Bully breeds are remarkable dogs with an unfortunate reputation.
Unpopular to many, the bull breeds are surrounded by stigma and suspicion. It is a disservice towards these dogs who are much more gentle than their widespread stature would suggest. Breeds such as the Staffordshire Bull Terrier and Pit Bull Terrier are said to have been ‘nanny’ dogs during their origin years due to their protective, parental nature. This is a myth – bully breeds sadly have a bloodier beginning in a cruel spectacle called bull-baiting – but the dogs you and I see today are every bit the playful, valiant guardians the fable indicates.
I have grown up with staffies, bulldogs and bull terriers of all shapes and sizes and witnessed firsthand how full of love they are. Here are 11 of the many reasons why bull breeds are the best companions.
Despite their reputation, bully breeds are loving and playful pooches
They’re Very Expressive
I had a common problem when training my mixed bully breed dog as a puppy. It really is a task to say no to someone so cute.
Bully breeds master the art of puppy dog eyes from a young age. I had a palm-sized bundle of wrinkles falling over her paws and tilting her head at me whenever I had to get tough with toilet training. It is for their own good, however, that you resist the charm of the warm eyes and wide grin. Bully breeds are loyal and affectionate, but require a stable place in the hierarchy established from the outset.
The ability to perfectly express their wants and desires with their facial expressions only gets bolder as your dog grows older. Bully breeds like to communicate with
- Head tilts
- Shaky, quivering lips
- Jumping up and down on their front paws
This is a dog that certainly knows how to get their point across. It is easy to see why these dogs are so beloved by their families when they express their affection so clearly.
Bully breeds have mastered the “more cuddles please” expression
And They Talk Too
Bully breeds are great at vocalising their needs with body language, but if that fails then don’t be surprised to hear your dog talk to you a little bit.
They range from excited barking at walk-time to a lamenting howl when left alone. They are sensitive dogs who enjoy company, so it might not be a shock if your neighbours mention some canine singing coming from your house. It’s a trait that is endearing to owners and rectified with enough preventative measures taken against separation anxiety.
Bully breeds are companions with character. Their protective nature compels them to bark in defense of territory, an effective repellent against intruders. They may also let you know when they are afraid, crying and yelping at loud noises such as fireworks and sirens.
These dogs make their voices heard
They Are Great With Children
The majority of bully breeds make brilliant companions for children because, at heart, they are children too. There is a playful innocence to them that coexists well with the wide-eyed wonder of kids.
Bully breeds have been dubbed ‘nanny’ dogs because of their tendency to protect and look after children. There are videos online in the thousand featuring kids cuddled with various bull breed dogs, many of whom are solid masses of muscle with hearts of pure gold. This is just an extension of their nature. They are fiercely loyal and rather goofy. Boxers and Bull Terriers in particular make perfect partners for younger family members – providing that they are still trained correctly from the get-go. They are naturally affectionate to the extent that they may prove a little boisterous and require a calming hand. Bull Terriers are mischievous and exuberant, whilst the Boxer is both majestic and maternal with an unrivalled patience.
Measures should still be taken to ensure the dog is well socialised from puppyhood:
- Observe your dog’s body language – they will tell you (in their own subtle way) when they are uncomfortable.
- Teach your children to respect your dog – no ear-pulling, tail-grabbing or anything else that could distress the dog or child.
- Make sure your dog has a safe space to retreat to.
Boxers are known to be good with children
They LOVE Walks…
I have never encountered a bully breed dog who hasn’t had a crazy episode at the mention of the W word.
American Bulldogs, Pit Bulls, Staffordshire Bull Terriers and their ilk are deceptively energetic. They are bullets of pure speed and can keep up with the best when it comes to agility and stamina. This is why they make perfect companions for people who enjoy hiking and going on adventures.
Last October, I climbed a mountain in Brecon Beacons in Wales with my dog and she certainly didn’t lack enthusiasm. With her long, muscled legs and aerodynamic body she is definitely built for speed and longevity. Not once in our entire eight hour walk did she tire. Like a battery with a never-ending supply of energy, bully breeds require a great deal of exercise in order to keep them both physically and mentally stimulated.
These dogs love the outdoors
…But They Love Sofa Snuggles As Well
Another condition of the bully breeds’ immeasurable devotion is their love of cuddling. From the Bulldog to the English Mastiff, these breeds are renowned for being clingy canines.
My dog will jump up and down and race around the house howling whenever I mention a walk, but any other time she is most content to lay next to (or on) me on the sofa. Or next to the bath. Or on the bed. Bully breeds are ridiculously affectionate and love their families like no other, so it is no surprise that they like to meld themselves into your shadow.
French Bulldogs are a perfect example of this dual nature, being both full of energy and lazy couch potatoes. They require less exercise than their cousins such as the American Pit Bull Terrier, though must still be walked daily. Take care to monitor them regularly, however, as due to being a flat-faced breed they can struggle to catch their breath, particularly in humid weather.
Bully breeds are cuddly companions
Prepare For Tug of War
A lot of bully breed dogs aren’t interested in retrieval-based games. If I throw a stick for my dog to fetch she looks at me like I’ve grown a second head, and will only chase a ball if there is another dog there as competitive incentive. Luckily, the simplest toys tend to be their favourite. A basic rope toy can mean hours of fun for your dog – and a sore arm for you.
It is a personality quirk that applies to Pit Bulls in particular. Just as Labradors love to swim, Pit Bulls and other bully breed dogs greatly enjoy chomping on a rope toy and will play tug of war to their heart’s content. The hormones released from a game of tug are great for keeping your dog happy and healthy.
Bully breeds do not have locking jaws, so there is no need for concern in this regard. There are plentiful rumours insisting tug of war encourages aggression, but this is not the case. Ensure you play responsibly by:
- Initiating the game yourself.
- Maintaining control of the game.
- Ensuring your dog drops the toy when told.
- Making sure other family members and friends are aware of the rules when they begin a game.
As long as the rules are followed then not only is this game a brilliant form of exercise but also a strong bonding moment between you and your dog.
Playing tug of war is a great opportunity to bond with your dog
They Are Sensitive Souls
Bully breeds have sweet souls and are easily influenced by negativity. They thrive on company and have a wonderful social predisposition, but the strength of the bond with their owners can be a double-edged sword. Many owners rarely have to raise their voices at their dogs, who are dissuaded with a firm “no.”.
My dog has struggled with her social skills in the past and, on one such occasion, became a little cranky with her fellow staffie play pal when she was being exuberantly affectionate. I had barely begun to correct her when she slithered over like a furry snake and showered her friend and the dog’s owner with apologetic kisses. Her very expression clearly stated how being in the doghouse filled her with dismay.
Their sensitivity can be a good thing when it comes to training, but this natural emotional attachment can mean many bully breeds suffer with separation anxiety and easily develop phobias. Bully breeds channel your emotions easily in addition to this – if you are upset, even slightly, your dog will be the first to know. Prepare for lots of comforting cuddles and kisses.
Bully breeds are sensitive dogs with big hearts
Shorter Hair = Less Grooming
Unlike their long-haired counterparts, bully breeds tend to have short, coarse fur which is easy to groom. Rubber grooming mitts are perfect for brush time as they remove the dead skin and loose fur from shorter coats whilst being comfortable for your dog. Most bully breeds only need a brush once a week.
Every dog is different, however, and some bull breeds may shed a lot of fur when malting. A lot of Pit Bulls are notorious for shedding fur. There are numerous factors that contribute to how much fur a dog sheds including:
- Seasonal changes
- Change in diet
Bully breeds in general do shed a lot less than other dogs, particularly longer haired breeds such as the Afghan Hound or Akita. A weekly brush with softer bristles should be enough to combat any shedding whilst being a great opportunity to bond with your dog.
Grooming mitts are perfect for these low maintenance coats
They Aren’t Fussy Eaters
Bully breeds will eat anything.
I have an enforced rule in my house that empty plates must be deposited into the sink immediately lest my dog sneakily help herself to any leftovers when we’re not looking. In fact, the only thing she won’t eat is bones. Anything else is fair game.
It is important to feed your bully breed a high-protein, low-grain food. Their diet should consist primarily of meat, with some vegetables on the side. Foods rich in corn, wheat and potatoes are less beneficial and may cause an allergic reaction dependant on the dog. Pit Bulls are prone to hip and elbow dysplasia, so it is important to ensure your dog does not overeat and become obese. Pits are also prone to skin and coat problems which again can be avoided by a healthy diet.
Another thing to keep in mind is the bully breeds tendency for forgetting to chew their food. If your dog likes to inhale their food as opposed to eat it then it might be worth feeding them smaller meals more frequently throughout the day.
They’re not picky; they love food
Some Are Great Guard Dogs, Others Are Not
The unfortunate reputation of the bully breed means that many uneducated owners believe them to be excellent guard dogs, especially regarding their history and muscled physique. With the exception of the Boxer, Bull Mastiff and some Staffordshire Bull Terriers, however, this is not the case. Their outgoing natures and love of affection make them perfect family dogs as all they really want is to cuddle and feel loved.
Bully breeds are brimming with personality and their smile is enough to warm the coldest of hearts. Although they are protective of their loved ones, particularly children, their indiscriminate love of people mean many of them can’t cut it as guard dogs. In fact, they are much more likely to attack people with kisses and licks rather than teeth.
Boxers, Bull Mastiffs and Staffordshire Bull Terriers have been quoted as making good guard dogs. Pit Bulls, despite their reputation, are less recommended as guard dogs than German Shepherds and Rottweilers. They are loyal dogs who thrive on social connection and spending time with their families.
Not all bully breeds make good guard dogs
It Is Impossible to Remain Sad Around Them
All dogs are wonderful antidepressants. They are natural sources of never-ending love and happiness, content to simply spend time with their humans. Bully breeds exemplify this like no other.
Whether it’s the goofy Pit Bull smile or the French bulldogs’ comical nature, inviting one of these dogs into your life is a sure fire way to ensure a constant supply of positivity and joy. Their empathic natures mean they can tell when you’re not feeling your best and they will stop at nothing to cheer you up. Whether it’s attacking you with kisses or simply lying next to you on dark days and comforting you with their very presence, bully breeds truly are remarkable dogs with infinite love in their hearts.
Their happy-go-lucky nature is a perfect combat against low mood and many bully breeds make brilliant emotional support dogs. On days when you need to go outside and enjoy the world, they will accompany you and show you just how much natural happiness there is to be found in the world. On days when the outside world is too much, they are content to curl up with you on the sofa and just enjoy your presence.
Owning a bully breed means having a best friend who will fill your life with unbridled love. The stigma surrounding them does them a terrible injustice. They truly are dogs that exemplify the beauty of sharing your life with a canine.
They will always put a smile on your face
Jen Jones is a professional dog trainer and behavior specialist with more than 25 years of experience. As the founder of ‘Your Dog Advisor’ and the ‘Canine Connection’ rehabilitation center, she applies a holistic, empathetic approach, aiming to address root causes rather than merely treating symptoms.
Well known for her intuitive and compassionate approach, Jen adopts scientifically-proven, reward-based methods, encouraging positive reinforcement over punishment. Jen specializes in obedience training, behavior modification, and puppy socialization. Her innovative methods, particularly in addressing anxiety and aggression issues, have been widely recognized. Jen has worked with many of the world’s leading dog behaviorists and in her free time volunteers with local animal shelters and rescue groups.