Can Johnson Bulldogs be athletic?

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Q.Can Johnson Bulldogs be athletic?

A. It is a complete myth that Bulldogs with the "Johnson" phenotype are all non-athletic couch potatoes. Let's define our terms. Any AB that can win or place in the bully or classic classes at AB dog shows can be designated as a Johnson type, regardless of its pedigree. Athleticism means a dog can excel at any of the canine sports that our breed has traditionally participated in. There is no debate that the shorter muzzle, heavy bone, bulging muscle, blocky build and oversized head that we associate with the Johnson Bulldog hurts endurance, heat dissipation and jumping ability. However, if the dog in question does not possess these traits to an exaggerated degree, if he is not so blocky and big headed that he looks like a white Dogue de Bordeaux, then he can still match a standard phenotype AB in sprint speed, strength as measured by weight pull and jaw strength as measured by hangtime. Good sprint speed, strength and agility will allow a Johnson Bulldog with the right temperament to compete or participate effectively in Schutzhund, WABA, Catch Dog titles, weight pull and Irondog. Hog hunting for hours in hot weather is probably a bad idea for any bully class dog, but virtually any other canine sport is open game.

You notice I haven't mentioned large size as a Johnson trait. There are four things that will kill the performance ability in an otherwise well built Johnson Bulldog: huge size, an overly short muzzle, a soft palate and an extreme undershot jaw. All the athletic Johnson dogs that I've seen are around a hundred pounds or less. The really athletic ones are 70 to 80 lbs. To be able to use their mouth these dogs have what I call the 'magic inch.' In other words, their muzzles are at least 2 inches long, a half-inch longer than what the Johnson extremists prefer. Two and a half inch muzzled Bulldogs can bite at world class levels if they aren't extreme undershot.

Darryl Johnsons Buddy
Darryl Johnson's Buddy

The Johnson's Bulldog teeth should be large large, well formed and aren't so far apart that a grip is impossible. A quarter inch undershot (or less) gives a bully appearance but keeps a Bulldog functional. The above caveats are not absolutes, some athletic bullies are a hair over a hundred pounds, some may be a bit over a quarter inch undershot but there is one trait that is absolute, they can all breath freely. They have hard palates and don't snort when they breathe.

If I were to give examples of athletic Johnson ABs I would first mention the IWPA superstars. Bam Bam, Doozey and a half dozen MGK dogs fill these ranks along with a host of weight pull champions from Lenwood Kennels. Blitz, Ringo and Zena have medaled at world champion level in IWPA.

Matt Boyds Rippin Woodchip
Matt Boyd's Rippin Woodchip


Darryl Johnson's Buddy has the fastest 50-yard Sprint Race time in the five races that we've held over the years in our Irondog trials. We have had Schutzhund titled Pit Bulls entering these races as well as numerous standard ABs. Buddy is blisteringly fast.

Boyd's Rippin' Woodchip has a Sch I and is working on Sch II. She is a fierce competitor in a sport dominated by the European working breeds. Woodchip worked out with the Redwood club a couple weeks ago. She is quick and nimble with well targeted and hard hitting bites.

Matt Boyds Rippin Woodchip
Matt Boyd's Rippin Woodchip


I watched Mufassa catch a wild boar at the Sunshine Classic and was blown away. Talk about targeting skill, speed and agility. He has a great future in weight pull. The truth is that there are thousands of athletic Johnson ABs out there. If you were to ask any European Schutzhund expert which breed of typey working Bulldog was most athletic he would assert that Schutzhund III German Boxers were on the top of the heap. I think that if enough Johnson AB owners started competing in canine sports we could prove the European experts wrong. Johnson Bulldogs could take the working canine world by storm.

Dave Putnam®2000
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