They have led to an increase in violent crime. Its production and sale is morally debatable. Some cost tens of thousands of dollars and are prohibited on some airlines. It’s not about illicit drugs or semi-automatic firearms, but about America’s most popular dog breed: the French Bulldog.
When 3-year-old Winston took the throne at this year’s National Dog Show, there’s no doubt he delighted thousands of watching dog owners with their little Frenchies. The charm of these dogs is not difficult to understand; they are cute, cuddly and just plain fun to love. However, the exhaustive list of health problems that accompany this breed makes the French Bulldog a questionable investment both financially and morally.
20 pounds of medical problems
Compared to other toy dogs like the Pug or Pekingese, there’s nothing terribly unique about America’s most popular dog breed that earns it that title. What makes this dog unique, however, is the endless list of medical problems that comes with raising an animal so baby-like that, despite what breeders try to convince you, it can’t breathe.
French Bulldogs are sniffing balls of grease and hair. They have flattened snouts like those of pigs, the medical term for which is brachycephaly, which is not a good thing. Brachycephalic dogs face a lifetime of respiratory struggles. That cute squawk Frenchies make isn’t because they’re trying to talk to you, but because they’re gasping for air. This makes them more susceptible to heat stroke, chronic gastritis, and a host of other lifelong problems.
The French Bulldog has been bred to be the most angelic canine. Therefore, they maintain a puppy-like quality throughout their lives. This means that, unbelievably, all purebred French Bulldogs are the result of artificial insemination from a female. Male and female Frenchies do not have the physical ability to mate without human participation. Also, pregnant Frenchies must have C-sections because their hips are too narrow to give birth naturally.
A 2021 study published in Canine Medicine and Genetics found that French bulldogs are much less healthy than other breeds. The study authors suggest “shifting the conformation typical of French Bulldogs toward a more restrained phenotype…to reduce endemic health problems in the French Bulldog breed.” That means longer muzzles, wider hips, and not-so-pure Frenchies.
Toy dogs as status symbols
From Queen Victoria and her Pugs to Paris Hilton and her Chihuahuas, the addition of a toy dog as a wardrobe item has been a status symbol for quite some time.
The history of purebred dog breeds, not just purebred toy breeds, is questionable. It shares roots with the same pseudoscience that bolstered the racist eugenics movement that took hold in the mid-19th century. However, the movement of purebred dogs was not specific to white Europeans. Upper-class women around the world promoted companion dogs to quell their loneliness and promote them as an indicator of wealth. Now those same little dogs are still somehow a symbol of high social status.
One hundred years ago potential dog health problems were not taken into account when breeding the purest Frenchies or other toys. Now, the possible health problems of a dog are considered even plus of a reason to get it.
Increased health problems mean a more desirable dog
Incredibly, a 2017 Plos One study found that an increase in perceived health problems actually creates a greater desire for a dog in some people. The study concludes: “Our results indicate that prospective owners of Chihuahuas and French bulldogs, in particular, do not prioritize well-being attributes of the breed, such as health, when purchasing a dog.”
The researchers then asked the next more logical question: Why the hell would you want a sick dog? It turns out that people who like brachycephalic breeds often like them because they like to care. The information available on the problems in [Chihuahuas and French Bulldogs] It has not served to prevent their growing popularity because the fundamental emotional responses to the phenotypic attributes of these breeds are highly effective positive motivators.”
There’s a lot to unpack in there from a psychological standpoint, but that’s not what we’re here for. From a humanistic point of view, it seems that we should not breed French Bulldogs. At the very least, they shouldn’t be the most popular dog breed in America.