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There just seems to be no stopping the Labrador Retriever!

For a record 28th year (2018), the versatile sporting breed reigns supreme on the American Kennel Club registry list, a run like no other breed has seen in the record books.

Changes in the Top Ten

Little changed in the Top Ten standings from 2017. Following the Lab are: 2, German Shepherd Dog; 3, Golden Retriever; 4, French Bulldog; 5, Bulldog; 6, Beagle; 7, Poodle; 8, Rottweiler; 9, German Shorthaired Pointer; 10, Yorkshire Terrier. All remained in their same spots from the previous year other than the last two, which swapped positions.

Breaking into the Top Ten ranks as a monumental move for the German Shorthaired Pointer, which has been quietly edging its way up the popularity list the past decade. The ninth-place position is its highest since becoming recognized in 1930. Conversely, the Yorkie dropped from No. 2 in 2008.

Three Pointer Puppies
The ninth-place German Shorthaired Pointer ranks at its highest position since becoming recognized in 1930.

While Labs aren’t No. 1 in all major U.S. cities, here are a few where they hold the top spot: Austin, Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, Fort Worth, Kansas City (Missouri), Jacksonville, Milwaukee, Nashville, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Portland (Oregon), Raleigh-Durham (North Carolina), San Antonio, St. Louis, Salt Lake City, and Seattle.

The 1970s marked the first appearance of the Labrador Retriever in the country’s Top Ten, and it has remained there since.

If you like statistical comparisons, here’s another good one: The No. 1 breed of the 1940s, the Cocker Spaniel, enjoyed a renaissance in ’80s, climbing back into the top spot from 1983-1990. That feat meant that it held the No. 1 position historically – 23 times – more than any other breed. Beginning in 1991, the Labrador Retriever began its uninterrupted reign atop the registry.

So What Makes the Labrador Retriever so Popular?

Three longtime breeders, Linda Maffett, of Bellingham, Washington; Judy Heim, of Turlock, California; and Erin Henlon-Hall, of Villa Ridge, Missouri, cite versatility, stable temperament, friendliness, trainability, and athleticism as just a few of its special qualities.

Maffett, a breeder since 1987, adds, “The qualities I focus on when placing my puppies in pet homes are the same as I am in looking for in a pup to keep for myself – temperament, temperament, temperament, and, of course, overall health and breed type.”

Heim, who started in Labradors 49 years ago, concurs, “We want a dog that is going into a home as a family dog. Hence the importance of temperament. Canines are social animals and will always live in a pack. If they are not living with a pack of dogs, their humans become their pack. It’s horrible for a dog to be put in the backyard to live its life in solitude. So we require that the dog be an indoor dog and part of the family. We put in our contract – and have the buyer initial the sentence that should he/she find the need to rehome the dog that it be returned to us.”

A Labs enthusiast since the ’70s, Henlon-Hall, adds, “This is a do-everything breed that needs to be with its humans. It personifies the definition of versatility – hunting, showing, family, dock diving, tracking, obedience. It’s as American as baseball, hot dogs, and apple pie.”

Ironically, while the American public has continued to show its love affair with the Labrador Retriever, the popular breed has never won a Best in Show in the Triple Crown of dog shows – Westminster, The National Dog Show, and the AKC National Championship.

Other Movers and Shakers

It’s no surprise that the Labrador Retriever, German Shepherd Dog, and Golden Retriever are America’s top three breeds for yet another year, positions they have held steady since the turn of the century. But the intriguing mover and shaker in the Top Ten in recent years is the French Bulldog, which has been ensconced in the No. 4 slot the past two years. It’s also the top dog in Honolulu, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City, Oakland, Orlando, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, Tampa, and West Palm Beach (Florida). The Frenchie entered the Top Ten in 2014 at No. 9 and has maintained a standing in that elite group since.

Five breeds that have made pronounced jumps in the past decade are the No. 13 Pembroke Welsh Corgi, from 24th; No. 14 Siberian Husky, from 23rd; and No. 15 Australian Shepherd, from 29th; No. 22 Bernese Mountain Dog, from 40th; No. 24 Havanese, from 36th.

Miniature American Shepherd
The Miniature American Shepherd ranked one position higher than it did in 2017, at number 34.

The Miniature American Shepherd presents one of the most eye-popping stories of all. Introduced to the Herding Group in July 2015, it is already 34th in popularity, one step up from its 2017 ranking, a feat seldom matched by new breeds who tend to gradually ascend the popularity ladder.

And there was movement afoot by some of the rarer breeds, too, in 2018. Pumik jumped 11 spots (162 to 151), Ibizan Hounds rose 13 positions (165 to 152), and Finnish Lapphunds moved up 12 notches (173 to 161). Following years of decline, four terriers moved up: Rat Terriers (97 to 86), Border Terriers (92 to 88), Bedlington Terriers (151 to 141) and Dandie Dinmont Terriers (181 to 176).

For the full list, go here.


Where Should You Look for a Labrador Retriever Puppy?

They’re popular for a reason. Check out the AKC Marketplace for trusted, AKC-registered breeders.
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