The top 20 most popular breeds, according to
the American Kennel Club dog registration figures:
- Labrador retriever
- Golden retriever
- German shepherd
- poodles (all varieties)
- Yorkshire terrier
- Shih Tzu
- cocker spaniel
- miniature schnauzer
- Shetland sheepdog
- miniature pinscher
- Siberian husky
- Boston terrier
The Labrador retriever, America’s most popular dog in the 1990s, has retained its title. Also, according the American Kennel Club (AKC) 1999 registration statistics, the golden retriever remains the second most popular breed for the second consecutive year.
Last year when the 1998 AKC registration numbers came out, the big dogs were the big losers while nearly every toy breed dog increased in numbers. This year, the most prevailing trend is overall registrations of (begin ital) all (end ital) purebred dogs have dropped. This makes three consecutive years that overall registration numbers are down, and it’s true of both big dogs and little dogs. For example, Shih Tzu registrations are down 10 percent; American cocker spaniels fell by 13 percent and rottweilers dipped a decisive 24 percent.
More than anything else, this simply means people aren’t bothering to fork over the $10 registration fee concedes AKC Board member and longtime breeder Carmen Battaglia. The old blue slip – as it was called – that owners were required to fill out was complicated, which is why a new form has been devised. Time will tell if that new form will increase registrations, as Battaglia predicts it will.
“It’s also just plain laziness,” says Chris Walkowicz, a German shepherd/bearded collie breeder for 35 years and author of “The Perfect Match: A Dog’s Buyers Guide” (Howell Book House, New York, NY, 1996; $14.95).
“Your average pet owner doesn’t understand why they should bother,” adds Julie Lux, a Dalmatian breeder for ten years and public relations director of the Dalmatian Club of America.
Battaglia says these are valid points, issues the AKC are now examining. However, other points are almost certainly contributing to the decline in registrations. One factor is simple demographics. While dog ownership is at an all-time high, it doesn’t necessarily correlate with puppy purchases, since dog owners are enjoying companionship of an increasingly aging canine population because dogs are living longer than ever before.
Walkowicz, who resides in Sherrard, Ill., notes that new AKC required DNA testing (there are now available DNA tests to search for genetic diseases) has forced some commercial breeders to stop registering their dogs. “Of course, puppy mills don’t want to pay for this testing, and they hardly care about responsible breeding in the first place.”
Some commercials breeders in Missouri have banned together to oppose this testing, and have decided not to register their puppies, breeders in three other states are considering the same position.
“This could mean a continued decline in registration numbers, but for a good reason,” cheers Walkowicz. “If consumers are educated to look for proof of DNA testing and AKC registration, so-called breeders who can’t show this might ultimately go out of business.
Battaglia points out that the AKC has enjoyed increased success at putting irresponsible breeders out of business, averaging 60 suspensions a month. This also contributes to lower overall registration numbers.
“When all is said and done, lower overall registration isn’t necessarily a bad thing – you have to carefully consider the reasons,” says Ann Rogers Clark, revered all breed judge, long time poodle breeder and author of “The International Encyclopedia of Dogs,” (Howell Book House, New York, NY, 1995; $49.95).
In fact, breeders may be downright overjoyed if their breed declines in popularity. Dalmatians fell from their all time high at number 11 (on the AKC registration list) in 1995 to its current place at number 40, which is down to the lowest level the breed has been at since 1977. There’s no doubt that the Dalmatian skyrocketed in the first place because of the 101-movie fame (The animated video was released in 1991 and the live action film in ’96). The Dalmatian Club of America reacted by launching an education program.
Lux, who is from Kansas City, Mo., explains many breeders stopped breeding Dalmatians all together. “They figured if you’re not a part of the solution, you’re a part of the problem,” she says. “So, responsible breeders weren’t breeding – or at least not nearly as often as they had been. Ridiculous misinformation – like Dalmatians are somehow inherently dangerous – has scared off some people, as well as legitimate public education. As demand has begun to diminish, the irresponsible money hungry breeders and puppy mills are focusing on other media dogs like the Jack Russell terrier (which jumped from 78 to 74 on the 1999 AKC chart) and even Chihuahuas (number seven).”
The rottweiler fell from number two on the AKC list in 1997 to its current position at number eight, and continues to decline with each year. “These are large and powerful dogs, not suited for all owners,” says Barb Williams of the Chicago, Ill. based rescue group Recycled Rotts. Her group often receives two dozen dogs a month. According to Williams, many of these dogs relinquished to rescue aren’t trained and are from puppy mills or backyard breeders.
While Williams is pleased that registered rotties are continuing their steady dip in popularity, she knows gang bangers don’t register their dogs. “I’m sure in reality there are still nearly as many rotties as there are Labs and goldens,” she says. “For the most part it’s not all those registered rottweilers the public ought to worry about, it’s these dogs that are specifically bred and raised to be aggressive, often from the inner city.”
“Being in the Top-10 isn’t always good, it really means buyer beware,” says Rogers Clark, who lives in Greenwood, Del. This is even true for the current one/two AKC punch, Labradors and golden retrievers.
Aside from increasing health problems, dog trainers throughout the country report aggression in both breeds, which is apparently genetically based. “Clearly, according to the breed standards and what the public expects of these breeds – aggression in Labradors and guldens is not called for – but it’s happening,” according to Marge Gibbs, a trainer in Riverwoods, Ill. and behavior columnist at the AKC Gazette.
Walkowicz adds, “As a general rule, you’re always better off lower on that list, personally I’d consider a Chesapeake Bay retriever (number 41), curly-coated retriever (number 115) or flat coated retriever (number 100) before considering the far more popular Labrador or golden.”
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