French bulldogs are on track to end labrador retrievers' three-decade reign as top dog in the United States, the American Kennel Club said Tuesday.

The squat, flat-faced pooches commonly called "Frenchies" jumped from fourth to second place in the club's most popular dog rankings last year.

The cute canines with their bat-like ears bumped German shepherds from second – a position they had held since 2009 – to third spot. Frenchies also overtook golden retrievers.

Labradors were America's most popular purebreds in 2020 for the 30th consecutive year, based on registrations.

But the American Kennel Club said it was only a matter of time before French bulldogs top the popularity contest.

"The playful, adaptable Frenchie has become increasingly popular over the past decade and shows no signs of slowing down," executive secretary Gina DiNardo said in a press release.

Labradors were America's most popular purebreds in 2020 for the 30th consecutive year. Photo: Johannes Eisele/AFPLabradors were America's most popular purebreds in 2020 for the 30th consecutive year. Photo: Johannes Eisele/AFP

"(It) seems poised to end the Lab's reign."

The popularity of French bulldogs, which are typically just 30 centimetres tall and weigh under 12 kilograms, has soared in part because of celebrity ownership.

Last month, Lady Gaga's two Frenchies were stolen at gunpoint in Los Angeles before being found after she offered $500,000 for their safe return.

The American Kennel Club's list does not include mixed breeds.

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