If you are wondering how to breed French bulldogs, you must first be ready to deal with a dog breed affected by a lot of health complications. This will translate into health screenings, potential emergencies, artificial insemination, and salty vet bills.
Breeding French Bulldogs is expensive, this is one of the priciest breeds to purchase, maintain, and develop. However, the money put into the breeding program should be recouped with the sale of the puppies you have produced. Make sure you work hard building a reputation online and offline. Attend dog shows, network with fellow breeders and judges, join online forums and Facebook Groups, and continuously learn as much as possible.
French bulldog breeding is really an Art because there are so many factors going into a successful Frenchie breeding program: genetics, heredity, pedigrees, health, feedback loop, morphology, training, while also working hard advertising and promoting your own kennel name. Be ready for endless days of hard work, but yes, it is indeed fulfilling!
Background of French Bulldog Breeding
The English Bulldog is the father breed of the French Bulldog. The English Bulldog was originally bred for the bloody sport of bull-baiting. In bull baiting, a bull was tied and large dogs attacked it. English Bulldogs were one of the breeds selectively bred to carry out this purpose. Their strong muscular bodies and massive jaws allowed them to tear apart the bull and escape being gorgered. The English Bulldog’s wrinkled face facilitated the flow of the bull’s blood away from the dog’s eyes. The dog then stayed ready to avoid the bull’s attempts to fend off the attack.
Ok but, what about the French Bulldog?
French bulldogs were originally bred for English bullfighting in the 1800s. In 1835 bullbaiting was outlawed and this meant the bulldog breed no longer had a purpose, so many began to breed them with terries and other small breeds to create a companion bulldog. This breeding created the Toy Bulldog, which was brought across to France from unemployed workers due to the Industrial revolution.
A trade was created due to the popularity of this breed in France. British breeders would send across ‘faulty’ individuals who had pointy ears or who were small, these individuals were called Small Bulldogs. These dogs practically vanished from England in 1860 and a strong breeding industry was then created in France.
French People began to import the breed to America in 1885 but no formal registration took place for many years. In 1896 and 1897 the breed was brought to the Westminster Kennel Club Show for judging, and following several losses due to judging criteria, the upper-class women that owned them created the French Bull Dog of America Club. Shortly after, the American Kennel Club recognized the French Bulldog as a breed.
Why So Small?
French Bulldog breeding between 1835 and 1885 created the small breed we love today. Initially, Bulldogs in England were bred with terriers to create a smaller companion dog. The smallest individuals of the new Toy Bulldog were then sent to France for breeding and these individuals created the size of French Bulldogs we know today.
Not every English Bulldog had the size to take on a bull. Smaller dogs were sidelined and taken as companion dogs. These smaller dogs found work as rat killers in the lace factories in Nottingham. In 1835, bull baiting became illegal. Dog breeders continued to breed the English Bulldog as a companion animal. In the 1850s and 60s, the advent of the Industrial Revolution began to put more and more lace workers out of work and seeking employment elsewhere.
Lace workers left England for France and brought their small English Bulldogs with them. At some point, other breeds like pugs and some types of terrier became part of the bloodlines. Breed historians do not know exactly when these other breeds were actually introduced. This is a hot topic that has been the subject of speculation and controversy.
The dogs were noticed in France by all sorts of people. Parisian prostitutes took a liking to the odd little dogs. Some of their patrons included the artists of the day. Toulouse Lautrec’s painting, Le Marchand des Marrons (1898) captured both of the subjects, and the demand of the dog in France grew. Increasingly, the dog became more of a fixture of the upper classes. Soon there was an exodus of the little dogs from England. France became the place where the small version of the English Bulldog came into its own as a breed. The small dog became more docile and a different set of ears than its larger cousin became more of a frequent trait. They were known by their French moniker, Bouledogue Français. The breed was exhibited first in France in 1887.
Frenchies found their way into the homes of many of the rich and famous. The mansions of the Rockefeller family and J.P. Morgan had the dogs. King Edward VII named his Frenchie, “Peter”. Grand Duchess Tatiana Romanov got a Frenchie in 1914 which she named, “Ortino”. Ortino was a loved and spoiled dog that was given the run of the Russian palace and slept on Tatiana’s bed. The little dog is thought to have not survived its owner’s execution by the Bolsheviks. A French Bulldog was one of twelve dogs on the Titanic. The champion Frenchie was named, “Gamin de Pycombe” and was owned by Robert Daniels. It went down with the ship (only three dogs survived).
Rose vs Bat Ears
The French Bulldog ironically obtained its breed standards not in England where it began or in France where it was popularized and named, but in the United States. In 1896, a group of breeders and owners showed their dogs and a disagreement broke out because an English judge awarded a dog with rose ears the best in breed award. Owners of the dogs with the bat ears felt cheated and formed the French Bulldog’s first breed club in the United States.
The disputes continued to rage particularly in England on what the dog was, and what kind of ears French Bulldogs should have. Some breeders advocated that the French Bulldog should retain the rose ears like the English Bulldog. For several years, the breed was classified as a miniature English Bulldog. Others advocated for the bat ears and recognition as a breed completely separate from the English Bulldog. In the end, the now distinctive bat ears won out and the AKC recognized the French Bulldog with bat ears in 1898 and the Kennel Club in 1906.
Modern French Bulldog
The breed standards allow for 9 colors and one marking. Allowable colors are all those that are not disqualifications. Disqualifying colors are black, black and white, black and fawn, cream and white, fawn brindle and white, and gray and white. The blue color which some unscrupulous breeders promote has rare is a disqualification in both the AKC and the Kennel Club.
Other disqualifying characteristics are any ears other than bat ears, and weight in excess of twenty-eight pounds. The tails of the dogs in the UK are more likely to be straighter than those found in the United States. The American Kennel Club breed standard allows for a straight or screwed tail. The Kennel Club eliminates the screw tail from its standard. Research has shown that the screw tail is a manifestation of vertebral deformity. The Kennel Club, in general, is more progressive than the AKC in eliminating features of a breed that are not healthy for the dog.
Blue French Bulldogs & Alopecia
Many believe that the blue coat coloring of a French Bulldog is due to a mutation that causes alopecia, this is not true! The blue coloring actual occurs because of a recessive gene known as a dilution gene. A dilution gene can be defined as one or more gene which causes a lighter coat in an animal. If a French Bulldog possesses two dilution genes then the individual will have a blue coat instead of a black.
D = The dominant non-diluted gene.
d = The recessive diluted gene.
The above table explains the possible genetic combinations which may occur and will result in the blue coat of some French bulldogs.
A dominant gene means that this coat color will always become a physical characteristic, even if it is paired with a recessive gene. A recessive gene can only be displayed if two of the same gene are present. Therefore, there is a 75% chance that this individual will have a black coat and a 25% chance it will have a blue coat.
Individuals that have inherited two diluted genes and present a blue coat will also possess a hereditary illness called Color Dilution Alopecia (CDA). CDA results in hair loss and irritable and flaky skin. Other bulldogs may inherit CDA if they are bred poorly or are ‘fault versions’ of French Bulldogs. For example, the recessive gene of blue eyes also increases the probability of a French Bulldog possessing CDA.
Current Huge Popularity
The French Bulldog breed continues to occupy the minds and hearts of the English people from which it sprang. The breed currently challenges the Labrador Retriever for the top perch in popularity in the UK and in 2016 was ranked number 6 in the United States, making progress regularly. The Frenchie has yet to snag the best in show in either Westminster or Crufts. Celebrity owners like David Beckham, Reese Witherspoon, and Madonna sing their dog’s praises, and people want to have what their favorite celebrity has.
Nevertheless, controversy does swirl around the breeding of dogs with the degree of serious health problems like the French Bulldog. From the beginning, French Bulldogs were one of the most costly breeds to acquire, produce, and maintain. At the turn of the 20th century, a purchase price of $3000 was not unheard of. The Frenchie that died on the Titanic was reportedly purchased in what today would be the equivalent of $17,000. Surgeries to correct obstructed breathing can cost thousands of dollars. Many of the animals are abandoned at shelters because people underestimate just how costly it is to keep the dog healthy. The average lifespan of the French Bulldog breed is ten years—much shorter than breeds of similar small size.
Health Concern When Breeding French Bulldogs
The French bulldog breed is notoriously famous for its boatload of health issues: some an inherited like von Willebrand’s Disease, some are just here because of the breed’s morphology like the brachycephalic airway obstructive syndrome, and others may simply appear later in your Frenchie’s life like distichiasis.
Because health screening is vital with breeds at high risk, you do want to hold a notepad and schedule all the screenings with your vet as soon as possible. Do not postpone such important checks to the next month or year; do them as soon as possible. Buying healthy parents will clear your worries for most issues since they tend to be inherited to a full or partial extent. Therefore, spending the extra money in the founding stock is profitable in the long run, simply because it will result is much fewer complications and definitely cheaper vet bills.
Brachycephalic Airway Obstructive Syndrome
Brachycephalic means “short head”. The extremely short muzzle and oversized skull carry with them health risks. Chief among these risks is compromised breathing, or “brachycephalic airway obstructive syndrome”, or BOAS. In this condition, the dog has clinical signs of impaired respiratory function. The dog may make unusual sounds consistent with labored breathing such as snorting, snoring or retching. The dog may be unable to tolerate the exercise, and will fatigue quickly. Also, the dog may lose consciousness because of the lack of oxygen. Of course, a dog that ceases to breathe is a dog that ultimately ceases to live.
There are four structural abnormalities that correlate with brachycephaly: stenotic nares, elongated soft palate, hypoplastic trachea, and everted laryngeal saccules.
Stenotic nares mean that the nostrils are too narrow or they are constricted and the dog can’t get adequate air through the nose. This condition is one that a veterinarian can diagnosis by simply examining an awake dog. A dog will, also, mouth breathe. Mouth breathing results in an increase in sounds like snorting and snoring. This condition can be remedied by a relatively simple surgery that widens the nasal cavities. Unfortunately, though, stenotic nares may not be the only structural problem causing BOAS.
Elongated Soft Palate
Elongated soft palate means that there is excess tissue in the roof of the mouth that partially obstructs the windpipe (or trachea). Veterinarians are not able to diagnose this condition in an awake dog. The surgery to trim up the palate so that it no longer
obstructs the trachea has a good prognosis in younger dogs. However, the use of anesthesia in dogs with impaired respiratory function is itself unusually risky. Veterinarians typically will not put a dog under anesthesia for sole diagnosis. If the dog is going under, it will have the corrective surgery too.
A hypoplastic trachea means that the trachea or windpipe is too narrow to get adequate airflow to the lungs. This condition is an especially serious one for brachycephalic dogs. The surgery to correct it is more complex than the other conditions and its prognosis is not as good, especially in older dogs. It can only be accurately assessed in an anesthetized dog. Again, it may occur with any or all of the other three conditions.
Everted laryngeal saccules
The labored breathing of the dog over time may cause the little sacks of tissue in the larynx to become enlarged, inflamed and moved out of place. The saccules become a blockage to the airflow through the trachea to the lungs. Sometimes a veterinarian will prescribe hydrocortisone like prednisone to reduce the inflammation and help shrink the tissue, but this is a very temporary solution. Ultimately, diagnosis and treatment will require that the dog be anesthetized and surgery be performed.
About half of all Frenchies will be victims of brachycephalic airway obstructive syndrome. Researchers have been trying to find ways to predict which dogs will develop BOAS based upon external measurements, and then use this information to determine which dogs should not be bred. The best external measurements have been nostril size and the girth of the neck in relationship to the chest. Smaller nostrils and larger necks are strongly correlated with the development of BOAS (predictive accuracy of 80%). However, it does take some skill on the part of the veterinarian to obtain accurate measurements on an awake dog.
Bone & Joint Problems
Some of the bone and joint problems of the Frenchie are due to the fact that it is somewhat of a dwarf breed. Intervertebral disc disease, hemivertebrae, and patella luxation are all common health problems. In intervertebral disc disease the discs that cushion the vertebrae of the spine herniation and rupture. This leads to an exposure of the sensitive nerve endings of the spine. Damage to these nerves can result in pain, incontinence, and paralysis. Hemivertebrae is a genetic deformity of the spine. The screw-type tail is a manifestation of this genetic deformity. It is a less serious condition than IVDD but can be an uncomfortable condition for the dog.
Hip dysplasia is a common problem of the breed. The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals ranks French bulldogs 21st in its incidence of hip dysplasia. In data collected by OFA up to a third of French bulldogs tested positive for malformed hips or shallow hip sockets. In patella luxation, the kneecap slips out of place resulting in limping or lameness. The OFA found an incidence rate of 5.4% among French bulldogs–a rank of 26th of the dog breeds.
Cherry eye, entropion, distichiasis, and cataracts are common eye problems of the breed. In the cherry eye, the third eyelid protrudes in a bulging red mass. Eye irritation and corneal damage can result. In entropion, the eyelid is folded in on itself. Abrasions to the cornea can occur. A simple surgery can remedy the problem. Distichiasis is a genetic condition in which the eyelashes grow in unusual places or directions on the eyelids. The eyelashes rub against the eye surface and cause the dog pain. Abrasions may develop on the surface of the eye and interfere with vision. Cataracts are a disease of older dogs and can result in a dog ultimately going blind. The OFA data ranked French bulldogs third among the breeds in which cataracts most often occurred. Fortunately, surgery when initiated in a timely manner often can save the vision of even older dogs.
Other Genetic Problems
Other genetic conditions that crop up are Von Willebrand’s Disease, deafness, and allergies. Von Willebrand’s Disease is a genetic disease in which there is an absence of a protein necessary for blood clotting. Minor injuries or routine surgeries can result in massive hemorrhages. In addition, deafness and food and environmental allergies are common problems that occur in the breed.
There is no way to sugarcoat the plain fact that French bulldogs as a breed have many serious health problems. The solution, unfortunately, would involve cross-breeding to the point that the breed would cease to exist in its recognized (and loved) form.
How To Breed French Bulldogs
French Bulldog breeding is booming despite the multiple warnings and risks; there is a huge demand and the supply is coping just fine. However, the overall health-focused quality is still too low and this is where new French bulldog breeders could easily jump ahead of the pack. Producing healthy dogs is pricier, but the puppies will be sold at a much higher price tag.
People buying French Bulldogs aren’t poor or greedy, otherwise, they would go with pretty much any other breed and pay a tenth of what they would pay for a regular French bulldog puppy. Therefore, providing more quality and inflating your price is realistic and recommended for such a luxury breed.
Average size of the litter
Smaller breeds of dogs typically have smaller litters than larger breeds. French bulldogs are no different than other dogs of comparable size. The average size of a French Bulldog litter is three puppies, with the range anywhere from singletons to a half dozen.
A male French Bulldogs will face difficulties in mounting a female French Bulldog, and when he manages to do it, the male will find it hard to maintain the tie. The oversized heads and narrow hips make it difficult for the male to successful copulate. Also, the exertion involved in mating simply can be too much of a physical strain on a dog that has an impaired respiratory system. In most breeds of dogs natural mating is the safest, most effective, and cheapest way to produce a litter of puppies—not so much when breeding French bulldogs.
In French bulldogs, even the travel involved may be taxing or dangerous for the dogs. French bulldogs can’t really be transported by airplane like other dogs. Cargo holds of airplanes are too warm for french bulldogs. They can’t cool themselves by panting like other dogs, and the temperatures in cargo holds can cause fatal heatstroke in French bulldogs.
Artificial insemination becomes the prime choice for most french bulldogs breeders simply because it is the safest and most convenient way of breeding French Bulldogs.
Same for cesarean section?
According to a relatively recent study led by Katy Evans, a member of the Health Team at The Kennel Club, more than 80% of French bulldogs are delivered by cesarean section. The oversized heads of the puppies and narrow pelvis of the dam make natural birth a life-threatening event for the dam and the puppies.
Most French bulldog breeders do not even consider that it would be worth the risk. Also, surgical delivery will necessarily involve the use of anesthesia. A veterinarian will need to have good monitoring equipment and good skills in order to safely administer anesthesia to a breed with the respiratory complications inherent to the breed. An owner breeding a female can run the risk of losing the dam and the puppies to respiratory distress brought on by a reaction to anesthesia. All these potential losses are very real risks that owners, breeders, and veterinarians face in their decisions involving a very cute but very abnormally built little dog. All these factors all come into consideration when Frenchie breeders think about the pricing of their French Bulldog puppies.
Pricing of French bulldogs?
Everything about French bulldogs is more expensive than the average dog. The small litter size, the complicated birthing arrangements, and the higher mortality rate associated with the breed and the production of a puppy all make for a very expensive dog. They aren’t a breed for mass production, and even the acquisition of a puppy is going to entail finding a dog within a given locale since puppies can’t be shipped by airplane in a cargo hold.
Add to the expense of breeding and maintaining the health of the dog, the economic impact of being an extremely popular breed of dog. The economic laws of supply and demand make it very understandable that the French bulldog is one of the most expensive breeds to acquire at the outset. At most a bitch will be able to have four litters by c-section in its average lifespan of 10 years. If three puppies are produced in each litter, then only twelve puppies will be available for sale in those 8 years. Other breeds have 8-puppy litters every year and a half or so; so yes, Frenchie puppies are scarce.
Also, the care of the newly whelped puppies is much more labor-intensive than in other breeds. In the vast majority of dogs, the dam whelps the pups, cleans up after, nurses and cares for the offspring pretty much without the need for human interference. In French bulldogs, the dams are asleep when they pups are whelped and are not by nature attentive mothers. Frequently, it is up to a human to take over for the dam and do everything from stimulating the pups to go to the bathroom and to bottle feed the pups. Obviously, it is going to greatly increase costs to go from the free work of a momma dog to employing human beings to take over for her.
Even the housing of French bulldogs will be more expensive than other breeds. These dogs can’t be left in extremes of hot or cold. An outdoor temperature of 80 degrees Fahrenheit could be dangerously warm for a dam and her pups. While ten labs could easily have their litters of pups in outdoor kennels, French bulldogs are going to need an air-conditioned indoor kennel in order to prevent heatstroke on an ordinary July day.
A French bulldog puppy should cost no less than $2000. There is no such thing as a bargain French bulldog puppy. In this situation, a puppy that costs significantly less than the obvious market value should be considered to be a red flag that this particular puppy is heartbreak in the making. A seller that knows that a particular puppy has inherited a significant health problem may be willing to deeply discount the cost of a puppy. It is especially important in dealing with a breed with complicated health problems like the French bulldog that people do a lot of research about the breed in general and only deals with reputable breeders who will disclose necessary health information and be willing to make some guarantees as to the genetic soundness of a puppy. Make sure you learn how to read a pedigree before agreeing to any sale.
In addition to the initial acquisition cost of a family pet (at around $3000), the first year’s expenses associated with the new puppy is likely to cost on average an additional $1000-$1500 in food, travel and medical (see our article on the real cost of dog breeding). The second-year cost should average another $1,000. Pet health insurance may have some utility in a breed like the French bulldog, but the exclusions on these policies need to be carefully read since oftentimes they render the policies practically useless in high-risk breeds like the French bulldog. Single emergency surgery for a tracheal collapse (necessary to save the life of the dog) will set an owner back an average of $4000.
Future of French Bulldog Breeding
French Bulldogs are a very loved breed, yet very expensive. This won’t change and even if more breeders get involved over the next years, only the Frenchie breeders putting a clear emphasis on health should end up with the most remarkable sales. Let’s face it, a person who spends $3,000 buying a very regular and average French Bulldog, can afford and would happily spend the extra $1,000+ to get a much healthier French bulldog pup.
Customers and prospect buying French bulldogs are getting way more educated and health in modern dog breeds is becoming a worry for all future dog owners, even the average Joe now searches health information about their breed, and quickly they’ll discover that Frenchies are amongst the most at-risk breeds. Therefore, I do not see a future without much healthier French bulldogs… The question is, are you going to breed these future gems, or not?