When you think of sports dynasties the New England Patriots, Boston Celtics, New York Yankees and Alabama Crimson Tide certainly come to mind.
But when you’re talking about dominance, you’d be hard-pressed to do better than the Labrador Retriever, America’s top dog for a record 30th consecutive year (2020).
In a country where people’s tastes change regularly and where there is a new challenger around virtually every corner, the Lab has stood strong to the popularity spurts of numerous other breeds.
The sporting breed made its first appearance in the American Kennel Club’s Top Ten in the 1970s and has remained there since. Before the Lab’s ascendency to the top spot, the Cocker Spaniel held the record of 23 years of being No. 1, albeit interrupted by decades.
Runner-Up: The French Bulldog
The big mover in the 2020 rankings is the French Bulldog, which jumped into the No. 2 spot from No. 4 in 2019, pushing past the No. 2 German Shepherd Dog and No. 3 Golden Retriever, each of which slipped down one position. The German Shepherd had been the second most popular breed since 2009.
While it’s unlikely the Frenchie will catch the Lab within the next year — they are separated by more 30,000 registrations – this little character has been on quite a roll for a decade, increasing its registration numbers by a phenomenal 830 percent since 2010 and 62 percent since 2019.
Ironically, this has left many highly respected breeders like James Dalton (Fabelhaft Robobull), of Wheelersburg, Ohio, and Patty Sosa (Bandog French Bulldogs), of Mandeville, Louisiana, proud yet concerned.
Sosa, an AKC judge, who has had Frenchies since the 1970s, including 43 all-breed Best in Show and five National Specialty winners, cites several reasons for its booming popularity. “It is comical, good with children, and makes an excellent apartment companion due to its size and moderate exercise needs. It packs a big-dog personality in a small dog’s body.”
Dalton and his partner, Shelley St. John, have been involved in showing, breeding and exhibiting French Bulldogs for more than 25 years, adds, “They have an endearing, gregarious and clown-like personality. Their small size and short, easy maintenance coats make them a good choice for city and suburban living. No question their increasing popularity has in part been driven by their appearances in magazine print ads and television shows.”
Fabelhaft Frenchies have piled up a number of notable accomplishments — multiple French Bulldog Club of America National and Regional Specialty best in show titles; Westminster Kennel Club best-of-breed ribbons and the only French Bulldog to win the Non-Sporting Group (2010) in the iconic New York City show. Dalton was awarded the coveted AKC Non-Sporting Group Breeder of the Year Award in 2017.
But both Sosa and Dalton note several buyer-beware cautions.
“Because it has become one of the most expensive breeds to purchase, the French Bulldog encourages many unscrupulous breeders only interested in the money angle and not the betterment of the breed,” Dalton, an AKC judge, explains. “These people often offer puppies in colors which do not follow the breed standard and refer to them as ‘exotic,’ which means they would be disqualified in the AKC show ring. It’s strictly a marketing ploy to take advantage of the unsuspecting buyer.”
While an off-color Frenchie cannot compete in the ring, it can be registered.
Sosa concurs, “We’ve been told by several prospective puppy buyers that they were scammed for large sums of money well excess of what a show puppy costs. Talk to the breeder of your prospective puppy. If he or she doesn’t want to discuss specifics with you or doesn’t sound right, it’s time to move on. Before you begin your search for a Frenchie, turn to the French Bulldog Club of America breeder’s director’s section.
Acceptable colors are cream, fawn, or white with the patterns or markings that they would then be called brindle, piebald, or fawn with a black mask.
Is a Frenchie a breed for everyone?
Not necessarily. Sosa says, “They overheat easily and are not good swimmers. We had an inquiry once from an avid runner and outdoorsman. Frenchies will not usually fit that lifestyle.”
So what can you expect to pay for a pet-quality or show-quality Frenchie?
According to Sosa, pet-quality prices begin at $3,500 and show quality $5,000. “Unfortunately, it usually takes some time to buy a puppy from a reputable breeder. Find out if the person selling the puppy bred it. Are there champion parents or grandparents? Are there champions in the pedigree?”
A reputable breeder, says Dalton, will expect a buyer to ask plenty of questions either by email or telephone and be willing to discuss health testing of his/her dogs and offer a written health guarantee. A buyer should want to visit the home of the breeder, he continues, to examine living conditions and how the puppies are raised. “However, as we are in a pandemic, be prepared to follow current safety recommendations and protocol before you visit,” he adds.
Other Movers & Shakers
Now back to AKC 2020 rankings.
The only other juggling the Top Ten was the Dachshund supplanting the Pembroke Welsh Corgi in the No. 10 slot. The Dachshund hasn’t moved much the past decade, hanging out at No. 8 in 2010, No. 13 in 2015 and No. 11 in 2019.
Some of the biggest popularity leaps the past decade have been the following: Pembroke Welsh Corgi, 27th to 11th; Australian Shepherd, 26th to 12th; Cane Corso, 51st to 25th. Border Collies, 47th to 32nd; Belgian Malinois, 78th to 37th; Wirehaired Pointing Griffons, 95th to 63rd; Boykin Spaniels, 136th to 87th.
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