How those tiny little dogs won America’s heart

America is in love with little dogs.

The American Kennel Club is out with its latest rankings of the most popular dog breeds in the United States, which, among other things, shows the ascent of the French bulldog, a small scrunch-faced hound that generally weighs no more than 20-odd pounds. The breed, ninth most popular last year, cracked the Top 10 for the first time in more than 100 years, joining the beagle and Yorkshire terrier – the fifth and sixth most popular, respectively – as the only small(er) dog breeds to be among America’s favorites.

And it’s all part of a trend.

Back in the early 2000s, the U.S. was still a country content with medium to large dogs (which weigh more than 20 pounds and 40 pounds, respectively). But ever since then, the pet dog landscape has changed dramatically.

Since 1999, the number of big dogs has fallen by nearly 1 million pets, the number of medium-sized dogs has dipped by roughly 500,000 pets, and the small-pet dog population has grown by almost 15 million pets.

More than 50 percent of U.S. households have small dogs now, according to a recent survey by market research firm Packaged Facts.

Why are America’s pet lovers choosing to raise smaller and smaller dogs?

The clearest reason is likely tied to the national migration to urban areas. Almost 80 percent of the country now lives in cities and their surrounding areas, where space is harder to come by. It’s hardly coincidental that big dogs are much more popular in the South, where land is more plentiful.

“Smaller homes and apartments are helping drive the growing popularity of smaller dogs,” Damian Shore, an analyst at market-research firm Euromonitor, told Quartz last year.