Playing With Your French Bulldog: The Ultimate Guide

A special part of having a pet is playing with them. Playing with your French Bulldog is a great way to connect and have fun, but it also has other advantages. Today, you will read about the benefits of play and different ways to play with your French Bulldog and keep your pup active, happy, and healthy.


Benefits of Playing With Your French Bulldog

The number of benefits to playing with your Frenchie is plenty enough reason to make play a part of your daily schedule.

Benefits of playing with your pup or providing playtime activities are:

  • Playing together builds a bond between you and your pup.
  • Playtime keeps your dog active and gives it something to do so it doesn’t become bored.
  • Playtime fosters an active body and mind for your Frenchie, which is an important part of their health.
  • Social skills, rules, and trust are taught during play.
  • An active Frenchie, especially as a puppy, is more likely to cause trouble during downtime.

To benefit from the upsides of play, it is important that you play consciously with your Frenchie. Not every game is fit for any dog. Activity and playtime should be fun but also safe. As you read, you will learn more about playing safely, the best toys, and exciting games.


Safety First

Safety is always number one when it comes to playing with your French bulldog. Not only is your safety important, but so is your four-legged family members’ safety.

Choosing Toys

Not all toys are safe for dogs. It’s important to carefully observe toys when shopping or read several reviews if ordering online. A safe toy does not break easily, cannot be swallowed, has no sharp edges, and is not made of (or painted with) toxic substances.

For many dogs, toys made of soft plastic or rubber are unsuitable. This is quickly chewed to bits and swallowed. If your French bulldog is capable of demolition their toy (most dogs are!), then it is better to choose a more sturdy toy.

In addition, sometimes there are loose parts such as bubbles, which can end up in the stomach. This can be dangerous. The same can happen with rope toys if your Frenchie rips the pieces off. These pieces can cause blockages if swallowed. If strings on a rope toy loosen, cutting them off can prevent an unsafe situation.

Using branches or sticks as toys can also be dangerous. Dogs often damage their mouth, throat, or trachea by catching a thrown branch incorrectly or when they catch a branch while running full speed. With that said, a ball, or other suitable toys like this Chuckit toy, is your best bet for playing fetch.

While toys can be exciting and can add some extra excitement, it’s important to choose and play safely. It is best to be present when your dog is playing with a toy to ensure that they are safe and if something happens you are there to help.

Toy Suggestions

Toy shopping can be so fun, especially for new pet parents! Here are a few toys reviewed for good quality that your Frenchie will love to play with:

Again, when shopping in a store or online, do your research to ensure the toy is safe and durable.

The Human’s Safety Matters, too

There is likely no reason to be worried about a Frenchie becoming aggressive with their owner. They are known for their affection and love. However, avoid playing games that involve food and ones that give your Frenchie the “winner experience” if you are wanting to be a more dominant pet owner. This is to your discretion, but again, an owner playing with a French Bulldog will likely not turn into an aggressive experience.

When playing, avoid lying down on the ground with your pup. This can be confusing for your Frenchie as it makes you seem small and he may think that he is now the alpha dog. In addition, your face is within reach of his teeth and if your dog gets too excited, things could go wrong. Make sure you stay taller than your Frenchie while playing.

Pay attention to stress indicators in your Frenchie when playing. This could mean that they are uncomfortable for one of several reasons (uncertainty of game, of what you are doing, etc). 

While playing, do not allow your Frenchie to bite your hands or arms, even if it doesn’t hurt. This could result in your dog thinking it is okay to put his teeth into people’s arms and other body parts. Stop playing immediately if your Frenchie uses his teeth and provide it with a toy so that your dog is aware that teeth play is for toys only.

Since many children get very excited about playing with furry friends and don’t know the ins and outs of safe dog play yet, make sure an adult is present during Frenchie and the little one’s playtime. It also never hurts to discuss key points from this article with your small child to ensure their safety, too.

Leash Play: Avoid it

It’s pretty simple: playing on a leash is not a great idea for safety reasons. For French bulldogs who cannot run off-leash, or if you have no area to do this, playtime inside or leash walks are best. Even if you have a long leash, your dog can easily injure itself when playing on the leash. For example, if their leash is connected to a collar, their neck can be seriously injured if they are jerking their neck around trying to play with a toy or ball.

*More on this below, but there is almost always a dog park or grassy area in most places for your dog to have an opportunity off-leash.


Where to Play With Your French Bulldog

Rather indoors or outside, the environment in which you play should be carefully considered. A smart move would be to observe possible play areas before having your pup join you. 

When looking for a play area outside, there are several things to take notice of. Pay attention to things like traffic, steep slopes, bodies of water (most Frenchies can’t swim), barbed wire, broken glass, and trash. Do realize you may need to play farther than you think you should from roads and other traffic. Danger can happen quicker than you may realize. A spot that appears safe may have some hard-to-spot issues so do check them out prior to playtime, if possible. If that’s not a possibility, keep your pup leashed until you know the area is safe.

If you play with your French bulldog indoors, choose activities and locations carefully. Playing with a French Bulldog on slippery, hard surfaces can go wrong. Do not let your pup get too wild during throwing or pulling games while on a hard surface such as laminate. There is a high chance that your pup will slide and slip around, causing joint damage. Of course, be aware of fragile items like windows, hard objects, and sharp edges when playing indoors. Of course, be sure to avoid playing near open fire and hot water. Overall, indoor play is safe when aware of the environment.


When to Play

The most important thing when it comes to when to play is not to let your Frenchie participate in intensive play one hour before or two hours after eating. Doing this can sustain a stomach torsion (stomach tilt) in your dog, which can be life-threatening. Another rule of thumb is to avoid much activity right before bed. As with humans, settling down before bedtime creates an opportunity for a better night’s rest.


Physical Play Activities

Physically playing with a French Bulldog provides an opportunity for them to release energy. Games with ample activity are good for stamina, too. Physical play can also lead to good coordination. Be sure to take into account any limitations of your French Bulldog such as age, physique, and illnesses to avoid injury and other issues. If you are unsure of how much physical play is best for your Frenchie, consult your vet.

Fetch

As we know, fetch is a fan favorite! In this game your Frenchie can indulge in its natural behavior, chasing after prey. It is also a form of cooperation. After all, the dog must bring the ball back to you so that he can ‘chase’ it again.

If you want to teach this game to your French bulldog, having treats handy always helps. Don’t start by throwing the ball far. It’s a pretty sure chance that your Frenchie will run after it but won’t understand that he must bring the ball back. First, teach your pup to let go of the ball if you ask (using a specific word or short phrase like “drop it”). Then, teach it to bring the ball to you that you lie or throw down nearby. This way the dog learns what the end goal of the game is. Always praise and give treats immediately when your dog cooperates. Overtime, throw the ball further and further. 

If your Frenchie gives you the ball, throw it again without waiting. This will teach your dog that he gets to keep playing and not that he’s lost his toy. If your dog doesn’t come to you with the toy, you can run the other way yourself while, for example, clapping your hands quickly or using your voice to lure him after you. If your dog does come but does not want to let go of the toy, you can initially use two toys (keeping one on you). As soon as your dog with the first toy is near you, show the second toy with the goal of having them drop the one they have. As soon as the dog lets go of his toy, you immediately throw the second toy. Never try to pull the toy out of his mouth. If he refuses to let it go, not to worry. Practice makes perfect.

Playing fetch is always fun and allows your dog to get energy out and connect with you. Fetch can also be stressful for your Frenchie’s joints. A ball bounces in all directions so your dog must run, brake, and turn quickly. This is why you shouldn’t play with puppies and older French bulldogs with a predisposition to poor hips or sensitive joints. Puppies have muscles and joints that are not yet completely ‘ready’ and aren’t quite strong enough to keep everything neatly in place. Continuous braking and turning can cause the joint parts to collide, which can cause damage to the joint and cause scar tissue and osteoarthritis. It can cause or worsen conditions such as hip dysplasia. With that said, it’s best to wait to play fetch until your Frenchie is a bit older and more physically developed. This will be when they’re close to being full grown. You can play a mini version of fetch with your puppy where you are throwing a smaller toy close by as opposed to having them chase a ball and run it back to you.

When playing fetch, make sure that you keep control. While you want to give your dog a chance to get energy out and realize that they get to play more when they release the ball, don’t throw the ball endlessly because they keep asking for it. Your French bulldog must learn that he no longer has to insist (for example, by barking at you) if you say that the game is over. This is how you determine the end of the game.

Tug of War

Playing tug of war with a rope, an old rag, or other toys is another popular physical activity to play with your pup. 

While holding one end of the rope, or another toy, indicate to your pup that they can grab the other end. You want them to learn to properly play so that they do not attempt to pull it out of your hand at any given time (when you are carrying it somewhere). It must be clear to the dog that it is a game. Think of a word that means that the game is starting (like “grab”) and use it every time you begin to challenge the dog to grab the toy.

As soon as you start teaching the game, make sure you are always using toys that are long enough that where they bite down is not close to the other end where your hand is.

Teach your Frenchie the command ‘let loose’ (or a similar word or phrase) before you play pulling games or teach him this command while playing. Praise and give treats when they comply. While playing tug of war, occasionally ask the dog to let go of the object using dedicated command and if he does it properly, provide praise or reward and continue to play. This is also a good exercise for your Frenchie to continue to pay attention to your directions, despite the excitement of the game.

While your human children will likely want to play, too, playing tug of war is not suitable for children. There is always a risk that your pup will bite your child’s hand or pull so hard that the child will get hurt and/or fall over. So, it’s best to let children play other games that have a smaller risk factor.

Avoid playing tug of war during the period that a puppy’s teeth change, usually between 16 and 20 weeks of age.

Do not move the toy up and down in a wild manner but rather only back and forth so as not to damage your Frenchies spine. Do not play tug of war if your dog has neck or back problems. Use a sturdy toy made of soft material (dog rope, a rag, or sturdy rubber) that is large enough to hold both your hand and his teeth securely. Do not use toys with hard edges or toys that break quickly. Again, do your research when choosing toys.

Make sure that the game remains fun and do not make a competition of it. Don’t correct your Frenchie while playing, except by stopping play if he does not follow the rules. At the end of the game, use a command to end the game, such as ‘done’ or ‘stop.’ After playing, put away the pull toy.

Dog Sports

Playing with a French Bulldog can also entail participating in sports. In addition to the above mentioned popular games, you can also ‘play’ more organized games with your Frenchie also known as ‘dog sports.’ Dogs can learn more discipline and have the ability to show what they are capable of with dog sports.

A couple of mentionable dog sports for Frenchies are:

  1. Obedience: This includes commands like sit, stand, come, jump, and shake. You can use treats and a specific word to teach these. Learning obedience ‘tricks’ can help your dog’s quality of behavior and safety.
  2. Agility: Another form of obedience is agility. This is where your dog will participate in a fast-paced sport that works their minds and bodies. Healthy minds and bodies equal healthy pups! An agility course consists of varying obstacles.

Again, dog sports can have excellent outcomes for your pup but do know that more playing with a French Bulldog and fewer sports training allows them to play freely as they deserve. It’s also important to note that with common breathing problems, French Bulldogs should not participate in very intense dog sports of any kind. Breathing problems in Frenchies can be read more about here.

Brain Games

Puzzles, search games, and detective games can create quite an entertaining time for you and your Frenchie. Dogs are so intelligent so they truly need to be given ample chance to think and use their brains.

Like with other activities, brain work allows your dog to let go of energy because their concentration to solve puzzles and search games requires a lot of energy.

An advantage to brain games is that brain work is able to be done by any dog: no matter their age, disabilities, etc. It is also feasible for every owner to do brain games with their dog because in many cases it does not demand that much from you physically.

Puzzles

There are all kinds of interactive puzzles with varying challenges and ability levels for dogs. The opportunities are actually quite endless. There are also options for treat puzzles and mealtime puzzles to take up extra time, do more work, and have extra fun. Below are a couple of puzzle options for your furry-friend.

Now your Frenchie is busy for a bit of time and you get to sit by, relax, and enjoy hanging with your pup.

It’s also possible to create ‘puzzles’ yourself. With some creativity, you can make a solid puzzle out of empty boxes or empty plastic bottles. Textile is also a useful material; think of rolling up a sturdy cloth or carpet where you hide treats in so that your Frenchie can roll it with his nose or paws. A simple challenge for the novice ‘puzzler’ is a box of shredded newspapers between which you sprinkle treats (stay close by to ensure your pup doesn’t eat the paper). With three empty cups and a treat, you play ‘cup and ball’ with the dog where you put a treat under one of the cups, shuffle the cups together, and allow the dog to browse where his treat is hidden. The internet has endless ideas for do-it-yourself puzzles for playing with your French Bulldog. Your human kiddos will likely love to help, too.

Hide and Seek Games

Teach your dog to find toys that you hide. Start simply: let the dog sit (or have someone else keep them in place) and put a toy halfway under a carpet on the floor or under another object on the other side of the room. The dog can see what you are doing. Go back to the dog and ask him to search for the toy with a command like“find the ball” or “find your toy.” In most cases, your Frenchie will immediately walk to the toy and grab it. Praise and reward your pup to help them learn the game.

The key is to go from a beginner level challenge to more advanced to ensure their success at the game. Make it increasingly difficult by hiding the toy more and more under or behind the object. Eventually, choose a few other hiding places. 

Tracking Games

Dogs’ noses are something powerful! This can be used to their advantage when it comes to tracking games. And almost every dog likes to use that nose. Tracking requires focus and the longer they play, the more energy they release. In addition, the breathing muscles are burdened differently during tracking, which is also physically tiring. Be aware of possible breathing issues that often occur for Frenchies when doing this exercise.

You can create a simple trail by walking your feet straight through the grass with small steps. Place a favorite toy at the end and then go with the dog on the leash to the start of the track and point your finger toward the ground, teaching the dog to hold his nose to the floor to find the toy. Walk with him as he starts following the trail until he finds the ‘loot’ at the end. If the dog does not understand what to do and does not follow the trail, you can make it a little easier by putting his favorite treats in the trail, approximately every 30 centimeters.

Once your pup understands the intention, then you will make it more and more difficult every time: first put the treats a little further apart, then make the track a little longer, then create some curves and later create entire corners in the track. Over time, you use fewer and fewer treats so that your Frenchie will pay attention to your smell instead of the smell of treats.

You can also trace tracks by dragging something tasty that has a strong smell on a string through the grass (this could be a piece of meat wrapped at the end of something). In the end, the meat can be used as a reward.

There are dog training classes that can help you learn how to track with your French bulldog. There are different forms such as looking for people which creates a good challenge to work on with your dog.


Time to Play!

Who knew there was so much to do when it comes to playing with a French Bulldog? There are so many exciting, challenging, engaging activities for your pup. As always, know what’s safest, do research, and consult your vet when needed. 

Walking your Frenchie is also a great alternative to providing them with exercise. Read more about that here. No matter what you do, relish in loving and playing with your dearest furry-friend!