NEW YORK (AP) – Could the French bulldog become America’s favorite purebred dog?
After skyrocketing to popularity over the past quarter century, the French came in second only to Labrador Retrievers, the leaders for 30 years in a row, in the latest American Kennel Club rankings, to be published on Wednesday. They reflect the relative number of purebreds, primarily puppies, that were added to the oldest US dog registry last year.
Chunky, upturned French bulldogs have their charms, at least in the eyes of fans, but also their limitations.
“They’re not the type of dog that goes hiking with you,” says AKC spokeswoman Brandi Hunter, “but if you want a dog that will snuggle with you, be cute, adaptable, with minimal care … that’s the one kind of breed for you. “
An inquiry into the details:
THE TOP 10:
After Labrador Retrievers and French Bulldogs, the top 10 breeds include German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Bulldogs, Poodles, Beagles, Rottweilers, and German Shorthaired Pointers. Dachshunds made the top 10 for the first time since 2013.
Valued as calm and capable dogs, Labs broke the record for the number one longest race years ago, and they are still the most popular by far. More than 98,300 Labs joined the AKC registry last year, compared to some 66,500 French bulldogs.
However, German Shepherds enjoy their own form of doggy leadership. President Joe Biden’s pastors, Champ and Major, have been living in the White House, though they were recently sent back to Biden’s home in Delaware for a period of canine reflection. after Major wounded a Secret Service agent.
The poodle can also claim the crown of the best dog – a standard poodle named Siba was the most recent winner of the prestigious Westminster Kennel Club dog show., held last year.
Breeds on the go include the Cane Corso, a heavy-duty guard dog that broke into the top 25. It was number 51 just a decade ago.
LIVE LA FRENCHIE
When Labrador retrievers first topped the list in 1991, French bulldogs took a distant 82nd place. But the French began to climb the rankings in the late 1990s, reaching No. 4 in 2017..
Celebrity owners, from Martha Stewart to Lady Gaga and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, have unveiled the breed. And its compact size, moderate exercise needs, uncomplicated coat, and rather comical demeanor struck a chord with many dog hunters.
“They’re little love machines that snore and fart,” says Nicole Denny, a professional dog trainer who has been raising French bulldogs for 15 years after 20 years with Doberman pinschers.
She sees the rise in popularity of the French as “a blessing and a curse”.
“I would feel selfish, in a way, if other people couldn’t enjoy the breed because they are so wonderful,” says Denny of Pleasant Plain, Ohio. But “it has caused many people not to reproduce wisely.”
French bulldog fans should be aware that the breed can be prone to overheating, breathing difficulties, and back problems. Other breeds are also susceptible to various conditions, and mixed breeds are not necessarily free from them, notes AKC veterinary director Dr. Jerry Klein.
“There is no dog, whether purebred or mixed breed, that is 100% guaranteed without problems,” he said. “You must know what you are getting and know the possibilities.”
WHO IS IN, WHO IS OUT AND WHO IS NEW
Popularity rankings are limited to the more than 190 AKC-recognized breeds, with no squiggles or other “designer” hybrids, not to mention everyday mixes and stray dogs.
New to the list are two breeds that were recognized in 2020: the dogo Argentino, joining the popularity ranking at 93rd place, notable for a newcomer, and the barbet, at 145th.
DOING THE WEIRD
The rarest breed is the Norwegian lundehund. Agile, modest-sized dogs may be little known in the US, but they have intriguing distinctions, including six-toed feet, unusual flexibility, climbing acumen, and a history of puffin hunting.
THE DEBATE ON DOG FARMING
Animal rights advocates complain that interest in purebred dogs fuels puppy mills and leaves other dogs trapped in shelters. The AKC responds that conscientious breeding produces skilled dogs at jobs like sniffing bombs, and allows pet owners to choose a breed suitable for the activities – or lack thereof – they have in mind.
Still, the AKC maintains that pupularity sometimes prompts people to acquire a breed they haven’t investigated.
“Don’t let popularity drive the decision,” Hunter said. “Let your lifestyle drive the decision.”