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When you're hot, you're hot. And if you're a dog, that means winding up at the top on the American Kennel Club's annual ranking of the registered breeds that have been in the most demand.
The AKC's roster for the year 2000 is out, and it shows that two large breeds – Labradors, followed by golden retrievers – continue to be the country's most popular dogs. Several of the smaller guys held their own in the Top 10, and one top breed – the formidable Rottweiler – suffered a sharp drop in popularity.
Overall, according to the AKC, Americans registered 1,175,473 purebred dogs last year, up 5 percent when compared to 1999. Labs, which are large, active but easy-going dogs, dominated the field of 148 AKC breeds with 172,841 registered puppies – almost 15 percent of all the dogs that were registered.
AKC Top 10 in 2000
Rottweilers, Pomeranians, miniature Schnauzers, cocker spaniels and pugs filled out the ranks of the top 15 dogs, with Rottweilers representing the only top breed to suffer a significant drop in popularity. It fell 11 percent between 1999 and 2000.
Dr. Nicholas Dodman, a leading animal behaviorist at the Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine, said the Rottweiler's decline might have been caused by publicized incidents in which dogs that were poorly trained attacked people, sometimes killing them. Rottweilers were originally bred for herding but gradually became popular guard dogs; they need firm, consistent training that many owners fail to supply, said Dodman, who also serves as a PetPlace veterinary adviser.
Experts say the AKC's rankings usually don't change radically from year to year, but there are occasional sudden trends. For example, the Australian shepherd enjoyed a 23 percent gain in registrations in 2000, placing it 35th on the AKC list, but Chow Chows slumped by 17 percent.
Publicity Spurs Breed Popularity
Sometimes, breeds gain popularity because of publicity that comes from starring in a popular TV show, movie, advertisement or dog show. The hit TV sitcom “Frasier'' co-stars “Eddie,'' a Jack Russell terrier. The show's success may account for the 21 percent hike in registrations for the breed, said Dodman. The feisty little dog ranked 72nd on the AKC list.
On the other hand, consider the fate of Dalmatians. When they were immortalized in Disney's 1996 remake of 101 Dalmatians,'' the breed experienced a surge in popularity that had some tragic consequences. Many of the pups wound up being abandoned or left with shelters as their owners faced the challenges that can come with owning a Dalmatian.
Last fall, however, the public did not stampede pet stores for the cute freckled pups after the release of the Disney sequel, 102 Dalmatians. Word had apparently gotten out that the real-life canine can be strong-willed, has a 20 percent chance of being deaf and is subject to other medical problems, Dodman said. The dog's popularity fell by 34 percent last year, placing it 49th in the rankings.
Other dogs that surged in popularity included the border collie, a medium-sized energetic, obedient dog, (up 35 percent, to rank 64th with 1,911 registrations); the Cavalier King Charles spaniel, known for liveliness and a loving nature, (up 21 percent to rank 54th with 2,719 registrations); and the Havanese, a small, playful animal with silky hair, (up 50 percent to rank 86th with 941 registrations.)
Two once trendy dogs both were on the wane. The akita, a large Japanese breed that needs firm obedience training, dropped 8 percent to rank 38th with 5,927 registrations, and the Chinese shar-pei, a dog known for a wrinkly coat, dropped 8 percent to rank 37th with 6,299 registrations.