French bulldog’s reign as top dog stirs up debate and concerns

By: Roger Coryell
French Bulldog
Photo by Calvin Ma.

A new canine king has ascended to the throne, but not without a dash of controversy. The American Kennel Club (AKC), the world’s largest not-for-profit purebred dog registry and a leading advocate for dogs has declared the French Bulldog as America’s top breed, dethroning the Labrador Retriever for the first time ever. However, the breed’s soaring popularity has ignited a debate over the potential health risks of breeding dogs prone to many health issues.

The lovable Labrador Retriever’s 31-year stint at the top has ended, catching some off guard. The French Bulldog has been steadily gaining fans over the years, climbing from 14th place in 2012 to the pinnacle in 2022, with registrations skyrocketing by over 1,000% during this time. Yet, the French Bulldog’s popularity has raised eyebrows among enthusiasts and critics alike, given the breed’s predisposition to breathing, spinal, eye, and skin problems.

The British Veterinary Association has even gone so far as to urge people to avoid purchasing flat-faced breeds, such as French Bulldogs, because of these health concerns. The AKC has faced criticism for the prevalence of genetic disorders among their registered dogs. A staggering 25% of purebred dogs registered by the AKC are estimated to suffer from at least one hereditary genetic issue, which leaves breeders and owners saddled with nearly $1 billion in veterinary bills and lost revenues from stillborn puppies.

Although the AKC supports some canine health research and has run advertising campaigns suggesting their commitment to healthy dogs, its role in promoting dog health remains contentious. Animal behavior expert Temple Grandin argues that the AKC’s standards only regulate physical appearance, neglecting emotional or behavioral health.

AKC Executive Secretary Gina DiNardo weighed in on the Frenchie’s rise to popularity, noting, “Frenchies are playful, adaptable, loyal, and outgoing. They make wonderful companions for a variety of people, but it’s crucial to do your research to not only find the right breed for your lifestyle but also to ensure that you’re getting a well-bred dog from a responsible breeder.”

A few other breeds experienced notable leaps in popularity in 2022, such as the American Hairless Terrier, Gordon Setter, Italian Greyhound, and Anatolian Shepherd Dog. Breeds that made significant progress over the past decade include the Cane Corso, Belgian Malinois, Giant Schnauzer, and English Cocker Spaniel.

Social media platforms like Instagram have also given rise to popular dog breeds like the Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Yorkshire Terrier, Siberian Husky, and Pug.


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