The French bulldog: A mischievous goofball and a great companion

French Bulldog
Image by Ilona Krijgsman from Pixabay

If you are considering which breed of dog you might want for your next pet, you have probably considered the French Bulldog, and with good reason!

The French bulldog has ranked in the top five most popular dog breeds in the US, UK, and Australia in recent years.

There is something about their flat square faces and alert, pointed ears that attracts artists, celebrities, and families looking for a household pet.

Its small size and playful, even disposition make it a great option for modern cliff dwellers confined to small apartments.

Let us take a closer look at some of the wonderful reasons to consider a French bulldog as well as some of the possible disadvantages to see if a French bulldog is the best choice to be your next pet.

Quick Navigation
1. Origin
2. Characteristics
3. Size
4. Color
5. Health
6. Care
7. Grooming
8. Bathing
9. Exercise
10. Personality
11. Training
12. Potty training
13. Pros and cons of owning a French bulldog
14. Buying a French Bulldog
15. Adoption
16. Showing Your French Bulldog
17. Getting Started in AKC Shows
18. Breed Comparison: English and French Bulldogs
19. Breed Comparison: American and French Bulldogs

Origin

French Bulldog
Image by Tim Hall-Woodcock from Pixabay

How did this unique and loveable breed develop? Its origins can be traced back to an ancient Greek tribe called the Molossians. The Molossian dogs were transported around the world by Phoenician traders.

In England, the Molossians eventually contributed to the English Mastiff and from the English Mastiff originated a sub-breed of dogs used for baiting bulls, commonly known as bulldogs.

Fortunately, for all animal lovers, the practice of baiting bulls and other blood sports were outlawed in England by 1835. The bulldog line continued to be bred, but now for non-sporting purposes.

To make them more suitable as companion dogs, they were bred with smaller dogs such as English terriers, creating a miniature, or “Toy” size.

The French Connection

Now you may be thinking this is interesting so far, but where does France come into the picture?

In the 19th century, the toy bulldogs had become almost mascots of the Nottingham lacemakers in England. Unfortunately, this cottage industry was disrupted by the Industrial Revolution and the lace makers began to take their work (and their pet dogs) across the English Channel to settle in Normandy, France.

In France, they became wildly popular in a few decades, and bulldogs with defects according to English standards (too small or having erect ears) resulted in these less desirable dogs being sent over to France, where these traits became accepted and welcomed instead of seen as undesirable.

Two great French impressionists, Edgar Degas and Toulouse-Lautrec, both featured French bulldogs in their paintings, giving them a lasting place in the world of art. Prints of their artwork would make a great addition to your home, especially in a location where your Frenchie can admire it.

The US Connection

Interestingly enough, it was neither in England (where the bulldog originated) nor France (which put its name on the modified dog), but in the United States where one of the most defining traits of the French bulldog breed was made official.

In the early 1900s, French bulldogs were a popular breed to enter in shows such as the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. One particular judge only awarded French bulldogs with “rose ears” because he deemed this the correct type.

A group of ladies formed the French Bull Dog Club of America to develop the official breed standard, which stipulated that erect, bat ears where the correct type for the breed. Certainly, it is this distinctive trait more than anything that continues to set the French Bulldog apart from other varieties.

Characteristics

French bulldog body
Image by Alexandr Ivanov from Pixabay

Body

To identify a French bulldog, look for a short, muscular body, with a soft coat of fur which will hang loose and create some wrinkles.

Face

The face is squarish and flat and as we already discussed

Ears

Its ears will stand erect and are pointed, giving it the iconic look adored by artists and pop culture.

Intelligent & playful

French bulldog
Image by christels from Pixabay

It is active and intelligent, with a playful attitude, making it a good companion pet.

Rarely barks

It is relatively quiet, barking rarely.

Pet and child friendly

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A French bulldog will get along well with other dogs, pets, and children.

Fun-loving

It is sometimes referred to as a clown dog because of its fun-loving nature. It will keep you entertained and enjoys being on human laps and in close proximity of humans.

Separation anxiety

One of the important things to keep in mind about their personality is that they may become anxious if left alone for more than a few hours. Take this into consideration if you live alone and have to be out frequently for work or other reasons.

If you are sure a French bulldog is right for you, you should consider a companion dog or pet. If not, the anxiety will not only affect your Frenchie but also your furniture as the dog may become more destructive or challenging in their behavior.

Size

The Frenchie has relatively small stature compared with the English bulldog breed of its ancestry.

The average full-grown French bulldog will stand 11-13 inches tall and weigh under 28 pounds, males weighing more than females.

Their bodies will be compact and muscular, with a propensity to obesity if not properly fed and exercised.

Color

There are several beautiful coat colors and patterns that are allowed for competition. White, cream, fawn, and combinations of these three, as well as markings such as brindle, black masks, white markings, black shadings, piebald, etc. are all represented in competition.

Though not allowed for competition, you may also encounter Frenchies with solid black coats or blue coats (blue referring to any shade of grey).

The rarest colors for French bulldogs include blue, lilac, and merle, none of which are permitted in competition.

The most expensive color

The Isabella French bulldog, of lilac color, is usually the most expensive because of its rarity.

Eye color

Eye color is brown, though you may encounter blue-eyed or green-eyed French bulldogs that are disqualified from competition.

Keep in mind that most French bulldogs are born with blue eyes, but they will change color in most cases by the time the puppy is about 10 weeks old.

Health

We think you will see that there are many admirable qualities about French bulldogs that make them great candidates for pets. However, because of selective breeding, they do face many health challenges and it is important that you are prepared to accept the responsibility of caring for your pet.

Breathing issues

Because of their flat-faced bone structure, French bulldogs may have difficulty breathing if overexerted or if in environments with very hot temperatures.

Can’t fly in cargo hold

It is not advisable to take a French bulldog on a plane because of the high temperatures the interior of the hold reaches while parked on the tarmac. It could be fatal and, indeed, many commercial airlines will prohibit French bulldogs and other flat-faced breeds as a precaution for this very reason.

Can’t swim

Another potential hazard to avoid is bodies of water. French bulldogs should not be left alone near water as they can easily drown. Their weight is mainly distributed to their front, making swimming impossible for them.

Hip, spinal and patella issues

It is recommended that your vet checks your Frenchie for hip, spinal, and patella issues as the selective breeding for the compact size can cause problems in the skeletal structure.

Cherry eye

They may also suffer from cherry eye, a condition when a third eyelid prolapses, or hereditary cataracts.

Skin issues

Skin issues are particularly prevalent among French bulldogs. Bulldogs can have many allergies brought on by different causes which can give them eczema and sensitive skin.

Other health concerns

Other common, though less serious health concerns include ear infections, diarrhea, and conjunctivitis.

Care

Aside from health issues and doctor visits, there are many things you should do for the regular care of your French Bulldog to keep it comfortable and as healthy as possible.

Here are some notes about the daily care of your beloved pet.

Feeding

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A French Bulldog will need two meals a day, of high quality, dry food.

Their daily consumption will total about 1 to 1 ½ cups of dog food. Keep in mind that the exact amount needed will depend on the age, size, and physical activity of the individual dog.

Make sure to choose the right dog food to make sure your pet is getting the calories and nutrients it needs.

Avoid fatty food

Because French Bulldogs are at risk for obesity, avoid overfeeding and foods that are high in fat.

Be very careful about what kinds of table scraps you give them and limit treats (though we know they are just so cute, it is easy to overdo it in this department).

Check weight

You may want to weigh them regularly to monitor their health and prevent health problems related to excess weight.

Grooming

You will find grooming relatively easy and stress-free.

Brushing

French bulldogs shed an average amount and will need only occasional brushing to keep their beautiful coat looking smooth and healthy.

Remember that brushing will remove hair that is being shed, promote new hair growth, and distribute oils throughout the skin to keep it at its healthiest.

Clean wrinkles

Frenchies have lots of wrinkles, which add to their adorable appearance.
However, while grooming, take care to clean their wrinkles as well and make sure this skin is well dried to prevent other skin problems.

Trim nails

Their nails will not wear down naturally so it is advisable to trim them regularly to prevent painful splitting of the nail (and to save your furniture and floors).

Clean ears

Caring for a French bulldog’s ears is particularly important because they are open and erect, exposing their ear canals to all kinds of pollutants in the air.

Ear cleaning will not be something your dog is naturally keen on, so try to introduce it early and gradually, building a positive experience and teaching your pet to remain calm.

You will need cotton swabs and an ear cleaning solution. Allow them to get used to the cotton swabs and help them relax by stroking them and speaking affectionately.

Cleaning their ears about twice a month should be enough for most French bulldogs.

Keep an eye out though to see if they regularly scratch their ears or the ears become smelly. These could be signs of an ear infection that would need more serious treatment.

Bathing

Full baths are recommended about once a month; however, this is only a general rule and you should adapt to the needs of your individual dog.

If your Frenchie is more playful and tends to get dirty quickly, they will need more frequent bathing.

If it suffers from allergies, this could be another reason to bathe it more regularly to rid the skin and fur of trapped allergens that might be bothering your dear one.

However, just like with people, over washing hair can strip away natural oils and leave their coat dry and itchy instead of soft and clean.

Dry cleaning foam

A dry cleaning foam might be the best choice of shampoo as it does not require a rinse. You also will not have to struggle to get them in the water!

Liquid shampoo

If you want to use a liquid shampoo, look for one specially designed for dogs. Frenchies tend to have lots of skin issues so organic, natural materials are recommended. Further, the pH level in even organic shampoo designed for humans may not be right for your fur baby.

Start early

Your Frenchie will adjust more easily to baths if you start them as a puppy and help them associate positive experiences with baths, whether it’s a treat after, playing with a special toy, or being able to splash around a little first.

Don’t leave unsupervised

Use lukewarm water, not hot water, and make sure you supervise your pet the whole time. A French bulldog can drown in a very small amount of water. Putting a collar or harness on your dog while bathing them may help you maneuver them around more easily.

Use towel

When done bathing, use a towel to dry them thoroughly, especially in their wrinkles. Do not use a blow dryer unless it is specially designed for dogs.

Exercise

French bulldog

Frenchies would probably prefer to avoid exercise when possible. They are often content to be a lap dog and have lazy days, making obesity a real problem. Though exercise is important, don’t go to the opposite extreme either.

Don’t overexert

Frenchies should not be pushed to overexert themselves, especially on hot summer days as overheating is a real danger. Because of their flat faces and short breathing tubes, breathing can become difficult very quickly.

Short walks

Usually, short daily walks are sufficient for the good health of your pet. 10-15 minutes should be enough.

Younger dogs will be up for more, but older dogs may require more coaxing.

Exercise before meals

Exercising before meals is recommended because a heavy meal will make them more lethargic and less likely to participate in the exercise.

Cooling off

If your dog seems overheated and struggling to breathe, cool them off under the hose for several minutes. Better, during the summer months, limit their exercise to early morning or evening.

Exercise games

Do not discount play as another form of exercise. Look for toys they enjoy and will play with regularly. You can play fetch, hide and seek, and other games with the toy.

Opportunities to play with other dogs can also be helpful in getting them to engage in a little more physical activity each day, as well as give them mental stimulation and improve their mood and mental health.

Exercise for puppies

French Bulldog puppy
Image by Kossi007 from Pixabay

Puppies will also need exercise, though less rigorous. Instead of long walks, play with toys is usually sufficient. Or, if you are introducing walks to them as they get older, a good rule of thumb is that you can walk your puppy for two minutes for each month of their age. For example, a puppy that is three months old, will probably only need a six-minute walk before becoming fatigued.

Personality

French bulldogs have a great temperament that makes them very desirable as pets. They are fun-loving “clown dogs” who enjoy play and being around people and other pets.

Affectionate

They can be a good choice of breed if you have children or other pets already and are looking for an animal that will be likely to get along well with the existing family. They are very affectionate toward their owners which makes them easier to train than some breeds.

Can be stubborn

French Bulldog
Image by Mylene2401 from Pixabay

However, many have noted that they do have the tendency to be stubborn. Having them trained as puppies instead of waiting until adulthood as been shown to have a positive effect and make them more disposed to training.

Does well with a companion

Because French Bulldogs are so social, it is advisable to have a companion for them. This is particularly true if you and the other humans of the house will be out for long periods of time. This companion could be another Frenchie, but they will often get along well with other breeds or animals.

If they do not have a companion, Frenchies are prone to anxiety and their behavior may even become destructive if they are regularly left alone without any social interaction.

Male Vs Female

You will find some differences in personality between male and female French bulldogs.

A male will likely be more playful and assertive, making them a good choice if you want a dog to play with your kids and you enjoy high energy. Just be prepared to also deal with some silliness from this clown dog and know where to set your boundaries.

A female will be shyer in manner and not as assertive. However, she will likely be more affectionate than her male counterpart if you are looking for a dog with a quiet, calm personality for a companion.

Training

Training will be best if you are able to start it with your puppy.

Crate training

Crate training is advisable. A crate becomes a safe, den-like space for your dog to retreat to. When travel is necessary, feeling comfortable in a cage at home will make it easier for them to adjust to a new environment.

Training classes

Training classes are advisable as soon as possible to allow them to become familiar with being around other people and dogs.

A good training course will teach them how to walk on a leash, how to respond to simple commands like sit, stay, and come, and more.

Though French bulldogs are sometimes perceived as stubborn, when they are trained early, they are often eager to please. They do have a lot of personality and most will be benefit from structured training.

Potty training

When it comes to potty training specifically, you are in luck as French bulldogs are relatively easy to potty train if you take the time to develop some good habits with them.

They are a clean breed that will avoid accidents if possible and will not want to use the bathroom near their sleeping area. However, as with all puppies, some accidents can be expected, especially those under 12 weeks.

Establish a routine

Take your dog to do its business at regular times, especially each morning, when you come home from work, and before bed.

You may need to take them out more frequently for young puppies or as you are developing the habit.

Eating at regular times

Encourage your dog to eat at regular times by removing food other than when you want your dog to eat. This regular eating schedule should also encourage a regular bathroom schedule.

When outside and your dog is using the bathroom, say “go potty” or some other command that they will learn to associate with the action. Give them a treat when they have finished.

Clean up quickly

If your dog has an accident in the house, clean it up quickly and thoroughly. The smell may cause them to associate that place with using the bathroom, which you will want to discourage as quickly as possible.

Pros and cons of owning a French bulldog

Pros

Let’s look at a summary of some of the pros and cons of owning a French bulldog that may help you make your decision.

  • Playful – French bulldogs are fun-loving and happy
  • Like people – Many pet owners are looking for a breed that will return their affection. This is the case for Frenchies who love their owners and enjoy spending time with them.
  • Good with other pets and children– You can feel confident that a French bulldog will get along well with children and other pets and even enjoy socializing with them.
  • Clean and easy to potty train – It is great to know that your dog will care as much for cleanliness as you do, making the potty-training process easier.
  • Attractive appearance – No one can deny the cuteness factor that has fascinated so many people on various continents for the last century or so.
  • Small size – Their small size makes them easily adaptable to small apartments and living spaces.

Cons

  • Health risks – Unfortunately, due to breeding, you can expect that your Frenchie will have some kind of health problem that could be a concern and an additional cost.
  • Anxiety prone – If you are unable to provide a companion for them or be at home all the time, they may become anxious, which could be taken out on your furniture as well as be damaging for your dog’s wellbeing.
  • Breeding – Some people may have ethical concerns about the breeding and reproduction process of French bulldogs. Be informed and educated about the process and the particular breeder you are working with to make the best decision for you.
  • High expense – Because the breeding process is expensive, the cost of a puppy will be also. Back to the health problems, you will also need to factor in potential health screening, procedures, and vet visits into the total cost of keeping your pet.

Buying a French Bulldog

If the appearance, temperament, and playfulness of the French Bulldog have won you over and you are ready to add one to your family, it is important to be aware of the breeding process.

Artificial insemination

Unfortunately, it is rare for French Bulldogs to naturally reproduce in a safe way. Due to the selective breeding for this small size, the narrow bone structure of the breed actually makes it difficult to impossible for the male to mount the female for mating purposes. For this reason, nearly all purebred French bulldogs are the result of artificially inseminating females.

Birth via C-section

The birth process is also difficult naturally because of the skeletal structure of the females. Over 80% of French bulldog litters are delivered by Caesarean section methods. Litters are often small, usually only 2 to 4 puppies per litter.

If the ethics of these reproduction methods are a concern for you, you may want to look into another breed able to reproduce naturally at greater rates.

Understanding the very “hands-on” approach breeders must take to produce French bulldog puppies should give you a heads up to the expensive costs of purebred French Bulldog puppies.

Cost

The average you can expect to pay for a French bulldog puppy is around $2,000. However, for a great breed history or rare coloring or markings, you could end up paying a lot more, even as high as $10,000.

The cost is substantial, and this does not include the costs of vet visits in the future if your dog suffers from some of the health problems common to the breed.

Feeding your Frenchie (and they do love to eat!) will on average cost $30 a month if you give them the recommended 1-1 ½ cups of dry food each day and occasional treats.

If you are going to sign your dog up for a training course (which we would recommend), that will be $50-$125 for a multi-week course.

Adoption

Of course, unless you are completely set on a purebred for show purposes or are dying for a puppy for the cuteness factor, there are many great options when it comes to rescue and adoption.

Adoption will be much less costly, around $300-$600.

There is also a high possibility that your new dog will have already been appropriately trained and loved by someone who is no longer able to care for them but wants what is best for their Frenchie.

Of course, there is the possibility that they have not received appropriate training or have faced abuse or developed bad habits with their other family. It is a risk you take, but it may be worth it if you want a French bulldog who needs a home.

Showing Your French Bulldog

Breed Standard

If you are considering getting a French Bulldog for show, there are many factors to take into consideration. It is not merely a matter of having an attractive or obedient dog. There are many characteristics that disqualify dogs from competition if they are indicative of a health challenge or merely because they are unusual and not representative of the breed.

We will list some of the important aspects of the breed standard here, but please consult the full, official AKC standard before purchasing a dog or attempting to enter them in a show.

  • Size: Weight must not exceed 28 lbs. Proportions should be well-balanced and the dog must be muscular with heavy bone structure.
  • Head: The head is large and square.
  • Eyes may only be brown or approaching black in color. All other eye colors are disqualified. Eyes should be set wide apart and low in the face, that is far from the ears.
  • Erect, bat ears are the only kind of ear accepted.
  • The nose must be black.
  • The bite should be undershot.
  • Body: The neck must be thick and arched. The back is strong and short. The back will be wider toward the shoulders and narrower toward the rear. The chest is broad and the body short and rounded.
  • The tail is either straight or screwed though a curly tail is not permitted. It should hang low and not be held erect.
  • Coat: The coat must be short and smooth with soft, loose skin to form wrinkles. Colors allowed include cream, white, fawn (with a range of shades), or combinations of these colors. There are also several acceptable markings and patterns allowed, including brindle, piebald, white markings, black masks, and black shadings.

Getting Started in AKC Shows

You might think your little Frenchie is a real winner and you want to share him with the world. It could be!

Here are a few steps to take before diving in headfirst to the world of dog shows. One important thing to remember is that dog shows are about finding dogs that best represent the breed standard, not about finding the most unique or attractive dog.

1. Research

Thoroughly read the breed standards to see if your current dog qualifies or to see what kind of dog you should look for. If your dog does not match the breed standard, there is no reason to move forward.

Here a couple of non negotiable requirements for any dog breed.

  • The dog must be 6 months or older on the day of the show.
  • The breed must be recognized by the AKC.
  • Your dog must be individually registered with the AKC.
  • The dog should not be spayed or neutered.
  • No disqualifying traits or faults will be accepted.
  • The dog must be in good health and up to date on vaccinations.

2. Attend a show before entering one

Seeing and experiencing a show (or multiple shows) in person will help you make the decision about if you want to show your own dog.

You might also think about if you want to show your dog personally or would prefer to hire a handler to take care of that aspect if you feel uncomfortable being in the spotlight.

You will also be able to talk with other dog owners, spectators, and competitors to get a better feel for the event. And of course, you’ll be able to check out the competition.

3. Join a club

If you are going to show a dog in an AKC show, it is recommended that you join one of their clubs first. They offer many valuable resources in the form of training classes and expert advice. You will also have the opportunity to ask questions and learn a lot before you are in the hot seat.

4. Prepare your dog

Did you know there are actual confirmation classes to help prepare dogs (and owners!) for shows? These classes can help train your dog to do their best. At worst, the class will help you predict how well your pet will do during an actual show so you can decide if it is worth the effort.

Your dog will need to be well-groomed (hair brushed and untangled, nails trimmed, eyes and ears clean, etc.). It will also need to be comfortable with being around lots of other dogs and other people.

5. Participate in a Match Show

The final step before the full competition is a match show, which is set up and runs like a real dog show without the intense competition. The purpose of these shows is educational, and the environment is relatively stress-free and informal.

There will be real judges, handlers, and competitors there who can give feedback to help prepare you and your dog to be an award-winning team in the real show.

Breed Comparison: English and French Bulldogs

Remember that the French bulldog originated from the English bulldog so there are certainly many similarities. There are a few key differences though which you will notice.

1. Size difference

First, the size of an English bulldog is bigger than a French bulldog. The English version will be 14-15 inches high compared to the 11-13 inches expected of a Frenchie.

2. Weight difference

An English bulldog may weigh twice as much as a French bulldog, closer to 40-50 lbs instead of closer to 20-25 lbs. For this reason, a Frenchie will be the better choice if are looking for a smaller dog to fit into a more confined living space.

3. Appearance

There are also differences in appearance. Most notably, the English bulldog will have “rose” ears on the side of their skull. Rose ears are when they fold down. The French bulldog ears are tall and erect. As we already know, we can thank some determined ladies in the US for this when they decided to make this the official breed standard.

4. Skin

Though a French bulldog does have loose skin and some wrinkles, especially around their face, their skin is much tighter compared to English bulldogs who have heavy folds and droopy jowls.

5. Color

The English bulldogs come in a wider variety of fur colors and patterns, though their coat is short and smooth like the French bulldog.

6. Tail

English bulldogs are also more likely to have a curly tail. However, neither breed is likely to feature corkscrew tales anymore. Despite the cute appearance of the corkscrew, it was known to come along with spinal problems and so responsible breeders now avoid it.

7. Temperament

They are similar in temperament and both kinds of dogs love their owners and being around people. However, French bulldogs do tend to be higher energy and more playful, whereas English bulldogs are more reserved and laid back.

Breed Comparison: American and French Bulldogs

Though American and French Bulldogs both come from the same English roots, the branches of this breed developed quite differently.

Bulldogs that were sent to the US in the 1800s ended up being a popular dog in hard-working farm communities, especially in the deep south. They never received the posh treatment of Parisian socialites and they were not bred down to a smaller more compact size. Instead, they were bred to be bigger and stronger.

Height and weight difference

The American bulldog is about 28 inches tall and weighs 120 lbs, significantly larger than both the French bulldogs and their English ancestors.

Personality and temperament

When it comes to personality and temperament, American bulldogs share a playful spirit and loyal attitude to their masters with their French counterparts. However, the American version of the breed was designed for tough resilience and hard work, making them more aggressive, but also more athletic.

Facial structure difference

Despite their ties with the flat-faced family of dogs, their facial structure is different so they do not suffer from the breathing problems that Frenchies may experience.

If you want a dog for sporting purposes or who can take a lot of physical exertion, an American bulldog would be the better choice.

However, if you are looking for a smaller dog that gets along well with children and other dogs, a French bulldog would be a safer choice. A French bulldog will also have a more social, extroverted personality as a clown dog.

Conclusion

We have tried to go in great detail about everyone’s favorite pooch, the French bulldog. If there is anything else that you would like to know, simply drop a comment below and we will get back to you right away.

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