French Bulldogs Are the No. 1 Dog in the US, But Has Its Rise in Popularity Put a Target on the Breed's Back?

Frenchies have become the most popular dog breed in the U.S., overtaking the Labrador retriever for the first time in 30 years. And their rise in popularity was steep. In 2012, they were in 14th place. 

As reports of stolen French Bulldogs continue to make headlines across the U.S., Vivianne Hulsey does not chance it where her dogs are concerned. 

“One of the big things I always do is I never post online where I am at that moment,” she tells Inside Edition Digital. Her Instagram account boasts 194,000 followers and is filled with videos of adorable puppies, but she is vigilant about avoiding posting in real time. “I always have a little social [media] delay. People in general, if they have a Frenchie, should be doing that. A lot of people are very savvy and they're looking at your every move.”

These days, she doesn’t take them to dog parks, either. 

“I think a lot of people target you at dog parks and I've heard horror stories, especially in those big cities like San Francisco, New York City,” she warned. 

Hulsey has had French Bulldogs in her family for two decades. The accredited preservation French Bulldog breeder from North Carolina started breeding them about 15 years ago. But a lot has changed since her family was first introduced to the breed. 

Frenchies have become the most popular dog breed in the U.S., overtaking the Labrador retriever for the first time in 30 years. And their rise in popularity was steep. In 2012, they were in 14th place. 

“It is absolutely horrifying to me,” Hulsey says. “Back then, they were very obscure. Nobody knew what they were. We would go everywhere and people would stop us and and laugh at them. Now, I can't leave the house and go anywhere without seeing a Frenchie or two.”

The breed's rise in popularity appears to have also affected the demand for the dog, and as a result, the lengths some will go to get their hands on a French Bulldog. Headline after headline show reports of stolen French Bulldogs, with the most high profile incident occurring in 2021 when Lady Gaga’s dog walker was shot trying to protect her two dogs, which were ultimately stolen. They were later found.  

“Just no regard for another human being, just out for the item for the dog,” said Stefan Becker to KCBS after his French Bulldog was stolen while they were out for a walk. 

“He was pointing [a gun] at my stomach at first and then I kind of pushed him back and then he moved it to the right and he shot right beside me,” another victim whose French Bulldog was stolen told KCBS.

AKC Reunite, a microchipping company that works with the American Kennel Club, says over the past few years it’s seen an increase in pets reported stolen. French Bulldogs are often the targets of such crimes, they say. 

“Social media probably has something to do with that. A lot of celebrities have Frenchies, and they're very photogenic dogs and people love to take pictures and video of them, share them on Instagram and the other social media platforms,” AKC Reunite President and CEO Tom Sharp tells Inside Edition Digital. 

Some believe there may be a correlation between French Bulldog's rise in popularity on social media and the increase seen in thefts of the dogs.  

“I don't have a data way to show that there is, but we certainly believe from what we see and hear from people that the popularity of the breed is leading it to it being stolen more than other breeds,” Sharp says. 

In 2019, 28 French Bulldogs were reported stolen to AKC. In 2022, 136 were reported stolen. One big reason for thefts, Sharp says, is because of the breed’s hefty price tag. 

“It can cost $3,000 to $10,000 to get a French Bulldog puppy, and some go for even more," Sharp says.

And in some instances, the cost for some French Bulldogs can be even higher if specific traits are desired, Hulsey says. “I've seen Frenchies being sold for $20,000, $30,000, saying that they're rare or they're exotic," she says.

Such steep prices can be a motivator for those with less than honorable motivations. 

"So as people can't afford that and yet still want to have it, either maybe they go steal a dog or they're buying stolen dogs on a black market thinking that they've gotten a good deal, not knowing that they're buying a dog that was stolen from someone's family," Sharp says.

But Hulsey warns prospective French Bulldog owners to be wary of the price tags attached to such dogs. She gets complaints every day from people who report being scammed out of hundreds and thousands of dollars after receiving dogs that do not live up to the expectations they had for the breed. 

“Be careful where you go for a Frenchie. [These unaccredited breeders] are not health-testing them," she says. "Just by looking around, most Frenchies seem to struggle to breathe. They don't really look like Frenchies. They are bigger. The temperament doesn't seem to be there. They're just more barky. They are more aggressive. If you go online, you see most Frenchies don't look like Frenchies anymore. They have a slew of problems,” she says. 

Hulsey advises to find a breeder that’s not only registered with the American Kennel Club, but also one that’s part of the French Bulldog Club of America. “Those breeders are trying to breed the true Frenchie, and they will give lifetime support. They will not scam people. They are bound by a code of ethics. They health test,” she says. 

Another option is finding Frenchies at animals shelters, but Sharp says they’re so popular, they are hard to come by. 

“You have a better chance of going through a rescue network. And you can search them online, go to the AKC website, and they have links to all the different breed rescues," she says. "It's a great way to get a new dog for your family.”

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