Written by Ella White
If you were to look no further than the #1 spot on the American Kennel Club’s (AKC) Most Popular Dog Breeds list, you’d be tricked into thinking that the USA has a fairly steady taste in furry friends. The Labrador Retriever has held the title of most popular dog in America since 1991 and in those 31 years it’s popularity as the perfect family dog hasn’t wavered.
But just one spot below, and things are beginning to shake up. The German Shepherd, which held onto the #2 position from 2009 to 2019, and the Golden Retriever which had long-held the #3 positions were dropped from the spots they had proudly held for a decade by the French Bulldog which only entered the top 10 in 2014.
Poodles have also re-entered the race, ranking #5 – their highest position in a quarter of a century. This could be because the AKC currently does not recognize many of the more recently popular poodle-cross breeds like the Cockapoo and Labradoodle which have become family favorites in the past decade.
Poodles are known for their playful intelligence, which makes them a very popular breed for young families, but also their hypoallergenic fur which makes them a better choice than a Labrador or Cocker Spaniel for families with allergies.
Looking back to pre-2015, the most popular dogs for almost a decade rotated between the Cocker Spaniel, Poodle, and Beagle before finally settling on the Retriever. The Rottweiler, Boston Terrier, Doberman, and Yorkshire Terrier have often battled the German Shepherd for second place. But a theme seems clear: America loved medium to large sized dogs.
Family dogs, guard dogs, and working dogs were firm favorites in the USA. But in recent years, smaller breeds have been rising through the ranks.
It’s no surprise that breeds like the Frenchie, Yorkie, Corgi, Shih Tzu, and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel have become more popular as more and more people branch into dog ownership. It’s believed that the Covid pandemic saw a 12% increase in dogs being bought and adopted in the USA. And many of these new owners would have had different criteria and capabilities when it came to the breeds they could look after.
The rise in city-dwelling and apartment-living dog owners led to a rise in the need for smaller dog breeds that can adapt and thrive in smaller spaces, need less time outdoors, and are happy to relax at home while their busy owners work.
But practicality is likely not the only reason for the increased popularity of tiny dogs. Aesthetically, teacup dogs – bred from runts of the litter to minimize their size – and brachycephalic dogs like the Frenchie with their flat noses have become increasingly fashionable. Those of us old enough to have lived through the 90’s will remember Paris Hilton and her believed Chihuahua, Tinkerbell who was often seen poking out of only the most expensive handbags. Here at FOTP HQ, we’re obsessed with Instagram dogs (and let’s be honest, a little jealous of some of them!) but the love of the smaller dog goes back decades. Audry Heburn is the epitome of Hollywood glamor and was rarely without her beloved Yorkie and was a huge animal lover. Queen Elizabeth II has owned Corgis her entire life (of the Pembroke Welsh variety).
The Frenchie, in particular, was bred to be adaptable, easy to look after, and happy to do whatever its owner is doing. It’s small enough to fit in a purse, active enough to walk on-leash for an afternoon, and docile enough to endure petting, photoshoots, wearing sweaters, and all the other human attention that being a tiny, adorable pup brings.
However, many vets and dog experts have concerns about the rising popularity of brachycephalic dog breeds. These flat-nosed pets are prone to a wealth of health issues that are a result of their impeded breathing and are far less common in dog breeds with longer snouts. Also a rise in popularity of any breed can cause an increase in poor quality breeding for profit and puppy farms. So anyone seeking a popular brachycephalic dog breed is warned to do extensive research into both their health problems and their breeding history. If any breeder is reluctant to show certifiable proof of their dog's health, you should always walk away. There are plenty of reputable breeders out there doing everything they can to ensure the health and longevity of their puppies.