Get to know the typical French Bulldog temperament, and the sort of families that the French Bulldog may appeal to.
- French Bulldog Appearance
- French Bulldog Colors
- French Bulldog Temperament
- French Bulldog History
- French Bulldog Health
- French Bulldog Dwarfism
- French Bulldog Tails
- Flat Faced Dogs
- Low Energy Dogs
- French Bulldog Lifespan
- Buying A French Bulldog
- French Bulldog Rescue
- French Bulldogs’ Future
Find out more about the history of the French Bulldog. How they have changed over the years, to turn into the characteristic little dogs we know today. And what impact these changes have had on their health.
If you are thinking of bringing a French Bulldog puppy into your home, then this article will help to make sure that you are aware of all of the essential aspects of caring for these little dogs.
If you are looking for a low energy dog breed, to love and share your life with, then we will get to the bottom of what makes the French Bulldog the pup the world has fallen in love with.
French Bulldog Appearance
The French Bulldog’s appearance is iconic.
He has large bat-like ears, a very short nose and a soulful expression. His build is stocky and he is very short in stature, normally no more than 12 inches tall or weighing 25 pounds.
French Bulldog Colors
The Kennel Club breaks the colors of French Bulldogs down into three categories – brindle, fawn and pied.
They may have a few white hairs too, but the brindle will cover the majority of their bodies.
Fawn French Bulldogs will be entirely fawn in color, with the exception of the face which can be black.
Pied French Bulldogs are mostly white, with patches of brindle or fawn coloring.
All French Bulldogs should have black ‘eyeliner’ around the rims of their eyes, black lashes and black lips.
French Bulldog colors not recognised by the Kennel Club
You can also find black French Bulldogs, black and white French Bulldogs, black and tan French Bulldogs and even blue French Bulldogs, in a variety of patterns and markings.
These colors and combinations of colors are not considered acceptable as far as the Kennel Club’s standards go, but have nonetheless proven very popular with pet dog owners.
If you don’t care about your ability to show a French Bulldog in the ring, then it really doesn’t matter what color his coat is.
The French Bulldog’s fur itself is short, smooth and easy to manage for his owner.
French Bulldog Temperament
French Bulldogs are bred as lapdogs, and are friendly to their family and willing to please.
They are often keen on being petted, and will happily curl up and sleep on your lap.
Although small, the French Bulldog has the active mind of a dog.
They are intelligent creatures, who require mental stimulation despite their easy-going appearance.
Just like any larger breed of dog, Frenchies benefit from structured, positive reinforcement training from a young age.
It’s important to well socialise a French Bulldog puppy as although laid back, they can display guarding behaviours towards strangers or visitors.
Make sure to get your pup used to meeting a lot of different people, especially children.
Make sure that any visiting children are aware that they should treat the dog like any other, and that despite being the size of a toy they certainly shouldn’t be mishandled.
French Bulldog History
Despite his name, the French Bulldog is English in origin.
When bull and bear baiting became illegal in the 19th Century, the role of the bulldog became that of a companion. Increasingly smaller dogs were developed to fulfil this new role.
It is these dogs from which our modern French Bulldog descended. Their oversized ears gained particular favour in France, where they were deliberately bred to exaggerate this feature.
This over-sizing of ears initially caused controversy between Kennel Clubs, but over the years the matter was settled and the large ears of the French Bulldog seem set to stay.
This adorable breed have once again risen in popularity in recent years. With Kennel Club registrations really taking off, and rocketing their place in the popularity stakes to unprecedented levels.
The recent fashion for French Bulldogs in celebrity circles is undoubtedly helping to drive their sudden increase in popularity.
But sadly, it is coming at a serious price for the dogs themselves. Because French Bulldogs suffer from some very serious health problems.
Changes To French Bulldogs
The French Bulldog in this image was photographed in 1905.
You can see that there is some substantial length to his muzzle, and that his nostrils are open.
Compare with the modern French Bulldogs pictured elsewhere in this article.
Their nostrils are all but closed closed, and deep facial skin folds have formed around the muzzle.
French Bulldog Health
If you are thinking of bringing a French Bulldog puppy into your home and your heart, then this is the most important section of this article that you will read.
French Bulldog health is a distressing topic for any dog lover to go into. Because they are in serious trouble.
All breeds of pedigree dogs have some health problems common to their type. This is because they have a deliberately restricted gene pool, that makes it more likely for nasty recessive diseases to rear their heads.
Fortunately, these days many pedigree health issues can be avoided by only buying puppies from health tested parents.
There are some diseases which can sometimes affect French Bulldogs that we can use health screening to avoid.
French Bulldog parents should have general eye checks to make sure that their eyes are in good health. There is a DNA available to check for hereditary cataracts, which can be a problem in French Bulldogs.
They can also suffer from a disease called Von Willebrand’s Disease, which is similar to haemophilia in humans.
Hip dysplasia can also occur in French Bulldogs, but hip scoring is available. Any breeding pair of Frenchies should be hip tested, and the scores made available to any potential puppy purchasers.
So, several of these health problems can be avoided or reduced by sensible puppy purchasing.
Unfortunately, other issues are so ingrained into the body structure of the breed that they are almost impossible to avoid if you want that type of dog.
French Bulldog Dwarfism
French Bulldogs all suffer from a form of dwarfism called chondrodystrophy.
Chondrodystrophy creates features are all considered desirable by breeders, but this characteristic appearance comes at a price.
It can lead to a number of issues including back problems, malformed hips and oversized heads relative to their bodies.
Having oversized heads combined with narrow pelvises are of the reasons many French Bulldogs are unable to give birth naturally. Pregnant female French Bulldogs usually need their pups to be delivered by caesarian section – which partly explains the high price breeders ask for the puppies.
High incidence of hemivertebrae and premature disc degeneration are seen in this breed.
Problems relating to chondrodystrophy are impossible to avoid entirely when picking a French Bulldog puppy, as all Frenchies have this type of dwarfism. When you buy a French Bulldog, you will have to accept that it will probably never have a natural birth, and that they may suffer from severe back or gait problems down the line.
French Bulldog Tails
The breed standard calls for French Bulldog tails to be short and undocked. But of course, nature made dogs with long tails originally. And when short tails occur, they also bring along problems, especially when they are in the form of screw tails.
The problems with screw tails can be very severe, causing spinal problems and defects in the dog.
These can cause mobility problems, and when these screw tails occur they can even compress a duct and cause impacted anal glands.
If you buy a French Bulldog puppy, then make sure that their parents both have protruding tails, and ask the breeder about any history of back, mobility, or anal gland problems.
These are nasty conditions, but probably not the most worrying one that all French Bulldogs have to deal with.
Flat Faced Dogs
One of the factors many people find appealing about French Bulldogs, are their flat faces.
The set of their eyes and reduced muzzle size give them a more human, baby-like appearance.
This face shape is something which has been bred into dogs quite rapidly over recent years. It has not evolved naturally, but been designed by the deliberate breeding together of dogs with smaller and smaller muzzles.
If you look at the 1905 photograph earlier in the article, you can see that whilst the bulldog’s muzzle is small it is still definitely pronounced. The dog has a prominent nose, open nostrils and tight skin.
Take a look at the difference in this dog’s profile:
His nostrils are practically closed, and his face is surrounded by folds of skin which lack the muzzle bones to support them.
Like their Bulldog cousins, French Bulldogs have become increasingly flat faced over the last few decades. Flat faced dogs are referred to as ‘brachycephalic’, and this condition is linked to a number of health issues.
These health conditions are grouped together under the heading brachycephalic airway syndrome.
What Will Brachycephaly Mean For Your Puppy?
Brachycephalic puppies have short facial bones, but the same amount of facial tissue as a dog with a normal length muzzle.
This means that there is too much tissue inside the dog’s mouth. More tissue than the muzzle has space for.
In many cases the dogs palate may block the airway so severely that surgery will be necessary to save him from respiratory distress.
His eyes can also be affected, because the proportions of his skull won’t accommodate his eyeballs. This leads to the eye being improperly hydrated, and causes corneal ulcers. Which are as nasty as they sound.
Affected dogs also have narrow nostrils. You will often see on pictures of Frenchies that the nostrils are barely visible. These nostrils are known as ‘stenotic nares’.
Think how hard it is to breathe when you have a cold and your nose is blocked? Most French Bulldogs feel like this every moment of their lives.
Not only is this uncomfortable, but it means that your dogs ability to get enough air is compromised. He can’t oxygenate himself.
Nor can be effectively cool himself down. He overheats easily. So he can’t run very far, or cope when the weather is hot.
In addition to this being a problem on a daily basis, French Bulldogs are also very hard for veterinarians to intubate due to their physiology.
This means that if they do require anaesthetising for an essential surgery, this can be very hard to do.
This is not something that affects just a few French Bulldogs.
All brachycephalic dogs have compromised airways to some extent. And many are severely affected.
Karen Hedbergy BVSc states on the French Bulldog Club website that 10% of French Bulldogs may be expected to suffer from severe Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome. The majority of severe cases occurring in dogs under 1-2 years old.
Low Energy Dogs
French Bulldogs are amongst those breeds often described as low energy dogs.
But what does that mean?
In the case of the brachycephalic dogs, low energy means exactly that. Low energy. Not because the dogs are not interested in continuing to run and play whatever the weather, like their muzzled cousins. But because they rapidly run out of the energy to do so.
French Bulldogs have low energy because they are not able to get enough oxygen into their tiny bodies, because their breathing has been seriously compromised.
Have a think about why you want to share your life with a low energy dog.
Is it because you want to have fun out with a dog, but you need them to be relaxed in the house?
Hound breeds can be great for this. They need several short but intense sessions of exercise a day, and then provide chilled companions at home in between.
Retriever breeds are another great choice. They need a few sessions of up to an hour a day each, consisting of training or running, with lots of retrieving games thrown in. They will then chill out by your feet whilst you do the housework or type on your computer.
If you want dog who barely needs any exercise and still lies around all day at home, then I am afraid the only type who behave this way will be ill or disabled dogs.
If you desperately want a dog but hate exercise, then consider rescuing a dog who has a health problem which limits their exercise, rather than buying into a trade of deliberately breeding disabled dogs.
If you are shocked by the comment above, it might be because you have heard that some dogs are simply low energy dogs anyway, and that it’s normal for the breed.
So let’s take a look at what that actually means.
Normal For The Breed
When you describe the health problems faced by French Bulldogs, and other brachycephalic breeds, you will hear people justify them by using the saying ‘normal for the breed’.
“It’s okay that my dog can’t breathe properly, it’s normal for the breed.”
“Don’t worry about the fact she couldn’t birth the puppies without veterinary surgery, it’s normal for the breed.”
Let’s take a look at how an attribute becomes ‘normal for the breed’.
Normal for the breed means that most members of that group of dogs show the same characteristic. The reason for this is that a breed is produced from a select number of dogs, by people who want to exaggerate or retain certain features.
These features are decided and agreed upon by humans, who then deliberately set out to produce them.
This process produces certain characteristics which are desirable to breeders, and when most dogs have them, they become normal.
But when normality means a life of misery, then ‘normal for the breed’ is not a justification. It’s just a fact.
Yes, it is normal for a French Bulldog to be unable to run around like his long snouted friends, and to need urgent access to shade when the day grows hotter so that he doesn’t collapse.
For example, the photo to the right is from the AKC’s website, used to illustrate their ideal for the French Bulldog breed.
The dog pictured has closed nostrils.
It is an image demonstrating what is normal for the breed, but it is a seriously undesirable characteristic when it comes to the health of the dog.
If someone tells you something you know to be a Bad Thing is normal for the breed, then sadly you need to start looking at another breed.
French Bulldog Lifespan
The average lifespan of a French Bulldog seems to differ depending upon where you look. The AKC gives it as 11-13 years, whereas the British Kennel Club just states over ten years as being average.
From this you could reasonably expect a French Bulldog lifespan to be least 9 years, which is not very old for a breed of dog. Although sadly also not the youngest average age of death.
Caring For A French Bulldog
When caring for a French Bulldog you will need to take into account that this is effectively a disabled dog, with a lot of special needs.
Make sure that you are prepared to monitor and limit your dog’s exercise, especially in warmer weather. You must also check his eyes daily, to make sure they are not too dry or injured.
Be prepared that you might also have to wipe his bottom for him on occasion. Some Frenchies can’t reach their own behinds, and their tails can get mucky if they are screwed.
Wipe his skin folds on his face regularly to avoid dermatitis and infections.
Buying A French Bulldog Puppy
If you are thinking of purchasing a French Bulldog puppy, then you would be well advised to research the subject of brachycephaly throughly.
If you are concerned about the price of a French Bulldog puppy, then now is probably not the right time to buy one. The initial cost of any puppy is small compared to the debt they may rack up over a lifetime with you. But with a puppy who is likely to have as many health problems as the average French Bulldog, this cost could be considerable.
If you have your heart set on buying a French Bulldog puppy, then make sure that you have excellent insurance which covers any brachycephaly related treatments or surgeries that they may need, as well as those relating to problems with screw tails.
Ensure that you also have a sizeable savings account in the bank, in case the pet insurance fail to pay out for some reason. And take steps to chose your puppy’s parents carefully
You need to find a breeder who is breeding from dogs with less severe brachycephaly.
Choose a puppy whose parents both have the following:
- A longer than average muzzle
- Fully wide open nostrils
- A confident gait
The dog pictured here has wide nostrils and a longer muzzle length than average.
Try to find puppy parents whose features reflect these.
I also recommend that you ask the owner for a letter from their veterinarian, confirming that the dog has never needed any surgical intervention for problems relating to brachycephaly.
French Bulldog Mixes
Finding a good breeder of a pedigree dog breed can be tricky, and finding a reputable source of mixed bred dogs can be even harder. But they are out there.
French Bulldog mixes of puppies, with one French Bulldog parent and another longer nosed parent, could potentially give you the characteristics you are looking for without the severe health issues.
If you choose a cross breed, make sure they are bred from a French Bulldog with open nostrils, a snout on the longer end of the spectrum and no spinal problems. Make sure this dog has all health tests relevant to his breed, and that the other parents has all health tests relevant to their breed too.
Health testing is important, even when it comes to mixed breed dogs.
French Bulldog Rescue
If you have your heart set on a French Bulldog, then why not rescue a French Bulldog?
They arrive from time to time in general dog pounds, as well as having their own breed specific rescues that you can check out.
Whilst an older French Bulldog will still have some of the veterinary needs of their younger friends, you will at least have some idea of the extent of the severity of their problems when you bring them home.
The Future Of The French Bulldog
There is good and bad in every breed of dog. Whether that’s a temperament issue or a health issue, no dog is perfect. But some dogs are better equipped for a healthy life than others.
French Bulldogs are wonderful little characters, who bring their owners great joy. They are loyal, loving and fun companions.
But they deserve better than the health that they are born with.
When we are buying a breed of puppy, we need to try not to be distracted by our own interpretation of what looks cute. Instead, we should think back to the wolf that every darling dog believes himself to be.
The further we stray from this original blueprint, the more problems health we are inviting for the puppy.
Fortunately, the health of the French Bulldog is not set in stone.
It is still possible through breeding only those Frenchies with the best muzzles and tails, or careful outcrossing with healthier breeds, that French Bulldogs could enjoy a happier future.