Labrador retrievers continue their hold as America's most popular dog, according to 2012 registration data from the American Kennel Club. The retriever dynasty began in 1990, then overtaking the American cocker spaniel (today ranked No. 27 on the AKC list) as top dog.
No doubt Labradors continue to rank on top because of their generally amiable personality and versatility. Labs are legendary for being terrific with children, and they can also work as search-and-rescue or service dogs, such as guide dogs for the visually impaired.
Another versatile breed, the German shepherd remains the second most popular breed for the third straight year. Favorites since these dogs were first imported to the United States from Germany, German shepherds haven't enjoyed this sort of popularity since the days of Rin Tin Tin.
The ranking of any breed can be a bit misleading since overall purebred AKC registrations have been on the decline for several years. Increasingly, people are either adopting mixed-breed dogs from animal shelters or simply not registering their purebred dogs.
In recent years, the beagle and golden retriever have gone back and forth as the third and fourth most popular breeds. In 2012, the golden ranked third and the beagle fourth.
Bulldogs, now settling in as the fifth most popular breed, have a long list of "issues" that are inherent with the breed, ranging from drooling and snoring to a predisposition for severe allergies, various eye-related issues, severe arthritis and trachea problems.
One might suggest if you can afford to buy a bulldog in the first place, perhaps you can also afford a lifetime of medical care. Since bulldogs are all born caesarean (because of that oversized head), buying one from a reliable breeder will set you back at least $3,000.
Bulldogs are up from No. 21 on the AKC chart 12 years ago. Each year in the past dozen, they have moved up in popularity.
The trendiest breed of all is the little Havanese. This relative of the bichon frise is today the 28th most popular AKC breed, up from No. 92, barely on the radar, 12 years ago.
One surprise is the comeback of two big dogs. In 2012, mastiffs moved up to No. 26 from No. 34 over the past decade. Similarly, the bullmastiff is now at No. 39, up from No. 47 a decade ago.