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There just seems to be no stopping the Labrador Retriever!

For a record 29th year (2019), 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 2018. Following the Lab are: 2, German Shepherd Dog; 3, Golden Retriever; 4, French Bulldog; 5, Bulldog; 6, Poodle; 7, Beagle; 8, Rottweiler; 9, German Shorthaired Pointer; 10, Pembroke Welsh Corgi. Most remained in their same spots from the previous year—other than the Poodle and Beagle, which swapped positions, and the Pembroke Welsh Corgi, which knocked the Yorkshire Terrier from the No. 10 spot.

This marks the first time the Pembroke Welsh Corgi has ever made it into the top 10. For the second year in a row, the German Shorthaired Pointer also remains in the top 10. The ninth-place position is its highest since becoming recognized in 1930. Conversely, the Yorkie dropped from No. 2 in 2008.

The 1970s marked the first appearance of the Labrador Retriever in the country’s top ten, and it has remained there since. While Labs aren’t No. 1 in all major U.S. cities, they hold the hot spot in many places.

And if you like statistical comparisons, here’s another good one: The No. 1 breed of the 1940s, the Cocker Spaniel, enjoyed a renaissance in the ’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.

wundervisuals/Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

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 Lab 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.”

Interestingly, 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.

Two Labrador Retriever puppies playing with a decoy outdoors.
©Field Dog Imagery

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. They’ve all held those positions 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 three years. It’s also the top dog in Los Angeles, Miami, New York City, Philadelphia, San Francisco, 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. 15 Siberian Husky, from 22nd; and No. 13 Australian Shepherd, from 28th; No. 23 Bernese Mountain Dog, from 39th; and No. 22 Havanese, from 32nd.

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 29th in popularity, five steps up from its 2018 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 2019. Icelandic Sheepdogs jumped from 156 to 132, Italian Greyhounds from 73 to 67, Giant Schnauzers from 78 to 71, Russell Terriers from 82 to 75, Chinooks from 191 to 184, and Otterhounds from 183 to 172.

Check out the full list.
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