Canadian French Bulldog enthusiasts have been stunned by the recent move by the French Bulldog Fanciers of Canada (the Canadian Kennel Club parent club for the breed in Canada) to overhaul our current breed standard.
In almost every case that we are familiar with, a breed standard is changed in small, carefully considered increments – a single sentence change to a standard can take well over a year to finally come up for vote. This sounds unconscionably slow, to some people, but it is actually the correct way for such changes to be done. A single sentence can change the entire look of a breed, and create changes that can alter the appearance and structure of a breed for all future generations.
The French Bulldog Fanciers of Canada have pushed through not a single sentence change, nor even a single paragraph change, but rather twelve changes to the breed standard – changes which will, inevitably, result in an entirely different French Bulldog than the one we currently know today.
We are not personally aware of another single instance, in any breed, where so many broadly sweeping changes have been proposed for a breed standard. It is a monumental change, and worst of all, it is fundamentally flawed in numerous cases.
Most disturbingly, one change in particular could result in a skyrocketing instance of color linked deafness within our breed. At a time when other breeds are working within the confines of their breed standards to improve the health of their dogs, the French Bulldog Fanciers of Canada, through either ignorance of the genetics behind deafness, or a willingness to prioritize aesthetics over health, have made a change that could result in dramatically increased possibilities of deafness within our breed.
Dr. George Strain is the Professor and Interim Head of Comparative Biomedical Sciences at Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine, and is considered to one of the world’s leading researchers into Canine Deafness. Here is his comment to me on the link between pigment and deafness in French Bulldogs -
I am confident is saying that deafness in Frenchies is probably greatest in those dogs that are nearly all white. The real issue is how strongly the piebald gene acts in a given dog. If it acts strongly there will be reduced pigmentation/increased white, blue irises, and deafness.
Morally, this is simply unacceptable. We are custodians of our breed, not just for today, but for posterity. Allowing a change which can have such sweeping consequences for all future generations of French Bulldogs is beyond the boundaries of what any of us should ever allow, let alone enthusiastically encourage.
Another disturbing change is the new emphasis on the word ‘powerful’ throughout the standard – this, combined with a removal of the upper weight limit, a newly added penalization of dogs weighing less than 9 kg (19.8 pounds), and the removal of the word ‘short’ to describe the body conjures the image of a completely different dog than the one we currently know today – a larger, longer, heavier, more aggressively built dog.
Is this the image that we want for this most ‘charming’ of companion breeds? Is this the image that you, as a fancier, envision when you think of a French Bulldog?
Shockingly, even with these objections being raised by Frenchie owners and breeders from across Canada, many with decades of experience in the breed, the French Bulldog Fanciers of Canada still voted to pass their proposed changes. This move, by a minority of Canadian French Bulldog breeders, will affect every single Canadian French Bulldog breeder, exhibitor, owner and enthusiast.
These changes will also affect French Bulldog breeders and enthusiasts from the USA who have traveled to Canada to show and exhibit their dogs, and who have incorporated Canadian bred French Bulldogs into their breeding programs.
Will the new, altered version of the standard make American bred French Bulldogs noncompetitive in the Canadian ring?
Will American French Bulldog breeders still want to use Canadian bloodlines in their breeding programs, if our entire breed alters so drastically from the US standard for French Bulldogs?
We ask you to join with us to make our objections to these changes known to the Canadian Kennel Club, so that the CKC can evaluate the feelings and concerns of ALL Canadian Frenchie fanciers before they approve these proposed changes. Please don’t allow a few people to speak for our entire breed.
If you are an owner, breeder or simply an enthusiast of French Bulldogs, please click here to sign our petition
Below the cut, you will find the ENTIRE proposed changes, with annotations, along with links to word document format files outlining the changes, and our draft of our objections to the changes.
This letter of objection is endorsed by the French Bulldog Club of Western Canada, and the Eastern Canada French Bulldog Club (pending CKC recognition). PLEASE share this post, and ask your friends to sign the petitions. We appreciate your support, on behalf of Frenchies, and the people who love them.
Summary of Objections to the Revised CKC French Bulldog Standard
We, (the undersigned), understand the desire of French Bulldog fanciers in Canada to create their own national breed standard. However, we have concerns with the revised standard recently approved by the French Bulldog Fanciers of Canada, and can not accept it as it stands. We find sections are unclear in meaning and contain changes that are even potentially harmful to the future health of our breed. As well, it contains spelling errors and needs better punctuated for clarity.
We ask that CKC’s Breed Standard Committee consider the following when deciding whether the national club-approved standard should be given final approval by CKC.
1) “Ticking” vs. “Freckling”
New wording in Section 4: Coat and Color [sic] under the “Colour” section, i.e.
“Ticking – Dog has obvious freckled markings among the white areas of the body. Ticking is highly undesirable. The penalty for ticking, should take into consideration the overall quality of the dog.”
This section incorrectly equates “ticking” (flecks of coloured hair in the white areas of a pied French Bulldog’s coat) with “freckled” body pigment. This is incorrect canine terminology; as well ticking and “freckles” are not the same genetically.
More importantly, when breeder reduces or eliminates the pigmented areas on the body or ears of a pied dog, the risk of colour-lined inherited deafness increases dramatically. We can not support any revision that may result in this consequence.
2) Changes in definition of “brindling”
New wording in Section 4: Coat and Color [sic] under the “Colour” section, i.e.
“Brindle is a striped coat effect caused by a mixture of black hairs on a lighter colored [sic] base. The brindle hairs must be noticeable and obvious.”
Asking for brindle hairs to be “noticeable and obvious” calls for subjective judgment and leaves the door open for judges to disqualify genetically brindled dogs which don’t display the pattern as “obviously” as others. Does “obvious” mean a judge should be able to see the brindling when looking at the dog from the other side of the ring? Or, does it mean on up-close inspection?
The previous standard defined black (i.e. complete lack of brindling) as “without a trace of brindle.” (That wording has been removed from the new descriptions of disqualifying colours as well in Section 16.) Or, thinking in reverse, all that was previously required to qualify as brindling was a “trace”, not something “obvious,” however that’s defined.
The new wording is a fundamental change in the description of brindling in the French Bulldog, and has no basis in the history of the breed. The original breed standard, written in 1897 by the French Bulldog Club of America, actually favoured a dark brindle vs. a very striped brindle:
Color, Skin and Coat: … In regard to the color, preference should be given as follows: — Dark Brindle, Dark Brindle and white; all other brindles, all other colors.
3) Addition of “nails … preferably black”
New wording in Section 10: Feet
The revised standards states a preference for black toenails. However, this disregards the fact that it’s almost genetically impossible to have black toenails on a light-coloured (non-masked) fawn or cream dog—which are both acceptable coat colours. Therefore, this new wording creates a built-in penalty against fawn and cream French Bulldogs.
As well, most brindles and pied French bulldogs with white marking in the feet area will have light-coloured nails on those paws—and will again be unfairly penalized for basic genetics.
The FCI standard for French Bulldog, created in its country of origin, states:
In the brindle subjects, the nails must be black. In the pieds and fawn subjects, dark
nails are preferred, without however penalising the light coloured nails.
Without including some additional language such as this, the revised standard unfairly penalizes fawn/creams, as well as some brindles and pieds with white feet-with no health rationale for this new wording.
4) New penalties for French Bulldogs under 9 kg
New wording in Section 15: Serious Faults “Less than 9 kgs [sic]”
The previous standard did not set a weight minimum for Frenchies and included “a light weight class under 22 lb. (10 kg).” The new standard considers any French Bulldog under 9 kg (or 19.8 lb.) to be a serious fault. Yet breeders know it is quite possible to produce a healthy—and typey—French Bulldog weighing 18 lb. or even 17 lb. This new weight minimum is unreasonably high and ignores the fact that as a companion dog, French Bulldogs come in a range of weights, including less than 9 kg.
The original FBDCA French Bulldog standard was based on a smaller-sized Frenchie than many seen today. It listed the preferred size for mature dogs as no more than 22 lb. and the upper limit for mature bitches as 20 lb. We should continue to acknowledge that a smaller French Bulldog is part of the companion history of our breed. Any small French Bulldog that lacks type or has a low weight due to poor health should be penalized, but other than that, there is no need to set a minimum weight as serious fault penalty for French Bulldogs, especially putting the minimum at under 9 kg.
5) Removal of the term “roach back”
Section 7: Body “The back should be a roach back … etc” has been deleted
The Bulldog and the French Bulldog both share a topline that’s distinctive in canine anatomy. This has traditionally been referred to as a “roach back,” although the shape of a Bulldog/French Bulldog “roach” is different than the generally accepted definition.
The new standard omits the “roach back” reference completely, perhaps in an effort to avoid this confusion. However, the new wording does not emphasize the unique shape of the French Bulldog’s topline, and although efforts are made to describe it, the wording is broken up and hard to visualize. Since there is a trend toward flat toplines in our breed, and many judges already have difficulty understanding the French Bulldog “roach back,” this revised wording is a concern. The new description of the back and topline needs to be clarified, ideally with a statement that what’s traditionally called “the roach back” is a distinctive hallmark of the breed.
The Bulldog standard already includes a good description to build on:
There should be a slight fall in the back, close behind the shoulders (its lowest part), whence the spine should rise to the loins (the top of which should be higher than the top of the shoulders), then curving again more suddenly to the tail, forming an arch (a very distinctive feature of the breed), termed “roach back” or, more correctly, “wheel-back.”
6) Removal of the word “short” to describe the body
Section 7: Body
The previous description that “the body should be short and well rounded” has been replaced with “Body, well balanced.” Actually, the proper balance for a French Bulldog is a shorter body than for a generic wolf-type canine, but the new wording has nothing to indicate that.
It’s laudable that the new standard attempts to move away from an obsession with shorter and shorter backs, but it’s still possible to describe the true silhouette of a Frenchie without deleting all references to a short body length (caused by a short loin). For example: “The back between withers and loin is short, while the overall body length (withers to tails set) approximates the height at the withers.”
7) Removal of the words “hung low”
Section 11: Tail
The French Bulldog has an unusual tail—a natural short tail, that is also low set. The reference to the tail set is very important to create a proper topline. The new standard mentions “carried low in repose” but removes “hung low”—which is essential to describe the proper tail position.
8) Under “Shoulders” the revised standard calls for “Shoulders—well laid back …”
Section 8: Forequarters
For a French Bulldog to move in a balanced fashion, it needs to be balanced front and rear. However, the French Bulldog standard (both revised and the original) correctly calls for “moderate angulation” in the rear. This should be balanced with wording to match, e.g. “Shoulders—moderately laid back” or “laid back, but not overly angulated” Asking for more may seem like asking for a sounder dog, but that won’t be what happens.
9) Addition of “… absence of tail”
New wording in Section 14: Faults
A total lack of tail (agenes) is very rare in dogs. However, many French Bulldogs have extremely short tails, with two to four vertebrae, a condition called anoura. Since there is no definition included with the new “absence of tail” wording, judges will not know whether they should penalize for complete taillessness, or whether an extremely short tail is also considered a fault.
Although the intent of the new standard may be to protect the breed by asking for a tail, to date there has been no correlation in French Bulldog research between short tails and spinal issues.
Other areas that are inaccurate or misleading:
- Utilization “Companion and pleasure dog” “Companion dog” would suffice. What is a “pleasure” dog?
- History The new standard states: “It is not known, which breeds were crossed with the English dogs”. While definitive pedigrees do not exist, most experts in the breed agree that the miniature bulldogs were crossed with French terriers and pugs. Since a breed standard should be authoritative, saying “it is not known” reflects poorly on its expertise. Wording could be changed to say, “While it is not definitively known which breeds were crossed with the English dogs, most breed experts agree that a combination of French terriers and pugs were used.”
- Section 2: Temperament Describing a French Bulldog as “well behaved” is not an accurate description of the breed and is misleading for potential owners. New owners should be aware that the French Bulldog is a mischievous dog that’s often referred to as a clown in the cloak of a philosopher. “A steadfast dog of roguish charm with clown-like qualities” would be more appropriate.
- Section 4: Coat and Colour Under the “Colour” section, pied is defined as “(white and brindle, white and fawn, white and fawn with black mask)”. To be complete, “white and cream” should also be included.
- Section 6: Neck “Absence of neck should be seriously faulted” Obviously a dog can not live without a neck. The reader can assume that the standard means something like “absence of suitable length of neck”—but as it stands, the wording is ridiculous. This wording is also repeated in Section 15: Serious Faults.