Do English Bulldogs need exercise?
The English Bulldog is a breed that is prone to numerous health problems. They are in general exercise intolerant and often need to be encouraged to be active.
This makes the need for exercise important to keep them healthy maintaining there muscles and joints and managing their weight.
English Bulldogs are not the most active dogs in the world. On a scale of 1 to 10, they would be a 1 where 1 is least active. This is one of the reasons why English Bulldogs can be susceptible to obesity.
They have a hard time breathing because of their short nose and compromised air passages. Any exercise that increases the demand for oxygen should not be overdone since they will struggle to get sufficient air to meet the demands being placed on them.
They are also very susceptible to heat so avoid exercising when the temperature is too hot or humid. Any signs of exhaustion are a cue to stop the exercise and allow them to cool off.
Swimming is best avoided as they are not good swimmers and will have a hard time staying afloat.
How much exercise does an English Bull Dog need
English Bulldogs should have at least 20 minutes of exercise daily with 40 minutes being the absolute maximum. This relates to an adult Bulldog.
The exercise requirements for a Bulldog puppy are different due to there the fact that their bones, joints, and muscles are still developing. Learn more about exercising a Bulldog puppy at the end of this article.
For a senior or older Bulldog, the need for exercise is still crucial. However, any health issues need to be taken into account such as any joint issues such as arthritis. This is a balancing act requiring sufficient activity to keep the joints and muscles supple while not overdoing it. This can lead to discomfort or pain for your older English Bulldog. Learn more about exercising an older Bulldog at the end of this article.
There exercise routine can be broken down into three categories
- Daily Walk
- Free Play
- Mental Stimulation
We will look at each of these three types of exercise below.
English Bulldog health problems
The English Bulldog is prone to quite a variety of health issues. The original English Bulldog did not resemble what the modern day Bulldog has become.
Through selective breeding, we have given them squashed in faces, compact bodies, and oversized heads. These cosmetic changes have come at a cost.
The list of potential health issues for English Bulldogs is long so we will just take a look at issues that can affect exercise and activity.
- Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome –This refers to the short muzzle of the English Bulldog which causes respiratory issues and makes them prone to overheating.
- Hip and Elbow Dysplasia – This means malformation of the hip and elbow joints. This is a genetic issue, but often it may not show itself until the dog gets older. These conditions may cause pain, lameness, decreased activity, difficulty rising, and reluctance to run, jump, or climb stairs.
- Heat Sensitivity – English Bulldogs can overheat very easily. It is important for an owner of this breed to know what the signs of overheating and heat stroke to be aware of.
- Heart Disease – English Bulldogs can also be quite prone to heart issues. A regular check-up by your vet is highly recommended
- Joint and ligament injuries – due to there compact solid body type, English Bulldogs are not the most agile of dogs. Avoid any sort of activity that is high impact.
- Degenerative Spine Disease – Again this is a genetic issue that tends not to show itself until the dog is older. This may not necessarily affect all Bulldogs yet one in every four or five Bulldogs may have this issue at some stage in their life.
English Bulldog healthy weight
Maintaining a healthy weight is crucial for your English Bulldog. Obesity can make many of these health problems worse. Being overweight makes breathing even more difficult for these dogs.
The consequences of hip and elbow dysplasia are made worse with the increased stress placed on these joints by excessive weight.
The ideal healthy weight depends greatly on the height and length of your bulldog. There are a lot of different sizes. The average weight of an English Bulldog is around 55 lbs. However, a number on a scale is not always a good indication of what is ideal for your dog.
For a guide to calculate whether your dog is overweight or not, see here or consult your vet.
Do English Bulldogs need to be walked and how far?
Make sure exercise is fun and not stressful for your English Bulldog as they will be more eager to do it.
Take your Bulldog for short relaxed paced walks on a daily basis. Ten to fifteen minutes or a casual stroll around the block should be more than enough.
Avoid strenuous activity when the weather is hot or humid. This can cause them to overheat or have labored breathing. Ideally, plan their daily walks at a time of the day when the temperature is coolest to avoid any complications. For more tips on exercising a dog in hot weather see here.
Read “Over exercised dog symptoms” to learn about the signs and symptoms to be aware of to prevent overheating or even heat stroke or exhaustion.
It is best to exercise before meals. English Bulldogs tend to become drowsy and prefer to just lay around when they are full. Daily walks will also provide an opportunity for mental stimulation from absorbing the sights, sounds, and smells.
Free Play and Toys
The English Bulldog is a playful dog. They enjoy a good game with people, other dogs and often by themselves. Provide an opportunity for them to play whenever possible. This will help burn energy, stimulate their mind and strengthen their bond with you.
Some suggestions for free play include;
Tug of War
A firm favorite of all strong dogs. Make them crouch and pull back to use extra energy. Ensure that this is a controlled game and they release when you want them to. Also, a great way to build muscle and strength.
A spring pole is simply a spring connected to a rope that hangs from a tree branch or beam with a lure or toy attached to the end. This allows your dog to play tug of war with him or herself even if you are not there. Popular with a lot of dogs that love a good game of tug of war.
View Spring Poles on Amazon.
Fetch is a great game to get your English Bulldog moving. Remember not to overdo it. If they are starting to pant excessively end the game.
A Jolly Ball is a nearly indestructible ball for dogs that they push and chase around. They come in a variety of sizes, styles and are also available with a handle or rope attached for tug of war. Being a herding dog this is a great activity that caters to their natural herding instincts. Check out the video to see what great exercise and fun they are for dogs.
View Jolly Balls on Amazon.
Dog toys that move
There are many dog toys available that shake, rattle, roll and move about on their own. This activity would be best as a supervised and control game as a dog like the Bulldog could destroy these type of toys. See “Dog toys that move on their own” to learn more.
The ideal moving dog toy for an English Bulldog is the Zeus Bulldog. The Zeus Bulldog barks, shakes, bounces, and rolls in an unpredictable way. It comes complete with 3 AAA batteries. The cover is machine washable for when it becomes covered in slobber and grim.
View the Zeus Bulldog on Amazon.
Self Playing Dog Toys
There are a variety of dog toys that your dog can use to play by themselves. These are great for times when your dog is home alone, you don’t have the time or you are otherwise occupied. This way your dog can still get some physical activity and mental stimulation without your direct involvement. See “Self Playing Dog Toys” for some ideas.
Play with other dogs
Provide an opportunity for your English Bulldog to play with other dogs. This is not only great to burn energy and stimulate their mind, but teaches them important social skills.
Your English Bulldog will get some mental stimulation and enrichment from their daily walk and time spent with free play. However, it is a good idea to provide other activities that stimulate the mind. Mental exercise can burn as much energy as physical exercise.
Many dog behavior problems are a direct result of boredom. Read “Mental enrichment and mind stimulation for dogs” to learn about the six categories of enrichment for dogs.
Some ideas to provide mental stimulation include;
Puzzle toys are a great way to test your dog’s intelligence and improve their problem-solving skills. Check out “Top puzzle toys for dogs” for my top picks.
Kong toys which you stuff with food and treats work in much the same way. Read “How to use a Kong for dogs”.
Puzzle toys are great for times when your dog is home alone. If your dog is home alone while you are at work or out you may find some helpful information at “Leaving a dog alone while at work”
Teaching new commands and tricks is also excellent to provide mental enrichment. A popular game that involves learning is to teach them the names of their toys. Dogs can learn hundreds of words and names.
Chewing is a natural behavior for dogs and has many benefits including maintaining dental health and keeping them occupied. It also as mental health benefits. When a dog chews it releases endorphins to their brain making them feel calm and relaxed helping to lift their overall mood.
For more on the benefits of chewing and the best chew toys for your dog see here.
Turn mealtimes into an opportunity for your dog to get a mental challenge and enrichment. Instead of feeding them from a bowl, give them activities that require them to work for their food. To learn more about feeding enrichment for dogs see here.
Enrich their environment
Environmental enrichment is the process of making a dog’s living space more engaging and interesting. To learn more about environmental enrichment for dogs see here.
How to exercise your English Bulldog puppy
The exercise suggestion above relates to a healthy adult English Bulldog. The exercise needs of a puppy are quite different. With puppies, their bones, muscle, and joints are still growing and developing.
Overly strenuous walks are not necessary and in fact, could possibly cause harm. The best exercise for a young puppy is free play with age-appropriate toys. Socializing with other puppies or friendly adult dogs is a great way to burn some of that puppy energy along with teaching them the social skills they need.
As your Bulldog puppy gets older you can take them for short informal walks allowing them to sniff and explore and get used to being on a leash.
Puppies under three months probably haven’t had all their vaccinations so shouldn’t be walked in public. Check with your vet when it is alright to venture out to the park or street.
The general rule of thumb for walking an English Bulldog puppy is around 2 minutes for every month of age. So, for example for a 4-month-old puppy, a walk of 8 minutes is enough. Monitor your Bulldog puppy on the walk for signs such as lagging behind, lying down or panting. End the walk if they seem too tired.
Mental stimulation is important for puppies and can tire them just as much as physical activity. For more on mental stimulation for puppies see here.
For more on puppy exercise read “How to exercise a puppy”
How much exercise does an older English Bulldog need
As a dog gets older they become less active and have lower energy levels. However, it is still important that they remain reasonably active to keep their joints and muscles mobile and to manage their weight. Read “ Dog exercise for a senior dog” to learn more.
Many dogs develop arthritis as they age. Exercise for them becomes a balancing act. It is important to keep their joints mobile and manage weight, but too much can make them sore. Read “How to exercise an arthritic dog” to learn more.
English Bulldogs are also very prone to hip dysplasia so also read “How to exercise a dog with hip dysplasia” for suggestions.
The English Bulldog does not require a large amount of exercise due to their compromised breathing and the fact that they can overheat easily. This means that they are in general exercise intolerant. It is best not to over-exercise them.
However, it is also important to provide a mild amount of exercise of 20 to 30 minutes daily to manage their weight. Exercise also helps keep their muscles strong to support their joints and tendons. Providing mental stimulation will prevent boredom leading to destructive behavior.
Does your English Bulldog get the right amount of exercise?