Despite their overwhelming popularity, Bulldogs somehow gained a negative reputation as aggressive dogs that will bite and attack people if provoked. The image was made worse by the fact that Bulldogs tend to look mean, with their eyes slanted into angry eyes and their powerful jawline sending a strong message to anyone who might cross a Bulldog the wrong way. The truth is, Bulldogs are naturally the opposite of the mean and aggressive dogs that they are made out to be. If you own a Bulldog, you know him to be gentle, loyal, affectionate, and warmhearted. Like all dogs, they do bite, and unlike most other dogs, they have extremely powerful jaws that can lock tight and cause serious harm to a person. Here are some reasons that Bulldogs bite, and what you can do to prevent this from being a problem with your Bulldog.
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The Root of the Behavior
All dogs, including Bulldogs, will bite when they are young. They go through a phase called teething, during which time they will put anything and everything they can in their mouths. This includes wayward fingers, as anyone who has tried to pet a puppy on the head will know. Bulldogs that bite during puppyhood simply have not yet learned that biting humans is dangerous and wrong. If left unchecked, this behavior could carry out into adulthood, at which point the behavior could become dangerous. It is up to you or a dog trainer to teach your Bulldog that it is not okay to bite!
The Bulldog's most admirable qualities can sometimes lead to adult biting behaviors. Bulldogs are fiercely loyal, and they create especially strong bonds with children. If a Bulldog feels that his owner or loved one is at risk or threatened by another person, dog, or animal, a Bulldog may become defensive and show signs of aggression. Bulldogs are not aggressive by nature, but like any dog, they can become aggressive when provoked. This does not mean that all Bulldogs across the board will be aggressive if you show signs of being threatened, but there is a good chance that if a Bulldog is improperly socialized, he will respond strongly to what he perceives to be a threat to your wellbeing.
If a Bulldog has been improperly socialized, it is much more likely that he will bite as an adult. Although Bulldogs are completely gentle and calm with their owners, they tend to be wary of strangers and strange dogs. A good dog trainer will be able to socialize your young Bulldog and make him feel safe and comfortable around strange dogs and people. The true problems with biting arise when Bulldogs are not treated well by their owners. If a Bulldog’s owner treats their Bulldog aggressively, the Bulldog will become defensive, and will become more and more aggressive until something bad happens. If you witness any abuse or suspect that a Bulldog in your area is being abused, you can report the dog and owner to a local SPCA. These organizations work to make sure that dogs, dog owners, and community members are kept safe.
Encouraging the Behavior
The best way for you to prevent your Bulldog from biting as an adult is to train him against biting while he is still a puppy. It may be inevitable that your Bulldog will bite your finger or bite at your hand while he is a puppy, but how you choose to respond is critical in how your dog grows. Whenever an accidental bite occurs, you should make a loud and abrupt “ouch!” sound and then immediately stop giving your Bulldog attention. Your dog will hate this, as he wants nothing more than to play with you and receive your attention. By teaching your Bulldog that he will lose your attention when biting you, you are teaching him the valuable life lesson of bite inhibition.
This tactic will work even with adult dogs, although it may be difficult to break the behavior once it has been established in an adult Bulldog. If you find that you are having issues with biting in your adult Bulldog, you may want to seek out behavioral training. The issue may be tied into poor socialization, which is a much harder issue to tackle from a behavioral standpoint. It may be the personality or character of your specific Bulldog, or it may be that your Bulldog feels overprotective of you and your family. In any case, working with a trainer will help ensure that the behavior is curbed and redirected in a healthy way.
Other Solutions and Considerations
The Bulldog does have an aggressive past, in which their biting was their most desired trait. Originally, the Bulldog breed was used as a bait dog for bulls. The Bulldog would bite down on a bull’s neck from underneath its body and lock his jaws to prevent escape. They were a wild, aggressive, and violent breed of dog back then. When bull baiting was outlawed, the Bulldog faced near extinction. In order to prevent the disappearing of the beautiful breed, trainers, and breeders worked across several generations of Bulldog to remove the Bulldog’s aggressive qualities and promote a gentle temperament. They were successful, and that has led to the gentle and loving Bulldogs that everyone enjoys today.
Although your Bulldog might look a little mean while he is lying on the floor, he is probably thinking about how much he loves you and how nice it is to be lying on the floor in the comforts of home. As soon as he picks up his heavy face, you will see the gentleness in his eyes, and know that he is truly a loving and affectionate companion.