Frenchies are renowned for their stubborn behaviour, so it’s only natural to question how good they are off the leash. There’s also the consideration of whether you can teach them to walk without one. As Frenchie owners, I can give you a personal overview of what we’ve learned, plus some advice on how we taught our own dog, Claude.
In the guide I will also include some tips further down the page on how you can start to train your Frenchie to walk without a leash… but first up, a general observation:
Are French Bulldogs good off the leash? If a Frenchie has been trained from a young age, then the French Bulldog should be good off the leash and will come back to you when called. But you will need to put the work in if you want them to walk without a leash and remain obedient, plus be careful the times when you remove the leash.
Our own personal experience
We made sure that Claude was trained from a young age. He attended puppy socialization classes at our local vets and went to weekly obedience training classes. Along with our own commitment to training him, it has resulted in a relatively obedient Frenchie who has good recall.
Whilst he is good off his leash now, it did take us time to get to this point. From memory, it was probably at around 11 to 12 months old when he would start to come back every time when called.
We are now able to let Claude walk off the leash when we’re at a park, in the local woods, down on the beach, or anywhere with no roads and traffic.
But we will not remove his leash when we’re in an urban area. Whilst Frenchies are good off the leash, I would not trust our own to walk beside without a harness or lead when they are lots of distractions and dangers.
Handy Hint: For help and guidance, please take a look at my training guide on how to teach your Frenchie to come back when called. This is a key component of walking without a leash.
Can French bulldogs walk without a leash?
We’ve all seen those dog owners who walk down the road with their dog off a leash patiently walking beside them. It always amazes when I see something like this!
But can French Bulldogs walk without a leash? I don’t believe Frenchies should walk without a leash in urban environments. They can as they can become excitable and will not be aware of the dangers of road traffic. However, you can walk the without a leash at a park or other area with no cars.
In simple terms, it’s all dependent on location and circumstance.
For example, each morning I take Claude to our local park. To get to the park I leave our house and walk up a hill with a road next to the path. It’s a reasonably busy road with regular traffic coming up and down it.
When I get to the park, I let our French Bulldog off the leash. However, on the walk to get there when I am next to the road, there is no way I would let him walk without a leash. It’s far too risky.
For example, if he sees a cat, another dog, or is in an excitable mood, he could easily run across the road into the traffic. Because of this I will never walk our French Bulldog without a leash unless we’re at a park, fields, woods, or forest – away from a road basically.
Whilst you will be able to train your Frenchie to be okay off the leash at a park, or in the forest, having them walk next to you off their leash is a different matter. They are just far too inquisitive and won’t be aware of the dangers.
Handy Hint: I always recommend you buy both a collar and a harness for your Frenchie, despite the fact I believe one is safer. Find out more about Frenchie harnesses or collars here.
Why off-leash walking is good for your Frenchie
I encourage all French Bulldog owners to let their dog walk off the leash every day, providing you can find a safe and secure place for them to do so.
Our Frenchie Claude benefits from off-leash walking so much, including:
- He gets to play and run around with other dogs.
- He can run at speed.
- He can burn off energy.
- He can keep his weight at a healthy level.
- He can explore and be free.
- He has become confident.
- He has become socially adjusted to people and dogs.
Of course, there will always be dangers from letting your French Bulldog off the leash. It’s up to you to take as many precautions as you can. The types of dangers could be:
- Your Frenchie runs away and doesn’t come back (practice recall training).
- Your Frenchie runs into a busy road.
- Your Frenchie is injured by another dog, rough play, fighting.
Training your Frenchie to walk off the leash
If you want to take the plunge to see how good off the leash your French Bulldog can be, you should train first – obvious I know, but you’d be surprised at how many dog owners I’ve seen who just unclip the lead and hope for the best!
1. Train your Frenchie to recall
I won’t cover this part in detail here. Instead you should read my section on recall training. Complete that training first, and then come back here and move to step 2.
The key here is repetition, plenty of treats, and reward.
2. Take your Frenchie out with a long leash first
Once your Frenchie has mastered recall, go to a safe area with a long lead (buy on Amazon). This will let your Frenchie have the freedom and feeling of being off the leash, but still ensuring safety and control.
If you do use a long leash, just be a little careful. I’ve been tripped up by one of these before by an excitable dog at our own local park.
3. Practice an off the leash walk in an enclosed area
Once you’re confident enough to take the leash off your Frenchie, do it in an area which is enclosed. This could be a field with fencing around it, or even a dedicated off leash dog park.
This is the last step in the process. Providing the recall works, there’s no reason why your French Bulldog won’t be good off the leash and be able to enjoy the freedom.
What to do when things go wrong…
In the early days, you still might have the occasion where your Frenchie runs off or refuses to come back to you. Here’s what you can do:
- Don’t run after them: Your Frenchie will thing this is a game, and run away even more, possibly into danger.
- Try running away from them: If you run in the opposite direction, your Frenchie can think it’s a game and will run after you rather than away.
- Remain calm: If you get over-excited your Frenchie can too, and this could exacerbate the behaviour.
- Use plenty of treats: Anytime your Frenchie is allowed to walk off of the leash, you should have plenty of treats on hand. This breed is motivated by food!
Our Frenchie has been good off the leash since he was around 12 months old. Before that he was a complete nightmare, but you can put that down to the youthful exuberance of puppyhood.
All dogs should be allowed the freedom to run off the leash, so do persevere with the training and find somewhere where they can have a good run out.
Handy Hint: I’ve also published a training guide which explains how you can train your Frenchie to walk on a leash, rather than off of one. There is also information available on how to stop your Frenchie puling on his leash.