For the first time in over 30 years, the U.S. has a new favorite dog breed.
The French bulldog simply known as the “Frenchie” pushed the Labrador retriever from the top spot after more than three decades.
Some may ask why this breed of dog? Well, people love the French bulldog for its adorable eyes, perky bat-like ears, its miniature size, and playful nature.
“They’re comical, friendly, loving little dogs,” says French Bull Dog Club of America spokesperson Patty Sosa. City-friendly, with modest grooming and exercise needs, she says, “they offer a lot in a small package.”
A quarter-century ago, the Frenchie did not even make it in the top 75 breed spot. What changed?
Recently, the little bulldogs have been targeted in thefts, including last month’s fatal shooting of a 76-year-old breeder from South Carolina and the 2021 shooting of a Southern California walker who was sitting for Lady Gaga’s bulldogs.
The British Veterinary Association has urged people to refrain from buying the Frenchie and the Netherlands has prevented breeding them with the country’s agriculture minister wanting to outlaw even owning them.
Still, the demand for these pricey dogs is increasingly in demand with people willing to pay the expensive price tag to own these dogs who are prone to breathing, spinal, eye and skin conditions.
“French bulldogs can be a polarizing topic,” says Dr. Carrie Stefaniak, a Glendale, Wisconsin-based veterinarian who is on the Frenchie club’s health committee.
The medical professional has treated French bulldogs with breathing difficulties, and she stresses that would-be owners need to research breeders, do health testing and to recognize that problems can be costly to treat even though she herself owns two of them that she had trained to run agility courses and take difficult hikes.
“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 French bulldog has roots in England and then France, where they became popular among American elites around the turn of the 20th century, then faded from favor.
But things changed quickly, in this century. Social media and celebrity owners (ranging from Reese Witherspoon, Leonardo di Caprio to Megan Thee Stallion to U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) gave the dogs new exposure.
Last year, almost 108,000 new French bulldogs were registered that surpassed Labs by over 21,000.
As a longtime breeder and a veterinarian, Dr. Lori Hunt is a longtime breeder and veterinarian that views Frenchies as great companions but their popularity as “a curse, not a blessing.”
“They’re being very exploited” by unscrupulous breeders, she said. The Westlake, Ohio-based vet has seen plenty of Frenchies with problems but rejects arguments that the breed is inherently unhealthy. Some of her own do canine performance sports.
“A lot of the breed characteristics that are bred into these dogs, they’re for looks, not necessarily health and welfare, and Frenchies are probably one of the most exaggerated examples of that,” said Dr. Lorna Grande of the 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 American Kennel Club states that its Canine Health Foundation has donated $67 million since 1990 for research and education on many breeds, with the kennel and Frenchie clubs saying there have been advances. A new breathing test made its U.S. debut on Frenchies, bulldogs and pugs at a show in January.
Prospective purebred owners should explore breeders’ history and health testing, accept waiting for a puppy, and ask themselves whether they’re prepared for the responsibility, the AKC says.
“Research what goes into owning a dog,” says spokesperson Brandi Hunter Munden, “and really take an assessment of your lifestyle to make sure that you’re really making the best decision, not just for you, but for the animal.”
Source: AP News