I recently visited a friend of mine who owns a Golden Labrador. This boisterous pup greeted us with a happy wag of his tail and barks of delight. He actually looked he was smiling. As Frenchie owners, we know how our dogs don’t really have those expressive types of faces like other dogs do.
This made me realise I needed to create a short guide on how to tell if a French Bulldog is happy. You can read that below, plus advice on how to raise a happy and well-behaved French Bulldog.
How do I know if my French Bulldog is happy? Whilst Frenchies can look very glum, you will know they are happy if they wiggle their bottom, gives you puppy dog eyes, have relaxed ears and mouth and is playful. French Bulldogs will also smile where their lips curl up.
If you are worried that your French Bulldog is depressed and unhappy, scroll nearer to the second half of this blog post as I will give some warning signs to look out for.
How can I tell if my French Bulldog is happy?
When I come into the house, Claude’s will jump up to me. There’s no tail to wag (Frenchies are born without long tails) but he will do a happy bum wiggle and will “look happy”. Those aren’t the only signs that you have a happy French Bulldog though. Here are all the things to look out for.
1. Has what looks like the signs of a slight smile
French Bulldogs can do a “slight” smile. It’s not a toothy grin like you might see with other dogs, but instead you will see their lips curl up. For me, this is a huge sign that Claude is contented and having fun – here are more photos of Frenchie’s smiling.
2. Has a happy wiggling bottom but no tail wag
French Bulldogs obviously can’t wag their tails as they have these short stumpy curled up tails. They aren’t able to wag their tails like Golden Retrievers, but they will tend to do a little bum wiggle when they see their owners. This is one sure fire way to tell that your beloved Frenchie is happy.
If you come home and your greeted by snuffles and a happy wag of your pooches backside, you can be sure that your Frenchie is pleased to see you.
3. Has puppy dog eyes
Yes, puppy dog eyes are a real thing. When your Frenchie looks at you with their big sweet eyes, with a soft gaze, it is a sign of happiness.
When a dog is happy, they have relaxed eyes and eyelids. Have you ever seen an aggressive dog? Their eyes are narrow, and they have a hard stare. When your French Bulldog is in a good mood you will be able to tell by his gaze.
It’s also interesting to note that science shows that dogs have developed this puppy dog look over time. You find out more about the science behind this in an article on The Guardian website.
They are able to raise their eyebrows, as they have learned this triggers a nurturing response in humans. This makes their eyes bigger, and seem infant like, which we as humans react to and find adorable.
Interestingly, their wolf cousins are unable to raise their eyebrows. It’s something that domesticated dogs have developed to help communicate better with their human companions.
5. Has a relaxed mouth (like a smile)
You can tell that your Frenchie is happy if their mouth is relaxed. Happy dogs almost seem to be smiling like I mentioned earlier.
If your dog is aggressive, they will show their teeth in an aggressive manner. Snarling, barking and ears being pinned back or lowered, means that your dog is unhappy. He could either be defensive if there is a stranger around that he doesn’t trust, or he could be afraid.
In general French Bulldogs are not aggressive and it’s not in their nature to act out aggressively for no reason. If your pup is showing signs of aggression, it’s best to take your Frenchie to the vet to rule out any health issues (here’s a list of health problem signs).
6. Has relaxed ears
Yes, Frenchies do have ears that stand up, but an unhappy Frenchie will have ears that do not look relaxed. Their ears will seem rigid and they might even be a bit lowered to show that they are unhappy. To see if your Frenchie is happy, look for relaxed ears, even loose. If their ears seem to be pricked forward this could indicate that they are interested in what is going on around them.
Here’s a video of Claude at his happiest, growing up from a puppy to 3 years old.
7. Has a relaxed body
If your French Bulldog is happy, you will see it in his body. A happy dog’s body is usually relaxed and when they see you their body will wiggle.
It’s kind of like they are doing a happy dance. If your Frenchie seems tense and rigid this could mean that they are stressed out.
8. Has plenty of reasons to play
If your French Bulldog loves playing, then this is a good sign that he is happy. A playful dog means that they are healthy and happy. If your French Bulldog seems to not want to do anything or seems lethargic, perhaps it would be a good time to take him to the vet.
Usually when a dog seems unusually quiet, this could be a sign that they are ill.
9. Has no destructive behavior
This is an interesting one. We once had a family friend who had a sausage dog that chewed everything. From their couch pillows to their dining room table to their expensive name brand jeans. The problem was that this adorable sausage dog, had huge separation anxiety if they left him alone.
Handy Hint: Read this guide to French Bulldog separation anxiety. It includes the symptoms you need to keep an eye on, plus details on whether or not it’s a good idea to leave your dog home alone when you go out to work all day.
Destructive behavior in any dog can signal that your pooch is unhappy.
All dogs chew, but if the chewing gets to a point that it is complete destruction, you could have an unhappy French Bulldog on your hands. If your Frenchie is left for hours on end and is neglected, he could easily develop destructive behavior.
This could include constant barking, digging up your yard, and chewing everything in sight. Make sure you provide your French Bulldog with exercise. It needn’t be strenuous exercise, and could be as little as playing fetch twice a day, or taking them for a short 15 minute walk.
Please don’t leave your Frenchie for long periods of time. This will definitely lead to an unhappy doggy. Frenchies loves attention and affection and if neglected for long periods of time can be very stressed.
Handy Hint: I recently published a guide which explains how you can stop your French Bulldog from chewing on your furniture.
10. Has no problem eating
A happy Frenchie loves eating. If your dog seems to not want to eat, lies around and doesn’t want to play, he could be sick. A puppy should eat three meals a day, whereas an adult French Bulldog should eat two meals a day.
11. Has a tongue sticking out
This could be from an overbite or an underbite (learn more about underbites), or perhaps your French Bulldog has a missing tooth; but often times, if your Frenchie’s tongue is sticking out while they are asleep, this is a sign that they are completely relaxed.
If you see your best friend sticking his tongue out, while he chases cats in his sleep, you can put your mind at ease that your dog is content.
12. Has a healthy coat
If your Frenchie has a shiny, healthy looking coat, this is a sign that your dog is in great health, which is a massive factor in happiness.
When dogs are stressed, they can shed their coats like crazy (see our video which shows you just how much). They can also develop flakey skin. If this is the case, have your dog checked from any skin conditions at the vet (here’s a list of Frenchie skin complaints).
You should feed your dog a well-balanced diet. Poor nutrition will have a detrimental effect on your dog’s emotional and physical health.
13. Has a habit of leaning into you
If you pet your Frenchie and they lean into you, this is a great signal that they are happy and you’re doing all of the right thing that pleases them.
If your walks away or avoids you or certain people, this could be a sign that he needs space, or feels uncomfortable with a particular person.
Signs of an unhappy and depressed French Bulldog
Whilst we would all like to think that we will know how to raise a happy and well-behaved French Bulldog by instinct, even the most experienced dog owners can have stressed dog’s occasionally. The reasons for depression can sometimes be outside of your control.
For example, when we first started to use a shower to bath Claude, he was quite unhappy the first time. He’s now used to it (here are our bathing tips) but as you can see in the photo below, the first time didn’t go too well!
Here’s are some signs of depression to look out for.
- Your dog is aggressive and growling.
- Your dog’s eyes aren’t looking the same as usual (more white showing can be a sign of stress).
- Your dog won’t eat his usual amount.
- Your dog yawns and pants a lot.
- Your dog is whining and howling.
- Your dog is cowering, fearful and hiding.
- Your dog is urinating indoors.
- Your dog is being destructive.
- Your dog is being disobedient.
- Your dog loses interest in toys and play.
- Your dog is not sleeping.
- Your dog is sleeping too much.
- Your dog is licking themselves more than usual.
- Your dog is not responding to affection.
Handy Hint: For more information on what to look for and signs of sadness in a Frenchie, read this guide.
How to raise a healthy and happy French Bulldog
I think people often get dogs without really considering how much work is involved. Raising a well-behaved, happy and healthy French Bulldog isn’t something to be sniffed at and is a lot of hard work.
How to keep a French Bulldog happy
- Give them regular exercise, walks, and play (see further down for our schedule).
- Give the a complete and nutritional diet (see our puppy feeding schedule).
- Take them for regular health check-ups (Frenchie’s are notorious for health issues).
- Keep their ears and skin folds clean.
- Give them plenty of toys and distractions to play with.
- Keep them well-groomed with a weekly brush.
- Keep them clean with an occasional bath (here’s how to do it without scaring them).
- Consider getting a pair of Frenchies (here’s why 2 can be better than 1)
- Develop a routine for feeding, walks, and their activities so they know what to expect.
- Don’t let them live outside (they are not outdoor dogs).
- Keep them cool in hot weather.
How much play does my French Bulldog need to be happy?
I’ve never come across any scientific research that explains just how much play a French Bulldog need to be happy, so I am just talking from personal experience here. Our Frenchie needs 4 solid times during the day for play or walks to be at his happiest.
We’re lucky enough that my wife Jemma works from home, and I am often at home during the day. Occasionally his friend Lola will come over to play with him too – this is when he is at his absolute happiest.
Here’s how his days play out, and activity tends to work out in 24 hours.
Claude has been raised to be a well-behaved and healthy dog and I think that’s in part to our routine:
- 0700: I take him for a 30 to 45-minute walk in the morning. Part of the walk will involve stick and ball play for around 10 minutes. Any more than that and he gets worn out.
- 1100: Claude will be with Jemma all day, and there will be 1 or 2 periods where she will get out into the garden with him and kick a ball about or just let him sniff around.
- 1530: Our son gets home from school and will play in the garden or house with him. This will be tug of war, chase, or ball play for 15 minutes again.
- 1700: If I’ve been at work I will come home and get out in the garden with him or go for a shorter walk of around 15 to 20 minutes.
Overall, I’ve never met a Frenchie who doesn’t want to play. Many of them will play to excess and wear themselves out – it’s like they don’t have an off-switch. However, if you are going to buy a Frenchie (here’s what you need to look out for) then you need to commit to playing with them a lot.
And lastly, how do you know when French Bulldogs are happy? Well, I’ve explained a lot in this guide, but the bottom line is; are they excited to see you when you get home? Do you give them plenty of attention and take good care of diet and exercise? Does your dog follow you everywhere and just want to be around you?
If you can tick all of these boxes, then I am pretty sure you have a happy and healthy Frenchie.