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America's favorite dog breeds for the past two decades, ranked – Washington Post (blog)

By Philip Bump February 27 at 1:07 PM

On Tuesday, the American Kennel Club announced that, for the 24th straight year -- for every year since "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" premiered on television -- the Labrador retriever was the most popular breed among its members. An impressive streak, sure -- but what's happened in the rest of the top ten for the past two decades is much more interesting.

Which brings us to this. Zoom in and explore canine history (or view the static image).

(Credits for the dog photos are at the bottom of this post.)

You can click on that to make it bigger. Or you can simply keep reading, as we look at how the top ten has evolved over the past 20 years.

1995 - 1999

DogChunk1v2

There you go, right at the top, the Lab. That won't change as we progress through the years; it is your anchor, your touchstone.

But number two? The Rott? Falls off a cliff in 1998 and is out of the top ten by the year 2000. At every spot beneath number one, turmoil. That Cocker in the #7 spot? Gone by 1998.

Notice the Dachsund, who starts at number eight and climbs to #4. It's one of the first, uh, dog bubbles that occurs over the 20 years. There's another that gets underway over this time period: The Chihuahua.

But we would be remiss if we didn't note another growth dog. The Golden retriever's quick climb in 1998 is what scientists call the "Air Bud effect."

2000 - 2004

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The Golden slipped up into the #2 spot and stays there for five years. The Beagle and the Shepherd bounce back and forth a bit. And in 2000, a new dog, the Shih Tzu.

Notice that the Dachshund bubble is deflating -- and the Chihuahua is already dropping off the list. But the real mover is the Yorkie. It started at #10 in 1995, hit #7 by 2000, and is at #4 by the end of the first ten years.

We looked at the rise of the small dog on Thursday, but here you see it. Gone is the Rott, replaced first by the Chihuahua (which, weirdly, was off the top ten list before Paris Hilton rose to fame) and then by the Shih Tzu. Meanwhile, the Yorkie keeps climbing -- and the Poodle drops.

2005 - 2009

DogChunk3v2

The Chihuahua is replaced by the Miniature Schnauzer -- but only for a moment. The Bulldog arrives in 2007, and that upward line will keep going up.

The Yorkie peaks at #2, displacing the Golden. The Dachsund bubble is over, and the smaller Boxer and Shih Tzu bubbles are almost over, too.

2010 - 2014

DogChunk4v2

The Yorkie slips to #6. It's run is finished. The Shih Tzu is gone. The Dachsund is gone. The bulldog is climbing, as is the French bulldog, which appeared last year for the first time at #9.

And look who's back! The Rott returns to the list, and the Poodle starts climbing back up. The big, grand bubble, the small dog bubble, may have crested over the past 20 years, too.

This is not, we should point out, a complete picture of the state of dog ownership in America. The American Kennel Club deals with purebreds, not the mutts that are also so popular. (The AKC calls mutts , which is both nice and weird.) The ratio of mutts to purebred dogs isn't clear. The Humane Society estimates that one-fifth of pet dogs came from shelters; some estimates have the two groups about even. Nor does "mutt" as a category really fit here. How do you compare the popularity of "any combination of breeds" with the popularity of a particular one?

The point being that, while Labradors are the most popular breed (and have been longer than any 2014 Labrador has been alive), mutts are clearly the best dogs.


Photo credits: Kevin Rodriguez Ortiz, Labrador retriever; AllieKF, German shepherd; Eric Chan, Yorkshire terrier; Franco Vannini, Golden retriever; Michael McCullough, Rottweiler; Bukowsky18, Beagle; Mark, Bulldog; Ashtyn Warner, Dachshund; Amanda Wray, Poodle; Pedro Ribeiro Simões, Boxer; Jamie McCaffrey, Chihuahua; Jennie Faber, Cocker Spaniel; Bruno Cordioli, French bulldog; Russ Sanderlin, Shih Tzu; Kathleen Conklin, Pomeranian; Theodore Scott, Miniature Schnauzer.

Philip Bump writes about politics for The Fix. He is based in New York City.

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