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A Catchy New Title For French Bulldogs: America’s Favorite Dog Breed


Mar 15, 2023

For the first time in three decades, the US has a new favorite dog breed, according to the American Kennel Club.

Adorable in the eyes of some, deplorable in the eyes of others, the stocky, angular-faced, perky-eared, world-weary and distinctively funny French bulldog became the nation’s most prevalent purebred dog last year, the government announced. club on Wednesday. Frenchies displaced Labrador Retrievers from first place after a record of 31 years.


“They are funny, friendly and loving little dogs,” says Patty Sosa, a spokeswoman for the French Bull Dog Club of America. Fit for the city, with modest grooming and exercise needs, she says, «they offer a lot in a small package.»

Yet the Frenchie’s skyrocketing rise (he wasn’t even a top 75 breed a quarter-century ago) worries his fans, not to mention his critics.

Lola, a French bulldog, in New York in 2007.File Tina Fineberg / AP

Bulldogs have been targets of thefts, including last month’s fatal shooting of a 76-year-old South Carolina breeder and the 2021 shooting of a California dog walker who was pet-sitting for singer Lady Gaga.

There is concern that the demand, in addition to the premium some buyers will pay for «exotic» coat colors and textures, is making breeders quick money and unhealthy dogs. The popularity of the breed is sharpening the debate about whether there is anything healthy about breeding dogs prone to respiratory, spinal, eye and skin problems.

The British Veterinary Association has urged people not to buy flat-faced breeds, such as Frenchies. The Netherlands has banned the breeding of very short-nosed dogs, and the country’s agriculture minister intends to ban even keeping them.

“French bulldogs can be a contentious topic,” says Dr. Carrie Stefaniak, a Glendale, Wisconsin veterinarian who is on the Frenchie club’s health committee.

Diesel, a French bulldog puppy, looks out of a shopping cart at an evacuation camp in Chico, California, on November 17, 2018.
Diesel, a French bulldog puppy, at an evacuation camp in Chico, California, in 2018.Josh Edelson / AFP – Archive Getty Images

She has treated French bulldogs with respiratory difficulties and stresses that prospective owners should research breeders and health tests and recognize that problems can be expensive to treat.

But she is not a French enemy. She has two and she has conditioned them for agility courses and mountain hikes.

“These dogs can be very fit, they can be very active,” Stefaniak said. «They don’t have to be sedentary dogs that can’t breathe.»

The AKC’s popularity rankings cover about 200 breeds in the country’s oldest canine registry. The statistics are based on nearly 716,500 newly registered puppies and other dogs last year, about 1 in 7 of whom are Frenchies. Registration is voluntary.

The one that is least owned? English Foxhounds.

The rankings don’t count mixed breeds or, at least for now, Labradoodles, puggles, Morkies, and other popular «designer» hybrids. The AKC Top 10 were: French Bulldogs, Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, Poodles, Bulldogs, Rottweilers, Beagles, Dachshunds, and German Shorthaired Pointers.

With roots in England and then France, French bulldogs became fashionable among America’s elites in the early 20th century, then faded away.

That changed, quickly, in this century. Social media and celebrity owners (from Leonardo di Caprio to Megan Thee Stallion to US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) gave dogs new exposure. There was still more last year, when American television audiences saw a Frenchman named Winston take second place in the Westminster Kennel Club dog show and then win the national dog show organized by the Kennel Club of Philadelphia.

Last year, around 108,000 newly registered French bulldogs outnumbered Labs by more than 21,000.

As a longtime breeder and veterinarian, Dr. Lori Hunt sees Frenchies as ideal companions, but their popularity is «a curse, not a blessing.»

“They are being very exploited” by unscrupulous breeders, he said. The Westlake, Ohio-based vet has seen plenty of Frenchies with problems, but rejects arguments that the breed is inherently unhealthy. Some of theirs play canine 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 some 24,600 dogs in Britain suggested that Frenchies are in «very different and largely much poorer» health than other canines, largely due to the wrinkled, foreshortened face that encapsulates the je ne sais quoi of the race.

French bulldogs line up in the ring during the Westminster Kennel Club dog show at Madison Square Garden in New York City on February 9, 2009.
French bulldogs line the ring at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York in 2009.Timothy A. Clary / AFP – Archive Getty Images

With such findings in mind, the British Veterinary Association has said it «strongly advises» against buying flat-faced dogs and has campaigned to have them removed from advertisements and even greeting cards.

The American Veterinary Medical Association is exploring ways to improve the well-being of flat-faced dogs, says president Dr. Lori Teller.

For animal rights and welfare activists, the French bulldog frenzy puts a snort and gasp face on the problems of dog breeding in general.

“Many of the breed characteristics that are introduced into these dogs are for appearance, not necessarily health and wellness, and Frenchies are probably one of the most exaggerated examples of that,” said Dr. Lorna Grande, of Humane. Society Veterinary. Medical Association, a professional group affiliated with the Humane Society of the United States.

“It is a welfare issue. These dogs are suffering,” she says.

The AKC notes that its Canine Health Foundation has donated $67 million since 1990 for research and education on many breeds, and the kennel and Frenchie clubs say there has been progress. A new breathing test made its US debut on Frenchies, bulldogs and pugs at a show in January.

Potential purebred owners should explore the breeders’ history and health tests, agree to expect a puppy, and ask themselves if they are prepared for the responsibility, says the AKC.

«Do your research on what owning a dog entails,» says spokeswoman Brandi Hunter Munden, «and really do a lifestyle assessment to make sure you’re really making the best decision, not just for yourself, but for the animal as well.» .