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The Labrador is still the best dog, according to the Kennel Club

German shepherd Elsa, left, and Labrador retrievers Lark, center, and Gabriela pose as the American Kennel Club announces its list of the best breeds of 2014. The Labrador retriever tops the list. (Don Emmert/Agence France-Presse via Getty Images)

America’s penchant for Labrador retrievers still sets records, but bulldogs break new ground.

Labs reigned supreme as the nation’s top dog last year after breaking the Poodles’ decades-old record in 2013, according to the American Kennel Club’s rankings released Thursday. But bulldogs reached a new high – number 4 – and their bat-eared cousins, the French bulldogs, cracked the top 10 for the first time in nearly a century.

German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers and Beagles make the top five, while Yorkshire Terriers, Poodles, Boxers and Rottweilers round out the top 10. Dachshunds fell from 10th to 11th place.

The Bulldogs’ rise comes as no surprise to fans who tout their unmistakable expressions and generally calm personalities.

“They just have such character,” says Annette Noble of the Bulldog Club of America. The breed is known to be gentle but determined – given direction, a Bulldog may well want to “think about it first and decide if it’s worth it”, as Noble puts it.

A beagle named Lager and a bulldog named Ruby look at each other during the press conference. Bulldogs are the fourth most popular dog breed and Beagles are the fifth most popular, according to the American Kennel Club. (Don Emmert/Agence France-Presse via Getty Images)

The smaller and less jowly French Bulldog has fallen from 49th to ninth place in a decade.

The Frenchies were number 6 in the 1910s, but their popularity then declined. Then, appearances in movies, TV shows and advertising have increased their visibility in recent years.

Labrador retrievers hit the top 10 in the 1970s and haven’t come back since.

Labs are able and willing to perform virtually any canine role: search and rescue and police work, agility and other canine sports, guide and therapy dog ​​work, and sensitive family companion. Breeder Micki Beerman remembers one of her Labs winning over a hesitant child by gradually moving closer, until the child began to pet the dog.

“They’re just very intuitive,” said Beerman, from Brooklyn, New York. “They kind of know when you need them.”

The AKC does not publish raw numbers, only rankings. They reflect newly registered puppies and other dogs.

Dog breeding draws criticism from animal rights activists who believe it diverts attention from mixed-breed dogs in need of homes and produces dogs with unhealthy traits. The AKC says its breed standards and recommended health tests help responsible people raise healthy dogs, and knowing the breed’s characteristics helps owners choose a pet that’s right for them.

Associated Press

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