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so you have decided to own a bulldog and are wondering what you're supposed to do next. several things are important before you can take your dog home with you.  first, you have to choose your dog.  do your research before you buy. decide whether a bulldog is the right dog for your lifestyle.

bulldogs cost more to buy than many other breeds.  the cost is higher because they have smaller litters, the costs of breeding are higher, and it is harder to raise a litter than in other breeds. by the time the puppies have been weaned and are ready to go to a new home - usually between 8 weeks and 16 weeks old - you can be reasonably sure that the puppy will not have major, undetectable health problems that are imminently life threatening.

all bulldog puppies are adorable.  you need to make sure that you find the right one for your household.  the first consideration is why you chose a bulldog.  all make wonderful pets, but some can become show dogs as well.

if you want a pet to liven up your household and bring love to everyone, a bulldog is a good choice.  according to the
standard for the breed, a properly bred bulldog will have an equable and kind disposition, be resolute and courageous (not vicious or aggressive) and exhibit a pacific and dignified demeanor, all of which the expression and behavior reinforce.

these pages assume that you have familiarized yourself with information about the bulldog on
education and health sections of this site. if you haven't read them, please do so to be sure a bulldog is right for you and your family. you have the option of getting a bulldog from a responsible bulldog rescue organization or from a reputable bulldog breeder. the rescue pages on this site provide information on groups and individuals affiliated with bca who work at finding new homes for bulldogs without owners.

there are some advantages to getting an adult dog from the
bulldog club of america rescue network (bcarn) -- they are usually past the chewing stage and may be already house-trained, any current medical problems have been diagnosed, and the temperament has been evaluated. but they may not be as cute and appealing as a puppy, or may have “baggage” that you don’t want to deal with. and the wait can be long for you to be matched up with a suitable rescued bulldog. some people prefer to get a puppy “so it can grow up with the children” or “be trained the way i want it” or for other reasons.

if you are convinced that you need to get a puppy, here is what we recommend you do:

first, do not be in a hurry to get a bulldog puppy. buying a puppy on impulse often leads to trouble down the road.
  • before buying a puppy (or an adult bulldog), do extensive research on the breed to decide whether a bulldog may be a good choice for you. the education and health sections on this site provide valuable information and references to other articles.
  • if you buy from a breeder, always check breeders’ credentials carefully to be sure they are knowledgeable and will help you with questions you will have about raising the puppy. don’t be afraid to ask breeders for references from previous puppy buyers. you will (or should) have a relationship with the breeder throughout the life of the bulldog, so he/she should be someone you like and trust. look for a breeder who lives near you so you can easily visit their home and see how the puppies are raised. when you have selected a trustworthy breeder, you may have to be patient until the breeder has a puppy for you. but buying from a reputable breeder who will help you with problems and questions is worth the wait!

if you get a dog from a rescue group, always obtain all the information available about any health or temperament issues the dog may have. there may not be any or they may not be an issue in your case, but you should be fully informed if any exist or were treated. giving a dog in need a happy, new home can be very rewarding.
if you are looking for a pet, consider adopting an older dog or getting a rescue dog.  an older dog may become available for many reasons.  the owner may be moving and may not be able to take the dog along, the family's life style may have changed (a new baby, for example) and they can no longer spend the time with the dog that it needs, or the dog may have a problem (either health or temperament) that the family can't cope with.  many of these older dogs make wonderful pets for the appropriate owners.  find out why the dog is available and get to know it and see how it interacts with you.  if it is a good match, both you and the dog may have lucked out.

the bulldog club of america rescue network (bcarn) is a place to find a bulldog in need of a home. bcarn is a nonprofit affiliate of bca organized at the national level, but operating out of local "rescue groups" (usually affiliated with a local club) who work towards these objectives:

to accept bulldogs whose owners can no longer keep them and find responsible, stable, loving new homes for them.
to rehabilitate bulldogs before placement by providing necessary medical treatment and training to increase the chances of successful placement.
to help reduce the population of unwanted pets by ensuring that all rescued bulldogs are spayed/neutered before being placed.
to place bulldogs in suitable homes as soon as reasonably possible, so they can start their "new lives" quickly.
to thoroughly screen applicants before making placement decisions.

to inform prospective adopters about the rescue program and the requirements for taking care of bulldogs.
if you definitely want a puppy or are considering a retired show dog, you should consider getting one from a breeder who is a member of bca and adheres to the bca breeder code of ethics. breeder referral is done at the national level, the division level and at the member clubs. bca breeder referral is coordinated nationally by the chair of the breeder referral committee, susan rodenski. to learn more about the breeder referral process, go to the breeder referral page.

generally, breeders will offer puppies for sale between eight and twelve weeks of age.  others sell puppies between 12 and 16 weeks, after it has had its full course of puppy shots.  this reduces the chance it will pick up some illness soon after it leaves the breeder. much before eight weeks, it is too early to separate the puppy from its mother (and it may be illegal to sell puppies that age in some states); by 12-16 weeks, the breeders have good guesses about which puppies may be able to get a championship (although they may hold onto a potential show prospect for up to a year to see if it turns out).  sometimes older dogs held onto for their show potential are available as older puppies.  depending on your situation, considering them may be advantageous since you can better see how they will look and they will probably be housebroken already.

the decision on whether a dog is a potential show puppy is based the breeder's judgment of the degree to which the puppy will match the bulldog standard as it matures and the breeder's knowledge about the maturation of the lines he or she breeds.  changes to the puppy occur throughout maturation and affect the degree to which he meets the bulldog standard in any one area.

the breeder's decision that a puppy does not have show potential only means that the breeder believes the puppy will not closely match the bulldog standard when it matures.  it does not mean the puppy is unhealthy or otherwise unsuited to bringing you many years of friendship and happiness.   although it may mean a great deal to a breeder whether ears are too large or the topline is perfect, it will probably not make much difference to you or your puppy.

since no one's judgment is perfect, a dog that the breeder thinks is a show prospect may not turn out to be one when it matures.  similarly, every breeder has a story about the pet he or she sold that they would die to get back because the puppy turned out to match the bulldog standard better than other dogs that breeder kept.
  • the bulldogger, a quarterly publication of the bulldog club of america. included with each bca membership and available by subscription for non-members. 
  • the book of the bulldog, joan mcdonald brearley, 1895, t.f.h. publications.
  • the bulldog yesterday, today and tomorrow, john f. mcgibbon, 1996, howell book house.
  • the bulldog: an owner's guide to a happy healthy pet, marie andree, 1998, howell book house.
  • the bulldog monograph 2002, john a, little, ph.d., 2002.
  • bulldogs today, chris thomas, 1995, seven hills book distributors.
the dog should smell sweetly. of course, if other puppies are present, there will be a smell of feces in the area where they are kept. however, unless the puppy has just stepped out of its food dish (which is very possible at the ages you will be looking at), a clean coat not only reflects health, but the quality of care the puppy has been given.

above all you want a dog who acts healthy. a dog who is listless may have worms or an infection. a dog who is active and playful, with a good disposition, is what you want . of course, puppies still sleep a lot. just because a puppy is sleepy doesn't mean it's not healthy, but you do want to see it awake and alert.

it is not unusual for a puppy to struggle when picked up. most young puppies will still playfully nip or chew on anything they can reach. however, if the puppy tries to bite you aggressively, it may not be a good prospect for a family pet. a too shy puppy, one who shrinks away from you or hides after time to get acquainted with you, may be hard to socialize into family life. either may be fine, but be aware of the potential difficulties.

please don't be discouraged if you don't get the pick of the litter. no one except the owner of the bitch usually does. the first puppy or two go to the owner (and the breeder of the bitch if it's the first litter on breeders’ terms). second or third is about the best you can do if you are not involved in the breeding of the litter, even if you are already an otherwise experienced breeder. of course, third can be exceptional. one local breeder's foundation bitch was third pick in her litter and she produced three champions in her first litter. you can see her traits carried down through the generations in their dogs. similarly, the breeder did not keep their first stud, but he has sired many exceptional champions and he is in the bulldog hall of fame as a top producer as a result.

if you are looking for a pet, consider an older dog or getting a rescue dog. an older dog may become available for many reasons. the owner may be moving and may not be able to take the dog along, the family's life style may have changed (a new baby, for example) and they can no longer spend the time with the dog that it needs, or the dog may have a problem (either health or temperament) that the family can't cope with. many of these older dogs make wonderful pets for the appropriate owners. find out why the dog is available and get to know it and see how it interacts with you. if it is a good match, both you and the dog may have lucked out.
as a bulldog owner, you will need a vet familiar with the breed, so choosing a good one is crucial.  bulldogs require all the care that any other breed does.  in addition, the unusual physical characteristics that make them so appealing may create their own problems.  this is a highly specialized, man-made breed which would have difficulty surviving on its own in the wild.

you probably won't experience in one dog all the problems listed under health care, but you can count on seeing some of them at some point in one dog or another if you continue with additional bulldogs.  each dog owned feels it is his or her duty to teach you about another bulldog problem.  as you learn more, you can recognize the problems and feel more confident in your ability to handle many of them yourself and to decide when a vet needs to be called in.

your vet must be experienced in handling bulldogs - the more, the better.  it's worth traveling farther to see a vet that sees many bulldogs - they can diagnose and handle their problems better than a vet who is less familiar with the breed. this is important for everyday care and may mean the difference between life and death if the dog has a major problem.  for example, bulldogs have more difficulty with anesthesia than other breeds because of their unique breathing configuration.  a more experienced vet will know when not to use anesthesia and how much to use when it's needed.  there are usually several experienced vets in the area and the local club or your breeder can help you in finding a vet used by bulldoggers in your area. 

in choosing among vets, try to find the best diagnostician; someone able and willing to explain what he sees, its implications and treatment options.   you will need this to participate intelligently in the treatment of your dog.

you should take the puppy to a vet for an examination within the first few days you have him, preferably on the day you bring him home.  the earlier the better, since you will want to be assured he is in good health and have your vet tell you anything specific you should be doing.  you should bring a stool sample with you, so your vet can test for worms.
prepare for the trip home. read the section under safety to make sure you are ready to safely house your puppy. you need to protect both your home and your puppy from unintentional harm before you pick up your new puppy.

your new puppy will be less secure when removed from the place it was raised, so your first task is to make that transition as pleasant as possible. you can either carry your puppy in your car in a crate or on your lap on the trip home. each has its advantages and disadvantages.

the crate is safer, but more stressful for the puppy since it will not have contact with you on the trip. your lap will be a more comforting place (probably for both you and the puppy), but is more dangerous in case of an accident or sudden maneuvers. taking a favorite toy and/or piece of bedding with a familiar smell will help ease the trip whichever method you choose.

the length of the trip home may influence your decision. the longer the trip, the more likely that the puppy will have to eliminate during the trip. to minimize this, make sure your new puppy has a chance to relieve himself before leaving the breeder's home. in any case, you should be prepared to deal with the situation if an accident occurs.
your puppy may not be as interested in food as he is normally during his first day or two with you.  he's nervous and excited - that's a normal reaction to a major change in his life and surroundings.  be patient with him and try priming his eating by giving him small tidbits of chicken or meat (really small is fine - you want to prime him, not have him teach you to hand feed him).  mix some tidbits into his food and then put two tablespoons on the top near the edge of the bowl.  hand feed him a piece he can see you take from the pile in the bowl and feed him over the pile in the bowl so he makes the connection immediately.  getting him to start this way should be easy and he should be eating normally in a day or two.  try not to do distracting things while he's eating during this period.  in a short while, you can go about your business when he's eating and he won't even notice.

water should always be available for the dog, either in the crate whenever he is confined or in the room.  they make special bowls for water in crates to reduce spilling.  large, heavy, flat bottomed bowls are best outside the crate - they are less likely to spill and will be easy for your dog to drink from comfortably. 

food and water should always be placed in the same spot in the room where you feed him.  it's less confusing for him and he can establish good eating patterns.  imagine how hard it would be for you if someone kept changing where the dinner table was.

toys should be available - puppies like variety and need to chew. never use rawhide or cute soft rubber toys. they present choking hazards for bulldogs. nylabones, kong toys or other similar hard chew toys will be safer for your dog and satisfy his need to chew, especially when teething.
dogs like an area that's their own. most breeders have found that a dog crate is ideal for giving the puppy a sense of security in his new surroundings and a place to retreat when tired. an open crate in a dog-proof room is a good place to keep the dog when you are out of the house for a few hours and can't supervise him - he'll get used to having the crate ready for a snooze and won't object to being in it when the door is closed. don't feel that your dog won't like to be crated - he'll feel its home to him and be more secure there than roaming around.

when you leave for work, just tell your dog to get in the crate and then calmly walk away from wherever they are to where the crate is. of course, you should make this pleasant for them by rewarding them (with praise or a tidbit) when they do this and by making sure toys and water were in the crate to take care of their needs. never use being put in the crate as a punishment, although if the dog needs to be settled-down, you can use it as a pleasant (for you and the dog) "time out" space.

if you don't plan to get graduated size crates for your puppy, a crate about 24" wide by 36" long by 24" high should be big enough for a large, mature bulldog. you want a space that is big enough for him to stretch out, but small enough to make your puppy secure. buy several rubber backed bathroom mats to use as crate mats. they can be either used alone or topped with an old blanket if you want additional padding. the blankets alone will not provide good footing - they have a tendency to slide in the crates. the mats can be washed frequently to reduce doggy odors and to ensure a flea free environment.

for the first few days, the crate should be in your bedroom to give the puppy company at night and increase his sense of security. depending on his age, you can place a clock in his crate to suggest the sound of his mother's heartbeat (just remember to turn the alarm off) or can put a warm (not too hot) water bottle or plastic jug under the mats at one end of the crate to create the sense of warmth from other bodies. some use puppy crates that can open from the top and put them next to the bed. that way you can leave your hand draped inside or reach in to quiet the dog. it soothes them and does not lead to dependence if you don't continue the practice more than a few days.

after that, you can decide where you want him to sleep. make sure his crate is in a room that can be closed off until he's very reliable. if there is too much commotion in the room with the crate, you can cover the top and sides with a cloth, provided there is enough air circulation and the dog won't overheat in the crate. if it gets warm, be sure that the air-conditioning is on or a fan it circulating the air.

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