Popular dogs

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The American Kennel Club, or AKC, recently announced the top dog breeds of 2012. For the 22nd year in a row, the Labrador Retriever was the number one dog. The other breeds in the top 20, were, in order: German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Beagles, Bulldogs, Yorkshire Terriers, Boxers, Poodles, Rottweilers, Dachshunds, Shih Tzu, Doberman Pinschers, Miniature Schnauzers, French Bulldogs, German Shorthaired Pointers, Siberian Huskies, Great Danes, Chihuahuas, Pomeranians, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and Shetland Sheepdogs.

As you ponder the list, remember these numbers are based solely on dogs registered with the AKC. Non-AKC breeds such as the American Bulldog, Pitbull, Coton de Tulear and Olde English Bulldogge don’t appear on the list at all. Neither do mixed breeds such as Labradoodles and Goldendoodles. However, it does show dog ownership trends.

In analyzing the numbers overall, the AKC made some interesting observations. Mastiff-type breeds are rising in popularity. The Mastiff and Bullmastiff have both risen in ranking over the past decade. The Cane Corso (also known as the Italian Mastiff), Neoplitan Mastiffs (the dog on Harry Potter) and the Dogue de Bordeaux (also called the French Mastiff) are fairly new additions to the AKC’s registry, but all have risen since their introduction.

“Bully” breeds are also gaining ground. The Bull Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier and Miniature Bull Terrier are all becoming more popular. The American Staffordshire Terrier dropped a few places but is still well represented.

Sporting breeds are favorited by much of America. They hold three spots in the top twenty, and most sporting breeds either held last year’s ranking or slipped down one spot. The Spinone Italiano, Boykin Spaniel, Welsh Springer Spaniel, Wirehaired Pointing Griffon and American Water Spaniel all increased in popularity last year.

If you’re in love with a popular breed, be cautious about adding one to your family. Before buying or adopting, research the breed to ensure it’s the right one for you. As someone who both breeds and rescues Labs, I am astonished at the people who complain about the amount of shedding Labs do. The most minimal research would tell you that Labs shed constantly, and twice a year they seem to lose every hair on their bodies! All breeds have strong and weak points. It’s critical that you learn what these are and evaluate how well these characteristics or tendencies will fit into your lifestyle.

You also need to research the health issues known to impact the breed. For example, 11 of the breeds in the top 20 are prone to Hip Dysplasia. While this condition is influenced by environmental factors, it is considered a genetic trait. Research has proven that dogs x-rayed and cleared of this malady, when bred together, are less likely to produce it in their offspring than dogs afflicted by it. A careful buyer will want to see Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) documentation that the parent dogs are clear. These clearances are issued when three different, specially trained OFA vets read the x-rays and issue individual rankings, which are then compiled and translated into a final score. Many factors are considered. Thus, a breeder telling you, “My vet looked at her hips and said they were fine,” should not be considered a hip clearance.

There are two great resources available where you can learn more about the health, temperament and overall personality of the breed or breeds that interest you. The first is the AKC website found at akc.org. Read what the AKC says about the dog and then follow the “National Breed Club “ link at the bottom of the page to continue your research. The Canine Health Information Center, or CHIC, is also of value. CHIC works with the parent clubs to identify health issues in a breed and maintains a database of dogs within a breed that have the recommended clearances. By visiting caninehealthinfo.org and clicking on the “CHIC Breeds” link, you can follow the links to learn more about the desired health clearances for the breeds that interest you.

The amazing variety of dog breeds means there’s one to suit just about everyone. If your heart runs to mixed-breed rescues, learning more about the dogs in the mix can help you better understand your dog’s genetic tendencies. It’s also fun to look at breeds you’ve never seen. Visit the AKC site, and spend some time learning more about man’s best friend.

Karlene Turkington, a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, is a lifelong animal lover who has been training dogs for over 20 years. Readers are welcome to send their questions to: info@TrainMyK-9.com. Information provided here is a basic overview of issues. Specific health or behavioral concerns should be discussed with your veterinarian or qualified animal trainer or behaviorist.

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