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Lifestyle

February 10, 2013

Lifestyle, pop culture drive dog breed popularity

Labrador retrievers top dogs; German shepherds second for 2012 pet ownership

Help wanted: One trained, easygoing, low-maintenance dog that will work for next to nothing. It was the classified ad that Matthew VanFossan wrote in his head after going blind.

His Labrador retriever, Achilles, “will guide me across busy streets for nothing more than a pat on the head or ‘Good boy,’” said the 31-year-old writer-counselor from Los Angeles. “He loves every bit of attention, but he can also go without it. He’ll let out a low groan if he’s getting too bored.”

The breed’s friendliness, intelligence and love of physical activity helped make it the most popular dog in America for the last two decades, according to American Kennel Club data released last week. Labrador retrievers are widely used as search and rescue, guide, therapy and service dogs, and they’re also perfect for active, outdoors-loving families with children, said club spokeswoman Lisa Peterson.

Labrador retrievers (22 years), cocker spaniels (23) and poodles (22) have been the most popular purebred dog breeds in the United States for a total of 67 of the 128 years the AKC has been counting.

The data from the AKC, the country’s only nonprofit dog registry, comes from paid registrations by breeders and owners of purebred dogs, and makes the dog eligible for AKC events such as dog shows. More than 40 million purebred dogs have been registered since 1884, Peterson said.

Some critics, like the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Humane Society of the United States, argue that owners mistake club registration as a sign of responsible breeding.

“Registry with the AKC simply indicates that a dog had two parents of the same breed,” said Cori Menkin, senior director of ASPCA’s Puppy Mills Campaign. The AKC acknowledged that registration does not guarantee the quality or health of a dog.

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