French Bulldog Knocks Labrador Retriever Off As America’s No. 1 Breed, And Wyoming Owners Agree

The American Kennel Club announced this week that the smush-nosed, bat-eared, charismatic French bulldog is the new top purebred dog in America. Wyomingites who love their Frenchies are glad to point out why.

Wendy Corr

March 17, 20236 min read

Halo Aalbregt
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Fetch this, Labrador retrievers, there’s a new top dog in America. 

They may not be cuter, more energetic or great swimmers, but they ooze personality (and sometimes other things).

For the last 31 years, the American Kennel Club has ranked purebred dogs annually according to their popularity. And every year the friendly Lab has been the No. 1 breed. 

Except for 2022. The AKC announced this week that more Americans prefer the goofy, snub-nosed, low-to-the-ground tiny tank of the canine world, the French bulldog, as their favorite canine companion.

That includes Wyoming dog lovers, where French bulldogs owners are quick to point out all there is to love about them.

“She’s stubborn. She’s smart. She’s fun,” Hailey Sellen of Sheridan said about her fawn-colored Frenchie, Honey Bee. “She’s so full of personality. She’s sassy. She’s mouthy. She’s hilarious.”

Jessika Aalbregt of Cody said she and her husband call their white French bulldog Halo a “circus dog.”

“She loves to do tricks for her treats,” Aalbregt told Cowboy State Daily. “She loves to be around people, and she goes after balls like crazy. She will make herself a nest of balls and lay in them.” 

‘Tiny But Ferocious’

For both Sellen and Aalbregt, their Frenchies have larger dogs as playmates – but there’s no doubt who’s boss.

Aalbregt said in their house, Halo lets their German Shepherd, Luka, know who’s boss.

“So she is kind of the Alpha,” she said. “She’s 6 and he’s 2, and the little one will put him in his place if he gets too close to the treat that she wants, or the lap that she wants. She gets a little persnickety, a little spicy about it. She’s tiny but ferocious.” 

Sellen said that Honey Bee’s personality is so large, it makes up for her small stature.

“(Honey Bee) is currently 16 pounds and her best friend is 220 pounds,” said Sellen, sharing a photo of her pup with Honey Bee’s friends – two of whom are mastiffs. “They get along with all different types of people and animals.”

Aalbregt said that Halo “mother hens” Luka, cleaning his face and ears in the morning and at night. 

“They play a lot by holding onto different ends of the same toy,” she said. “She’s the alpha, but he’s happy to be in the pack.” 

Cute, But Challenging

Owning a French bulldog comes with its own set of challenges, though, warns Shawn Porter, a dog breeder from Powell. 

“They’re not an easy breed to have,” Porter told Cowboy State Daily. “And honestly, I don’t know why they became so popular among lots of different people. They snore, they fart – I mean, they are a typical bulldog.” 

Porter said she loves her French bulldog, Rossi, but pointed out that they have more health issues than many other breeds. 

In addition to breathing problems because of their flattened faces and shortened airways, the dogs are also prone to skin and spinal problems. And breeders have found that “letting nature take its course” isn’t necessarily the best choice.

“They can naturally breed, but it’s safer to (artificially inseminate) them,” she said. “And it’s safer to do a C section with each litter.”

Up For Adventure

Labrador retrievers may have the reputation of being outdoor dogs, but don’t count out the French bulldog. Aalbregt said Halo is always up for an adventure.

And when the television news ends with a clip of a dog riding a skateboard, it’s almost always a Frenchie.

“She loves to go hiking with me,” she said. “We go walking every day, when the temperature is right for her – because they are not able to regulate their temperature very well, if it’s too hot or too cold. So I have sweaters, and you get cooling mats, you get everything that you need to keep them comfortable.” 

Porter said Rossi loves to play dress-up.

“I can make that dog do anything and she loves every bit of it,” she said. “I’ve dressed her up as Trump, I’ve dressed her up riding a tractor one time. And she just sits there and she loves every bit of it.”

Target For Thieves

French bulldogs are so popular, though, that they have become a target for thieves. 

In December, a man was sentenced to 21 years in prison for shooting Lady Gaga’s dog walker, then stealing two of her Frenchies in 2021.

“When we go to Billings, I’m always really hesitant to leave (Halo) if she’s the only dog in the car,” said Aalbregt. “I make sure she’s kind of tucked away so people can’t see her. And Luka kind of doubles as her bodyguard.”

Expensive, But Worth It

Porter said when she sold French bulldogs, the pups would sell for between $3,000 and $5,000 each.

“They’re a very expensive breed,” she said, adding that for Frenchie enthusiasts, it’s worth the price.

“For 10 or 15 years I’ve been wanting a French bulldog,” said Aalbregt, “and I used to actually always keep like several thousand dollars in a savings account, just in case the opportunity came up where I wasn’t traveling.”

And once you’ve got one, you’re hooked, Porter said, adding that, “I could never, never go without her.”

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Wendy Corr

Broadcast Media Director