French Bulldogs are absolutely adorable dogs. This is one reason why the French Bulldog is the fourth most popular companion canine in the United States today.
But French Bulldogs are not the easiest dogs to take care of. Their anatomy makes it more difficult for them to care for their own needs and they often need extra help from you to stay clean and healthy.
Frenchies sometimes rub themselves when they grow up and reach puberty. While this is a common reason for this behavior, it is far from the only reason you might observe your French Bulldog rubbing themselves.
In this article, we give you a rundown of the main reasons you might see this behavior in your French Bulldog and how to know what to do to stop it.
Why Do French Bulldogs Rub Themselves?
There are a number of reasons why French Bulldog rubs themselves. One of the simplest explanations is that a dog is coming into sexual maturity and is ready to mate.
A male French Bulldog that is rubbing themselves on different surfaces around your home or yard may actually be scent-marking their territory!
Another common reason is that French Bulldogs can have difficulty dealing with hygiene issues on certain parts of their bodies, such as around the hindquarters.
Still another reason a French Bulldog might start rubbing themselves is that they have an insect bite, abrasion, or infection in that area.
Learn About French Bulldog Care Needs
As this owner-made YouTube video explains, French Bulldogs can require some special types of care from their owners.
The main reason for this is because of how French Bulldogs are built. These dogs have been bred to have short, flat faces and short lets with stout, bulky bodies.
Because of this, they can require help from their owners to clean some parts of themselves. This is one possible reason why you might see your French Bulldog rubbing themselves.
If you do see this, it may be a sign your Frenchie needs your help for some basic hygiene tasks.
Top Reasons Why French Bulldogs Rub Themselves: An Overview
It is important to talk with your dog's veterinarian if you see your pup rubbing themselves excessively in one particular area.
The reason being, you don't want that area to get irritated and infected and your vet might be able to prescribe treatment to stop your dog's discomfort and the rubbing behavior.
Onset of puberty
One reason you might see a French Bulldog rubbing themselves is a simple onset of puberty.
As Blue Haven French Bulldogs breeder explains, neutering or spaying your Frenchie is a smart choice for both health and longevity reasons.
It can also help to reduce any type of territorial displays or "humping" behaviors.
Speaking of territorial displays, the onset of puberty in any dog can also trigger issues such as territorial aggression and rubbing that are fueled by hormones.
Here again, spaying or neutering may help to ease these behaviors and keep your Frenchie calm.
As UVK French Bulldogs breeder explains, French Bulldogs have anal glands that contain a special stinky substance that can be used for marking territory.
Taking the time to learn how to empty ("express") your dog's anal gland sacs (or having a groomer do this for you) can sometimes help keep this type of turf marking behavior at bay. Expressing the anal sacs is also an important hygiene task.
One surprising reason why your French Bulldog may rub themselves is food allergies. As Vet4Bulldog Empowering Rescue explains, French Bulldogs are known to have sensitive digestion.
The reason can range from inflammation to infection to internal issues related to their anatomy.
When a dog has food allergies, they can certainly experience the usual range of gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea, constipation, or vomiting. And French Bulldogs are known to be gassy dogs anyway!
But something that often surprises dog owners is that food allergies frequently produce itchy skin in dogs.
So if your French Bulldog is rubbing themselves and nothing else you've tried has worked, it may be time to change your dog's food and see if that helps.
As Four Paws Animal Hospital explains, a food allergy-based skin irritation is called atopy and it is something Frenchies often struggle with.
The itching tends to strike in areas where your dog has natural skin folds or more moisture, such as the face and ears, belly, and paw pads. If your dog is rubbing or licking at these areas repeatedly, it could be a skin allergy.
Not all skin allergy is going to be related to food allergies, but at least that gives you a good place to start trying to narrow down the cause and find the right treatment.
French Bulldogs have thin, short, single-layer coats that don't really offer much protection from the elements or from pests.
It is important to make sure all of your French Bulldog's pest treatments such as flea and tick treatments are up to date. Frenchies can also be bothered by mosquitoes, ants, flies, and other flying or crawling biting insects.
When your French Bulldog starts rubbing themselves in a certain area over and over, that may be an area where they have gotten bitten or stung and they are trying to ease an itch or pain.
Demodex mites are another pest that is less easily detected. These microscopic mites will cause hairless, dry lesions that may itch but don't always. Often the lesions start on the face or feet.
Your dog will need immediate veterinary treatment to keep the mange from spreading.
Central Texas Veterinary Hospital explains that French Bulldogs can be susceptible to a number of skin infection issues.
Lip fold pyoderma is a skin infection that often starts in the facial folds, where ample moisture is available to feed yeast and bacteria.
Foot and ear infections can take root for the same reason and may cause your dog to rub at their ears or paw pads.
Impacted anal sacs that get infected may cause your Frenchie to scoot along the floor rubbing their hindquarters.
French Bulldogs that are not easily able to clean themselves may also develop a urinary tract infection (UTI) that can cause intense discomfort, itching, and pain. This often causes dogs to scoot along the floor to try to ease their discomfort.
Attempts at self-cleaning
French Bulldogs are actually too short to reach their private areas and lick them clean as most dogs do. So this can be one reason you may see your Frenchie repeatedly pawing at or rubbing at their private parts with their paws.
If your French Bulldog gets something stuck on them, or if their fecal matter gets stuck and they can't get it out fully, this is another reason you may see your dog rubbing themselves or dragging their hindquarters along the ground.
Why Can't French Bulldogs Clean Themselves?
As My Family Vets points out, French Bulldogs are among the group of dog breeds with short, flat faces.
This muzzle shape is called brachycephalic, a term that translates to mean "short muzzle."
A dog with a short muzzle is always going to have more trouble keeping themselves clean than a dog with a longer muzzle shape. They just can't reach as far.
But the French Bulldog's self-cleaning problems don't stop with the short muzzle type.
Their short, thick necks and short, bowed legs and barrel body also make it hard for them to reach different areas on their body that may need cleaning or scratching.
A French Bulldog isn't going to be able to easily reach around to do self-cleaning tasks on the back paws or hindquarters, for example. They are not very flexible dogs, to begin with, and their anatomy just makes the whole situation harder.
In fact, French Bulldogs are so inflexible and anatomically challenged that, in most cases, they require artificial insemination to become pregnant, and then the puppies must be delivered by C-section.
Help Your French Bulldog Clean Themselves
French Bulldogs definitely have the appearance of neat and clean little dogs. But this is often because their owner is working hard behind the scenes to help these anatomically challenged dogs clean themselves.
The typical French Bulldog will need your help with all of the following hygiene tasks on a regular basis:
- Cleaning the ears.
- Cleaning the facial folds.
- Teeth cleaning.
- Cleaning the hindquarters area.
- Expressing (emptying) the anal gland sacs.
- Cleaning the paw pads.
- Cleaning the belly.
- Brushing and grooming the coat.
By learning how to do these weekly or monthly hygiene tasks for your dog, you will likely see any rubbing behaviors start to decrease quite a bit.
But if the rubbing behavior continues or gets worse, always bring your French Bulldog in for a veterinary exam. Treatment may be required to fix the problem.
As a freelance pet writer and blogger, Shannon is passionate about crafting knowledge-based, science-supported articles that foster healthy bonds of love and respect between people and animals. But her first and very most important job is as a dog auntie and cockatiel, tortoise, and box turtle mama.