AKC Top Breeds: Labrador Top Dog, Yet Again


According to 2017 American Kennel Club (AKC) registration numbers, the top-three dog breeds in America haven’t’ changed a bit over the past year. In fact, the Labrador Retriever holds the all-time record for longest title as America’s top-dog at 27 consecutive years with the 2017 numbers. The German Shepherd dog has been runner up as the second most popular dog since 2011.

German Shepherd Dogs

The Golden Retriever hasn’t fallen from the top-5 for as long as the AKC has released registration numbers.

The Bulldogs have enjoyed a meteoric rise. The French Bulldog is now the fourth most popular breed, compared to placing as the 76th most popular back in 1997.

The breed, today just called the Bulldog, but once called the English Bulldog is now the fifth most popular breed, compared to number 26 in 1997.


The Beagle continues to be popular, though decades ago the most common breed – the Beagle is now at number six on the AKC chart.

Rounding out the top 10 are various Poodle varieties at number seven, the Rottweilers is at number eight, Yorkshire Terrier, who ten years ago were the second most popular breed, is now number nine and at number 10 is the German Short Haired Pointer.

The Havanese, once arguably the trendiest dog breed, has now settled in as the 23rd most popular for two consecutive years. The Havanese, also called the Havana (that’s right as in Havana Cuba) Silk Dog for its presumed hypoallergenic properties, was introduced as an AKC breed in 1996, debuting at 104th on the breed pop chart.


The Chihuahua is surprisingly 32nd on the AKC popularity chart, only moderately popular. Go back to the year 2000, and the Chihuahua was the eighth most popular breed.

It’s surprising only because when you visit animal shelters – especially in California – they’re filled with dogs that look like Chihuahuas. So, if not from legitimately responsible breeders who register their dogs and puppies, where are all these Chihuahua looking dogs from? They’re from so-called backyard breeders and puppy millers. Most are not actually pedigreed Chihuahuas but rather Chihuahua mixes.

Two dog breeds that even their AKC breed standards suggests do best with experienced owners are climbing on the charts, and that may be worrisome.

The Cane Corso, at 28-inches and over 100 lbs, is as large and powerful as dogs come, historically even used as a “war dog” in Roman times. The AKC breed standard concedes, “Corsi are intelligent, loyal, eager to please, versatile, and intensely loyal to their humans, but are also assertive and willful, and can end up owning an unwitting owner. As with any other big guardian dog, responsible breeding and early socialization with people and other dogs is vital.”

Cane Corso 

It’s disconcerting to some dog behavior experts that such a large dog requiring an experienced owner is becoming so popular. Realistically, often the wrong people are drawn to these mastiffs in the first place.  And then it’s disconcerting – even dangerous – that some of these dogs are getting into the hands of those who breed recklessly without caring about temperament.

The Belgian Malinois has been an AKC registered dog far longer than the Cane Corso. The Malinois is today, by far, the most popular of the three Belgian working dogs (the Belgian Shepherd and Belgian Tervuren are the other two). These are keenly intelligent dogs who were born to work, many are military working dogs or police dogs. Some of their increase is likely because of the high demand for these working dogs.

Belgian Malinois

Again, the AKC breed standard is honest, “If you have ever seen a Mal perform an obedience routine, you know firsthand what a smart and eager breed this is. Problems set in, though, when this people-oriented dog is underemployed and neglected. Exercise, and plenty of it, preferably side by side with their adored owner, is key to Mal happiness.”

Early appropriate socialization is required and so is good breeding to create a stable and safe dog. And the suggestion is that without an opportunity to work, unemployment is akin to neglect. The Belgian Malinois is today the 44th most popular breed. Compare that to the year 2000 when they were 95th on the popularity chart. No doubt 9/11 has something to do with this increase.

Coton de Tulear

Sometimes it’s mysterious as to why some breed rise and fall. Since 2000, the Lhasa Apso has taken a great fall from number 33 on the chart to settling in today at number 77. The Coton de Tulear debuted high on the AKC chart and peaked at number 31 in 2014. Today, this undeniably cute relative of the Bichon Frise is now at number 81 on the AKC chart. They’re a delightful little dog, and can be a solution to living with a dog for some with allergies; they’re also a particularly expensive breed.

And the bottom feeders on the chart:

  • #186: Otterhound: A large swimming hound dog, originally bred to hunt otter (of course, no longer used for that purpose). They’re often described as “amiable.”
  • #187: American Foxhound: An All-American breed, which George Washington himself was a fan. Not so popular these days as fox hunting isn’t allowed.
  • #188: Sloughi: A 30 to 50 lb. relative of the Greyhound, sometimes called the Arabian Greyhound.
  • #189 English Foxhound: The English version of the Foxhound, far more popular in the UK, where ceremonial fox hunts still take place.
  • #190: Norwegian Lundehund:  Bred originally to climb rocks to hunt for nesting puffin birds (long not used for that purpose), these 20 to 30 lbs dogs have several unique canine features: At least six fully functioning toes and extra paw pads, an “elastic neck” that can crane back so the head touches their spine, ears that fold shut, and flexible shoulders that allow forelegs to extend to the side perpendicular to their bodies.

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