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French bulldogs were the most popular dogs in the U.S. last year


America's new top dog is - or should that be are? - Frenchies. After 31 years of Labrador retrievers holding the title, the American Kennel Club says French bulldogs were the most popular dog in America last year. The Instagrammable dogs, with their expressive faces and alert-looking ears, are the latest in a long history of dog fashion trends.

LORNA GRANDE: You know, "101 Dalmatians" made the Dalmatian famous.

SIMON: Dr. Lorna Grande is a veterinarian with the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association. She says there is a problem, though, when certain breeds become sought after and trendy.

GRANDE: More and more suppliers come out of the woodwork. And I don't even call them breeders. I call them greedy, opportunistic puppy sellers, right? You just crank out the breed of dog that the naive public will buy from you over the internet.

SIMON: Dr. Grande says reputable breeders will be able to provide health information for a Frenchie puppy's family including if the dogs have a history of spinal problems or have had any surgeries on their throat. And that can be a problem for short-nosed dogs. The American Kennel Club has recognized French bulldogs as a breed since 1898. They have that small build, squarish head and broad muzzle. But the doctor warns there are risks to breeding dogs for looks or, in the case of the Frenchie, sloth.

GRANDE: They have low oxygen levels in their blood because their airways are so compressed and abnormal. So, yeah, they don't need a lot of exercise. They don't have much exercise tolerance.

SIMON: So what questions do potential human families need to ask before deciding what dog to welcome?

GRANDE: What's your family's lifestyle? Are you going to be able to give the dog a lot of exercise? How much money do you have, and how much patience do you have, for grooming?

SIMON: Dr. Grande says she always recommends adopting from a shelter. Good ones will help explain a dog breed's energy level and health risks.

GRANDE: Those people will often walk you through it. They'll talk to you about it. You often will fill out an adoption application when you're going to an animal shelter because they want to make a forever match.

SIMON: Ah, don't we all? Dr. Lorna Grande, a veterinarian for the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association.

(SOUNDBITE OF LUNA SONG, "THIS TIME AROUND") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.