The Labrador Retriever still leads the pack of America’s most popular dogs

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The friendly and often clumsy Labrador retriever retained its long-standing title as the most popular dog breed in the United States, while the fearless Rottweiler hit its highest ranking in 20 years.

The nation’s most wanted dogs of 2016 were unveiled Tuesday in New York by the American Kennel Club, a purebred dog registry that publishes a list of the top dog breeds each year.

Labrador Retrievers, commonly referred to as “Labs,” have held their spot as the most popular breed for each of the past 26 years, making them the oldest leader in the pack.

“The labs, they’re just great with people; they’re great with everyone,” said Theresa Viesto, who raises Labs in her hometown of Newtown, Connecticut, and is enrolled in the Club. “You never hear of a lab getting into a dogfight.”

Viesto and his 4-year-old yellow lab, Reggie, attended the press conference alongside a room full of stretching, scratching and wrestling dogs and puppies representing the top ten breeds.

Second, third and fourth place were the German Shepherd, Golden Retriever and English Bulldog respectively. Beagles were the fifth most popular while French Bulldogs ranked sixth. The top six races remained the same as in 2015.

The Poodles were seventh and the Rottweilers eighth, each jumping a place higher than the last line-up. The Yorkshire terriers fell two places to ninth and the boxers held on in tenth place.

While the most popular list is usually a rehash of long-standing top breeds, Rottweilers have seen a resurgence in popularity recently after falling out of favor in the late 1990s, said Kennel Club vice president Gina DiNardo. .

It’s unclear why Rottweilers were making a comeback – the last time the breed was placed at its current level was in 1997 – but a strong economy usually prompts people to seek out larger, more expensive dogs, including including Rottweilers, DiNardo said.

Rottweiler owner Alexandra Niles of Scotch Plains, New Jersey said it was the breed’s dedicated nature that won her heart. “They’ll do just about anything for you,” said Niles, with her fat 4-year-old Rottweiler, Talos, sprawled on the floor next to her.

“He never leaves me,” Niles said of his pal, adding that he loves swimming and “don’t care” about being dressed up.

The American Kennel Club maintains the largest registry of purebred dogs in the country. Once a breed is added to the list of approximately 200 breeds and varietals currently recognized by the club, it is eligible to compete in the prestigious Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

Perhaps ironically, Westminster has never picked a Labrador retriever as the winner in the shows’ 141-year history.

“I hope one day they will be,” DiNardo said.

Reporting by Laila Kearney; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Marguerita Choy