Despite being one of the most expensive and stylish breeds on the market, it is a well-known fact that French Bulldogs will more than often encounter genetic health problems.
According to Canine Medicine and Genetics, a 2013 study showed that French Bulldogs are reported as predisposed to health disorders including Brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS), ear infections, skin fold dermatitis, mobility issues, and a range of spinal diseases.
"Increased demand for dogs with extreme conformational features is suggested to be detrimental to these dogs' welfare both because of directly linked disorder risk and also because steeply increasing demand may contribute to suboptimal breeding and welfare standards as breeders and suppliers rapidly attempt to fulfill the heightened consumer demand."
Nevertheless, a breeder in the Netherlands has been working on trying to make the breed a lot healthier. Hawbucks French Bulldogs is currently trying to establish a new template for the popular breed, to ensure they live happy and healthy lives.
Chantal van Kruining is a veterinary assistant who, after getting a French Bulldog, became interested in breeding. They took on 2 Frenchies, a rescued girl, Quinta, who they found out had been heavily bred for the first 6 years of her life, and a male puppy named Tyke.
They explained on their website how they fell in love with the breed but after Quinta died due to health-related issues, they realized how secretive the French Bulldog breeding world truly was.
"I am still very grateful for all that Quinta has given us. She made us fall in love with French Bulldogs. Because of her, I have a lot more insight into the abnormalities that occur within the breed. She represents for a big part what is wrong in the 'breeding world' - Breeding with wrong motives and not looking out for the best interest of the dog. It is terrible to see your beloved dog like this. I hope no other dog has to feel the pain that she must have felt during her whole life. She has been the biggest motivation in my passion to help the breed get better and healthier."
Their motto is 'We Breed for Health. Not Show" and they say their vision is trying to break down barriers within what is normal for the breed.
"It is not normal that a dog can not do what he likes most because of his body type. It is not normal for a dog to be kept calm when it is above twenty degrees outside. It is not 'cute' when a dog cannot breathe without making noise," she explained.
"A French Bulldog is first and foremost a dog. A dog is supposed to move freely and not be held back by his body. A dog is at its most beautiful when it is not obstructed by physical limitations. Hawbucks is the result of a lot of time, effort, thinking, doubt, idealism, frustrations, and hope."
Hawbucks are now calling on other breeders to make similar changes to ensure future generations of the dog don't suffer like their predecessors. "We can say that we 'breed for improvement' but for that, we breed on a scale that is nowhere near enough to make a difference," they wrote.
So, what do they hope this new style of French Bulldog will look like? They explained that they want the breed to be built "a little more athletic." They also hope to eradicate the sounds Frenchies are known to make when breathing, and to make it less broad on its legs - "a dog with normal body proportions."
They have been praised on social media for helping to reshape the template for a healthy French Bulldog breed and get people talking more about those who breed for nothing but money.
Hawthorns have since been able to produce a dog that has a seemingly longer neck and a longer nose and while they claim there is still a long way to go before they believe they have the perfect iteration of a French Bulldog, they believe they are on the right path.
"We do not claim to know it all," they write, "The only thing we can do is promise that we will try our utmost best to breed healthy French Bulldogs. That is what we aspire. That is what we can hope for."