If your idea of the perfect pet is a pint-sized comedian with a special gift for napping, meet the French bulldog. These charming pups love to play just as much as they love to snuggle up on their owner’s lap to take a snooze. They won’t get taller than 13 inches at the shoulder, making them a great option for city dwellers. It doesn’t take much space to keep a Frenchie happy. This breed has an easygoing personality and they make wonderful companions for families, children, or seniors. They’re easy to groom and easy to please, and they thrive on human contact.
While they may not have the same handsome elegance of a golden retriever, the French bulldog is undeniably charming. They have a small, compact body that’s well proportioned and fairly muscular, with the exception of the wrinkled skin around their face and shoulders. Frenchies most often come in colors like cream, fawn, and white, but they can also have brindle patterns or black masks. They have trademark dark brown eyes and an adorable “squished up” face. Their smooth, shiny coats only require occasional brushing to stay clean, and they shed a moderate amount. A healthy full-grown French bulldog tops out at around 28 pounds, making them the miniature version of a classic bulldog (which can get up to 50 pounds). According to the AKC, “two distinctive features of the French bulldog are its bat ears and half-flat, half-domed skull.”
French bulldogs are often described as "chilled out," but they also love to play. They do well with companion pets, so long as they have been socialized properly. Training comes easy to this breed when there's food involved. As free thinkers and fun lovers, they'll be more eager to learn if training feels like a game.
Frenchies do have a bit of a mischievous side, so they’ll need an owner who can laugh along with them while also sticking firm to their training plan. Becky Smith, president of the French Bull Dog Club of America (FBDCA) notes that people with “patience, a kind disposition, gentle hands, and a loving spirit are the ideal owner for this darling breed,” who thrive on human interaction. Frenchies just want to give love (and get lots of belly rubs in return!)
While Frenchies do enjoy playing, they’re just as happy to sit at your feet while you work or curl up on your lap to snooze. “[If you are] the owner of a Frenchie—or shall I say if you are owned by a Frenchie—don't expect an outdoor dog that can go jogging and then go to the beach on a hot sunny day,” Smith says. “They do not do well in extreme heat because of their flat face. … They are not great swimmers due to their body weight versus length of leg.”
The AKC says the French bulldog’s “front-heavy structure” is to blame for their inability to swim, and suggests never leaving one unattended near water. French bulldogs are also more prone to heat exhaustion, so a 15-minute walk or play session in the cooler evenings will give them plenty of physical activity. They’re wonderful apartment dogs, because they don’t need a large yard or a lot of space to be happy.
Weekly brushing should ensure that any Frenchie’s coat stays handsome and healthy. They’ll require a bath about once a month, giving extra attention to their hallmark wrinkles to make sure they don’t get infected. Owners also need to regularly check their bulldog’s skin for lesions or scabs and see a vet right away should anything seem out of the ordinary.
Like many breeds, a French bulldog needs to learn how to socialize from a young age. They can be very protective and possessive of their humans. So long as they are socialized as puppies, Frenchies get along great with new faces and other dogs or cats.
If a little drool on the furniture bothers you, a Frenchie might not be the breed for you. They can also be difficult to potty train. They are intelligent, yet free spirited, so they may dig in their heels when it comes to appeasing commands. Training a Frenchie will take a little patience and a lot of treats, but they respond well to positive reinforcement and praise for good behavior. Just stick with it and your little guy will come around.
French bulldogs have a life span of 10 to 12 years, but owners should be aware of some common health risks that the breed is known for. “The vast majority [of Frenchies] suffer from a disease called Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Disease,” Kishen Parekh, DVM, of Northampton, United Kingdom, says. “This disease is caused by the excess growth of the soft palate obstructing the natural airflow, hence why these animals can be seen open-mouth breathing.” Because of this condition, French bulldogs have a higher tendency to snort and snuffle. Frequent panting, difficulty eating, coughing, or snoring can all be warning signs of something more serious.
“Another contributing factor is stenotic nares, [which means that the] nostrils are narrowed or completely closed,” Parekh says. “This causes these breeds to snore when asleep, [and] it also may appear that they are struggling to breathe. Upon exercising, they can develop hyperthermia [heat stroke] due to the inability to breathe adequately.” Owners must be diligent in keeping their Frenchie hydrated and limiting time in the heat. French bulldogs can also be prone to eye conditions, like cherry eye, or skin allergies passed down from their parents. A responsible breeder will test for these conditions.
Contrary to their name, the French bulldog’s story doesn’t begin in France—it originates in England. In Nottingham, lace makers kept toy-size bulldogs to chase away rats in their small working quarters. During the height of the Industrial Revolution in the 1800s, lace workers were replaced by machines, so many were forced to relocate to France, where lace was still made by hand. The French fell in love with the smaller bulldog that came along with the workers, and after decades of crossbreeding, the breed developed their iconic bat ears and the French bulldog was born. Parisians took a great liking to the breed, and soon every artist, actor, and celebrity in the city wanted one. Americans visiting overseas loved the miniature version of the bulldog, and it wasn’t long before Frenchies took off in the U.S. as well.
In the early days of the breed, there were two types of ears on Frenchies: the bat style popular with Americans and the rose ear commonly seen on their kin the bulldog. This ear difference was the source of great controversy amongst breed aficionados. Americans insisted that true Frenchies had to have the bat ears we know the breed for today; British and French breed lovers disagreed. Things came to a head at the 1897 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in February when rose ear Frenchies were given top scores by non-American judges. A group of prominent French bulldog fans founded the French Bulldog Club of America in April 1897 to establish and document the breed standard and demanded the bat ear become the breed standard. They eventually won.
- French bulldogs can’t swim … and they can’t fly, either. Being in the flat-nosed family, flying on a plane can be life threatening and many airlines have banned all brachycephalic breeds. There are still ways to travel with a Frenchie; owners just need to take some extra precautions before hopping on a flight.
- Many celebrities love French bulldogs including John Legend, Madonna, and Lady Gaga. Carrie Fisher’s Frenchie Gary became a mini celebrity himself, showing up everywhere the actress went, even the red carpet.
- French bulldogs love to talk, and they definitely aren’t afraid to speak their minds. Walter Geoffrey the Frenchie has thousands of subscribers on YouTube for his temper tantrums.