Q & A: French Bulldogs


  • July 02, 2019

From the June 2019 Issue of ShowSight. Click to subscribe. Above photo from the article "Judging The French Bulldog" by Becky Smith. ShowSight Magazine, March 2014.

We asked the following questions to people in the Frenchie community. Here are some responses. 

QUESTIONS

  1. Where do you live? What do you do outside of dogs?
  2. How many years in the Frenchie, Showing, Breeding, Judging?
  3. What in your opinion is the secret to a successful breeding program?
  4. What do you feel is the condition of the Frenchie breed today? Pros and Cons?
  5. What do you feel breeders need to concentrate on to improve the quality of the Frenchie?
  6. The enormous popularity of the Frenchie has it now ranked at #4 out of all AKC breeds. Does this help or hurt in the long run?
  7. Worldwide Brachycephalic breeds are getting a bad rap. How do you think that will affect future developments?
  8. What is your favorite Dog Show Memory?
  9. Is there anything else you’d like to share about the breed? Please elaborate.

ANSWERS

Diane Burvee

I reside in Kansas City, and ‘outside’ of dogs, I enjoy traveling, reading, trying different ethnic cuisine, communiversity classes for enrichment and volunteer work.

I’ve been active in the dog fancy in America over 26 years. My first breed was the Afghan Hound, then the Pekingese and now, the French Bulldog. My first homebred Frenchie litter is almost ten, so I been involved in the breed in some capacity for more than a dozen years, and judging them both here and abroad for an approximate same period of time. I breed on a very limited basis as I don’t believe in breeding for just the sake of breeding and there have been years I did not breed any litters. It averages out to be a litter every 12-18 months for the past decade.

Without a doubt, bitches are the one essential key ingredient to any successful breeding program. And with that, I mean truly well-bred bitches with top pedigree and family of dogs that are known for producing type, quality and consistency. Other necessary supporting necessities are good mentorship, a keen eye for type, basic animal husbandry/structure/genetics knowledge, good honest and open ongoing relationship with breeders whose dogs/lines you work with, and the ability to combat the tendency of kennel-blindness. We must always remember that bitches are the backbone of the breed, and no real breeders can be successful without a solid tail bitch line that can consistently produce the goods we all strive to achieve.

The current condition of the Frenchie breed is ‘a bit of a mixed bag.’ I believe we have come a long way in terms of available health testing, and with the advancement of veterinary medicine, almost all Brachycephalic symptoms have become somewhat much more manageable. The lack of homogeneity must be a concern for 
breeders and is a challenge for judges. The French Bulldog is a head and silhouette breed, but to find truly beautiful headpieces with that soft, sweet expression or silhouette with the correct proportion, angles, bone, and lines or curves is not easy. They usually have one component but lack in other area so to find all in a whole package is a rare find. The pro’s are the correct size we are seeing with not as many big rangy dogs or stuffy dwarfy ones though they still exist in the ring, better breathers, slightly better boning and good sprig of ribs. On the other hand, con’s, or rather I’d like to call them the areas of opportunities that need work are: correct topline (more roach does not make a topline better as topline needs to blend in with the rest to produce a harmonious whole picture with the correct rise above the loin and fall to a low tailset), rear angulation (with thick muscular second thigh), beautiful neck of correct strength/length to facilitate good breathing, and also the basic overall proportion with the correct balance in bone, angles and substance (as we are seeing dogs that are too stuffy/bully and vice-versa plus too low or high on legs). And believe it or not, as someone who is a self-proclaimed ‘head hunter,’ there aren’t that many truly beautiful correct square head with soft expression, ample fill and luxurious cushioning as most we see in the rings are mostly heads lacking in beautiful facial features or wedge-shaped apple heads or huge overdone watermelon heads that seem to impress those who don’t really know. Let’s remember balance is key and too much of something often takes away from the overall symmetry of balance and style of the whole picture.

What I feel breeders need to concentrate on to improve the quality of the Frenchie?

  • Heads and expression—I believe the French Bulldog is a ‘head breed,’ and while some might say you can improve head in one generation, then why are we not seeing more truly beautiful and correct square heads in the ring and whelping box? Most of the headpieces are just plain or blank and as a breed, we can do better!
  • Hindquarters/Rear—this is the breed’s Achilles’ Heel with too many unsound and straight rears lacking angles, thick second thigh mass and well letdown short hocks. Often they also come with luxating patella which is usually the explanation why some dogs hop and skip in the ring.
  • Bat Ears—bear in mind this is a hallmark of the breed, and most of the ears are just lacking the truly correct set, height and round-scalloped finish the Danish and Scandinavian dogs are well-known for.
  • Overall Proportion—remember just to get the correct balance of legs, bone, substance, shape and angles is the basic fundamental and not easy! Hence, we are seeing dogs too stuffy with no neck, lower front legs and on the other spectrum, dogs that are too thin-boned, lanky and needing substance. What we want is the happy medium with no exaggeration of any one single component.
  • Topline—It is actually the whole outline that both judges and breeders alike should focus on, and not just the topline. But the topline remains the elusive trait for so many to grasp and achieve. A correct topline should not be exaggerated, it should blend in with the rest of the outline with highest point (the rise) being above the middle of the loin, not the middle of the back and a nice fall (croup) to a lowset tail. Camel back, low at the shoulder, high in the rear, sway back are 
    not correct.
  • Nostrils—we should be able to see some nostrils and not just a little slit. If a dog can’t breathe, it can’t function properly.

Does popularity help or hurt in the long run? While the publicity has helped generate a lot of interest in the breed, it has also hurt the breed in many ways. Many enterprising opportunists are capitalizing on this increased popularity to jump on the bandwagon to make some big money. And this is not just limited to color breeders or puppy mills, as even some of our well-known breeders are tarnishing the reputation of the breed by selling sub-standard and unhealthy dogs to China and Latin America for big bucks! I suppose that explains why when they can’t breed any dogs of their own good enough to campaign, it is an easy shortcut to import some random dog from overseas with no type, no pedigree and shady color to show, win, and be in the winning circle so they can command big prices for their dogs and stud fees. Litters are indiscriminately bred with no real thought process put into it and the breed is sadly bastardized by so many.

Worldwide, brachycephalic breeds are getting a bad reputation. How do you think that will affect the future? In some countries, they are promoting longer noses, bigger nostrils, more muzzles and less exaggerations to compensate for some of these flat-faced breeds’ disorders. While health is of utmost importance as it is not use having beautiful unhealthy dogs, we must also not lose breed type in the process. I think it is a tricky balancing act and as breeders and judges, we must do our part by looking for good breathers, open nostrils, correct unexaggerated topline and such.

My favorite dog show memory? I have so many as I just love the ambience and camaraderie of the dog shows, especially the high profile events such as World Show, Crufts, Westminster, etc. Some of my favorite memories have always been seeing a dog so extraordinary in any breed that it just makes my heart skip a beat and leaves me breathless.

We need to focus on the positives: the Frenchie is not an easy breed to breed nor judge. In fact, it is one of the most difficult breeds. But nothing worthwhile having comes easy! There are good judges who enjoy/understand the breed and actually judge dogs without getting influenced by politics, advertising or handlers. There are good ethical honest Frenchie people that actually care, that actually want to better the breed and are not in it just for their self-glory or money. And there are actually some beautiful good dogs/bitches and clever breeders out there so don’t give up when the going gets tough as the French Bulldog is indeed a very unique and special breed with lots of charm and character to captivate any! Viva Frenchies!

 

Virginia Rowland

I’m currently a member of the FBDCA Judges Education Committee and am show chair of the FBDCA specialties held in association with the New York Metro Specialties in New York City, the Saturday and Sunday before Westminster. I previously served as FBDCA President for four years. I am currently President of the Massachusetts Federation of Dog Clubs and Responsible Dog Clubs and on the board of the Ladies’ Dog Club.

I live in Templeton, Massachusetts. I am retired, most of what I do has some connection to dogs. I have judged Frenchies for 20 years, I’ve been active in showing them for 30 years and I breed an occasional litter.

The secret to a successful breeding program is a thorough understanding of the breed standard, a respect for published health clearances and knowledge of pedigrees.

What I feel the condition of the the Frenchie breed is today? Cons are definitely that the breed is now fourth in AKC registrations (and the number one breed in the UK). We don’t have accurate statistics from the AKC but many, many of the Frenchie being bred today are a disqualification color/pattern. Pros: a well bred, healthy French Bulldog is a wonderful companion and the dog’s size makes it ideal for people of all ages.

Breeders need to concentrate on making sure that before they only use a dog for breeding that they have passed health clearances for knees, eyes, backs, heart, cystinuria and hips. French Bulldogs can and should be very healthy. Breeders need to promote their commitment to breeding healthy dogs as well as dogs that conform to the breed standard.

Does popularity help or hurt in the long run? I think this is definitely not helping as many of these French Bulldogs are being bred by people who are only interested in making money and breed dogs of the DQ colors/patterns and don’t do all the health clearances that are recommended for French Bulldogs. Puppy buyers spend a lot for these Frenchies and have high expectations. They aren’t mentored well by these breeders and because they have spent megabucks for their puppy think it’s fine to breed them etc, some even enter them in dog shows and are disappointed when the dog is DQ’d

Many vets are very negative about French Bulldog health. They fail to appreciate that as health care professionals, people rarely bring healthy Frenchies for vet care—except for annual shots, HW test and health clearances—people bring sick dogs for help.

Brachycephalic breeds are getting a bad rep. How I think that will affect the future? If responsible breeders promote their commitment to breeding healthy, correct French Bulldogs, this bad reputation can be corrected. Many French Bulldog owners say they do health clearances, but don’t take the trouble to register these results with organizations like the OFA. If more owners did this, there would be more appreciation of how healthy French Bulldogs are and better statistics could be generated about the incidence of patella problems, hip dysplasia, cystinuria etc. in the breed.

My favorite dog show memories are of judging the French Bulldog National. It was such a thrill having the opportunity to judge so many dogs of superior quality at one time.

French Bulldogs are wonderful companions and many excel and enjoy performance events. We should celebrate those French Bulldogs that are healthy and talented.

 

Gus Sinibaldi

Gus Sinibaldi is an AKC judge who started in Bulldogs over 20 years ago. He says he then downsized to French Bulldogs in 2000. He has bred multiple Best in Show, Reserve Best in Show and Specialty show winners. He currently judges eight breeds and is continuing his passion for purebred dogs.

We moved to Charlotte, North Carolina almost four years ago from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The dogs are loving the cooler weather and we are loving the change of seasons. Outside of the dogs, I have worked for a major financial institution for 31 years. I am grateful for the leadership development my company has provided which has benefitted me as I participate in various breed clubs.

Overall I find the quality of purebred dogs to be good. This quality is supported by responsible breeding and by the love and preservation of exhibitors and breeders. While the depth of quality is not always evident, there are times when the quality is in abundance, which makes judging and exhibiting, really exciting.

My biggest concern today would be the misperception of brachycephalic breeds. With responsible breeding and health testing we produce active and healthy dogs that live well beyond what may be written in reference materials. French Bulldogs can be found competing in conformation, obedience, agility, rally, tracking, scent work, field events and earning civic achievements.

In my opinion, one of the biggest problems facing breeders would be the ongoing legislation. This impacts the ability for responsible breeders to continue to build upon their programs. This could fuel the efforts of non-responsible breeders thus diluting the quality and health of our beloved breeds. A big thank you to all the fanciers who work diligently to protect the rights and voice of breeders. More specifically in French Bulldogs we face non-standard color and coat breeders. This requires us to continue to protect and preserve purebred dogs.

The advice I have for new breeders is to be patient, continue to work with mentors that you can trust, and to make good well thought out long term decisions that preserve the health of your breed. I ask that you understand any specific issues your breed is facing and to be part of the solution and not the problem. Please do not operate in the moment. Breeding healthy and good representatives of your breed takes time. It is a marathon and not a sprint.

To new judges and those with regular status my advice would be to stay connected to your mentors and be sure to have more than one. Diversity of thought is a good thing providing you different points of view. Remember, breed specific standards can change. It is important to get in front of those changes. I recommend that you always consider the whole dog and look for balance. Understand the hallmarks of any breed you judge and do not get caught up on parts. And finally, create a good experience for the exhibitor. Be thorough and give everyone a good look and exam with a smile and remember to always point to the best dog.

The most common fault I see is less about the dog and more about the exhibitor or breeder. Before ever thinking the system is against you, read your standard on a regular basis, and be sure that you too are evaluating the whole dog. When a judge looks at the entire package, they could be forgiving of a fault. If you want to lodge a complaint, speak to the AKC rep objectively and write to AKC Judges Operations. Complaining about something through social media or by bending your friend’s ear, may make you feel better, but does not change results. My other advice is to remember to have fun, make new friends, support newcomers to your breed, be kind to one another, and to genuinely congratulate when other exhibitors win. As they often say, it is a dog show and you will win some and lose some.

The biggest problem at dog shows is when you stop having fun. Year’s ago I was bringing out new puppies and excited to attend a particular show. I packed the RV, bathed and groomed all the dogs and arrived early to the show grounds. Things didn’t appear right, as I was the only vehicle at the event. Could they have changed locations? Good thing the location did not change, however the event was scheduled for the following week. People know that I am typically early for everything. This might have been a bit extreme.

 

Luis Sosa & Patricia Sosa

Luis Sosa grew up with Standard Smooth Dachshunds, which his father worked in tracking and field in Cuba in the 1950s. Luis obtained his first Miniature Longhaired Dachshund in 1972 out of English bloodlines. He met Paul Tolliver (Taunuswald) in the mid 1970s and co-bred with Paul until his death in 1992.

Luis obtained his first French Bulldog in 1975, and for the past 27 years, he has bred French Bulldogs, with his wife Patty under the Bandog prefix. In addition to Frenchies and Dachshunds, Luis has also co-bred Champion Bullmastiffs, Afghan Hounds and a Multiple Best in Show winning Standard Poodle (20 BIS).

He is a former President of the Bayou Dachshund Club of New Orleans, a member and former Vice-President, and Judge’s Education Committee of the French Bulldog Club of America, and President and AKC Delegate of the Louisiana Kennel Club. He is also a member of the Morris & Essex Kennel Club, the Dachshund Club of America, the Bulldog Club of America, the Boston Terrier Club of America and the American Bullmastiff Association. Luis has judged the Morris & Essex Kennel Club, Inc. in 2010 and 2015, the Xoloitzquintli Club of America National Specialty 2015, the French Bulldog Club of America National Specialty 2014, the Boston Terrier Club de Alemania in 2012, the Dachshund Club of America Host Club shows in 2006 (smooths), 2010 (longs), 2018 (wires)

Patty Sosa obtained her first Bullmastiff at age seven as a pet in New York. Since that time, she has bred, owned and showed Bullmastiffs under the Bandog prefix. Bandog under Patty’s breeding produced around 30 AKC Bullmastiff Champions. Patty has also bred Rottweilers and French Bulldogs, having bred over 100 AKC Frenchie Champions including several Best in Show and National Specialty Winners. Bandog Frenchies have won 43 Best in Shows and the breed at five National Specialties. Four of the BIS and three National Specialties were Breeder/Owner/Handled. Patty handled in the late 1980s, showing mostly Working, Toys and Non-Sporting breeds.

Patty is currently Treasurer of the Louisiana Kennel Club, and is a member of the French Bull Dog Club of America, the American Bullmastiff Association and the Morris & Essex Kennel Club. She had the honor of judging the ABA 2009 Top Twenty, the 2009 French Bulldog National Specialty, the 2010 French Bulldog Club shows in Sweden and Moscow, the 2014 French Bulldog Club of Gr. Victoria Show, American Bullmastiff Association 2017 Independent Specialty in conjunction with the National Specialty, and the 100th Anniversary French Bulldog Club show in BØ, Norway in 2019.

We live in Madisonville, Louisiana. which is just north of Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans. Outside of dogs, I love to cook and garden. Luis is an engineer and a photographer. I also love to photograph and help Luis when he needs help.

I got my first Frenchie in the 1980s as a gift from my friend Louise Sanders (Bandog Bullmastiffs). Louise had gotten a stud fee puppy and since she lived on a lake, she was afraid that the Frenchie could drown. Louise gave the puppy to my son as a gift to show in Juniors. She became my foundation bitch, Ch. LeBull’s Adams Dina of Ragtime, or Dina for short. Dina had a great pedigree being out of the pied bitch, Ch. Sun-oak Sunspot by Ch. Adams Gambler of Linewood, who in turn was a Quad son out of Adams Lucky Lady. I’ve been breeding and showing pretty much since getting Dina; I bought two dogs from Herschel Cox, both going back to Unique Physique (Rocky) sons. The first was Pierre, Ch. Cox’s Goodtime Pierre of K N D sired by Ch. Cox’s Good Time Dandy Andy; a Rocky son out of Mademoiselle Eve. Eve was one of the most beautiful Frenchies I’ve seen, and she went back to the Terrette and Hampton lines.

The second dog I bought from Herschel was Ch. K N D Foxy Joe of Cox’s Goodtime. Joe was an Ace son (Ch. Cox’s Goodtime Ace In The Hole) who in turn was out of Rocky. He was out of Mademoiselle Gigi who in turn was sired by the fawn Ch. Fairmont’s Heart To Beat. So my early breeding and most of my dogs were based on two dogs out of two half brothers; both Rocky sons. Pierre was Ernie’s sire, Ch. Bandog’s Earnin’ Respect; while Joe was Gambit’s sire, our Ch. Bandog’s One In A Million.

I started judging in 2005 and presently judge the Working and Non-Sporting Groups. Luis judges these two groups as well as the Hound Group. In that time, I have been honored to have been asked to judge the FBDCA National Specialty, Club shows in Sweden, Moscow, Melbourne, Australia and the Norwegian Bulldog Club Centennial show in BØ, Norway.

The secret to a successful breeding program is to linebreed, linebreed, linebreed, outcross. Of course that assumes that you’re linebreeding on quality dogs and outcrossing to dogs of a similar look (phenotype). Linebreeding on mediocre dogs will produce more of the same. I’ve never bred to the flavor of the day winner; and when I need to outcross, I imported dogs and used them in my breeding program. I health tested them, saw what they produced and determined how to best use them.

What I feel the condition of the Frenchie breed is today? Unfortunately, when a breed becomes popular, the quality generally goes down. That does not mean that we don’t have some very good dogs today; only that they comprise a smaller percentage of the total population. We also don’t have as many long time breeders today who had established lines as we did in the past. Think of Dick and Angel Terrett (Terrettes), Janice Hampton (Hampton), Foster Hanson (Jimmy Lees) and Herschel Cox (Cox’s Goodtime), Luca Carbone (Jaguar) to name but a few. There are very few breeders today where you can go and see five generation of dogs.

I believe breeders need to concentrate on breeding complete dogs and not just parts. Lack of balance to me is the single biggest shortcoming in the breed. We may have a dog with a nice head but no topline. Or maybe a topline but no head. Or they may have good type and look good standing still but can’t move. Correct type and four good legs to me is imperative to the correct French Bulldog.

Does popularity help or hurt in the long run? I’ve somewhat addressed this above, but I feel it hurts the breed in the long run. Everyone with an intact bitch is a “breeder” regardless of whether they know anything about the breed or not. When I got my first Frenchie, there was no internet, and no easy way to obtain information. We had a very small gene pool, so I bought every Frenchie magazine I could get my hands on, studies pedigrees and went to shows and the National to watch. I looked at the dogs I liked, saw whom they were out of; what was behind them. How were they bred and what did they produce. I tried to gather as much information and learn as much about the breed as I could. I was fortunate that since Bullmastiffs were my first breed; my mentor Louise Sanders had taught me a great deal about dogs and how to breed them to produce dogs with type who could move.

Worldwide Brachycephalic breeds are getting a bad rap. How I think that will affect the future? They will only affect the breed if we let them. Breed true to the standard and don’t let those who would like to extinguish our history and breeds to succeed.

My favorite dog show memory was at the Centennial National in Overland Park Kansas, Mrs. Ann Rogers Clark was the judge. When the Specials came in an exhibitor had a list of dogs she wanted weighed. She gave the list to Mrs. Clark who proceeded to weigh the exhibits. Luca Carbone (Jaguar) was showing a dog and when his dog weighed in, he exclaimed, “Thank God”! Without missing a beat, Mrs. Clark said: You’re welcome. 

  

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