How Smart Are French Bulldogs? Everything We Know About Their Intelligence

Written by Katelynn Sobus
Updated: July 31, 2023
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French Bulldogs are known for their large ears, humorous personalities, and playful dispositions. But, you might wonder, are French Bulldogs smart?

French Bulldogs are very emotionally intelligent, but most of them learn new cues slowly and don’t make great problem-solvers. They’re also stubborn, which can make it harder to determine their true intelligence.

In this article, we’ll explore everything we know about French Bulldog intelligence, from the varying types of dog intelligence to how Frenchies compare to other dog breeds. We’ll also talk about how to help your Frenchie reach their full potential.

Exploring the Intelligence of French Bulldogs

Red tan and Blue Isabella Frenchies looking up

French Bulldogs have high emotional intelligence but low working intelligence.

©iStock.com/yhelfman

There are various forms of intelligence in dogs. Many people look to working intelligence, also known as dog IQ or obedience. This determines how quickly a dog can learn new cues and listen to them successfully.

However, there are also the following to consider:

  • Adaptive intelligence or problem-solving: The ability to think adaptively, generalize behaviors, and figure things out for themselves. One way to measure this is how quickly a dog can learn how to use a puzzle toy.
  • Instinct: All dogs have instincts, but working breeds tend to have specific instincts that help them succeed at their jobs, such as guarding, herding, or hunting.
  • Emotional intelligence: Emotional intelligence is how a dog relates to those around them and understands their feelings. This can be difficult to measure, but when you’re a dog guardian, you can usually feel it! We tend to classify sensitive, empathetic dogs as highly emotionally-intelligent.

Working Intelligence and Problem Solving Abilities

Frenchies typically have poor working intelligence. They tend to learn new cues slowly and listen less than half of the time.

French Bulldogs don’t tend to be the best problem solvers, though they are food motivated and can get better with practice! They do tend to excel in areas they feel important, such as tricking their people into giving them extra snacks.

Working Instincts and Emotional Intelligence

As a lap dog breed, French Bulldogs don’t tend to have strong working instincts either. They don’t have strong guarding or herding instincts, but some have a strong prey drive.

Prey drive tends to vary in Frenchies depending on their genetics. Most breeders aren’t going to focus on hunting abilities but instead on companionship.

This brings us to the last facet of intelligence: emotional intelligence. Frenchies excel in this area! They’re sensitive, often clingy, and seem to easily read the emotions of both people and other dogs.

Variation Depending on the Individual

Of course, we also have to remember that every individual French Bulldog is unique. Some may excel at puzzle games and problem-solving activities and act more aloof than others of their breed. Genetics, upbringing, training, and their relationship to their people all play a huge role in who they turn out to be.

For instance, Frenchies who are given puzzle toys every day are much more likely to excel in problem-solving than those who’ve never tried these activities before. Training your French Bulldog daily will also make them more likely to listen to you than a Frenchie who’s only worked with occasionally.

The Cognitive Capabilities of French Bulldogs: Understanding Their Problem-Solving Skills and Brain Size

Fawn French Bulldog on a Park Bench

Frenchies can be good problem solvers when motivated, but things like puzzle games don’t seem as intuitive to them as for more intelligent breeds.

©iStock.com/Firn

French Bulldogs don’t have great problem-solving abilities and tend to be more aloof in behavior. Though they want to please, they can be stubborn, and this doesn’t help when it comes to figuring out how much they can do versus how much they will do.

For instance, let’s say you give your Frenchie a puzzle toy to complete. But they get frustrated with the toy quickly, and you pour out the treats for them. They may see this and stop trying at the toy.

But isn’t this a problem-solving behavior on its own? They figured out a much easier way to get what they want, which is waiting you out!

When it comes to brain size, Frenchies’ brains are relatively small compared to other breeds–even breeds of the same size. Due to their short snouts, French Bulldogs also have different brain structures from non-brachycephalic dogs.

According to a study done in Hungary, the olfactory bulb, which is responsible for a dog’s sense of smell, is “pushed back” beneath the frontal lobe. Ultimately, more study is needed to determine if and how this impacts Frenchies’ intelligence levels and problem-solving abilities.

The French Bulldog’s Learning Aptitude: How Quick and Adaptive Are They?

Platinum French Bulldog

You may need to repeat cues 40 to 80 times before your Frenchie learns a new trick!

©iStock.com/yhelfman

French Bulldogs tend to learn much more slowly than other dog breeds. Part of this may come down to how often they’re worked with, as we tend to focus less on training small breeds like Frenchies than larger breeds such as Labradors.

However, much of it likely comes down to genetics as well. Frenchies tend to be funny, affectionate, and friendly–but the breed as a whole just isn’t known for its intelligence.

French Bulldogs are quicker to learn than some other bully breeds, such as Bulldogs. But they’re still quite slow to pick up on new things, and training a Frenchie takes patience.

Intelligence Ranking: Where Does a French Bulldog Stand Among Other Breeds?

dog looking at berries

French Bulldogs belong in the second-to-lowest tier when ranked amongst other breeds based on working intelligence.

©Studio13lights/Shutterstock.com

French Bulldogs rank at #58 on the list of purebred dogs with the highest IQs. As we discussed above, dog IQ refers to their ability to learn new tricks and successfully respond to cues they’re given. Business Insider describes Frenchies as “fair working dogs who tend to learn a new trick in 40 to 80 repetitions and respond about 40 percent of the time.”

For comparison, top-tier dogs like the border collie or poodle can learn a new cue within five repetitions and obey 95 percent or more of the time. On the other hand, breeds in the sixth tier are judged as poor working dogs who only listen around 30 percent of the time.

Of course, there are arguments to be made about intelligence vs. compliance. Frenchies are known for being stubborn, so not listening doesn’t always mean they don’t understand the cues they’re given.

Unlocking Your French Bulldog’s Intelligence Potential: Training Techniques and Mental Stimulation

Adorable french bulldog puppy.

Training and mental enrichment is important for all dogs, including Frenchies!

©Angyalosi Beata/Shutterstock.com

It’s important to provide plenty of enrichment and mental stimulation for any pet, even a small, seemingly unintelligent dog like a Frenchie. They certainly don’t have the drive of a poodle, for instance, nor do they require the same amount of mental stimulation–but you should be aiming to engage your Frenchie’s mind every day.

The more you work with your French Bulldog, the more intelligent they’re likely to become as well. Some ways to get the most out of life with your Frenchie include:

Short Daily Training Sessions

Just like us, Frenchies can’t get better at anything without practice. And they’ll likely require more practice than your average canine if you want them to master a cue.

Training daily can help you to solidify old cues and teach new ones. Keeping sessions short and engaging will make your Frenchie want to come back for more every day.

Long, frustrating training sessions aren’t good for any dog–or dog guardian! They make everyone involved want to give up, and your Frenchie may become more stubborn and avoidant.

Make sure to use force-free training methods only, never aversive or punishment-based methods. Frenchies tend to be very food motivated, so grab a high-value treat and get started!

Puzzle Toys

Puzzle toys actually work very well for dogs like Frenchies! You can get more bang for your buck, as they won’t learn the intricacies of the puzzle very quickly (which can spoil the fun for very intelligent dogs!).

Start with easy puzzles, such as those where your dog just has to lift an object off of a surface or slide a cover to the side to obtain a treat. Lay the treat out in the open at first, then place the cover on incompletely so that they can still see and smell the treat easily.

Once they get the hang of this, you can start using the puzzle toy as intended and making them work a little harder. If your Frenchie gets the hang of these simple toys, you can advance to more complex ones. Remember to go slowly, be patient, and have fun with it!

If your Frenchie doesn’t find toys (or anything else on this list) engaging, skip them! Enrichment for animals only works if it’s actually bettering their lives.

Nose Work

Nose work games involve hiding an object, such as a treat, and having your Frenchie find it! Like with puzzle toys, you’ll want to start off with something very easy and increase the difficulty as your Frenchie learns.

Add in a cue like “find it” so that your Frenchie knows they should be looking for something. You can even try teaching them the names of toys or people and having them find them around the house!

Remember that Frenchies don’t have noses quite as strong as other breeds, so you may need to use stinky, high-value treats in order to engage them.

Daily Walks

Though most Frenchies can get their energy out indoors or in a small backyard, walks are still incredibly important. They’re not just for exercise–they also give your dog the ability to sniff, engage with their environment, and decompress.

Sniffing relieves stress in dogs and helps them to learn things about their environment, such as which other dogs have been in the area and when.

The best way to walk your Frenchie is to go at their pace and let them sniff as much as they like. When possible, let them lead the way and tell you where they want to explore! Sniff walks provide a lot of mental stimulation and can also tire your Frenchie out with little effort on your part.

Of course, never push your Frenchie on walks. As brachycephalic (short-snouted) dogs, they’re prone to things like breathing difficulties, exercise intolerance, and heat stroke. Strenuous exercise, especially in the heat, can hurt them severely.

Barn Hunts

Barn hunts are a rat-safe way to engage a hunting or ratting dog’s instincts. Since Frenchies are descended from terriers, they may enjoy this activity too!

The rats are safely hidden away in tubes, and the dogs must navigate mazes of hay or straw to find them.

To see if your Frenchie might like this activity, you might want to do some nose work at home first, which we discussed in more detail above. If they enjoy it, they might love a barn hunt as well.

Thank you for reading! If you have feedback on this post, please contact the AZ Animals editorial team.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/Firn

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About the Author

Katelynn Sobus is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on pets including dogs, cats, and exotics. She has been writing about pet care for over five years. Katelynn currently lives in Michigan with her seven senior rescue cats.

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