Oo la la, look at the curls and cuteness! The French have contributed many breeds to the dog world that are unique, intriguing, and adorable. Canine-famous for water dogs, show dogs, and hunting dogs—each breed lends a different purpose and attraction.
Possibly unbeknownst to you—some of these French dogs find themselves at the top of the AKC list today. If you want to add a new family member to your home or you’re just curious about French breeds—read on.
There is plenty to learn about these chiens fantastiques! French lesson for the day? That means “fantastic dogs.”Here are the French dogs you’ll want to get to know:
Top 20 French Dog Breeds:
The Briard is a sturdily built large canine with gorgeous locks of silky hair. They are one of the oldest French dog breeds that performed herding duties for farmers. Folks revere Briards for being eternally faithful companions for their people.
Briards tend to be very friendly toward other dogs and children, gaining points for a fabulous temperament. Since they are part of the herding breed, they love to wander. If you live on a farm or large plot of land, that may be okay. But it may not work as well for city dwellers.
Don’t let the long hair fool you—Briards are actually very light shedders. But because of matting potential, you will have to brush them several times a week. This breed is generally healthy but can suffer from common issues like hip dysplasia and hypothyroidism.
These loyal, faithful defenders are ideal pets. These French dogs have a suitable demeanor for families, but some are aloof with strangers until they get to know them better.
- Fun Fact: The Briard was a cross between two other French dog breeds—the Beauceron and Barbet.
2. French Spaniel
French Spaniels are social, energetic, and smart as a whip. They are the largest of all the spaniel breeds used for hunting and falconry. They are a pointing breed, meaning they freeze and point in the direction of the prey.
Because of their inherent desire to work and learn, they are usually a breeze to train. They catch on quickly to instruction and direction, so simple things like house training and tricks should come naturally to them.
This breed is hearty and rugged, so they don’t suffer from an exhaustive list of ailments. However, they can suffer from acral mutilation and analgesia, which is a recessive gene disorder. It causes a lack of sensation in their legs and paws, causing the paw pads to break down.
Their need for stimulation is high, so they don’t make great apartment dogs. Nor do they do well in a kennel all day. When they can’t exert their energy, it may learn to nervous or destructive habits. If they have appropriate outlets, they are gentle, loyal, and obedient dogs.
- Fun Fact: French Spaniels were almost extinct in the 20th century, but a French Priest, Father Fournier, repopulated the breed.
This spry little French breed looks like the kind you’d want to pamper. Dainty and fragile, the Papillon screams cuteness. Also called the Continental Toy Spaniel, this dog is the oldest spaniel breed, dating back to the 17th century.
Be careful—you may be so smitten with the Papillon that you spoil them. Once you do, it’s all over. This dog takes every bit of attention and demands more. They are spirited, ornery, and can even develop a royalty complex if you let them rule the roost.
These dogs have long, silky hair that requires frequent attention. They can get matted easily, so brushing should be a part of your everyday routine. While it may be a task, their sprawls of hair are one of their best traits.
Because they love their owners so much, they’re effortless to train. For little dogs, they are exceptionally friendly with strangers and other pets. They may spoil quickly, but Papillons are wonderful company to have.
- Fun Fact: Because of their frilly, flight-like ears, this breed is called Papillon—the French word for “butterfly”.
4. French Bulldog
People all around our planet have fallen madly in love with the French Bulldog. It’s really no surprise—they’re cute, compact, wrinkly, and spunky. What’s not to love? Picking up traction in the USA, Frenchies are the fourth most popular dog as of 2019.
Frenchies come in all sorts of patterns and colors. Breeders seem to come up with different color variations all the time. While some aren’t considered proper for breed standards of the AKC, they still have a hefty price tag. Expect to spend well over $1,000 if you ever plan to add one to your family.
In addition to the high upfront cost, you may want to set aside a little extra for vet bills and other expenses. They are prone to quite a few genetic health issues like food allergies, cherry eye, and stenotic snares. Since they are a brachycephalic breed, they can have serious breathing issues, too.
Don’t let that deter you. Frenchies always seem to be happy-go-lucky and ready for a good time. Their shiny, social personalities radiate with everyone they see. You may see them wearing all sorts of cute accessories. And you have to admit—they look pretty darn cute in clothes.
- Fun Fact: Due to the bulky body and blocky head of the Frenchie, they can’t swim, or birth litters naturally.
Poodles have become one of the most widely recognized dogs on the planet. Another perk of the breed is that you can pick the size that you like best. There are toy, miniature, and standard poodles that come in coats of black, white, apricot, cream, and sable.
Poodles have been around since 1874, winning hearts over with their curly hairdos and fierce intelligence. They were originally working dogs, but they fare much better in the show ring, rocking that classic poof-ball cut. They are most often associated with France, though there is a dispute on the breed’s original history: are they French or German? Different Kennel Clubs have different thoughts on origination, but regardless, this doesn’t take away from their rich history in France.
People often cross-breed poodles with other purebred dogs to make designer dogs. If you have heard of Labradoodles, Golden Doodles, or Pomapoos, you’ve seen some of the results firsthand. These breeds often maintain adorable curls, but are hypoallergenic, making them more desirable.
Generally, this breed is pretty healthy. But, they can have issues like hypoglycemia and progressive retinal atrophy. While routine grooming may prove to be a pricy task, these faithful, loving dogs will offer you years of loving companionship.
- Fun Fact: Poodles are known as the smartest dog breed that exists.
6. Basset Hound
Known for their long floppy ears and sad droopy eyes, Basset Hounds are one of the most adorable hound dog breeds. Basset puppies often have ears too long, feet too big, and legs too short—making them delightfully clumsy.
When breeders in France developed the Basset, they tracked hare with hunters. The word Basset literally means “low”, accounting for their long bodies and short legs. Their desire to sniff is second nature, so you’ll see them hot on the trail at every turn.
You may notice that basset hounds may stink worse than other dogs. Because of their excessive wrinkles, they trap a lot of yucky stuff in their skin folds. These folds can get infected or irritated if owners don’t clean the skin appropriately.
While these dogs are very friendly, they are wildly independent. Having such a mind of their own, they may put up a lot of resistance with behavior training, which may require a firm hand. Once you have that down, they will fill your home with delightful howls.
- Fun Fact: Basset Hounds are second in line for the title of “Best Scent Dog” right behind the Bloodhound.
The Barbet is a medium-sized water dog from France whose name means “beard.” Saying true to that name, you will find their long unkempt hair creating a beard across their snout. Because they are a waterdog, their hair repels water and their feet are webbed for faster swimming dynamics.
As with many waterdogs, Barbets are highly obedient and take direction with ease. Their docile temperament and eagerness to learn will allow positive, simple training for basic needs.
Barbets have a pretty good standing in terms of health. But occasionally, they can still develop problems like hernias, ear infections (if they swim frequently), and over/underbites.
Natural athletes, Barbets love to run, play, track, and chase. They would make excellent partners for people who have active outdoor lifestyles involving camping, hiking, fishing, and boating trips. Take them along—they will love you for it.
- Fun Fact: The Barbet breed dates all the way back to the 1500s!
8. Dogue de Bordeaux
The Dogue de Bordeaux, or French Mastiff, is one of the many Mastiff breeds in the canine world. This dog is one of the very oldest French breeds that exist. They are extra-large—some can even get up to 140 pounds!
To complement their giant size, they have equally giant hearts. The French Mastiff is fully devoted to their family and will defend them tooth and nail. Because of their protective tendencies, early socialization should happen.
Even though they aren’t inherently aggressive, they may be aloof or suspicious of strangers. They could be challenging to train, too, because they have a stubborn streak. They may require some patience at first, but once they learn the ropes, they will live to please you.
Like most large breeds, Dogue de Bordeaux can suffer from ailments like bloat and hip dysplasia. Some other concerning possibilities are cancer, heart disease, and infection. While they may not have the best health outlook, these dogs are remarkable additions to the canine species.
- Fun Fact: Dogue de Bordeaux’s have the shortest lifespan of all other breeds, living an average of 5-8 years.
Would it come as a surprise to know that the French considered the Beauceron to be a “plain” working dog? Perhaps with all of their fancy dogs with luxurious hair, this breed didn’t get the beauty recognition they deserved.
If you recognize this breed, it may put you in the mind of the German and Doberman Pinschers. These dogs are similar body structures and physical markings. These dogs are fearless, independent creatures with a fierce intelligence.
Quick on their feet, Beauercons carry themselves in a graceful, agile manner despite their muscular, large size. They have few health concerns because they have a rugged endurance. But they can run into occasional issues like hip dysplasia and heart disease.
They’re very dominant, taking charge at every turn. So, if you aren’t an alpha owner with a firm hand, they could wind up reigning the kingdom instead.
- Fun Fact: A Beauceron appeared in the James Bond movie Moonraker in 1979.
10. Great Pyrenees
The Great Pyrenees, or Pyrenean Mountain Dog, is a French livestock dog that didn’t fully develop until 1874. Their white, thick coats protected their skin in harsh temperatures. These dogs still dutiful care for livestock, other pets, and children today.
These dogs are quite large, and that may be intimidating at first. However, this dog is very gentle, thoughtful, and patient. While they’re great defenders, they won’t jump the gun. They carry out actions unselfishly and purposefully.
Their whole intent was to be hardy and resilient, so they’re generally healthy dogs. But, as with most large breeds, they can suffer from bloat and hip dysplasia. They benefit from regular grooming to prevent matting and bulk shedding.
Because of his mellow temperament, he does well in both small and large environments. But don’t let his love for livestock fool you—they would rather be indoors with their families most of the time.
- Fun Fact: Queen Victoria owned a Great Pyrenees in the 19th century.
11. Brittany Spaniel
The high-energy Brittany Spaniel is a chipper medium-sized dog with a deeply engrained wanderlust. These are bird dogs at heart, so you will always see your Brittany attentively noticing, chasing, and pointing at smaller creatures.
A Brittany is a lot to take on if you don’t have the time. They have bustling brains that require constant stimulation. It’s hardly a breed you will find relaxing or lounging around. They have a constant workaholic mentality, always ready to take on a new task.
They tend to be very outgoing with strangers or kids, greeting everyone they meet with a wagging tail. However, good luck getting your Brittany to slow their roll long enough to enjoy a good petting. They much prefer a new friend who grabs a ball to throw instead.
- Fun Fact: The AKC omitted “spaniel” from the breed name in 1982, but other countries still recognize this title.
12. Berger Picard
The Berger Picard, otherwise known as the Picardy Shepherd, is the oldest sheepdog in France. These fun-loving, spry dogs live in motion, always taking on life with excitement. While they are affectionate and happy to be part of the family, watch out for their stubborn streak.
Berger Picards can be kind of loud, always barking at small things that flee and flutter. If you live close to neighbors, it may cause an issue with noise. But if you give your dog the right kind of attention and make sure you meet their physical needs, you’ll have a healthy relationship.
Berger Picards have coarse, waterproof hair that’s pretty easy to take care of—they shed minimally. That can be an attractive upside to the breed if you have a family member who suffers from pet allergies.
These dogs care very much about how their owners feel. They generally don’t require any extreme punishments. Just a change in your tone can readjust their attitude.
- Fun Fact: These dogs are movie stars, appearing in big titles like Because of Winn Dixie, and Are We Done Yet?
Let us introduce the world’s best canine sniffer—the Bloodhound. You may see these droopy, lanky dogs sunbathing on a front porch, but don’t let their lackadaisy look fool you. These dogs are hard workers. Once they have a scent to track, they never lose their mark.
Professionals use Bloodhounds in hunting, detective work, police work, and search and rescue missions. Since they don’t break stride once they pin down a scent, their unwavering search proves very valuable for service reasons.
Regarding the family-life side of things, Bloodhounds make amazing pets for families. Since they are quite lazy in their downtime, they require moderate exercise. They would be just as happy sleeping by your side as they are sniffing out squirrels outside.
- Fun Fact: A bloodhound’s sense of smell is 1,000 greater than humans.
14. Pyrenean Shepherd
The Pyrenean Shepherd was another dog breed that originated in the Pyrenees Mountains of France. They worked alongside the Great Pyrenees to herd and protect livestock. While they worked very hard in the field, they make just as fabulous in-home companions.
Pyrenean Shepherds are enthusiastic, spirited dogs with a desire to run. If you don’t occupy their time with stimulating activities, they may get a bit depressed or destructive. These dogs are incredibly smart and ready to act.
Pyrenean Shepherds aren’t for idle hands. They require both physical and mental exercise to occupy their busy minds. If you don’t have the time or room for this dog to run out their fuel, you should consider another breed instead.
- Fun Fact: The Pyrenean Shepherd dates back to 6,000 BC.
15. Anglo-Francais de Petite Venerie
The lively Anglo-Francais de Petite Venerie is among another hound breed of France. With marking similar to the Basset and Beagle, these dogs work on tracking for their human hunting companions. They typically hunt in groups with other dogs.
When it comes to family, these dogs are very loving and loyal. They thrive on human interaction and would make great childhood companions for children. While you could potentially keep them in the city, these dogs fare better with room to run around.
These dogs have a howling tendency when they smell something that strikes their fancy. While this may help on the hunt, it won’t help your neighbors sleep in the middle of the night. But if you have space and time, these docile, friendly dogs are a superb canine possibility.
- Fun Fact: Despite the name “petite”, these canines are actually medium-sized—so don’t be fooled.
16. Bichon Frise
The Bichon Frise looks like a fluffy little marshmallow. These amiable small dogs are ideal mates for people who want to take their dog everywhere. Your Bichon will be happy just to be a part of your day.
A big attraction for the Bichon is their hypoallergenic qualities. They make fantastic companions for nearly every family. They are compact, social, and highly intelligent. They do well with kids, the elderly, strangers, and even other pets—despite their sassy nature.
Bichons are in high demand because of their cuteness and versatility. They have peppy personalities that mesh with almost any lifestyle. However, Bichons don’t tolerate being alone. So, if you are looking for a mate that will spend most of their time in a crate, you may want to steer clear.
- Fun Fact: After the World Wars, the Bichon Frise was rediscovered by Italians.
17. Artois Hound
Because they are hunting dogs, they have a very high prey drive. If you plan to have smaller pets, it’s best to integrate them during their puppy stages. These dogs are keenly intelligent, so as long as they know which animals are prey and which are friends, they typically do fine.
They can be a bit rambunctious if they don’t have a proper outlet for their energy. Apartment living isn’t a good idea for this outdoor lover. They may be a bit of a challenge to train because they are hard-headed. Any training should take place during their adolescent years for optimal results.
- Fun Fact: This French breed is so rare, the American Kennel Club doesn’t recognize it.
18. Gascon Saintongeois
There are two sizes of Gascon Saintongeois—grand and petite. Their looks often resemble a good mixture of a Great Dane and Basset Hounds, having a thick structure, blocky face, and long-floppy ears. This breed initially hunted in packs, using teamwork to track prey.
Because they are pack animals, Gascons do not like being left alone. If you leave them by themselves often, they may develop destructive behaviors. They’re highly social, depending upon the companionship of humans and other dogs to thrive.
Gascons hunt substantial prey, like deer. Because of this instinct, they aren’t trustworthy to have around your beloved smaller pets. On the other hand, they are very laidback, gentle, and sweet towards humans.
- Fun Fact: Gascon Saintongeors create packs to hunt roe deer, wild boar, and even wolves.
The Affenpinscher has another name known by the French—”diablotin moustachu”—meaning mustached little devil. Does that tell you anything about the kind of personality they may have? This fiery little breed is a bossy, mouthy ball of fun.
The Affenpinscher is no stranger to little dog syndrome. With this independent little warrior, you may have zero luck convincing them that you are the boss. They are spitfires, taking dominion over everything and everyone.
If you have the time for a zesty little whippersnapper like that, the Affenpinscher will definitely provide some laughs—and probably some hilarious pictures for your Instagram. Don’t let their jaunty traits spook you, Affens are super loyal toward their special person—if you’re lucky to hold that title.
- Fun Fact: Affenpinschers were ratters, hunting rodents and other small pests.
The Billy dog is a large scenthound from France. While they do still exist, they’re diminishing in popularity rapidly over passing years. This breed is extremely athletic and vigorous, so they need lots of room to explore and play.
Their tracking nature is very ingrained in their DNA, so they may not make the best dogs in multi-species pet homes. Even with early training, it’s hard for the Billy to differentiate prey from pets. They do get along very well with all other members of the family—including other canines.
These dogs are very obedient and somewhat relaxed. They are loyal to a fault, caring very much about their owner’s commands and emotions. However, if your Billy dog picks up a scent, they may be so hyper-focused that they block you out completely.
- Fun Fact: Billies are the last descendants of the earliest large scenthounds.
Did you learn anything valuable about some of your favorite breeds? With any luck, you have built up your knowledge base a little. It’s simply mind-blowing to know all of these breeds originated from their wild ancestors—wolves!
France definitely had their hand in creating some of the most beloved and exclusive breeds—and we only listed a few. Which French breed is your favorite?
Featured Image Credit: Javier Brosch, Shutterstock