For owners

What to Look for When Buying a British Bulldog Puppy

British Bulldogs are one of Australia's most loved breeds. This popularity attracts them to inexperienced and unscrupulous breeders. So how do you know the difference between a responsible and irresponsible breeder?

Dogs Australia registered breeders follow a strict code of breeding ethics, conduct health testing to help reduce the incidence of inherited diseases and, for accountability, and research.

The results are recorded on the ORCHID database.

Like in all dogs, there are specific health issues, and it’s important to make sure your breeder does the recommended health testing for their breed. This could be the difference between a happy and healthy puppy and a poorly bred one.

In this article we spoke to Narelle Spencer, a Dogs Australia registered breeder of 34 years, who breeds healthy British Bulldogs under the kennel name ‘HEFTY’, on what to know when you are considering a British Bulldog puppy as your new best friend.

What is a healthy British Bulldog?

Dignified, kind, friendly, courageous and calm, conveying an impression of determination, the British Bulldog is a well-known breed and considered a national icon in its home Country of England.

Narelle Spencer, President of the New South Wales Country Regions British bulldog Association and current treasurer of the National British Bulldog Council, Narelle was President of the British Bulldog Club of New South Wales and secretary of the National British Bulldog Council.

Narelle works as a certified vet nurse of 24 years and is the lecturer for the British Bulldog at Dogs New South Wales for aspiring judges. Narelle has worked as an animal trainer in the Australian film and television industry for the past 30 years.

Living with four British Bulldogs and a rescue dog, her British Bulldogs have been mascots for the Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs National Rugby League team.

What health testing should breeders be doing?

There are a range of health tests recommended for British Bulldogs.

It is strongly recommended that Dogs Australia registered British Bulldog breeders test for the following health conditions in their breeding stock. Most dogs are tested between 12 and 18 months.

  • Exercise Tolerance Test (ETT), an exercise/respiratory test
  • Veterinary examination for Stenotic Nares (testing nostrils openness)
  • Cardiac examination for heart murmurs
  • DNA testing for Hyperuricosuria (HUU), a genetic disease causing bladder stones
  • Tracheal Hypoplasia examination
  • Hip, elbow & spine x-rays for scoring
  • Patella Luxation examination
  • Eye examination
  • Blood testing for thyroid conditions

Recently all seven British Bulldog Clubs in Australia provided representatives to form a health committee and implement a health scheme for the breed. The health scheme has been accepted by the National British Bulldog Council and Dogs Australia.


“Lots of individuals already do the testing, but now with the breeding scheme, we will be registering the results on the Dogs Australia ORCHID database and can recommend to clubs certain test that should be mandatory.”, Narelle said.

ORCHID Officially Registered Canine Health Information Database.

“There’s been an extensive study by Cambridge University on Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS) and the influence of Stenotic Nares on BOAS.”

“We're led to believe every Bulldog has BOAS, and that is not true. The ones on the televisions are showing severe symptoms.”

“We can provide images to vets of open, mild, moderate and severely stenotic noses.”

Narelle would like the Exercise Tolerance Test to be mandatory and see more vets able to collect data for the new British Bulldog health scheme.

What is a well-bred British Bulldog like?

Narelle has competed in Obedience and Agility with her British Bulldogs.

“It’s amazing what they can do, Rally and even Tracking and Drafting.”

The head shape of a dog is believed to cause airway issues, however, a study shows it’s not exclusive to brachycephalic breeds.

The Norwich Terrier has a mesocephalic head shape and is affected with Upper Airway Syndrome (UPS), which clinically presents itself the same as BOAS.

A genetic component discovered from the Norwich terrier called ADAMTS3 is found in British and French Bulldogs, giving hope of a DNA test.

“Most people’s pets like Poodles, Labradors and Beagles, have mesocephalic skulls so you don’t expect them to have airway obstruction issues.”

“It’s not head shape, and this study is a solid example that it may not be head shape.”

The Norwich Terrier who was separated from the Norfolk Terrier, doesn’t suffer from UAS, suggesting a genetic nature.

65.8 per cent of screened Norwich Terriers had UAS. Health testing since 2003, it fell to 8.6 per cent.

Narelle is pleased with those new to breed being keen on health testing.

A misconception exists that those breeding to a standard don’t consider health.

“Dogs bred to breed standard are significantly healthier than those with very heavy wrinkling and off standards colours.”

“We go back five generations, sometimes more, to decide what breeding line to use.”

Health is not something considered highly in unregulated breeding.

“In the past, I desexed and got surgery on any dogs with elongated soft palates and placed them in pet homes. I haven’t had any palate issues for the last 20 years.”

What are the concerns for British Bulldogs that don’t meet their breed standard?

There are concerns with dogs sold as British Bulldogs who have off-standard colours and coats sold for large amounts.

“The merle, long-hair and hairless gene does not exist in British Bulldogs, so people are thinking they are buying a purebred when it isn’t.”

Narelle is concerned with the number of off-standard and unhealthy dogs she sees in her workplace, who are bred despite having serious health concerns.

Buying a British Bulldog checklist

  • Do your research on the breed and the care needed
  • Make sure the breed is right for you and your situation
  • Source from a Dogs Australia registered breeder who does the recommended health testing
  • Meet your breeder and their dogs if you can
  • Be prepared to wait for a puppy

Before buying a British Bulldog puppy it’s important to do your research.

Follow the Dogs Australia three R’s;

  • Right time – is it the right time now to get a puppy for your family?
  • Right breed – Have you researched all you need to know about your breed from its natural instincts to grooming?
  • Right Breeder – Is your breeder responsible, operating under a code of ethics, with regulations and health checks?

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