What is it about French bulldogs that reel us in like free ice cream on a hot day? Frenchies are brimming with confidence, playfulness and bold curiosity, all packed into a tight, low slung body. You know they are adorable, but do you know they did not originate in France?
1. French bulldogs aren’t really from France (gasp!) It’s true. In the mid 1800’s, the lace makers and other artisans around Nottingham, England began to breed a smaller bulldog by crossing the English bulldog with smaller terriers and pugs that turned out to be ideal companions for sitting in their laps while working. The onset of the Industrial Revolution meant this work was less in demand in England, so these artisans took them to France to seek more lucrative employment. The breed was dubbed the Bouledogues Français and exploded in popularity there.
2. Their popularity suffered after World War I until they were nearly extinct. The Great Depression was tough on purebred dogs in general and Frenchies in particular. The breed dwindled to just a handful registered dogs by 1940 and it was another forty years before they recovered fully. After World War I the decline of the breed was swift, partly due to the rise of a hardier breed less susceptible to heat (air conditioning was not the norm) and that had similar looks and charm: the Boston terrier. By 1940 French bulldogs were considered a rare breed and only 100 were registered with the AKC. By the 1980’s new breeders came to the fore, energizing the show world and registrations rose exponentially. Check out their more detailed history here.
3. French bulldogs make awesome training students
Not many kids greet their school teachers with over-the-top joy on a Monday morning, but such is the happy attitude displayed by 99% of the dogs represented in the breed. Young Bowser was not my first French bulldog trainee, but he is still my favorite. When I first entered the courtyard of Bowser’s domain and saw him snorting behind the glass door, it was love at first sight. He greeted me by crashing into my legs and jumping up on short, muscle-bound legs that made him look like a tiny body builder, his face split into a huge smile. I knew I should be playing it cool and discouraging the jumping, but instead I crouched down and embraced the joy that was Bowser. My reward was a wet face and a little pee on my shoes (his, not mine) but I had a grin to match. All the French bulldogs I have worked with, including Bowser, are ready to rock and roll with any concept you want to introduce. Their intelligence makes them good students, but vary the routine and your exercises and keep sessions short. Excessive repetition bores them.
4. Heat stroke can hit Frenchies in minutes and be fatal. Overheating is a very serious problem with these dogs since they love to be active and can really fly on those four inch legs, so pet parents have to shut down the exertion before it gets to a critical level, especially when humidity is high. Take a look at that very flat (brachycephalic) profile. That tiny nose takes in limited amounts of air, and many have to have an operation to open the nares (nasal passages) or correct soft palate problems inhibiting breathing. Respiratory distress in these dogs can be sudden and severe. Even those without these issues have to be protected from heat and over-exercising, just like their cousin the English bulldog. No long walks or prolonged play sessions at the dog park for these engaging goofballs. Shorter, more frequent periods of easy exercise are advised.
5. These are real bulldogs, not dress-up dolls. This is probably not the dog to treat like a doll, stuffing him into costumes and parking him in a stroller. This is a big-hearted dog in a small package. Yes, they are cute and squishy and it may be tempting to treat them like babies, but too much spoiling can create a bossy little bug-eyed monster.
6. Frenchies have taken over New York. According to Woofipedia, the Frenchie is top dog in the Big Apple, especially in hipster areas like Tribeca, Park Slope and the East Village. Part of the appeal is the limited exercise needs due to their diminutive size, and the fact that humans walking them suddenly become a lot more popular. Just try taking your French bulldog for a walk without stopping to answer questions while your Frenchie soaks up the attention!
Take care in your selection of a dog. Contact the French Bulldog Club of America, in existence since 1897, about how to find a reputable breeder. Avoid shopping on the internet, since any breed this popular falls victim to puppy mill greed. Be prepared for some sticker shock: puppies can sell for as much as $4,000 but some breeders will sell or place a dog that won’t excel on the show circuit due to a minor fault like a white spot on the chest of a brindle colored dog, or a nose that is a bit longer than judges want to see. The club also has rescue links.
Be sure to ask lots of questions to find a caring breeder. Any breeder that is not an open book about their operation has something to hide, and the breeder should be asking lots of questions about you and your lifestyle as well to find the right personality fit for you. Do your homework in finding a great French bulldog, and you will find yourself smiling so much it hurts. C’est la vie![graphiq id=”cdrmlK0eLKR” title=”French Bulldog Overview” width=”735″ height=”550″ url=”https://w.graphiq.com/w/cdrmlK0eLKR” link=”http://dogs.petbreeds.com/l/68/French-Bulldog” link_text=”French Bulldog Overview | PetBreeds”]