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Robin Burkett, Animal Photography
The French Bulldog’s motto is “Love the one you’re with.” He is small, with distinctive “bat ears,” and comes in a variety of colors. The Frenchie is adaptable to any home environment, as long as it has air conditioning.
The wee French Bulldog is popular with celebrities -- actor Leonardo di Caprio shares custody of his Frenchie with ex-girlfriend Gisele Bündchen (no word on how the dog and Tom Brady get along). Lifestyle maven Martha Stewart’s Frenchies have their own very popular blog.
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. 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 bracycephalic, 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.
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.
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.
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.
People who love him say the French Bulldog’s best qualities are charm and adaptability. A Frenchie loves almost everyone he meets and will seek out anyone who is willing to provide a lap.
Frenchies are known for their quiet attentiveness. They follow their people around from room to room without making a nuisance of themselves. When they want your attention, they’ll tap you with a paw.
This is a highly alert breed who barks judiciously. If a Frenchie barks, you should check it out.
What’s not to like? Frenchies can be stubborn about any kind of training. Motivate them with gentle, positive techniques. When you find the right reward, they can learn quickly, although you will find that they like to put their own spin on tricks or commands, especially when they have an audience.
Frenchie play tends to be on the destructive side. The dogs enjoy mauling their toys, performing “squeakerectomies” and playing keep-away with each other’s toys. Avoid giving them toys on which they could choke, such as rawhides, pig ears, and dental chews. They’re also fond of hiding things and making their people search for them.
A word of advice: any dog, no matter how nice, can develop obnoxious levels of barking, digging, and other undesirable behaviors if he is bored, untrained or unsupervised. And any dog can be a trial to live with during adolescence. In the case of the Frenchie, the “teen” years can start at six months and continue until the dog is about two years old.
Start training your puppy the day you bring him home. Even at eight weeks old, he is capable of soaking up everything you can teach him. Don’t wait until he is 6 months old to begin training or you will have a more headstrong dog to deal with. If possible, get him into puppy kindergarten class by the time he is 10 to 12 weeks old, and socialize, socialize, socialize. However, be aware that many puppy training classes require certain vaccines (like kennel cough) to be up to date, and many veterinarians recommend limited exposure to other dogs and public places until puppy vaccines (including rabies, distemper and parvovirus) have been completed. In lieu of formal training, you can begin training your puppy at home and socializing him among family and friends until puppy vaccines are completed.
Talk to the breeder, describe exactly what you’re looking for in a dog, and ask for assistance in selecting a puppy. Breeders see the puppies daily and can make uncannily accurate recommendations once they know something about your lifestyle and personality.
The perfect French Bulldog doesn’t spring fully formed from the whelping box. He’s a product of his background and breeding.
All dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Run, don’t walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her puppies are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the incidence with which they occur in her lines.
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.
Before individual French Bulldogs can be included in the Canine Health Information Center (CHIC) database, the FBDCA requires them to have [a clearance from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation, hip evaluations from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, PennHIP or Ontario Veterinary College (OVC), and an OFA patella (knee) evaluation. Optional tests are OFA cardiac (heart) and thyroid exams. You can search the OFA and CHIC websites yourself to see if a pup’s parents are listed.
Breeders must agree to have all test results, positive or negative, published in the CHIC database. A dog need not receive good or even passing scores on the evaluations to obtain a CHIC number, so CHIC registration alone is not proof of soundness or absence of disease, but all test results are posted on the CHIC website and can be accessed by anyone who wants to check the health of a puppy’s parents. If the breeder tells you she doesn't need to do those tests because she's never had problems in her lines and her dogs have been "vet checked," then you should go find a breeder who is more rigorous about genetic testing.
Careful breeders screen their breeding dogs for genetic disease and breed only the healthiest and best-looking specimens, but sometimes Mother Nature has other ideas and a puppy develops one of these diseases despite good breeding practices. Advances in veterinary medicine mean that in most cases the dogs can still live a good life. If you’re getting a puppy, ask the breeder about the ages of the dogs in her lines and what they died of.
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.
The French Bulldog has a short, fine, smooth coat that is easy to groom. Brush him weekly with a rubber hound glove or a soft bristle brush. Bathe monthly or as needed to keep the coat clean.
Frenchies don’t shed much, but twice a year they lose their undercoat. During the spring and fall shedding seasons, use a stripping comb and grooming mitt to remove the excess hair.
The only other grooming required is routine nail trimming, ear cleaning, tooth brushing and wrinkle care. The deep skin folds may need to be cleaned only a couple of times a week or every day. Wipe out the crud from the wrinkles with a soft, damp cloth or a baby wipe, then dry them thoroughly. If moisture is left behind, wrinkles become the perfect petri dish for bacterial growth. Do the same for the indentation at the tail set and the outer vulval area.
The rest is basic care. Trim the toenails as needed, usually every few weeks. They should never get long enough that you hear them clacking on the floor. Brush the teeth frequently for good dental health and fresh breath.
Whether you want to go with a breeder or get your dog from a shelter or rescue, here are some things to keep in mind.
Finding a good breeder is the key to finding the right puppy. A good breeder will match you with the right puppy, and will without question have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as is possible. He or she is more interested in placing pups in the right homes than in making big bucks.
Good breeders will welcome your questions about temperament, health clearances and what the dogs are like to live with and come right back at you with questions of their own about what you’re looking for in a dog and what kind of life you can provide for him. A good breeder can tell you about the history of the breed, explain why one puppy is considered pet quality while another is not, and discuss what health problems affect the breed and the steps she takes take to avoid those problems.
Start your search at the website of the French Bull Dog Club of America, which maintains a referral list for breeders. Choose one who has agreed to be bound by the club's code of ethics, which prohibits its members from selling puppies to pet stores and outlines the responsibilities of its member breeders to the dogs they produce and the people who buy them.
Besides screening breeding dogs for genetic diseases, good breeders sell only with a written contract and guarantee a home for any dog they breed if the owner becomes unable to keep him. Choose a breeder who is not only willing but insists on being a resource in helping you train and care for your new dog.
Avoid breeders who only seem interested in how quickly they can unload a puppy on you and whether your credit card will go through. You should also bear in mind that buying a puppy from websites that offer to ship your dog to you immediately can be a risky venture, as it leaves you no recourse if what you get isn’t exactly what you expected. Put at least as much effort into researching your puppy as you would into choosing a new car or expensive appliance. It will save you money in the long run.
Many reputable breeders have websites, so how can you tell who’s good and who’s not? Red flags include puppies always being available, multiple litters on the premises, having your choice of any puppy, and the ability to pay online with a credit card. Those things are convenient, but they are almost never associated with reputable breeders.
Whether you’re planning to get your new best friend from a breeder, a pet store, or another source, don’t forget that old adage “let the buyer beware”. Disreputable breeders and facilities that deal with puppy mills can be hard to distinguish from reliable operations. There’s no 100% guaranteed way to make sure you’ll never purchase a sick puppy, but researching the breed (so you know what to expect), checking out the facility (to identify unhealthy conditions or sick animals), and asking the right questions can reduce the chances of heading into a disastrous situation. And don’t forget to ask your veterinarian, who can often refer you to a reputable breeder, breed rescue organization, or other reliable source for healthy puppies.
The cost of a Frenchie puppy varies depending on his place of origin, whether he is male or female, what titles his parents have, and whether he is best suited for the show ring or a pet home. The puppy you buy should have been raised in a clean home environment, from parents with health clearances and conformation (show) and, ideally, working titles to prove that they are good specimens of the breed. Puppies should be temperament tested, vetted, dewormed, and socialized to give them a healthy, confident start in life.
Before you decide to buy a puppy, consider whether an adult Frenchie might better suit your needs and lifestyle. Puppies are loads of fun, but they require a lot of time and effort before they grow up to become the dog of your dreams. An adult French Bulldog may already have some training and will probably be less active, destructive and demanding than a puppy. With an adult, you know more about what you’re getting in terms of personality and health and you can find adults through breeders or shelters. If you are interested in acquiring an older dog through breeders, ask them about purchasing a retired show dog or if they know of an adult dog who needs a new home. If you want to adopt a dog, read the advice below on how to do that.
There are many great options available if you want to adopt a dog from an animal shelter or breed rescue organization. Here is how to get started.
1. Use the Web
Sites like Petfinder.com and Adopt-a-Pet.com can have you searching for a Frenchie in your area in no time flat. The site allows you to be very specific in your requests (housetraining status, for example) or very general (all the Frenchies available on Petfinder across the country). AnimalShelter can help you find animal rescue groups in your area. Also some local newspapers have “pets looking for homes” sections you can review.
Social media is another great way to find a dog. Post on your Facebook page that you are looking for a specific breed so that your entire community can be your eyes and ears.
2. Reach Out to Local Experts
Start talking with all the pet pros in your area about your desire for a Frenchie. That includes vets, dog walkers, and groomers. When someone has to make the tough decision to give up a dog, that person will often ask her own trusted network for recommendations.
3. Talk to Breed Rescue
Most people who love French Bulldogs love all French Bulldogs. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless dogs. The French Bulldog Club of America’s rescue network can help you find a dog that may be the perfect companion for your family. You can also search online for other French Bulldog rescues in your area.
The great thing about breed rescue groups is that they tend to be very upfront about any health conditions the dogs may have and are a valuable resource for advice. They also often offer fostering opportunities so, with training, you could bring a Frenchie home with you to see what the experience is like.
4. Key Questions to Ask
You now know the things to discuss with a breeder, but there are also questions you should discuss with shelter or rescue group staff or volunteers before you bring home a dog. These include:
What is his energy level?
How is he around other animals?
How does he respond to shelter workers, visitors and children?
What is his personality like?
What is his age?
Is he housetrained?
Has he ever bitten or hurt anyone that they know of?
Are there any known health issues?
Wherever you acquire your Frenchie, make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. Petfinder offers an Adopters Bill of Rights that helps you understand what you can consider normal and appropriate when you get a dog from a shelter. In states with “puppy lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.
Puppy or adult, take your Frenchie to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.
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