French Bulldog Temperament: Ideal companion dog overshadowed by controversy
The French Bulldog, or "Frenchie" as they're lovingly called, is a famous dog breed that has been increasing in popularity in recent years. Their compact size and loving temperament contributed to their shot to fame, especially in urban areas. So if you're thinking about adding one to your family, this blog post can help you decide if the Frenchie is the right dog for you.
French Bulldogs are fun-loving and affectionate dogs who make great family pets. They're known for their loyalty, companionship, and sweet demeanour, but it's essential to understand their temperament and the controversy before bringing one home.
French Bulldogs can be wonderful pets, but there are some things to consider before deciding.
They are unique dogs with a lot of personalities but come with some severe health issues. #EndTheTrend and #SaveOurBreath are only two campaigns calling for a ban or an overhaul of breeding standards for this dog.
Are you ready for all that comes with owning a French Bulldog? Then, let's dive right in.
French Bulldog History
Surprisingly the ancestors of the French Bulldog weren't French, and they weren't small and cute either. The French Bulldog is actually of British descent.
The ancestor of the French Bulldog is the Old English Bulldog, a dog bred for bullbaiting. These dogs had to be robust, agile and basically able to take down a bull. They used to look more like a Staffordshire Bullterrier than the English Bulldogs we know today.
Bullbaiting was banned in 1835 in England and made space for Dog shows that relied more on looks than abilities. During that time, the more fashionable Bulldog had a short muzzle, squished face and lower jaws. They probably went through the most dramatic physical change as they were bred for more exaggerated features and smaller sizes.
But even back then, breeders realised the health issues that the Bulldogs displayed due to these selective breeding practices. Can you imagine? Already 100 years ago, health issues were called out in brachycephalic breeds.
A dwarf Bulldog was first bred in Nottingham and became especially popular with the artisans in the lace-making industry. However, during the industrial revolution, when machinery became more prominent for lace making, the traders had to move to France and bring their toy-sized English Bulldogs.
France is the country where the French Bulldog was bred to look more like they look today. It is believed they were crossed with more miniature Terriers and Pugs to retain their small size or to become even smaller. The Terriers were responsible for giving these little dogs their terrier liveliness.
The new Frenchies quickly became the favourite accessory of women working in the oldest profession in the world, also called Les Belles de Nuit – streetwalkers.
Some had erect "bat ears' while others had "rose" ears. Wealthy Americans in France fell in love with these charming little dogs and began bringing them back to the USA. Naturally, the Americans preferred dogs with erect ears, undisputed by French and British breeders, who chose the rose-eared specimens. So the Americans quickly set up the AKC registered breed that only allowed Bat ears.
What made this little dog explode to such popularity?
It's known as baby syndrome. Big eyes, squishy face and tiny frame, are just so cute and the perfect accessory for a night out in town.
However, by 1940 the French Bulldog was considered a rare breed, threatened by recession and World Wars and their inability to give birth naturally. It would be years until the C-section was advanced to let little puppies see the light of the world.
Over the last decade, UK registrations for French Bulldogs have risen by 1,682 %. It is a meteoric rise in popularity. In 2021, the Frenchie was the second most popular dog breed in the UK, right after the Labrador Retriever.
So it's common to see them in the hands of celebrities on Instagram and in adverts.
This worries people who would like to see the breed thrive with reduced health issues and an updated breed standard to improve the dog's breathing.
Unfortunately, 90% of Frenchies today have restricted breathing due to unscrupulous breeders, puppy farms and years of breeding for exaggerated features.
The below numbers show that the Covid pandemic also contributed to the rise of the French Bulldog. Q3 2022 showed a slowing in new Frenchie registrations compared with the pandemic year 2021. In 2022, 42,538 French Bulldogs were registered, much less than in 2021 and a 20% decrease.
Source: UK Kennel Club https://www.thekennelclub.org.uk/media/2407/quarterly-breed-stats-utility.pdf updated March 2023
The UK Kennel Club recognises a few breed standard colours.
Brindle, Light Brindle, Dark Brindle
Brindle & White
Fawn & White
Fawn with Black Mask
Now that we have a rough idea about their breeding history let's dive into how your life with a Frenchie might look.
What is the Temperament of the French Bulldog?
Frenchies have a loving and family-orientated temperament. Those little dogs love life!
They're known to be extremely loyal and loving toward their owners, making them an excellent choice for families of all sizes. They're affectionate and will quickly form an emotional bond with all family members.
A French Bulldog will stick by its owner's side no matter what and provide unconditional love and loyalty.
French Bulldogs are little Velcro dogs. They don't like being alone and can develop separation anxiety if left without training or introduction periods. If you're unable to be around most of the time, this dog breed is not the best choice.
Today Frenchie is mellow and kind-hearted. They're not the best choice when looking for a guard- or watchdog. Their loving little hearts will make them welcome strangers into the home without ringing alarm bells.
They're highly adaptable and can live in an apartment or small house with or without a garden. Hence, their popularity, especially for the city-dwelling population. Usually, they don't tend to bark too much and will be tolerated by your neighbours if you live in an apartment. Frenchies can be vocal, however, and let their disdain show with a loud sigh.
Frenchies are of average intelligence and can pick up many commands quickly. They do come with a stubborn streak, though. Luckily, they are of biddable temperament as well and like to please their owner. When training, rely on the positive re-enforcement training method; you should be fine in most cases.
Many owners praise the clownish side of these little dogs. They seem to have little quirks that make these dogs very adorable with unique personalities.
Frenchies are fantastic with children. They like the attention and will happily engage with them. However, it is recommended to constantly teach your child how to approach any dog. Although the Frenchie is a happy dog, they won't suffer fools gladly if lines are crossed. However, this is the case with most dog breeds.
Their small size makes them a dog easy to handle by children or the elderly with minimal pulling strength. Due to the Frenchie being a brachycephalic breed, always use a harness.
The biggest downfall of the Frenchie is the health issues that come with the breed. They do not cope well in hot weather and can be constantly uncomfortable when it's warm.
The Frenchie is a brachycephalic breed with a squashed and shortened muzzle like a Pug or English Bulldog. These dogs have obstructed breathing due to the shape of their skull, with poor breeding practices worsening the trait. Therefore, many vets and animal welfare organisations are calling for a ban on certain brachycephalic breeds.
Due to exaggerated breeding features, the Frenchie comes with various health issues, which we will list further below.
Cambridge University has further studied health issues in brachycephalic dog breeds. They have researched BOAS, which stands for brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome, in over 214 French Bulldogs, 201 English Bulldogs and 189 Pugs.
The poor standard of these breeds became visible. For example, 93% of Pugs, 90% of Frenchies and 85% of English Bulldogs are affected by breathing problems. In addition, 45% of all Frenchies had severe stenosis, which means their nostrils were almost completely closed.
If you want a healthy and robust dog and can't afford vet bills, then the Frenchie shouldn't be considered by you.
If you're looking for a jogging companion or a hiking partner in crime, this dog is also not the right choice. They are at risk of overheating quite quickly, and their stamina is more for shorter walks.
Costs are another consideration when it comes to owning one of these dogs. Despite their small size, medical bills can be high due to the many health issues that can come with the breed. If you can't afford this dog, don't get one.
The French Bulldog is undoubtedly an expensive love affair, but their kind-hearted, people-oriented and companionable temperament can make it worthwhile.
Let's now look at some common French Bulldog questions.
Is breeding French Bulldogs cruel?
Each person needs to decide for themselves with the right amount of research. Campaigns openly call for a ban on advertising French Bulldogs, which we, as a company, support.
The famous Instagram dog is raising prices and fuelling criminal activities like thefts, puppy farms and smuggler rings. Buying a puppy without KC registration is cruel and will backfire at some point in their life.
Kennel Clubs are responsible for improving the breed's overall health and potentially introducing some Corgi blood to lengthen the shortened muzzle. Frenchies are such excitable and life-loving dogs that they require free breathing to be happy.
Restricted breathing also leads your dog to gain weight as they can't move as much as they'd like to, or you have to restrict their movement. Increased weight is linked directly to the breathing problem as excess fat squishes windpipes, the neck and the already small head.
What can I do as a future Frenchie owner to support the breed's overall health?
Education. Over half of French Bulldog owners are unaware that their Frenchie has a breathing problem. The first person who can buy responsibly is the future owner of the pup. Never buy a Frenchie from a non-KC registered breeder.
Adapt Breed Standards: Many campaigns call for the nose to be bred back into the breed and aim for a longer muzzle to improve breathing. In addition, fitness tests should be included when judging Frenchies, English Bulldogs and Pugs.
Health schemes: Evidence-based BOAS research from Cambridge University helps to have standards for the breed, and all Breeders have to test for it and grade the sire and dame.
Breeder Controls: More stringent controls and regular inspections of breeders. Breeders should breed responsibly and away from genetic deformities and exaggerated features.
Which French Bulldogs are the most expensive?
Usually, the standard breed coloured Frenchies portray the best health. But new colours of Frenchies are getting introduced, and some are truly spectacular. But, unfortunately, they come with a fair share of health issues and can lead to a pup suffering.
Below is a list of the five most expensive colours of French Bulldogs.
It can be anywhere from dark chocolate to light chocolate. It requires a chocolate/brown allele, and because it is a recessive gene, it needs to be inherited from both parents. The eye colour in this Frenchie can be anywhere from yellow, green and golden-brown.
A light blue coat with a blue-grey mask. A rare colour, the Frenchie harbours two recessive dilution genes, which must be inherited from the sire and dame. The dilution gene "dilutes" the concentration of the black pigment, which makes the black look more like grey.
Looks like a fawn Frenchie with denser black hair across their coat. They don't have patches or markings, and the black hair is evenly spread.
The Merle-coloured Frenchie requires a dominant merle gene, so it's only needed from one parent. Crossing two Merle-coloured Frenchies can cause health issues and not necessarily result in a merle puppy.
The most expensive colour. Isabella Frenchies are liver-coloured with a grey-blue hue that might look like dusty pale brown. They often have a pinkish mask and pale blue to grey eyes.
Do French Bulldogs give birth naturally?
No, most French Bulldog puppies are born through C-section. The puppy's head is too large for the small hips of the birthing bitch. A female births, on average, 2-3 puppies.
If humans stopped breeding French Bulldogs, they would go extinct within 1 generation. They also can't mate naturally; most pregnancies are done via artificial insemination.
Why is this a problem? The soaring demand and social media hype around French Bulldogs lead to improper breeding practices. As a result, many puppies are farmed in low welfare conditions, often outside the UK, with no breeding standards.
French Bulldog Temperament in a nutshell
People-orientated, loyal and loving temperament towards their family
Curious and will make you laugh
Standard positive reinforcement training is enough to train the biddable French Bulldog.
No guard-or watchdog as their little hearts love and trust everybody
Victim of puppy farms and most targeted breed in connection with a theft
Can develop severe health issues
Health issues in the French Bulldog breed
When owning a French Bulldog, it is necessary to budget for possible vet bills and the time required to care for your dog if they develop a particular condition. As a new owner, you should be prepared to pay medical expenses associated with the breed. It is always recommended to opt for comprehensive insurance, especially if brachycephalic dog breeds.
As with any breed, a dog can have inherited conditions or conditions due to environmental factors.
Not all Frenchies will experience the below non-hereditary diseases. However, it's essential to be aware of them to spot problems early on so you can follow up with immediate treatment.
The below list does not replace a vet visit. In general, always look for a vet if your dog displays any symptoms; internet research never replaces a vet visit.
The below health conditions are closely linked to the French Bulldog breed or are mentioned in health surveys among Kennel Clubs:
BOAS brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome: Inability to breathe due to narrowed nostrils, a long or thick soft palate inside the mouth, abnormal nasal bones and a narrowed windpipe.
Ear infections: Due to the flat and compressed skull, Frenchies are more prone to ear infections due to narrower ear canals
Skin Fold dermatitis: French Bulldogs have a lot of skin on their face which can get infected
Conjunctivitis: Redness in the eye
Pyoderma: Infected skin
Patellar luxation: Orthopaedic issue than can become apparent in smaller dog breeds. It's a condition when the kneecap moves out of its normal position. If your Frenchie starts limping or holding its leg up while walking, get it checked out by a vet.
Hemivertebrae: Deformed vertebrae in the spine that can become painful
Reverse Sneezing: French Bulldogs have soft palates, which can irritate the airway and cause spasms
Hip dysplasia: an inherited skeletal condition that can be exacerbated by rapid growth and obesity.
Cherry Eye: Infections of the eye due to irritating eyelids
Dental problems: Due to teeth being crowded in a small skull, Frenchies are more prone to dental problems
Always go to an experienced and specialised breeder for a French Bulldog. Most hereditary diseases are inherited in a recessive manner. It means the puppy must inherit both parents' genes to become affected. The puppy becomes a carrier if only one parent has the mutation. Hence, choosing a reputable breeder who has done genetic testing on their French Bulldog litters is critical.
KC registered breeders also conduct the BOAS test, which is vital to ensure your puppy can breathe normally and live a trouble-free life. So only buy a French Bulldog with KC registration.
Owners' voices about their Frenchie
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Conclusion: Is the French Bulldog a wonderful dog to own?
Research is crucial if you still insist on getting a French Bulldog. Don't be part of the cycle of poorly bred French Bulldogs, and only buy from a KC-registered breeder.
The Frenchie has a life-loving and excitable temperament. They shouldn't live a life where they can't unlock their full potential as the world's best companion and lab dog. So the first step to deciding whether the French Bulldog is right for you is patience to wait for the right and healthy pup.
Once you have done everything right when buying your pup, it will be your best friend forever. Their loving little hearts will embrace you as their new mum or dad. Frenchies are excitable, love to join you on errands, and will likely win the hearts of everybody they cross paths with.
Frenchies love children and will enjoy the excitement that a child can give them. But, on the other hand, they have no issue joining you on the couch for snuggles. Due to their size, they're perfect companion dogs for any age and house size.
Be mindful that the Frenchie is not a climber, runner or the right dog to trek within the Scottish Highlands.
When you get a dog, it is not just for today. You are signing up to be a caregiver for the next 10-14 years. That's a big decision! Research carefully to make sure you're ready for the commitment.
French Bulldog Summary Breed Info box
Tendency to drool
Tendency to bark
Tendency to dig