When it comes to the personality of our dog, we are all biased a bit. In our own eyes, our pup is the most beautiful, most loving, most funny, and well-behaved animal. But let’s be honest. When it comes to training, Frenchies can give us a hard time. Sometimes you might even wonder: is my Frenchie smart? In this article, we summarize what we know about dog intelligence and also share the experiences of some of our TomKings Frenchie parents whom we asked about the topic in our Facebook group.
Are French bulldogs intelligent? How smart is this breed?
If you ever met a shepherd dog or any service dog, you know how obedient certain breeds can be. Most people link dogs’ intelligence to this characteristic, but this is just one aspect of their smartness. Dog intelligence has many components. We wrote about how playful they are, that they are the perfect family dog and they are the ideal breed for big city life, but we never mentioned their smartness.
According to Stanley Coren, the author of The Intelligence of Dogs, their smartness consists of three main components: instinctive intelligence, obedience intelligence, and adaptive intelligence. Let’s take a look at each in more detail!
1. Instinctive intelligence of Frenchies
Each breed has a purpose in society, including Frenchies. They are born with specific abilities, special skills, and innate talents. This is what they were bred to do. This type of intelligence can be guarding, retrieving, herding, hunting, and even companionship.
As the name of the breed suggests, French immigrants bred these kinds of bulldogs, who needed some companionship in a foreign country. Therefore, their primary purpose since the 1800s was to keep company.
Emotional intelligence (EQ) is hard to measure as it can’t be quantified on an objective scale. Therefore, we asked our TomKings Family members to share their experience on the quality of companionship their Frenchie provides and about their EQ.
Most members reported an extremely high level of EQ. Their Frenchies sync with their emotional state perfectly. When the owners had a long and exhausting day, their pup would behave calmly. When the owner is sad, they comfort him by cuddling and snuggling. And when their parent is happy and energized, they also become playful and entertaining. In sum, we can state that Frenchies’ level of instinctive intelligence, namely their level of companionship and emotional intelligence is extremely high. Here’s what some of them said:
“Ziggy is my best friend. Whenever I am stressed, anxious, sad, or really just upset in any way he comes and lays on me which makes me feel grounded. When excited, I feel he is excited too. I can tell he understands the difference in my tone of voice.” (Valeria)
“Mabel and Norman are the MOST amazing companions ever!! I recently got infected by COVID at the beginning of November and they never left my side. They are glued to my hip at all hours of the day and Mabel sleeps snug to my side. They always want to be wherever my husband and I are at. We have both been diagnosed with PTSD – my husband from defending our country and me from my time as a 9-1-1 dispatcher. Anytime my emotions aren’t in check, Mabel and Norman stay by me and comfort me and they do the same for my husband as well. Life would not be complete without them.” (Jessica)
“Great companions at home. Lola is not a good traveler and Winnie is already. Lola is excellent at reading emotional states and hand signals.” (Helen)
Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule, like Brittney’s fur baby Enzo:
“Enzo is a perfect companion, happy little snuggle bug. He is horrible at reading emotional state tho. Wants to play even if I’m visibly upset. Doesn’t happen often so maybe he doesn’t understand the difference.” (Brittney)
2. Working and obedience intelligence of Frenchies
This is the type of dog intelligence that we can easily measure on a reliable scale. Cohen (mentioned above) conducted a large-scale assessment with 138 breeds that were recognized by AKC or the Canadian Kennel Club. He examined two behaviors: 1) after how many repetitions can each breed learn a new command; and 2) the success rate of recalling an old command for the first attempt.
We’ll be honest. Frenchies didn’t perform well on these tests. It took them 40 to 80 attempts to learn a new command, and they obeyed old commands for the first attempts only with a 30% success rate. This put them in 109th place, which is the “fair working” category.
You should keep in mind that this result doesn’t indicate Frenchies’ overall intelligence. It only indicates that French bulldogs are free spirits, and they only obey when it fits them. They understand commands and consciously decide to ignore them when they don’t feel like performing. Due to this, Frenchies are often labeled as a stubborn breed. Let’s face the fact: Frenchies are not the ideal breed to perform tricks whenever you want them to, but you can and should teach them some basic commands, read in this article how.
Interestingly, the experiences of our TomKings Family members seem to contradict Cohen’s findings about Frenchies. They reported that their fur babies were actually rather fast learners, and they also shared their secret: FOOD and TREATS.
“Ilka was stubborn at starting. We had a hard time as first pawrents but by reading books, YouTube videos and having her around we learned a lot. But we got she was a FOOD driven girl so learned quickly… I was so surprised to see her learn commands so quickly, even crate training we could make her adapt using treats, toys, kong treats!” (Kripa)
“Both Mabel and Norman have picked up on new tricks and commands very rapidly, but if there are no treats, then they can be very stubborn and will not comply. They are very food-driven.” (Jessica)
“TREATS – Ziggy learned sit, paw and down very very fast. Almost within a few hours. The rest is still coming yet with treats he will learn anything!” (Valeria)
3. Adaptive intelligence of Frenchies
Adaptive IQ refers to the dog’s problem-solving skills and how fast they can adapt to new situations. The best example to describe this type of intelligence is potty training. Once your Frenchie learns to pee or poo only when you walk him – or even better, on a command -, he can hold his excrement until you tell him to do so. For example, he won’t pee in the car while on the go or in any indoor place. But as soon as you take him out for a walk, even if you are hundreds of miles away from your neighborhood, he will do his job. (If your pup still has some issues with potty training, read this and this article.)
This type of intelligence can be the least generalized among dogs, as it depends greatly on their personality. Based on our TomKings Family members’ experiences, we would consider them highly adaptive in general.
“Daisy is house trained except she’ll have accidents if she’s too lazy to go out to the fenced area or if the poops not cleaned up. She is very good at figuring things out and she loves to torment her brother while walking around with a bone. (Catrina)
“I’m not sure if Enzo is creative or just determined in new situations. He tackles challenges with sheer force and willpower. For example, he’s not a fan of the crate. He’s broken the locks off two crates. When I zip tied him in, he flipped the crate, broke the bottom plastic piece, and squeezed out the bottom.” (Brittney)
“We got a few puzzle toys for Ilka that are filled with treats. She was afraid of that at first but as soon as she got the idea she solves to open the puzzles quickly. In a day or two she was an expert and toy was so simple for her. I am pretty sure she can be creative if they are made to learn how to enjoy something that is fun.” (Kripa)
“I believe that Frenchies in general are great creative problem solvers, though in our experience Mabel is the better problem solver. She has taught herself to free her Norman (her “husband”) from his kennel as well as getting into and out of gates.” (Jessica)
Mabel, from TomKings Puppies
Is your Frenchie smart? Let us know in the comments! Also feel free to join our TomKings Frenchie Family Facebook group to see our Frenchie parents’ puppies and read their experiences!
The article is based on the expert knowledge of the TomKings Puppies team who have been breeding French Bulldogs for 10 years on their farm. All the pictures in the post belong to them and their customers, and show puppies from their breed. Check their available French Bulldog puppies here.