French Bulldogs or Frenchies, are tiny bundles of joy. They are family dogs, love attention, and will happily spend time with kids and adults. Many dog owners, from apartment dwellers to dedicated dog owners with massive yards, are huge fans of this lovable canine companion!
The result of breeding miniature bulldogs, Frenchies love people and fit well into small families. They are small, comfortable with limited living spaces, and require quick daily walks. However, they do tend to be challenging to keep healthy, and many have an independent, stubborn streak.
There are quite a few things to discuss regarding the French Bulldog, including history, health issues, typical size, and even their temperament with families. Read more below to learn about this popular breed, and find out if they are the right fit for you!
According to the American Kennel Club, the progenitors of the breed first emerged in mid-1800s Nottingham as a miniature version of the Bulldog. While the original Bulldogs were bred for bullbaiting and similar blood sports, there was another strain bred to be lighter and smaller than traditional Bulldogs, and with the lighthearted energy of terriers. These toy Bulldogs were most associated with lace-makers in Nottingham.
This was also the height of the Industrial Revolution in England, and small industries that relied on handicrafts were slowly being pushed away by the advent of machinery. To escape this, the lace makers brought their craft and their dogs with them to the northern countryside of France.
The dogs were popular in the countryside, and as time passed, the toy Bulldogs were crossbred with other dogs, soon giving them their trademark muzzles and bat ears. At this point, they were known as Bouledogue Francais, or French Bulldogs. Word of these small dogs made their way to the fashionable cafes and parties of Paris, and soon the Bouledogue Francais became a staple of Parisian high life.
In fact, the painter Henri de Toulouse Lautrec painted one named Bouboule. The dog was owned by Madame Palmyre, the proprietress of the café La Souris. The Bulldog breeders back in England heard of the booming popularity of their toy Bulldogs and started exporting similar dogs to France, to the chagrin of some others who would like to keep the Bulldog strictly an English breed.
According to the Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI), the first French Bulldog Club was founded in 1880. The first breed standards were also established in 1898, the same year when the French Kennel Club recognized the breed. As early as 1887, they started appearing in dog shows and exhibitions.
The French Bulldog Club of America explains that one of the biggest controversies surrounding the breed was its ears, when American breeders insisted dogs adhering to the breed standard had bat ears. In one Westminster show in 1898, the Americans refused to participate as there were rose-eared dogs at the show. The American judge did not take part, and the American dog owners pulled their dogs. They held their own show at the Waldorf-Astoria.
The World Wars and the Great Depression created a decline in the interest of purebred dogs, and the French Bulldog was no exception. By the 1940s, only 100 were registered with the American Kennel Club. Fortunately, by the 1980s, interest was restored, with wave upon wave of new registration. Today, Frenchies continue to appear in popular media, with more and more breeders taking action to better care for Frenchies.
Frenchies are active, friendly people-pleasers who work well in a family setting. They are sociable, lively, and always ready to give their owners a good laugh. Since they are avid people-pleasers, they are quite easy to train. However, this is at odds with their tendency for independent action and thought. Firm guidance must be employed to remind a Frenchie who’s in charge. Yelling at them will not yield great results; Frenchies are very sensitive to human voices and aggressive yelling may simply cause them to fear their family.
While Frenchies are primarily family dogs, they can get overly protective of their owners and will reject strangers. Proper socialization is important to mitigate this problem. Puppy training classes are also important for the Frenchie to distinguish acceptable from unacceptable behavior. They may seem a bit stubborn, but enough positive reinforcement and motivation are enough to get the message across.
Frenchies are not typically good watchdogs as they do not bark very often. Their barks are also not very powerful. They are sometimes vocal if an outsider approaches, so depending on one’s visitor circle, a Frenchie owner may want to pay special attention to socializing their dogs with strangers.
Size & Appearance
French Bulldogs stand from 11-12 inches at the shoulders. The AKC standard states that they usually will not exceed 28 pounds in weight. They have short, stocky bodies with legs splayed wide apart, giving them a low center of gravity. They are expected to live anywhere from 8 to 13 years, though different dog breeding associations disagree on the true margin.
Frenchies are compact, muscular dogs, with cylindrical barrel-shaped chests and firm muscles. Breeders keep an eye on their skin, as the most conscientious insist that dogs adhering to the breed standard have no excess skin or wrinkles, except for their faces. These days, bat-eared dogs are the norm, with years of infighting amongst breeders regarding Frenchies’ ears!
One of the most striking features of the breed is their face. Similar to American Bulldogs and Pugs, French Bulldogs have shortened muzzles, with the nose turned upwards, known as a snub nose. The muzzle has pronounced jowls that meet at loose, black lips. Their lips should completely cover the teeth and tongue. Most have black noses, while cream or fawn-colored dogs tend to have lighter noses.
They have a minor hump above their humps; a feature known as “roach-back”. As a consequence of this, the hind legs are a little longer than the forelegs. Lastly, this breed has short, low tails that taper at the tip.
Coat & Colors
French Bulldogs have short, glossy coats and lack any undercoat. Their coats are soft and are generally easy to groom. They come in a variety of colors, but breeding associations generally include white, cream, fawn, or black, in any combination. The breed also comes in a variety of markings, listed below:
Brindle: This refers to an uneven coloring pattern that is sometimes described as “tiger-striped”. In brindle-striped coats, streaks of color run across the fur. Brindle markings are a lot thinner, more irregular, and less opaque than actual tiger stripes. In this breed, brindle is made up of black and fawn hairs.
Piebald: This marking pattern refers to a coat with patches of pigmented fur, with other patches left white. In French Bulldogs, the colored patches tend to be on the back, under the neck, and around the ears and eyes.
Black Mask: As the name suggests, this coloring involves a fawn or cream dog, with black fur around the muzzle and sometimes around the eyes.
Ticking: This pattern presents as many tiny dots and flecks of one color on another, though not in a brindle stripe pattern. The American Kennel Club generally accepts ticking but does not find it very desirable in this breed.
Other “rare” or “fad” colors like black, blue, pure white, and merle do exist in certain dogs, with some breeders claiming them to be breed standard. However, various breeding associations disqualify such rare colors, considering them to be outside of the breed.
The pure white gene, for example, carries the deaf gene. Frenchie breeders are quite aware of this, and most breeders that offer the “fad” colors tend to be in it just for the money. With this in mind, only buy from responsible breeders, or better yet, adopt!
Exercise & Living Conditions
Fortunately for many city dwellers, Frenchies do not need a lot of space and will thrive in almost any place where they can get regular contact with their owners. It is important to note that Frenchies do not do well with hot and humid weather, given their constricted breathing. They cannot be left outdoors in a kennel but must be kept indoors, preferably in air-conditioned surroundings. They should be kept occupied indoors, preferably through the use of Frenchie-sized dog toys.
According to the French Bulldog Club of England, Frenchies are not accustomed to long walks, though they can handle quick 15 minute walks. These quick, leisurely strolls are enough for Frenchies to avoid falling into obesity. They prefer to play though, so a trip to the local park may be in order. If the weather is hot or humid, the Frenchie must not be brought outside. Given their body structure, Frenchies cannot swim and must never be left alone near a body of water.
French Bulldogs love to play. Fortunately, they won’t chew up the place or tear couches apart if they don’t get enough playtime. However, they will start feeling anxious and uneasy if they do not interact with their family for an extended period of time. Apartment dwellers may fare well with owning a Frenchie, but not if they disappear for work for weeks at a time! Frenchies also tend to drool and release flatulence, so people who get quickly grossed out may not live well with this breed.
French Bulldogs can be extremely stubborn to train. Despite their size, they pack a lot of power and strength into their pint-sized little frames. This makes it essential that you start training your Frenchie at an early age. This means making sure your pup can properly walk on a leash, or with a Frenchie-sized harness.
Obedience training is essential, as is socialization from an early age. If you plan to crate train, you’ll want to find a medium-sized dog crate that allows you to train your pup while you are away. Frenchies are known for having separation anxiety, so keep that in mind, as you may need to purchase a secure dog crate that alleviates anxiety.
Just like other breeds with upturned noses, Frenchies are disproportionately affected by numerous health problems. Some of the most notable are related to their breathing. Their compressed nasal passages may make breathing difficult, and doubly so in hot weather. Due to their many health concerns, we recommend looking into pet insurance for your French Bulldog.
French Bulldogs are also poor flyers, as the decompression of high flight may hit them more severely. Several airlines have banned the breed from flying for this reason. If there is no other choice, special care and attention must be taken to ensure that a Frenchie can survive a flight.
The French Bulldog Club of America lists down several health tests that are recommended prior to purchasing a puppy, though only a few will be discussed in detail.
- Hip Dysplasia Testing
- Eye Examination by a boarded ACVO
- Patellar Luxation
- Congenital Cardiac Database
- Autoimmune thyroiditis testing
- Juvenile Cataracts testing
Frenchies are vulnerable to hip dysplasia given their stocky body structure. Hip dysplasia is a condition where the hip bone and the thigh bone of dogs are connected through a “ball and socket” joint, with the thigh bone as the ball and the hip bone as a socket. The ball is meant to fit snugly in the socket. In normal growth, this ball and socket joint allows for movement in many different directions.
In hip dysplasia, the hip socket might grow too shallow, or the thigh may simply be displaced due to abnormal tissue growth. Hip dysplasia can be detected through a dog’s gait; a Frenchie may be suffering from hip dysplasia if their pelvises sway from side to side while walking, or if their legs are crossed or splayed sideways while sitting. This condition can be addressed with vet visits, specialized exercise, painkillers, and a special diet.
An ACL tear is a condition that affects the cranial cruciate ligament, one of several ligaments in the hind leg of dogs that connects the thigh to the shin. Frenchies are especially affected by this given the weight distribution of their bodies. A dog that gets an ACL tear may experience sudden pain in its leg and lose the ability to put weight on the affected limb. They may gradually regain use of their leg, it still may cause them pain. ACL Tears are typically treated with surgery, but some cases just require rest and physical therapy.
Other health problems may affect Frenchies, but it is usually best to address them on an individual basis. Each dog is different and may have different needs from the norm.
The American Kennel Club recommends high-quality dog food appropriate for a Frenchie’s age. Purina notes that French Bulldogs are mostly nourished by their mother’s milk within the first 4 months. After 4 months, one may want to introduce minced protein like beef, upon veterinary recommendation. After 8 weeks, puppies are typically weaned. Frenchies are best weaned from milk to nutritionally complete dog food. Two meals a day are appropriate, typically in the morning and late afternoon.
Frenchies are curious and interested in new things. This means that they may soon grow bored with their dog food and beg for table scraps. They want to be involved in what the humans are eating! Unfortunately, they are prone to obesity and eating cooked bones and high-fat foods may cause a Frenchie to gain too much weight. The same goes for treats. The breed is prone to develop more complications from obesity than other dogs, given their body structure and breathing problems. Research into which foods are safe for Frenchies may be in order.
Fortunately for many dog owners, Frenchies don’t need too much fuss from a professional groomer! As mentioned earlier, Frenchies have short fur with no undercoat. They also shed over the year, though in very small quantities at a time. This coat simply needs weekly brushing with a grooming mitt or a medium brush. Regular brushing ensures that shed fur is removed. It also distributes the coat’s natural oils to give it a beautiful sheen.
Fortunately, French Bulldogs don’t tend to like getting too dirty in the outdoors. However, getting a bit of mud and dirt is sometimes unavoidable. Regular bathing helps keep a Frenchie clean and fresh. Special care must be taken to clean in between their facial folds, as dirt can all too easily accumulate there. Their eyes are of special concern since the wrinkles around a Frenchie’s eyes are often moist and can grow yeast. Regular dog shampoo is fine, but a sensitive skin shampoo is best for Frenchies with dry or irritated skin.
Their nails must be clipped often to keep them comfortable. Brushing a Frenchie’s teeth several times a week is also a good way to keep their teeth and gums healthy. It is important to use toothpaste made specifically for dogs, as the fluoride in human toothpaste is harmful to dogs. Frenchies may also benefit from monthly ear cleaning.
Breeders & Puppy Costs
As with all dog breeds, it is important to acquire your French Bulldog puppy from a respected breeder, unless you choose to adopt. The French Bulldog Club of England recommends that puppies be acquired from parents who have been through health tests and vaccinations. It is also important to see the puppies with the parents to be assured of everyone’s health.
Many responsible breeders will have a lot of information regarding the parent dogs, being able to trace a dog’s pedigree down through several generations. This means that they will have a lot of specific information regarding their genealogy, what health risks run through the family, and where their dogs’ ancestries lie. The Humane Society of the United States lists several traits of responsible breeders, which include transparency and a working relationship with local veterinarians.
As mentioned earlier, there are health risks associated with “rare” or “fad” colors. Breeders who exclusively offer dogs in fad colors must be avoided, as they most likely care very little for the health of their dogs. Acquiring your puppy from pet shops, puppy farms/mills, or puppy brokers is also not a great way to get a dog, as most of these sources tend to treat their dogs very poorly. Many Kennel Clubs have lists of respected breeders that can offer healthy pups.
Rescues & Shelters
Shelters are one of the best ways to get any type of dog. You would be giving an otherwise lonely pup a home, and you pay very little for it! Adoption feels usually include spaying costs, vaccinations, and sometimes microchipping.
Make sure you do your research on each rescue and ensure that they are registered and hold high standards. As always, it is best to get a dog from a no-kill shelter, where you can be assured that the shelter has the well-being of its residents in mind. Responsible shelters also prepare prospective owners for the adventure of owning a new dog and will provide people with information and lists of supplies needed to welcome a new dog home.
A few notable Rescue Resources are:
Many dogs from shelters are also senior dogs! Make sure you know what you are getting into when getting a senior dog, and especially if they are a Frenchie. Older Frenchies tend to have many health issues, so one must do their research and make enough preparations to welcome a senior Frenchie into the family.
As Family Pets
- French Bulldogs will interact well with family members.
- They may become overly possessive of their owner.
- On occasion, they’ve been known to react poorly with friendly people.
- This breed plays happily with children, but supervision is always the safest bet.
- They are easily socialized if done from a young age.
- French Bulldogs do not require long walks
- The Frenchie is an excellent breed for any living space, including apartments.
While French Bulldogs can be a challenge healthwise, they are loyal companions with lots of love to give. Frenchies are fantastic in the home and will brighten up even the dullest spaces. They may have slightly shorter lives compared to other dog breeds, but they live with an inspiring tenacity many can learn from. Taking care of them to the best of your ability will give them the best life possible. In many cases, this even helps extend their lives.
Given how incredibly loving they are, every Frenchie deserves a home that can give them the same amount of love. That home could be your own if you are prepared to answer this special dog’s needs. Understanding the breed better is imperative in preparing for a life with any new dog, Frenchies included. In return for your love and diligence, a Frenchie is prepared to give you a lot of laughs, endless cuddles, and a bond that will last both your lifetimes.