We built Collaroy with our sweet bulldog Basil in mind. She passed away a few years ago but was an amazing dog. English Bulldogs have many differing reputations so I thought I’d explain how we chose the breed for our young family and give a glimpse into our experience.
We got Basil when she was just 8 weeks old and our first child was 10 weeks old–yes, looking back we were insane but we thought it made sense at the time. I had always wanted an English Bulldog growing up, we were starting a family so having a dog the same age as our son would be great, why not start now? etc. etc. We were naive but it all worked out.
Turns out a puppy can be almost more difficult and demanding than a baby. Our son just needed to eat, sleep and poop. Basil was about the same except her legs were too short to get down the stairs so she had to be carried outside, puppies aren’t potty trained and don’t wear diapers so we had to teach her, we lived in Chicago where the winter is extremely cold and going outside every 20 minutes isn’t fun, and an 8 week old puppy misses its momma. I remember one night when we were all asleep probably the week or two after we got Basil. She got sick and had diarrhea in her crate. Nothing like waking up at 3 in the morning to a crying puppy and cleaning a crate of poop. But we did it and we still loved her.
As Basil grew, she grew with our son. She protected him, she laid by him, she licked his face any time we put him on the floor and she let him do whatever he wanted to her. She wouldn’t let me touch her ears but if our son did it she just sat there and took it. As he grew and learned she would let him know what she did and didn’t like but she was so gentle with our baby.
In that first year of having Basil we had more vet bills than through the rest of her life. She had cherry eye and had to have surgery, she had a rot issue with her in-grown tail that had to be fixed, she swallowed (multiple) kid toys that had to be removed and all of that along with the normal shots and checkups for a new dog. English Bulldogs aren’t cheap to begin with but add in that first year of vet bills and we were second guessing our decision. On top of that, she had accidents all over the house, she threw up a lot and we were always trying to train her (although it seemed like she was training us). Thank goodness for a carpet cleaner or our house would have been a wreck.
We later moved to a new house, we had more children and Basil was always there with us. With each new baby she would snuggle and protect them while slowly teaching the older kids what she did and didn’t like. She was gentle and mothering.
Basil was also big. 50 lbs is not a small dog. English Bulldogs are like bricks–small but dense–and when they hit you it hurts. In fact, just like a brick, she sank. We tried to get her to like water but the whole sinking thing didn’t work out. She loved running into my legs to knock me over in the backyard. And she was intimidating. People were often afraid of Basil because of her massive head and mouth. In all honesty, if I didn’t know her I probably would have been a little nervous around her. That’s great for security purposes but you don’t want people scared to be in your house. She was also very friendly but when people haven’t met her seeing a 50 lbs dog with a huge head and mouth run at you, you get scared.
Her size did help in one area: exercise. Basil was ready to play whenever you wanted to–she was anxiously awaiting the invitation–but that didn’t mean she needed a lot of attention and exercise. In fact, there were days when we would leave for most of the day only to come home and find her in the exact same spot on the couch. I honestly don’t think she moved the entire time. English Bulldogs are lazy and don’t want to walk if they don’t have to. One time Basil actually just sat down on the sidewalk and I had to carry her home on our walk because she wasn’t walking anymore. Other times she would cut through the neighbor’s lawn on the corner to shorten the distance a little. If we walked more than a few blocks she was ready to be done. But on another occasion we looked out back and she was on our trampoline rolling around. My mother-in-law went out to get her and it became a game of catch me if you can (one of the best things I’ve ever seen).
I’ll stop the trip down memory lane and summarize my thoughts:
- English bulldogs are not cheap and will require veterinary attention, most likely in the first year.
- They’re big dogs, they eat a lot and you have to have the strength to move and carry them at times.
- They’re lazy and we loved that but it’s not for everyone. A bulldog is not going to go for a run with you.
- We couldn’t have asked for a better dog for our kids. She knew who was a baby and who wasn’t and grew with our kids.
- They’re pukers (and I didn’t even mention the snoring and gas).
- English Bulldogs require little attention but are ready for all of your love when you’re ready.
- They’re either not very smart or just very stubborn–I tend to think she knew exactly what she was doing.
- To us bulldogs are adorable, to others they’re hideous
- If it’s your first dog, you’ll probably think about giving it back at some point–push through that temptation
- They almost certainly will develop hip problems in their older years
- 8 – 10 years is on the low end of dog life span and saying goodbye is not easy
Overall verdict: Basil was worth every penny and the best dog we could have asked for. I would recommend the breed to anyone with young kids. They are gentle giants and while you’re chasing your babies around it’s nice to have a dog that doesn’t require a ton of your attention each day. An added bonus is they’ll make you laugh every day.
That’s my thoughts, what do you think? Do you agree? Let us know.