Annette Nobles is the Communications Committee Chairperson of the Bulldog Club of America and a Bulldog breeder herself at Irresistibull Bulldogs. She accepted to answer all of our questions on Bulldog health, Bulldog breeding, and how to bring the breed to a better place.
Why English Bulldogs, and why would somebody breed them instead of just owning them?
My first experience with the English Bulldog (actually the correct term for American Kennel Club registered dogs is Bulldog) came after my daughter begged for a “wrinkled” puppy. Not really wanting a dog that needed to stay in the house, I was opposed to this decision but her father thought differently. It took no longer than five minutes with that puppy to be addicted for life. I cannot even begin to express the love you have for a Bulldog puppy. As with any breed, Bulldogs are truly an amazing addition to the “right” home. Bulldogs are popular, in part, because of their amiability to humans, to other dogs, and to cats. They love to be with their people and usually have a smile. Although they need exercise, they only need a moderate amount – an amount that most homes today can easily give.
After breeding my first litter I quickly learned several lessons: it is not easy, it is hard to let puppies go, you must carefully assess buyers, and I don’t know that I’ve ever made a dime. This is true for any breed that is produced responsibly. After going to a dog show and getting involved in that world I began to breed ONLY for my next show generation. I have dogs to show on occasion and if some are pets, they are well-bred pets with an emphasis on good health.
Responsible dog breeding, whether it is Bulldogs or some other breed, requires a great deal of time, commitment, and knowledge. It is certainly not for everyone. Bulldogs are raised in the home where climate and environment is controlled. The location needs to be where you can frequently monitor the puppies and mother. My girls have been excellent mothers; however, in life with humans or animals, many things can go wrong. So I monitor the interaction between the mother and the puppies:
- Is the milk intake sufficient or must I supplement?
- Are there any bullies in the litter that always get the best nipple?
- Is a puppy getting trapped under the mother?
- Are the puppies keeping clean?
- Does any puppy have gas?
- Are the puppies getting mental and physical stimulation at the appropriate time?
- Are the puppies developing on schedule?
When you make a choice to breed you are obligated to make good decisions for mom and babies throughout their lives. Unless you are committed to breeding the best dogs and you have plenty of time you should not consider having a litter, no matter what the breed. Just enjoy being an owner, providing a dog the best home possible.
What are the top three mistakes English Bulldog breeders make in their bloodlines these days?
To answer this question, I went to the Bulldog Standard Group on Facebook which is frequented by many experienced, owners, breeders, and exhibitors. The following are mistakes/concerns that were frequently mentioned.
First, a common term we hear often, kennel blindness, where a breeder may be incapable of seeing faults in their own dogs. This may be the result of lack of knowledge or may be the inability to separate the emotional feelings towards the dogs from a critical assessment. Responsible breeding requires that the breeder become educated in anatomy and structure. A good breeder breeds for excellence in structure, excellence in genetic background (minimizing possible health problems), and excellence in temperament.
Second, some mentioned only breeding to the top dogs or dogs currently in the limelight. Just because the dog is number one in the nation does not mean he compliments your bitch. A good breeder makes a critical assessment of what is excellent and what needs improvement in the female that will be bred and then chooses a dog that will add strength to where the female needs to be improved. It is not enough to only look at the individual dogs. The grandparents, siblings and cousins need to be reviewed to see if the trait you need for your female is consistently produced in that dog’s relatives.
Third, breeding by looking at pictures of the stud; not seeing offspring or putting your hands on the stud. In today’s world we have the ability to breed to dogs thousands of miles away and even overseas. I realize some excellent breedings have taken place by making choices only through pictures; however, a hands-on examination often reveals qualities or lack of qualities that might not be readily evident.
Now, what is one of the frequent judging mistakes you witness in dog shows?
Please allow me to wander off topic a bit while answering this question; I think it is important that one understands the formidable requirements to become a dog show judge, whether for conformation, agility, obedience, rally, or field trials. American Kennel Club judging requirements can be found here. I believe one who chooses to be a judge has a love of the sport of dogs and a desire to make a positive impact on the breed.
Judge applicants begin with approval for only the breeds they have bred. They must meet minimum requirements in having successfully bred and shown to their championships at least five Bulldogs over a minimum of twelve consecutive years. Additionally, they must prove their ability to understand how the judging process works by judging matches (practice shows for dogs and judges), and by stewarding for judges. The applicant must successfully pass tests on the breed standard, the AKC Rules and policies, and anatomy. Each applicant must also attend a day-long seminar which covers everything from ethics, time management, to evaluating dogs.
A judge applicant from another breed must attend seminars and workshops on each breed, be mentored by a breed expert, judge matches, and do all he/she can to learn each breed. Numerous seminars and hands on workshops are held by AKC throughout the United States. As the parent club for the Bulldog, the Bulldog Club of America (BCA) has a Judges Education Chairperson who is responsible for breed education throughout the USA. This includes a three-day annual comprehensive seminar for aspiring judges with classes, discussions and ringside mentoring by breed experts on hundreds of the finest Bulldogs in the country. The Judges Committee Chairperson also coordinates with judges’ groups to provide breed specific education throughout the country when requested.
Perhaps to answer the initial question the most frequent mistake at dog shows is not taking the time to understand how different judges prioritize. Often, there are no “right” or “wrong” decisions. One judge may put more emphasis on one feature and another is putting more emphasis on a different feature. Like all sports (whether ball games, beauty pageants, or horse shows) it is often one’s perception or opinion and certainly not everyone will be happy.
How is the BCA able to help and educate a new Bulldog breeder?
As guardians of this very noble breed, the Bulldog Club of America established in 1890 is the leading authority on Bulldogs in the United States. For over 100 years the BCA and its member clubs have focused on maintaining the breed standard by breeding for good health, conformation, and temperament, while continuously promoting the health and welfare of the breed.
The BCA provides education to members, judges, and the public through seminars, publications, videos, participation in “Meet the Breeds,” and via the BCA website. Information on conformation, breeding ethics, and the care, health and training of the Bulldog is readily available on the Bulldog Club of America’s website.
I would highly recommend to anyone who is interested in owning the breed go to the website. You can find there contact information links to people in Divisions throughout the United States who will gladly guide you to someone geographically close to you.
Could you please share your thoughts on inbreeding and/or linebreeding with Bulldogs?
Inbreeding involves breeding close relatives, for example father to daughter, brother to sister, etc. A breeder using this technique may strengthen dominant traits; however, is also gambling they may produce hidden undesirable traits.
Line breeding is considered a diluted version of inbreeding with parents having one or more common ancestors in the pedigree in the first several generations. Using healthy dogs with repeated desirable characteristics provides some control over what you will produce.
Out-crossing where the first 5-6 generations have no common ancestry results in having no idea which traits you might reproduce from the parents.
Most breeders I know study pedigrees, and tend to primarily use line breeding, by carefully selecting traits they believe will work with their bitch to produce not only well conformed puppies but healthy progeny.
What are the three main health concerns breeders should focus on breeding out urgently?
I’ve had Bulldogs for 20 years and I can truly say I have seen significant improvement in their health during this time. It is a myth that the Bulldog is inherently unhealthy by virtue of its conformation.
When responsible breeders use healthy dogs in their breeding program, the offspring excel in conformation and companion events. I feel improvements have occurred due to the diligence of the BCA in providing education regarding good breeding practices and ethics. The standard set by the BCA demands the Bulldog have:
- a “general appearance and attitude that should suggest great stability, vigor and strength,”
- “nostrils should be wide, large, and black,”
- eyes should be “quite round in form, of moderate size, neither sunken nor bulging,” and
- “the coat should be smooth.”
The BCA sponsors health clinics at several special events around the country. Since 2012, we have more than doubled the number of dogs participating in BCA recommended testing. The BCA recognizes health testing done by BCA members through awarding the Ambassador of Health Awards to dogs with five levels of recognition based on the number of health tests passed.
Additionally, the BCA has established a BCA Charitable Fund (BCACF) to sponsor research on issues that Bulldog breeders or owners may encounter. BCA Charitable Fund grant money has sponsored many studies including ones on pulmonic stenosis, cystinuria, anasarca, trachea, and hypothyroid disease. This research has led to the development of additional genetic testing opportunities.
What are the best actionable advice you could give a breeder starting with bulldogs?
Prior to even considering breeding, you must “live” with the breed for a while. I cannot imagine getting up one day and thinking, “I think I’ll begin to breed Bulldogs.” Even before getting your first Bulldog you need to learn as much as you possibly can. After living with the Bulldog you will know whether you truly have a love for the breed and the time and devotion it takes to whelp a litter.
Actionable advice is you will need to learn by reading, going to seminars, reviewing the standard, talking with successful breeders, visiting breeders in their homes, spending hours sitting at ringside, even at ringside with other breeds. If you decide to take that step you must have a great mentor and listen to their advice. You need to begin with a good foundation bitch, learn about pedigrees, and look at the offspring of any stud dogs you are considering.
What are the grooming requirements for a healthy bulldog, especially skin-wise?
A healthy Bulldog requires merely a few minutes of daily maintenance. I would recommend cleaning face and tail wrinkles with something like non-alcohol, non-fragrance dog wipes. Keeping these wrinkles dry is important. Ears can be cleaned with a gentle dog ear cleaner weekly. A good teeth brushing several times a week and a bath with a gentle shampoo when needed.
Bulldogs actually do not smell “doggy” and can go for weeks before needing a bath. I tell buyers to be diligent in looking at skin and ears several times a week. I live in the deep South so I am always aware of insect bites that may cause skin conditions or reactions. I keep preventative medicines such as Benadryl on hand.
In your opinion, where is the breed going to be in ten or twenty years?
I believe with advances mankind is making in health care and genetics the Bulldog, as well as any breed, has the potential to become exceptional specimens. New genetic tests are being developed every day and will make it increasingly possible for breeders to produce healthier pure-bred dogs by being able to predict prior to breeding what traits are likely to result.
Breeders must continue to educate themselves in advances in these areas and be experts in animal husbandry, understanding health testing, anatomy, genetics and the ability to incorporate this information into their breeding program.