If one believed everything printed in the media, one would know that French Bull Dogs, more commonly referred to as Frenchies, are either among the most popular breeds in the world, or they are the breed quickly losing its former popularity. Among Frenchie owners – correction, among Frenchies with human caretakers, there is no wane in popularity. I came to this conclusion after polling the two who permit me to share their fully-furnished home with them.
Regardless of popularity status, Frenchie puppies still demand ridiculously high prices. Perhaps you have perused online forums looking for one of those adorable squishy-faced pups with attitude and decided that $4000 or more is ridiculous for a pet. I cannot argue with that conclusion. So, why are Frenchies so pricey? One obvious answer is capitalism 101: supply and demand. Frenchies are notoriously difficult to breed. More often than not, a helping hand is needed, followed by artificial insemination. The unique bone structure of these wonderful dogs makes “hooking up” nearly impossible for some. Though not from a lack of trying on the part of the male or female. Both will physically exhaust themselves, partially due to their brachycephalic modified breathing passages. The human factor adds to the cost for both the male and the female. Because the process requires assistance, the natural opportunities to fertilize multiple batches of eggs gets reduced, which leads to fewer puppies per litter. Litters of two to four puppies are quite common. Limited litter size drives the supply and demand part of the high costs.
Another factor arises out of the pedigree of each litter if you seek a puppy from a line of champion show dogs. If that is your thing, bring your wallet; or your Amex Black card. If you are considering showing your puppy, be prepared to shell out more cash for DNA testing to add credence to the kennel club pedigree, and to rule out most of the known inherited diseases and other congenital propensities.
If you are not interested in spending thousands of dollars to participate in the show circuit and are seeking to add a perpetual two-year-old to your family, you have options. Here I diverge from the people who claim that only professionals should breed dogs. Yes, there is an argument that shelters and rescues should get your business ahead of any type of breeder. I agree, at least in part, with this mindset. Shelter or rescue dogs require a home, and you obviously have room for one. However, when was the last time you saw a Frenchie in your local shelter? To be clear, Frenchies end up in shelters, but it is an infrequent occurrence. Unless you are at the shelter looking at new arrivals daily, the chances that you get dibs on a Frenchie are slim to none. Do look, though; maybe you are one of the people with outstanding luck.
From here, the places to find the Frenchie of your dreams become somewhat controversial – if you care what breed-purists and shelter-only activists think. While I support, with donations and advocating for the local shelters, I do not always agree with the opinions of my friends in the animal rescue business. When someone puts in the effort to learn about the health needs, possible genetic risks, diet needs, space needs, exercise requirements, and the many other factors for a particular breed, they might just want that breed of dog. How others supplant an individual’s desire with their opinions is something I will never understand.
Including show breeders, there are other sources with varying ethical concerns for prospective owners of Frenchie puppies. Listed here in order from least ethical to most ethical, in my opinion: puppy mills, backyard breeders, pet stores, show breeders, and family breeders.
These are just what the name implies; a French Bulldog Puppy Mills is a setup that allows for the commercial breeding of dogs while housing the dogs outside of the home. Many puppy mills use prefabricated buildings with stacks of kennels along the walls, and those dogs spend most of their lives living in those confined kennels. The dogs get outside for a minimum amount to exercise and hopefully avoid soiling their cages. You will usually find multiple breeds of dogs in a puppy mill. You also see more of the breeds whose puppies bring hefty prices. You will also find some midrange priced breeds in many of these operations.
A puppy mill has puppies available almost all year. To help prevent group-cycling, operators move the females between buildings to ensure that they have females who come into season throughout the year. Doing so likely contributes to the health of the male dogs that they use for studs. Here is an anecdote that describes the reason for that practice:
In the past, I had two females whose cycles synced one month behind the other; we just were not aware of it yet. We had no intent to breed them at that point and used heat diapers on the girls. We might as well have told the male to use the rhythm method of birth control for all the good those were. Between the male and the females, those pants did little more than save some cleaning wherever the girls chose to nap. So, we found the first female getting busy with our male and accepted the fact that puppies were arriving in eight to nine weeks. After their third “date,” we gave up on the chastity pants. Finally, the first females fertile period passed. The male dog was going to get some much-needed rest. Except, the second female started. We tried the good girl pants again, with the same results despite some modifications (medical tape) to try to keep the pants on this time. Two weeks into it, he was into it. At some point you realize that you have lost the upper hand and you just let nature take its course. After the second female ended her fertile period, everyone received a much-needed bath. After bath time, we left to go to the store and returned home an hour later to find the male laying on his back on the couch with all four feet straight up in the air. He did not move when we came into the house. Ever met a Yorkie that did not greet you at the door? Me either. After we put the groceries away, I went into the den and called his name several times and not a muscle twitched. OK, now I am a bit concerned. So, I go over to him to see if he is breathing. He has always had a long full coat, so it was hard to tell. So, I touched him. He was directly beneath an A/C vent, but I did not consider that at first. He was cold, and his legs were stiff. I admit, I panicked a little. I called out, saying, “Get in here! I think Glock has f*****d himself to death!” Then I picked him up and cradled him in my arms as the tears started to build in my eyes. Then I felt a pulse and realized his back was warm, but he was still asleep! He awoke over an hour later, still cradled in my arms as I was watching TV while sitting in my recliner. He looked at me and said, “I thought I was a goner: what a way to go.”
To keep animal rights groups out of their French Bulldog Puppy Mills business, each of the prefabs have heat, fans, and many have plumbing to do cleaning and to make clean water more accessible. The worst of this type of breeder cares little about cleanliness. The breeding stock rarely has interactions with humans, and from my experience, they show this by cowering away from any human that enters their area. These dogs tend towards being food aggressive because the owners feed the minimum amount of a low-quality feed. While all dogs are always hungry (just ask my pack which will wolf down a meal and then stare at you like the kids in those commercials on TV), these dogs are truly hungry, and since they are confined most of the time, they guard their food closely.
French Bulldog Puppy Mills tend to advertise every litter as AKC registered, but awaiting the paperwork. Some will claim CKC status. If you are not familiar with both kennel clubs, take the time to read the differences between the two. My take is that unless you are into showing dogs, who cares what paperwork they have showing lineage? The fact is, there really is no way of knowing if that litter actually came from that stud in a place that is set up to produce puppies on a regular basis. To apply for litter registration, the humans sign a statement that they witnessed the mating of the registered male with the registered female and that there was no opportunity for any other male to have scratched momma’s itch. For all you know, the puppies in one litter can have multiple baby daddies. That is not a conversation I want to have with those puppies when they are old enough to wonder about such things.
These are individuals who pick a breed or two and set up a lot like a puppy mill. The only french bulldogs in the house with the humans are the ones kept as pets. The rest of the dogs are there for the purpose of breeding and making money. The operation is much smaller, and puppies become available once or twice per year. The breeding stock gets outside more than in a puppy mill, and they are much more socialized to humans. Since there are fewer animals, the owners can feed a better quality of food, and they can feed them more often. Cleanliness is a lot easier since there are only a few dogs. You can run into the same registration paperwork issues, so be skeptical about any championship lines claims.
Generally speaking, the two breeder types above supply pet stores with puppies (and other animals). The difference is, stores have to pass health inspections, and veterinary care is required. Unfortunately, these animals are also confined to kennels most of the time. Also, unfortunately, they get handled by multiple shoppers several times each day. If you want to buy from a pet store, be cautious and observant. If the employees enforce the rule of hand washing before handling different puppies, then consider them a store that cares about the health of the puppies. If there are no signs, and the employees do not enforce a handwashing policy before and after handling each puppy, walk away without buying. Otherwise, you run the risk of buying a sick puppy. Also, understand that pet stores generally mark puppies up 50% to 100%, and sometimes more. They have rent to pay, power bills, food, insurance, employee wages, and other overhead costs. Plus, buying a puppy is an emotional decision for most people, and buyers do not consider asking if there is any wiggle room on the price of the wriggling pup because they are in a retail setting.
Once again, the name says it all. These are the people who consider themselves as “professional breeders.” These breeders are heavy into showing their dogs. They research lineage and can talk about the great-great-great-grandparents of both the parents of the puppies. Their record-keeping is meticulous. They feed a very high-quality food, possibly even mixing different foods with fresh ingredients for the health benefits. They will talk your ears off about how you can get into shows and who the best trainers are. They can give you page and paragraph number on every judge and likely school you on the moods of different judges based on the color clothes they are wearing. They provide you with song and verse about their competitors, who to listen to, and who to ignore.
Now comes the fun part, you will need to sign a multi-page contract with a clause that the puppy must see a vet within twenty-four to forty-eight hours; the only refund available is if the vet spots a congenital condition on the puppy during that initial visit and only after you return the puppy to them; a spay/neuter clause by a certain age with a requirement to send proof; otherwise, you pay an additional $500 fee, or more; a breed or no breed agreement; an agreement that if you decide not to keep the dog, you must return it to them at your expense; and other intrusive clauses that make you think, “Yeah, good luck enforcing that.” Since pricing is nearly as high as in pet stores, you have to wonder if they get that same type of contract when they buy a new car.
Not only is this class of breeder the sole contributor to Ethical Frenchie’s “Partner Puppies” listings. This type of breeder is just what the name implies. The dogs are bred and housed in the home. Well, the physical breeding part is done primarily by artificial insemination, Sometimes on occasion there’s an “immaculate conception” (They actually figure it out themselves despite all odds). The owners maintain routine vet visits before breeding, and once pregnant, the momma gets regular prenatal care. This type of owner obsesses over the details, such as what are the dietary needs of momma? What sort of activity restrictions does she need, and when? What do you need to do to prepare for the big day (aka very long day)? How will I know she is in labor? How will I know if she has any more puppies inside? These questions are good, and there are an endless number of them. (I will have an article about expecting mommas with pointers on the helping process in a future article.)
The puppies are born inside, generally in a part of the home with very little foot traffic. The owners attend to the momma and the puppies during each birth. The humans keep meticulous records, and take pictures. Puppies get assistance finding and attaching to spigots, and momma gets help with starting the suckling reflex. The biggest puppy receives relocation assistance away from the fullest containers, and the smallest puppies get transferred to that spigot. Yes, these breeders tell Darwin to get out of the way.
A day or so after the birth, momma and pups go to the vet. The vet examines momma’s uterus areas (dogs have a two-chambered uterus, with one chamber on each side, and makes sure nothing stayed inside. Then each puppy gets a good once over from the vet. Although controversial today, this is when the hyper vaccination process begins, which is the equivalent of injecting the puppy full of every known disease combination known to man from the chicken pocks to Ebola (just kidding, really it’s dewormer, antiparasitic stuff) for the frenchies depending on their local veterinarian and how much they want to “upsell”. A few weeks later, momma and pups make another visit to make sure all is well. The next time the puppies see the vet is for their pre-sale health report at about 8-weeks old: it is at this visit that most puppies get their second round of vaccinations at this point. If the puppies have never been outside, and momma is healthy with no worms, there is no need for deworming the puppies because there was no way for them to get worms. They received enough of momma’s immunity prior to the start of weaning off of her milk and the start of eating puppy food two weeks earlier. By the time this almost 8-week-old visit occurs, the puppies and momma should have puppy food only diets. Trust me; momma wants those needle teeth anywhere but attached to her spigots.
These breeders may or may not offer registration paperwork. Likewise, they may have a puppy contract, but with significantly fewer restrictive clauses. These are the breeders who call twenty-four to forty-eight hours later to see how the puppy is doing. They may text or email after the second round of shots and stay in loose contact for a while after that. The pricing on these dogs will reflect the total cost of vet care from the start of pregnancy, all the way through to leaving for their new homes. Some people add a slight premium for males (everyone wants a male) or a particular color (Blue/Gray). As long as that premium is not ridiculous, supply and demand are likely driving any such premium. Personally, I would rather see the puppies at the same price, no matter the gender or the color, considering my business (outside of when I breed myself) is based on markup that covers our employees and their human children, balanced with a premium-out between the other puppies in case I get stuck with one and have to start dropping the price. After about 16 to 20 weeks, most people are not willing to pay puppy-pricing for a dog without puppy breath.
No matter where you choose to find the new member of your family, do your breed-specific research. Every breed has different needs. Each breed has a unique set of health concerns that you need to look for while puppy-seeking. Of course, listen to the breeder, If you get a puppy from us, we connect you with the breeder upon adoption, but you should know most of what we tell you already. Ask questions about the momma and daddy, and if available, meet them. Your puppy should come with a day or two of the food they have been eating for the past couple of weeks. Ideally, we at Ethical Frenchie or the breeder themselves already told you about the brand and specific type so that you have some at home already. If you prefer a different brand, mix the food 75/25 old/new and over seven to ten days, gradually decrease the old and increase the new in the mix. This method of mixing will save you the cleanup from an upset tummy or irritated bowels.
Do not become emotionally attached to a puppy until you have decided and placed a deposit. If there are “four other people coming later today,” let them come. If they commit to the puppy before you do, that was not the puppy for you. If there is a puppy contract, request an advanced copy via email. Read it carefully and mark areas where you have questions. Ethical Frenchie has the most thorough health guarantee, ask about it, we’re always able to modify a clause. If dealing with any other breeder/dealer, ask the breeder to add one. If that breeder declines, say goodbye. Any breeder or company whom participates in the humane production and distribution of future furbabies, that refuses or will not guarantee the health of a puppy for two to four weeks is not confident in the health of their puppies. While we provide a one year (and 2 year upon request) Keep in mind that nobody can guarantee against any health issues that are not attributable to something you did. For instance, if you feed the puppy chocolate-covered onions, and the puppy needs $2500 in vet care, we or the breeder had nothing to do with it. Or, if your puppy jumps from the couch and breaks a leg, that is all you. With that being said, Ethical Frenchie in its time as a company serving the people in search of French bulldog babies, has some interesting stories. Just ask James or Renee.
¹ Truth be told, the only reason I find show breeders slightly less ethical than family breeders is the pricing. Though, you do have to keep aware when looking at puppies from any source as some people will attempt to charge a premium price for a puppy that has flaws not acceptable in the show ring. An ethical show breeder will tell you upfront that such a puppy will not qualify to compete. If you are shopping for a family pet, so what about any markings that disqualify a puppy for show? Since you have done your homework, you know not to pay the hefty price that the breeder gets for show quality dogs.