French Bulldogs are extremely intelligent, quiet, good-natured and affectionate dogs.
The ancestors of French Bulldogs were, in fact, English Toy Bulldogs, which had been bred from the original (and famous) British Bulldog. In the eighteenth century, Toy Bulldogs were taken to Paris, in France, with lace-makers from the North of England who had been made unemployed by the advent of machinery.
The lace-makers found work in France - where mechanization was not so widely used - and their dogs were crossed with local French “ratter” breeds (dogs used to catch vermin) to produce the stocky, compact French Bulldog breed we see today.
Because of their natural instincts for action, French Bulldogs love the outdoors and being active. So owners of these cute and clever little dogs need to make sure that the pet-ware they use for them is suitable for their needs.
A key factor in choosing the best harness for your Frenchie is knowledge of their physiology. So lets take a look at how your French Bulldog is put together, and the types of harnesses you can obtain for them.
Small But Perfectly Formed
French Bulldogs are known as a brachycephalic breed. The word brachycephalic means “short-headed.”
This term refers to dog breeds that have shortened snouts. Brachycephalic breeds include English and French Bulldogs, bull mastiffs, Boston terriers, boxers, pugs and shih tzus.
It is also a term that can be applied to dogs of mixed breeding that have inherited the traits from one or more of their brachycephalic ancestors.
Brachycephalic dogs have extremely short snouts. This makes them appear like they almost have an almost flat face, and differentiates them from some breeds that also have shorter snouts, but on more elongated heads.
Health concerns? Not Necessarily!
French Bulldogs don't necessarily have any more health problems than other breeds.
However the shape of their nose and head can make them at risk from a condition known as brachycephalic airway syndrome.
There a four distinct upper airway abnormalities that may cause this condition, and dogs that are brachycephalic may have one or more of these. The conditions include:
- Stenotic nares. These are small or narrow nostril openings that can restrict airflow when the dog breathes through its nose.
- Elongated soft palate. The soft tissue on the roof of a dog’s mouth (known as the soft palate) extends into the back of the throat which may cause a blockage of the windpipe (trachea).
- Hypoplastic trachea. The trachea has a narrower diametre than normal.
- Everted laryngeal saccules. These small sacs are located just inside a dog’s larynx (voicebox). When a dog has breathing difficulties due to a narrow windpipe or small nostrils, the sacs can become everted (turned inside out) and cause additional obstruction to the airways.
Dogs that are prone to brachycephalic airway abnormalities typically snore when they are asleep and are noisy breathers. They may be intolerant of extended periods of exercise, and have difficulty cooling themselves in the heat.
These conditions may sound worrying but they are, in fact, a normal part of the physiology of some dog breeds.
So just because your Frenchie is brachycephalic does not necessarily mean that will that it will encounter any problems whatsoever with its breathing.
However, to make sure that your French Bulldog doesn't suffer any discomfort, it is much better to use a harness, as opposed to a collar, when you are out walking or exercising with them.
Using a harness will release the pressure from around your Frenchie’s neck, and relocate the weight to it's wider body. This will not only prevent spine and neck injuries, but will allow your Frenchie the full freedom of movement and breathing.
So now let's take a look at some of the best harnesses for French Bulldogs and the ways in which you can train your Frenchie to rapidly become accustomed to, and learn to love, their harness.
Should I Choose a Harness or a Collar?
As we have outlined above, French Bulldogs are prone to potential breathing problems due to their breeding.
This is especially true of the fragile rings of cartilage that make up a Frenchie’s windpipe.
The area where the windpipe bends to move down into the chest is the place where a tight collar may cause discomfort, breathing difficulties, or even possible tracheal collapse, if your dog’s restraint puts too much pressure on that area.
By using a harness instead of a collar, you will remove the pressure from that area of your Frenchie’s neck and spread it across it's whole body.
This is the reason why most French Bulldog owners choose to use a harness rather than a collar.
Frenchies are energetic little dogs and they will tend to pull on their leash regardless of whether you are using a colour or a harness.
Like all dogs, French Bulldogs need to be correctly trained in order for them to walk along politely and correctly whilst on the leash.
We will cover off some tips for training your French Bulldog to walk on a leash a little bit later. But first, let's check out some of the features that you should look for in a harness for your Frenchie.
Five Things to Consider When Choosing a Harness for Your Frenchie
If you’re unsure about what type of restraint you should choose for your French Bulldog, the following factors should be considered:
Pressure on the neck.
As we have seen, French Bulldogs can be susceptible to breathing difficulties and potential damage to their airways. While a little sparkly collar may look cute on your Frenchie, it will often cause them discomfort.
By using a harness instead, you will spread the dog’s weight over a larger area and resolve the issue of neck discomfort or injury.
Padding and ventilation.
While French Bulldogs don't have particularly delicate skin or fur, it's always a good idea to make sure that the harness you choose is well padded and well-ventilated.
A good amount of padding will ensure that there are no chafing points which can irritate your dog's skin, and cause them to not want to wear the harness.
In addition to this, plenty of ventilation will ensure that your Frenchie does not overheat on hot days when you're out for one of your long walks.
As we have seen, temperature regulation can be a problem with dogs who suffer from breathing conditions, and if your dog’s harness is too constricting, they will not be able to cool themselves correctly.
All dogs are different (just like all humans) and your petit amis Français will also have a uniquely-shaped body: just like you do!
So a key factor in choosing a harness is adjustability.
The harness needs to have plenty of buckles, straps and velcros. This will to let you adjust it for size, length, and depth, so that it fits perfectly on your Frenchie’s body and doesn't cause them any distraction or construction.
As you know yourself, there's nothing worse than a top that's one size too small!
When it's dark outside, you still want to be able to go out for walks with your Frenchie.
You might like to go out after dark in the summer, when it is cooler. And in winter, you may have to be out walking on those evenings when it gets dark early.
So you will need to make sure that both you and your French Bulldog are visible in low light conditions. Your dog’s harness should have reflective strips on it in order to make them visible to other pedestrians...and other dogs.
We all like to look stylish, don't we? And let's face it, when you're out on your dog walks you want your French Bulldog to look as cute as you do.
So for fashionistas, it's important that your Frenchie’s harness is blinged up to the max. You want them to make an entrance at the dog park, and be the centre of attention at the café!
Luckily, many harnesses come equipped with the perfect bling bling to add a little bit of the je ne sais quoi that will make your Frenchie stand out from the other dogs.
How Big is My Harness?
Just like getting clothes that fit perfectly, and shoes that are comfortable on your feet, when buying a harness for your French Bulldog it is important to make sure that you get the correct size.
If a harness is too big, you're active little French friend may slip out of it and take off to do its own thing. On the other hand, if the harness is too small, it will be constrictive and uncomfortable for them, and they will not want to put it on.
So making sure that the harness fits perfectly is vital.
The best way to ensure that you buy the correct harness is to use a measuring tape to measure your Frenchie’s chest and neck size.
Here's how you should do this:
- Chest Sizing. Wrap the measuring tape around your dog’s chest just behind its front legs while it is standing up. This should be the widest part of your Frenchie’s chest.
- Neck Sizing. Figure out where a collar would sit most comfortably around your dog’s neck and use that as your measuring point.
It is important to do your measuring accurately with small dogs like French Bulldogs, because even a little bit of variation can make a big difference to how well the harness fits your dog. So measure, measure...and measure again, just to be sure!
A Harness for Every Occasion
When you are out and about with your French Bulldog, the type of harness that you can use will depend on what you two are getting up to.
There are five basic types of French Bulldog harness design, each one perfect for a specific use.
This is the most popular harness for small dogs including French Bulldogs. They have a simple design, with a single buckle at the back and are usually constructed from nylon, with soft polyester padding for maximum comfort and breathability.
These harnesses are easy to put on, easy to take off, and are comfortable enough that your Frenchie can wear them all day long while you are out having adventures together.
Walking harnesses are usually lighter and have less padding than vest harnesses. They are perfect for quick walks and short, everyday outings, but are generally not ideal for extended wear.
These harnesses often have a strap-based design, with quick release plastic buckles or velcro.
When you and your French friend head off on an epic roadie, you need to make sure that they are well secured in the car.
Just like you and your other precious human cargo, you don't want to put your French Bulldog at risk in the event of a collision or some other incident.
In addition to this, it is better for your dog to be restrained while it is in the car, so it is not jumping around, causing distractions, and wrecking up the place.
Car harnesses are made with strong nylon straps and metal hardware to ensure that when you have attached them to an anchor point in your car, your dog is well and truly restrained.
This type of harness is an all-in-one design, with a cord used to form both the leash and the harness.
While it is almost impossible for a dog to escape from a harness lead, they can be irritating, and somewhat constricting, for a French Bulldog.
While they are probably not going to cause any damage or harm to your Frenchie, this type of harness is more suited to a bigger-framed dog.
If you love getting out into the great outdoors, it's almost certain that your French Bulldog will love to tag along. And with the correct harness, a Frenchie makes a great outdoor hiking buddy.
Hiking harnesses usually have a great deal of padding. This ensures that there is a minimum amount of rubbing on the dog’s body, so they will stay comfortable while you are having some epic outdoor adventures together.
Some hiking harnesses even have compartments where you can put treats and other bits and pieces for your Frenchie to carry.
Hiking harnesses also feature reflective materials, so you can spot your your Frenchie when it's getting dark. They may even include a handle on the back, which allows you to pick the dog up and pop it back in the car at the end of a long day out and about.
Harness Training Your French Bulldog
It's an old saying that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach.
And it's exactly the same with dogs! Whether you are training a French Bulldog or a Great Dane, by offering them food you can pretty much teach them to do anything.
So in order to harness train your Frenchie, all you need to do is follow a few basic rules.
Teach them young
Puppy training is an important part of rearing a dog. In the case of collars and harnesses, it's a great idea to start them off as young as possible.
When your Frenchie is just a little puppy, you can place a collar around their neck to get them used to the feeling of wearing one.
And you can do the same with a puppy harness. You don't even need to lead them around: just let them get used to the feeling of wearing a harness.
By doing this, when the time comes for you to begin to train them to walk along with you, they will be quite used to wearing a harness.
Dogs are ridiculously easy to train!
They love to make you happy and they love the feeling of being in a pack, which is their natural living environment. And you, the dog’s owner, are the pack leader! So your Frenchie’s one goal in life is to make you, the leader of the pack, happy with them.
The key to training a dog correctly Is simply to be consistent.
Use the same voice commands, and the same tone of voice, so that they learn exactly what each command means.
Try and do your dog training at the same time, and in the same place, every day, so your dog gets used to the idea that this time, at this place, it’s learning time.
Reward good behaviour and ignore bad behaviour. If your dog does exactly what you want it to, give it a treat and some praise. If it doesn't do what you wanted, then say and do nothing. Just repeat the process. Your Frenchie will soon learn what you want them to do and what you don't want them to do.
Dogs love food, so the best thing to do during your training is to reward good behaviour with little bits of grub.
A great way to do this is simply to carry some little dog treats in a plastic bag in your pocket, so that when your dog does a good job, you can reward them with a little treat.
You will be amazed just how quickly your French Bulldog will learn to do exactly what you want it to simply by giving it some little treats as a reward for good behaviour.
Harnessed Up Ready to Go
So there you have it. A ready-made guide to the best Frenchie harnesses that you can use for your dog.
All you need to do now is to hook them up with a designer French Bulldog harness (or two), add a little bit of bling bling, and head on out to have some adventures with your little French buddy.