February 22, 2016 / 3:53 PM / 3 years ago

Family-friendly Labrador retriever still America's top dog

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Labrador retriever retained the title of America’s most popular dog breed for the 25th consecutive year, even as the upstart French bulldog stole the limelight in New York and other big U.S. cities, the American Kennel Club said on Monday.

Sophia Rogers poses with her dog Bobby, an American Foxhound, during a news conference for the 2016 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York, February 11, 2016. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

The chunky Lab, known for its loping gait and easy-going nature, owes its enduring popularity to its well-deserved reputation as a family pet, said AKC Vice President Gina DiNardo.

“The Lab checks all the boxes,” DiNardo said. “It comes in three different colors. Athletic people can play with it, run with it and swim with it. They are family-friendly and get along with others.”

But being beloved is not necessarily a springboard to elite honors. A Labrador has never won best in show at the Westminster Kennel Club’s annual dog show since the prestigious event began in 1877.

By the same token, being an international superstar - like the German short-haired pointer who won Westminster last week - does not automatically translate into being America’s dream dog.

The German short-haired pointer did not make the top 10 most popular breeds in U.S. homes in 2015, trailing the pack at number 11, DiNardo said.

In addition to the Labrador retriever, the top 10 list includes the German shepherd, golden retriever, bulldog, beagle, French bulldog, Yorkshire terrier, poodle, Rottweiler and boxer.

Several of those most popular breeds have won Westminster’s top honor, awarded four times each to the poodle and the boxer, two times each to the bulldog and the beagle and once each to the German shepherd and the Yorkshire Terrier. But the Labrador retriever, the golden retriever, the French bulldog and the Rottweiler have never won Westminster’s top honor, according to Westminster spokeswoman Lisa Peterson.

In the century that AKC has been tallying the most popular dogs, only four breeds have held that spot: the Labrador, poodle, beagle and cocker spaniel, DiNardo said. The Labrador boasts the longest reign on top, holding on for 25 consecutive years.

But the French bulldog, with its cute mug and bat-shaped ears, is gaining traction, especially among urbanites in New York, Miami, San Francisco and Honolulu, where the breed ranked higher than the Labrador last year.

“French bulldogs are smaller in size so very portable and good for apartment living, and they don’t require lots of exercise so they fit into a more relaxed lifestyle,” DiNardo said.

Reporting by Barbara Goldberg; Editing by Sandra Maler and Dan Grebler

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