Labrador Retriever retains the crown as most-popular dog breed

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If dogs are man's best friends, the Labrador Retriever is specifically man's favorite breed, at least in America. According to the newly-released American Kennel Club (AKC) breed registration data for 2013, for the 23rd consecutive year Labs are the most popular of 177 purebred dogs.

Poodles (including all varieties: toys, miniature and standard) ranked No. 1 from 1959 to 1983. The American Cocker Spaniel took over the top spot for seven straight years, then the Lab dynasty began in 1990.

For the third straight year, according to the AKC, German Shepherds rank No. 2 in popularity. Golden Retrievers and Beagles rank No. 3 and No. 4, respectively.

The Bulldog, one of the trendiest breeds today, placed 5th on the AKC list for the second straight year. In 2003, Bulldogs were down at No. 16, and 15 years ago they ranked No. 26.

If there's one trend indicated by the rankings, it's the rising popularity of big dogs. The Rottweiller ranked as high as No. 2 in the early 1990s, but 10 years later had dropped to around 15. Now it's back to No. 9 (for the second straight year).

Other examples of big-dog mania abound: The Doberman Pinscher was No. 22 in 2003, and today settles in at a respectable No. 12 on the AKC list. The German Shorthaired Pointer was at No. 21 in 2003, and now ranks 13, followed by the Siberian Husky (now at No. 14), which was back at No. 23 in 2003.

The Burnese (cq) Mountain Dog was hovering at the lower end of the pack, ranked as only the 73rd most popular AKC breed in 1998. Today, the sometimes 100-pound pet has risen to No. 32. None come larger than the Great Dane, now at No. 16 on the AKC list, climbing from No. 33 15 years ago.

Meanwhile, some more diminutive dogs have fallen in popularity. The Shih Tzu hit its high at No. 7 in 1998; now this breed is back at No.15. Perhaps, it's the snoring, but the Pug has fallen to No. 31 on the AKC list (down from 12 in 2003).

While the Yorkshire Terrier continues to hold on to its No. 6 ranking for the second straight year, Chihuahuas have fallen to No. 22 from their all-time high No. 10 in 2003. With so many Chihuahuas and Chihuahua mixes in shelters, particularly in California, the drop in popularity may help reduce the number of animals looking for homes.

Of course, this survey covers only purebred dogs, and only those registered by the AKC, America's largest registry. There's little doubt that the true king of dogs is the mutt, whose numbers far exceed Labs.

The trendiest of those mixed-breeds are the so-called "designer breeds," such as Labradoodles or Puggles. Yet, the most popular "mutt-types" are those referred to as pit bulls.

These mixed breeds with a "pit look" aren't included in the AKC numbers, but true "bully breed" pedigreed dogs are doing just fine by the AKC numbers. Bull Terriers are ranked at No. 52 in popularity, up from No. 72 in 2003. The Staffordshire Bull Terrier has jumped to No. 79, far above its No. 92 ranking in 2003. The American Staffordshire, however, is down to No. 76 compared to 64th in 2003.

Some of the smaller breeds are among the hottest. The Havanese, a spritely little relative of the Bichon Frise with a soft curly coat, now ranked at No. 25, appeared from obscurity at No. 75 in 2001. Another apparently "cool" breed is a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, now ranked at No. 18, up from No. 70 in 1997. The fox-looking Shiba Inu, ranked No. 62 in 2003, has jumped to No. 46.

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(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; he also hosts the nationally syndicated "Steve Dale's Pet World" and "The Pet Minute." He's also a contributing editor to USA Weekend.)

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