How to Care for Your Deaf Bull Terrier

How to Care for Your Deaf Bull Terrier

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As an animal welfare worker, Jana worked with Bull Terriers. She had a boarding home for the breed and currently owns a perky specimen.

Why Are Bull Terriers Vulnerable to Deafness?

It's pretty well known that white animals have an increased propensity for deafness. Bull Terriers, however, have ancestral deafness—they were not even bullies yet and the problem was already there.

Way back in the day, around the 1800s, a now-extinct breed became the forerunner of several popular dogs today, including the Jack Russell, Bull Terrier and Staffordshire Bull Terrier. Called the English White Terrier, the animal was prized for its beautiful porcelain coat. However, increased inbreeding lead to genetic problems such as frailty and rampant deafness spread through litters. The English White Terrier died out but not the problem. When the Bull Terrier rose as a breed, it retained its ancestor's lovely white coat (the other colours developed later). Sadly, they also inherited a higher chance of being born deaf.

Is It Only White Bullies Who Can Be Deaf?

Among several misconceptions that cling to this topic is the belief that only white Bull Terriers suffer from hearing loss. Truth be told, the condition affects an estimated 18 to 20 percent of all bullies, no matter their colour. But there is a smattering of truth. White specimens are more prone to full deafness and the coloured bullies often lose hearing in one ear. This is not a hard rule. Full hearing loss can show up in any dog. A veterinarian can perform tests on a puppy to determine the degree of deafness in each ear.

Consider Adoption

It is a sad fact that there are people out there who would euthanize a Bull Terrier, even a puppy, plainly because it carries deaf genes. All value such a dog has to them is its ability to breed and make money. Nobody will buy puppies if one parent cannot hear or if a breeder becomes known for selling deaf pups. A lot of affected puppies just 'disappear'. The lucky ones end up being handed over to vet clinics and animals shelters. If deafness isn't an issue in your household, consider giving your name to vets, shelters and rescue organisations, so they can place you on a waiting list should somebody hand over a bullie with special needs.

Living With a Deaf Dog

Many owners, when acquiring a deaf dog for the first time, expect more effort than a normal pet. Often, they are pleasantly surprised when both they and the dog adapt quite soon to the situation. Each case is a little different but deafness is not like an illness where special medication, therapy and progressive deterioration worsens the dog's life. Some Bull Terriers might lose their hearing over time but this doesn't affect their health. With the best of them, a deaf bullie can eat your favourite carpet, zoom about the garden and enjoy being an affectionate disaster (their specialty). That being said, they do need a few things hearing dogs don't.

1. Avoid the Startle Factor

This goes without saying: A deaf dog cannot hear somebody approach. When it is fully absorbed in an activity, especially a trigger zone such as eating, a sudden touch might upset the dog. A deaf animal must first become aware of your presence before touch. When your bullie is awake, step into its field of vision and then approach. If, for some reason, you need to wake your sleeping deaf dog, lightly bounce the bed. Any children in the house should be taught how to properly deal with any dog, not just a deaf bullie. Teaching kids to respect dogs that eat, sleep and don't want to play is paramount. A deaf Bull Terrier that was adopted as an adult needs enough time to adjust and often, once they feel safe with their new family, the startle factor might fade.

2. Identify the Dangers

Have a look around your home. The dangers may not be immediately obvious but a hearing-impaired dog faces special threats. They'll fail to detect an approaching car and not just on a nearby road. Anyone who drives into the yard without checking for dogs can cause an accident. It's not enough to assume that Butch will see the car. Bull Terriers get engrossed in mischief and appreciate the occasional sudden sprint. Not the best pair of traits to shine approaching headlights on. Along the same lines, they won't hear a door in time to avoid it hitting them as it swings open. Neither will they wake up when kids or other pets happen to run in its direction when napping.

3. Use Hand Signals

A deaf dog is a hundred percent trainable. Hearing dogs respond well to hand signals and so can a deaf bullie. Signs such as 'stay', 'down' and 'come' are particularly useful, especially when you are trying to get your pet away from a dangerous situation. Amazingly, you might even find that a unique sign language develops. Depending on the daily routine, needs and habits of both, a deaf dog and its owner develop their own way to communicate with visuals and touch.

4. Ensure Safe Encounters

Bullies love to walk and explore, see new things and follow their noses. If your deaf pet must walk off its lead, make sure the area is contained and safe. During a walk, view yourself as his or her service person, ready to provide direction and safety; look out for other dogs, cars and other dangers. Sometimes, your bullie must meet strangers outside of the home; a vet visit or perhaps you are approached by a bullie fan during a walk. Depending on the dog's temperament, contact should be limited or avoided. But what if it's a vet? Usually, deafness comes secondary to whatever ails the animal and again, whether it's friendly or not. There's no reason why deafness should be an issue when the dog engages with other people. However, if he or she startles easily, inform the person beforehand.

Strongly Consider Sterilization

There is no good reason why a deaf Bull Terrier should breed, even accidentally. Besides preventing the spread of deafness, sterilization has great benefits. When females are spayed, their chance of developing mammary cancer decreases dramatically. The risk for this type of cancer grows with each heat. A sterilized bitch will never develop another common and deadly problem—pyometra. This condition usually follows a heat, when the womb is more likely to be infected by pathogens. Pyometra doesn't go away, it can only be stopped through an emergency spay. Male dogs' emotions might settle more after being neutered, and they'll also avoid gender-specific cancer.

They're Not That Different

At the end of the day, with a few boundaries and wakeful moments, these Bull Terriers are identical to their hearing cousins. Their condition is unlikely to disrupt your lifestyle any more than another bullie would. If they are otherwise healthy, you can expect up to 15 years with a dog that's your personal clown, shoe killer and hot water bottle at night.

© 2018 Jana Louise Smit

So out names are Shelley and Zimba from Lisbon on June 26, 2018:

Takes a person with true heart to care for a pet with special needs thank for your special gift of love and compassion

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If you remember the late 1980s, you probably recall the Budweiser commercials featuring a Bull Terrier named Spuds Mackenzie, whose sly grin and on-screen antics turned the breed into a pop icon. Many people were captivated by the breed's unique head, muscular build, and fun-loving nature. After the ads aired, the Bull Terrier's popularity soared.

Nicknamed "the kid in a dog suit," the Bull Terrier is active and friendly, as well as being one of the clowns of the dog world. He has a larger-than-life personality that ranges from intelligent and innovative — not always the most desirable qualities in a dog — to placid and loyal. He also comes in a smaller version — the Miniature Bull Terrier — who shares the same attributes.

Life with a Bull Terrier is always an experience. He's a "busy" dog from puppyhood well into middle age. The Bull Terrier isn't content to spend long periods alone day after day he wants to be with his people, doing what they're doing. He does best with an active family who can provide him with plenty of energetic play. He also needs someone who will consistently (but kindly) enforce the house rules. Otherwise, he'll make up rules of his own. For that reason, he's not the best choice for timid owners or people who are new to dogs.

Like most terriers, Bull Terriers (unneutered males in particular) can be aggressive toward other animals, especially other dogs. To be well-behaved around other canines, they need early socialization: positive, supervised exposure to other dogs that begins in early puppyhood and continues throughout life. Cats and other furry animals who enter their territory should beware.

Because they can be rambunctious, Bull Terriers aren't recommended for homes with younger children, but with older kids they're tireless playmates. They enjoy vigorous daily exercise and can be highly destructive if they're bored. Successfully training a Bull Terrier calls for patience, confident leadership, and consistency.

Some cities and states have restrictions on or ban ownership of Bull Terriers, and you should be aware of your local laws before you bring your Bull Terrier home.

If you're ready to take on the challenge of a Bull Terrier, you'll find him to be an affectionate, loyal companion who's always ready to entertain you — he's been known to make even the most serious of people giggle — or go on an adventure. One thing's for sure: life with this breed will never be dull.


  • Bull Terriers thrive in the company of their people, and should live indoors with their human family. They don't do well when left alone for long periods and will wreak destruction when bored.
  • Bull Terriers aren't suited for cold, damp climates. Keep your Bull Terrier warm with a coat or sweater in winter.
  • These aren't high maintenance dogs, grooming-wise. A weekly brushing and occasional wipe-down with a damp cloth is usually all it takes to keeps them clean, although they must be brushed more frequently during twice-yearly shedding periods.
  • The Bull Terrier needs 30 to 60 minutes of exercise, play, and mental stimulation daily.
  • Ownership of Bull Terriers is restricted or banned in some cities, states, and provinces. Research your local dog laws before you get one banned dogs may be seized and euthanized.
  • The Bull Terrier is strong-willed and can be difficult to train. He's not recommended for timid or first-time dog owners.
  • Without early socialization and training, Bull Terriers can be aggressive toward other dogs, animals, and people he doesn't know.
  • Bull Terriers are too rough and rambunctious for homes with young children, but they're tireless playmates for active older kids who've been taught how to interact with dogs.
  • Never buy a Bull Terrier from a puppy mill, a pet store, or a breeder who doesn't provide health clearances or guarantees. Look for a reputable breeder who tests her breeding dogs to make sure they're free of genetic diseases that they might pass onto the puppies and who breeds for sound temperaments.


The Bull Terrier dates to approximately 1835 and was probably created by crossing a Bulldog with the now-extinct white English Terrier. These "bull and terrier" dogs were later crossed with Spanish Pointers to increase their size. They were known as gladiators for their prowess in the dog-fighting ring.

In 1860, fanciers of the bull and terrier, in particular a man named James Hinks, set about creating an all-white dog. The striking animals became fashionable companions for gentlemen and were nicknamed "White Cavalier" because of their courage in the dog-fighting ring and their courtliness toward people. While they're no longer used for fighting, white Bull Terriers still go by that sobriquet to this day, a tribute to their sweet disposition (which of course is shared by colored Bull Terriers).

The first Bull Terrier registered by the American Kennel Club (AKC) was Nellie II in 1885. Twelve years later, in 1897, the Bull Terrier Club of America was formed. The colored Bull Terrier was made a separate variety in 1936, and the Miniature Bull Terrier became a separate breed in 1992.

Well-known fans of Bull Terriers include General George S. Patton, whose white Bull Terrier Willie followed him everywhere actress Dolores Del Rio author John Steinbeck and President Woodrow Wilson. One well-known Bull Terrier is Patsy Ann, who greeted each ship that docked in Juneau, Alaska during the 1930s. Beloved by tourists, she was photographed more often than Rin Tin Tin, and in 1934 she was named the official greeter of Juneau. Today, Patsy Ann's spirit lives on in a bronze statue that was commissioned and placed on the Juneau wharf in 1992.

A Bull Terrier appeared in Sheila Burnford's book "The Incredible Journey," as well as the first film version of it, but that film didn't have the same effect on the breed as Budweiser's 1980-era commercials starring Bull Terrier Spuds Mackenzie. When the ad campaign aired, the breed's popularity soared.

A colored Bull Terrier made history in 2006, when Ch. Rocky Top's Sundance Kid (Rufus to his friends) became the first colored Bull Terrier to win Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show. The only white Bull Terrier to win the prestigious event was Ch. Haymarket Faultless in 1918. The breed's appearance has changed quite a bit — for the better, breeders say — since then.

Today, Bull Terriers rank 61st in popularity among the breeds and varieties registered by the American Kennel Club, up from 85th in 1996. Miniature Bull Terriers rank 129th.

Bull Terriers come in a wide range of sizes, ranging from 35 pounds to 75 pounds. Generally, males weigh 55 to 65 pounds and females 45 to 55 pounds. They stand about 21 to 22 inches at the shoulder.

The Miniature Bull Terrier stands 10 to 14 inches tall at the shoulder, and weighs about 25 to 33 pounds.


Never one to take a backseat to anyone or anything, the Bull Terrier is a friendly, feisty extrovert who's always ready for a good time, and always happy to see you. A Bull Terrier who's shy and backs away from people is absolutely not normal.

Bull Terriers and Mini Bull Terriers are described as courageous and full of fire. These are good traits, but they can veer into the disagreeable category if the Bull Terrier is allowed to become possessive or jealous. Without early training and socialization — exposure to dogs and other animals — they can be potentially aggressive toward other animals.

With people, though, they have a sweet disposition. On the downside, they can be chewers, barkers, and tail chasers, and are often difficult to housetrain.


Bull terriers are generally healthy, but like any breed, they can have health issues. Reputable breeders provide health certifications for a puppy's parents.

In Bull Terriers, you should expect to see the results of BAER hearing tests for white Bull Terriers, health clearances from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals for the heart and thyroid, and UP:UC ratios for kidney function.

Because some health problems don't appear until a dog reaches full maturity, health clearances aren't issued to dogs younger than two years old. Look for a breeder who doesn't breed her dogs until they're two or three years old.

The following problems may occur in the breed:

  • Hereditary Nephritis is a severe form of kidney disease found in Bull Terriers, often at an early age. It's caused by small and undeveloped kidneys or a malfunction of the kidney's filters, resulting in high levels of protein in the urine. Bull Terriers with this disease usually die before they're three years old, although some live to be 6 or 8 years old before succumbing to kidney failure. A urine protein/urine creatinine (UP:UC) test is recommended annually, starting when dogs are 18 months old. Bull Terriers with an abnormal UP:UC ratio, meaning there's too much protein in the urine, should not be bred. Bull Terriers can also suffer from renal dysplasia, a congenital disease (meaning the dog is born with it) in which the kidneys don't mature properly, hindering their ability to perform properly.
  • Deafness in one or both ears is common in white dogs, and some colored Bull Terriers can be deaf in one ear. All Bull Terrier puppies should undergo BAER (brainstem auditory evoked response) testing to ensure that their hearing is normal. A veterinarian or a Bull Terrier club can help you find the nearest BAER testing facility. Bull Terriers who are deaf in one ear can lead relatively normal lives, but puppies that are deaf in both ears require special training techniques and handling.
  • Heart Disease caused by defects in heart structure and function is occasionally found in Bull Terriers. Some cases are more serious than others and usually are indicated by the presence of a heart murmur. In some cases, a cardiac ultrasound (echocardiogram) may be necessary to diagnose the problem. Some Bull Terriers outgrow their murmurs, some live with them for years with no problem, and others develop heart failure. Depending on the condition and the stage at which it's diagnosed, treatment may range from medication to surgery.
  • Skin Problems can affect Bull Terriers, especially white ones, who have sensitive skin that can be prone to rashes, sores and irritations. They may also be prone to contact or inhalant allergies, caused by a reaction to substances such as detergents or other chemicals or airborne allergens such as pollen, dust, and mildew. Check your Bull Terrier's skin regularly and treat any rashes quickly. Provide soft, clean bedding in crates and other sleeping areas to prevent sores. Sometimes a change to a diet with few or no chemical additives can help. Other Bull Terriers need long-term treatment with antibiotics or steroids to keep skin problems under control.
  • Spinning is an obsessive form of tail-chasing that usually begins at approximately six months of age. It can continue for hours and leave the dog with no interest in food or water. Spinning may be a type of seizure and is sometimes successfully treated with medications such as phenobarbitol, anafranil or Prozac. Treatment is often more successful in females than males. Bull Terriers can also develop a milder form of tail chasing that's easily dealt with by eliminating the dog's boredom.
  • Lens luxation is when the lens of the eye is displaced when the ligament holding it in place deteriorates. It's sometimes treatable with medication or surgery, but in severe cases the eye may need to be removed.

The Bull Terrier needs someone at home during the day. Leaving a Bull Terrier to entertain himself is about as smart as leaving a creative and intelligent child unsupervised in a room full of explosives. For one thing, they'll eat just about anything, and many die from gastrointestinal blockages that aren't discovered until it's too late. Rawhide toys can be especially problematic. Bull Terrier-proof your home!

A Bull Terrier needs half an hour to an hour of physical and mental exercise daily. He'll enjoy going for walks, chasing a ball, or testing his wits against an interactive toy. He's also capable of competing in agility and obedience trials. Be sure to always walk him on leash so he won't run after other animals or go off exploring on his own.

Bull Terrier puppies are bouncy and into everything. High-impact exercise can damage growing bones, so until your puppy's full grown, at 12 to 18 months of age, beware of bone-jarring activities such as jumping on and off the furniture, playing Frisbee, or running on slick wood or tile floors. These can all stress or injure the still-developing joints and ligaments.

Early and consistent training is essential. You must be able to provide leadership without resorting to physical force or harsh words. A Bull Terrier isn't the easiest breed to train, and you'll be most successful if you appeal to his love of play with positive reinforcement techniques while still remaining firm and consistent in what you expect.

Bull Terriers can be difficult to housetrain. Follow the housetraining program closely the crate method is best. A crate will also prevent your Bull Terrier from destroying your belongings or otherwise getting into trouble.

Bull Terriers are suspicious of strangers and can be aggressive toward other animals (especially dogs of the same sex) and people. Take him to puppy socialization classes as early as possible, as well as to dog-friendly public places so he can get used to many different situations, people, and dogs. He should also learn to welcome visitors to your home.


Recommended daily amount: 1 5/8 to 4 1/4 cups of a high-quality dog food daily, divided into two meals.

How much your adult dog eats depends on his size, age, build, metabolism, and activity level. Dogs are individuals, just like people, and they don't all need the same amount of food. It almost goes without saying that a highly active dog will need more than a couch potato dog. The quality of dog food you buy also makes a difference — the better the dog food, the further it will go toward nourishing your dog and the less of it you'll need to shake into your dog's bowl.

Keep your Bull Terrier in good shape by measuring his food and feeding him twice a day rather than leaving food out all the time. If you're unsure whether he's overweight, give him the eye test and the hands-on test. First, look down at him. You should be able to see a waist. Then place your hands on his back, thumbs along the spine, with the fingers spread downward. You should be able to feel but not see his ribs without having to press hard. If you can't, he needs less food and more exercise.

For more on feeding your Bull Terrier, see our guidelines for buying the right food, feeding your puppy, and feeding your adult dog.

Coat Color And Grooming

The Bull Terrier's coat is short, flat, and shiny, with a hard texture. Bull Terriers come in two color varieties: white and colored. White Bull Terriers are solid white, with or without colored markings on the head but nowhere else on the body. Colored Bull Terriers are any color other than white or any color with white markings.

Bull Terriers are easy to groom they need only weekly brushing with a rubber mitt or curry brush. The exception is during their twice yearly shedding season, when daily brushing will be necessary to keep all the hair under control. Unless they've rolled in something stinky, Bull Terriers don't need frequent bathing and can be washed with a dry shampoo or dusted off with a damp cloth.

Other grooming needs include dental hygiene and nail care. Brush your Bull Terrier's teeth at least two or three times a week to remove tartar buildup and the accompanying bacteria. Daily is better. Trim his nails once or twice a month, or as needed. If you can hear the nails clicking on the floor, they're too long. Short nails keep the feet in good condition and don't get caught in the carpet and tear. If the feet need to be tidied up with trimming, the best time to do it is when you are clipping the nails.

Check the ears weekly to make sure there's no debris, redness, or inflammation. Clean them as needed with a cotton ball and a cleanser recommended by your dog's breeder or your veterinarian. Wipe around the outer edge of the ear canal, and don't stick the cotton ball any deeper than the first knuckle of your finger.

Begin getting your Bull Terrier used to being brushed and examined when he's a puppy. Handle his paws frequently — dogs are touchy about their feet — and look inside his mouth and ears.

Make grooming a positive experience filled with praise and rewards, and you'll lay the groundwork for easy veterinary exams and other handling when he's an adult.

Children And Other Pets

Bull Terriers and Miniature Bull Terriers are active dogs who can play rough, so they're not recommended for homes with young children. They're great playmates with boundless energy for active older children who understand how to interact with dogs.

Bull Terriers can, however, be aggressive toward kids they don't know, especially if there's a lot of shouting or wrestling going on. They may feel it's their duty to protect "their" children from their friends. Always supervise play as with any dog, never leave a dog alone with a child, and teach children how to approach and touch dogs.

With the children in their own family, they're highly tolerant, but they don't like being teased. Don't permit your children to play tug-of-war with the dog.

Bull Terriers, especially unneutered males, can be aggressive toward dogs of the same sex, but opposite genders usually get along well. Bull Terriers shouldn't be trusted with cats or other small furry animals.

Rescue Groups

Bull Terriers are sometimes bought without any clear understanding of what goes into owning one, and these dogs often end up in the care of rescue groups, in need of adoption or fostering. If you're interested in adopting a Bull Terrier, a rescue group is a good place to start.

Breed Organizations

Below are breed clubs, organizations, and associations where you can find additional information about the Bull Terrier.

Dolichocephalic (long face), upright ears (naturally)

Exercise Requirements: 40 minutes/day
Energy Level: Very energetic
Longevity Range: 11-14 yrs.
Tendency to Drool: Low Tendency to Snore: Low
Tendency to Bark: Low
Tendency to Dig: Low Social/Attention Needs: Moderate

Length: Short
Characteristics: Flat
Colors: White variety white, with markings on head colored variety any color with white brindle preferred
Overall Grooming Needs: Low

Watch the video: Deaf Bull Terrier training Part I