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The Very Cute, Totally Disturbing Tale of the American “It” Dog

How the quest to own the most Instagram-worthy pup has bred a world of problems.

Photo: Shyama Golden for Vox
Photo: Shyama Golden for Vox

In 2021, the French bulldog, commonly known as a Frenchie, became the second-most-popular dog breed in America.

If there’s an “It” breed of the 21st century so far, it’s these dogs, with their squat figures, flat faces, and outsize bat ears. American Kennel Club registrations for the breed have risen steadily for over a decade, growing by 830 percent since 2009. At around 20 pounds and perfectly sized for carry-on luggage, Frenchies have been marketed as the dog best suited to the lifestyles of the rich and quite possibly lazy. They don’t even need much exercise for the simple reason that their numerous health problems can make too much exercise dangerous.

Rather than requiring human owners to change their lives to accommodate a new dog, the French bulldog is a breed that’s been broken to accommodate us. It’s not uncommon for Frenchies (like other small trendy dog breeds) to be “housetrained” to exclusively go to the bathroom on pee pads, litter boxes, or turfgrass inside an apartment or on a balcony.

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The totally disturbing tale of the American “It” dog