Labrador Retrievers continue their hold as America's most popular dog, according to 2012 registration data from the American Kennel Club (AKC). The Labrador Retriever dynasty began back in 1990, then overtaking the American Cocker Spaniel (today ranked No. 27 on the AKC list) as top dog.
No doubt, Labradors continue to rank on top because of their generally amiable personality and versatility. Labs are legendary for being terrific with children, and they can also work as search-and-rescue or service dogs, such as guide dogs for the visually impaired.
Rin Tin Tin.
Admittedly, the ranking of any breed can be a bit misleading since overall purebred AKC registrations have been on the decline for several years. Increasingly, people are either adopting mixed-breed dogs from animal shelters, and/or simply not seeing the value of registering their purebred dogs.
In recent years, the Beagle and Golden Retriever have gone back and forth as the third and fourth most popular breeds. In 2012, the Golden ranked third and the Beagle fourth.
Clearly, Bulldogs, now settling in as the fifth most popular breed, have a long list of "issues" are inherent with the breed, ranging from lots of drooling and snoring to a predisposition for serious illnesses, such as severe allergies, various eye-related issues, severe arthritis and trachea problems.
In 2009, as Bulldogs were in the midst of a meteoric rise in popularity, one veterinarian wondered out loud in a publication for colleagues: "It's not that no one should own the breed, but (as Bulldogs become more popular) will people have the financial resources to care for them?"
Indeed, few Bulldogs sail through life without an assortment of health problems. However, one might suggest if you can afford to buy one in the first place, perhaps you can also afford a lifetime of medical care. Since Bulldogs are all born cesarean (due to that oversized head), buying one (from a reliable breeder) will set you back at least $3,000, and likely more.
The fifth most popular breed today, Bulldogs are up from No. 21 on the AKC chart 12 years ago. Each year in the past dozen, they have moved up in popularity.
Boxers are another breed on the rise, seemingly rediscovered. Back in the '70s and '80s, Boxers were among the most popular family dogs, entrenched in the Top 10. They fell to No. 17 in 1993 before their turnaround, again cracking the Top 10 in 2000 and slowly rising ever since. Today, Boxers are the seventh most popular breed.
At No. 6 is the Yorkshire Terrier, and rounding out the Top 10 are Poodles at No. 8, Rottweilers at No. 9 and Dachshunds at No. 10.
While clearly the Bulldog and Boxer are enjoying a resurgence, the trendiest breed of all is the little Havanese. This relative of the Bichon Frise is today the 28th most popular AKC breed, up from No. 92, barely on the radar, 12 years ago.
In general, at least some small breeds have enjoyed increased popularity over the past 15-20 years. The Havanese is playful and fun, if not downright funny. This is also one of the breeds some people with allergies can more easily tolerate.
One surprise is the comeback of two big dogs. In 2012, Mastiffs moved up to No. 26 from No. 34 over the past decade. Similarly, the Bullmastiff is now at No. 39, up from No. 47 a decade ago.
Also enjoying increased popularity are the so-called "bully breeds." Even as some communities continue to ban any dog that might be deemed a pit bull-type dog, in the past decade Bull Terriers jumped from No. 79 in popularity to their current position at No. 51. Staffordshire Bull Terriers, struggling to stay within the top 100 (at No. 91) a decade ago, and are now at No. 76 and rising. Miniature Bull Terriers has also gone from No. 132 on the AKC chart 10 years ago to No. 126 today.
In all, there are 175 listed AKC breeds. Fox hunting is (happily) not all too common these days. Among the bottom five breeds, three are fox hunters. No.171 is the Harrier, the American Foxhound is No. 172, and the English Foxhound is No. 175. (No. 173 is the Norwegian Lundehund, and No. 174 is the Cesky Terrier).
THE TOP 10
1. Labrador Retrieve
2. German Shepherd
3. Golden Retriever
6. Yorkshire Terrier
(Steve Dale welcomes questions/comments from readers. Although he can't answer all of them individually, he'll answer those of general interest in his column Send e-mail to PETWORLD(at)STEVE DALE.TV. Include your name, city and state. Steve's website is http://www.stevedalepetworld.com; he also hosts the nationally syndicated "Steve Dale's Pet World" and "The Pet Minute." He's also a contributing editor to USA Weekend.)