For the first time in three decades, America has a new favorite breed of dog, according to the American Kennel Club.
Adorable in some eyes, outrageous in others, the strong, pushy, perky-eared, world-weary looking and distinctively laughing French bulldog has become the country’s most popular purebred dog, the club announced Wednesday. Frenchies oust Labrador retrievers from the top spot after a record 31 years.
“They are humorous, friendly, loving little dogs,” says Patty Sousa, spokeswoman for the French Bull Dog Club of America. City-friendly, with modest grooming and exercise needs, she says, “they offer a lot in a small package.”
Yet the Frenchie’s dizzying streak — it wasn’t even a top-75 breed a quarter-century ago — worries its fans, to say nothing of its critics.
Smaller bulldogs have been targeted in thefts, including the fatal shooting of a 76-year-old breeder in South Carolina last month and the shooting in 2021 of a California dog walker who was petting singer Lady Gaga.
There is concern that demand, as well as the premium that some buyers will pay for “exotic” coat colors and textures, is giving rise to quick buck breeders and unhealthy dogs. The breed’s popularity is fueling debate over whether there is anything healthy about the promotion of dogs with respiratory, spinal, eye and skin conditions.
The British Veterinary Association urges people not to buy flat-faced breeds, such as Frenchies. The Netherlands has banned the breeding of dogs with very short muzzles, and the country’s agriculture minister aims to ban keeping them as well.
“The French bulldog can be a polarizing subject,” said Dr. Carrie Stefaniak says.
She has treated French bulldogs with breathing difficulties, and she stresses that owners need to research breeders and health test and recognize that treating problems can be costly.
But he is not a French enemy. He owns two and has conditioned them to run agility courses and go hill climbing.
“These dogs can be very fit, very active,” Stefaniak said. “They don’t need to be sedentary dogs that can’t breathe.”
The AKC’s popularity rankings cover nearly 200 breeds at the nation’s oldest canine registry. The statistics are based on the approximately 716,500 puppies and other dogs registered last year – about 1 in 7 of them each being a Frenchie. Registration is voluntary.
Least owned? English fox.
The ranking doesn’t count mixed-breeds or, at least for now, Labradoodles, Puggles, Morkies and other popular “designer” hybrids. The AKC’s top 10 were: French Bulldogs, Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, Poodles, Bulldogs, Rottweilers, Beagles, Dachshunds, and German Shorthair Pointers.
With roots in England and then France, French Bulldogs became chic among the American elite in the late 20th century, then fell out of favor.
In this century, that changed rapidly. Social media and celebrity owners (from Leonardo DiCaprio to Megan Thee Stallion to U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) have given dogs new exposure. Even more came last year, when American TV viewers watched a Frenchie named Winston place second in the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show and then win the National Dog Show hosted by the Kennel Club of Philadelphia.
Last year, about 108,000 newly registered French Bulldogs outnumbered Labs by more than 21,000.
As a longtime breeder and a veterinarian, Dr. Lori Hunt sees Frenchies as ideal companions but their popularity as “a curse, not a blessing.”
“They are being exploited a lot by unscrupulous breeders,” he said. The Westlake, Ohio-based vet has seen plenty of Frenchie problems but dismissed arguments that the breed is inherently unhealthy. Some of his own dogs do performance sports.
Some other breeds are prone to diseases ranging from hip dysplasia to cancer, and mixed breed dogs can get sick too. But recently published research involving around 24,600 dogs in the UK suggested that Frenchies have “very different, and substantially much poorer” health than other canines, mainly those of the breed je ne sass quai. is caused by the wrinkled face that surrounds the
Noting such findings, the British Veterinary Association has stated that it “strongly recommends” against purchasing flat-faced dogs and to steer clear of them from advertisements and even greeting cards Campaigned.
The American Veterinary Medical Association is looking for ways to improve the welfare of flat-faced dogs, says Dr. Lori Taylor, president.
To animal rights and welfare activists, French bulldog mania puts a sniffling, gasping face on the problems of dog breeding in general.
Dr. Lorna Grande of the Humane Society Veterinary said, “A lot of breed characteristics are bred into these dogs, they are for looks, not necessarily for health and welfare, and the Frenchie is probably one of the most exaggerated examples of this.” are one.” Medical Association, a professional group affiliated with the Humane Society of the United States.
“This is a welfare issue. These dogs are suffering,” she says.
The AKC notes that its Canine Health Foundation has donated $67 million to research and education on many breeds since 1990, and kennel and Frenchie clubs say that progress has been made. A new breath test made its debut on Frenchies, Bulldogs and Pugs at a show in January.
The AKC says prospective purebred owners should research breeders’ history and health testing, accept the wait for a puppy and ask themselves whether they are ready for the responsibility.
“Research what goes into owning a dog, and really assess your lifestyle to make sure you really are making the best decision, not only for you but the animal,” says spokesperson Brandi Hunter Munden. For.”