I recently returned from a three week trip to Spain. And while all the sights and foods was an experience that I’ll definitely never forget, this dog lover was also intrigued by the dog culture in the country. I observed how many dog owners walked their dogs without leashes, even in the big cities like Barcelona and Madrid (something I couldn’t imagine doing with my dog), it seemed to me that the most common breed of dog that people owned was the French Bulldog. What made this observation most surprising is that the “Frenchie,” as they are unofficially known, originated in France and England in the 19th century. The French Bulldog comes in a variety of coats, including “All brindle, fawn, white, brindle and white” according to the AKC French Bulldog Standard. They make excellent companion dogs, as they can cohabitate with small children and other dogs, require little exercise aside from the short walk, and rarely bark. Their short single layer coat makes them prone to cold as well as heat, so proper precautions must be taken. They have an average lifespan of 8 to 10 years.
A major health concern with Frenchies is an inability to regulate their body temperature due to a compacted airway as a result of their small stature and stocky build, so the heat of Madrid is not so safe for them. Because of their nature as a brachycephalic breed, several airlines have banned their travelling in panes due to the number of them that have died in flight. They also suffer from Patellar luxation, which is the dislocation of the patella. Most French Bulldogs require artificial insemination and caesarean section in order to give birth. They also suffer from an array of back and spinal problems because they were bred from dwarf variants of bulldogs.
But the largest problem for the dogs, in my opinion, is the prevalence of cigarette smoking in Spain. One thing I disliked the most about Spain (and perhaps Europe as a whole) is the fact that many people would smoke cigarettes, often in close proximity to their dogs. A study has shown that up to 30 percent of dogs live with an owner who smokes. Since cigarette smoke is bad for humans, you can be certain that it is just as bad if not worse for dogs. Tobacco smoke is known to cause nerve damage to household pets.
If you are like myself (I consider myself to be a pretty enthusiastic dog owner who considers their canine companion as an equal family member in my home), you’d find this to be, honestly, quite a terrible thing to subject a dog to. Dogs, like young children, usually do not have a choice as to whether they would like to breathe in the toxic fumes caused by tobacco smoke or not.
In any case, observing the many rather cute Frenchies in Spain was quite a treat which rivaled the observation of the culture of the people of the Iberian Country.