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.