Breed Info/Health Issues



A typical Bull Terrier is active, interesting, playful and clownish. It is also extremely attached to its owners or family.

All puppies are extremely "busy" and many continue to be active and playful until well into middle age (5-6 years).  They like to be doing something. For this reason they fit very well into active families where they receive a great deal of companionship and supervision.

They also adapt well to quieter situations such as homes of elderly (but active) retired persons who have a great deal of time to spend with their dog.  They do not do well in situations where they are expected to remain alone in the home or yard for long periods of time or where their physical activity is very restricted, in these situations they become bored and destructive. They will often chew and destroy, are difficult or impossible to housebreak, and develop unpleasant habits such as incessant barking, tail chasing and peculiar personality quirks.

They become very attached to their owners and their families. This usually makes them very good natural guard dogs, but care must be taken that they are not encouraged to become possessive and jealous. While this would seem a desirable attribute for someone who wants a dog to protect his wife and family, it can be a nuisance if the dog does not distinguish between acceptable strangers and malevolent ones.

They like to join family activity and for this reason require constant and firm discipline. They can be wonderful with children if handled with common sense, both by the adults and the children. Bull Terriers will tolerate a large range of children's behaviours but they will not tolerate being teased and can be rough if constantly provoked. They are tireless playmates and will chase balls, follow the children and watch their games for hours on end.

Many can and do enjoy the company of other dogs with certain exceptions. Male Bull Terriers who have not been de-sexed do not, as a rule, get along with other male dogs.  A male and female Bull Terrier can live together quite happily, and two females can sometimes share the same home. Again, care must be taken that jealousies do not arise.

They shed their coats twice a year. Old age brings on the usual battery of infirmities to which Bull Terriers are not immune.  They may well live an active and healthy life until 11 or 12 which is about the normal life span of this breed.

Males and females vary only slightly in temperament. Undesirable tendencies based on the sex drive can be remarkably reduced by de-sexing females as well as males.

Bull Terriers are unique in the spectrum of dogs. They can give tremendous joy or wreak havoc, depending on the time and effort spent by their owners to control and develop their special character. 



Bull Terriers are very family-oriented and are not happy when kept apart from the family. If you do not plan on having your dog live with you both inside your home and yard, you should not seriously consider a Bull Terrier for a pet.

Bull Terriers do not bark unless there is a good reason.

Bull Terriers are inherently aggressive towards other animals and for this reason, they should not be allowed to run free or roam at will.

 Bull Terriers may consider small animals as prey and hunt them. This includes cats, rodents, birds, small wildlife and small dogs. They can be trained to fit into a home where other animals are already established. It is, however, imperative that they are closely watched around other animals

Bull Terriers can be food possessive. If you have other pets, you will want to be certain they are given their own food bowl or treat well away from any other animals and that no other animal is allowed near them until the food is gone.

Bull Terriers not raised with children are not always tolerant of small children, they should NEVER be left alone with a child.

Bull Terriers like to take charge and may, at some time, challenge you for the dominant position. This behaviour cannot be tolerated and a firm, consistent correction should be your immediate response.

Bull Terriers can be obedience-trained. A good obedience class will guarantee you a firm bond with your dog and a well-behaved dog. Remember though, they are extremely intelligent and tend to get bored easily. They learn quickly so short training periods are suggested. This dog thinks it's a waste of time to "sit" or "stay" one more time, he will simply walk away! Obedience training requires patience!

Bull Terriers love to play. If you provide a ball, make certain the ball cannot be swallowed. Tennis balls can become lodged in the throat. A baseball or soccer/basketball will provide hours of fun. Squeaky toys made from rubber or plastic can be eaten in minutes, a hard rubber toy such as a Kong is safer. Don't provide an old pair of shoes, unless you want all of your shoes to become fair game.

Some Bull Terriers are talkers! They may grunt, groan and mumble to entertain themselves and you. This conversational verbalizing IS NOT growling and should not be interpreted as a growl which sounds quite different. Bull Terriers "talking" is an endearing trait.


GENERAL APPEARANCE - Strongly built, muscular, well balanced and active with a keen, determined and intelligent expression. 

CHARACTERISTICS - The Bull Terrier is the gladiator of the canine race, full of fire and courageous. A unique feature is a downfaced, eggshaped head. Irrespective of size dogs should look masculine and bitches feminine. 

TEMPERAMENT - Of even temperament and amenable to discipline. Although obstinate is particularly good with people. 

HEAD AND SKULL - Head long, strong and deep right to end of muzzle, but not coarse. Viewed from front eggshaped and completely filled, its surface free from hollows or indentations. Top of skull almost flat from ear to ear. Profile curves gently downwards from top of skull to tip of nose which should be black and bent downwards at tip. Nostrils well developed and underjaw deep and strong. 

MOUTH - Teeth sound, clean, strong, of good size, regular with a perfect regular and complete scissor bite, i.e. upper teeth closely overlapping lower teeth and set square to the jaws. Lips clean and tight. 

EYES - Appearing narrow, obliquely placed and triangular, well sunken, black or as dark brown as possible so as to appear almost black, and with a piercing glint. Distance from tip of nose to eyes perceptibly greater than that from eyes to top of skull. Blue or partly blue undesirable. 

EARS - Small, thin and placed closed together. Dog should be able to hold them stiffly erect, when they point straight upwards. 

NECK - Very muscular, long, arched, tapering from shoulders to head and free from loose skin. 

FOREQUARTERS - Shoulders strong and muscular without loading. Shoulder blades wide, flat and held closely to chest wall and have a very pronounced backward slope of front edge from bottom to top, forming almost a right angle with upper arm. Elbows held straight and strong, pasterns upright. Forelegs have strongest type of round, quality bone, dog should stand solidly upon them and they should be perfectly parallel. In mature dogs length of foreleg should be approximately equal to depth of chest. 

BODY - Body well rounded with marked spring of rib and great depth from withers to brisket, so that latter nearer ground than belly. Back short, strong with backline behind withers level, arching or roaching slightly over broad, well muscled loins. Underline from brisket to belly forms a graceful upward curve. Chest broad when viewed from front. 

HINDQUARTERS - Hindlegs in parallel when viewed from behind. Thighs muscular and second thighs well developed. Stifle joint well bent and hock well angulated with bone to foot short and strong. 

FEET - Round and compact with well arched toes. 

TAIL - Short, set on low and carried horizontally. Thick at root, it tapers to a fine point. 


GAIT/MOVEMENT - When moving appears well knit, smoothly covering ground with free, easy strides and with a typical jaunty air. When trotting, movement parallel, front and back, only converging towards centre line at faster speeds, forelegs reaching out well and hindlegs moving smoothly at hip, flexing well at stifle and hock, with great thrust. 


COAT - Short, flat, even and harsh to touch with a fine gloss. Skin fitting dog tightly. A soft textured undercoat may be present in winter. 


COLOUR - For White, pure white coat. Skin pigmentation and markings on head not be penalized. For Coloured, colour predominates; all other things being equal, brindle preferred. Black brindle, red, fawn and tri-colour acceptable. Tick markings in white coat undesirable. Blue and liver highly undesirable. 


SIZE - There are neither weight nor height limits, but there should be the impression of maximum substance for size of dog consistent with quality and sex. 


FAULTS - Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree.  

NOTE - Male animals should have two apparently normal testicles fully descended into the scrotum.  




The Standard of  the Bull Terrier (Miniature) is the same as that of the Bull Terrier with the exception of the following:

SIZE - Height: should not exceed 35.5 cms (14 ins).  There should be an impression of substance to size of dog.  There is no weight limit.  Dog should at all times be balanced.



 Part of every responsible breeder’s commitment to the breed, is to improve the health and lessen the incidence of genetic diseases.  Although not compulsory, responsible breeders test their breeding animals,

As with most breeds of purebred dogs, there are certain diseases that are known for the breed to be predisposed to, and the Bull Terrier breed is no exception, the following are known hereditary problems in the breed.  This of course does not mean that there are not other problems in the breed, it just means that these are the ones being worked on first. 

 The following have been designated as known hereditary health problems affecting the Bull Terrier breeds:

*    Deafness (Unilateral & Bilateral)
*    Heart Disease
*    Nephritis*    Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD)
*    Luxating Patella
*    Primary Lens Luxation (PLL) - Bull Terrier (Miniature) only


Deafness can be detected as early as four weeks of age.  The only conclusive test for differentiating between normal and abnormal hearing is the BAER test (Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response Potential).  In this, the dog has three fine electrodes inserted just under the skin on appropriate parts of the head, and an earphone is used to make clicks of known volume in one ear while the other is covered.  Testing can be done as early as 5 to 6 weeks of age. Only one test should be needed for verification of hearing status.

There are three deafness classifications:

*    Normal bilateral hearing
*    Unilateral deaf (deaf in one ear), and
*    Bilaterally deafness (deaf in both ears)

It is important to detect if a puppy can hear in both ears, because if dogs deaf in one ear are bred from the incidence of deafness in the breed is increased.  The cells which are responsible for deafness are also involved with the inheritance of coat colour. It is primarily white dogs (in many breeds) which suffer from deafness, but coloured Bull Terriers can be deaf, even solid coloured ones have been known to be deaf.

Veterinary advice is to remove unilaterally deaf dogs from the breeding stock (suitable for pets only). Most responsible breeders euthanase totally deaf puppies because dogs are controlled by tone of voice - which is impossible with a deaf dog.


South Australia now has BAER machine's to test for deafness in puppies. You can have your puppies examined at the following veterinary clinics:

Noahs Crossing Veterinary Clinic                                             Adelaide Plains Veterinary Surgery
                         168 Hayman Rd,                                                                       Old Port wakefield Road,                                    Lewiston, SA                                                                                   Two Wells SA
Ph: (08) 8524 2260                                                                             Ph: 08)8520 3600

It is advisable that all breeding stock should be tested for this inherited problem and any dog found to have the disease, should be removed from any breeding program.


The issue of heart disease in Bull Terriers is primarily seen in the form of congenital heart disease. The two forms commonly seen are Mitral Dysplasia and Sub-Aortic Stenosis.

The commonest is Mitral Dysplasia, in which the valve between two of the heart chambers does not close properly, so when the heart tries to send blood into the arterial system, some of it leaks back. In an attempt to send enough blood round the body the heart overworks and may enlarge. If the mitral valve leaks badly this may lead to heart failure even in young dogs.

The other frequent problem is Sub-Aortic Stenosis. In this condition the main artery from the heart, the aorta, is narrowed just where it leaves the heart. To push enough blood past this constriction the heart has to work harder, again possibly leading to heart failure. In a normal heart the valves opening and closing and the blood flows produce characteristic sounds, if a valve is faulty or a blood vessel constricted, the abnormal sounds produced are called heart murmurs.

The severity of these is graded from 1 (mild) to 6 (very serious). Detection and grading of heart murmurs should be entrusted to a veterinary cardiologist - a veterinary surgeon with special training leading to the Diploma or Certificate in Veterinary Cardiology. Although an ordinary veterinary surgeon can detect heart murmurs from grade 3 upwards, they cannot reliably find lower grade heart murmurs. Yet such murmurs are undesirable in breeding stock because heart problems are inherited. As there are several different causes of heart disease the modes of inheritance have yet to be determined, the only advice which can be given is to breed only from heart murmur free parents.

There are several tests veterinarians can perform to screen for these conditions which include Auscultation with a stethoscope, x-ray of the chest, ECG (electrocardiograph) to measure the heart's electrical activity and a cardiac ultrasound or echocardiography. Heart conditions are graded 1 – 6.It is advisable that all breeding stock should be tested for this inherited problem and any dog found to have the disease, should be removed from any breeding program.

Inherited Kidney Disease (IKD) has been reported in many breeds of dogs including the Bull Terrier and Miniature Bull Terrier as well as in people.

There are many different types of kidney disease, inherited (or genetic) faults being only one cause. Infections, poisons, some drugs, non-genetic cancers, liver, pancreas, uterine, heart disease or many other diseases can all cause kidney diseases.

The inherited conditions in Bull Terriers can occur in very young (less than six months) middle-aged or very old animals. Some dogs can be 10 years old plus and have the faulty gene in their makeup, pass it on to some of their pups, and may appear normal to their owners. These animals may live to a ripe old age with no one suspecting they have the diseases or have passed it on to their pups.

Signs of kidney failure that are common to both types of IKD and to other causes of kidney failure include the following:

*    poor appetite
*    dullness or lethargy
*    weight loss or stunted growth
*    poor hair coat
*    vomiting/diarrhoea
*    foul breath and mouth ulcers
*    muscle twitching and convulsions
*    drinking excess water and passing too much urine – often noticed in an increase in the urine passed overnight.
*    pale gums (anaemia)
*    dehydration (sticky dry gums)

There seem to be two types of kidney diseases in Bull Terriers:

    The first type is polycystic kidney disease (PKD) where the kidneys contain fluid filled cysts (or balls of fluid)  which can be seen by looking at the kidney, for example by using an ultrasound machine, as black "holes" inside the kidneys. At what age this commonly is first detectable is unknown. While it is possible to detect the defect in some dogs as puppies, it may be that in animals it is not obvious until the dog is much older. In this disease a urine test will not pick all affected dogs, so an ultrasound examination is ideal.

     PKD is an inherited kidney disease, thought to be inherited in an autosomal dominant fashion. In PKD, the  kidneys contain fluid filled cysts.

     The test for diagnosing this disease is an ultrasound examination on the dog and the test performed by a specialised veterinarian.

It is advisable that all breeding stock should be tested for this inherited problem and any dog found to have the disease, should be removed from any breeding program.

The second condition is nephritis where the kidneys may look fairly normal until a biopsy (or small piece of tissue taken from a live animal) is examined under a microscope. It is not possible to diagnose this disease on the basis of only an ultrasound examination. A urine test or kidney biopsy are the best tests for this disease.

Nephritis is an inherited kidney disease. It is understood to be inherited in an autosomal dominant fashion  (which means that only one parent has to have the fault for half the litter to be affected) 

A urine test - a U P/C test (Urine Protein Creatinine ratio) or a kidney biopsy are the two tests for diagnosis of this disease.

It is advisable that all breeding stock should be tested for this inherited problem and any dog found to have the disease, should be removed from any breeding program.

Both conditions are thought to be inherited by an autosomal dominant fashion, which means that only one parent has to have the fault for half the litter to be affected. If both parents have the fault three-quarters or more of the pups may be affected.

Because of the way these conditions are inherited, there is no point in condemning whole kennels or blood lines. As an affected dog may produce many unaffected pups and these animals do not have the faulty gene/s, these animals are fine to breed with as long as they are regularly tested. They have the virtues present in the lines but without the ‘taint’ of the faulty gene/s.It is advisable that all breeding stock should be tested for this inherited problem and any dog found to have the disease, should be removed from any breeding program.


The patella is a small bone sliding in a groove in the stifle joint - equivalent to the kneecap in the human knee. If the groove is too shallow the patella may slip sideways out of the groove, causing the dog to limp, until it slips back - often seen as a limp, a skip and hop followed by normal movement. The patella may slip out of its groove easily or only occasionally. In a badly affected dog the joint is painful and becomes arthritic. The mode of inheritance is polygenic (controlled by several or many genes) and can only be combated by breeding from unaffected parents. A veterinary surgeon can test the joint by feeling how firmly seated the patella is in its groove.

In simplest terms, this is when the kneecap slips out of place. The range can be mild to severe and depends on how shallow the groove is. The mode of inheritance is understood to be recessive.

It is wise to limit your puppy/adolescent Bull Terrier's activity (i.e. don't allow them to jump from heights etc) to help reduce undue strain on young joints.It is advisable that all breeding stock should be tested for this inherited problem and any dog found to have the disease, should be removed from any breeding program.




Primary Lens Luxation refers to the displacement, dislocation or slippage of the lens from its normal position in the eye (i.e. behind the iris and on the line of vision).  

There are several causes of lens displacement – e.g.  ocular diseases such as glaucoma or cataract.. This is a serious condition and unless detected early, leads to blindness.  PLL rarely occurs before the dog is 3 years of age.

Sometimes both eyes are affected at the same time but usually there is an interval of weeks or months in between. Once one eye is affected the other will invariably follow sooner or later.

The mode of inheritance in the Bull Terrier (Miniature) is not yet proven but it is thought to be inherited as a recessive trait.

Annual eye examinations are thoroughly recommended and can be booked through:


Dr. Read

Adelaide Veterinary Specialist and Referral Centre

102 Magill Rd

Norwood, S.A

Ph: (08) 8132 0533

 It is advisable that all breeding stock should be tested for this inherited problem and any dog found to have the disease, should be removed from any breeding program. 



To see your bully chasing his tail or simply spinning around might be funny to watch.  But this serious problem can lead to your dogs death.  For some bullies, chasing their tail or spinning started out as fun past time.  Their owners laughed and even encouraged the dog to do the "trick" and lo and behold their dog no longer does it on command but it does it all the time.  Sometimes you can get the dog to stop and go back to being "normal" .  But what happens when the dog no longer pays any attention to you but is in a world of their own and spins and spins. 

Owners can in-avertedly create tail chasing/spinning in their pets BUT we do have a more serious dark side to this problem.  Compulsive Tail Chasing, when the dog doesn't listen to you to stop.  I am out of my depth here with this issue so will bring your attention to the following site.


There are drugs that one can use to help treat dogs who spin or chase their tails.  One of the drugs I know - Clomicalm (which is a human antidepressant but marketed for dogs under the Clomicalm name) has been a good drug to help dogs with spinning/tail chasing, obsessive compulsive disorders and anxiety issues.  Others have been Prozac and even Valium.  But discuss this with your vet and if your not happy with the vets advice (some vets have said straight out to euthanize before doing that ask to see an animal behaviorist).   The sooner you jump onto the problem with treatment and behavior modification, the more chance of a positive outcome for your family pet.  If your vet doesn't have enough knowledge on the issue then please direct them to the above site. 

But please if your dog is a spinner or tail chase please go to that site for more in-depth information.  Your vet should be able to refer you to an animal behaviorist if you require one.  Please if your dear bully is a compulsive spinner/tail chaser do not breed with them.  Also do contact your breeder to let them know what is going on with your bully.



Contact Details
Bull Terrier Club of South Australia Inc
Adelaide, SA
Email : [email protected]

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