It’s easy to become intimidated by the American Bulldog – their stocky and muscular build, fierce look, and badass reputation are enough reasons for anyone to feel cautious around them. Couple those characteristics with their strength and agility, and indeed, they can be quite threatening.

American Bulldogs are the tallest and biggest among all bulldog breeds. According to DogTime.com, they could grow as tall as 20 to 28 inches and weigh up to 60 to 120 pounds by the time they become adults, with males being generally larger than females.

Beyond their intimidating appearance, American bulldogs are sweet, protective, and are as loyal as much as the next pooch. Caring for these intelligent and strong-willed dogs can be quite challenging at first, but with proper training, they can be the most affectionate and loving family companions: gentle giants in their own right.

A sucker for big canines

We interviewed Marvin S. Feliciano, fur dad to five-year old American bulldog Demon, to talk about what life is like living with this beautiful breed.

Marvin’s affinity for dogs started when he was a little kid. However, he did not meet his first dog, an aspin (asong Pinoy), until he was in high school. He eventually discovered that he liked bigger dogs, which led him to choose a Pit Bull as an animal companion when he was in college.

Since then, he has taken care of other big dogs and has had the opportunity to live with a Rottweiler, a Bull Mastiff, and a Siberian Husky. In 2012, Marvin took care of his first American Bulldog and the rest, as they say, is history. “Sa lahat nang naalagaan ko, iba yung character nila. Iba yung nakita ko sa kanila kaya nag-concentrate talaga ako sa American Bulldog.”

Dogs are ‘people’ too

When we asked Marvin if he had any special memories that he wanted to share with us, he recalled one particular story when one of their American Bulldogs, Lebron, passed away.

“Meron kasi akong isang aso na na-stroke. Nag-iyakan kami eh. Tapos lahat sila, lalo na si Demon, kinomfort nila. Kaya doon ko siguro nakita yung para silang tao, hindi lang sila nakakapagsalita eh. Tapos kahit samin, nakikinig sila tapos alam nila kapag sila yung pinag-uusapan. Naiiyak tuloy ako.”

He goes on to say, “Kahit mga anak ko. Kunwari uuwi ako from work, sila from school, alam nila kung nasaan ako. Andun lang ako sa mga aso eh. Iisa-isahin naming batiin yun bago kami pumasok nang bahay.”

Marvin explains that although the breed has a reputation for aggression, in reality, they are really sweet and obedient dogs. He sees to it that the dogs have enough bonding time with the family and includes them in their family activities at home together with his wife and children.

Loving a bully

In 2015, Marvin was already living with American Bulldogs when a friend of his came to ask for his help about one, whom they could no longer provide for.

Marvin recalls, “Bale nakuha ko siya nasa one year na siya halos. Sobrang mahal na mahal rin kasi yan nung mismong may-ari kaya lang parang nangailangan sila. Bale nagkaron ng problema, walang mag-aalaga.”

Since he already had experience taking care of the breed, his friend knew that Marvin was the right person to adopt then-one-year-old Demon: “So ako yung [pinagtanungan] kasi alam niya na [nag-aalaga ako ng AmBull]. Sakin siya [nagtanong] na baka pwedeng [ako na ang mag alaga].” Including Demon, Marvin now has five American Bulldogs under his care.

Having an American Bulldog as a companion animal is not for the inexperienced. Although they are a docile and affectionate breed – that is, when they are socialized from a very young age – they could become destructive, aggressive, or out of control when left without exercise and training.

Ideally, someone who has extensive knowledge about the breed and extra patience is the kind of person who could be an ideal companion. Marvin says, “Sobrang nag-research at inaral ko kasi talaga yan eh. Minsan kasi may mga taong mahilig lang, ‘yun lang, pero hindi naman nila ganon kamahal.”

Unfortunately, many people are still attracted to dogs only because of the physical aspect, bypassing research of behavior and special needs that specific breeds might have. Often, this results in abandonment. According to ClearTheShelters.com, the American Bulldog is among the most common dog breeds often found in animal shelters in the U.S. Marvin says, “Kailangan ng sobrang tiyaga at sobrang pagmamahal para sa kanila.”

Did you know?

American Bulldogs descended from the now-extinct Old English Bulldog, who were brought by English colonists to the American South. Originally bred as working dogs, the modern American Bulldog now enjoys their status as family companions.

Challenge accepted

As with any other companion animals, it’s normal to encounter challenges while living with them. In the case of American Bulldogs, Marvin shares, “Wala talaga. Siguro kasi sakin simula noong bata sila [na-train ko na]. Nakuha ko naman si Demon almost mag-one year so parang puppy pa lang siya.” Because Marvin was firm and consistent in training them as puppies, they turned out to be well-mannered dogs as adults.

He adds, “Kaya medyo nasanay sila na siguro ‘pag nagagalit ako, nakikita nila, kaya alam nila. Lalo na kapag magpapakain ako, maingay sila ‘pag kakain [na], pero ‘pag sinabi kong wag maingay, medyo nakatingin lang sila tapos hihintayin nila ako. Nung una syempre lalo [na] habang lumalaki, ‘pag bibigyan mo sila nang pagkain, medyo sinusunggaban. Ngayon hindi na. Hihintayin nilang ibaba mo, hangga’t di mo binababa, nakatingin lang sila sayo.” Indeed, patience in dealing with them and understanding their unique needs go a long way!

When it comes to their attitude towards other dogs, Marvin said that they are generally calm towards them. “Pag nilapitan sila, titignan lang nila ng ganun tapos magtatakbuhan [na ‘yung mga ibang aso]. Pero hindi sila yung aggressive. May experience kasi ako noon sa Bull Mastiff at Rottweiler, nagwawala. Pero sa kanila hindi ko pa na-experience yun eh.”

Big things come in small packages

A family dog with handsome looks and a great personality, the American Bulldog is the total package. As Marvin confirms, “Nasa kanila na kasi ang lahat. Siguro kung isa-isahin mo yung mga taong may ibang mga breeds, tapos pagsama-samahin mo yung German Shepherd, Rottweiler, Bull Mastiff, nandun lahat sa American Bulldog.”

Marvin advises, “Sa American Bulldog kasi, hindi pwedeng breed lover ka lang, kailangan dog lover ka talaga eh. Kasi may mga taong nagfofocus lang sa breed mismo. Sobrang hindi yung mag-aalaga [lang] sila, hindi pwedeng gusto lang nila,kailangan ‘yung mamahalin talaganila.”

The American Bulldog is a perfect example of why one should never judge an individual based on their physical appearance alone. They may look tough on the outside but they are big softies on the inside, and these characteristics are what make so many people fall in love with them, not just in America but all over the world.

If you are looking for an animal companion who can intimidate bad guys while still be affectionate and loving at the end of the day, buddying up with a Bully might just be what you need.

Quick fact bites

1. There are two types of American Bulldogs: the Johnson or Classic type, and the Scott or Standard type. The Johnson type is the larger and stockier of the two, and more closely resembles the Old English Bulldog. The Scott type is smaller but leaner which gives way to more power and athleticism.

2.  While most female dogs give birth to an average of 6 puppies per litter, female American bulldogs can give birth up to 11 puppies per litter. That’s a whole lotta lovin.

3. American Bulldogs are very athletic, some have even been recorded to jump as high as six feet (or more) into the air!

How to identify an American Bulldog (Based on the United Kennel Club’s Breed Standard for the American Bulldog)

Head: The head is large and broad, giving the impression of great power. When viewed from the side, the skull and muzzle are parallel to one another and joined by a well-defined stop. The forehead is wider than it is high.

Muzzle: The muzzle is broad and thick, with a very slight taper from the stop to the nose. The jaws are well muscled, displaying great strength. Lips are moderately thick, but not pendulous. Black pigment on the lips is preferred. The chin is well defined and must neither overlap the upper lip nor be covered by it.

Teeth: The American Bulldog has a complete set of 42 large, evenly spaced, white teeth.

Eyes: Eyes are medium in size, round to almond in shape, and set well apart.

Neck: The neck must be long enough to exert leverage, but short enough to exert power. The neck is muscular and, at its widest point, is nearly as broad as the head, with a slight arch at the crest, and tapering slightly from shoulders to the head. A slight dewlap is acceptable.

Forelegs: The forelegs are heavily boned and very muscular. The elbows are set on a plane parallel to the body, neither close to the body nor turned out.

Skull: The skull is large, flat, deep, and broad between the ears. Viewed from the top, the skull is square. There is a deep median furrow that diminishes in depth from the stop to the occiput. Cheek muscles are prominent.

Nose: The nose is large, with wide, open nostrils.

Ears: Natural ears are small to medium in size, high set, and may be drop, semi-prick, or rose.

Forequarters: The shoulders are strong and well muscled. The shoulder blade is well laid back and forms, with the upper arm, an apparent 90-degree angle. The tips of the shoulder blades are set about 2 to 3 finger-widths apart.

Body: The chest is deep and moderately wide, with ample room for heart and lungs. The ribs are well sprung from the spine and then flatten to form a deep body, extending at least to the elbows or lower in adult dogs. The topline inclines very slightly downward from well-developed withers to a broad, muscular back. The loin is short, broad, and slightly arched, blending into a slightly sloping croup. The flank is moderately tucked up and firm.

Tail: The natural tail is very thick at the base, set low, and tapers to a point. It should reach to the hock joint.

Coat: The coat is short, close, and varies from soft to stiff to the touch. It is one inch or less in length

Height and weight: The American Bulldog must be sufficiently powerful and agile. Males are typically larger with heavier bone and more muscle than females. Both sexes, however, should have a well-balanced overall appearance and all dogs should be well conditioned, neither over nor underweight.

Hindquarters: The hindquarters are well muscled and broad. The width and angulation of the hindquarters is in balance with the width and angulation of the forequarters.

Hind legs: The thighs are well developed with thick, easily discerned muscles. The lower thighs are muscular and short.

Feet: The feet are round, medium in size, well arched, and tight.

Color: Any color, color pattern, or combination of colors is acceptable, except for solid black, solid blue, merle, and tricolor (white with patches of black and tan).

Breed information

Appearance: “Yung malalaki ulo, malalaki buto, malalaki katawan, malalapad at maskulado. Kumbaga ‘yung maangas at matikas ang dating. Sa Am Bull ko nakita ‘yun.”

Personality: “Sa akin kasi sobrang sweet nila at family dog sila para sakin. Magaling din silang guard dog kasi ‘pag meron ibang dumating na tao nagwawala talaga sila, pero ‘pag nakita nila na kinausap ko mga ibang tao kakalma na sila. Lalo na pag nilabas sila sobrang bait nila sa ibang tao. ‘Pag nakita ka niyan, mahihiga na ‘yan o kaya makikipaglaro na ‘yan. Sobrang nakikipaglaro ‘yan sa bunso ko.”

Grooming needs: “Okay naman siya kasi shorthair lang siya. Dikit lang sa balat nila eh. Madali lang naman sila paliguan eh. Meron lang silang shampoo [na] talagang para sa kanila and soap. Ginagamit ko lang kasi sa kanila Perla lang eh. Kasi ‘yung Perla, may VCO siya, tapos saka ko siya lalagyan ng shampoo para mabango. ‘Yung Perla kasi maganda sa balahibo nila. Tapos Bearing yung shampoo niya.”

Special care: “Samin kasi, family dog lang talaga eh. Siguro basic obedience lang. ‘Yun lang nagwo-walk kami every morning, or every other day. Mga 2 hours. Siguro 5:00 alis kami bago kami putukan ng araw kasi mainit na eh. O kaya naman minsan sa gabi pagdating ko nang bahay galing work, pinapasingaw ko muna yung lupa. Minsan 9 or 10 ng gabi na. Kailangan [din] meron maayos na source of income. Kasi kailangan nila ng mga vitamins, vaccines, at iba pang medical needs.”

Diet: “Raw food ang pinapakain ko eh. Balesa umaga, chicken head at chickenneck. Bale 2 kilos sa umaga siya, tapossa hapon dog food naman. Kailangansuper linis niya na ubod nang puti.Chicken head at neck kasi yun rinang nirerekomenda sakin nang ibangnag [aalaga ng] AmBull. Medyomas less yung pupu nila. Mas buotapos walang amoy. Tapos sa hapon,dati one kilo siya ng dog food, pero[ngayon] ‘di na, hina-half ko nalang.Malakas sila kumain non. Ang gandapa sakanila di ganon kabaho yungdumi nila pati ihi. Sa gabi, dog fooddin. Medyo nahiyang sila sa BowWow.”

Photos by Jeffrey C. Lim
This appeared in Animal Scene magazine’s August 2019 issue.

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