- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 18, 2006

What dogs do we love most? That’s a tale of many tails — including those belonging to the Labrador retriever and the treeing walker coonhound.

Yes, the treeing walker coonhound. Divining the nation’s top dog has become a complicated matter, indeed.

The Labrador rules, according to none other than the American Kennel Club (AKC), which proclaimed the good-natured retriever to be the most popular dog in America for the 16th consecutive year, based on 2005 registration statistics.

Golden retrievers are next on the list, followed by Yorkshire terriers, German shepherds, beagles, dachshunds, boxers, poodles, Shih Tzus and miniature schnauzers.

AKC spokeswoman Gail Miller speculates that Yorkshires may one day edge out the competition “perhaps due to their celebrity companions.”Yorkies may be cute. But the treeing walker coonhound has some grass-roots support.

They are the most popular breed in all the land at the United Kennel Club (UKC), which champions “dogs who do stuff,” according to Wayne Cavanaugh, president of the Michigan-based group. It also bases popularity on registration data.

The treeing walker is a jaunty foxhound developed in Virginia around George Washington’s time, with a “clear, ringing bugle voice” and a noble cachet, indeed: “Energetic, intelligent, active, courteous, composed, confident,” according to UKC breed standards.

American pit bull terriers are ranked second, followed by bluetick coonhounds, English coonhounds, American black and tan coonhounds, redbone coonhounds, Labrador retrievers, beagles, plott hounds and Jack Russell terriers.

Each canine is a “performance dog,” Mr. Cavanaugh said. They hunt, track, retrieve, herd, guard — activities dictated by their own instinct, “beagles and Labs, included,” he added.

“Recently, we’ve seen a huge surge in our registries of people who want to return to a ‘blue-collar’ dog. The dogs don’t just look good. They’re healthy and vibrant, they do the jobs they were bred to do, they follow their natural instincts.”

This is the first year the group issued its own popularity list, said Mr. Cavanaugh, a former vice president at the AKC.

“I guess the AKC and UKC are still friendly, still ‘buds,’” he noted. “But to be honest, the AKC doesn’t list half the dog breeds in America, which we find misleading. So we’ve added our voice to the mix.”

Indeed, the treeing walker does not appear on the AKC roster, though black and tan coonhounds place at No. 131. At the UKC, the black and tans are rated fifth.

Meanwhile, the AKC tracks dogs by the stats, noting that public interest is up for the cavalier King Charles spaniel by 735 percent and by 305 percent for the French bulldog in the last decade. But watch for the otterhound.

Otterhound?

Surprisingly, the otterhound, which is the third least registered dog in the U.S., experienced the highest percentage growth of all dogs during the past year, increasing 91 percent, an AKC bulletin said.

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