You’ve probably read headlines about the French bulldog catching up to the Labrador as the UK’s most popular dog breed. The Kennel Club’s records show that in fact the French bulldog will not only become as popular as the Labrador, it will overtake it, and become the most popular dog breed in the UK.
This is no small feat, as the Labrador Retriever has held the top spot since 1991. That’s an impressive 25 years at the top spot, but if you know anything about dogs, you’ll know that popularity is not always a good thing for a dog breed. Popularity means there is a demand for the breed, and that leads some unscrupulous people see a demand, they set about creating a supply. In the case of dogs, this can mean that some poor puppies end up being brought into the world without the love, care, knowledge and planning necessary.
So, sadly, a breed becoming more popular often means its members wind up in rescue shelters more frequently. However, the RSPCA comes to the rescue of thousands of abandoned and mistreated dogs every year, and the charity sees trends in the breeds in need of its protection and care – but their figures don’t always reflect the Kennel Club’s.
“Although we might expect the breeds of dogs coming into rescue most commonly to reflect some of the trends of the most popular breeds in England and Wales, this isn’t always the case,” said RSPCA’s Klare Kennett. “Staffordshire bull terriers aren’t in the top 10 list of registered breeds, but sadly, they’re the most likely to end up in rescue centres.
“In fact, over the last five years, 15% of the 14,707 dogs cared for by staff and volunteers at our 17 national animal centres were Staffordshire bull terriers while a further 7% were Staffie-crosses (like Tyler, pictured).
“Labradors remain the most popular dog in the UK, according to Kennel Club registrations, but that isn’t something that is reflected in our figures with the breed appearing coming in 10th spot in our table. And German shepherds were the fourth most likely breed to end up in our care in 2016 while the Kennel Club says they were the seventh most popular dog breed for registrations during the same year.
“However, while the Kennel Club is seeing a huge rise in the number of French bulldogs being registered - expecting them to take top spot in their popularity list next year - the RSPCA isn’t seeing the same trend. This breed, although becoming more common in our centres than before, still only account for a tiny proportion of those dogs coming into our care. However, we are concerned that the costly health issues that many of them suffer from, due to the way they’ve been bred, could mean that we see more and more in the future.”
Among the breeds which the RSPCA takes in most often, the Staffordshire bull terrier holds the unenviable top spot. Second place goes to the Jack Russell terrier, with the Yorkshire terrier coming in third. Other breeds making the RSPCA’s top ten most rescued list include German Shepherd dogs, Border Collies, Rottweilers, Siberian Huskie and American bulldogs. However, some of the toy breeds which have become fashionable are beginning to feature on the list, with Shih Tzus as the fifth most often rescued breed the RSPCA takes in and Bichon Frises as the ninth.
“While the numbers are still smaller, we are beginning to see in increase in the number of Yorkshire terriers, shih tzus and bichon frises coming into our care than in previous years as the demand for ‘designer’ dogs like Yorkipoos and cavachons - using Yorkshire terriers and bichon frises to crossbreed - continue to soar in popularity,” Klare, assistant director of communications, added.
“As these fashionable crossbreeds become more popular, so too does the breeding of them become more lucrative, opening up an opportunity for exploitative, underground breeders and dealers to make money with very little concern or regard for the health and welfare of their dogs.
“When the RSPCA has investigated large-scale puppy farms in England and Wales in recent years, large numbers of these types of dogs and puppies have been seized.”
Most common breed (in RSPCA’s 17 national animal centres in 2016)
Staffordshire bull terrier 383
Jack russell terrier 149
Yorkshire terrier 67
German shepherd 61
Shih tzu 60
Border collie 54
Siberian husky / American bulldog (joint) 36
Bichon frise 32
Top registered breed (with Kennel Club) in 2016
Cocker spaniel 21,854
French bulldog 21,470
Springer spaniel 9,827
German shepherd 7,751
Golden retriever 7,232
Miniature schnauzer 5,437
Border terrier 5,150
“Our message here is clear and it’s irrespective of breed,” Klare added. “No matter what type, size, age of dog you are thinking of buying or rescuing, it’s imperative you do your research first and make sure you can commit to taking on that dog for the rest of his or her life.
“No dog deserves the neglect or cruelty which we see on a daily basis and much of that is caused by our failure to do research before we taken on a dog. Please visit the RSPCA website for more information and advice on taking on a dog and use the Puppy Contract to help ensure you buy a happy and healthy puppy: www.puppycontract.org.uk.”
The RSPCA can only rescue and rehome animals thanks to public donations. Text LOVE to 87023 to give £3 (Text costs £3 + one standard network rate message) or go to www.rspca.org.uk/give.