Wanna Join My Puppy Pile?

Golden Retriever Puppies
Credit: coachrubi / morguefile.com

Like all puppies, these infant Golden Retrievers prefer to take their naps in a "puppy pile."

The American Kennel Club's (AKC) annual survey of registrations for 2012[1] is little changed over 2011's results, but comparison with 2002 shows some interesting long-term trends. So, where does your pooch fall in the popularity parade?

The List:

DachshundCredit: Nesstor4u2 / morguefile.com10)  Coming in at number ten on the list is everybody's favorite wiener dog, the Dachshund. Considered part of the hound group by the AKC and the scenthound group by the United Kennel Club (UKC), the elongate, short-legged dog is a favorite family pet. Dachshunds have a variety of coats, of which the short-haired and long-haired are most common. They're also bred in both standard and miniature sizes. The breed was number five in the 2002 standings, dropped to number nine in 2011, and was bumped to tenth place this year.

9)  Vaulting the dachshund (which, when you think about it, isn't difficult) to number nine in the standings is the Rottweiler. Despite his fearsome appearance, a properly-trained Rottweiler is a loyal frienRottweilerCredit: wikimedia commonsd and makes a good guard dog, as the breed is markedly territorial. Poor or no training and deliberate anti-socialization by indiscriminate owners has given the breed an undeserved poor reputation; when properly socialized "Rotties" make excellent family pets and can be depended upon to protect their homes and families. In recent years, the ranking of this muscular, black-and-tan member of AKC's working group has risen from 15th in 2007 to 10th in 2011. After the German Shepherd, this is the most popular breed in Detroit and Miami[2].

PoodleCredit: bill, king of the squizzies / wikimedia commons

8)  In eight place, right where it's been for the past ten years, is the poodle. Available in a variety of sizes and colors, this breed is a perennial favorite among dog owners. The breed is subdivided into Standard, Miniature and Toy Poodles depending on the dog's height at the shoulders. More than 15 inches tall is a standard, less than 10 inches is a toy, and 10 to 15 inches is a miniature. The breed is renowned for its intelligence and the manner in which it responds to obedience and agility training. In recent years, breeders have begun crossing standard poodles with Labrador or Golden Retrievers to produce "Labradoodles" and "Golden Doodles." The ideal cross retains the intelligence of the Poodle and the good nature of the retriever. This is the second most popular breed in Washington, D. C.


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The List, Continued:

BoxerCredit: JulesInKY/ morguefile.com7) Another perennial favorite sits in seventh place, the Boxer. He's been in this position for most of the past ten years, with a brief bump up to sixth in 2007. The short-haired breed is friendly and affectionate and fond of children. The self-confident, energetic breed is protective of his "pack," making him a good choice of pet for families with children. His short coat makes him low-maintenance, though he does require daily exercise. Boxers are in the top five choices of residents in many large U. S. cities.

Yorkshire TerrierCredit: Jade / morguefile.com6)
Yorkshire Terriers climbed from sixth most-popular in 2002 to second place in 2007, but have returned to sixth for 2012. The Yorkie, as they're known, is the highest-placed toy breed in the 2012 rankings. Originally bred to chase rats in the clothing mills of England, the Yorkie has retired from the working class to become more a dog of leisure. Yorkshire Terriers are distinguished by their long, silky coats and their small size (rarely more than seven pounds). They are friendly and intelligent. The luxurious coat needs frequent attention both from owners and groomers, but Yorkies can thrive without the frequent exercise required by larger dogs.

Number 5: Bulldogs are Climbing Fast

No, It's not Sir Winston Churchill: It's a Bulldog
Credit: taliesin / morguefile.com

The (English) Bulldog has been climbing the charts in recent years; as has his bat-eared French cousin.

5)  Bulldogs have been charging up the AKC rankings during the past ten years, starting at position 18 in 2002 and climbing all the way to fifth place for 2012. The lovable flat-faced fellow with his bowlegged gait has gained great favor as a family pet because of the breed's gentle nature and stout, cuddly physique. The Bulldog has a short coat that's low-maintenance, and does not require as much exercise as some of the other large breeds. Bulldogs are popular in Texas, where they hold down the number two spot in both Dallas and Houston[2]; which may be curious since the breed's short face makes them prone to overheating. The smaller, bat-eared French Bulldog is a near relative, but is not included in the statistics for the larger breed, which is called an English Bulldog by the UKC - perhaps because of a striking resemblance to Winston Churchill.

In Fourth Place: It's Snoopy!

The Beagle
Credit: wikimedia commons

The floppy-eared Beagle is the smallest dog in the top five, though probably not if you measure his capacity for fun (or his voice).

4)  The highest-ranked small dog for 2012 is that lovable little baying rabbit-chaser, the Beagle. Though usually identified with Charlie Brown's pet Snoopy, Beagles aren't necessarily great authors or WWI fighter pilots. Instead, they make excellent hunting dogs; and also become fine family pets. Both cheerful and friendly, the Beagle has a reputation for getting into mischief, especially when playing with other dogs. The breed has a high energy level that requires daily exercise, but his short coat requires little in the way of grooming. The AKC recognizes two sizes, a 13-inch and a 15-inch variety. Though typically red, white, and yellow; beagles can be any hound color. They're easily recognized by their large, floppy ears and a short, flag-like tail that is usually upright with a slight curve. The Beagle has held one of the top five spots consistently for a decade; and is the third most popular breed in the Raleigh-Durham area.

Number Three is Golden

The Golden Retriever
Credit: scott beckner / wikimedia commons

The Golden Retriever has been firmly in the top five dogs for more than a decade.

3) Consistently in the AKC's top five all throughout the past decade, the Golden Retriever remains a fan favorite due to its gentle, affectionate nature. The Golden is considered a sporting breed (a gun dog by the UKC) and is typically used for bird hunting, especially waterfowl, because of its insulating double coat and soft mouth. Blessed with a friendly nature and a willingness to work, Goldens are often pressed into service as guide dogs for the blind and in other service applications. The long double coat requires frequent brushing and can shed heavily in spring, making the breed somewhat higher-maintenance than some other retrievers. Like other hunting dogs, the Golden Retriever requires daily exercise to thrive; though an even temper and affectionate nature make both brushing and daily play or walks enjoyable for both human and dog. In color, the animal may range from nearly white to a deep reddish-gold.

Achtung! Number Two Has Ways of Making You Talk!

German Shepherd Dog
Credit: Aksel07 / wikimedia commons

The German Shepherd is perhaps best known for his duties on guard and working with the police.

2) Another consistent top-five choice of American dog owners is the German Shepherd Dog. Familiar to many as a guardian or the canine companion of both civilian and military policemen, the German Shepherd is also kept as a family pet (for reference, see Rin-Tin-Tin). The breed is the largest of the top ten, with a mature height of 22 to 26 inches at the shoulders and a weight of 90-140 pounds. A properly trained specimen is loyal and well behaved, and will protect family members and territory as assigned. Like Rottweilers, a German Shepherd is cautious about strangers, and proper "introductions" must be made to ensure that the dog becomes familiar with any newcomers. As are Golden Retrievers, Shepherds are often used for service and guide animals. The breed is the most popular dog in several cities in the Great Lakes region - Chicago, Detroit, and  Buffalo - and in Cincinnati and Miami. In most other large cities across the U. S., it is one of the top five. Note, however, that the AKC does not differentiate between registrations of family pets and guard or service animals.

The Winner and Still Champion: The Labrador Retriever

Labrador Retriever
Credit: heyjude / morguefile.com

His friendly, affectionate nature and intelligence have helped keep the Labrador Retriever in the number one position on the AKC list for more than two decades.

1) Holding down the number one position for the twenty-second year in a row, let's give it up for the Labrador Retriever (the favorite dog in the 2labz household). The breed is the triple threat of the canine world. While originally bred to be a bird hunting companion - its short coat is double-layered to shed water and its mouth is shaped for cradling downed waterfowl - the Lab has also managed to gain great favor as a family pet in recent decades. Available in three basic colors - black, yellow, and chocolate -  the Labrador is a playful, energetic, affectionate, intelligent breed with an engaging personality. In addition, this eager-to-please breed is often  trained for search and rescue operations, as a narcotics or explosive detector, and as a guide or service dog. The breed sheds lightly, but will benefit from daily brushings to keep the coat conditioned. Like other hunting dogs, a Labrador Retriever is happiest with regular exercise, and will quickly bond with his human family.

Closing Thoughts

Some trends to watch: the Chihuahua plummeted from 9th place in 2002 to 18th in 2012 - I blame the breed's drooping popularity on Paris Hilton and Taco Bell, myself.  In general, small dogs are dropping in popularity, being supplanted by medium and large dogs, especially the bulldog. The (Jack) Russell Terrier, first recognized as a breed by the AKC in 2012, made an astounding 45th place entrance, on a list that also includes such breeds as the Komodorok, the Plotts, and the Cesky Terrier.

Note that the rankings reflect dogs that breeders or owners have registered with the AKC, and are neither a count of births nor of living dogs. And, of course, perhaps the most popular dog in the country - the mutt - isn't included at all.

Note: the list of top ten remains unchanged for 2013, published 31 January 2014.