Labs still rule, but Frenchies are also ... Popular pups


Associated Press

NEW YORK

Americans still love Labrador retrievers, but the nation’s flirtation with French bulldogs has reached new heights.

Labs remain the country’s most popular purebred dog for a 27th year, while German shepherds and golden retrievers have hung onto the second and third spots in new American Kennel Club rankings released Wednesday.

But Frenchies hit an all-time high at No. 4, and German shorthaired pointers cracked the top 10 for the first time.

THE REST OF THE TOP 10

The bulldog is fifth, after notching a record No. 4 ranking last year. Sixth through 10th are the beagle, the poodle, the Rottweiler, the Yorkshire terrier and the German shorthaired pointer.

Initially bred for hunting, the handsome, athletic “GSP” is increasingly visible as a bomb-sniffing dog and in agility and other canine sports. A GSP also won the prestigious Westminster Kennel Club dog show in 2016.

“They’re a dog that will do anything you want, except lay around,” says Jeffrey Drogin, a longtime owner in New York.

The versatile, sociable Lab has had the longest reign as top dog. It broke the record in 2013.

But you can’t beat the beagle for consistency. It’s the only breed to make the top 10 for every decade since the AKC’s 1884 founding.

THE FRENCHIE SURGE

The French bulldog has bolted from 76th to fourth in just 20 years. It previously peaked at sixth in the 1910s and again in 2015-16.

Frenchie aficionados appreciate the interest but worry that it’s drawing unscrupulous breeders and under-informed owners.

“It scares me that because it’s popular, everybody wants it. But not every family is right for a French bulldog,” says Kerry Boyd, a Natick, Mass.-based dog handler who breeds Frenchies.

The downsized bulldogs with the pointed ears and funny expressions have become favorites of city dwellers who value compact, relatively quiet dogs.

“I would say to anybody purchasing a breed of any kind: Do their homework,” says veterinarian Dr. John de Jong, president-elect of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

OTHER MOVERS

The Siberian husky and Australian shepherd have jumped into the top 20 in the past decade. The Chihuahua, pug and Maltese have tumbled out.

THE RAREST BREED

It’s the Norwegian lundehund, a six-toed, unusually flexible dog that historically hunted cliff-dwelling puffins.

DOODLES, MIXES AND THE BIG PICTURE

The rankings reflect puppies and other dogs newly registered in 2017. The AKC, the nation’s oldest purebred dog registry, doesn’t release raw numbers of dogs.

The club doesn’t chart such popular hybrids as Labradoodles and puggles, nor other mixed-breed dogs. However, they can register as AKC “canine partners” for dog sports.

Overall, the AVMA estimates there are about 70 million pet dogs nationwide (and over 74 million pet cats.)

THE DEBATE

Whatever the rankings, animal-rights activists say purebred fads drive puppy mills, consign other dogs to shelters and prioritize looks over health.

Breeders such as Boyd say they spend thousands of dollars on testing to propagate healthy dogs. The AKC argues that breeding preserves specific traits that can help police pick K-9s or households choose suitable pets.

Whether purebred or mixed breed, “the most important thing is that you love the dog that’s yours and that you responsibly own it and care for it,” says AKC spokeswoman Gina DiNardo.

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