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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

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Celebrities such as Brad Pitt, rapper Ice-T and athletes Michael Phelps and Sean White, have bulldogs, she added, which could partly explain why the breed is No. 1 in celebrity-driven Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

Bulldogs “have such great temperaments, they are adorable puppies, they are sturdy and compact, and they have the wrinkles and the eyes. They don’t require a lot of grooming or exercise and they love to stay in the house and be with you or if you like the outdoors, they love that too,” Peterson said.

The small, sturdy breed also is compatible with owners of all ages, she added, making it ideal for multi-generational families. That comes in handy as the economy forces more adult children to return home.

When it comes to America’s top dog for the past 20 years, practicality beat being fashionable. The Labrador retriever’s intelligence earned high marks among owners who sought out the breed.

VanFossan, who lost sight in both eyes by age 22, has owned two Labs. He tried using a cane for six awkward months, then got a guide dog — a Lab named Gilly. Their time together became a book in January — “Through Gilly’s Eyes: Memoirs of a Guide Dog” — and his second dog is Achilles.

“Achilles is a little more sensitive but is better at remembering. It’s incredible. I can go to a new place just once or twice, and he’ll have the route memorized. Sensitivity has its advantages,” VanFossan said.

Linda Markley, a mother of three in Los Angeles, returned to the breed after her first Lab — a shelter find — died. When the rescues turned up none, she went to a breeder to buy Riley.

Markley said she loves Riley for dozens of reasons, but is most impressed with her memory for human vocabulary and street smarts. She knows words like “keys,” ‘‘shoes,” ‘‘park,” and “shake,” and can understand phrases such as “go to Ryan’s room,” ‘‘go to Jack’s house,” and “let’s go for a hike,” the proud owner said.

And Markley has no doubt that Riley understands what she’s saying: “She loves sticks, so she doesn’t chase balls or swim in the pool. If you say, ‘Do you want to go in the water?’ she will run the other way.”

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