In the latter part of the 19th century, the lacemakers of Nottingham, England, began selectively breeding a smaller Bulldog as a lap pet. Displaced by the Industrial Revolution, many of the lacemakers crossed the English channel, taking their small bulldogs with them to France. Some of these toy or miniature bulldogs made their way to Paris, where well-to-do Americans on the Grand Tour of Europe saw them and began bringing them to the US. In 1897, the French Bull Dog Club of America was formed, the first club in the world dedicated exclusively to the welfare of this wonderful breed.
The AKC Breed Standard describes “an active, intelligent, muscular dog of heavy bone, smooth coat, compactly built, and of medium or small structure. Expression alert, curious and interested.” For a full description of the various features of the breed, the club website in All About Frenchies/Understanding Frenchies/Our Breed Standard has the AKC standard and a download of a slide show titled Judging the French Bulldog.
HEALTH CARE AND CONCERNS:
Find a good veterinarian, preferably one who has other short-faced patients, and provide your Frenchie with regular checkups, routine vaccinations, tests for intestinal parasites, heartworm prevention, and flea and tick control. Your vet should do regular dental checkups and care, and you should clean your dog’s teeth regularly at home as well.
As a short-faced (brachycephalic) and dwarf (chondrodystrophic) breed, French Bulldogs have some health concerns that you should be aware of. The short face makes their breathing less efficient than that of long-nosed breeds, so Frenchies have less tolerance of heat, exercise, and stress… all of which increase their need to breathe. Keep your Frenchie cool in warm weather, and avoid strenuous exercise. If your dog seems to overheat or become stressed too easily, with noisy breathing and sometimes spitting up foam, consult the vet and have its airway evaluated for pinched nostrils or an elongated soft palate. Anesthesia is also more risky in short-faced breeds, so be sure your veterinarian is experienced with such breeds should your Frenchie need to be anesthetized for any reason.
The spine also merits special attention. Like other dwarf breeds, the stocky Frenchie frequently has abnormal vertebrae and also premature degeneration of the intervertebral discs. While the spine is supported by good musculature, herniation of degenerated discs can cause major problems, and most symptomatic back problems are due to disc disease rather than to abnormal vertebrae. Lifelong exercise precautions are warranted, such as limited use of stairs and jumping.
French Bulldogs don’t require a lot of grooming or exercise (though they need some daily exercise to stay in shape), and generally do well in small loving quarters. They are not noisy and most of them are very fond of people, though there are individual differences in how well they get along with other animals. They should never be allowed to run free, and should only be allowed outdoors in a fenced yard or on a leash.
While a few can swim, most cannot, and must never be left unattended around water. In warm climates, air conditioning in the home and car are a must! Indestructible dog toys are best, as those powerful Frenchie jaws can destroy less durable ones; and rawhide type chews should not be used because when they soften they can become lodged in a Frenchie’s throat.
Occasional brushing keeps the coat shiny, and regular nail trimming is a must since Frenchies don’t usually wear their nails down by running. Regular cleaning of the ears and of the deep facial folds will prevent these sensitive areas from becoming irritated, and regular checking of the anal sacs will prevent problems with these. Your vet can advise you on how to care for the ears, skin folds, and anal sacs as well as on feeding your puppy. Whatever high quality dog food you choose, do NOT supplement it with table scraps.
A crate trained puppy is easier to housebreak. A dog regards its crate as its den, a safe haven and home. If you travel, the dog is safest in his crate in your vehicle and also when you stay in hotels or visit other people. If he should be ill or injured and need to be kept quiet, this is much easier if he is happy in a crate. In warm areas, cooling pads and fresh water should be placed in the crate too.
You should take your Frenchie to training classes as soon as he is old enough and has all of his immunizations, usually at about 3 months of age. This will get him accustomed to being around other dogs and people, will teach you how to communicate your wishes to him, and will teach him such basics as walking well on a lead, sitting, staying, and coming on command. Although cute and cuddly-looking, a French Bulldog has a big personality and needs an adequate amount of training to make it a civilized companion. French Bulldogs are not generally considered a performance breed, and will have special concerns (overheating and overexertion) if you are thinking of activities such as agility and field work. However, many do perform successfully in obedience, rally, agility, conformation and junior handling and are excellent at working in Pet Therapy programs.