French bulldog to knock Labrador retriever off The Kennel Club’s number one spot by the end of 2018

French bulldog to knock Labrador retriever off The Kennel Club’s number one spot by the end of 2018

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Whilst the UK is well known for being a nation of dog lovers, most dog owners each have their own favourite individual breeds – and mapping the rise and fall of different dog breeds in terms of their popularity and how they change in ranking over time can be quite informative.

Here at Pets4Homes, we have drawn up a list of the UK’s most popular dog breeds in 2018, based on a combination of user adverts and searches for dogs for sale. As the largest, busiest and most popular pet classifieds website, forum and advice resource in the UK, our findings represent a good reflection of the most common and popular dog types in the country, and those that are most in demand and most likely to be found in large numbers nationwide.

The Kennel Club – the UK’s umbrella organisation for dogs and dog breeds – keeps their own data on the popularity of different dog breeds, but their information is collated based on the number of new registrations of pedigree pups that are formally eligible for registration each year, without factoring in unregistered dogs, and hybrid dog types that are not properly recognised as breeds.

This means that the popularity listing on Pets4Homes and that published by The Kennel Club don’t match up with each other in terms of which dogs fall where – and the fourth most popular dog type in the UK based on Pets4Homes data, the Cockapoo, is not even eligible for Kennel Club registration and recording at all!

Based on The Kennel Club’s last published rankings, their top five most registered dog breeds in order are:

  1. The Labrador retriever.
  2. The French bulldog.
  3. The Cocker spaniel.
  4. The pug.
  5. The English springer spaniel.

Whilst here on Pets4Homes, the top five list is:

  1. The French bulldog.
  2. The Chihuahua.
  3. The pug.
  4. The Cockapoo.
  5. The Labrador retriever.

Although three of the five breeds on each list are common to both, their respective places on the lists are different – because of the different criteria applied when ranking breeds, and the broader scope of criteria used by Pets4Homes to generate an accurate picture of the reality on the street.

However, The Kennel Club itself announced in February 2017 that by the end of this year (2018) they expect the French bulldog to knock the Labrador retriever off the top spot in their own rankings too.

Facts and figures

Information provided by The Kennel Club shows a strong trend of popularity growth for the French bulldog breed as a whole, to the point that this breed that was relatively uncommon in the UK until a couple of decades ago is now all set to surpass the Labrador retriever in popularity.

  • The Labrador retriever has been The Kennel Club’s most popular dog breed for 28 years – they first took the top spot in 1990, when they overtook the previously first placed Yorkshire terrier.
  • In 2016, the French bulldog increased hugely in terms of the number of pups of the breed registered, reflecting the huge level of demand for the breed – rising 47% in that year alone.
  • Over the course of the last decade, the French bulldog’s popularity in terms of formally registered dogs of the breed increased by a whopping 3,000%.
  • The French bulldog overtook the previously second-placed most popular dog, the cocker spaniel, in 2017.
  • The Kennel Club itself has stated that French bulldogs registered with them account for only 30% of all dogs of the breed within the UK – which means that even given the huge jump in terms of the popularity of formally registered and recognised dogs of the breed, the true number in the UK is significantly higher.
  • The Kennel Club also states that it is highly likely that a large proportion of these unregistered dogs are made up of undocumented illegal imports from Eastern Europe.

Concerns over the French bulldog’s popularity

The Kennel Club is seen by many dog owners and dog lovers as an organisation that should be doing a lot more to improve dog welfare, and particularly, set and enforce breed standards that enhance health and eradicate hereditary health issues and congenital defects.

Whilst The Kennel Club officially promotes breeding for health and sets down rules and guidelines for dog show judges that are designed to ensure that unhealthy dogs are not rewarded with prizes, how well this translates on the ground is the subject of a lot of debate.

However, even taking into account the fact that many people feel that The Kennel Club is not doing enough, nor properly enforcing the rules that they do have, The Kennel Club itself has expressed concerns over the huge current trend and demand for French bulldogs – at a rate of growth that is unprecedented.

The Kennel Club is concerned about puppy buyers choosing a French bulldog as a fashion accessory, and/or without doing enough research into the breed before buying. Coupled with this, as demand for the French bulldog is at an all-time high, the number of people breeding and wishing to breed French bulldogs to meet this demand is on the rise too – and not all of these people are ethical or responsible when it comes to breeding for health and improvement.

The very exaggerated flat-faced and narrow-nosed French bulldog look – as well as so-called rare (but in reality, unacceptable) colours that many breeders seek to produce are still very much in demand among puppy buyers. Whilst many dog lovers feel that The Kennel Club doesn’t do enough to promote health and penalise harmful traits, when it comes to dogs that are illegally imported from abroad and/or not registered with The Kennel Club, the organisation itself is powerless to act or enforce its rules, which is another point of concern.

If you are considering buying a French bulldog

  • Be very selective about the breeder you choose to buy from – learn how to identify and avoid puppy farms, and assess the conformation and traits of dogs of the breed.
  • Don’t buy a puppy that has been bred for exaggerated traits, or unacceptable colours.
  • Do plenty of research before you decide that a French bulldog is right for you, and find out about their potential hereditary health issues and other possible problems before making a decision.
  • Find out what health tests the breeder performed on their parent stock prior to breeding, and how they breed to improve health and welfare rather than to make money.
  • Choose a puppy that is registered with The Kennel Club – while this doesn’t guarantee good health (and not all unregistered puppies will be poor quality or unhealthy) this does ensure that you will avoid buying a pup from an illegally imported dog, or one that has been refused registration.


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