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Labrador reigns supreme: What makes lovable lab America's top dog?

A German short-haired pointer may have won the Westminster Dog Show, but its got nothing on the labrador retriever when it comes to popularity, according to the American Kennel Club.

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    A Labrador Retriever runs during competition in the Sporting Group during the Westminster Kennel Club Dog show at Madison Square Garden in New York February 16.
    Mike Segar/Reuters
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The American Kennel Club, a registry of purebred dog pedigrees in the United States, has released its annual list of the country’s favorite dog breeds, finding for the 25th year in a row that the Labrador retriever is America's favorite dog breed in 2015.

"The Lab checks all the boxes," AKC vice president Gina DiNardo told the Associated Press. "It comes in three different colors. Athletic people can play with it, run with it, and swim with it. They are family friendly and get along with others."

Known for its high energy, enthusiasm and friendliness, the Lab has held the top spot for longer than any other breed since the AKC started tracking them in the 1880s. Slate has tied its rise in popularity over the last quarter century to the rise of wealthy exurbs and their increasingly large homes.

Its ascent may have something to do with the supersizing of the American home. Prior to the Labrador's reign, the cocker spaniel held the AKC's top spot for eight years; before that, the poodle was No. 1 for a remarkable quarter-century. Labs, which can weigh more than 80 pounds and measure 25 inches from paw to shoulder, are Goliaths compared to these breeds. Even the standard poodle, which is bigger than the miniature or toy poodle and can be almost as tall as a Lab, usually weighs 15 to 20 pounds less. And Labs are an infamously rambunctious breed; they need more space to frolic and flourish than poodles or cocker spaniels.

Indeed, according to AKC, apartment-dwelling residents of New York, San Francisco, and Miami prefer the French bulldog, a small, playful, and squish-faced breed that took 6th place on the popularity list this year, up a few notches from its number 9 spot in 2014.

"French bulldogs are smaller in size so very portable and good for apartment living, and they don't require lots of exercise so they fit into a more relaxed lifestyle," Ms. DiNardo said.  

Following the Lab in the top ranks of popularity is the German shepherd, golden retriever, bulldog, and beagle, all having held the top five spots for the last several years, according to the AKC’s list.

The winner of the Westminster Dog Show last week, the German short-haired pointer, just missed the top 10 list of American favorites. It came in at number 11, though it’s been moving up in the rankings for the last several years.

Here are the top 10 breeds, from top to bottom, for 2015 from AKC’s full list:

  1. Retriever (Labrador)
  2. German Shepherd
  3. Retriever (Golden)
  4. Bulldog
  5. Beagle
  6. French bulldog
  7. Yorkshire terrier
  8. Poodle
  9. Rottweiler
  10. Boxer

The AKC’s rankings include pure-bred puppies and other newly registered, pure-bred dogs. Some animal-rights advocates are critical of the pursuit of purebreds, suggesting that they encourage puppy mills and make it harder to find homes for mixed-breed dogs in shelters. The AKC says breed characteristics help people find the appropriate dog for their home.

This report uses material from the Associated Press and Reuters.

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