One of the first questions you may find yourself asking after you adopt a french bulldog is if they really need to exercise. We all know walks are important for a dog to remain healthy, but with a breed prone to breathing issues such as the frenchie, there is uncertainty about how much exercise is too much.
Just like other breeds, french bulldogs need to have a certain level of physical exercise in their life to stay at a healthy weight. Plus, walking your companion provides them with a multitude of other benefits.
In this article we will cover four different key topics that will help you feel confident exercising your french bulldog:
- How exercise needs vary over the lifespan of your pet,
- The effects of weather on your distance and time spent walking,
- The benefits of physical exercise for dogs, and
- Some alternative forms of exercise that aren’t structured walks.
Do French Bulldogs Need a Lot of Exercise?
When you adopt any puppy your first instinct may be that they need a lot of exercise due to their seemingly endless amounts of energy! French bulldog puppies are no different than other breeds in that they love to play. However, when Frenchies are young they should only have minimal amounts of structured exercise.
All puppies, regardless of their breed, need time to grow and develop their bones. Overexercising your pup could end up harming their joints in the long run. A good rule of thumb for puppies is to exercise them FIVE minutes for each month of their life. So, for example, if your puppy is five months old, they should be exercising for 25 minutes.
Once your dog reaches adulthood, they should spend about 30-50 minutes a day on a structured walk. One important thing to remember for french bulldogs is that due to the structure of their face they benefit most from low-intensity walks, preferably split into two short walks a day.
As your adult moves into their older years their exercise needs will begin to decrease. At this point their activity level will vary depending on individual health. Some dogs may tolerate short walks into their elderly years, while others may not be receptive to them anymore. If you have a senior dog with health ailments the best course of action is to consult your veterinarian.
How Does Weather Affect Your Frenchie’s Exercise Schedule?
We’ve established a general guideline of 30-50 minutes of exercise for adult frenchies. However, this is heavily dependent on the weather of the day. French bulldogs are particularly sensitive to hot and cold weather.
French bulldogs are known as the brachycephalic breed. These are breeds that have the characteristic flat face and short muzzle. According to the Hunt Valley Animal Hospital in Maryland, “Most brachycephalic dog breeds are at a risk of developing respiratory problems. [They] have disproportionate soft palates, nasal cartilage, and tongues.”
Many owners of french bulldogs prefer walking them in the morning and early evening. This allows for a structured walk before the sun gets too hot or the night gets too cold. If you live anywhere with extreme weather you might want to stick to short walks and rely on other forms of exercise for your furry friend.
Stay On Alert For Heat Exhaustion!
As you might infer, walking a brachycephalic dog in extreme conditions can cause them to overheat. If the weather is 70℉ or higher you shouldn’t be walking your frenchie outside for a long period of time. It would be more beneficial to use a different form of physical exercise or enrichment for them that day.
Similarly, if the weather is too cold you may want to skip the walk as frenchies may have trouble warming up again.
It’s important to always keep an eye on your frenchie, especially if the weather is warmer than you’re used to. Heat exhaustion is fairly easy to spot in dogs. According to the Oklahoma Humane Society, it will include behaviors such as hyperventilating, excessive panting, drying or paling gums, rapid beating pulse, possible confusion, or in extreme cases diarrhea or vomiting.
Don’t be afraid to cut your walk short if you spot any of these signs in your dog.
What Are The Benefits Of Physical Exercise For French Bulldogs?
All dog breeds need physical exercise for two main reasons:
- To remain at a healthy weight, and
- To provide mental enrichment.
Let’s break these two reasons down a little farther.
How To Keep Your Frenchie At A Healthy Weight
As long as you are sticking to recommended food portions and your pup doesn’t get too many additional treats, a walking schedule of 30-50 minutes a day should suffice. This doesn’t mean that your frenchie needs to be walking continuously for the entire time. This also includes the time your dog may spend sniffing or going to the bathroom.
If your frenchie isn’t able to go on walks due to other health issues we’ll discuss some alternative methods of exercise in the next portion of our article, so stay tuned!
You should always pay attention to the demeanor of your dog. Although keeping your dog fit should be your top priority, you don’t need to force a walk if your dog seems lethargic or reluctant to keep going. Since frenchies need pretty low amounts of exercise compared to other dog breeds, it won’t hurt them to skip a walk or two.
The Importance of Mental Enrichment
Walking your dog is one of the best ways to provide them with the mental enrichment they need. A great way to make sure your dog is getting all they can from their walks is to go on what we like to call a “sniff-walk” at least once a day.
A sniff-walk is when you allow your dog to set the pace of your outing and stop as many times as they want to sniff and explore the area. This doesn’t mean you have to stand still for 15 minutes if your pup finds a particularly interesting spot. But, consider allowing them a few minutes to explore before encouraging them along.
Adding in some dog-lead walks can provide a lot of stimulation and make the exercise fun for your pet, which if we’re being honest, is the true purpose of going on walks.
What Are Some Other Ways Frenchie’s Can Get Physical Exercise?
While walks are a great way to get physical exercise, it isn’t always possible to get them in. Maybe the weather is bad, or your pup isn’t feeling excited about the prospect of walking. If that is the case, there are a few different things you can try.
We’ll start with the most obvious answer: Playing! Whether you play fetch, tug-of-war, or hide and seek, playing with your dog is a great way to get some physical exercise at home. Dogs, especiall young ones, don’t know when to stop though – once you throw that ball they will run after it regardless of how tired they are, so you need to stop the games once you notice your dog is tiring out. Heavy panting and a slower trot instead of running indicate your dog needs a rest.
Another option is obedience training. Although the physical element isn’t as strenuous as walking, training with your frenchie can still be a great form of exercise. Teaching your dog new commands or fun tricks gets their mind working and can help tire them out.
If you have a long period of poor weather or a senior dog, this can be an excellent way to keep their minds busy and expel some energy from being cooped up inside. Just keep in mind that French Bulldogs do gain weight fairly easily and quickly – so make sure you’re giving them low calorie training treats made for small dogs. These treats should not make up more than 15% of their daily calorie intake.
And finally, the last alternative method we’ll discuss is swimming. While your access to a dog-friendly pool or warm body of water might not make this an everyday option, it’s always something to consider. Swimming is great for senior dogs or those with joint issues.
Many animal physical therapy centers have dog pools that you can bring your pet to, it might be worth it to see what options are available in your area.
Dispelling The Myth: Exercise Your Frenchie!
We hope this article has shed some light on a common misconception about french bulldogs. Although this breed surely doesn’t need as much exercise as a border collie, their exercise needs should not be overlooked.
French bulldogs should have consistent, low-intensity walks in their adulthood as long as the weather permits it. Your pup may even benefit from other forms of physical enrichment.
While we can offer general guidelines, it’s important to remember to always work with the dog in front of you.