If your dream dog is a French bulldog, you're not alone. The breed is on the rise in New Zealand - but the old favourites still rule the roost.

Statistics from the New Zealand Kennel Club (NZKC), the national association for breeders, show that out of 8000 purebred puppies registered last year, the Labrador retriever remains the 'top dog', as it has for several years. Runner-up is the German shepherd, followed by the Staffordshire bull terrier and English bulldog, the golden retriever, border collie and the trendy French bulldog.

"These are the most popular breeds by quite a big margin," says NZKC director Peter Dunne. "The Labrador is such a well-known dog and so loveable, while the bulldogs and French bulldogs have become popular. They are very good with children."

The Labrador is also the most popular dog in the UK but the French bulldog - which is not actually French at all, but a British invention - is coming close to usurping its long-held dominance.


NZKC canine health and welfare officer, veterinarian Becky Murphy, says the rise in popularity worldwide of "squashed-nose" breeds such as the French bulldog, shih tzu and pug is related to fashion "and it'll be different again in 10 years."

Celebrity French bulldogs Miss Olive and Lady Mabel of Sydney have their own Instagram page with more than 76,000 followers, and charge big bucks for "endorsement" of fashion products. Stars such as Chrissy Teigen, Lady Gaga, Hugh Jackman, Madonna and Reese Witherspoon are frequently photographed with their Frenchies, and the welfare of Carrie Fisher's bulldog Gary became the centre of concern after his owner passed away in December.

An academic study published in 2014 also showed that the release of movies featuring dogs is often associated with an increase in the popularity of those breeds in the US, for up to 10 years following the movie's release; the impact on breed popularity correlated with the estimated number of viewers during the movie's opening weekend.

Breeders introduce one or two new breeds to New Zealand each year. A new addition last year was the Coton de Tuléar, a small, white, fluffy dog originating from Madagascar.
"It's a beautiful-looking wee dog and if they can get it established I think it has great potential over time to become popular," says Dunne.

Dunne says another notable trend is for demand for "exotic colours" in dogs, such as blue, lavender and lilac. However, this fad may come at the cost to the dog's health and overall quality, if unscrupulous breeders select for colour only.

Overall dog registration figures for New Zealand also show the Labrador as the number one choice of Kiwis. Nearly 42,000 Labradors were registered throughout the country last year - one for every 10 registered dog owners.

Reflecting the dominance of working dogs here, the next most popular breed was the huntaway, followed by the border collie and heading dog. The Jack Russell and fox terrier took out fifth and sixth spots, followed by the German shepherd.

Figures from the New Zealand Companion Animal Council (NZCAC) show while 39 per cent of households have a mixed-breed dog, pure breeds (36 per cent) and dogs with registered pedigrees (18 per cent) are also highly popular. If you add in "designer breeds", such as labradoodles and chorkies (a chihuahua-Yorkshire terrier cross) at 7 per cent then the humble bitzer is looking a bit outnumbered.


Perhaps unsurprisingly, designer breeds are most popular with those aged 18-24 (10 per cent) and people living in Auckland (13 per cent), while registered pedigrees are most popular with people aged over 50, and purebreds with 35-49-year-olds with young children, living in the South Island (40 per cent).

Dave Allen, General Manager of pet food manufacturer Bombay Petfoods, producer of the Jimbo's brand, says the company has noted an increase in the popularity of bulldogs and features a British bulldog on some of its packaging and on company vehicles.

"In the end, though," he says, "fashions come and go; most people are just looking for a companion who they can love and who loves them."