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Breed Spotlight: French Bulldogs

Updated: Jan 30

The French Bulldog, with its large erect ears and tempered disposition, is one of the world's most popular small dog breeds, especially among people who live in apartments. The Frenchie is playful, alert, and adaptable. They somewhat resemble the English Bulldog in miniature, except for the large erect ears that are the breed's trademark physical feature. The head is large and square with wrinkles rolled above the extremely short muzzle. The body beneath the smooth coat is compact and muscular, and the coat on a well-bred example should never appear dull nor should it be long and/or “fluffy.” The bright and affectionate Frenchie is a charmer. Frenchies aren’t typically heavy barkers, but their alertness makes them excellent watchdogs. They happily adapt to life with singles, couples, or families, and do not require a lot of outdoor exercise. They get along well with other animals and typically enjoy meeting new people.

Because of their front-heavy structures, Frenchies cannot swim and should never be left unattended near a tub, pool, or body of water. Like all flat-faced breeds, Frenchies are prone to breathing problems and do poorly in hot or humid weather. Flat-faced breeds are also more sensitive to anesthesia. Frenchies occasionally have eye conditions such as cherry eye, juvenile cataracts, or entropion, and skin allergies and autoimmune skin disorders also are known to occur. A responsible breeder will take advantage of available tests to screen breeding stock for conditions that can affect the breed.

Recommended Health Tests From the National Breed Club:

The Frenchie's short coat sheds minimally. Weekly brushing with a medium-bristle brush, a rubber grooming mitt or tool, or a hound glove will help to remove shed hair and keep him looking his best. Brushing promotes new hair growth and distributes skin oils throughout the coat to help keep it healthy. A Frenchie's facial folds should be kept clean and dry. The Frenchie's nails should be trimmed regularly, as overly long nails can cause him pain.

A short walk or outdoor play session with their owner each day should provide enough exercise to keep the French Bulldog in shape. Frenchies enjoy participating in canine sports such as obedience, agility, and rally. As a flat-faced breed, however, they are prone to breathing difficulties and should never be allowed to exert themselves in hot or humid weather. This is especially concerning here in South Carolina, where we have both heat and humidity in excess!

Early socialization and puppy training classes are definitely recommended for this breed. Exposing the puppy to a wide variety of people, places, and situations will help him develop into a well-adjusted adult. Puppy training classes serve as part of the socialization process, promote good behavior, and help the owner learn to recognize and correct bad habits. Frenchies have big personalities and can need a fair amount of training to make them civilized companions. They can be stubborn, but at heart they're people pleasers and therefore easy to train. The proper motivation (such as food) and making a game of the process will ensure their cooperation.

LINK: Browse AKC French Bulldog Puppies in South Carolina (always vet any prospective breeders and ensure they are ethical).

A high-quality dog food appropriate to the dog's age (puppy, adult, senior, or even a specifically denoted "all-life-stages" food) will have all the nutrients the breed needs. Frenchies are prone to obesity, which can damage their physical structure and puts them at higher risk for some of the breed's health issues, so it is vital to watch their calorie intake and weight. With this risk in mind, if you choose to give your Frenchie any treats, do so in moderation.

Breed History

The French Bulldog is a relatively new breed, when considering many breeds are thousands of years old. Originally developed in Paris, France in the mid-1800s for companionship and lapdog purposes, early breeders successfully created this particular canine through the selective breeding of Toy Bulldogs (imported from England) and local ratting breeds. Although little is currently known (or understood) about the reasons pertaining to their development as a breed, many experts suggest that the outlawing of bull-baiting and the arrival of displaced lace workers from Nottingham (who brought with them Toy Bulldogs) may have served as motivation for breeders to develop a small and portable Bulldog variety. With Toy Bulldogs becoming extremely popular in Paris, English breeders began to systematically trade large numbers of Bulldogs that they considered weak, faulty, or too small. This trade continued unabated until the 1860s, as England’s Toy Bulldog population quickly fell to unprecedented levels (resulting in a shortage of Toy Bulldogs in the country). French breeders, in turn, were overwhelmed with small Bulldogs and quickly began crossing these lovable canines with ratting breeds to produce a smaller and more compact version of the Bulldog that could be utilized for lapdog purposes.

In the years that followed, the newly established French Bulldog breed (as they came to be known) became highly fashionable in France and were a favorite of high-society ladies, creative artists, writers, fashion designers, and even Parisian sex workers. Renowned artists known as Edgar Degas and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec included a number of French Bulldogs in their various paintings, suggesting just how popular this breed was during its infancy.

Further efforts towards perfecting the French Bulldog was attempted by Parisian breeders as the decades passed. As a result, breeders began to carefully cross French Bulldogs with terrier breeds to develop straighter ears (a highly-sought trait amongst individuals from this period). This is a practice known as outcrossing, and is common in breed development and is an extremely complicated process that can either destroy or improve a breed. The outcrossing efforts proved largely fruitful, as these changes to the French Bulldog improved physical structure as well as gained attention from abroad, prompting several Americans to import the breed to the United States during the late 1880s.

Despite its popularity amongst socially well-off women and upper-class families (including the Rockefellers and J.P. Morgans), the French Bulldog was not officially recognized by the American Kennel Club until 1906.

Winston, the winner of Westminster Dog Show, 2023

The Breed Today

As of writing this, the French Bulldog is currently classified by the American Kennel Club as the most popular dog in the United States. This comes with both benefits and challenges. A beloved breed is being celebrated by millions of adoring bog fanciers, and has garnered the attention of dubious profit-seeking ne'er-do-wellers. The breed has experienced a sharp increase in production in recent years due to the explosion of it's popularity, and many of the people producing them are not ethical breeders. As a result, many puppies have serious issues, and as they grow these issues only increase. This is one of the reasons why it is so extremely important to exhaustively search for ethical breeders (learn more about that from our previous blog post here).

When produced by ethical breeders and purchased by the families that are best suited to the breed, the French Bulldog can be a wonderful addition and with their winning personalities they can warm your heart for years to come!

You can view all of our Breed Spotlight posts here.


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