The History of French Bulldogs
The “bouldogge Francais,” as he is known in his adopted home country of France, actually originated in England, in the city of Nottingham. Small bulldogs were popular pets with the local laceworkers, keeping them company and ridding their workrooms of rats. After the industrial revolution, lacemaking became mechanized and many of the laceworkers lost their jobs. Some of them moved to France, where their skills were in demand, and of course they took their beloved dogs with them. The dogs were equally popular with French shopkeepers and eventually took on the name of their new country. Enter the French Bulldog.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the dogs became popular with members of the Paris bohemian class: ladies of the night, artists, writers such as the novelist Colette, and wealthy Americans doing the Grand Tour. Impressionist artist Toulouse Lautrec even put a Frenchie in one of his paintings, “Le Marchand des Marrons.”
The Frenchie has gained rapidly in popularity in the past decade. Today, the breed ranks 21st among the breeds registered by the American Kennel Club, up from 71st in 2000, a testament to his qualities as a companion.
French Bulldog Overview
With a tough-on-the-outside, sweet-on-the-inside demeanor, unmistakable bat-shaped ears and distinctive bow-legged gait, the French Bulldog has gained so much popularity that he’s fast becoming the city-dwellers’ dog of choice. He’s small – under 28 pounds – and has a short, easy-care coat that comes in a variety of colors. He doesn’t need a great deal of exercise, fits comfortably into a condo, co-op or apartment, and is far less likely to bark than many small dogs. In fact, other than being a little pugnacious with other dogs, it would be hard to imagine a better dog for city living.
The French Bulldog should be on the short list of breeds for anyone who lives without a vast tract of suburban backyard. He’s also a good choice for those who might have trouble giving a more active breed ample exercise.
The Frenchie will make you laugh. He’s a charming, clever dog with a sense of humor and a stubborn streak. Bred for centuries as a companion, he’s very fond of people, and becomes particularly attached to his family. In fact, sometimes he becomes a little too attached, which means he’s not the best choice for someone who’ll be away long hours every day. They are a good candidate for Daycare! K9s Only doggy daycare is so full of Frenchies, that we call Friday’s Frenchie Friday! It also means he absolutely, positively cannot live in the backyard or garage, but only indoors as a member of the family. That’s doubly true given that he, like all brachycephalic, or “flat-faced” breeds, has difficulty regulating his body temperature and needs to live in a climate-controlled environment.
The Frenchie can also be a little hard to housetrain and may not be safe with a slow-footed family cat. He also snores, which might seem like a minor problem until you’ve actually heard the dramatic sounds that can emanate from his small body.
For exercise, Frenchies jump on and off the furniture and do the “Frenchie 500” circuit through the house. A short daily walk of 15 to 20 minutes will help to keep them in shape. Schedule walks and outdoor playtime for cool mornings and evenings. Frenchies are sensitive to heat and can quickly succumb to heatstroke. This is not the breed for you if you enjoy hiking or jogging with a dog.
Breeders like to send French Bulldog puppies to their new homes when they are nine or 10 weeks old. Frenchie puppies can become unpleasant little tyrants if they don’t get to spend the optimal amount of time with their mother and littermates, learning the rules of behavior toward people and other dogs.
For the most part, the French Bulldog does best in a family where someone is home most of the day. He’s not always good with small children or cats, and he can be aggressive toward dogs he doesn’t know. When a Frenchie is the right match for you, though, you’ll find it’s impossible to have just one.
Health of the French Bulldog
The French Bulldog is prone to certain health problems. Here’s a brief rundown on what you should know.
These small, flat-faced dogs are prone to a couple of conditions. One is called brachycephalic airway syndrome. Dogs whose facial bones and tissues are compressed can have obstructed breathing because they may have an elongated soft palate, laryngeal collapse, narrowed nasal cavities or related problems. Dogs with these problems are said to have brachycephalic airway syndrome. Even if you can’t see their structural defects, you can tell they exist by listening to the dog’s labored breathing after minimal exercise. Dogs with brachycephalic syndrome cannot tolerate excessive heat or exercise. In some cases, surgery may be needed to improve airflow and breathing.
In addition, Frenchies can suffer from spinal malformations and a spinal condition called intervertebral disc disease. Reproductive problems are the norm, not the exception. They may also develop eye problems, such as cataracts, and intestinal malabsorption disorders.
Not all of these conditions are detectable in a growing puppy, and it is impossible to predict whether an animal will be free of these maladies, which is why you must find a reputable breeder who is committed to breeding the healthiest animals possible. They should be able to produce independent certification that the parents of the dog (and grandparents, etc.) have been screened for common defects and deemed healthy for breeding. That’s where health registries come in.
French Bulldogs are sensitive to heat. Never leave one outdoors on a hot day or in a home without air conditioning.
Remember that after you’ve taken a new puppy into your home, you have the power to protect him from one of the most common health problems: obesity. Keeping a French Bulldog at an appropriate weight is one of the easiest ways to extend his life. Make the most of your preventive abilities to help ensure a healthier dog for life.
Other Quick Facts
- French Bulldogs are restful and have minimal exercise needs, so they are a good choice for couch potatoes.
- The French Bulldog should not weigh more than 28 pounds, making him easily portable.
- French Bulldogs can be stubborn when it comes to housetraining. Be patient, be consistent, and consider the use of paper training or puppy pee pads to get around the problem (although it’s always best to get the pup outdoors).
- Frenchies snort, snore and grunt, and they are known for making other odd noises.
- Frenchies are not good swimmers and should not have access to pools, spas or other bodies of water.