The French Bulldog is a popular but controversial breed with a flat face and oversized ears. They weigh up to 25lbs and stand approximately 12 inches tall. The Frenchie dog has a bright and lively personality but is burdened with complicated health problems. Read on for loads more information and for help when it comes to French Bulldog adoption.
What’s In This Guide
- French Bulldog At A Glance
- In-depth Breed Review
- French Bulldog Training And Care
- Pros And Cons Of Getting A French Bulldog
French Bulldog FAQs
Here are our readers’ most popular and frequently asked questions about the French Bulldog.
Click on one of them to jump down to the relevant part of the article.
- Why is the French Bulldog so expensive?
- Are French Bulldogs good family dogs?
- Do French Bulldogs have health problems?
- Are French Bulldogs aggressive?
Want to know more about the Frenchie dog?
Breed At A Glance
- Popularity: 4th in the AKC’s ranking
- Purpose: Lap dog
- Temperament: Friendly and Loyal
This popular, friendly breed has a great appeal. And not just because of their lovely personality.
There is a lot more to this little bulldog than meets the eye.
French Bulldog Breed Review: Contents
- History and original purpose of the French Bulldog
- Changes to French Bulldog
- French Bulldog appearance
- French Bulldog temperament
- Training and exercising your French Bulldog
- French Bulldog health and care
- Do French Bulldog make good family pets
- Rescuing a French Bulldog
- Raising a French Bulldog puppy
- Popular French Bulldog breed mixes
- French Bulldog products and accessories
History and original purpose of the French Bulldog
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 fulfill this new role. It is these dogs from which our modern French Bulldog descended.
Their oversized ears gained particular favor in France, where they were deliberately bred to exaggerate this feature.
This over-sizing of ears initially caused controversy initially between Kennel Clubs.
Over the years the matter was settled though, and the large ears of the French Bulldog seem set to stay.
Fun facts about the French Bulldog
- The Frenchie has become a bit of a celebrity accessory. Notable owners include Dwayne Johnson, Madonna, Reese Witherspoon, Hugh Jackman, Hillary Duff and Lady Gaga
- French Bulldogs have appeared on the silver screen in films as big as Armageddon and Grease!
- One Frenchie dog by the name of Gary even made it on to the red carpet for a Star Wars premiere. He was the late great Carrie Fisher’s beloved pet and was even her social media profile photo!
French Bulldog appearance
Before we dive into the appearance of the Frenchie we know today, it’s important to first understand how we got here.
The Changing Face of the French Bulldog
The rise and rise of the Frenchie is an impressive one.
The recent fashion for them 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.
The above 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, and deep facial skin folds have formed around the muzzle.
Contemporary Frenchie Looks
He has large bat-like ears, a very short nose and soulful expression.
His build is stocky and he is very short in stature, normally no more than 12 inches tall or weighing 25 pounds.
The French Bulldog has a broad chest and narrow hips.
His face is wrinkled, with the top lip overhanging the bottom one in the classic Bulldog pout.
French Bulldog Colors
French Bulldogs colors are broken down into three categories – brindle, fawn and pied.
Brindle French Bulldogs have a mix of black and fawn hairs.
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 of them should have black ‘eyeliner’ around the rims of their eyes, black lashes and black lips.
Other French Bulldog colors
You can also find black, black and white French Bulldogs, black and tan 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. Nonetheless they have still 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.
Although there have been some associations drawn between blue Frenchies and poor health.
A Word of Warning
While some colors may be desirable to you, it’s important not to seek out these colors to the detriment of the breed. Avoid puppy farms even if they do promise to breed for the color you like.
You can read our articles on Frenchie colors here:
The fur itself is short, smooth and easy to manage for his owner.
Needing just a casual grooming session with a bristle brush once a week, as long as he hasn’t got mucky in the meantime.
Fortunately, their gentle nature means grooming should be an enjoyable activity for you both.
Compared to other dogs, Frenchies don’t shed much. You can read all about it here.
You may have noticed a trend of miniature versions of dog breeds becoming popular. In the case of the French Bulldog, there is no official tiny breed.
There are mini Frenchies that are cross breeds between a French Bulldog and a toy breed.You can read more about them here.
French Bulldog temperament
French Bulldogs are bred as lap dogs, and are friendly to their family and willing to please.
The typical temperament is very loving and loyal. 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, Frenchie dogs benefit from structured, positive reinforcement training from a young age.
It’s important to well socialize a Frenchie puppy as although laid back, they can display guarding behaviors 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.
Training and exercising your French Bulldog
A Frenchie puppy will need potty training and to learn to come when they are called.
There are lots of other fun things you can teach your pup, but it’s important to take into account their exercise needs.
French Bulldogs are particularly prone to overheating and breathing issues, due to the structure of their faces.
It is really important not to over-exercise this breed as a result of these overheating and breathing issues. French Bulldogs and other brachycephalic dogs are prone to heatstroke because they cannot access enough oxygen to keep them cool and refreshed.
French Bulldog Health and Care
If you are thinking of bringing a Frenchie 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. This 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.
Avoidable French Bulldog Health Problems
- 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 hemophilia 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 impossible to avoid.
Major Health Concerns
Let’s take a look at some serious health problems that will impact your puppy, if you choose to bring a French Bulldog home.
Dwarfism in the French Bulldog
French Bulldogs all suffer from a form of dwarfism called chondrodystrophy.
Chondrodystrophy creates features that are 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. 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 Frenchie 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 has 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. It has caused the French Bulldogs some very serious health problems. Because dogs need muzzles.
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 proportion of his skull won’t accommodate his eyeballs.
This leads to the eye being improperly hydrated, and causes corneal ulcers. These 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 dog’s 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.
The cute snuffly noises that French Bulldogs make are actually due to their inability to gather breathe efficiently.
French Bulldogs are also very hard for veterinarians to intubate due to their physiology.
This means that if they do require anesthetizing 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.
Low Energy Dogs
French Bulldogs are among 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. Have a think about why you want to share your life with a low energy dog.
If you desperately want a dog but hate exercise, then consider rescuing a dog who has a health problem 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.
You may have heard that it’s ‘normal for the breed’. So let’s take a look at what that actually means.
Normal For The Breed
You will often hear the phrase ‘normal for the breed’ used to justify health problems.
“It’s okay that my dog can’t breathe properly, it’s normal for the breed.” Or “Don’t worry about the fact she couldn’t birth the puppies without surgery, it’s 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.
Just because it’s normal, doesn’t make it right
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. It is normal. It is not okay.
Even the breed standard image used to illustrate their ideal for the French Bulldog breed by the AKC is concerning. 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 French Bulldog lifespan is nine years.
This is according to a wide ranging survey of purebred dogs and their mortality in the United Kingdom.
You can read more about Frenchie lifespan here.
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. You can use cotton wool and boiled water, or buy packs of wet wipes for dogs.
Do French Bulldogs make good family pets
In terms of personality, the French Bulldog has the potential to make a great family pet.
But when it comes to health, they have a lot of potential problems.
Aside from the financial burden of having to pay extra vet bills, the emotional cost of owning a Frenchie as a family pet must be taken into account. This will not be a healthy dog, and may cause some degree of upset for your family.
You could say the French Bulldog price is twofold, financial and emotional.
Rescuing a French Bulldog
If you have your heart set on a Frenchie, then why not rescue a French Bulldog?
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.
French Bulldog adoption should be an attractive option if you have your heart set on this breed. French Bulldog adoption takes a little bit away from the practice of supporting breeders and so is a relatively good thing.
You can jump to our list of Frenchie rescues by clicking here.
Finding a French Bulldog puppy
French Bulldogs are a popular breed so they shouldn’t be difficult to find. However, it is so important to avoid puppy mills and pet shops. Pet shops will in all likelihood source their dogs from farm.
Puppy farms are a blight on society and make a profit by raising dogs in terrible conditions. Both the parents and pups have a terrible life and may come with a whole host of health and socialization problems.
As you’ve already read, French Bulldogs don’t need any more bad luck with their health.
If you are wondering what the best way to find a Frenchie is, consult our puppy search guide.
Raising a French Bulldog puppy
If you have already brought your puppy home, then you will need to take special care of him.
Make sure you have regular appointments with your vet to check their breathing.
Do not exercise him on hot days, walk too far and always watch his tongue.
Pup’s tongues are a good clue to their breathing difficulties. They should lie flat. If they curl up at the tip then they are struggling.
Caring for a vulnerable French Bulldog puppy is a big responsibility. There are some great guides in our Puppy Care Section to help you with all aspects of puppy care and training.
Why are French Bulldogs so expensive?
There are several factors that contribute to French Bulldog price. More popular dogs get higher prices, because people are prepared to pay them.
But Frenchies are also pricey because it’s not easy to breed them. They often cannot birth naturally, and this operation is costly.
If the breeder health tests and feeds the puppies on high quality food, this will also contribute to the price.
French Bulldog price isn’t just a financial thing. The emotional cost of raising and caring for a defective breed can be staggering.
You can read about the cost of French Bulldogs here.
Popular French Bulldog breed mixes
Whether your mix will be healthier is partially down to what they are crossed with.
But there is a fair amount of chance in there too.
Make sure you get to know your potential cross breed well before making your choice.
Comparing the French Bulldog with other breeds
Frenchies are regularly compared with other similar breeds. Here are some popular options that potential owners consider comparing.
The issue here is that all of these breeds are brachycephalic. Their shortened skulls causing many of them horrible health problems.
Other dog breeds you might want to consider include:
- Springer Spaniel
- Jack Russell Terrier
- Yorkshire Terrier
- Miniature Boxer
Pros And Cons of Getting A French Bulldog
- They are extremely prone to health problems.
- These health problems can cause lifelong discomfort and serious distress.
- It is quite possible that caring for this breed will cause you and your family a lot of stress
- This is a friendly breed with a lot of love to give.
- They are small and portable, and don’t require much exercise.
French Bulldog products and accessories
Links to our relevant product reviews go here
As small dogs prone to breathing problems, Frenchies benefit from some specially selected equipment.
French Bulldog Breed Rescues
- Bulldog Haven NW
- French Bulldog Rescue
- SNAFU Rescue
- Chicago French Bulldog Rescue
- Phoenix French Bulldog Rescue
- French Bulldog Rescue GB
- French Bulldog Club of England
- French Bulldog Rescue & Adoption of Victoria
- Force Majeure French Bulldogs
- French Bulldog Rescue Canada
- Eastern Canada French Bulldog Rescue
This article has been extensively revised in 2019. Do you have a Frenchie or any thoughts on this breed? Let us know in the comments.
References And Resources
- Gough A, Thomas A, O’Neill D. 2018 Breed Predispositions to Disease In Dogs and Cats. Wiley Blackwell
- O’Neill et al. 2013. Longevity and Mortality of Dogs Owned In England. The Veterinary Journal
- Schalamon et al. 2006. Analysis of Dog Bites In Children Who Are Younger Than 17 Years. Pediatrics
- Duffy D et al. Breed differences in canine aggression. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 2008
- Strain G. Deafness prevalence and pigmentation and gender associations in dog breeds at risk. The Veterinary Journal 2004
- Packer et al. 2015. Impact of Facial Conformation On Canine Health. PlosOne
- Adams VJ, et al. 2010. Results of a Survey of UK Purebred Dogs. Journal of Small Animal Practice.
- Roedler et al. 2013. How does severe brachycephaly affect dog’s lives? Results of a structured preoperative owner questionnaire The Veterinary Journal.
- O’Neil et al. Epidemiological associations between brachycephaly and upper respiratory tract disorders in dogs attending veterinary practice in England. Canine Genetics and Epidemiology.
- Torrez, 2006. Results of surgical correction of abnormalities associated with brachycephalic airway obstruction syndrome in dogs in Australia. Journal of Small Animal Practice.
- Poncet et al. 2006. Long-term results of upper respiratory syndrome surgery and gastrointestinal tract medical treatment in 51 brachycephalic dogs.
- Packer et al. 2015. Impact of Facial Conformation On Canine Health. PlosOne