When you get your first French Bulldog, there’s something the breeders don’t tell you. It’s the common problem of French Bulldog separation anxiety. Believe me when I tell you that Frenchies appear to be a breed that suffer with the symptoms far more than other dog breeds.
Put simply; French Bulldogs do not do well alone. French Bulldogs cannot be left alone all day, and if you’re even considering doing this, chances are you’re going to have a very unhappy puppy or dog on your hands.
Some Frenchies can’t even handle being without their owners by their side for a few moments. If that sounds like your dog, then it’s a problem that you can look to solve.
In this guide to French Bulldog separation anxiety I am going to give you a blueprint to follow to make things better for you and your puppy. It will also include tips on how to spot French Bulldog separation anxiety symptoms, and advice on what to do should you think you’re going to be leaving your Frenchie home alone for long periods of time.
French Bulldog separation anxiety guide
If you find that you can’t even leave the house without your Frenchie having a meltdown, you may have a dog that is suffering with separation anxiety.
Although it can be very distressing behavior to deal with, there are a few steps you can take to ease your Frenchie out of this destructive pattern and to help them deal with their separation anxiety and symptoms.
French Bulldogs are known to be an especially clingy breed and are more susceptible to separation anxiety as a result.
They have been bred to be human companions so this is not the type of dog that can be left alone at home for long periods of time. Frenchies thrive from having plenty of quality time with you and will be absolutely miserable if you work long hours and leave them alone for the majority of the day.
It’s a behavioural problem
Separation anxiety is a behavioral problem, but it is different to other problems you might experience as it will only usual happen when you aren’t in the home with your Frenchie.
For example, you might have a poorly trained dog who will poop right there in front of you – but that’s just down to how you’ve not toilet trained them properly (click here for potty training advice).
However, the symptoms of separation anxiety mean that your Frenchie puppy (or adult dog) will defecate when you’re away from the home, destroy things, and possibly even howl and bark for hours on end.
Punishing and scolding them simply won’t work.
If you find that your Frenchie has a meltdown every time you leave the house, there are a number of methods you can utilize to coax them away from this frame of mind.
Some of the most common approaches include giving them a special treat or toy whenever you leave, so that they begin to associate you leaving with something positive; leaving the TV or radio on for them when you’re away; and desensitizing them to sounds or habits that usually indicate you will be leaving the house (jangling keys, putting on a coat, and so on).
Patience and perseverance during this time is critical. You are bound to get flustered and frustrated with some of your Frenchie’s behavior, but with some positive reinforcement and dedication, you should start to see some improvements with time.
Before I get into how to solve the problem of French Bulldog separation anxiety in more detail, I want to describe the symptoms to you so you can understand if this is the problem you’re experiencing.
French Bulldog separation anxiety symptoms
A lot of the behavior associated with separation anxiety can easily be mistaken for a reckless and destructive personality (we’ve all met dogs like this).
However, if your Frenchie is as good as gold when you’re home, and then tears up your sofa and blinds the minute you step out the door, more than likely you are dealing with a dog who is suffering from separation anxiety.
Here are some of French Bulldog separation anxiety symptoms most commonly associated with this condition:
Symptom 1: Urinating and defecating
If your Frenchie is fully potty trained and you find that they have an “accident” every time you leave the house, this is a pretty strong indicator that your Frenchie is struggling with some anxiety while you are gone.
You might even find that your puppy or adult dog starts to eat their own poop. This symptom can be very distressing, but you can make steps to prevent it – to help you with this I’ve put together a guide on how to stop a Frenchie eating their own feces.
Symptom 2: Barking and howling
Frenchies are not loud dogs to begin with, so if they start barking and howling every time you leave the house, this is another strong indicator that they are struggling with separation anxiety.
You might have seen photos of a younger Frenchie puppy on our blog. We sometimes look after her to help her owners out, and unlike Claude who can deal with being left home alone for a couple of hours, she starts to bark like crazy as soon as we leave the house for a few moments.
Symptom 3: Pacing, heavy panting and drooling
You may notice this type of frantic body language whenever you start getting ready to leave. This may also be accompanied by shivering and shaking.
Your dog isn’t stupid. French Bulldog puppy separation anxiety starts as soon as they learn the signals for you leaving the house. I will come on to how to reduce these triggers further down the page.
Symptom 4: Chewing, digging, and generally destructive behavior
This is usually their attempt to try and get out of the house.
Typically, you will find that their destruction will be aimed at sofas, blinds, drapes, doorways, and walls – anything that they may perceive as a way out. If you have this problem with your Frenchie, read this guide on how to stop them from chewing your house up.
Handy Hint: Don’t confuse this French Bulldog puppy separation anxiety symptom with teething. Here’s all you need to know about Frenchie teething.
If your puppy or dog has access to a garden or yard whilst you’re out, then digging could present a huge problem. It’s their way of getting out to come and find you. Find out how we dog-proofed our own garden area to stop Claude from digging up our lawn.
Symptom 5: Escape attempts
When distressed, your Frenchie may go to extreme attempts to escape the house in order to find you. This can even result in them hurting themselves.
Our friend’s Frenchie used to be crated whilst they went out on the school pick-up. They would get back to see their young puppy bashing his head and teeth against the crate bars, injuring himself in the process.
How to stop French Bulldog separation anxiety
If you have a possessive and clingy French Bulldog on your hands, there are a number of techniques you can try to calm your Frenchie down.
The key in all of this is endurance. Regardless of your approach, you will not see results straight away, but the longer you persist, the more you should see a difference.
All of these methods will help you to deal with a dog who cannot be left alone for either long or short periods of time.
1. Practice a calm routine
Too much excitement when you leave for the day and when you come home can really exacerbate your Frenchie’s anxiety. Although it may not always be realistic, practicing a calm routine in the morning before you leave, and a calm routine when you get back should help your Frenchie with their anxiety.
Avoid giving your Frenchie too much attention or making too much of a fuss. This is especially important when you get home.
If you find your Frenchie excitedly greeting you back, you can certainly return their greeting with a quick pet, but it would be best to avoid too much eye contact or attention until they have calmed down.
2. Don’t make a big deal of leaving the house
Just like you should be calm when coming home, leaving the house is also key. In fact, it’s probably one of the biggest trigger points for separation anxiety that you have to deal with.
With a few simple changes to your own behavior, you should be able to leave your French Bulldog alone – but it will take time to get this discipline down to a tee.
Frenchies will learn subtle visual and behavioral cues that signal to them you’re just about leave them alone. This includes things such as:
- Putting on a jacket and shoes.
- Picking up your house keys, purse, or wallet.
- Making a big deal out of saying goodbye to them.
What you might try to do instead is get your stuff ready before you start to leave. I know one owner who will put their jacket on and pick up their keys before the eat dinner so they can be more subtle about the act of leaving the house.
It might be that you have a set routine in the morning. If you do, try shaking things up a little bit.
You might try picking up your keys and putting on your coat as though you were about to leave, but then doing something completely different, like making a meal or watching TV.
Once you have identified your Frenchie’s triggers, you can also do something that will help them associate these sounds with something positive.
If your Frenchie starts to become anxious as you pick up your keys and put on your jacket, perhaps you can start to use these before you take them out for a walk or playing a favorite game.
3. Give them a comfortable and safe place
I mentioned the crate method earlier. This can work with some puppies, as you might have one who is perfectly happy to sit in his crate when left at home alone with no negative consequences. Other dogs might hate being crated.
The key here is to see if you can find a room or area where your Frenchie feels more at ease when you leave the house.
It could even mean placing them in a specific room with the door closed, with the TV or radio on and plenty of toys to play with (more on this in a moment).
4. Try short absences at first
Another method to help you if you absolutely must leave your French Bulldog at home alone all day is to try short absences first.
Here’s how you do it:
- Put on your jacket, pick up your keys, and leave the house for 5 seconds.
- Come back through the house door behaving completely normally before your Frenchie can start to get up to mischief without making a fuss.
- Don’t come back into the house if they start to bark and howl but wait until they go quiet.
By trying this exercise you can start to train your Frenchie to be left alone. The main point here is to hammer home that nothing bad is happening, this is normal behavior, and you won’t react in an over the top way if they bark – and you won’t come running back if they do behave badly.
Important: I do not recommend getting a Frenchie if you are going to be leaving them at home alone all day or for long hours at a time. It isn’t fair. However, I appreciate there may be times when this is unavoidable.
5. Positive reinforcement
Part of the reason why Frenchies become so distressed when you leave the house is because they know that they are going to be separated from you and your affection. Some people say that your dog might even think you are never coming back!
To combat the idea that your leaving the house is a negative thing, you can reserve a certain treat or a favorite toy for when you leave.
Some experts recommend leaving your Frenchie a KONG ball filled with peanut butter (here’s a particular toy I recommend).
It will take them a good twenty minutes to finish with this toy, and by the time they are done, it should hopefully provide enough of a distraction to keep their mind off your absence.
Whatever you decide to leave them, the aim is to help them associate you leaving with something fun and tasty, so don’t be afraid to experiment.
6. Keep your puppy distracted and entertained
As an extension of an earlier suggestion, another thing you can try is to leave your Frenchie in a room full of toys and distractions to keep them occupied throughout the day. Make sure the room is well lit and fill it with engaging toys that you know your Frenchie will love.
If you can, try to reserve these toys for times when you are out of the house. This way they will have more things to positively associate with you leaving.
Another tip that may help, especially if you find that your Frenchie is comforted by sound, is to leave the TV or radio on during the day. Sometimes the silence can be enough to agitate your Frenchie, so you may find this on its own can make a massive difference.
7. Burn off the excess energy
Although Frenchie’s need relatively little exercise in comparison to other breeds, it is still important to take them for a short walk in the morning and afternoon to burn off any excess energy they might have.
By doing so, you might find that they end up sleeping for large periods when left alone. You can see a chart below which shows how often our own Frenchie sleeps during the day – it’s a lot!
By keeping your puppy or adult dog entertained and exercised when you are at home, it will make leaving them alone a lot easier, as hopefully they will use this time to get some well-deserved rest and recuperation until you return.
Handy Hint: Ever wondered how long Frenchies sleep for? Read this article about French Bulldog sleeping patterns including a recommend sleeping schedule.
8. Doggy daycare and walking services
Last summer my wife and I had a period of time where we both had to be at work from 9 until 5 each day – usually my wife is at home with Claude. To cope with this better we decided to use a dog sitting and walking service.
However, it can cost quite a lot if you have to place them into full-time day care.
What we did most of the time was give our trusted dog walker the keys to our house. She would come once in the morning and once in the afternoon to take Claude out for an hour to break up his day and how long he was without human companionship.
You might also consider taking your Frenchie to a reliable doggy daycare service. This will be especially helpful if you feel yourself becoming too overwhelmed or frustrated to deal with the behavior at this time, or if your Frenchie’s separation anxiety results in chewed-up furniture.
9. Use a remote camera to see and talk to your puppy
Another suggestion is to get one of those remote cameras that you can buy on Amazon. That way you can view your dog while you’re at work and even talk to them. This can give you huge peace of mind.
The best one I have found online is the Furbo Dog Camera (see Amazon prices). It has 2-way audio so you can hear them, and they can hear you plus can be hooked up to your Alexa device.
The reviews on Amazon for this dog camera are excellent, and could be a great solution if you are going to be leaving your French Bulldog at home alone for longer periods of time.
10. Professional help or medication
If you find that nothing seems to be working, or if the behavior is already quite bad, you may want to enlist the help of a professional trainer and your veterinarian.
As separation anxiety can be the result of medical issues, it would be worth having your Frenchie checked over to rule this out as a possibility. Your veterinarian may also choose to prescribe medication for your Frenchie if the anxiety is particularly bad.
Dog tranquilizers prescribed by your vet should only be viewed as a short-term (and drastic) solution if you really need to alter the behavior of your Frenchie.
I hope this has given you some guidance on how you can better deal with the problem of separation anxiety. Much of this behavior will exhibit itself in puppies and dogs who are left home alone, so here are some more pointers to help you decide if a Frenchie is the right dog for you.
What age can you leave your French Bulldog alone?
Talking from completely personal experience here, we didn’t leave Claude alone as a puppy for long periods of time until he was 10 months old.
By this point he was starting to get more adult and was passing the destructive puppy-like behavior that would be most commonly associated with being left alone.
It might be different with your own puppy, but the bottom line is, you should not leave a French Bulldog puppy alone at the age of 6 months. At this age they cannot hold their bladder for more than 6 hours.
Can French Bulldogs be left alone all day?
Yes, French Bulldogs can be left alone all day, but I don’t recommend it. There have been some very rare occasions where we have had to leave the home for 7 hours, leaving Claude by himself home alone (it was a family emergency).
However, for a couple of days afterwards he wasn’t himself. He would ignore us and give us the cold shoulder – almost like he was punishing us for leaving him alone all day.
The bottom line is this; French Bulldogs are a very social breed and have been bred to be companion dogs. They could even possibly think that you are never going to come back, so it’s not advisable to leave them for any longer than 4 hours at a time.
Do French Bulldogs do well alone?
I would say no, French Bulldogs do not do well alone.
The guidance above, including the symptoms I’ve already described should give you enough insight into that.
What many people will do is have two Frenchies so they can keep each other company. I go into more detail on this in my article about French Bulldogs being better in pairs.
The benefits of having two Frenchies include:
- As social animals they can keep each other company.
- Pairs can act as role models for each other, particularly a puppy with an older dog.
- Two Frenchies can help to exercise and play with each other when you leave the home.
- By being together they won’t exhibit as much separation anxiety.
- You can leave them home alone longer if they are two of them.
Which dogs have separation anxiety?
I’ve established that Frenchies do suffer with separation anxiety. If you are going to be an owner that will be leaving their dog alone at home for long periods of time, then it’s not a dog breed I would recommend.
Other dogs that suffer with this problem are said to be the following breeds (source: Furbo.com):
- Labrador Retriever
- Border Collie
- King Charles Spaniel
- Jack Russell
- German Shepherd
- Australian Shepherd
- Bichon Frise
- German Shorthaired Pointer
- Toy Poodle
Dogs that are said to be least affected by being left at home alone include:
- Boston Terrier
- Lhasa Apso
- Miniature Schnauzer
- Bull Mastiff
- Chow Chow
- Chinese Shar-Pei
Please note, I can find no scientific evidence to back up any of the online information I found about the above dog breeds – it’s probably only anecdotal evidence.
What other owners say
I took a look on social media to see what other owners were recommending on how to deal with French Bulldog puppy separation anxiety problems. Here’s a selection of the best comments from Facebook.
“Mine has a lot of separation anxiety. Trainer said it’s better to cage / crate train them so that they don’t feel like they have the whole house to search for you and protect and it make them feel safe. I also started her on CBD oil for the anxiety.”
“I always leave the radio on. It’s always set to a talking channel as this makes him feel like there’s always someone there. I always leave a light on if it’s going to be getting dark and my boy has plenty of different toys to keep him busy. Sounds obvious, but maybe take her to choose her own bed. That way she might be more inclined to sleep in it when you’re away.”
“We got ours at 10 weeks and it was hard! But we’ve had her for a month now and she is a much better dog as far as crate and being left alone. It takes small amounts of time in the crate. Even put her in there and be next to her the whole time. I also would have her nap in there so when she woke up, she was not so stressed about it.”
“I did a lot of research into separation anxiety and worked with a behaviorist, but she is 14 months old now and still can’t be left. She has made lots of progress through and will stay on her own at my mums with the other dog (boxer) and doesn’t cry for us when we leave anymore, but we still have lots of work to do. Desensitization is the key e.g. putting shoes/coat on but not going anywhere, picking keys up, going out coming back in, these are just a few of the things we have done.”
“It would be best if you could leave her with someone in the day that is probably best until she can control her anxiety, I know this is not always possible I’m lucky I have my mum, but I have realized there is no quick fix and things take time and patience. Frenchies seem to be extremely needy and clingy dogs which is part of their charm I suppose, but it’s really hard when it becomes an issue.”
Knowing whether your French Bulldog suffers with separation anxiety should be simple enough, but there could be some symptoms you are missing.
To help you out with this, ask yourself whether you think your Frenchie is truly happy and whether you should be leaving them home alone by themselves.
If you want to better understand what makes a Frenchie happy, please read this guide to your dog’s happiness I published last month.
Ultimately there are a lot of different theories as to why some dogs deal better with separation than others. There will also be some dogs that are simply unable to cope with their owners being absent meaning it’s you who will have to adapt and change.
However, in the majority of cases you should be able to lessen the impact and symptoms – I wish you all the best with it!