On a trip to the dog park, you’ll see that America’s dogs are as diverse as the country itself. But you’ll also notice that some dogs are far more popular than others. Every year, the American Kennel Club compiles a list of the most popular dog breeds in the USA.
The winners vary a bit from year to year, but certain mainstays dominate the list repeatedly. This year’s list had some movers on the board, but the top 5 were unchanged from the previous year’s.
Coming in at #5 for the second consecutive year is the Beagle. This medium-sized, fun and lovable dog has been an American staple for decades. President Lyndon Johnson had two Beagles – “Him” and “Her” – that he often walked the White House grounds with and showed off to visitors and reporters. Singer Barry Manilow is a noted Beagle lover, and the famous Peanuts cartoon dog Snoopy is a Beagle – though he doesn’t look quite like a real-life Beagle.
The Beagle is described as a loving, friendly, happy, and easygoing companion. Part of the AKC Hound category, the breed was first recognized in 1885 and has been a favorite for more than a century. Beagles feature as many as 11 different colors – usually dominated by white, black and differing shades of brown – and have big, adorable, floppy ears. The Beagle’s incredible sense of smell made him a favorite of fox hunters in years past, but today he serves mostly as a gentle and curious companion.
Beagles require a lot of exercise. Their hunter’s instinct and desire to sniff out varmints makes them curious and active. Generally considered a healthy breed, the Beagle is well constructed with short, easy to manage fur. Beagles make great companions for families and singles alike and are very good with other dogs.
Perhaps the reason Beagles always rank high is their eyes. They convey the classic “sad puppy eyes” that make them irresistible. Of course, they are not actually sad, but the slight droop in their eyes sometimes make it appear that way. After more than a century as an American favorite, the Beagle will most likely dominate the top of the leaderboard for many years – and perhaps centuries – to come.
Another unchanged ranking from the previous year, the Bulldog is one of the most delightful breeds around. With an outsized personality and an undeniably cute look, the Bulldog manages to be both tough and sweet simultaneously. Like the Beagle, the Bulldog has been around for quite some time. It was first recognized by the AKC in 1886. Medium-sized with a smooth coat and a thick, low-swung body and wide, snub-nosed head, the Bulldog is a picture of strength.
The Bulldog’s jaws are so strong, they will clamp onto a rope toy like an alligator, even if you lift them off the ground. They love to display their feats of strength by playing tug of war with their owners, and they usually win. They’re quite agile too and matching the Bulldog’s strength is difficult to do. Despite being strong and tough, the Bulldog is not mean or aggressive. They have a pacific and dignified disposition. Bulldogs aren’t very active. Just a few minutes of playtime can tire them out, due to their stout bodies and less than optimal breathing.
Good nutrition is key, as they tend to gain weight very easily. Some Bulldogs suffer from heath issues, and they require care and upkeep to ensure continued good health. They are wonderful companion dogs that turn heads everywhere they go.
Many celebrities are bulldog owners, including Howard Stern, Adam Sandler, Brad Pitt and David Beckham. But the most “American” Bulldog is “Chesty” – the mascot of the Marine Corps. There has been a long line of “Chesty” Bulldogs – Chesty XIV is the latest. The dogs are named after famous Marine General Chesty Puller who served in WWII and Korea. The Bulldog was chosen by the Marine Corps because it projects strength and determination.
Intelligent, friendly and devoted – that’s how the AKC describes the Golden Retriever. Many people are surprised to see that the Golden is only #3 on the list. Widely known as the perfect family dog, the Golden Retriever’s sweet disposition and easygoing nature have long been a favorite of dog lovers across the world. The Golden was first recognized by the AKC in 1925 and has stayed at the top of mind and heart for owners ever since.
They are intelligent, incredibly friendly, and entirely devoted to their owners and family. They range from medium to large size and have a longer, sometimes wavy coat that requires significant grooming. Golden Retrievers tend to shed a lot. Their bodies are symmetrical and powerful, and they have a beautiful gait. Primarily bred to be hunting dogs, Golden Retrievers have a keen sense of sight and smell.
They are also fantastic swimmers and will dive into the water wherever they find it. They sometimes seem even faster in the water than they do on land. Retriever owners who live near water take their dogs for a swim whenever they get a chance.
There are numerous reasons why Golden Retrievers are one of the most popular breeds in America, but first and foremost may be their kind facial expression. They look as if they have a permanent smile on their face. Their eagerness to please and their pure joy in the presence of humans is intoxicating.
As their name would suggest, playing fetch is one of their favorite things to do. You can throw a tennis ball for hours on end, and your Golden will never tire of bringing it back. Golden Retrievers are great in any household – including the White House. President Gerald Ford had a Golden named “Liberty” during his presidency, a gift from his daughter.
The German Shepherd has been described as a “true dog lover’s dog” due to their incredible intelligence and unmatched loyalty. German Shepherds have amazingly strong bonds with their owners and are always seeking to please. They require a good deal of exercise but are not as active as some other breeds like Border Collies. What they require most is mental stimulation. Their desire and ability to learn new tasks is nearly unmatched.
German Shepherds are used as police dogs, military dogs and drug sniffing dogs. Confidence is high in this breed; they are sure of themselves and courageous. One of the biggest reasons for the German Shepherd’s popularity is its undying loyalty to its owner. They form a strong bond, usually with a single individual, that cannot be broken. Their entire being is based around pleasing their owner in new and more creative ways. Anything you can teach a German Shepherd, he will learn and they crave variety in their tasks. Once they master a task, they want to learn another.
With a medium to long coat, a long snout, and upright ears, the German Shepherd gives off an air of alertness and energy. The dog’s hind quarters are dipped slightly lower than its front legs, giving it a beautiful gate and look of nobility.
The most famous German Shepherd in American history is Rin Tin Tin. Rescued from a battlefield in WWI by American soldier Lee Duncan, Rin Tin Tin went on to appear in films and became an immediate box office hit. Appearing in 27 films, he became famous around the world, and at one point during his career received around 10,000 fan letters every week.
The Labrador Retriever is once again America’s favorite dog. Whether yellow, brown or black, the Lab is a mainstay in American homes for numerous reasons. Labs are high-energy, enormously friendly, and they play well with others – whether it’s other dogs, people or children. Labs are built strong, with an athletic and well-constructed body. Most are medium-sized, but there are many large Labs as well.
The English variety of Labs tend to have larger heads than the American Lab. Both are considered part of the Labrador Retriever breed. Being retrievers, Labs are fantastic swimmers. They will dive into just about any body of water – including pools – as soon as they come upon it. Even the larger Labs, who may not look very fast on land, will astonish you with their speed in the water. Most labs are very intelligent, making them one of the easiest dog breeds to train. They have the right disposition to be a great family dog as well.
Labs, like their owners, have done their duty to serve our country as well. A Lab named Sadie is credited with savings dozens of lives in Afghanistan by detecting a roadside bomb. She was awarded the Dickin Medal for her efforts. Jake, a Black Lab who assisted in finding victims buried in the rubble of the 9-11 attacks, also lent his skills to the Hurricane Katrina rescue efforts. For these reasons and more, the Labrador Retriever has once again earned the title of “America’s Most Popular Dog.”
The Best of the Rest
The AKC’s list of most popular dogs extends far beyond the top 5. Here’s are some other breeds that placed high on the popularity scale:
French Bulldog: If you’re looking for a small dog with an outsized personality, the Frenchy is a great choice. The Frenchy seems to believe he is the biggest, toughest dog in the world no matter where he goes. He’s described as adaptable, playful, smart and completely irresistible.
Poodle: Poodles come in all sizes – toy, miniature, and standard – but are all the same breed. First recognized by the AKC in 1887, the Poodle has been a mainstay in American households for more than a century. Their curly hair can be sculpted into unique quaffs, and their lack of shedding make them great for those with allergies.
Rottweiler: Big and powerful, the Rottweiler can look intimidating. And while they do make for great guardians, they are actually very sweet, affectionate, and loyal to their families. The Rottweiler can be reserved with strangers but will welcome those that their family welcomes.
Yorkshire Terrier: Yorkies pack a big personality into a small frame. So small, in fact, that it’s not uncommon to see owners carrying Yorkies in a purse or bag. They are affectionate and even a bit sassy. They have long straight hair, which can be styled in a variety of ways. Show Yorkies often look like a floating mop, with hair grown down to the ground covering their legs.
Boxer: Named for his penchant for jumping up and swinging his paws, the Boxer is a highly active and highly fun breed who has been recognized by the AKC since 1904. Powerful, bouncy and full of energy, Boxers make delightful companions.