And the results are in…the American Kennel Club has just announced the popularity rankings for dog breeds in the US. The top spot is still held by the longstanding favorite – the Labrador Retriever. This year, they faced some stiff competition from French Bull Dogs and a surge in popularity by Poodles. Labrador Retrievers have held the top spot for an unrivaled 31 years now placing them firmly in the category of our nation’s all-time favorite pooch. Their heart-melting good looks and easy-going (but a little goofy) personality have the US take this breed into their hearts and homes for over three decades.
The eagerly awaited rankings are based on the sales of a staggering 800,000 pups over the last 12 months. These days, more families have a dog than children in the US and many more of us became dog owners during the COVID-19 pandemic as we turned to our four-legged friends to get us through a difficult period in our lives. A total of 197 breeds are admitted to the rankings this year. As well as familiar names that you will recognize such as the Beagle and the Yorkshire Terrier, there are also some rarer breeds including the Pumik and the Canaan Dogs.
The Breeds Making the Headline Moves in 2021
So, which breeds have grabbed the headlines by moving up the rankings last year? The pooch that’s grabbing all the headlines is the Poodle! This highly intelligent breed has been out of the top 5 since 1997 but has stormed back up the rankings to take the number 5 slot, squeezing out the Bulldogs and the Beagles.
This is not the first time that Poodles have topped the popularity charts as AP News reports. They were the most popular breed between 1960 and 1982 before their popularity died off. In this pooch popularity contest, the standard, miniature, and toy Poodles are all counted as just one breed.
What do we know about this resurging breed? As Poodle fan Page Hinds-Athan from Roswell in Georgia puts it, “they do have a reputation, in some circles, as just being froufrou.” This is partly due to their elaborate grooming in some cases and their frequent appearances posing in dog show rings. If you delve deeper into the history of the breed, there is a lot more to learn. They were bred initially to retrieve game from open water and still retain the high intelligence of a working dog. This is why they are popular in obedience and agility competitions and work as guide dogs for the blind and therapy dogs. Their non-shedding coat and the fact that they are not so likely to trigger allergies in humans is also probably behind their newfound popularity.
Poodle mixes (the Doodles) are increasingly popular thanks to the low-shedding and intelligence characteristics that the Poodle brings to the mix. Even though these mixed breeds are not recognized by the AKC, some Poodles may have been purchased because people are planning to use them for breeding.
Other Breeds on the Way Up
In general, the rankings remain fairly constant from year to year with a few notable exceptions. Some breeds come into fashion and the role of dog influencers needs to be acknowledged here. The Poodle is not the only breed moving up the charts.
In recent years, the French Bull Dog has become increasingly popular. In 2000, they were way down in the 71st position and were largely unknown to most families. Things have changed a lot for this breed over the last 20 years. They are now seen every day on social media and in TV commercials and this may have contributed to their popularity and the number 2 position that they now enjoy.
Perhaps more surprising is the rise in popularity of the Cane Corso. This breed was not even recognized by the AKC until 2010 but it is now in 51st place above more well-known breeds like the Whippets and Bull Terriers. This does not mean, however, that the Cane Corso is a new breed, quite the opposite is true. They were popular in the rural parts of Italy many hundreds of years ago when they were used as guard dogs for farming communities. Their mastiff-like looks and power also meant that they were useful for pulling small carts and even hunting wild boars. The breed has long-standing fans including Anthony Simonski from Acworth, Georgia who told AP News, “it’s not about being mean – it’s about understanding its job.” He has been breeding Cane Corso dogs for some time and is a fan of their versatility and agility which allows them to excel in many dog sports. They are also increasingly being seen in commercials and music videos. His wife, Rebecca Simonski, is the president of the American Cane Corso Association and the pair have some reservations about the breed’s newfound popularity. They fear that it could encourage breeders with questionable practices. As Sominski puts it “There’s a side of you going, ‘Oh, my God, the cat’s out of the bag.’ But the real problem is what people are doing with that cat once it’s out of the bag.
Breeds at the Bottom of the Ranking List
The two bottom spots are occupied by the English Foxhound and the Norwegian Lundehunds. These two breeds are not very well known in the US and pups are not that easy to get hold of.
The English Foxhound has all the attributes of a companion dog but has never made the transition from working hound to popular pet. It’s not clear why this is but their need for a lot of exercises every day and their tendency to be quite vocal may have something to do with it.
Then there is the Norwegian Lundehund who are bizarrely known as the sea parrot in their native Norway and who were bred to hunt puffins – a skill that is not very in-demand today but was highly prized by ancient farmers who relied on the bird as an important source of food.