Labrador is Americans' top dog, French bulldog leaps in popularity

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Labrador retriever is the most popular dog breed in the United States for the 23rd straight year, but the French bulldog has gained ground by leaps and bounds, the American Kennel Club said on Friday.

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Labrador retrievers enjoy the longest consecutive reign of any dog in the annual ranking compiled by the American Kennel Club, or AKC, which bases its list of the most popular breeds on the number of dog registrations across the country.

The German shepherd took second place, followed by the golden retriever and the beagle, respectively. Breeds pulling ahead in the pack included the Doberman pinscher, which scurried past 20 other breeds to 12th place and the Great Dane, which made an 11-place jump to 16th.

In a testament to their growing popularity, large breeds dominated the list.

“Owning bigger breeds - an economic indicator of sorts - has been on the rise during the past five years,” said Lisa Peterson, a spokeswoman for the American Kennel Club, or AKC.

“As the economy has improved, people are turning back to the big dogs they love, which cost more to feed and care for than the smaller breeds that saw a rise in popularity in 2007 and 2008,” during the financial crisis, she said in a telephone interview.

The English bulldog is the most popular breed in New York City, while the French bulldog rose three spots to No. 11 on the national list, its highest ranking.

“That’s a big jump. I haven’t seen anything like that in any breed,” Peterson said.

The breed has seen a 323 percent leap in registrations since 2003, according to the AKC. The club would not provide registration numbers.

French bulldogs require minimal grooming and exercise, making them an ideal choice for owners in apartments and suburbs.

“It’s a wash-and-wear, easy to care for companion dog,” Peterson, the AKC spokeswoman said.

After a decade in decline, rare breeds made a comeback. Giant schnauzers, the largest of the schnauzer breeds, climbed 13 places in the rankings. The keeshond, a medium-size dog with a plush silver and black coat, scrambled up 17 places.

The AKC announced its rankings in advance of next month’s Westminster Kennel Club dog show. The United States’ most prestigious dog competition culminates with the “best in show” award at New York City’s Madison Square Garden.

Three new breeds will compete this year: rat terriers, Chinooks, and Portuguese Podengo Pequenos.

(The story corrects French to English bulldog in paragraph seven and makes clear French bulldog rose in national ranking)

Reporting by Marina Lopes; Editing by Patricia Reaney and Jonathan Oatis