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Labrador retrievers have extended their record run as America’s most popular dog breed, leading the American Kennel Club’s new rankings for a 26th straight year.
But Rottweilers are enjoying renewed favor and some other dogs have been climbing the popularity ladder.
In 2013, Labs grabbed the record for the longest stretch at No. 1 — and they haven’t let go.
Affable, relatively easy to train and eager to please, they’re popular partly because “you don’t have to be an expert dog owner to own a Lab,” says AKC vice president Gina DiNardo.
But for those seeking more than a family pet, the breed has proved itself adept at everything from bomb sniffing to guiding the blind.
The rest of the top 10, in decreasing order of popularity:
The only breed to rank in the top 10 every decade since the AKC’s 1880s founding? The beagle.
The AKC doesn’t release raw numbers, only rankings. But DiNardo says the total number of registered dogs grew 8 percent in 2016.
The stats reflect puppies and other newly registered dogs in the AKC’s 189 recognized breeds. They don’t encompass the nation’s millions of mixed-breed dogs or such deliberate hybrids as Labradoodles and Maltipoos.
At No. 8, the Rottweiler posted its highest ranking in almost 20 years. Renowned for loyalty, confidence and protective instincts, Rotties were America’s second-most-popular dog in 1997 but faded to 17th within a decade, as some small breeds surged for a time.
But Rottweilers muscled their way back into the top 10 in 2015.
Alexandra Niles is among the new Rottweiler enthusiasts. Seeking a big, sturdy dog, she got Talos four years ago, promising his breeder she’d learn to show him.
He’s now a show champion, is working toward a therapy-dog certificate, and competes in obedience and other dog sports. He has even herded sheep.
As strong dogs with guardian tendencies, Rottweilers need good, early training, socialization, activities and their people’s companionship.
“They aren’t a breed for everyone,” says Niles, of Scotch Plains, New Jersey. “But whatever you put into them, they give back to you a millionfold.”
Several breeds in the top 10 have been there for a decade or more, but French bulldogs were ranked just 36th a decade ago. The quizzical, push-faced dogs had been out of the top 10 for nearly a century before making it back the past two years, while their larger bulldog cousins have hit their highest-ever ranking.
Some other breeds making sizable moves in the past decade include:
And keep an eye on the Belgian Malinois, which sprang from 90th to 47th as it became increasingly visible in the United States as a police dog.
Some rare breeds simply haven’t had much time to build a following. For instance, the Cesky terrier and the Sloughi earned AKC recognition only within the past 10 years. But last year’s scarcest breed was the venerable American foxhound, part of the AKC’s roster since 1886.
DiNardo encourages people to give rarer dogs a look. “Breeders are there, trying to preserve and protect those breeds,” she notes.
A breed’s popularity can reflect many other factors as well — anything from ease of grooming to exposure from celebrity owners.