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Labrador retriever holds firm in top spot on AKC's list of most popular dogs in America

NEW YORK — For the 18th consecutive year, the Labrador retriever is the most popular purebred dog in America, according to 2008 registration statistics released today by the American Kennel Club. But, while more than twice as many Labs were registered last year than any other breed, making it a likely leader for many years to come, the bulldog continues to amble its way up the list. The breed made news last year by returning to the AKC's Top 10 for the first time in more than 70 years and now has jumped 6 percent, advancing two spots to land in 8th place.

"The playful Lab may still reign supreme, but the docile and adaptive nature of the bulldog is gaining ground as a family favorite," AKC spokeswoman Lisa Peterson said. "It's no surprise to learn that this devoted family companion is still growing in popularity."

2008 Most Popular Dogs in the U.S.

1. Labrador Retriever

2. Yorkshire Terrier

3. German Shepherd Dog

4. Golden Retriever

5. Beagle

6. Boxer

7. Dachshund

8. Bulldog

9. Poodle

10. Shih Tzu


Like the Bulldog, the popularity of breeds ebbs and flows over time. The AKC is proud to be celebrating its 125th Anniversary during 2009. In 1884 at the time of the organization's founding, AKC registered only nine breeds versus the 161 it recognizes today:

AKC Registered Breeds in 1884

Rank in 2008



Chesapeake Bay Retriever


English Setter


Gordon Setter


Irish Setter


Clumber Spaniel


Cocker Spaniel


Irish Water Spaniel


Sussex Spaniel


In 1884 the English Cocker Spaniel and the Cocker Spaniel were registered as the same breed. They were separated in 1946. Today the English Cocker Spaniel is ranked 70th.

These original breeds are all current members of the Sporting Group — dogs bred to help man find and retrieve game. They all have innate instincts in the water, field and woods. While none of the original nine is anywhere near the AKC Top 10, the qualities that made them effective hunters — trainability and desire to please — make them ideal family dogs today.

"I think the comparison of our original nine to the current top 10 illustrates the different needs that dogs fill today," said Peterson. "In the 1880's most breeds served a specific purpose or function. Today dogs still serve man and in even more diverse roles — from guide dog to bomb detection K-9 — but most of all, dogs are now companions that ground us to nature in a busy and increasingly technological world."

Pet preferences: Top 50 cities

While time periods are indicators for the popularity of certain pets, so is geography. Each year, AKC looks at the most popular breeds in each of the 50 largest cities in the U.S. Some highlights:

— While the bulldog continues to climb the national list, it's really marking its territory in a number of western cities — Las Vegas, Long Beach, Los Angeles, and San Diego — where it comes in 2nd, right after the Lab.

— Only Honolulu, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Portland, Raleigh, and Salt Lake City snubbed the bulldog — opting for a wide variety of other breeds in their Top 10.

— Detroit and Miami are the only cities that do not have the Labrador retriever in the top spot, both favoring the German Shepherd Dog.

— The Boxer is muscling its way to the top in a few cities, ranking second in Baltimore, Cincinnati, Des Moines, Louisville, Omaha and Kansas City. It's 3rd in Atlanta, Cleveland, New Orleans, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Pittsburgh, St. Louis and even Philadelphia — where like its boxing brethren "Rocky" it's still a literal underdog, but if movie plots are any indication, perhaps not for long.

— Californians seem to love the Miniature Pinscher (ranked 32nd nationally). It came in 6th (up from 15 last year) in San Diego and also ranked 8th in Sacramento.

— The Vizsla is tied for 10th with the Shih Tzu in Chicago. Ranked 44th nationally, the Vizsla has long been a favorite in the Windy City, having made the local top 10 list in 2007 and 2003.

— Unusual breeds on local top ten lists including the Great Dane (10th in St. Louis), the Matiff (10th in Indianapolis), the Brittany (10th in Minneapolis), the Belgian Malinois (8th in Kansas City) and the Siberian Husky (9th in Long Beach).


Some of the most notable recent trends in the past decade include:

— The bulldog (\+69%) and four of its relatives are among the breeds that have increased most significantly over the last decade: Miniature bull terrier (\+109%), bull terrier (\+102%), Staffordshire bull terrier (\+69%) and the bullmastiff (\+22%).

— The French bulldog (\+467%), the Cavalier King Charles spaniel (\+209%) and the Brussels griffon (\+73%) continue to be among the breeds with the largest increases, likely due to their popularity with urban dog owners who favor portable, apartment-sized dogs.

— The border collie, often considered among the most intelligent and trainable breeds, and known for its mastery of the highly popular canine sport of agility, saw a significant increase (\+50%).

— Lesser known breeds that saw an increase include the Ibizan hound (\+74%), Norwich terrier (\+39%) and Bedlington terrier (\+28%).

— Large dogs with notable increases are two Swiss breeds - the Bernese mountain dog (\+78%) and the Greater Swiss mountain dog (\+88%) - as well as the wirehaired pointing griffon (\+117%), which hails from France.

— Among breeds on the decline are the Lhasa apso (-80%), Rottweiler (-76%), Schipperke (-75%) the basset hound (-66 %) and, despite its popularity in Sacramento and San Diego, the miniature pinscher (-75%).

— Portuguese water dogs, in the news recently due to the Obama family's interest in this mid-sized, hypoallergenic breed, is currently ranked 64th and has increased 44% in the past decade — especially appropriate considering Obama is our 44th president.

— However another famous presidential pet — the American foxhound (-75%) — is on the decline. George Washington is credited with developing the breed.

Dog lovers can see and learn more about all of their favorite breeds on Saturday, January 31, 2009 when the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship — where the country's top dogs compete for $225,000 in prize money and the title of "National Champion" — airs on Animal Planet and the Discovery Channel from 8-11 p.m. (ET/PT). Highlights from the AKC Agility Invitational will air on Animal Planet on Saturday, Feb. 7, 2009 at 8 p.m. (ET/PT).

The American Kennel Club celebrates its 125th Anniversary in 2009. Since 1884 the not-for-profit organization has maintained the largest registry of purebred dogs in the world, and today its rules govern more than 20,000 canine competitions each year. The AKC is dedicated to upholding the integrity of its registry, promoting the sport of purebred dogs and breeding for type and function. Along with its nearly 5,000 licensed and member clubs and its affiliated organizations, the AKC advocates for the purebred dog as a family companion, advances canine health and well-being, works to protect the rights of all dog owners and promotes responsible dog ownership. Affiliate AKC organizations include the AKC Humane Fund, AKC Canine Health Foundation, AKC Companion Animal Recovery and the AKC Museum of the Dog. For more information, visit