According to the American Kennel Club, a new dog breed has become popular in the United States for the first time in thirty years.
The strong, push-faced, perky-eared, world-weary-looking, and notably droll French bulldog—adorable in some eyes, abhorrent in others—became the country’s most popular purebred dog last year, the club reported on Wednesday.
After a record 31 years, Frenchies replaced Labrador retrievers as the top breed.
“They’re hilarious, sociable, loving little dogs,” says French Bull Dog Club of America spokesperson Patty Sosa. She claims that because they are urban-friendly and have minimal grooming and exercise requirements, “they give a lot in a tiny package.”
But, the Frenchie’s meteoric rise—it wasn’t even a top-75 breed 25 years ago—concerns its supporters and detractors.
The popular miniature bulldogs have been the subject of several thefts, including the shooting death of a 76-year-old South Carolina breeder this month and the shooting death of a California dog walker who was stealing Lady Gaga’s pups in 2021.
There are worries that the high demand for “exotic” coat colors and textures, combined with the premium some customers are willing to pay, leads to unfit puppies and quick-buck breeders.
The debate over whether breeding dogs predisposed to respiratory, spinal, eye, and skin disorders is healthy is becoming more heated as the breed becomes more and more popular.
The British Veterinary Association has advised against purchasing flat-faced breeds like Frenchies. Very short-snouted dog breeding is outlawed in the Netherlands, and the country’s agricultural minister wants to make it illegal even to own one.
Dr. Carrie Stefaniak, a veterinarian in Glendale, Wisconsin, and a Frenchie club’s health committee member believes that French bulldogs may be a divisive subject.
She has helped French bulldogs with breathing issues and emphasizes the necessity for prospective owners to study breeders, undergo health screenings, and understand that some problems can be costly to resolve.
But she isn’t a Frenchie enemy. She has trained her two dogs to run agility courses and go on inclining hikes.
Stefaniak said, “These dogs can be highly athletic and active. They don’t have to be breathless, sedentary dogs.
Over 200 breeds are represented in the AKC’s popularity rankings, the oldest in the country.
The statistics are based on around 716,500 puppies and new dog registrations from the previous year, with almost 1 in 7 being Frenchies.
It is optional to register.
Mixed breeds, Labradoodles, Puggles, Morkies, and other well-known “designer” hybrids, are not included in the rankings—at least not yet.
The top 10 dogs, according to the AKC, were: German shepherds, French bulldogs, Labrador retrievers, Golden Retrievers, Poodles, Rottweilers, Beagles, Dachshunds, and German shorthaired pointers.
Having origins in France and England, French bulldogs rose to fashion among American aristocracy at the turn of the 20th century before falling out of favor.
This century saw a swift change in that. The canines received new prominence thanks to social media and famous owners (including Leonardo di Caprio, Megan Thee Stallion, and U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez).
More followed last year when the U.S. Winston, a French bulldog, finished second at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show before winning the Kennel Club of Philadelphia’s National Dog Show, which was broadcast on television.
Around 21,000 more French bulldogs than Labs were newly registered in France last year, at about 108,000.
Dr. Lori Hunt believes Frenchies as wonderful companions and has been breeding them for a long time. But, despite their popularity as “a curse, not a blessing.”