The French bulldog, or Frenchie as its affectionately known, is one of the most popular small dog breeds in the world. And for good reason. This pocket-sized bully is perfect for families, apartment dwellers, and just about everyone else in between.
But the Frenchie’s popularity has its dark side as well. These little clowns can carry a host of genetic problems, anxiety issues, and are not well-adapted to very hot or cold environments.
Before you decide to bring a French bulldog into your family, read on to find out more about this breed and to see if they really are the best dog for you.
General Characteristics of the French Bulldog
- Other names: Frenchie
- Height: 11 to 13 inches
- Weight: Under 28 pounds
- Lifespan: Around 11 years
- Origin: France
- Colors: Brindle, tan, white, piebald
- Activity level: Low
- Grooming needs: Low
- Best suited for: Less active families, apartment living
The Frenchie is a quiet and calm breed and the perfect companion for those living in the city.
The History of the French Bulldog
Believe it or not, this teacup-sized bulldog is actually descended from the fierce bull-baiting dogs of ancient Europe. These same dogs gave rise to breeds like the English mastiff. But the Frenchie’s closest relative is the English bulldog.
When bull-baiting was outlawed in England in 1835, many bulldogs found employment as companion animals, particularly those who were smaller and easier to manage in urban settings. These companion bullies were especially popular in Nottingham where their owners intentionally bred them to small terriers to produce lap-sized toy bulldogs that could accompany them anywhere.
When the industrial revolution forced Nottingham’s lace workers out of a job, many of them relocated to Paris and other parts of France. Here, the tiny bullies were crossed with local ratting dogs and the French bulldog, with its compact frame and bat-like ears, was born.
The popularity of these delightful little dogs quickly grew around the world. In 1897 the French Bulldog Club of America was born. It was here that the first breed standard outlined the importance of those all-too-famous bat ears and truly separated the Frenchie from other small bullies popular in England.
Today, the demand for French bulldogs continues to grow and they frequently land in the top 10 of the most popular breeds in America and Europe.
While its ancestors may have been menacing bull baiters, the Frenchie is much more docile, preferring to spend its days splayed out on the couch or entertaining its people with clownish antics.
The Temperament of the French Bulldog
While their ancestors may have been known for the ferocity and aggression, the Frenchie is anything but. These clowns would much prefer to spend the day lounging around or goofing off in the living room to the delight of their human spectators.
Frenchies are a very social breed and tend to get along well with any human they meet. While they are always on guard and are highly observant, they rarely bark. This combination of quiet and couch potato makes them an excellent choice for urban living. Aside from a short daily walk and lots of cuddle time, these dogs are happy to just hang out.
That is, of course, assuming you are there to hang with. A long history of being bred as companion dogs means that some Frenchies struggle with being left alone. They prefer to accompany their humans on errands rather than stay behind. Luckily, that undeniably adorable face often has the power to get them into shops and stores most dogs would be turned away from.
Some anxious bullies might benefit from a sibling to help them feel at ease while you are at work. Since these little pups tend to get along well with most other animals, even a social cat might do the trick.
If you think you might circumvent any possible separation anxiety by taking your Frenchie with you wherever you go, just keep in mind that these dogs were not really built for travel. They do enjoy walks but may prefer to be carried if you’re traveling a great distance. And at 20 plus pounds, they are a touch too heavy for that. They are also brachiocephalic with a very scrunched noise, meaning they do not do well if left even for a few minutes in a hot car and should not be flown in the cargo hold.
If you’re looking for a happy breed with a great disposition and a gentle yet playful nature, you’ve found it in this French pup.
Health Issues Common to the French Bulldog Breed
For all the amazing attributes that Frenchies have going for them — the laid back personality, the perfect cuddly body, the cuteness factor that’s off the charts — they do have one major thing going against them.
Due to decades of poor breeding brought on by their popularity and the inherent issues that plague all compact bulldog breeds, Frenchies are known to have a range of genetic health issues.
In addition to eye, joint, and skin problems found in some lines, all Frenchies struggle with the very real limitations of having such a flat face. French bullies cannot swim and should never be left alone near open water and they can overheat quickly in hot and humid environments or if they overexert themselves. Frenchies also only have a single layer of fur and struggle to regulate their body temperature in hot and cold weather.
Here are some of the more specific health conditions that plague this breed:
- Luxating patella
- Hip problems
- Cherry eye
- Spinal disorders
- Skin conditions
- Ear infections
- Autoimmune problems
One very troubling health issue that seems to be becoming more common in Frenchies is spinal disease. There are multiple issues that can affect this area, but the most common is intervertebral disc disease. This problem has become so widespread, that some breed clubs have started moving away from the characteristic corkscrew Frenchie tail in favor of a straighter, longer tail nub to reduce the risk of spinal disease.
Watch this video to learn more about this fantastic French bully breed.
Like other compact bully breeds, Frenchies typically cannot give birth naturally and require c-sections. In fact, their hips are so narrow that most of these petite bullies can’t even make puppies the traditional way and instead require artificial insemination to breed new litters.
More so than many other breeds, it is important to do your homework when purchasing a French bully. Due to their popularity and the high price of puppies, this breed of dogs is often targeted by puppy mills. Never buy a Frenchie from a pet store or online. You should always visit the breeder in person, meet the parents, and view the line’s health records before committing to that breeder.
Their popularity also means there are homeless Frenchies floating around the rescue networks in need of good homes. Before looking for breeders, try contacting your local Frenchie rescue to see if there is a life in need of saving in your area.
The Frenchie’s iconic corkscrew tail may look adorable, but it comes with a host of spinal problems. So much so, in fact, that many breeders are moving away from the short twisted tail (as seen above in the dogs on the right) in favor of a slightly longer, straighter tail (like that of the dog on the left).
Do French Bulldogs Do Well With Children and Other Pets?
It should come as no surprise that these highly sociable little clowns do well with children, pets, strangers, and other dogs.
Younger pups can be rowdy and overly playful with other animals and very young children and need to be taught boundaries early on. Because this is such a social breed, they may do better in households with other dogs. Their compact size makes them perfect playmates for smaller breeds, but they can hold their own with larger dogs as well.
Always be sure to introduce your new Frenchie to other pets and children slowly and monitor all interactions closely. While there are unlikely to be any issues, all dogs are individuals and you can never guarantee how any animal is going to react to a particular situation.
What to Consider Before Bringing Home a French Bulldog
Think a Frenchie is the right dog for you or your family? Here are a few more things to consider before sealing the deal.
French bullies are a social breed that love to play with other dogs. Because they are tiny but sturdy, they do well with playmates who are smaller and larger than themselves.
Frenchie puppies can be rambunctious players and need a lot of one-on-one attention. But this breed mellows out quickly and most adults will prefer laying on the window seat and watching the world go by or cuddling up for a midday nap. Still, expect to walk your Frenchie every day to keep them fit and keep any excess anxiety at bay.
While these dogs have been known to compete in agility and other high-octane sports, they are not built to run or hike long distances and cannot swim. They also enjoy spending a lot of time with their human. If you have a fairly active lifestyle or spend a lot of time away from the house, this may not be the breed for you.
While these dogs like to make their people happy, they can also be stubborn in some situations. Their class-clown personality and need to greet everyone they see can also get in the way of obedience training.
It’s a good idea to enroll your Frenchie pup in an obedience class at a young age to get them used to listening around other dogs and distractions. Finding the right treats to motivate your dog to pay attention to you will also help a lot. French bulldogs may not be renowned for their intelligence, but they aren’t dumb either.
Frenchies have a single-layered coat that sheds year-round that requires weekly brushing. Most importantly, the folds of the Frenchies’ face and body need to be kept clean and dry to avoid yeast build up and other skin problems. Lighter colored bullies can get tear and fold staining and may benefit from a supplement that fights bacterial growth and promotes eye health.
Frequent ear cleaning and toenail trims are also a must.
This playful breed has a temperament that makes them perfect for even novice dog owners, but these dogs can come with a number of health issues, aren’t keen on extreme activity or weather, and can suffer from separation anxiety.
Like many bulldog breeds, the Frenchie is prone to weight gain and their diet needs to be monitored closely to avoid putting extra strain on their joints. They can also suffer from food allergies and other skin issues that may benefit from a special diet.
Look for diets with quality, healthy fats, plenty of protein and lower calorie densities. Most adults will do well with two meals a day. You may also need to invest in a special “bulldog bowl” that is angled to allow the flat-faced Frenchie to scoop up kibble.
You can expect a purebred Frenchie pup to cost a couple thousand dollars on average, with show lines costing as much as $10,000. This inflated pricing has as much to do with how sought after these adorable dogs are as how difficult and costly it is to breed them.
If you invest the money upfront to secure a dog from a relatively healthy line, you can expect to save money on medical bills over the course of the dog’s life. Surgery to repair disk disease can cost close to $6,000 and even minor ailments like skin infections can add up over time. Beyond vet bills, Frenchies are relatively low maintenance but will still require some investment.
>>>Find out more about the annual cost of dog ownership.
10 Fun Facts About the French Bulldog
Now that you know everything about owning a French bulldog, here are some lesser-known facts about the breed.
- The early English breed standard for the Frenchie outlined traditional raised ears as the look of choice, but the American Bulldog Club pushed back, making the bat-eared Frenchie what it is today.
- Although popular, the “blue” Frenchie is actually a disqualifying color in the show ring and linked to a higher incidence of alopecia.
- Frenchies are sometimes called Frog Dogs because of the way they lay with their hind legs sticking straight back behind them.
Because French bullies have such narrow pelvises, most require artificial insemination and c-sections in order to have a litter.
- Frenchies make good watchdogs because of their observant nature.
- Frenchies are notoriously hard to house train.
- While they don’t bark often, French bullies do make a lot of other comical noises, especially when they are playing or want attention.
- Most airlines have rules against flying Frenchies in the cargo hold because their flat noises can’t handle the high temperatures.
- A French bulldog purchased for the equivalent of $17,000 was aboard the Titanic when it sunk.
- While these dogs are typically considered a small breed, their lifespans are shorter than most little dogs and closer to that of other bulldog breeds.
- Frenchies are known for their sensitive nature and don’t take well to punishment.
Before You Go
Not sure if the Frenchie is the right pooch for your lifestyle? Check out these other Ultimate Breed Guides:
Sara Seitz has spent most of her life in the pet industry and has a bachelors in animal behavior from Colorado State University. Sara started working with dogs and cats as a high schooler at a rural boarding kennel. There she learned a lot about the bad and the ugly of the pet service industry. But not even the toughest day at that job would dissuade Sara from following her dream of working with animals.
In college, Sara got a job at a dog daycare and boarding facility in Fort Collins, Colorado. Her new career provided even more opportunities for learning about dog behavior than her classes did. As general manager of the daycare, Sara helped the company launch a new in-home pet sitting branch and trained to become a certified dog trainer. Between shifts taking care of peoples pets in-home and supervising dogs during playtime at the daycare, Sara organized and taught obedience classes.
Sara has always been passionate about bettering the lives of our canine companions. She soon found that advocating for and educating owners in the power of positive reinforcement training was one of the best ways to help dogs and their owners live happier lives.