French Bulldogs overtake Labradors as UK's most popular dog breed

Kennel Club warns people about the welfare impact of bad breeders cashing in on the latest trend

  • French Bulldogs have overtaken the Labrador Retriever as the UK’s most popular dog breed for the first time since records began
  • French Bulldog, owned by celebrities, has seen an astronomical 2964 per cent increase in the last ten years and is likely to be 2018’s top dog – a title held by the Labrador for almost three decades
  • Kennel Club warns that people buying the breed on a whim and without awareness of health concerns could lead to a welfare crisis
  • Puppy buyers urged to consider a wider variety of breeds, including the UK’s ‘forgotten breeds’ at risk of disappearing because their numbers are so low.

The French Bulldog, a breed favoured by celebrities such as the Beckhams, Lady Gaga and Hugh Jackman, has overtaken the Labrador Retriever as the UK’s most popular breed of dog, according to statistics released by the UK’s largest dog welfare organisation, the Kennel Club.

In the first quarter of 2018 there were 8,403 French Bulldog puppy registrations, compared to 7,409 for the Labrador. This represents a 23 per cent uplift on the first quarter of 2017, whereas Labrador numbers have only risen by 7 percent in the same period. This is the first time that the French Bulldog has topped Labrador registrations in any quarter and if the trend continues the Kennel Club forecasts that the breed will be the most popular dog breed in the UK by the end of 2018.

The popularity of the breed has seen an unprecedented rise in recent years, with a 44 per cent increase from 2016 to 2017 alone and a staggering 2,964 per cent increase over the last ten years (2008 to 2017). 

The Labrador has been the most popular dog breed in the UK since 1990 – the year it overtook the Yorkshire Terrier.

The Kennel Club is concerned that the dramatic increase in numbers of French Bulldogs – a favourite with celebrities and advertisers – is due to people choosing the breed because of how it looks and because it is considered to be a fashionable choice, rather than because it is the most suitable breed for their lifestyle. 

Furthermore, Kennel Club registrations only account for around 30 per cent of the total population of dogs in the UK. Amongst the undocumented and unregistered French Bulldogs will be many that have been brought into the country illegally from Eastern Europe and those that have been bred by puppy farmers.

Dogs from such backgrounds will often have serious health problems due to poor welfare conditions and this is even more concerning in the French Bulldog, which is a flat faced (brachycephalic) breed. This means that it can be affected by health problems related to its breathing.

Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club Secretary, said: “We have never seen such a dramatic increase in breed popularity as we have with the French Bulldog and so far in 2018, it is the top dog in the UK for the first time.

“The problem is that rogue breeders are cashing in on this surging demand, which is why it has never been more important that people consider buying from a responsible breeder, such as a Kennel Club Assured Breeder – particularly with this breed, which can suffer from serious health concerns.

“The French Bulldog is a wonderful breed for the right owners but people are often surprised to know there are actually 221 pedigree dog breeds, so we urge people to remember that it isn’t always the obvious and fashionable choice that is right for you. The great thing about pedigree dogs is that they come with a high level of predictability, so people can work out which breed would be the best fit for their lifestyle based on things like temperament, how much exercise the dog will need and any relevant health concerns.”

The Kennel Club is also concerned that, because the French Bulldog is not a suitable choice for everyone, people buying one without doing their research will then have to give the dog over to a rescue centre when they realise they cannot care for it. There has been a 107 per cent increase in searches for French Bulldogs on the Kennel Club Find a Rescue Club website between 2012 and 2017.

Sue Worrall, Trustee of the French Bulldog Welfare Trust: “We are getting more and more French Bulldogs coming through our doors from people who haven’t thought through whether they are the right dog for their lifestyle.

“People need to be aware that French Bulldogs require lots of companionship and training and can suffer from serious health problems. If a puppy buyer is sure it is the best breed for them, then it is crucial to find a responsible breeder, such as a Kennel Club Assured Breeder. A good breeder will supply any health test results for the parents and introduce the puppy buyer to the mum, and sometimes the dad, so that they can see if they have exaggerated features, such as overly short muzzles, which should be avoided.”

The Kennel Club is urging anyone who wants to get a French Bulldog to consider the full range of breeds, including the official list of ‘Vulnerable Native and Irish Dog Breeds’, which are at risk of disappearing because their numbers are so low. There are 27 breeds on the list, including the Cardigan Welsh Corgi, Otterhound and the Irish Red and White Setter, whose numbers are below 300 annual puppy registrations. A further eight breeds, including the Old English Sheepdog, are ‘At Watch’ because they number 300-450 annual registrations.

Read more information on how to buy a French Bulldog – and other flat faced dog breeds – responsibly.