NEW YORK (AP) — The American Kennel Club says the Labrador retriever is the nation's most popular dog for the 22nd straight year — for attributes that range from family-friendly pet to search-and-rescue nose.
The German shepherd still commands the No. 2 spot, according to the AKC top 10 list released Wednesday.
And the golden retriever has nudged out the beagle for the No. 3 rung.
AKC spokeswoman Lisa Peterson said larger breeds dominate the "pint-sized, portable pooch." But there are still some loveable lightweights on the list.
The beagle is now fourth. The rest of the pack: bulldog, Yorkshire terrier, boxer, poodle, Rottweiler and dachshund.
Adult and puppy versions of the top five breeds appeared at a news conference at AKC national headquarters on the fourth floor of a Madison Avenue building.
They were all well-behaved, even the 2- or 3-month-old puppies, though a few young ones did have small accidents on the carpet that were quickly wiped up.
The invited purebred dogs came from the New York area. Several had reached champion status, and two of them also serve as therapy dogs, visiting residents of nursing homes or working with the disabled. They're taught to be comfortable when wheelchairs, walkers or canes approach, and to move aside and leave room for people using them.
Commander, a powerful but gentle German shepherd, is a champion with a formal name longer than most royalty: Champion Caramist Klingon Commander Ube CD RN BH CGC AKC. The towering, 6-year-old animal is certified as a therapy and companion dog.
Nearby — rolling upside down on the carpet — was an 8-week-old German shepherd puppy, a female named Tsunami being considered for scent-detection training.
Peterson said despite canine pedigrees that go back to the 1800s, the club encourages mixed breeds to compete in other events.
"We love all dogs, mixed or purebreds," the AKC spokeswoman said. "What kind of dog people get, and whether they adopt from a shelter, is each owner's choice."
Karen Fennikoh, of Middletown, N.Y., breeds golden retrievers but said she came to love dogs by owning two "mutts" as a young woman, including one that resembled a retriever she nicknamed Golden Deceiver.
She said she eventually opted to work with purebreds — including nine living with her — "because I need the competition."
She brought 10-week-old Gibbs, the son of another champion, Major, who came from Mahwah, N.J.
The rankings are based on the number of dogs from AKC-recognized breeds registered with the club each year.
While the Labrador retriever has dominated the popularity contest, it wasn't always so.
For most of the 1920s, Peterson said, the German shepherd was at the top, its popularity inspired by the silver screen hero Rin Tin Tin.
Among qualities that keep the Lab so popular now is the breed's versatility, Peterson said. "They do so many things so well: They're great company and a great family dog, but also work in law enforcement, bomb and narcotics detection, search and rescue, and as hunting dogs."
"And they come in three colors," she added.