We all want to have a well-adjusted French Bulldog, but with their sad faces it can be hard to tell if they are in fact depressed and unhappy. As a generalization, French Bulldogs always look sad so as an owner you should instead look for other signs of depression aside from their facial expression.
Unlike us, dogs can’t tell us that they are sad and depressed. This is particularly true with Frenchies who don’t have the range of facial expression other breeds do.
But before I explain how tell if your French Bulldog is depressed and what could be causing the depression, just a quick caveat; long-term canine depression is very unusual.
With most Frenchies you will find times when they are depressed, but in the majority of cases it will be a short-term thing typically due to an environmental or routine change.
Longer term depression in Frenchies can arise from a major life change. For example, perhaps their companion dog died, they have had a nasty injury, have moved home, or experienced some form of trauma.
Sometimes it can actually be due to a medical issue so if you find that nothing seems to be solving their sadness, it’s probably worth visiting the vet for a professional check-up.
How to tell if your French Bulldog is depressed
It’s usually very easy for us to tell if Claude our Frenchie is sad. He won’t be his normal self, isn’t pleased to see us, and won’t be as active as he usually is. These aren’t the only signs of French Bulldog depression though. Here are all the signs of depression and sadness you need to look out for.
1. Will hide, cower, and be fearful of you
French bulldog depression will often manifest itself with hiding behavior. It’s a classic response to your dog or puppy being confused, stressed out, or going through a life-changing situation that it is not comfortable with.
The reason your French Bulldog hides can be down to a range of issues, many of which I will explain further down in the guide when I look at the causes of depression. However, simple reasons can be a change in what they are used to. Think of home moves, new people, or changes to their routine.
Frenchies will seek out small and dark places to hide in when they are sad, depressed, frightened, or stressed.
2. Won’t be pleased to see you
This is how we tell that our own French Bulldog is sad, and it’s very common too. Frenchies are social companion dogs. If you leave them alone for just a couple of hours, they can suffer with separation anxiety.
When we’ve had to leave Claude at home by himself for two or three hours (sometimes it’s unavoidable) he will shun us when we come back through the door.
Thankfully your French Bulldog’s sad face won’t last for long.
With a little bit of coaxing and love they will soon be back to their normal selves. I often think Claude’s just trying to punish us for leaving him alone for two hours… yours might do the same too!
Handy Hint: To find out more about separation anxiety in Frenchies and how it can make them sad or depressed, read this guide.
3. Will show more whites in the eyes
Dog experts call this “whale eye”. It refers to when your dog will look at you, but with its head bowed or to one side, but still with the eyes fixed on you but with one key difference; you can see the whites of the eyes in a crescent shape showing.
This whale eye behaviour is a classic sign of a dog being stressed, fearful, anxious, or depressed. But don’t rush into thinking it means your French Bulldog is sad.
Dogs of a brachycephalic breed such as Frenchies always have a little bit of white showing in their eyes. So, just because your French Bulldog is showing white half-moon shapes in their eyes doesn’t mean they’re depressed or sad.
With this sign of depression, I’d only use it as a signal if you’re ticking off other things from this list.
4. Will have a change in appetite
One of the biggest ways to tell if your French bulldog is depressed will be a loss of appetite. But, just like humans, sometimes dogs can even more when they are feeling sad and down.
However, most of the time, a sad French Bulldog will lose their appetite. This can be a sign of increased stress levels.
Just like one of the previous points where I mentioned Claude would ignore us, he will also skip a meal if he’s feeling sad. Thankfully, this has only ever lasted for half a day at most with our Frenchie, but it should be closely monitored.
If your Frenchie goes 24 hours without eating, then it’s a huge sign they are depressed. This will usually be due to a medical complaint, so you should consult with your vet if it goes on for too long.
5. Will lick themselves more than usual
One of the lesser known signs of depression in a French Bulldog is excessive licking. It will often be mis-interpreted as them licking a wound or cleaning themselves. However, it’s something you need to watch for though, as licking themselves more than usual could mean your Frenchie is sad.
Why is licking excessively a sign of stress, depression, or sadness though?
It’s two-fold. Firstly, a dog will lick more in order to sooth itself. I believe this is a hereditary thing from when their mother would lick and wash them in a litter. What better way to feel happier than putting yourself in a comfortable mental zone?
The second reason why excessive licking could mean your Frenchie is depressed is medical. Dogs that scratch, itch, and lick more than usual could have a skin problem.
Handy Hint: To find out what skin problems Frenchies suffer with and what signs to look out for, read this guide.
I found this quote from Dr Anita Patel, a leading veterinary dermatologist which sums it up very well.
“Dermatological problems can affect a dog’s wellbeing. What we now know is that skin issues can be one of the biggest causes of depression for dogs. And like people, when a dog is depressed, they lose interest in the things they usually love. Frequently itching, scratching, nibbling or licking themselves could be a strong sign of a skin condition.”
6. Will have changes in their sleeping patterns
If your French Bulldog seems depressed and isn’t sleeping as they usually do, then they could be sad and unhappy. Most sad dogs will tend to sleep more than usual and won’t seem interested in anything other than their bed.
In rarer cases of French Bulldog depression, it could actually go in completely the opposite direction, with them not sleeping at all.
We had this with Claude once when he had a gastro-intestinal problem. He was unable to sleep and was very depressed until the infection passed.
In the graph below you can see what a typical sleeping pattern can look like when your Frenchie is not sad or down in the dumps.
Handy Hint: I’ve published a Frenchie sleeping schedule which is very typical for a healthy and happy dog. You can read how many of sleep is normal here.
7. Will start yawning and panting
This is another lesser known sign your French bulldog is depressed is yawning. Scientists believe there is a lot of foundation in it (read more on PsychologyToday.com).
“Direct observations of canine behavior have shown that dogs that are under stress are more likely to yawn. In dog obedience classes, for example, I have often seen a dog yawn immediately after its master scolded it for something or gave it a very harsh correction.”
Another sign of stress and sadness is excessive panting. Dogs will often pant when they are scared – if you have a dog that hates loud noises such as fireworks, you might have seen this in action.
8. Will urinate or defecate indoors
Dogs can also respond to stress by urinating inside of the house. This one can come out of nowhere even with previously very well trained Frenchies.
French Bulldog acting depressed will often combine in by soiling the floor inside of the house.
Dog behavioural specialists say this is very common after a house move, or high times of anxiety when a dog will mark its territory – or even be afraid to go outdoors.
9. Will exhibit destructive behavior
Whilst it’s perfectly normal for Frenchies to chew on things (here’s how you can stop chewing), destructive behavior can ramp up significantly when they are unhappy.
It will often be your Frenchie’s way of getting your attention – it could be that they want you to understand that they are sad and depressed. In many cases though, it will be down to fear and anxiety.
Destructive behavior will often be combined with a lack of obedience and not responding to commands.
Digging is a classic sign too. Often Frenchies will dig holes in the garden because they literally want to escape and get to another place.
Handy Hint: Here’s information on how you can stop your dog from digging up the garden or yard and what could be causing it.
10. Will lose interest in toys and play
Very depressed and sad French Bulldogs will stop doing the things that they love. This can be going for walks, being at your side, and even losing interest their toys.
Withdrawn behaviour and a lack of interest in playtime (here’s how Frenchies love to play) is a sure-fire sign that your French Bulldog is sad.
Handy Hint: You might find that your Frenchie cheers up by being stimulated by some new toys. I’ve put together a list of the best French Bulldog toys that our happy boy loves to play with.
11. Will start whining and howling
This sign of depression will often manifest itself with your Frenchie whinging and howling when you’re actually in the house with them.
Dogs don’t have many ways of communicating well with their human owners, so often a vocal sign will be there way of telling you there’s something wrong with them.
12. Won’t respond to love and affection
A French Bulldog who doesn’t want love and affection is very unusual. This breed is renowned for wanting cuddles and love… so if they don’t, it’s a sign that something is not right.
Why is your French bulldog sad in this scenario? Well, like most of the signals on this list, there could be an underlying health issue bring them down.
13. Will growl and be aggressive
And the most obvious is saved for last.
Frenchies that are sick or scared can become aggressive. It makes sense; dogs who are stressed can become fearful, and not want anybody near them.
Handy Hint: If your Frenchie is biting for non-stress related reasons then there are ways in which you can train them to stop. See this guide to preventing biting behavior.
Why French Bulldogs get depressed
I touched on some reasons why your Frenchie could be sad earlier, but let’s expand on those a little so you can possibly get to the bottom of the depression a little better.
If your French Bulldog seems depressed it could be down to a number of reasons. Here are some of the most common reasons why your dog could be sad.
Change in routine or their environment
Frenchies are very sensitive to change.
I know one owner whose puppy had a long period of depression after a house move. It took their dog a month to get used to the change of surroundings not too soon after it had settled into a new home shortly after being taken away from the mother.
Many dog owners report depression in their pups after a new baby is born and brought into the family home. Others talk about their dog being sad if they have had to spend more time than usual out of the home perhaps with a new job.
Traumatic incident or injury
French Bulldogs can also act depressed after a stressful incident or an injury. Injuries that involve going to a vet could put your dog well out of its comfort zone. It could also be be the sign of a high fever or high temperature (here’s what to check for).
Having to be prodded, poked, and injected will often raise anxiety levels for a long time after the injury has been treated.
Loss of a companion or owner
If you have two Frenchies and one dies, then it’s very likely that the surviving dog will go through a period of mourning and sadness.
The same sadness will manifest itself in Frenchies whose owners have passed away. It can be very challenging to take on the dog who has lost their owner.
Whilst you can’t really give a dog grief counselling, there are things you can do to lift their depression. You can read how to help them out further down the page.
French Bulldogs are companion animals.
If you can’t give them that then I don’t suggest you get one for a moment. They need to be in a pack; whether that’s with you all day, or another dog. I recommend two Frenchies being better than one for this very reason.
Fear and stress
One Frenchie owner I spoke to told me how her dog became depressed after new neighbors moved in who had a dog.
Her French Bulldog knew the new dog was on the other side of the fence in the backyard, and she believes the depression set in due to anxiety over territory.
Separation anxiety is a common theme with Frenchies and one of the main reasons why they will become depressed. I’ve written a guide to this which you can read about in the separation anxiety section.
Symptoms of separation anxiety, and therefore depression include:
- Urinating and defecating indoors.
- Barking and howling.
- Pacing, heavy panting, and drooling.
- Chewing, digging, and destructive behavior.
- Escape attempts.
Lack of attention
If for some reason you change your behavior toward your Frenchie, don’t be surprised if that has a knock-on effect.
I mentioned human babies coming into a household earlier as a prime reason for depression. The reason being, the focus of attention will move from the dog to the new arrival.
Dogs can pick up on your emotions too, and there’s even some evidence to suggest that dogs can even pick up on stress in their owners (read source on Reuters.com).
And last but not least; sickness.
Your French Bulldog could always look sad due to illness. The depression could very well be a secondary symptom of pain and discomfort.
If you cannot think of any reason why your Frenchie is sad, then this is probably the core reason and means you should book a vet’s appointment.
For example, if your Frenchie no longer wants to go for a walk, preferably to look miserable and disinterested, it could be the on-set of canine arthritis pain.
How to treat Frenchie depression
Now that you’ve read the list, the ways to treat the sadness should be relatively obvious. In most cases though, it will probably only be a short-term thing… most Frenchies won’t be sad for long.
You can usually lift a sad funk with things such as:
- Offer plenty of attention and love.
- Keep routines and schedules the same
- Keep them well entertained with play and exercise.
- Consider getting them a dog companion.
- Buy new toys to keep them mentally active and stimulated.
- Give them more socialization with other dogs.
- Don’t leave them alone for long periods.
- Give them a safe and comfortable place to bed down.
- Give them time to feel better – it will probably lift after a couple of hours.
If nothing else works, then you should seek professional support from a vet. They will be able to do checks and blood tests to look for any medical reasons that could be caused the depressed behavior.
If it isn’t due to an injury or sickness, you might find a vet who even prescribes a form of canine depression medication. These work very similar to how depression meds do with humans.
The bottom line is that Frenchies will typically become sad after a major event or change in their life. In most cases, they won’t be sad for long, and with love and attention will soon bounce back to their happy self.
And how will you know your Frenchie is loving life?
Well, take a look at this list of 13 signs of Frenchie happiness for some clues.