Differentiating this unique, burly dog from its closest relatives can be a challenge, but this breed is worth it.
By Clifton James Sawit
Photos by Jeffrey C. Lim
Is a Bully for me?
If you want the dog du jour, the Pocket Bully isn’t for you. For one thing, they are not yet fully recognized in the local dog scene, though they turn heads wherever they go. Do your research and talk to owners and breeders before settling on a Pocket Bully.
Before you adopt a Pocket Bully, make sure that you are dealing with a reputable breeder. Some unscrupulous breeders have been known to use steroids to give their dogs a muscular look, which shrinks soon after the drugs are no longer being administered, and could have adverse effects on for its longterm health. The poor Pocket Bully could develop joint and organ problems!
People like freaks, Cezar comments, but he also cautions that the Pocket Bully is no mere novelty dog. They are among the most human-oriented of all dogs. Pocket Bullies tend to form very close bonds with all the members of a family, and is definitely not a one-person dog. Early training and socialization is required, and they are extremely pain tolerant. Check your dog for injuries every now and then, because Bullies have been known to suffer injuries without as much as a peep!
Cezar also cautions that they actually need twice the exercise of larger dogs, in his experience, and as a result, are not ideal for sedentary or injured or ill owners. The dog will suffer if it is not exercised; its muscles may even atrophy or shrink as a result.
The Pocket Bully is just like the Standard American Bully, only shorter. They share the same build, the same body type, and the same temperament. Don’t let the ‘pocket’ in Pocket Bully fool you, though; these dogs won’t fit in anyone’s pocket, and the term merely refers to their smaller stature as compared to the Standard American Bully.
Pocket Bullies are about three-fourths the size of Standard Bullies. Pocket Bullies stand 14-17 inches at the withers (the ridge between the shoulder blades) for males, and 13-16 inches for females. They bear the Standard Bully’s distinctive large, heavy, broad head, and a smooth, short-haired coat, and can have any color or pattern.
The word “bully” calls up images of dumb, cruel thugs who use intimidation to get their way, and Pocket Bullies do look intimidating with their thick muscular build—think a canine version of that 90s character “Johnny Bravo.” But the term “bully,” when it refers to dog breeds, has nothing to do with their personalities. Instead, all Bully breeds, including the American Pocket Bully, all descend from an ancient Greek breed called Molossers.
These dogs were large-boned and heavily muscled, and had drop ears and short muzzles. These Molossers were crossbred with other breeds, like mastiffs and Old English bulldogs. Although these powerful dogs were originally bred to guard livestock and property, in 19th century England, they were used in the barbaric practice known as bull-baiting. This cruel practice involved tying an angry bull to a stake and having dogs attack the bulls one at a time, biting at
the bull’s snout. Long after the practice was outlawed by Parliament, the dogs used in bull-baiting are still called “Bully breeds.”
Modern Pocket Bullies are the products of the crossing of pit bulls with other bulldog breeds, explains Cezar Magdato, Jr., breeder and owner of the fine specimen on Animal Scene’s pages. “They fall under the ‘exotic bullies’ category and tend to have a shorter snout—an ‘underbite’, so to speak. For a dog of the correct heritage to be considered a pocket bully, it cannot exceed a height of 17 inches in the shoulder.” He notes that the ‘super pocket’ bully is even smaller, topping out at 13-14 inches. They generally come in blue, gray, and brindled coats.
A Load of Bully: Shattering the Myths
The American Bully breed—of which our lovable Pocket Bully is a category— emerged in the mid-1990s, combining the traits of the American Pit Bull Terrier and the American Staffordshire Terrier, with infusions from other breeds, like the English Bulldog and Old English Bulldog. However, they are different enough from bulldogs to be considered a separate breed. The United Kennel Club recognized the American Bully as being distinct from other breeds as of July 15, 2013.
They are happy, outgoing dogs who are well known for getting along with humans, particularly young children. These dogs are loyal and stable, like pit bul ls, as well as friendly and outgoing, like the American Staffordshire Terrier. They are both great family companions and protective guard dogs, often fighting to the death for its owners. However, like any other dog, they must be socialized while they are young to prevent the development of aggressive tendencies towards people and other dogs.
Caring for Bullies
Pocket Bullies live between 8 to 12 years, on average, so understand the commitment you are entering into before taking the plunge. They also prefer warmer climates. Pocket Bullies will do just fine living in an apartment as long as it receives regular exercise. A brisk daily walk will help keep the dog physically and mentally fit. Playing fetch and swimming are also great exercises.
If you adopt a Bully puppy then you need to make sure that it gets the necessary vaccinations, particularly for rabies. Take the puppy to the vet at least once a year thereafter. If you suspect that your Bully has worms, check its feces or take it to the vet. If your dog needs to be dewormed, remember to have it checked every three months after.
Experts say that high-fat, high-protein quality meats are the best food for a Pocket Bully, but be careful not to underfeed or overfeed it. Depending on the dog’s diet, vitamin supplements can help round out its nutritional intake. Consult with your vet about what supplements are right for your particular dog. Cezar himself uses Vitamin C supplements for his Pocket Bullies, Cezar agrees and adds, and as an interesting side note, that such dogs tend to burn fat very easily. He feeds his Pocket Bullies raw meat, about 5 cups per day, and his dogs exercise by running up and down several flights of stairs.
When they are to be shown, he adds carbohydrates so that they can develop ‘show mass’, and weights are added when they exercise, with rest days so that the dogs don’t injure themselves.
He cautions against allowing your Pocket Bully to become roly poly or ‘bolabola’ as this is not an ideal body type for this dog. Cold weather does tend to make the dog look bigger, though, he observes. Pocket Bullies have smooth, shiny, easy-to-clean, short-haired coats. Regular brushing with a firm-bristled brushes should be complemented with baths or dry shampoos. Bullies are average shedders, and you can make their coats gleam even more brightly by rubbing them with a
towel or chamois. Regular workouts also help make their coats gleam, says Cezar.
Bullies and Pit Bulls
People sometimes confuse American Bullies and Pit Bulls, especially because American Bullies are an extension of the Pit Bull breed, but there are significant differences between them. American Bullies are sometimes called Bully Pits or Bully Pitbulls, adding to the confusion. The most obvious difference to the casual observer is between their respective builds. Bullies are stocky and compact, like bodybuilders, while pit bulls are leaner and more stretched out. Pit bulls stand taller and have a smaller head in proportion with its body, while Bullies stand low to the ground, with large heads and shorter muzzles.
Another big difference is in their energy level. While individuals of both breeds can vary, in general pit bulls are more energetic, and take more exercise in order to burn away their excess energy, which can become a problem if the dog is kept indoors for too long.
Bullies also need attention from their owners more than pit bulls. Bullies are bred to be friendly companions and want nothing more than to please their owners, although they still crave a solid pack order to follow. Pit bulls, on the other hand, are more independent and active, and although they are very friendly and sociable dogs, pit bulls can be too much for the beginning pet owner to handle, and are better suited to experienced owners.
Blue Ribbon Bully
Pocket bullies are excellent show dogs, bred for their intelligence and affection towards humans. They are a fairly recent breed, but the American Bully Kennel Club, an organization created for the American Bully, has a list of characteristics that define the breed.
So what makes an award-winning Pocket Bully? Above all, a Pocket Bully, like all American Bullies, should never display aggression toward humans and other dogs. Bullies are bred for friendliness, and are well known for being great with kids. Bullies should have heavy, large, broad heads that exemplify its breed type.
They should also have:
• Short to medium-length muzzles
• High-set ears,
• Any eye color (except pink to red, which indicates albinism)
• Well-defined jaws
• Semi-close and even lips
• Heavy, muscular, slightly arched necks, with minimal or no loose skin
• Wide, strong, and muscular shoulders
• Front toes that do not turn outward more than 45 degrees
• A massive, heavily-muscled, compact physique that exemplifies their breed type
• A broad and well filled in chest
• A backs that is straight or sloping slightly from withers to rump, giving the impression of a square body
• Legs that are straight and parallel when viewed from the rear
• A medium tail tapering to a fine point, clear of kinks or curvature
• Any color coat, as long as it is glossy and stiff to the touch; a curly, wavy, or long coat is undesirable
• 14”-17” at the withers for males, and 16”-13” for females
Training a Bully
Despite the negative stereotypes associated with bully breeds, the Pocket Bully is actually not a good breed for illegal dog fights, Cezar explains, as it tends to lose its breath in an extended engagement. Pocket Bullies can be trained to behave and do tricks. But it takes an alpha owner to care for a Pocket Bully, caution many breeders and owners Animal Scene spoke with; this is not a toy breed to be showered with affection, and you are doing the dog a disservice by babying or pampering it.
It all starts with training your new Bully as soon as you bring it home. Bullies need direction, and like all dogs they respond to the pack order. You need to be firm, consistent, calm, and confident. All the humans living in a household with the Bully must be higher up in the pack order than the dog. Bullies are not for passive owners who will simply let it run wild.
Choose a strong leash that won’t break while training your very powerful dog. Experts discourage the use of prong, shock, or choke collars, instead recommending head collars for more control without the need to hurt your dog.
Different dogs respond to different motivations. Some dogs like treats, others like praise, while still others may like toys as a reward for proper behavior.
Experiment with a mix of motivations until you discover the one that is right for your Bully. Bullies are extremely intelligent dogs, and can learn simple commands like “sit,” “stay,” and “come” easily.
Timing is also important when rewarding trained behavior in your dog. Dogs become confused when you praise it too soon or too late. Focus on the present, so that you can read the right moment to praise or reward your dog. The tone of your voice is also important for giving cues to your Bully. Dogs don’t understand human speech the way we do, but our non-verbal cues are easier for our pet animals to understand.
Be patient, and remain positive even if you start to feel frustrated. End the lesson with an upbeat attitude. If you are still stuck, find a professional dog trainer, especially one who has worked with Bullies in the past and employs positive training methods.
Bravo, Pocket Bullies!
Pocket Bullies are friendly, outgoing, intelligent companions who look physically imposing but are actually big softies at heart. Rough and toughlooking,
but gentle, Pocket Bullies are fun and full of life; they are cuter, smaller Bullies that have been bred to suit the average person’s lifestyle. Do adopt one
if you want a lively dog and are willing to commit what’s necessary for their care and happiness.
This Appeared in Animal Scene’s September 2015 issue.