These days, there seems to be a common opinion that bulldog breeds are inherently more aggressive than others. Unfortunately, most people fail to comprehend this matter, choosing only the extreme cases on which to form their opinions.
Once politics and opinion come into the picture, things become even muddier than ever.
However, we want to delve into this matter and clear up some of these mistaken ideas.
Are bulldog aggressive?
The answer is no. However, it is also wrong to assert that they are "just like other dogs." Like all creatures, the bulldog has certain characteristics that set it apart and make it unique. The key to understanding any animal lies in comprehending its basic nature.
What Makes A Dog Aggressive?
As a general rule, dogs become aggressive as a result of two things:
If you have a dog breed that was created for more aggressive purposes (like hunting, security, or warfare), it will have the potential to be aggressive.
While any dog can be aggressive, it is more likely to happen when those genetics lean in that direction. Nevertheless, most dogs will not tend to be particularly aggressive unless humans have made them so.
This is a very unpleasant subject, but let's talk about the world of illegal dogfighting. It is relevant because this is an underground industry that revolves around the use of highly aggressive bulldogs. Thus, these people deliberately create the meanest dogs that they can possibly create.
How do they do it? Through years of systematic abuse. In most cases, the way in which a dog is raised will matter more than its genetics.
It comes down to one simple principle: If an animal experiences nothing but cruelty and aggression, it will know nothing else.
An animal like that is likely to be dangerous, but remember that it takes years of horrendous abuse to twist its basic nature in this way.
The fact that it takes such extreme measures to create a killer dog is proof that they aren't naturally like that. Otherwise, such measures would not be necessary.
Aggressive Behavior Vs. Defensive Behavior
When we say that bulldogs are different from other types of dogs, we mean that they have a very territorial nature. It is a part of their nature to defend their home, their pack, and themselves.
When forced to do so, they will defend their territory with absolute courage and uncompromising force.
This is why some people have come to see the animal as a rampaging brute. However, because most people have never experienced serious violence, they fail to comprehend the difference between aggressive force and defensive force.
Bulldogs do have a very defensive nature. When the animal is raised properly, this is a good thing. It is this defensive nature that makes them useful to humankind.
Unfortunately, this same feistiness can be twisted and misdirected, but only when the deliberate hand of a human makes it happen.
The difference between aggressive and defensive violence is a simple one: A defensive animal will attack if you cross a certain line.
If you trespass on their territory, if you attack their master, or if you present a direct threat to their safety…then yes, you might have a bad day. Quite frankly, people who choose to go out and do these things deserve what they get.
An aggressive animal, on the other hand, will attack you simply because it can. Even among wild animals, such behavior is rare. For instance, look at all the people who swim with sharks! If these animals were truly aggressive, none of those people would survive!
What Does It Mean When A Bulldog Growls?
The first thing to understand is that bulldogs will sometimes use a growl-like noise to communicate with their master.
This type of growl will sound more like a grumble, and it will be accompanied by friendly behavior like licking, pawing at you, and laying themselves at your feet.
When this sound is made, the dog probably wants food, water, or your attention. Rottweilers are especially known for this kind of behavior (and yes, Rotties are a bully breed). It is no cause for concern, as bully breeds are very vocal animals.
A serious growl will sound a lot different. It will have a low, menacing tone, and the animal will probably bare its teeth.
They are also very likely to lower their head/body and take a "battle stance" with legs wide and head forward. If you see this behavior, you need to immediately leave the dog alone. Do not turn your back…simply back away and leave the dog alone.
In order to tell these behaviors apart, it is important to understand a little bit about canine body language. They do not communicate with organized languages like we do (in fact, they really can't).
Instead, they communicate through rough vocalizations and body language. When you see the signs of aggression, the best thing you can do is leave the animal alone until it calms down.
Understanding Both Sides Of The Picture
As with any animal, you can only come to a true understanding of a bulldog's nature through experience. So, let's take a look at some real-life examples in order to understand things a little better.
Far too often, people concentrate on the negative side of this nature. They will point to examples of people being attacked by bulldogs, but they will take these things out of context.
Likewise, they refuse to look at all the cases in which bulldogs have used their defensive instincts to protect humans from all sorts of danger. Like the yin and the yang, these positive and negative aspects must be kept in balance.
The Negative Examples
Here is one example of a pit bull attack. As you can see, this one is from January of 2020, so it's pretty recent. At first, it appeared to a textbook case of bulldog aggression, but you have to look a little closer to see the truth.
A 71-year old woman called the police after being attacked by a bulldog. She had been helping to take care of the dog and 14 others, all of whom were living in appalling conditions.
The animals weren't even being fed properly, given enough water, or given any kind of shelter. Authorities say that this was probably a dogfighting operation.
This is a textbook example of how abuse creates consequences, and it's also a textbook example of true aggressive behavior.
The city of Detroit has seen a lot of fatal pit bull attacks, as you can see from the linked article. However, we find this to be interesting because Detroit has a serious problem with gang violence.
Dogfighting is overwhelmingly practiced by gang members of various types, and all of the attacking dogs have been described as being undernourished and neglected.
Detroit authorities have responded by cracking down on abusive and irresponsible owners, which we think is the right way to handle such a situation.
The Positive Examples
In contrast, let's consider the other side. This Oklahoma family found themselves at the mercy of an armed home intruder until their pit bull saved them.
The dog did not hesitate to charge the gunman and did not stop even after being shot three times (twice in the head).
This animal was determined to protect his home, and he did so with inspiring courage and dedication. In case you're wondering, the dog did survive.
One interesting thing here is the fact that this particular dog had been rescued from an abusive home. Thus, by all rights, this dog should not have been such a good protector.
However, this proves that even an abused bulldog can be rehabilitated. They simply need to be given a normal environment, and they will behave in a way that is normal for the breed. Of the 51 dogs that were seized from Michael Vick, 49 were able to be rehabilitated and re-homed.
Sometimes, bulldogs have been known to protect their owners in situations that don't require force. We have found several reports of bulldogs that saved people from house fires.
Sometimes they did this by alerting the sleeping residents, and sometimes they have even actually pulled people from the flames.
Temperament Test Scores
There are ways in which the temperament of a dog can be tested and measured. These tests account for aggression and many other problem behaviors, so they are pretty comprehensive.
As you can see by looking at this data, bulldogs usually tend to score very high on these tests. This is because most of the animals that undergo these tests are normal dogs: Not abused, not neglected, not trained to kill other animals, etc.
Even the American Pit Bull Terrier got an average score of 87.4%. Thus, we can definitely disregard the opinions of small-minded idiots like these.
As we said from the start, bully breeds are not inherently more aggressive than others. However, they do have a defensive and territorial nature, and this must always be respected.
Failure to understand the nature of the beast can result in terrible consequences (including death).
You need to remember that this is a protected animal. It can be either a threat or a fervent protector, and it all comes down to the person who is in charge of the dog
As a freelance pet writer and blogger, Shannon is passionate about crafting knowledge-based, science-supported articles that foster healthy bonds of love and respect between people and animals. But her first and very most important job is as a dog auntie and cockatiel, tortoise, and box turtle mama.