If you keep in mind that Bulldogs were originally pack animals you won’t be surprised by their many aggressive behavior. Dogs need to know who is in charge, and if you don’t take the dominant position, the Bulldog is genetically inclined to assume the role. Aggressive behavior is best dealt with when the dog is a puppy, so aggressive action in an adult dog might be reflect poor training earlier. If you see aggression in your Bulldog, then deal with it sooner, not later, to avoid the possibility of severe problems. The more the dog is allowed to act inappropriately, the greater the danger it becomes to itself and to those around it.
Bulldogs that act aggressively as adults are reflecting their genetics, to some extent. But those characteristics are far more likely to come to the fore if the dog is poorly trained, like a spoiled child who is led to believe it is in control. A Bulldog that is not neutered or spayed may be aggressive, for the drive to breed is powerfully ingrained. More significant than these factors, however, is the Bulldog’s environment as it grows to maturity. Poor training, harsh treatment by other dogs or people, and a lack of socialization are the breeding grounds for aggressiveness.
Aggressive behavior may show up in a Bulldog as young as 6 weeks of age. At this vital stage the puppy is becoming socialized. As part of this training it must learn who is the boss and what actions are appropriate and which won’t be tolerated, such as biting people or other pets. It is essential that you maintain a firm hand during this socialization period, which will last until the dog is at least 15 or 16 weeks old.
To ensure a happy, peaceful Bulldog be careful to follow these guidelines. First, keep the pup with the litter to at least 8 weeks. Removing it prior to that will produce insecurities and confusion that may turn up in aggressive behavior. Any discipline should be measured and calm, free of yelling or violence. Be firm and in control. If you are overly aggressive the dog will respond with aggression as a safety measure. Make sure you spend plenty of time with the Bulldog puppy during this time and get it involved with children and other adults for proper socialization.
Again, remember the dog-pack origin of Bulldogs. Early aggressive behavior is to be expected. The dog wants to know if its master has what it takes to be the leader of its pack. Aggressive play, biting or posturing are signs the dog is looking for leadership. Let your Bulldog puppy know with a firm but gentle hand that you are dominant and he or she will be very content living under your authority.
Rarely will aggressive behavior show up in a Bulldog that has been well trained. If your dog has not been spayed or neutered by 12-14 months, then have it altered immediately. If the behavior continues, follow the same philosophy you did when it was a puppy. Establish clear authority as the pack leader without harming or frightening the dog. Use appropriate rewards and punishments to let it know what you expect of it.
A Bulldog that is not clear on expectations will become confused and aggressive. Communicate what you expect clearly. Make the Bulldog sit before you set down its food dish. Do not allow it to go through the door before you as you head out for a walk. When walking, make it go at your pace, and stop when you tell it to. The Bulldog must learn to live on your terms. The surprising reality is that this will actually make for a happier, more contented animal.
If you see defensive aggression in your adult Bulldog, it might be time to seek professional help through an obedience class or one on one dog training. More than likely, something was missed in the dog’s early socialization, or perhaps you are being harsh, not properly authoritative. With patience and persistence even stubborn adult Bulldog behaviors can be changed. Simply remember the basics. Be the alpha-leader in your home, whether you are male or female. Expect the best from your Bulldog companion and the chances are that he or she will be eager to please you by delivering good behavior.