NEW YORK (AP) — America’s new favorite dog breed — the comical and controversial French bulldog — has never won the nation’s biggest dog show.
However, here Winston comes to a convulsive trot. The Frenchie with NFL connections is a strong contender at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show this week, less than two months after the memo was published showing his type had become the most popular dog breed in the country.
The Frenchman’s rise has been dizzying: from 83rd to first in three decades. They are also prey to concerns about their health, to arguments about the ethics of breeding, to denounce the gold market with ever more “exotic” varieties, and more recently of thin and sometimes deadly volumes.
If all of this says anything about these short-nosed, pointy-eared, deep-chested, fishy little bulldogs, what does it say about the culture they love?
Their media image affects their popularity
says Cameron Whiteley, professor of sociology at Western Washington University and president-elect of the Animal Division and of the American Sociological Association. Wheatley argues that the popularity of genders depends less on their attributes than on their portrayal in the media and pop culture.
In fact, AJ’s 2013 study found no indication that a longer lifespan, better behavior, or other desirable characteristics make a more desirable dog breed. One of the authors, Hal Herzog Professor of Psychology at Western Carolina University, notes that equivalent mutations in dog breeds are similar to baby names, hit songs, and other common cultural staples. In short, these are dog memes.
“Dogs have become a form of fashion,” says Herzog, who wrote a book about human attitudes and behavior towards animals.
French Bulldogs have a rich and colorful history dating back many centuries, including English lace makers, Parisian diamonds, and American tourists who brought the dogs home. (He even died in the sinking of the Titanic in 1912.) But the breed’s heyday in the United States soon came to an end.
Then the Americans took a fresh look at the French in the current century. They’ve appeared on the Martha Stewart TV show, then in narrative series and movies (such as “Modern Family” and “Due Date”), commercials (including Super Bowl spots for Skechers in 2012 and Bud Light this year) and social media accounts. . For celebrity owners (Lady Gaga, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and many more).
French bulldog lovers point to off-camera traits to explain the dogs’ appeal. They claim easy-care coats, modest exercise needs, adequate apartment size, and a demeanor memorably described as “a clown in a philosopher’s coat.”
However, this did not translate into wins at Westminster, where each dog is judged on its ideal breed, and not other breeds.
However, showy breeds like poodles are. (The Rebel Labrador Retriever has similar theories. In the 31 years, their varieties have topped the popularity charts; always a win at Westminster.)
However, Winston came close to the cut last year, finishing second to the first dog to win. French later won another notable competition, the National Dog Show in Philadelphia in November. He heads to Westminster on Monday as one of the most awarded dogs in the world (the first prize will be awarded on Tuesday night).
If a dog can gain a competitive advantage through osmosis, the cream-colored 4-year-old probably can. He lives with co-owner Morgan Fox, a defensive end for the Los Angeles Chargers, when he’s not on the show circuit with manager and co-owner Perry Payson.
Plus, Winston “has the structure, he has the plan, he has the head, and he has the movement” of the winner, Sosa says. “God has stature.”
People worry about their health
While she lauds Winston’s success, she says French has mixed feelings—part joy, part apprehension—about seeing dogs get more recognition.
Seasoned breeders who adhere to health testing and other guidelines believe that a Fever Frenchie has already attracted overbearing, fearful individuals who will produce anything, possibly an unhealthy puppy. “There is a concern that we are losing the battle with the education and promotion of a well-behaved dog,” Sosa said.
Some vets are also concerned about the French—all of them.
Because of their wrinkled faces, the animals are prone to respiratory, eye, and other problems. While other breeds also have tendencies and mixed-breed dogs may be a question mark, recent research in Britain has indicated that the health of Frenchies is “significantly worse” than that of other dogs.
The British Veterinary Association “strongly” recommended against buying any flat-faced dogs and the Dutch government banned the breeding of dogs with very short muzzles. In the US, the Humane Society’s Veterinary Medical Association — a professional group focused on advocating for animal welfare — wants to “address the exponential increase in demand” for forward-facing dogs, in part by discouraging their use in advertising.
“Owners who truly love these dogs just don’t understand how much dogs suffer,” says the group’s director of education, Dr. Lorna Grande. (Meanwhile, the American Veterinary Medical Association said it is exploring ways to improve the well-being of dogs with flat faces.)
Dr. Kari Stefaniak witnessed a French bulldog experiencing breathing difficulties during her practice in Glendale, Wisconsin. It urges potential owners to understand the health risks of the breed and the potential cost of treatment. She points out that breeders are carefully researched.
But she is quick to add that the French can thrive.
“The general public talks about people being unhealthy,” says Stefaniak, “but we don’t hear much about 13-year-olds who are still out there, doing well, doing agility or hiking.”
His two French bulldogs do both.