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French bulldog: Breed profile

french bulldog
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Contrary to their name, French bulldogs were actually created in England as a smaller version of the British Bulldog. Crossed with terriers, they became a distinctive breed thanks to their cute bat-like ears and this endeared them to lace workers from Nottingham in the mid-19th century who – having been displaced during the industrial revolution – took the dogs to Normandy, France.

Today, Frenchies, as they are also known, are among the most popular small dog breeds, and not just in the small town of Rabbit Hash in northern Kentucky, where one such French bulldog, Wilbur Beast, was elected mayor in 2020 in a tradition dating back to the 1990s. 

With their hugely lovable personalities, miniature size, and ability to live in any home – big or small – with minimal maintenance, they fit well with the lifestyles of many owners. They are also the dog of choice for scores of celebrities, from Lady Gaga to the late, great Carrie Fisher.

It's a shame, then, that Frenchies suffer from ill-health. Their flat faces have caused breathing difficulties, they are at risk of overheating, and they are prone to carry extra weight. But look after them well, help keep them in shape, and be aware that you may have to see them through some tough times, and you'll be rewarded with great affection and loyalty.

Quick stats

Life expectancy: More than 10 years
Average weight: Male: 28lbs/12kg Female: 24lbs/11kg
About the same as: A case of beer

How much exercise does a French bulldog need?

Although Frenchies love to lounge around on a sofa for some lazy 'me' time, it's nevertheless important to ensure that they're getting enough exercise. This will help prevent them becoming overweight, but be sure not to push the dogs, because they can have trouble breathing due to their flat faces. 

Aim for at least two walks per day of around 15 minutesm and try to keep them active for an hour overall through play, maybe letting them off their lead and allowing them a saunter around a fenced off area. By letting them naturally find their limit, you can ensure they take an appropriate break if they look to be out of breath. That way, you'll feel less worried that you're over-exerting them.

Frenchies enjoy games of hide and seek, and their muscular bodies can be kept in shape using the best rope dog toys. But be especially careful during summer, and avoid exposing Frenchies to the sun. These dogs are especially susceptible to heat exhaustion, and their breathing problems will worsen significantly, so it's better to go for walks during the cooler morning and evenings. 

Facts for potential owners

Suitable for: Anyone with a small home who wants a fun companion who doesn't need much exercise
Not suitable for: Owners who want an energetic dog that loves the great outdoors and can be left alone
Temperament: Affectionate, lively, sociable, playful, alert
Shedding: Light

Are French bulldogs easy to train?

You'll have few problems training a French bulldog, because they are intelligent and eager to please. Even so, it's important to start early and understand that what you teach them as a puppy will likely stay with them for the rest of their lives. 

As such, it's crucial that you're not only firm, but consistent in the messages you give. Don't tell a Frenchie that they can sit on your favorite chair, for instance, only to try and stop them from doing so a month or two later. That's not going to work. Neither will any mixed messaging from other people in your household, so make sure everyone knows the rules from the outset.

Sessions will be far more fruitful if you make them fun. You should do this by approaching training as if it's a game – doling out the best dog treats in moderation and praise for a job well done. Training will also go more smoothly if you're patient. By not giving in, no matter how much they try to persuade you, and by refusing to over-indulge, you'll avoid many future behavioral problems.

French bulldog temperament

French bulldogs make fantastic pets, and  are an absolute joy to be around. Affectionate and attention-seeking, they love people, and they're great with children. They are good around other pets, too, especially if they've been exposed to them from a very young age – good socialization as a puppy is therefore key.

Frenchies are also welcoming to strangers invited into your home, but they double as decent watchdogs because they're territorial and will bark if someone comes to the door. They're not generally a barking dog, though, which is a relief if you live in an apartment. The downside is that they don't like being left alone, so be aware of that if you lead a busy life that keeps you away from home for long periods.

french bulldog

(Image credit: Getty Images)

How much does a French bulldog cost?

French bulldog puppies are not cheap. They cost around $2,000 (and around £3,000 in the UK), and you can expect to pay around $2,000 (maybe £1,700) each year to keep them in the best dog food and to pay for vet bills, pet insurance, and all of the dog toys and grooming kit you'll want to buy to keep your dog active, challenged and healthy.

But you may not need to spend too much on formal training and you won't need a home with lots of space and land. Just be aware that there are health problems to take into consideration (see below) so you will need to ensure that your insurance is as comprehensive as it can be with a decent, affordable excess, while ensuring you take it out as soon as you get your dog.

What do French bulldogs eat?

The best way to keep a bulldog healthy is to ensure they eat a balanced diet, which can be obtained through high-quality dry food (try Royal Canin's specialist mix). Give them about one-and-a-half cups spread over two or three feedings (depending on whether they're an adult or puppy), and they'll get all the nutrients they need, from carbs and vitamins to minerals, proteins, and fiber.

Consider grain free dog food if you want to reduce flatulence and steer clear of foods that are high in fat as well as cooked bones and table scraps. Ensure any treats are given in moderation, and keep Frenchies refreshed with plenty of fresh water. The important thing to remember is not to over-feed. French bulldogs gain weight easily, and this is detrimental to their health.

Royal Canin French Bulldog Adult Dry Dog Food

Royal Canin French Bulldog Adult Dry Dog Food
Royal Canin French Bulldog Puppy dry dog food is designed to meet the nutritional needs of purebred French Bulldogs aged 8 weeks to 12 months old, and the exclusive, tailor-made kibble helps a French Bulldog easily pick up and chew their food

Do French bulldogs shed a lot?

Frenchies have short, fine hair that, when healthy, is smooth and shiny but thankfully shedding is moderate so you're not going to have to whip out the vacuum cleaner much more than you'd usually do.

You will, however, need to keep the coat in good condition and this is easy enough: brushing around once-a-week should suffice and it's good idea to use a brush glove or a medium-thistle brush to prevent damaging the hair.

This removes dust and old hair while promoting new growth. Brushing also distributes the dog's natural oils around the skin which will keep it moisturised and healthy. Bathe a Frenchie monthly using a quality shampoo, and you'll find the coat remains in tip-top shape. You should also try the dogs well, especially between the folds, and trim their nails regularly.

Pet Grooming Glove

Pet Grooming Glove
This pet grooming glove easily removes loose pet hair and tangles, while the enhanced five finger design allows you to groom hard-to-reach places like the face or tail.

Grooming info

Amount Of Shedding: Light
Easy To Groom: Yes
General Health: Poor
Potential For Weight Gain: High

French bulldog health problems

French bulldogs are known for their health issues. Aside from being prone to putting on weight, breathing difficulties, and overheating, Frenchies are at a greater risk of eye conditions such as painful corneal ulcers, which can lead to blindness if they are not treated in time. They can often be a result of conjunctivitis, a treatable congenital disorder that causes a mass cherry-like protrusion. French bulldogs can also suffer an inward rolling of the eyelid edges (entropion), as well as juvenile cataracts.

Be aware, too, of food and environmental allergies that can lead to inflammatory bowel disease, excessive itching, watery eyes and diarrhea among other symptoms. And watch out for ear infections, a cleft palette, and hip and spine problems. As is common with short-legged breeds, Frenchies can suffer intervertebral disc disease. This can be managed by anti-inflammatory medication and maybe surgery if timely. Ensure you have good pet insurance, and health issues needn't be expensive.

Should I get a French bulldog?

As one of the world's most popular pets, you'll certainly be in good company if you decide a French bulldog is for you – more so given these dogs make great, cute, and adaptable companions. As well as being low-maintenance and friendly, they're particularly suitable for people who lack space. Indeed, since they rarely bark (and only need to go out for short periods each day), they're perfect for apartments. Health issues and a high upfront cost can make them rather emotional and expensive pets to own, however.

David Crookes has been a journalist for more than 20 years and he has written for a host of magazines, newspapers, websites and books including World of Animals, BBC Earth, Dogs and Canines, Gadget and The Independent. Born in England, he lives in a household with two cats but he’s also keenly interested in the differences between the huge number of dog breeds — in fact, you can read many of his breed guides here on PetsRadar. With a lifelong passion for technology, too, he’s always on the lookout for useful devices that will allow people to spend more time with their pets.