Labrador retrievers still tug at the hearts of US dog lovers hardest, but poodles just strutted back into the American Kennel Club’s five most popular dog breeds for the first time in nearly a quarter century.
The club’s annual popularity rankings are released Tuesday and are drawn from more than 800,000 purebred puppies and senior pooches entered into the nation’s oldest canine registry last year.
With 197 recognized breeds, the list ranges from such familiar furry faces as Labs – No. 1 for an unprecedented 31 straight years – to the newly added Biewer Terrier (making a strong debut at No. 82) and unusual puppies like the hairless Xoloitzcuintli (# 119).
For dog fans, there’s plenty to explore (like a dachshund, #10) and point out (like a pointer, #120). So we (like a border collie, #31) have summarized some highlights:
According to Labs, the top 10 are: French Bulldogs, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, Poodles, Bulldogs, Beagles, Rottweilers, German Shorthaired Pointers, and Dachshunds.
Masses of poodles
Poodles reigned as the top dog from 1960 to 1982 before losing some of their popularity. But in the new stats, they reclaimed fifth place for the first time since 1997. (The Standard, Miniature, and Toy sizes are all counted as one race.)
With their proud demeanor and elaborate trim in the show ring, “they have a reputation in some circles for just being froufrou,” says longtime poodle owner and occasional breeder Page Hinds-Athan of Roswell, Georgia. “There’s definitely more to do for you.”
Poodles were historically water retrievers, and they remain athletic animals known for their smarts, not to mention their allergy-friendly coats. Hinds-Athan poodles have made therapy visits to hospitals and compete in obedience. Other poodles work as guide dogs, hunters, and compete in agility and other canine sports.
Her intelligence comes with some high expectations, says Hinds-Athans: “If you’re making a fuss about her in training, you’d better be right. Because if you’re not really fair to them, they’ll remember it.”
Poodles are also part of several popular hybrids such as Labradoodles, Maltipoos, and Sheepoodles. The AKC, a governing body for many dog shows, does not currently recognize any of these as breeds. But AKC spokeswoman Brandi Hunter says poodle mix fans did some research into what recognition would mean.
A key requirement is the formulation of an ideal for the breed to achieve some consistency.
“Predictability is one of the things that draws people to purebred dogs,” explains Hunter.
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ON THE RARE SIDE
The rarest breed over the past year was the Norwegian Lundehund, which is consistently scarce in the US. The smaller dogs have extra toes and an unusual flexibility that once helped them scale Norwegian cliffs to hunt puffins that nest in narrow crevices.
RACES ON THE RISE
The rankings often don’t change much from year to year, but they do over time. Eight breeds, from the low-lying Welsh Pembroke Corgi (No. 11) to the towering Great Dane (No. 17), have made the top 25 since the beginning of the century.
Some have made Olympic leaps in popularity. French bulldogs, now number 2 and a common sight from television commercials to cosmopolitan streets, ranked a distant 71st in 2000. The Cane Corso, which was only recognized in 2010, has since climbed from 51st to 21st place.
The imposing Mastiff-style Cane Corso dates back many centuries to rural Italy as a farm guard who also pulled small carts and hunted wild boar. Its versatility remains, says Anthony Simonski, who has owned or bred Corsi (that’s the correct plural) who compete in agility, dock diving and other sports, and have appeared in television shows and music videos.
While the dogs are protective, “it’s not about being mean — it’s about understanding their job,” says Simonski of Acworth, Georgia.
Simonski has owned corsi since 1998 and is married to Cane Corso Association of America President Rebecca Simonski. He has mixed feelings about her growing popularity and feels that she is attracting questionable breeders.
“There’s a side of you that’s like, ‘Oh my god, the cat’s out of the bag.’ But the real problem is what people do with that cat once it’s out of the bag,” he says.
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DOG BREEDING DEBATES
Some animal rights activists say dog breeding itself is a problem. They argue that breeders focus more on dogs’ looks than their health, and that promoting purebreds is fueling puppy mills and leaving other dogs stranded in shelters.
The AKC says it and its affiliated breed clubs champion and invest in canine health, including through an AKC-affiliated foundation. The club also claims that breeding done properly has one purpose: to produce dogs with known characteristics, from size to sniffing ability, that suit diverse human needs and lifestyles.
New purebred registrations, which are voluntary, are up 45% in a decade, the club says.