The challenges of mating and labour in the French bulldog

The challenges of mating and labour in the French bulldog

Breed Facts

The French bulldog is one of the most up and coming and in demand of all of the various small dog breeds, and with good reason! These petite, quirky-looking dogs have big personalities, a lively, fun-loving nature and a very affectionate temperament.

However, the breed is also one that is known to have an elevated occurrence rate of certain breed-specific health and conformation issues, which not only have potential implications for the health and wellness of the breed as a whole and the individual dogs within it, but also, can make mating and delivery of a healthy litter more of a challenge.

In this article, we will look at the various potential problems that can arise as part of mating, conception, gestation and delivery in the French bulldog, and problems to watch out for. Read on to learn more about the challenges of mating and labour in the French bulldog.

The French bulldog and Breed Watch

During 2013, The Kennel Club announced the French Bulldog’s removal from category three of their “Breed Watch” scheme, which is a scheme designed to monitor and regulate certain breeds that are apt to be bred for exaggerations of the conformation, or that have a high occurrence rate of physical conditions and conformation problems that can negatively affect the health and quality of life of the dog. This scheme was previously referred to as the “high profile breeds list.”

The French bulldog’s removal from the list reflects the ongoing work done by breeders, show exhibitors and dog show judges of the French bulldog in terms of working to improve the health and wellness of dogs of the breed as a whole, and end the process of awarding show placings to potentially unhealthy dogs.

Obviously this is good news in terms of what removal from the category three list means for the progress and health of the French bulldog breed as a whole, but the breed remains as one that still needs to be monitored albeit at a lower level, and has been downgraded to category two, which is still subject to review, but with less stringent measures in place.

In order to see the breed removed from the Breed Watch scheme entirely, a lot of work still needs to be done in terms of improving breeding and the breed standards for the French bulldog, and one of the breed’s core areas of concern here is related to mating and delivering litters, which we will now examine in more detail.

Mating and conception

Given the sheer number of pedigree French bulldogs available for sale at any given time, it may come as a surprise to many admirers of the breed to learn that the process of physical conception and mating itself is highly challenging for many dogs of the breed, and can rarely take place totally naturally without human assistance.

Because the French bulldog breed has very narrow hips, this means that in the majority of cases, male dogs of the breed are physically unable to mount females, as their hips are simply too narrow to achieve this!

Selective breeding to produce a dog with wider, more natural hips whilst remaining within the remit of the breed standard is an ongoing process that will likely take many generations to come to fruition, which makes entire male dogs of the breed that have wide enough hips to be able to mate without assistance in high demand. However, such demand for a small percentage of the dogs from the available breed pool does mean that a potential future problem in the making may involve a narrowing of the breed’s gene pool, reflecting the fact that many male dogs of the breed cannot breed naturally.

Many planned matings of the French bulldog breed require artificial insemination or AI in order to result in successful mating and conception, and obviously, this comes with additional costs and consideration to bear in mind for the owners of such dogs, as well as a willingness to get intimately involved with the whole process!


As mentioned, the narrow hips of the breed often mean that male dogs of the breed are unable to mount and inseminate a female in the normal manner, and this same conformation problem commonly leads to problems for female dogs of the breed too, when it comes to delivering their litters.

French bulldogs have both narrow hips and large heads, which means that female dogs of the breed rarely go through a straightforward, natural labour and delivery, as this combination of physical traits makes it highly likely that the pups will get stuck in the birth canal.

For this reason, the majority of French bulldog bitches are usually delivered manually by means of caesarean section. Exact figures for the number of dogs of the breed that are able to deliver naturally and without complications are not known, but it may be as few as one in five.

When you are making plans and arrangements to breed from your French bulldog, it is important to involve your vet in the process from start to finish, as you may need their advice on the logistics of the mating itself, as well as the gestation and eventual delivery.

If your vet can see and assess not only the bitch but the dog that will sire the litter as well, they may be able to give you their informed opinion as to what they feel is the likelihood of the bitch being able to deliver naturally; however, even if your vet does feel that this may be viable, they should be on standby when your bitch goes into labour nonetheless, just in case.

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