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With their stocky build and natural “scowl,” many people expect bulldogs to be a stand-offish and tough breed. But as any bulldog owner could tell you, that couldn’t be further from the truth! Despite their wrinkles and tough appearance, bulldogs are literally born to be loving machines.
But how can we know that our bulldogs love us for sure if we can’t just ask? How do bulldogs show affection?
As an affectionate breed, bulldogs show their love with a variety of behaviors. This includes wagging their tails, licking, cuddling, and following you around. An especially loving bulldog may show you their stomach or make prolonged eye contact with you.
Along with describing these signs of affection, we’ll go over why exactly bulldogs are so affectionate and address some common questions.
Are Bulldogs Affectionate?
While every dog is unique, the vast majority of bulldogs are very affectionate to their loved ones.
The bulky, tough appearance and steadfast demeanor of the modern bulldog is a relic from their origin as a 13th century bull-baiting breed. But since the outlawing of bull-baiting and other blood-sports from England in the 1830’s, nearly two centuries of selective breeding have gone into making the everyday bulldog a lover, not a fighter.
Rather than being as stoic as they look, bulldogs are friendly toward strangers and highly affectionate with their loved ones.
Who are Bulldogs Affectionate Toward?
Most of a bulldog’s love and attention is directed towards those that matter to them most– their family. As with many other bully breeds, bulldogs are known to be Velcro dogs who are hard to pry from their loved ones.
Many bulldogs are loving and affectionate toward all members of the family, such as children and other animals.
But unlike more protective breeds like pitties or Rotties, bulldogs are naturally inclined to seek attention and love from even strangers. While a bulldog won’t be as affectionate towards strangers as their own family, anyone who greets a well-socialized bulldog should expect a lick or two!
How Do Bulldogs Show Affection?
Now that we’ve established that bulldogs are naturally very loving, you may still be wondering how exactly your bulldog expresses this love. Many behaviors of affection, like licking, are easy to spot. But many other behaviors are often overlooked, such as bringing you a toy. Here are several ways a bulldog can show you they care.
1. Licking You
Your bulldog doesn’t have that big ol’ tongue in their mouth for nothing– it’s the perfect tool for giving you some sloppy kisses! As with human kissing, experts aren’t entirely certain why dogs developed licking as a sign of affection. Face licking is believed by many experts to be derived from the puppy behavior of licking their mother’s face to request food, but in general, licking and grooming are known to simply be ways dogs show affection.
2. Tail Wagging And Bum Wiggling
Dogs can’t talk, so they have another excellent tool in their arsenal– body language! In particular, the tail and ear positions of a dog are great ways for them to express different emotions.
Tail wagging– or bum wiggling in the case of this naturally short-tailed breed— isn’t always a sign of affection or friendliness. It can mean happiness, aggression, curiosity, or even anxiety. The same can be true when a dog stops wagging their tail too.
But when it comes to the good-natured bulldog, tail wagging and bum wiggling usually means “I’m happy to see you!” A happy, friendly bulldog will wag their tail at a moderate speed and angle, but an excited pup will wiggle their whole body! The faster the wiggling, the more excited they are.
3. Following You Around
The cynic in you may think your dog is just sticking around in anticipation of their next meal, but the truth is often much more innocent: they just love you.
Why wouldn’t your bulldog want to spend all day with their favorite human in the entire world? Typically, if your bulldog follows you around, you’re just that– their favorite human!
As a non-working breed, bulldogs are bred solely to be household companions. As a result, they are incredibly people-oriented. As you go about your day, your bulldog may follow you around to check on you, because it comforts them, or just to tag along with their best friend.
Regardless of the exact reason, your bulldog is probably showing you they care by staying by your side.
4. Making Eye Contact
Humans may look at one another as a sign of love, but for most species, such as non-human primates, making eye contact is a way to communicate aggression. Even the wild counterparts of domestic dogs perceive staring as a threat! But somewhere in the long process of domestication, dogs learned our uniquely human signs of affection.
When you and your dog stare in each other’s eyes (referred to by scientists as mutual gaze), both of your brains release a hormone known as oxytocin. This hormone, often referred to as the “love hormone,” is responsible for bonding in humans. We release it when we cuddle, “say I love you,” and even when we fall in love.
That said, many dogs are still pretty wary of making prolonged eye contact for fear of their gaze being misinterpreted as a challenge. So if your dog makes an effort to catch your eye in a friendly setting, it’s probably trying to show affection and express its trust!
In recent years, many dog trainers and behaviorists have pointed out that human displays of affection such as hugging are actually uncomfortable to many of our canine friends. While it is important to always respect a reserved dog’s boundaries, most bulldogs don’t really have boundaries.
From rubbing against you to laying on your face, bulldogs like to show affection by touching their owners as much as possible. Just as when two humans cuddle, oxytocin is also released by both partners when a dog cuddles with their human. Aside from being warm and comfortable, cuddles serve as a way for you and your dog to bond more.
6. Leaning On You
Leaning isn’t just a show of affection from Rottweilers— it’s pretty popular with this smaller bully breed too! For such a simple action, leaning actually has a pretty profound meaning. If a bulldog leans on you, not only is it getting to touch you, but it also is able to show you that it trusts you by putting its weight against you.
7. Jumping On You
This stocky breed may not be able to reach your shoulders, but that doesn’t mean they won’t try! For a bulldog, jumping on you comes with many perks. For a start, jumping on you means they can get that much closer to your face in the hopes of bringing you down for some face licks. It’s also just a great way to get some pets and attention.
It’s perfectly understandable if you aren’t a fan of this behavior, and there are plenty of ways to discourage it while making sure your bulldog gets to share their affection with you. Leaning down to greet them or having your dog lay down before receiving some pats are two easy ways to make sure your dog keeps all four paws on the ground.
But if you don’t mind a bit of jumping, it’s a great way for your dog to greet you and show their love.
8. Showing You Their Belly
What says “I love and trust” you more than some vulnerability every now and then? Rolling over isn’t just a request for tummy rubs– as far as dogs are concerned, it’s a pretty big sign of trust. The stomach is a vulnerable spot in most animals, our canine companions included. When a dog shows you their belly, they are exposing a sensitive region that leaves all of their vital organs unprotected.
It’s not uncommon for more wary dogs to be hesitant to roll over, so if your dog is willing to show your their belly, it’s a major sign of affection and trust. Of course, the tummy rubs that come with it are a welcome plus!
9. Laying On You
Most of us can agree that a 50 pound dog laying on you isn’t comfortable, but your bulldog begs to differ! When they lay on you, your bulldog gets to be warm, comfortable, and secure. More importantly, they get to share their love and affection with you through touch. Plus, some attention and pets are practically guaranteed!
Dogs may not show their pearly whites quite in the same way humans do, but they are known to smile as a sign of relaxation and happiness. A smiling dog will have the corners of their mouth lifted up and will often slightly pant.
In the case of bulldogs, this is usually accompanied by a floppy tongue sticking out! As long as this open mouth isn’t accompanied by any signs of stress, your bulldog is probably trying to express their happiness to you by mimicking human body language.
11. Bringing You a Toy
Bulldogs might not have the most energy compared to other breeds, but they still have a fierce love for their toys. Many dogs have a favorite chew toy, blanket, or, in the case of the goofy bulldog in the below video, metal bowls.
There are many reasons your bulldog would want to share their beloved toys with you, and all indicate affection. For one, your bulldog might be recruiting you as their playmate of choice. Your bulldog might also realize that it makes you happy when you see them carrying around their toys. But often times, your bulldog knows that a specific toy makes them happy, so they assume their gift will make you happy too!
12. Putting a Paw on You
For many of us, a dog randomly putting their paw on us can be a pretty perplexing behavior. It’s not exactly like dogs shake hands with one another on a regular basis, after all. For bulldogs, putting their paw on you is usually just an excellent way to get your attention and solicit some pets. Additionally, any chance to touch their owner is a choice way to communicate love.
What Isn’t a Sign Of Affection
With all of these ways that bulldogs do show affection, you may be surprised to learn that there are some behaviors that can get misinterpreted as affection. Some of the behaviors owners commonly think are acts of affection are often signs of a potential issue.
If licking means “I love you,” shouldn’t licking a lot mean “I really love you?” Well, not necessarily.
Many dogs engage in repetitive behaviors such as licking, pacing, and chewing as a way to let out anxiety or boredom. Whether your legs, a blanket, or themselves are the target of excessive licking, it isn’t really a sign of affection. Instead, this repetitive behavior provides anxious dogs with comfort and bored dogs with something to do.
By the time licking becomes noticeably excessive or obsessive, it’s your job as a responsible owner to treat the underlying cause.
Aggression Toward Others
If rom-coms and soap operas have taught us anything, it’s that true love is always accompanied by jealousy, right? Jealousy has a pretty complicated relationship with love in humans, but in dogs it’s a straightforward no. While dogs have been proven to experience jealousy, the way they experience this emotion has more to do with anxiety than it does love.
An insecure dog feels the need to compete with other people or animals for your attention and feels that others are a social threat for your love.
It’s not just about your attention being away from them either. In a 2014 study on canine jealousy, puppies would only become agitated when their owner interacted with a fake dog, not just any object in the room.
A happy, well-adjusted bulldog may be a bit pushy at times, but aggression toward others is never combined with affection. Any signs of aggression or bullying towards other humans or animals should always be discouraged, even if some people find it “cute.”
Are Male or Female Bulldogs More Affectionate?
There are many things that determine how affectionate a bulldog is. Your bond, their individual personality, and how you respond to affection are all major factors. Believe it or not, your dog’s biology could also have an impact!
Breeders and owners have informally noticed that male and female bulldogs seem to have different temperaments and behaviors. The usual observations are that male dogs are more affectionate and playful, whereas female dogs are more gentle, easy to train, and protective. These contrasting natures have been attributed to differences in maturity and hormone levels.
With all of this said, there aren’t many studies on how a dog’s sex shapes their personality. While some slight behavioral differences have been reported in studies, the differences attributed to males or females are often just extensions of gender stereotyping. Furthermore, differences in hormone levels are minimal for spayed and neutered dogs.
As far as most experts are concerned, getting a male or female dog is a personal preference rather than a guarantee for an affectionate dog.
How Do Bulldog Puppies Show Affection?
For the most part, bulldog puppies show their affection in the same way as their adult counterparts. There are still a few differences in how these two age groups express their love.
In addition to having small bladders, puppies have poor control of their bladder muscles. As a result, puppies pee a LOT.
Holding their bladder when they are excited or nervous is especially difficult for a puppy. As a result, a bulldog puppy who is really excited to see you may have a bit of difficulty containing their happiness and their pee. By the time they are fully grown and develop full bladder control, your puppy should start showing their love in less messy ways.
For as sweet of a meaning as this behavior has, we’re certainly glad it goes away with age!
Chewing on Your Things
If there’s two things puppies know how to do, it’s play and chew! Chewing is an important behavior in puppies to strengthen jaws, relieve discomfort due to teething, and just explore the world. Pretty much anything from their toys to the leg of your chair is fair game for your puppy, but if your puppy is showing a distinct interest in your clothes or blankets, it may be a sign of love.
With a sense of smell 10,000 to 100,000 times stronger than our own, puppies live in a world of scents. And if a puppy loves you, it also loves things that smell like you, such as your shoes or blanket.
How Do Bulldogs Show Affection to Other Animals?
Many of the ways bulldogs show their affection to us carries over to their ways of displaying affection to other animals. Licking and tail wagging are universal signals of affection for dogs, but there are a few animal-specific behaviors.
Other animals with sensitive sniffers, like dogs and cats, may communicate via smell and pheromones. Namely, bulldogs will share a friendly greeting with some good old-fashioned butt-sniffing.
How to Show Your Bulldog Affection
While they may not always understand complex commands, dogs are still exceptionally skilled at deciphering our body-language. Chances are, if you love your dog, it shows! Of course, knowing exactly how to show your love can be a bit confusing at times. Here are some great ways to show you care.
What better way to show your dog you care than petting them? Petting has been shown to be a relaxing and pleasant experience for humans and dogs alike. As several studies have shown, petting a dog significantly reduces anxiety and lowers cortisol, a major stress hormone. Aside from just feeling nice, petting your dog is the human equivalent of grooming and licking.
When it comes to petting your dog, you really can’t go wrong. While some dogs prefer to be pet in different areas or different ways, any type of petting will further your bond.
Since we lack a tail or big, floppy ears, our dogs have learned to understand us in other ways. To a certain extent, dogs are born with the ability to understand human facial expressions, body language, and tones of voice.
Our canine friends don’t necessarily understand what “good dog” means, but they can pick up on the sentiment. The more your bulldog gets to know you, the more they understand that you smiling and talking to them means you’re happy to see them.
Many dogs aren’t fond of cuddles, but most bulldogs are certified snuggling monsters.
Generally speaking, if your bulldog likes to cuddle, they’ll initiate it. But setting aside a nice spot on the couch or helping them up onto the bed can remind your bulldog you appreciate their cuddles!
When it comes to cuddling your bulldog, take care that they don’t spend long under the blanket and stay away when it’s hot. As comfy and nuzzling up with your bulldog is, excess body heat can make things uncomfortable quickly for this easily overheated breed.
Play With Them
Although they may lounge for most of the day, bulldogs are often fond of playing. Not only is it a natural desire to get some energy out, but by being your dog’s playmate, you can further your bond and make them happier.
Simple games like tug of war or fetch are readily accepted by bulldogs, but they can even learn to play more complicated games such as hide and seek.
When playing with your bulldog, keep an eye out for any signs of overheating such as excessive panting. As long as they’re comfortable and have access to plenty of water, let the games begin!
Considering how affectionate bulldogs are, it’s no wonder they have so many ways to show their love.
Bulldogs usually show they care in many of the ways most of us would expect, like licking or wiggling their bum. But more subtle displays of affection, like leaning on you or bringing you a toy, shouldn’t be ignored either.
When it comes to keeping you and your bulldog happy, a relationship of mutual care and affection can keep your bond strong. Plus, your bulldog certainly won’t mind an extra pat every now and then.