The French Bulldog is a companion breed with a long history. His origin isn’t actually French, though – he came from England to France, accompanying lace makers. Although the breed is popular, it’s still considered to be comparatively rare, so if you want a French Bulldog puppy, you should expect to be placed on a waiting list.
These little bat-eared dogs are not conventionally beautiful, but they’re very cute and appealing. French Bulldogs are small but muscular.
Frenchies can be very playful, but at the end of the day, they’ll be quite content to spend “cuddle time” with you. These dogs are very intelligent, but they can be stubborn. They’re also very loving, and require a lot of human contact. They’re best suited to households where at least one human can be with them all day. They’re sociable but protective of “their” humans, so if you want your Frenchie to get along with strangers, it’s best to begin the socialization process as early as possible.
If you live in an apartment or a small house, the French Bulldog could be a good choice for you. You will have to make sure he gets exercise, though. Usually two 15-minute walks each day will suffice. If you live in a warm climate, make sure that your air conditioning is in good working order – Frenchies don’t handle heat well.
As previously noted, the French Bulldog actually has its origin in England, and was very popular among lace makers in Nottingham. Many of these lace workers moved to France in search of better employment, and took their dogs with them. The breed became quite popular in France and other parts of Europe.
In the United States, the first French Bulldog known in the country showed at Westminster in 1896.
French Bulldogs are small dogs, with males standing 11-12 inches at the shoulder and weighing 20-28 pounds. Females are about the same height, and weigh in at 16-24 pounds.
French Bulldogs are smart and loving, and want a lot of human interaction. They’re easy to train, and respond best to positive reinforcement with rewards in the form of praise, treats and play.
French Bulldogs can be prone to a number of disorders.
1. Hip Dysplasia
The conventional wisdom is that hip dysplasia (a condition in which the pelvic socket and the femur don’t fit together snugly) is the province of large breeds. This is actually a myth – any breed of dog can develop hip dysplasia, and the French Bulldog is no exception.
Sometimes, a dog can have the condition without ever showing any symptoms. Other times, it manifests as pain in the hind legs. Arthritis can be a complication as the dog ages. If you are considering a French Bulldog puppy, ask your breeder to show you clearances on the dam and the sire. It’s not possible to get clearances on a puppy, since the disorder doesn’t show up early on, but since it’s hereditary, the parents being free of hip dysplasia is the best way of ruling it out as nearly as possible in the puppy.
If you do discover later on that your Frenchie has hip dysplasia, don’t panic, but don’t breed him. Hip dysplasia isn’t a death sentence – it can often be managed with pain medication, although very serious cases might require surgery.
2. Brachycephalic Syndrome
Many dogs that have short muzzles are prone to breathing problems, and this is the case with the French Bulldog. How badly the airways are obstructed can vary. Your dog might simply breathe noisily on hot days, or if the condition is really severe, the airway could collapse. Treatment will depend on how severe the condition is, but could include oxygen therapy, or surgery to shorten the palate or widen the nostrils.
This is a condition in which the vertebrae are badly formed. It might not cause any trouble at all, or it might result in pressure on the spinal cord that could cause weakness, pain, or even paralysis.
French Bulldogs can be prone to food-based allergies and skin allergies. The treatment, as you might expect, involves changing the food that’s on offer (usually avoiding corn and gluten) or eliminating the skin irritant.
5. Slipped Stifles
The medical term is “patellar luxation,” but most people simply call the condition “slipped stifles.” This occurs when the calf, thigh and knee are out of alignment. This can cause lameness. It can also lead to arthritis. The condition can be mild, or very severe. If severe, the condition might require surgery.
6. IVDD (Intervertebral Disc Disease)
This condition occurs when a spinal disc ruptures, and ends up pushing up into the spinal column. When this happens, the nerves can be damaged. The dog can become weak or even paralyzed. It’s often the result of age or injury, and it has to be treated immediately. If your dog seems to be struggling to move, or appears to be weak or in pain, see your veterinarian immediately.
7. Von Willebrand’s Disease
This is a clotting disorder that’s something like hemophilia. It can occur in both dogs and humans, and is usually discovered when a dog is injured, is recovering from surgery, or is in heat and the bleeding doesn’t seem to want to stop. Usually, it’s diagnosed at the age of 3 or older, and if your dog is diagnosed with this condition, you should not breed.
8. Cleft Palate
The palate is the part of the roof of the mouth that separates the oral and nasal passages. A cleft palate has a hole or a slit. If the opening is small, it probably won’t need to be treated. If it’s large, though, surgery will be needed to close it up.
9. Elongated Soft Palate
The soft palate is an extension of the palate. When it’s elongated, breathing difficulties can result, and surgery will be needed to remove the excess tissue.
Keep in mind that although French Bulldogs are prone to a few more health issues than some other breeds, there’s no guarantee that your Frenchie will develop any of these conditions. Just keep an eye out, though, and see your vet if you think something isn’t right.
Care and Feeding
French Bulldogs are typically low-energy dogs, and don’t need a lot of exercise. They can be prone to obesity, though, so make sure that you do provide at least a bit of exercise each day. If it’s hot outside, confine your dog’s exercise to your air-conditioned home. French Bulldogs, as previously mentioned, can be prone to breathing difficulties, and they’re also vulnerable to heat exhaustion.
French Bulldogs are very inquisitive, so keep an eye on your dog, especially during the puppy months. These dogs love to get into things that would be better left alone, and they can also be destructive. You don’t want to have to incur expenses thanks to damaged belongings, or worse, to have to take your dog to the vet because he’s gotten into something that’s not good for him.
As to feeding, because of the breed’s tendency toward obesity, I wouldn’t recommend free feeding. Instead, offer a cup to a cup and half of dry dog food each day, and spread it out over a couple of meals. Recommended daily amount: 1 to 1.5 cups of high-quality dry food a day, divided into two meals.
Coat and Grooming
French Bulldogs have short, smooth coats, with wrinkles around the head and shoulders. Frenchies come in many colors, including cream, fawn, and shades of brindle. In fact, they can be almost any color, but you won’t usually find them in liver, solid black, light grey or black/tan/white. If a breeder does offer you a Frenchie in one of these colors or combinations, and tells you that the dog is more valuable because the color is rare, find another breeder. These colors are not desirable, and should command less money, not more – the breeder is trying to take advantage of you.
Because of their short coats, French Bulldogs are very easy to groom, and only need to be brushed occasionally. They’ll shed a bit, but no more than any other short-haired breed. The main thing you need to do with this breed is keep your dog’s skin wrinkles clean in order to prevent irritation and infection.
French Bulldogs will need to have their toenails clipped regularly, since they don’t typically engage in enough activity to wear them down naturally. Start getting your Frenchie used to having his toes handled at a young age so that it doesn’t turn into a battle later on.
Any dog should have his teeth brushed. It’s great if you can do it daily, but if you can’t, at least try for two or three times a week. You do this for the same reason that you brush your own teeth – to reduce the likelihood of gum disease and/or tooth decay.
When grooming, check out your dog thoroughly for irritated areas, discharges and offensive smells. Doing so improves the likelihood of identifying health issues before they become really problematic.
Because of his short coat, you might find that you don’t have to bathe your Frenchie all that often, if at all. If you do choose to bathe him, though, make sure to use a good quality dog shampoo, and follow up with a conditioner to preserve his natural skin oils.
Kids and Other Pets
French Bulldogs are typically good with children, and even do well with toddlers, since they’re not so big that they’re likely to knock the child over, but also not so small that the child is likely to accidentally hurt the dog.
Of course no dog should be left alone with a child.
Frenchies are generally good with other animals, including cats. It’s usually advisable, though, to introduce puppies to adults rather than the other way around. It’s important, too, in a multi-pet household, to make sure that your Frenchie gets lots of attention – otherwise, he might become jealous.
The Final Word
If you’re looking for a playful, affectionate dog that’s relatively low-maintenance and good with kids and other pets, the French Bulldog definitely fits the bill. These dogs are wonderfully loving and loyal, and a great fit for almost any family.