Labrador Retrievers still tug the hearts of American dog lovers the hardest, but Poodles have just returned to 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 on Tuesday, drawn from more than 800,000 purebred puppies and older pooches who joined the nation’s oldest canine registry last year.
With 197 recognized breeds, the list ranges from those familiar furry faces like Labs – No. 1 for an unprecedented 31 consecutive years – to the new Biewer terrier (debuting strongly at No. 82) and unusual puppies like the Hairless Xoloitzcuintli (#119).
For dog fans, there’s plenty to dig into (like a dachshund, #10) and point out (like a pointer, #120). So we’ve put together (like a border collie, #31) some highlights:
After Labs, the top 10 are: French Bulldogs, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, Poodles, Bulldogs, Beagles, Rottweilers, German Shorthaired Pointers and Dachshunds.
Poodles reigned as the top dog from 1960 to 1982 before waning somewhat in popularity. But in the new stats, they reclaimed fifth place for the first time since 1997. (Standard, miniature, and toy sizes are all counted as one breed.)
With their proud demeanor and elaborate cut in the show ring, “they have a reputation in some circles for just being frilly,” says the poodle’s longtime owner and sometimes breeder Page Hinds-Athan of Roswell, in Georgia. “There’s definitely more to them.”
Poodles were historically water scavengers, and they remain sporting animals renowned for their intelligence, 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 for the blind, hunters participate in agility or other canine sports.
With their intelligence comes high expectations, says Hinds-Athans: In training, “if you want to annoy them, you better be really right. Because if you’re not really fair with them, they remember.
Poodles are also part of several popular hybrids, such as Labradoodles, Maltipoos, and Sheepdogoodles. The AKC, a governing body for many dog shows, does not currently recognize any of these breeds. But AKC spokeswoman Brandi Hunter said fans of the poodle mix had been asking questions about what the recognition would entail.
A key requirement is to articulate an ideal for the breed, in order to achieve some consistency.
“Predictability is one of the things that draws people to purebred dogs,” says Hunter.
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ON THE RARE SIDE
Last year, the rarest breed was the Norwegian Lundehund, still rare in the United States. The little dogs have extra toes and an unusual flexibility that once helped them scale Norwegian cliffs to hunt puffins nesting in narrow crevices.
Rankings often don’t change much from year to year, but they do change over time. Eight breeds, from the low Pembroke Welsh corgi (#11) to the towering Great Dane (#17), have entered the top 25 since the turn of the century.
Some have made Olympic leaps in popularity. French bulldogs, now No. 2 and a common sight from television commercials to cosmopolitan streets, ranked 71st in 2000. The cane corso, which only gained recognition in 2010, has since dropped from 51st to 21st.
The imposing mastiff-style cane corso dates back centuries to rural Italy as a farm guardian who also pulled small carts and hunted wild boar. Its versatility lives on, says Anthony Simonski, who has owned or bred corsi (that’s the proper plural) that compete in agility, dock diving and other sports and have appeared on TV shows and music videos.
Although dogs are protective, “it’s not about being mean — it’s about understanding your 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 their growing popularity, believing that they attract questionable breeders.
“There’s a side to you that goes, ‘Oh, my God, the cat is out of the bag.’ But the real issue is what people do with that cat once it’s out of the bag,” he says.
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DOG BREEDING DEBATE
Some animal rights activists say dog breeding itself is a problem. They argue that fanciers focus more on the appearance of dogs than their health, and that the promotion of pure breeds ends up fueling puppy mills and tying up other dogs in shelters.
The AKC says it and its affiliated breed clubs advocate for and invest in dog health, including through an AKC-affiliated foundation. The club also argues that breeding well done has a purpose: to produce dogs with known traits, from size to the ability to sniff, that match different human needs and lifestyles.
New purebred registrations, which are voluntary, have increased 45% in a decade, the club says.