Labrador is America's top dog, bulldogs make headway

NEW YORK Wed Jan 30, 2013 6:03pm EST

Sabrina Fairchild, a five-year-old female Labrador Retriever, is photographed by members of the media after the breed was named the most popular dog by the American Kennel Club in New York January 15, 2007. REUTERS/Keith Bedford

Sabrina Fairchild, a five-year-old female Labrador Retriever, is photographed by members of the media after the breed was named the most popular dog by the American Kennel Club in New York January 15, 2007.

Credit: Reuters/Keith Bedford

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Labrador retriever held its 22-year reign as America's top dog, but a determined bulldog is gaining ground in the popularity stakes.

The American Kennel Club's annual ranking of most popular dog breeds on Wednesday showed Labradors in the lead, with other large dogs moving up and once-popular smaller breeds such as the Yorkshire terrier and the miniature poodle losing some ground.

"Bigger breeds are making their move," said AKC spokeswoman Lisa Peterson. "The bulldog has muscled his way into the top five," she said, displacing the popular Yorkie, which dropped to sixth.

The No. 2 in popularity was the German shepherd, followed by the golden retriever and the beagle, which swapped the third and fourth spots from last year's rankings, "adding insult to injury for smaller breeds," Peterson joked.

With more than two continuous decades as the United States' most popular breed, the Labrador tied the feat of the poodle, which was tops for 22 straight years in the 1980s and 1990s, AKC said. Poodles took the eighth spot this year.

"Labradors come in different temperaments, just like we do," said Micki Beerman, an owner and fan of the breed.

"I have five, and she never leaves my side," she said of Sheena, a 5-year-old chocolate Labrador who sat next to the Brooklyn resident.

"They're just everyday, intelligent, loving animals," Beerman said.

The AKC also released some regional preferences that indicated bulldogs were becoming a favorite in New York City, taking the No. 2 spot while the French bulldog was third.

"They're a wonderful family pet," enthused Deirdre Nardelli about the bulldog.

Labradors became most popular in New York, while Yorkies plummeted from first to fifth place in the city in just one year.

The AKC revealed its rankings in advance of next month's Westminster Kennel Club dog show, the nation's most prestigious dog competition that culminates with the "best in show" award at Madison Square Garden.

Two new breeds, the Russell terrier and the treeing Walker coonhound, will compete this year.

(Reporting by Chris Michaud; editing by Patricia Reaney and Doina Chiacu)