However, Peterson condemned those who increase breeding to meet public demand, saying “responsible breeders do not produce more dogs just to meet popular demand.”
Factors, including Hollywood, pop culture and the economy, help drive changes in breed popularity. For instance, the yellow Lab featured in the bestselling memoir and the subsequent movie “Marley & Me,” help the breed’s popularity skyrocket, Peterson said.
Likewise, the popularity of other breeds has soared thanks to the beagle Snoopy in Charles Schulz’s Peanuts comics, “Lassie” for collies, and cocker spaniels from “Lady and the Tramp.” Snoopy has been one of the biggest influences, Peterson said, and is the only non-dog to be issued an AKC registration certificate.
But “the No. 1 thing that drives changes in dog popularity is people’s lifestyles,” Peterson said. In New York City last year, larger breeds such as the Labrador retriever and German shepherd jumped over the smaller Yorkshire terrier. Peterson attributed to the economic recovery, saying “people are going back to larger dogs.”
The short-haired dogs are easier to groom, easier to walk and to exercise than the smaller, more time-intensive dogs, she said. She believes smaller dogs became popular because of the recession because that trend started in the 1990s.
Another popular breed, the cocker spaniel, has owners coming back for its friendliness. Carol Bryant, a blogger from Forty Fort, Pa., travels frequently and uses her cocker spaniel Dexter as a networking tool. Dexter is so good that he has his own business cards, she said.
Of the breeds that made most gains in popularity, the most noticeable has been the bulldog, said Peterson. It has inched up the last five years, most recently to No. 5 nationally in 2012, she said.
She attributed some of that to “great visibility. It’s the mascot for the U.S. Marines. Think of all the colleges that have bulldog mascots. The Mack truck has a bulldog on the hood. And Tillman and Beefy are real bulldogs who skateboard.”