For the first time in about 30 years, Americans have a new favorite kind of dog, the American Kennel Club (AKC) says.
The organization announced this week that the French bulldog became the most popular purebred dog in the United States last year. The powerful dog with the sleepy expression on its face edged out the Labrador retriever breed for the top position. The Lab had been the most popular breed for a record 31 years.
Patty Sosa is the spokesperson for the French Bull Dog Club of America. She said, “They’re comical, friendly, loving little dogs.” They also require little exercise or special care, she said, adding,
“They offer a lot in a small package.”
Just 25 years ago, the French bulldog was not even among the top 75 breeds. Its new popularity worries fans of the breed.
The little bulldogs have been targeted in thefts, including last month’s deadly shooting of a 76-year-old South Carolina breeder. And in 2021, there was the shooting of a California man who was walking singer Lady Gaga’s French bulldogs.
There is also a concern that some buyers will pay more money for French bulldogs with fur of unusual color and feel. The demand could lead to the breeding of unhealthy dogs.
The British Veterinary Association has urged people not to buy flat-faced dog breeds, which include French bulldogs. The Netherlands also has banned breeding flat-faced dogs, and its agriculture minister aims to ban ownership of them.
The American Veterinary Medical Association is exploring ways to improve flat-faced dogs’ welfare, President Dr. Lori Teller says.
“French bulldogs can be a polarizing topic,” said Dr. Carrie Stefaniak of Glendale, Wisconsin. She is an animal doctor, or veterinarian, who serves on the French Bull Dog Club health committee.
Stefaniak has treated French bulldogs with breathing difficulties. She says it is important that people interested in owning one do research on breeders and health care of the dogs. They need to recognize that the breed’s health risks can prove costly.
Stefaniak owns two French bulldogs herself. She has trained them to run and walk in hilly areas.
“These dogs can be very fit, can be very active,” Stefaniak said. “They don’t have to be sedentary dogs that can’t breathe.”
The AKC’s popularity ratings cover about 200 breeds. The information is based on nearly 716,500 newly registered dogs last year. The group says about one in every seven on that registry is a French bulldog. Registration is voluntary.
The AKC’s new top five dogs are French bulldogs, Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, German shepherds and poodles. In positions six to ten are bulldogs, Rottweilers, beagles, dachshunds and German shorthaired pointers.
The Frenchie breed beat the Labrador retriever by over 21,000 dogs.
With roots in England and then France, the French bulldog is popular with several famous Americans, including actor Leonardo di Caprio, rapper Megan Thee Stallion and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a member of the United States Congress.
Last year, a French bulldog named Winston took second place at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. It won first place later in 2022 at the National Dog Show at the Kennel Club of Philadelphia.
Dr. Lorna Grande is with the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association. She said a lot of the qualities being bred into the French bulldog are connected to its appearance, not its health.
She described the situation as an issue of animal treatment. “These dogs are suffering,” Grande said.
The AKC notes that its Canine Health Foundation has donated $67 million since 1990 for research and education on many breeds. The organization says a new breathing test was used on French bulldogs at a show in January.
“Research what goes into owning a dog,” said AKC official Brandi Hunter Munden, “make sure that you’re really making the best decision, not just for you, but for the animal.”
I’m Caty Weaver.