It may be a cliché to say that a dog is a man’s best friend and as any true dog lover will tell you, this platitude is also an understatement of our love for our canine friends. Dogs have been a part of man’s life for centuries, either for hunting, working, care or company. From the stoically poised wolfhound to the playful terrier, every dog can find his place alongside man. America, like many other countries, is keen to show its love for these guys. Pet pampering, doggy treats and of course the ever popular phenomenon of dogs in clothes have made pet ownership big business.
The American Kennel Club has released a ranking of the most popular breeds of dogs in the United States. Of course the latest fashion fads in pet ownership are nothing compared to the lifetime of friendship and happiness a dog – regardless of breed – can offer, but breed choices are give an interesting perspective on America’s relationship with its canine companions. Is your dog featured in here? Take a look at list but remember that a dog, although tremendously satisfying as a pet, is a large commitment. The care, time and expense of owning a dog, or any pet, should be carefully considered before you get carried away with yourself and with these cute critters.
The first on our list is the ever-adorable dachshund, known as a sausage dog to most of us. Daschund are small and long-bodied with short legs. Their playful manner and small size means they make ideal pets for a small home. Their friendly demeanour and charmingly disproportionate shape puts them into the “toy” dog category, meaning that they’re great to look at and fun to play with, but they most definitely won’t be any help around the house. While these guys are full of energy, you have to be careful not to overfeed them, as their small legs and long body make it difficult for overweight daschunds to move around. Their unusual name unsurprisingly comes from German, where the word dasch refers to badger, while hund means dog. The breed was developed with hunting in mind and as such they have a great sense of smell. If you prefer them indoors however, they also look hilarious in any kind of doggy outfit.
While the dachshund is something of a toy dog, the Rottweiler most definitely is not. The highly muscular dog fits into the “working dogs” category, meaning that its size and strength have historically been used in aiding man’s work. Today the Rottweiler, with their imposing presence and speed, is often used as a guard dog or by the police force. Their protective nature means that they can also be used as aides or therapy dogs when properly trained. Although they are more commonly perceived as threatening or intimidating dogs, when properly trained Rottweilers are immensely loyal. They require a good deal of exercise every day while their coarse hair means they require little grooming.
Possibly thought of as the world’s poshest dog, it may surprise you to hear that the poodle is in fact the eighth most popular breed of dog in the United States. The history of the dog however places it firmly in the ‘working’ class category: poodles were originally bred in Germany as water retrievers and their distinctive, clipped coat was designed to make them more efficient in the water. As the breed comes in a variety of sizes from small to large, there’s likely a poodle to suit every home, although some people may have allergies to their fluffy coats. Poodles need regular exercise but are clever canines and quick to learn tricks and routines – and their outgoing nature means that they will have no problem showing those tricks off!
The pointed ears of the boxer mean he appears almost permanently alert and ready for action. Boxers’ squat faces and muscular bodies make them strong working dogs, and the breed was originally developed in the nineteenth century for dog fights. There is much more to boxers than this aggressive exterior however; boxers are deeply loyal companions who crave human attention. In spite of their size they make good family pets, and respond well to training. The have little by the way of grooming requirements although they do need regular daily exercise.
6. Yorkshire Terriers
Another conventional cutie if ever there was one, the Yorkshire Terrier – or Yorkie – is the ultimate toy dog. The breed has somewhat more modest beginnings though: Yorkies were first bred in the county of Yorkshire in northern England in the nineteenth century. Their purpose? To catch mice and rats in the newly constructed clothing mills of the Industrial Revolution! Today however, these dogs are mostly bred as pets. Their coats may require some maintenance but they need only a small diet to keep them going. Their diminutive size makes them perfect for a small home and they can be an unintimidating starting point for anyone with a fear of dogs.
The stocky, reliable bulldog is always a popular favourite. Bulldogs also considered the national dog of Britain and feature in many souvenirs, memorabilia and advertising in the country. The dog was first bred for dog fights and as such, retains the fearlessness and courage required of such a role. With dog fighting of course illegal, the dogs have since taken on a somewhat more smaller, more shuffling appearance since being bred as pets. Their loyalty means that they can make great family pets and when trained are especially good with children. Their somewhat lumbering appearance makes them a highly endearing breed and their flappy faces have been the subject of many an internet gif.
The beagle is most commonly thought of as a hunting dog. The beagle is a miniature version of the fox hound and has the acute sense of smell common to both breeds. And if you’re surprised at just how common this breed is, think think of the one beagle we all know and love – Snoopy! These dogs have a much longer history than the comic book character, of course, first appearing in the sixteenth century in the UK, where every lord worth his salt kept a pack of beagles for hunting. Today the breed are playful and engaging, loving both the company of other dogs and humans. Their acute sense of smell means that they can often be found following their noses into the oddest of places. Curious and playful, the beagle is an ideal family pet.
3. Golden Retrievers
Consistently a crowd pleaser, the golden retriever has been America’s third most popular dog for two year’s running. Retrievers’ long coats and affectionate natures make them an all-round favourite. Retrievers are highly intelligent dogs and can be used for rescue, guide and therapy purposes. Their thick coat is designed to keep the dogs protected when in water – originally, golden retrievers were water dogs. This long coat does require quite a bit of maintenance, though, which prospective owners are usually warned about. Although these dogs need quite a bit of exercise they do have quite a placid temperament and as such they make great companions and are ideal for families with children.
2. German Shepherd Dogs
The size, strength and discipline of the German Shepherd dog means it’s ideal for a variety of working situations. While today we mainly think of this breed as a guard dog, the Shepherds’ name reveals their original function: the dogs were used to herd sheep and goats in the European mountains. Their strength and long legs make them good climbers, while their thick coats mean they can withstand all weather conditions. Their obedient nature means these dogs are great for training which explains why humans rely on the breed so much as a working dog. Today German shepherds are commonly used as guard dogs and by police as sniffers. This dutiful disposition also makes the dogs great family pets, which explains why they rank so highly on our list. With regular exercise and grooming the German shepherd really can be a man’s best friend.
1. Labrador Retrievers
Without a shred of doubt, the Labrador retriever is truly America’s favourite dog. The breed has come out on top of the American Kennel Club’s survey every year since 2003! Labradors’ gentle temperaments and eager-to-please natures makes them good for training, and as such they’re frequently used as guide dogs, therapy and assistance dogs. The dog was originally a working water dog; Labradors were first bred in Newfoundland, Canada to help fishermen pull in their nets. Labradors can be golden, chocolate or black in colour and have a short, clean coat which can be prone to shedding. These are energetic dogs that enjoy walking and their dense coat also makes them great in water. The nation’s favourite dog is loyal, caring and willing to muck in wherever he’s needed – all the qualities of a great American!