Who's more popular? Labrador retriever stays No. 1; L.A. loves bulldogs

If people resemble their dogs, why do Angelenos love bulldogs so much?

If it is true that dogs are a reflection of their owners, then Angelenos are short, squat couch potatoes with wrinkled faces, who snore loudly and would rather watch TV than jog on the beach. 

How could it be that the stout little bulldog, who cannot even swim, is the most popular breed in Los Angeles, while the rest of America goes for the lean, energetic Labrador retriever?

Theories abounded as the American Kennel Club on Thursday announced the 10 most popular dog breeds in the United States and in some major cities. For the 24th straight year, the Lab held onto the No. 1 spot in the nation, followed by the German shepherd and golden retriever.

In L.A., the Labrador retriever placed fourth, behind the German shepherd, the French bulldog and the mighty bulldog, a breed known for its sweet personality and shuffling gait.

"Maybe they're getting real and not worrying about their weight and their wrinkles," Laura Aline, a bulldog owner from Stony Brook, N.Y., speculated about Los Angeles residents, who for two straight years have embraced their inner snorting, TV-watching, chubby-legged selves. 

Aline admitted to being baffled by the results, which are based on dog registration statistics from 178 AKC-recognized breeds. Asked what breed she would associate with L.A., Aline suggested the Afghan hound. 

"Long, lean and glamorous," said Aline, who was at the AKC news conference with Ruby Sparks, a 1 1/2-year-old bulldog, and a horde of dogs and puppies representing the most popular breeds.

All of them crowded into the carpeted (!) lobby of the AKC headquarters in midtown Manhattan, as AKC spokeswoman Hillary Prim waved a squeaky toy and tried to organize a puppy photo op.

"Can everyone get in one straight line please?" Prim asked. The humans obeyed. The puppies did not.

"I know this is hard, but can you just get them side by side, almost touching each other? Could the bulldog be closer to the beagle?" Prim asked as the German shepherd sniffed the rear end of the fluffy golden retriever. Somewhere off to the side, an excited French bulldog threw up.

One thing to be gleaned from the favorite breeds of major cities is that Angelenos have more in common with New Yorkers than either coast might want to admit. Bucking the nationwide trend, both cities embrace bulldogs and French bulldogs as their top two breeds.

In New York, though, the little French bulldogs, with their trademark bat ears and compact bodies well-suited to compact apartments, are most popular, followed by bulldogs. French bulldogs are No. 2 in L.A., behind the bulldog, which can weigh more than 50 pounds.

San Francisco and Denver followed the national trend by registering more Labrador retrievers than any other breed. Nashville and Miami preferred German shepherds to the rest.

But Prim said that 2014 was, indeed, the year of the bulldog, which for the first time made the fourth spot on the national list. It bumped the beagle, which fell to No. 5, but perhaps not for long. A beagle won the top prize in this month's Westminster Kennel Club dog show, which is often a guarantee of a surge in popularity.

"They're great family pets, they're great with children, and they're small and portable," beagle owner Erinn Wilks said as she cradled 6 1/2-month-old beagle Kisses.

Actually, everyone said their dogs made great family pets, including the huge German shepherd with the soulful brown eyes and the black and blond Labrador retrievers reveling in the glory of being No. 1, yet again.

If there was an underdog this year, it would have to be the dachshund, which dropped out of the national top-10 list.

Peter Festa, whose creamy white bulldog puppy, Winter, was resting in his arms, said the bulldog might be enjoying a surge in popularity because its temperament reflects the human condition. 

They are mellow and like to hang out with the family, but they can be roused to exercise when nudged, said Festa, president of the Long Island Bulldog Club.

Maybe Los Angeles loves them because Angelenos need a break from proving to the world that they're beautiful, energetic and glamorous, Festa said.

"Maybe," he said, "L.A. needs a break from Hollywood."

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