What if we stopped calling dogs bully breeds?

Can we stop referring to certain types of dogs as “bully breeds”? Or am I missing something?

The word “bully” is obviously negative and not a word we should use to describe any type of dog, let alone dogs that are already discriminated against and even killed based on their appearances.

I’ve always interpreted the term “bully breeds” to mean dogs with “bull” in the name like American bull dogs, American pit bull terriers, bull terriers, etc.

Kind of a “cute” term the way we might refer to Australian shepherds as “Aussies” or dachshunds as “doxies.” I guess we can call bull dogs “bullies.”

Only it’s not cute.

Calling a dog a “bully” makes the dog sound mean, which is not exactly what you want people to think when you’re referring to dogs.

Could we stop calling dogs bully breeds

It’s cute for those of us who understand dogs, because we know no breed or type of dog can actually be a bully.

Calling certain types of dogs “bullies” is sending the wrong message to people who don’t understand dogs.

I guarantee you that certain relatives of mine just assume the term “bully breeds” refers to “mean breeds” or “dangerous breeds” (which don’t exist).

It makes sense for them to assume this, thanks to the media and thanks to us dog lovers who ever so kindly refer to certain dogs as “bullies.”

I’d like to see the phrase gone. Use “pitties” if you have to. At least it makes the dogs sound gentle.

What does the phrase “bully breed” even mean?

I don’t know.

The term means different things to different people, and it’s become a general phrase like “pitbull” to casually refer to lots of different breeds and mixed breeds.

AnimalPlanet.com says many of today’s “short muzzled” dogs are included under the “bully” label such as boxers and English mastiffs and Boston terriers.

There’s a Facebook page for “bully breeds” and it includes Rottweilers and French bull dogs in the mix but focuses mostly on “pitbulls.”


And then there’s a dog called the “American bully” that even has its own club called the American Bully Kennel Club. The group’s Facebook page says the American bully is a new breed created from the American pit bull terrier.

Are you confused yet?

I’m sure this blog post will attract commenters who will say things like, “No, an American bully is this” or “No, bully breeds do not include this.” And maybe they would all be right.

It’s kind of how some people use “pitbull” to mean American pit bull terriers while others (most of us?) use “pitbull” to describe a huge variety of mixed-breed and purebred dogs.

Language changes, I guess.

I just think we need to be careful about our words.

There are still plenty of breed bans in place and dogs are still being killed in U.S. shelters and around the world, not for acting a certain way but for looking a certain way.

Calling dogs “bullies” is not cute. We are the bullies.

What does “bully breed” mean to you, and do you think we should drop that term?

Penny the American bull dog mix

13 thoughts on “What if we stopped calling dogs bully breeds?”

  1. I never made the connection between ‘bully breeds’ and being bullies…Now it’s obvious, but I always just thought of it as a catch-all like ‘retrievers’…

  2. I don’t like the term bull breed either. But I know everyone has pretty strong opinions about pits as well.. There are so many pitbull breeds and if you call a Staffy a pit you might find yourself hearing a long explanation of how it just isn’t so. But yeah back on the point I don’t like the term bully and I really don’t know where it came from; it’s so commonly used anymore.

  3. You’re right, the term means nothing to knowledgeable dog people but to naive people it makes a huge difference. Those people who are exactly the ones who need to be given a positive image of the breed. Same goes for people who think it’s cute to put spiked gear on them. It may not hurt the dog but it looks awful.

    On a side note…American Bullies make me sad. They look like they’re on a fast track to having health issues like English Bulldogs. Kind of like designer mutts bred to be status symbols. Nothing against the dogs, just the people that breed them to make tons of money;(

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I feel like I don’t know enough about American bullies to make a comment, but yes, I was thinking the same thing and have the same concerns 🙁

  4. No respectable/responsible breeder or advocate of dogs is going to be okay with the term “bully/bullie” (or the overproduction of these “designer dogs”). I once wrote a spirited email to the producer of a documentary who used the phrase “pitbull of the sea” in describing an attacking shark. Bad for the dog, and bad for the shark, I told him, insensitive and inaccurate…is that what we want in our documentaries? No. Is that how we want to identify with our family pets? Of course not! (The documentary filmmaker wholeheartedly agreed with me, and directed/encouraged me to email his producer who was responsible for the unfortunate marketing slogans.)

  5. I don’t know what “bully breed” means anymore. I wish that we could just properly identify dogs – I didn’t used to have trouble with the term, but now I think it’s used as an umbrella to incorrectly identify dogs and discriminate against a group without knowing why.

  6. I couldn’t agree with you more lindsay, our Ace is clearly pitbull mixed with something like boxer or american bulldog, even though we adopted him as a “boxer” I have heard trainers and vets call our dog a “bully” breed and say because he is antisocial and aggressive that it is common in the “bully breed” I would love for that term not to exist. My dog is not mean and anxious because he is a pit/boxer mix it is because of the way he grew up in the shelters. I don’t like when people try to group him in there and reason with his problems. Sure he would be less scary if he were smaller and less muscle but that doesnt make him more aggressive compared to a yelping jumping beagle.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Oh, good. I was hoping I was articulating my point well enough. I’m so glad other dog owners get where I’m coming from. And there are actually trainers out there saying these things? Yikes.

  7. I really am not fond of either pitbull or bully. Both have come to be associated with so much negative press and information, that the dogs are often considered lost causes before they get a chance. My guy was listed as an American pit bull mix when we adopted him. Like many of these type of dogs, Lambeau is sweet, goofy, and a total love. Look at him, and you know he’s not all pit or even all pit mix. He’s too lean, long-legged, and tucked in the waist. He also has a lot of sight hound traits. I’ve just begun telling people he’s a Staffie/greyhound mix. It’s easier on both of us.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I use pitbull all the time. Ideally, more people will begin to have neutral associations with the word as they would with spaniel or retriever or terrier. Or, I guess that’s what I’m hoping for.

  8. My homeowner insurance company mailed me a letter with a list of specific dogs that my insurance will not cover in case of injury to someone. I wish I had the letter at work with me so I could share the breeds with you. SMH

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