French Bulldogs are one of Australia's most loved breeds. This popularity attracts them to inexperienced and unscrupulous breeders. So how do you know the difference between a responsible and irresponsible breeder?
Dogs Australia registered breeders follow a strict code of breeding ethics, conduct health testing to help reduce the incidence of inherited diseases and, for accountability, and research.
The results are recorded on the ORCHID database.
Like in all dogs, there are specific health issues, and it’s important to make sure your breeder does the recommended health testing for their breed. This could be the difference between a happy and healthy puppy and a poorly bred one.
In this article we spoke to Dr Karen Hedberg BVSc, Chair of the Dogs Australia Canine Health & Wellbeing Committee, Veterinarian and Dogs Australia registered breeder of healthy French Bulldogs for 20 years. Dr Hedberg previously bred German Shepherds for over 30 years. Dr Hedberg gives a great guide on what to consider when purchasing a French Bulldog puppy as your new best friend.
Cheerful, deeply affectionate, intelligent, and courageous, yet with clown-like qualities, the French Bulldog is a popular family and companion dog.
“I currently own French Bulldogs, I downsized from German Shepherds after many years.”, Dr Karen said.
There is a range of health tests recommended for French Bulldogs.
It is strongly recommended that Dogs Australia registered French Bulldog breeders test for the following health conditions in their breeding stock. Most testing is done after 12 months, with respiratory and eye tests done regularly to see how the dog is going over time.
“In New South Wales we set up hip and back screening 15 years ago and we've actually had quite good results.”, Dr Karen said.
“The hip average was higher, close to 20 but it now is down lower around a median of 15, and the spine average is starting to come down now.”
Dr Karen says puppies’ spines can be x-rayed at 8 to 9 weeks to assess for defects. Puppies with high numbers of hemivertebrae, especially when in the lumbar area, are not recommended for breeding and placed in lovely pet homes.
Dr Karen has seen an improvement in French Bulldog puppies bred by Dogs Australia registered breeders, seeing far fewer spinal issues.
A mandatory Respiratory Function Grading System which started at Cambridge University is in progress for Dogs Australia.
“It assesses dogs standing, running them and reassessing them again.”
The grading systems are: normal, grade one, two and three. Grade three dogs will need extensive surgery, grade two may require some surgery and grade one and normal don’t need any surgery.
“Statistics in England show over 50 per cent of dogs are in the normal and grade one status, with a fairly wide grade two pool. 15 per cent in are in the grade three category listed as not to be bred with.”
The respiratory function grading system links to brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS), and is caused by a combination of narrow nostrils, short-noses, long soft palate and everted saccules near the vocal cords and the weight of the dog.
“You want open nostrils, you want a normal length of palate, short soft palates, and no everted saccules.”
A BOAS chamber is also available, although it can be a stressful experience for some dogs.
Many French Bulldogs participate in Agility and do equally well at Obedience.
“They are stubborn little buggers and are like, ‘what’s in it for me’, rather than ‘yes, I’ll sit down’.”
“They would be very good at Scent Work, they can find food anywhere.”
Dr Karen supports Dogs Australia breeders having sound breeding stock of French Bulldogs.
“Currently with the health testing available I believe we have good breeding stock.”
“In Australia, we have to breed for hotter conditions than they do in Europe.”
“Many vets see French Bulldogs that are moderately to severely affected with breathing issues, however, there are a large proportion that are unaffected or have very minor issues and are far less visible as they rarely need attention.”
Health is not considered highly in unregulated breeding and Dogs Australia registered breeders aim to produce as sound a dog as possible.
“I had a female who was beautiful, lovely back, good hips and everything.”
“If she got excited, she would start breathing quite badly so I desexed her, did nose and throat and found her a great pet home where she plays with their grandchildren and she's fine.”
“She was not a candidate to be bred with though.”
Dr Karen says the adaptability of breeders is important in health testing and the will to chase after the best health test available possible is key.
There are concerns with dogs sold as French Bulldogs who have off-standard colours and coats that are sold for large amounts, for example black and tan, merle and lilac.
“Because French Bulldogs are in at the moment and it's a bit of a fad breed that creates a demand with the public and there's a lot of backyard breeders breeding just for colour. The long coat gene really shouldn't occur.” She said.
Dr Karen highlights how the merle and hairless gene do not occur naturally in the French Bulldog and how lethal the merle gene can be in French Bulldogs.
“These colours bring health problems, particularly the merle gene, you should never double up on it because it causes deafness and blindness.”
“They have been brought in from another breed so they are not purebred French Bulldogs.”
Before buying a French Bulldog puppy it’s important to do your research.
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