- The Washington Times - Monday, January 15, 2007

Labs still rule in America. For the 16th straight year, the family-friendly Labrador retriever has been named the nation’s most popular purebred dog by the American Kennel Club (AKC), based on registrations last year.

But there was big competition from a wee source: The diminutive Yorkshire terrier trotted into second place, ousting golden retrievers and German shepherds from their comfortable top spots.

“Not since the Boston terrier hit the top nearly 70 years ago has a small breed worked its way to such a high spot on the list,” AKC spokeswoman Lisa Peterson said yesterday.

At 5 or 6 pounds tops, the silky-haired, oft-beribboned Yorkies have the edge of convenience and saucy cachet. The purse-sized pooches have long been a favorite among celebrities such as Audrey Hepburn, Joan Rivers, Mariah Carey, Kirsten Dunst and gossip columnist Cindy Adams.

“The recent rise of the Yorkie proves that many modern dog owners prefer a portable, pint-sized pet that fits their modern, fast-paced lifestyle,” Miss Peterson added.

Indeed. Of the top 20 dogs, half are toy breeds. The “biggest mover,” according to the AKC, is the regal little Cavalier King Charles spaniel, whose popularity has risen 735 percent in the past decade. The breed is now ranked 31st on the list of 155 dogs.

Still, sporting breeds like retrievers remain the most popular dogs among Americans, the AKC said. Dogs with “low grooming requirements” are also gaining in favor.

Women in particular have some specific ideas about Fido et al: According to an AKC survey of 1,000 adults nationwide last year, 90 percent of the female respondents said they would like to see some of their dog’s qualities — like a happy disposition — reflected in their husband or boyfriend.

The AKC waggishly suggested in the aftermath that men buy women chew toys instead of chocolate.

Meanwhile, the most popular canines in the District have “stayed the course,” Miss Peterson said, with little change in the past year. Like most U.S. cities, Washingtonians favor Labradors the most, followed by boxers, golden retrievers, poodles, Yorkshires, Shih Tzus, bulldogs, German shepherds, chows and pugs.

“People in the nation’s capital love breeds representing a broad range of sizes, functions and coat types,” Miss Peterson said. “Washington is in step with the nation, as seven out of the top 10 local favorites appear in the national top 10.”

Knoxville, Tenn., was the sole city where the local list was identical to the national version. Opinion differs in Manhattan, where the poodle is No. 1. A native of Cuba, the small, plume-tailed Havanese — ranked 38th on the national list — also made the top 10 in the Big Apple.

And while dog fanciers differ in their perceptions, the nation’s 49 million households with resident dogs spent about $1,600 a year — per dog — on veterinary care, food and other supplies, according to the American Pet Products Manufacturing Association. That figure includes $113 for treats and toys and $123 for dog vitamins.

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