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11/29/12

America's Most Popular Dogs


Bo, the Portuguese Water Dog greeted this weekend by the Obamas, may be lapping up the limelight, but the Labrador Retriever is most Americans' top dog.

Other favorites include the Yorkshire Terrier, German Shepherd, Golden Retriever, Beagle, Boxer, Dachshund, Bulldog, Poodle and Shih Tzu, according to the American Kennel Club's recent report of the country's Top 10 dog breeds. Rankings are based on the breeds most registered in the U.S.

"The list reflects the times," says Sarah Wilson, expert for PBS' Why We Love Cats and Dogs. "These dogs are friendly and happy and love to lie on their owner's lap. People want a dog that is a companion and [that] they can cuddle with."

That's expected to be the case with Bo, a breed of dog that's "very spirited and energetic," says Daisy Okas, assistant vice president of communications at the American Kennel Club. Bred Portuguese Water Dogs typically sell for between $1,800 and $2,500 and grow to weigh about 35 to 60 pounds, depending on sex. Such relatively small dogs are popular among today's owners. In fact, downsizing dogs is one of the animal world's biggest trends, as pups less than 20 pounds account for half the dogs on the list.

One of the most noteworthy of these small breeds is the bulldog, which made the No. 8 spot in 2009. After 70 years at a lower ranking, the Bulldog returned to the top 10 list just last year. The bulldog is especially popular in Las Vegas, where it ranks second in popularity, as well as Boston and Orlando, where it ranks third.

The bulldog, known for its adaptive nature and love of people, makes a great family pet, says Lisa Peterson, spokesperson for the American Kennel Cub (AKC). Since they don't require a lot of exercise, bulldogs are ideal for owners with busy schedules or those who prefer watching television to going for a hike.

But the biggest trend in the canine world can't be found at Westminster or on AKC's list. There has been a growing interest in mixed breeds and rescue dogs. 

"The chic thing to do is adopt a dog," Wilson says. "Saving a life and helping an animal in need is a sign of the times."

What's also a sign of the times is the sheer number of breeds available to dog lovers. When the AKC was established in 1884, it registered just nine breeds; today, it recognizes 161.

The Pointer and Chesapeake Bay Retriever were the original top two dogs. The others on that 1884 list of breeds--the English Setter, Gordon Setter, Irish Setter, Clumber Spaniel, Cocker Spaniel and Irish Water Spaniel--are all currently members of the sporting group, a classification for dogs bred to help man find and retrieve game.

Today, dogs fill a different need--they act primarily as companions. A U.S. family today is more likely to have a dog than to have children. Wilson attributes this statistic to America's aging population.

Despite the economy, people continue to indulge their pets. Spending on pet supplies and over-the-counter medicines for pets is projected to have increased 5.1% last year to $10.3 billion, according to the American Pet Products Association.

"No matter how tough the times get, there is still a sense of security when it comes to dogs," says Jason Taylor, external relations manager at P&G Pet Care/Eukanuba. "The pet industry is pretty resilient, since they are so much a part of our lives."
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