or even adopting a dog. They really need the help.
This was a hoot. What an honest accounting of what the breed is in all its glory. I have found all 5 of my bullies to be everyting you descrived and I loved every moment of it.
They are great companion dogs. Thanks so mcuh.
What a great article! Very fair and honest – hard things to find on the internet these days. My two bulldogs have been the best things that ever happened to us, but they have also been very expensive and high maintenance. I too follow ABR on Facebook and it is tragic the stories that come their way. Whenever people ask me about my bullies I too always tell them – they’re the most amazing dogs, but not for everyone. You must not have a shortage of time, a weak stomach, or a light wallet. That being said, if you’re willing to put in the effort and the money, they are well worth the expense. (And P.S… good vet insurance and a high quality grain free diet are both well worth the expense).
Thank you for taking the time to write this. I am a Boston terrier owner but applying to foster for Alberta bulldog rescue. Have my foster home check this weekend!! I found the information in your article very useful
I loved, loved, loved your post. We have a 17 month old Am Bulldog and wow his angelic ‘aroma’ can clear a room lol. We love him to bits &he’s great but….we put in the time (every minute of the day) and money (obedience) plus we made it our mission (I have been known to approach unsuspecting strangers and ask them to say hello to Mr. Tank lol) to socialize with people and pets. We now have a 100 pound Teddy bear who’s best friends are a French bulldog and mini-chihuaha…you mentioned Pheobe might still be looking for a home…feel free to drop me an email if she is. Thanks
Loved your article, very informative. We are owners of 3 wonderful dalmatians, our breed has also faced many issues. We are very interested in learning more about the Bully breed and in time finding one of our very own. We have been following the ABR site and hope to provide a for ever home to one of the dogs the resuce.
Your story is my story,my husband got my female breeder bulldog on the side of the road.She is a lemon! But OMG I love her and wouldn’t trade my ridiculous bulldog rescue for all the love in the world. Nails way to long,recent litter,sore hip, no muscle tone, bad stinky skin,no personality(then),ears laid back, yeast in her ears,UTI,wrinkles infected,anal glands,She can not have any grains!…..That was the first 30 days. She has an ear infection, tommorow we go to the vet. I love the vet he charges us mininmal as he can. We had no clue,we had none. We love her to pieces, we occasionally have to carry her outside to the bathroom. She is the single most right thing in our world, she is loved as much as our children. Was I naive, for sure. Am I broke. Yes. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat. What can we do to help Alberta Bulldog Rescue?
yes they are irresistable for all of their challenges. Alberta Bulldog Rescue can always use help whether from cash donations, to items to volunteers for dog fostering and transport. I would suggest contacting them through the blog site http://albertabulldogrescue.blogspot.ca/ or looking them up on facebook. They may take a bit to get back to you as it is volunteer run and they can get busy at times. I assure you all help is appreciated. 🙂
So glad I found this article. I have been looking at getting a bulldog for years but I have been intimidated by my lack of knowledge of credible breeders. Due to the health issues they are prone to I want it to have have a fighting chance as well that we are able to finance some vet bills. I will definitely be looking at the rescue for more info.
Wish there was a way to get articles like this published in newspapers, talk shows, etc. People just cannot be bothered to research a breed they are interested in for characteristics or research breeders. So sad for the dogs.
Is Phoebe still available? If so, please contact me with specifics regarding her age, health and size. Thank you.
I already own an English bulldog male and was wanting to find out if you may have a sister for him? There are many abused and unwanted bullies I am sure that may need a forever home and we wanted to check with you first. Kindest regards and very appreciative for what you do… Thanks Jody & Rosco my bully
I am so glad I found and read this article…I am the owner of a 3 year old English Bulldog and love her to death! You have hit the nail on the head with everything you have written and i couldn’t agree with you more. I saw an ad on Kijiji as well from some woman asking to only pay $1000 to $1200 for a puppy. I couldn’t help myself and sent back an email to her describing how the cost of the puppy is actually the least expensive part about owning a bulldog! Hats off to you!
This is such an honest and insightful article! This is an article all hopeful bulldog owners should read. You did a wonderful job on it!! Thank you for taking the time to write it! We have owned 2 bulldogs, and unfortunately had to put our sweet girl down in August. She was always a very ill dog and quite often in alot of pain, however we would never have traded her for the world! This is an amazing breed and it is so sad that so many tragedies are happening to them. Thank god for Alberta Bulldog rescue and fosters like you guys.
Just wondering if phoebe is still available. Can you tell me more about her? Is she now housebroken? Can she be left alone?
Hi, the article is a few years old and Phoebe has found her forever home. There are always more dogs in need though.
This is a great article. We had our english bulldog for 10 years and have recently lost him to cancer and miss him terribly. We were fortunate to get ours from a good breeder and had very little health problems with him. I am considering buying another one but am not quite ready yet as I want to be sure I am making the right choice for this stage of my life. One thing that wasn’t mentioned in your article is the cost of dental work as most bulldogs have or will have serious dental issues once they start aging. The other thing on should consider before owning an english bulldog is the weight of them. Because they do not jump or climb like other dogs they very often have to be lifted (such as into the vehicle) and can be quite heavy. T-Bone was our best friend and the most loyal pet anyone could ask for. The relationship with him was different than with any other pet I have owned and was totally worth any vet bill or health issue.
Thank you for sharing this information, it is horrible how some treat animals and all we can do is educate each other to put them out of business! We have had our bully for 3 years now and adore him to bits. He is so loyal and loving – he truly following me everywhere. I wonder if he thinks he is human some days. He joined our family as a pup (from a reputable breeder) when my daughter was two and they are best buds. Definitely shares all the lovely and stinky traits described.
I tell people all the time not to get one of these dogs. They aren’t easy, low-maintenance pooches by any stretch. Having two myself, both from a “reputable” breeder (and I use that term loosely), and both with numerable conditions, I can definitely speak on this.
I realize people become very upset about the cost of these dogs (typically $2500 a dog), and don’t much care for being asked about their income. What I’m about to say might offend some, as being blunt about something often does…but unless your household income is over $100k, and I mean by more than a couple thousand, don’t consider one of these dogs. Sure your dog might not have any issues whatsoever. It happens, as miracles sometimes can. But chances are, your bulldog is going to cost you MANY thousands of dollars in vet bills if and when things do go south. If you can’t afford a vet bill of $2-3K at the drop of a hat, you can’t afford this breed. They end up in an amazing rescue like ABR if they’re lucky. The unlucky ones are left to suffer and are eventually abandoned (and not at a rescue or shelter, either).
Myself and my SO have no children and are able to treat our dogs like they ARE the children. We are fortunate. And despite all their issues, our bitching, lots and lots of tears shed, some missing fur and a missing eye, we love our dogs. We will go to the ends of the earth for our bulldogs. Because there are no dogs like them. So if you can afford them, and fully understand what you’re getting into, rescue or purchase one. But nobody is entitled to one. End rant.
I too have a bulldog rescue story and relate with much of this article. Thank you. 🙂
Rescues are great, but I think there us a bigger picture problem – rescues are providing an easy place to dump dogs who have health problems that a puppy mill doesn’t want to pay to fix or the dog is no longer lucrative. I would really back a rescue that was pushing for gov’t to rewrite the existing legislation to crack down on mills and give the SPCA and police more grounds for removal and criminal charges.
Awesome article! We have 3 beautiful bulldogs Betty, Lou and Rosie. We once had 4 but Seymour sadly passed a couple years back. I can truly relate to all you have written and the farts! OMG haha! But all the negatives definitely out weighs the love and joy these little creatures bring. They are stubborn and all have there own personality. Love them to death and wouldn’t have it any other way. Once again great article you hit the nail on the head with this one.
Great write-up! We bought a Frenchie from a reputable breeder 4 weeks ago. Turns out our dog is deaf. She is white and piebald and 100% does not hear. We are currently attempting to recoup some of the 3,000 cost. Unfortunately, the breeder is AWFUL and is refusing money back. She is from Incognito in Saskatchewan. DO NOT USE HER. We are currently planning to take her to court to get our money back (although we are still willing to keep the dog)
As a fancier , and having grown up with three English Bullies, just have to say “IT’S THE PEOPLE, NOT THE POOCHES” Yes, I went to England and imported a healthy English Bulldog, have it could breath, the Americans over exaggerate all the qualities to the point of huge health issues. But hey I have to support you for your tenacity, and just keeping it real.
I had Ralph, Rosie and Sudsy (he drank beer in my dad’s bar) then, I wanted more spark as a 13yr old and my father purchased my first Bull Terrier, 6 months later, we had six. I had to show my fathers a big tri colour,,,,,love the bull breeds because they are so people oriented!!!!! Expensive, what isn’t that’s quality??
Thank you for educating the people that want the flavour of the month,,,, I’m sure you get it. TaTa R.J. P.S. I’ve rescued French Bulldogs from Trinidad,,, and kept all 5:):)
Hello I am trying to find a good home for my bulldog of 4 years. Would anyone happen to know how I would go about doing this. I’ve tried social meadia and kijiji but can not find a suitable owner. I have two other dogs and was left with Hugo about 2 years ago. I just can not give him the life he deserves walks attention etc. I work to much. He doesn’t have any health issues except epilepsy which is none apparent when given his medication promptly every day. Hugo is a amazing companion and loves people. Just unsure how to go about this. If anyone has any suggestions please let me know. Thank you
What a great article, you have done an amazing job pointing out many of the issues found in bully breeds. For my first dog, I rescued a 5 year old Frenchie that has become the light of my life. He came from an unscrupulous breaded in Alberta who left him locked up, in a kennel, 24 hours a day for the first 2 1/2 years of his life. Then the guy who purchased him quickly became bored with him as he wanted a more active dog. He purchased 2 bull mastiffs that would attack him, plus because he was never potty trained as a pup, if he would have accidents in the house they would beat, lock him outside in -30 weather. The owner got himself in trouble and gave away my dog, which is how I ended up with him. I refer to him as the most expensive, free dog one could own. I have been fortunate as my friend is a certified animal chiropractor and before I even brought him home we visited her. He goes at least once a month, and I feel like it has helped keep neck, hip and leg issues contained. He had many of the things you described, low muscle tone could not walk 3 blocks, dental problems, not potty trained. I hand fed him every meal for the first 3 months to help bond and immediately signed us up for obedience school. He has had to have 5 teeth pulled and may need to have more done still. I still work everyday on drills so he knows what’s expected of him. He still has accidents occasionally, so I keep puppy pee pads out in those locations, takes the stress off me and him. He had never had a toy, chased a ball, been to the dog park, been held and cuddled. These are all things he now loves, he is learning how to be a dog, and is starting to cuddle me on his own now. I am now a firm fan of bully breeds! Thank you for all the hard work you do to help this wonderful breed.