The Surprising Reason French Bulldogs Dethroned the Labrador Retriever as America’s Most Popular Dog
After a remarkable 31-year reign of the Labrador Retriever as America’s favorite canine companion, a new underdog emerged earlier this year to claim the throne: the French Bulldog. This shift in preference from the versatile and friendly Labrador to the compact and smooshy-faced French Bulldog has sparked curiosity and debates among dog enthusiasts and experts alike.
The top ten breeds now include, in order, French Bulldogs, Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, Poodles, Bulldogs, Rottweilers, Beagles, Dachshunds, and German Shorthaired Pointers.
Why Are Frenchies So Popular?
But what has propelled the French Bulldog to such heights of popularity, despite their well-documented health issues and the ethical concerns surrounding their breeding practices? This paradox that has intrigued scientists and dog lovers alike.
Cognitive ethologist and behavior biologist Dorottya Júlia Ujfalussy and her team from Eötvös Loránd University in Hungary have delved into this enigma, exploring the possible reasons behind the appeal of these petite pups.
They Appear Helpless
A study published in The journal Scientific Reports reveals some fascinating insights. The researchers discovered that breeds like French Bulldogs tend to gaze at humans for more extended periods and exhibit traits that appear “helpless” and more infant-like to humans, compared to breeds with healthier head shapes. The study involved assessing the behavior of English Bulldogs, French Bulldogs, and Hungarian Mudis (a herding dog breed with a mid-length muzzle) in a problem-solving task involving opening boxes to retrieve food.
One reason for choosing a flat-faced pet may be the childlike appearance
When animals look like babies (paedomorphic appearance), it usually makes creatures across different species want to take care of them (this is known as the baby-schema effect). For example, cats and dogs that have baby-like facial features are more likely to be adopted. Pet owners also guess a dog’s personality and how good their relationship will be with the dog based on how it looks.
They Look Like Babies
The results were telling: English and French Bulldogs opened the box 93 percent less often than the Mudis and were significantly slower when they did manage to open it. Incredibly, the bulldogs were over four times as likely to look back at their human companions during the task, seemingly seeking assistance or approval.
“The most surprising was the extent of the helplessness, lack of success, and visual orientation of dogs to the owners,” Ujfalussy notes. “It seemed like they were depending on their humans to solve problems for them much more than your typical family dogs.”
“French Bulldogs Depend on Their Humans To Solve Problems, Like Human Infants.”Dorottya Júlia Ujfalussy, Behavioral Biologist
This behavior, which mirrors the dependency and helplessness of human infants, might be the secret ingredient to the French Bulldog’s charm. The researchers speculate that these dogs might seek out humans when faced with challenges more frequently. This seemingly dependent behavior might foster a stronger social relationship between the pets and their owners, potentially contributing to their popularity.
There Is A Dark Side To This Popularity
However, this popularity comes with a dark side, including an increase in thefts and a surge in breeding practices that prioritize appearance over health. Critics and veterinarians, including Dr. Carrie Stefaniak, a member of the French Bull Dog Club’s health committee, have raised concerns about the breed’s health issues, particularly those related to their brachycephalic (flat-faced) features. These health issues include breathing difficulties and an increased risk of heat stroke, among others.
Despite the concerns, French Bulldogs have made notable appearances in popular culture and dog shows, further solidifying their status in the public eye. A Frenchie named Winston notably took second place at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show and subsequently won the National Dog Show hosted by the Kennel Club of Philadelphia.
As the French Bulldog enjoys its newfound status, the conversation around ethical breeding, pet ownership, and animal welfare continues. Prospective dog owners are urged to look beyond the adorable façade and consider the well-being of their future four-legged friends, making conscious choices that prioritize health and ethical breeding practices over mere appearance.
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