French Bulldog

Introduction to the French Bulldog

The playful and affectionate French Bulldog is rapidly becoming one of the most popular breeds in the United States.

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Ranked number 24th most popular by the AKC in 2009, Frenchies are now at number 9, and they may still be increasing in popularity.

French Bulldogs make wonderful companions and are perfect if you live in an apartment. They require minimal exercise and grooming, plus they rarely bark. They also love children.

They are a brachycephalic (short-nosed) breed, so you need to exercise extra care if you live in a hot, humid climate. They can’t spend much time outdoors when it’s hot. Frenchies appreciate air conditioning.

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Because Frenchies have restricted airways it’s essential to buy a harness that doesn’t choke them while on walks or during training. Puppia harnesses are made of lightweight material that is designed to hug the torso of a small to medium sized dog instead of applying pressure to the throat. French bulldog owners often recommend this product for it’s affordable price as well.

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History of the French Bulldog

Believe it or not, the French Bulldog owes its origin to the enormous Mastiff. Although these breeds are vastly different today, some 2000 years ago it is believed that Phoenician traders brought molosser dogs to the British Isles and the Mastiff breed was developed, much as we know it today. Over time bulldogs known as Bullenbeissers were developed for bull and bear baiting. These were blood sports that were extremely popular in England and other countries for centuries.

However, animal fighting was outlawed in England in 1835 – good for the dogs in one way, but bad in another. It was bad because the dogs no longer had any purpose so their numbers began to decline. No one wanted them anymore. No one had any use for a ferocious fighting dog. Fortunately, some people had begun to breed Bulldogs as companions instead of for their fighting abilities. They were crossed with terriers, with Pugs, and by about 1850 a toy Bulldog had come into existence in England that weighed about 16 to 25 pounds (though some dogs weighed 12 pounds or less).

At this time lace workers from Nottingham in England lost their jobs due to the Industrial Revolution and left England for Normandy in France. They took along a number of dogs with them, including some of the toy Bulldogs and these small Bulldogs became immediately popular in France. There was a great demand for the small Bulldogs in France and English breeders began sending over all they could. They sent over undersized Bulldogs and Bulldogs who had traits that were considered faults in Bulldogs in England, such as ears that stood up. The French loved them and kept taking them until there were no more small Bulldogs to send.

Eventually the small Bulldogs in France were considered a separate breed. They were called the Bouledogue Francais. They were popular with aristocrats, ladies of the evening, the artistic set – with everyone. By this point, people were developing the breed as they wanted and it’s likely that the dogs were interbred with small terriers and Pugs to produce the snub nose, the round eyes, and the bat-like ears that are found in the breed today.

By 1885 Americans had discovered the little French Bulldogs and they were charmed by them. They brought them back to America and they became very popular in the United States, especially among the wealthy. Frenchies were recognized by the AKC in 1898. By 1906 the French Bulldog was the 5th most popular dog in the United States. The French Bulldog boom did go bust after a few years, but the breed has slowly worked its way back up to being very popular again today.

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French Bulldog Health-Related Issues

The Frenchie is both a short-nosed (brachycephalic) and dwarf (chondrodystrophic) breed, so it can have some special health issues. As a short-nosed breed, they have shorter air passages than average, so they are not able to cool themselves as efficiently as most dogs. This means that heat and humidity can cause problems for them. Do not allow your Frenchie to over-exert himself or play outside when it it hot and/or humid. If you live in an area where heat and humidity are common, your dog will appreciate the air conditioning. Take walks in the morning and evening when it is cooler. Frenchies can play outside if you have a small, fenced yard.

Other issues that can occur with brachycelphalic dogs are pinched nostrils that constrict breathing or an elongated soft palate. If your dog seems to have problems breathing, have your vet evaluate him. Anesthesia can also be tricky if you have a dog that is brachycelphalic so try to use a veterinarian who is familiar with the special needs of a short-nosed breed.

As with some other dwarf breeds, the spine can have some issues. In some cases a dog can have an extra vertebrae, or experience some degeneration in the intervertebral discs. Disc disease can be a problem.

A luxating patella can also occur with some French Bulldogs. This problem is similar to a slipped kneecap in humans. It can be spotted when a dog is moving and his rear leg seems to catch, causing him to bunny hop. As soon as the muscle relaxes the leg will move back into its normal position. This can be an occasional problem or it can be chronic. If it becomes an ongoing problem a dog may need surgery. Most dogs recover and are back to their normal routine in a few weeks.

Frenchies have large eyes which can make them subject to some eye problems. Cherry eye and glaucoma, corneal ulcers, retinal fold dysplasia, and juvenile cataracts are issues that have been known to occur in the breed.

If you are considering breeding your Frenchie, the French Bulldog Club of America recommends the following health tests first:

  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Eye Exam by a boarded ACVO Ophthalmologist (Annual recertification recommended)
  • Patellar Luxation
  • Congenital Cardiac Database
  • Autoimmune thyroiditis (Optional)
  • Juvenile Cataracts (Optional

If you are interested in breeding your Frenchie, this is a breed that often requires a ceasarean section at birth. Litters are usually small in number.

Frenchies are wonderful dogs but they can be high maintenance in terms of health issues, especially if you are interested in breeding.

Remember that most dogs do not major have health problems. Breeders work diligently to test and screen their dogs so they produce healthy puppies. But no one can completely guarantee that every dog will be healthy throughout their lifetime. If you are interested in getting a puppy or dog, be sure to talk to the breeder about their dogs and their health guarantees.

French Bulldog Temperament

Frenchies are often called a “clown in the cloak of a philosopher.” They can have a serious appearance one moment and then do something hilarious. They are fun, loving, sweet, affectionate little dogs. They tend to be quite active and alert but they are not boisterous dogs. They are quite intelligent and curious. Most of all, they love being with people. They are true companion dogs.

Frenchies are often called stubborn, but they do try to please their owners and they are very trainable, especially if they are motivated – and food usually makes a good motivation. Frenchies have successfully competed in obedience, agility, rally, and other events. They also make good therapy dogs. It is important to socialize your Frenchie and train him. He has a big personality and he needs to be clear that you are in charge. He will enjoy basic obedience classes with you, including meeting other people and dogs, and learning what you want him to do.

Frenchies usually get along well with other pets but it’s important to keep in mind that they are small dogs. Do not let them play with large dogs without supervision since they could be injured.

Frenchies love children. They will be best friends with older kids. They are also good with small children but make sure that you supervise so these little dogs don’t get hurt by accident.

Frenchies don’t require much daily exercise but they do need some. They enjoy walks and they will enjoy playing outside in a small enclosed yard. Be careful not to let your French Bulldog play outside when it is too hot or humid. Also, French Bulldogs are not built for swimming. Because of their large head and upper body, they make terrible swimmers and can easily drown if they are in a pool or lake.

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French Bulldog Grooming

French Bulldogs are easy to groom. They have a short, smooth coat that should be brushed regularly. They have skin folds that you will need to wipe daily to remove dirt, bacteria, and debris. Dogs with a light-colored coat are most likely to have tear stains. Tear stains can be stopped by keeping the face clean and washing it with a warm cloth regularly; or, if there is still staining, try using one of the products made for tear stains. These are found in most pet stores and online. Tear staining is very common in some breeds. It is usually caused by tears coming in contact with bacteria or yeast on your dog’s face. If your dog seems to have the problem often, you can have your vet check his eyes to make sure there’s no serious problem. Some people swear that adding a teaspoon of raw apple cider vinegar to the dog’s diet every day or a Tums to the diet daily (changing the chemistry of the tears) will make the problem go away, but it’s probably better to use a product sold specifically for tear stains.

Bathe your Frenchie as needed.

Otherwise, grooming a French Bulldog is similar to grooming other dogs. You will need to check and clean your dog’s ears, keep his nails trimmed, and maintain his teeth in good condition. Pay particular attention to his nails since he probably won’t wear them down himself, especially if he stays indoors most of the time.

French Bulldog Fun Facts

  • French Bulldogs are currently very popular with celebrities. Some of their famous owners include: Martha Stewart (Francesca), David and Victoria Beckham (Scarlet and Coco), Tampa Bay Rays pitcher David Price (Astro), Hugh Jackman, Jeremy Renner, WWE wrestler Daniel Bryan, Ashlee Simpson, John Legend, Renee Felice Smith, Patton Oswalt, and Lady Gaga.
  • Frenchies tend to snore and make lots of odd noises. Drooling and flatulence can also be part of the Frenchie package.
  • A French Bulldog was one of the dogs that went down with the Titanic.
  • The Frenchie’s ears are commonly referred to as “bat” ears because of their shape.
  • Even though they are a small dog, the French Bulldog is in the AKC’s Non-Sporting group and not the Toy group.

Common French Bulldog Mixes

Because they are hard to breed and often need caesarean sections, French Bulldogs are not a common breed used in mixes. However, you can find mixes online that include a Boston Terrier/French Bulldog mix, an American Staffordshire Terrier/French Bulldog mix, a Yorkshire Terrier/French Bulldog mix, a French Bulldog/Boxer mix, and a Pug/French Bulldog mix.

French Bulldog FAQs

What is a French Bulldog’s Life Expectancy?

The French Bulldog typically lives 10-12 years.

Are French Bulldogs easy to train?

Yes, they can be. They can also be stubborn. A lot depends on finding ways to motivate your Frenchie. Treats usually work. It also helps if you socialize your puppy starting at a young age and start obedience lessons when your puppy is young which will strengthen your bond.

Do French Bulldogs shed a lot of hair?

No, Frenchies are usually average shedders.

Do French Bulldogs make good apartment pets?

French Bulldogs make excellent apartment pets. They are small, quiet and they don’t require a lot of exercise.

Are French Bulldogs good with Children?

Frenchies love children of all ages. As always, we recommend that you supervise whenever young children play with dogs. Teach children how to behave around dogs. Accidents can happen very quickly, even with friendly dogs and children who love dogs.

Carlotta Cooper

Carlotta is a long-time contributing editor for the weekly dog show magazine Dog News. She's also the author of The Dog Adoption Bible, the Dog Writers Association of America Award winner for 2013. In addition, she's written Canine Cuisine: 101 Natural Dog Food & Treat Recipes to Make Your Dog Healthy and Happy.

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  • I hope everyone who’s thinking of getting a french bulldog reads this, and takes note of all the medical conditions they’re prone to. I know they’re cute and everything, but they’re a huge commitment and can potentially end up costing you thousands in vet bills when they end up with one of their many health problems. Not that they aren’t worth it; it’s just that you should know what you’re getting into.

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