Written by Dr. Marcelle Landestoy, DVM
The compact French Bulldog is beloved for its small size, loyal nature, and friendly disposition.
But while this breed isn’t naturally prone to highly aggressive behavior, it can occasionally nip, bite, or growl at family members.
French Bulldogs aren’t inherently aggressive, though they can act out when feeling jealous, intimidated, or protective. Socializing your French Bulldog from a young age can help you avoid unpleasant aggressive behaviors. However, consistent reinforcement and proper training are also crucial.
Socializing your pup and giving them plenty of attention can help curtail most types of aggressive behavior. However, French Bulldogs do have a jealous streak.
As such, pet parents may want to educate themselves about the natural aggressive tendencies of this popular companion breed. Read on to learn more from my experience with this breed as a veterinarian!
Are They Aggressive to Humans?
French Bulldogs are often friendly, curious pups. But occasionally, they can show signs of aggressive behavior toward humans. This typically happens when a French Bulldog isn’t properly socialized when it’s young.
Anticipating this type of behavior can help you quickly put an end to it, so it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the kinds of interactions that might provoke aggression from a French Bulldog.
French Bulldogs tend to be gentle and affectionate when socializing with family members.
Still, this breed is known for occasional bouts of jealousy, which can be problematic in households with young children.
French Bulldogs aren’t naturally aggressive toward babies, but they can nip at pet parents showing their newborns lots of attention.
And as with any breed, it’s crucial for adults to never leave their infant alone with their dog, no matter how well-behaved the pup might be.
By the time your child becomes a toddler, your French Bulldog will likely come around to understanding that the new stranger in the house is a new family member.
That said, French Bulldogs can react negatively to a toddler’s rough pulling or touching.
So, it’s still crucial for parents to keep a close eye on their toddler’s interactions when they’re playing with a French Bulldog.
Older kids and French Bulldogs tend to get along very well.
Though this breed isn’t the most active, most French Bulldogs have plenty of energy and enjoy spending time with their families.
Children old enough to care for dogs may form a strong bond with a French Bulldog.
Unless your French Bulldog is particularly protective, they should have no problem remaining friendly and playful toward adults.
In most cases, this breed will only exhibit aggressive behavior toward strangers, and then only if frightened or poorly socialized.
For the most part, French Bulldogs are friendly toward strangers.
Though they can be possessive of their owners, they don’t tend to be as protective as other breeds (like the German Shepherd Dog).
Consequently, a French Bulldog is more likely to bark at a ringing doorbell or knock on the door than growl or rush to attack.
But when assessing the likelihood of a French Bulldog’s aggression toward strangers, it’s crucial to consider both in-home visitations and outdoor encounters.
In Your Home
Dogs are territorial creatures, which means they tend to have a designated living space that they protect from potential intruders.
More than likely, your dog considers your home (including its back and front yard areas) their territory.
When inviting guests to your home, you may notice some signs of anxiety in your French Bulldog.
Additionally, uninvited intruders are likely to get your dog barking.
Still, the likelihood of your French Bulldog biting a guest (intruder or not) is relatively low.
Though your French Bulldog can be wary of guests when they first arrive, they’re likely to soon warm up to them.
In many cases, dogs will observe their pet parent’s reactions to new household guests to check for signs of worry or discomfort.
If you and your household are relaxed and calm when spending time with guests, your French Bulldog will likely follow suit.
On the other hand, if you’re excited and energetic, your pup might bark, jump around, and get ready to play.
And if you’re angry and yelling, your French Bulldog may sense danger and become aggressive.
To prevent your pup from growling at guests or nipping at them, you’ll want to set an example by remaining calm and affable.
French Bulldogs may bark at an intruder, but they’re unlikely to attack.
That’s because dogs belonging to this breed are known for their companionship, not their protection ability.
So if an intruder breaks into your home, your French Bulldog’s first instinct will likely be to alert you.
Outside Your Home
When spending time outdoors, there’s a good chance that you and your French Bulldog will see strangers.
Though some breeds are known for their exceptional friendliness or hostility toward new people, French Bulldogs tend to be more reserved.
A French Bulldog may only become aggressive toward a stranger on the street or a passerby if that person seems like a threat.
Most French Bulldogs will only react aggressively to strangers they encounter outdoors when directly provoked.
Are They Aggressive to Other Animals?
French Bulldogs aren’t typically aggressive toward other animals. In fact, they’re often far more focused on spending time with their human family than interacting with other cats or dogs.
However, this breed’s ancestry does trace back to rat-catching dogs, so don’t be surprised if your French Bulldog takes off after an unlucky squirrel or wayward mouse!
Other Animals in Your Household
If your French Bulldog was poorly socialized as a puppy, abused by a previous owner, or neglected when it was young, it might growl or bite other animals in your household.
However, this breed isn’t known for being aggressive toward other pets.
But dogs are social creatures, and they tend to enforce social hierarchies.
Pups with the most dominant personalities act as pack leaders, and they may growl or bite to maintain their status.
Still, this type of aggression typically doesn’t result in any injuries.
Cats and French Bulldogs often get along quite well, as they’re similarly sized.
It’s not uncommon to find a French Bulldog napping next to the family cat or playfully stealing its toys.
Animals They Encounter Outside
When properly socialized and trained, your French Bulldog shouldn’t experience any aggressive tendencies toward animals they meet outside.
Of course, your pup may chase after a squirrel or bark at a neighboring dog.
But French Bulldogs are generally laid-back and friendly, making them unlikely to attack most animals they encounter.
Are Female or Male French Bulldogs More Aggressive?
Generally, male dogs present more aggressive behaviors than females. And this broad rule applies to the French Bulldog as well. Female French Bulldogs are often quieter and slightly less playful than their male counterparts.
Still, it’s important to remember that gender doesn’t necessarily preclude aggressive behavior.
While males may be more likely to bite or growl, female French Bulldogs are just as capable of exhibiting signs of aggressive tendencies.
What Can Cause Aggressive Behavior?
Several diverse triggers can cause your French Bulldog to get aggressive.
Understanding these triggers can help you put a stop to unwarranted aggression.
That said, some triggers are relatively unavoidable. Additionally, some types of aggression are learned behaviors.
Therefore, getting rid of learned aggression typically requires training, patience, and plenty of positive reinforcement.
Some of the most common causes behind aggressive behavior in French Bulldogs include:
- Limited Resources
- Pack Hierarchy
French Bulldogs can become aggressive if separated from their family.
They can also get jealous if their beloved pet parents aren’t showing them enough attention.
Ensuring that you’re spending time with your French Bulldog each day may put an end to this aggressive envy.
Adult dogs adopted from animal shelters can also bite or growl when feeling afraid.
Sadly, some French Bulldogs are raised in restrictive or abusive environments that don’t allow them to socialize and learn appropriate behaviors.
When this happens, they may adopt aggressive tendencies as a form of self-protection.
Although unlearning these tendencies can take time, an older French Bulldog can let go of old habits.
Weekly group training sessions with a certified dog trainer could be a great way to socialize your French Bulldog and help them feel more relaxed around others.
These gorgeous dogs can also become aggressive during meal times, especially in households with multiple dogs.
If a dog thinks that there are limited resources, they may react violently to secure or protect those resources.
Ensuring that each animal has a dedicated food and water dish can help curtail this reaction.
Is Your French Bulldog Being Aggressive or Protective?
It can be challenging to tell what’s causing your dog’s aggressive behavior; telling it apart from protective behavior comes down to context. For example, if your dog only growls when you’re around strangers or the doorbell rings, this may be defensive or territorial behavior.
While it’s important to refrain from encouraging aggressive behavior in your French Bulldog, it’s crucial to identify the source of that behavior.
You shouldn’t punish protective aggression, but it shouldn’t be rewarded.
Focusing on positive reinforcement techniques for wanted behaviors is a far better way to reduce aggressive tendencies without impacting your dog’s protective nature.
Learn To Recognize the Signs That Your Dog Is About To Get Aggressive
A dog’s tail is one of its most excellent communication tools.
Nearly every pet parent knows that a wagging tail is a surefire sign of a happy pup.
But French Bulldogs have tiny tails that can be challenging to see.
Therefore, you may need to rely on other indicators to warn you when your dog is about to get aggressive.
Some of the most common red flags include:
- Excessive barking
- Holding a wide stance
French Bulldogs aren’t particularly vocal dogs, so when they start barking up a storm.
Additionally, growling often comes before nipping, snapping, and biting.
And while you might not see your pup’s tail change direction when threatened, you may see them widen their stance and start in the direction of the perceived danger, ready to run and attack.
What To Do During an Aggressive Episode
When your dog is in the midst of an aggressive episode, you may not be able to use trained commands to calm them down.
However, it’s essential to refrain from any verbal or physical violence.
Yelling at your dog or hitting them may only agitate them more, and it’s never an acceptable reaction.
Not only could you end up being bitten, but you may also accidentally hurt your pup.
If your dog is growling, has their teeth bared, and seems on the verge of attacking, you’ll want to:
- Speak in a calm, medium-pitch tone
- Figure out what’s causing your dog to be aggressive
- Remain still and relaxed until your dog calms down
For example, if your dog begins to growl at a passerby during a walk, speak calmly to your pup while holding their leash tightly in both hands.
If your dog is lunging at something or someone, you’ll want to keep a firm grip on their harness.
But you won’t want to yell out or pull hard on your dog’s leash.
Instead, it’s often better to remain still and quiet until your dog has calmed down enough to follow commands.
When To Get Professional Help
In some cases, you may need to seek professional help to put an end to your dog’s aggressive behavior.
For example, if you’ve noticed that your dog is consistently aggressive toward strangers, a professional canine behavioral expert can offer insight into the situation.
If your French Bulldog is suddenly showing signs of aggression, you may want to visit a veterinarian instead.
Remember, one of the common causes of canine aggression is poor health.
When your dog is sick or in pain, they may nip at you or growl without warning.
What Does the Rehabilitation Process Look Like?
Pups acting out because they’re ill will need to recover to become their old, laidback selves.
As such, the rehabilitation process is often straightforward: Take your dog to the vet, accept treatment, then go home to relax and recover. But French Bulldogs that are aggressive due to lackluster upbringings, social pressures, or perceived resource scarcity can be trickier to rehabilitate.
That’s because these causes are often deep-seated behavioral issues.
As a result, reducing aggressive behaviors in these dogs usually takes time, repetition, and plenty of patience.
One of the most common techniques to rehabilitate aggressive dogs is positive reinforcement.
So, when your French Bulldog doesn’t growl at the stranger knocking at the door, you’ll give them a treat and a little affection.
And when they do show signs of aggression, you won’t yell at them or punish them.
This behavior modification therapy is highly effective, especially when it’s consistent.
Remember, if you’re unsure how to handle your French Bulldog’s aggressive behavior, you can always contact your veterinarian or a local dog trainer for guidance.
French Bulldogs are small companion dogs with pleasantly friendly personalities.
They’re not particularly prone to aggressive behaviors, though they can develop jealous tendencies that lead to growling and biting.
Avoiding aggressive behaviors starts with proper puppy socialization.
Adult dogs can also benefit from group training classes.
If you’re unsure how to handle your French Bulldog’s aggression, be sure to reach out to your local veterinarian for guidance.
- American Kennel Club: French Bulldog
- American Kennel Club: The Bon Vivant: How the French Bulldog Became the No. 2 Most Popular Dog
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Behavioral Help for Your Pet
- French Bulldog Owner: French Bulldogs as Good Hunters, Ratters, & Mice Catchers
- Little French Dog: Why is my French Bulldog getting aggressive? – What To Do
Learn more about this breed on my one-page French Bulldog guide
Veterinary Hospital Director at UCE
Dr. Marcelle is a general veterinarian with a Small Animal Medicine Specialty | Director of the UCE School of Veterinary Medicine | Certified by the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society