Dog Breeds

A Labrador retriever emerges from the water with a toy at Valley Falls Park in Vernon, Connecticut.

NEW YORK (AP) — Labrador retrievers still reign supreme after a quarter-century as America’s most prevalent purebred dog.

But French bulldogs are riding their je ne sais quoi toward new heights. And some lesser-known breeds are climbing the popularity ladder, according to American Kennel Club rankings issued Monday.

The top 10

Known for being easygoing, multitalented and friendly, Labs have held the top spot for longer than any other breed since the AKC started counting in the 1880s. Rounding out the top 10 for 2015, in order: German shepherds, golden retrievers, bulldogs, beagles, French bulldogs, Yorkshire terriers, poodles, Rottweilers and boxers.

What to make of a list that includes both the toy Yorkie and the powerful Rottweiler?

Americans “like easy-to-care-for, fun family dogs,” whether that means big, strong animals that can protect or small pets with “big-dog personalities,” says AKC Vice President Gina DiNardo.

Gaining ground

French bulldogs moved from No. 9 to No. 6 last year and became the predominant purebred in Miami and San Francisco, having already conquered New York City. The droll little bat-eared bulldogs last peaked at No. 6 during the 1910s. They weren’t even top 50 as recently as 2002, but TV shows, movies and celebrity owners, including Martha Stewart, Hugh Jackman and Lady Gaga, have helped spur their renaissance.

What about the breed that won Westminster?

Winning the televised Westminster Kennel Club dog show can give a breed a bump in popularity. This past Tuesday’s best-in-show champ, CJ, is a German shorthaired pointer — a breed already quite popular at No. 11.

What’s in a ranking?

The stats reflect puppies and other newly registered dogs; the AKC doesn’t release raw numbers, only rankings. They don’t include mixed-breed dogs (or hybrids such as Labradoodles and maltipoos that aren’t AKC-recognized breeds).

Some animal-rights advocates feel the pursuit of purebreds fuels puppy mills and makes it harder to find homes for mixed-breeds now in shelters. The AKC says breed characteristics help people find the right dog to give a permanent home.

Who’s the rarest of them all?

The English foxhound is the rarest of the AKC’s 184 recognized breeds. Most of us also aren’t likely to run into a harrier, a Norwegian Lundehund, an American foxhound or an otterhound any time soon.

Popularity rises and falls on many factors, and trends can be self-perpetuating — the scarcer the breed, the fewer the puppies, and vice versa, DiNardo notes. She encourages would-be dog owners to consider both rare and familiar ones.

“You may want to be one of those people who helps protect and preserve a breed,” she said.

Top 10 breeds

The American Kennel Club issued its rankings of the nation’s most popular purebred dogs in 2015. The top 10:

1. Labrador retriever

2. German shepherd

3. Golden retriever

4. Bulldog

5. Beagle

6. French bulldog

7. Yorkshire terrier

8. Poodle

9. Rottweiler

10. Boxer

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