Are French Bulldogs Smart? A Guide to Frenchies Intelligence

Are French Bulldogs Smart? Photo of a Frenchie reading a newspaper.

As a potential French bulldog owner, you may have wondered whether are French Bulldogs smart or not. Alternatively, you may already be an owner, and their mischievousness could have led you to wonder about their intelligence. Well, you’re in luck as, in this article, we explore Frenchies’ intelligence. 

French Bulldogs are smart dogs. If you keep it interesting for them, they are highly trainable and eager to please, and they form strong bonds with their owners. But, while dealing with French bulldogs, you should understand that they have an independent mind and are, therefore, free thinkers. This quality earns them the description of being stubborn, which is why you could be frustrated while training them.

Their stubbornness, borne from independent thinking, makes them obey commands only when they deem fit. It may be akin to commanding or talking to a brick when they don’t feel like following rules.

For this reason, a test by Stanley Coren, a canine psychologist, which probed the obedience of different breeds of dogs in the United States, ranked Frenchies at position 109 out of 138 breeds in intelligence. 

We concur with you that this is a low ranking, perhaps even pitting Frenchies in the category of dogs with average to low intelligence. Don’t despair yet since the ranking only tested obedience and working intelligence, ignoring other dimensions of a dog’s IQ.

The other aspects include instinctive and adaptive intelligence. We’ll have you know that the subjectivity and complexity of measuring these two dimensions make them harder parameters to include in a test. They’re, however, still measurable.

A survey (from blog) capturing comments by French bulldog owners alludes to the fact that this breed has high adaptive and instinctive canine intelligence.

Additionally, by assessing their capabilities, through their behaviors and interests, we establish that that Frenchies are a smart breed of dogs (wholesomely).

A Dog’s Intelligence

What constitutes a dog’s IQ? In his book, The Intelligence of Dogs, Stanley Coren described the three attributes as follows.

  1. Instinctive intelligence: this is the ability of a dog to undertake the tasks it was bred for, e.g., guarding, being a companion dog, and herding, among others.
  2. Working and obedience intelligence: this is the ability of a dog to learn and follow commands that human beings issue.
  3. Adaptive intelligence: this is a dog’s ability to find solutions for the problems it encounters, thereby learning how to do things for itself.

French Bulldogs Instinctive Intelligence

For us to give you a thorough overview of Frenchies’ instinctive intelligence, we’ll first look at the breed’s origin. The French bulldog traces its roots in England where the old bulldog originated.

Do note that the old English bulldog doesn’t have the characteristics of the present-day bulldog. It was stronger and more athletic.

About 150 to 200 years ago, breeders started crossbreeding the old bulldog in order to develop either larger or smaller variations. Thus, the French bulldog was created as a lighter and toy version of the old bulldog. 

With the industrial revolution, Britons moved to France, carrying with them the small bulldogs. It became an instantaneous marvel among the French. The French subsequently created the compact French bulldog breed that exists today.

Frenchies were primarily bred to offer companionship. They have a small body, which makes them perfect lapdogs. Being descendants of the old English bulldogs, they have a muscular body too. 

Frenchies are loving dogs that always want to be around people. They enjoy spending time with their owners and families. Moreover, they’re gentle and calm and don’t bark unnecessarily, that is, without any cause.

This, therefore, makes them great watchdogs while still fulfilling the role they were initially intended to do, being a companion dog.

As an owner, they’ll happily lie next to you all day as they greatly desire and thrive on being around humans. Also, French Bulldogs will occasionally be mischievous as they seek fun out of the activities you’ll be doing.

In this regard, Frenchies have high instinctive intelligence – they have mastered how to undertake the roles they were created to do. 

French Bulldogs Adaptive Intelligence

A dog exhibits adaptive intelligence when it figures out the attributes and behaviours that you, as the owner expect of it.

Upon figuring this out, the dog can comfortably solve a problem and learn from the environment. You and your family form part of its environment. For French bulldogs, this is perfectly exhibited in crate training. 

Did you know that dogs are intelligent enough not to poop or pee where they eat or sleep? Crate training brings this aspect out clearly. It entails locking the dog in their crate, and they’ll hold their excrements until they’re let out.

Being locked in a crate also keeps them away from trouble, ultimately saving you money since, as puppies, they’re fascinated by everything. They could destroy things and even hurt themselves. You should start this form of training when they’re puppies. 

French bulldogs have moderate to high adaptive intelligence. Therefore, they adapt quickly to such training provided you do it with positive reinforcement, e.g., praise, food rewards, and play. Also, in situations where you don’t outrightly train them, Frenchies learn how to perform certain tasks on their own. 

Moreover, looking at it from another perspective, Frenchies were bred to act as companions. They’ll characteristically fulfil this mandate by either lying next to you or your feet or being playful. They develop this behaviour by recognising what you need of them and acting accordingly.

However, they only thrive when you’re patient, resolute, and consistent since their antics can, sometimes, become frustrating. They’re delightful, nonetheless. 

French Bulldogs Working and Obedience Intelligence

The Stanley Coren ranking noted that French bulldogs rank low on this aspect of intelligence. However, this is mainly because the test was flawed. It wasn’t designed for dog breeds such as the French bulldog. Also, Coren used a uniform approach for all the dog breeds, which failed to put into perspective the differences in the breeds’ personalities. 

Consider this, being a stubborn breed, Frenchies aren’t always obedient. They use their free-thinking to determine whether or not to follow instructions. Given that Coren’s criteria only tested obedience based on a certain number of repetitions (dog breeds requiring fewer repetitions ranked higher), French bulldogs were bound to perform poorly given their stubbornness. 

However, as we’ll document later in this article, Frenchies have a high working and obedience intelligence. This takes into consideration their stubbornness.  

Evidence of French Bulldogs Smartness and Intelligence

Overall, Frenchies are smart and intelligent, but they exhibit their canine intelligence in various ways. 

Frenchies bark only when it’s necessary.

These dogs will only bark when they intend to notify you of impending danger, e.g., when they see a stranger.

As such, they seamlessly serve as watchdogs even though this wasn’t the main reason behind their creation. In normal circumstances, the Frenchies are often calm.

French bulldogs have advanced communication skills

The Frenchies’ calmness emanates from the fact that they developed a language which they now use to communicate with you. For instance, they’ll gargle, yawn, and yip in order to get your attention and let you know what they need. 

Since Frenchies were bred to offer companionship, they have several features that will make you adore them. These include their lovely and expressive eyes, their calmness, and the fact that they love fun. Additionally, their distinct language will also endear them to you.

As such, with the basic understanding of adaptive intelligence, the French bulldogs may have perfected the use of these alternative communication methods because they recognised the methods’ endearing attribute.

These communication styles could also be a method of conserving energy. French bulldogs are a low energy breed, which is why they spend most of their time sleeping. As such, given that barking causes them to expend a lot of energy, the use of the alternative communication styles is strategic. This alludes to their canine intelligence. 

French bulldogs are good with children

These dogs are wonderful babysitters. They’ll protect your children from danger. This alludes to their ability to distinguish animate things from inanimate ones, hence intelligence. 

French bulldogs are trainable

Although they rank lower on the Coren’s working and obedience intelligence ranking, Frenchies are trainable. However, their stubborn and free-thinking nature calls for patience and gentleness when you’re dealing with them.

Also, you should conduct the training sessions in such a manner that they’re enjoyable. You should also make sure the sessions mimic a game. Frenchies will always yearn to please you. As such, praises and rewards while training them are bound to work wonders. 

It’s worth mentioning that French bulldogs may appear unintelligent to an outsider or someone who’s yet to understand their stubbornness or how to deal with them.

As an owner, you may also be impacted by this, leading to frustrations on your part. Ultimately, emotions are bound to get in the way of your training, thus preventing you from being objective. It’s, therefore, advisable that you seek advice and guidance from a certified trainer. 

Furthermore, Frenchies heed to any of the different training methods available. A qualified trainer is bound to guide you on the best technique to use, depending on the description you give them. As such, as an owner, you shouldn’t give up when one method doesn’t work. Rather, choose another one.   

It’s also important to note that no two dogs are the same. Yours may learn faster than your friend’s. Nonetheless, it has been documented that getting your dog from a good and responsible breeder solves this difference problem. 

Notably, you must undertake training during puppyhood to ensure that you live comfortably with your Frenchie.

Naturally, Frenchies are friendly dogs and easily mingle with other dog breeds. However, this is only possible after they have been socialised. Without this crucial exercise and training, Frenchies are known to be overly protective and territorial when interacting with other dogs.

Like all the other kinds of training, you should socialise your Frenchie during puppyhood. It’s an easy and enjoyable task owing to their companionship.

French bulldogs perform challenging tasks

Frenchies aren’t known for being circus or performance dogs. However, thanks to their intelligence, which enables them to be obedient, they have participated in numerous events, as documented in the book The French Bulldog.

Their participation alludes to the fact that they’re easily trainable, which is, in turn, a testament to their working and obedience intelligence. Muriel Lee, the author, interviewed several owners, among them, Deb Stevenson, whose Frenchie, Lulu, thrives in rallies and events requiring obedience. 

In 1991, Andrea Morden-Moore’s Frenchie, named Herk, became the fifth French Bulldog to complete the Utility Dog title after undertaking the American Kennel Club’s Utility class. This class is the most challenging of those classes that AKC offers.

The fact that Moore’s Frenchie was the fifth implies that this breed also thrives in challenging environments. Other Frenchies have become rescue dogs while others function as therapy dogs.

Becoming a rescue dog requires a high degree of obedience on the dog’s part. It’s no wonder that some Frenchies that have excelled in obedience rallies thrive as rescue dogs. 

Warren and Debbi Houtz were pleasantly surprised when they observed that their nine-month-old Frenchie had learned attention exercises faster than any other dogs that they had trained.

They’d taken their dog, Bijuo, to obedience training classes. Nonetheless, for other tasks, such as retrieving a wooden dumbbell, it took longer than other dogs. This can, however, be attributed to the breed’s stubbornness. 

Based on the documentation and testimonies by Frenchie owners, this breed is highly intelligent and can follow the rules, as evidenced by their excellence in obedience rallies. As such, the owners’ statements negate Stanley’s ranking which is considered flawed by observers. 

French bulldogs learn in unconventional ways

The success in the said events is a testament to the fact that Frenchies can learn complicated tricks. They’re also perfectly capable of figuring things out on their own. They also learn from owners just by merely observing them. 


Evidently, Frenchies are intelligent and smart dogs. They may not compare to other smarter dog breeds, but their behaviour, interests, and personality underscore their individual intelligence.

The owners need to be patient with French bulldogs, particularly during the training phase. Being free-thinkers, Frenchies may not always follow instructions. For this reason, you should use different training methods. These techniques should mimic games and should ensure that the French bulldogs enjoy the sessions.

Additionally, the training should be during puppyhood. This breed is also perfectly capable of learning from you by merely observing. They can also learn complicated tricks and have been participants in many events that test obedience and agility.

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Sara Santos

Writer, Editor and member of the Council, I am a dog person and I thrive to get the answers that will help you provide the best care a dog can have. You can also find me on my personal blog here.