Steadfast might be one way to describe Long Islanders’ preference for purebred dogs, as the American Kennel Club’s latest list of most popular is little changed from the previous year.
The top seven breeds in 2020 were exactly the same as in 2019, according to the New York-based nonprofit, which says it maintains the integrity of its purebred registry, champions them as companions families and improves their health.
In order, the top breeds were: Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, French Bulldogs, Rottweilers, Bulldogs, and Poodles.
This year Cavalier King Charles Spaniels placed eighth in 2020 and were not on the 2019 list.
The Havanese, a small, silky-coated dog native to Cuba, rose one spot to ninth on the 2020 list. Boxers remained the 10th most popular breed. Dogo Argentinos – large white dogs bred for game hunting – which placed ninth in 2019, were not on the 2020 list.
The AKC, famous for the Westminster Dog Show in New York, has come under fire from a number of vets, rescue groups and animal welfare activists for prioritizing the appearance of thoroughbreds rather than their health. Many Thoroughbreds have genetic issues that cause suffering and can lead to significant veterinary bills, critics say.
“Perhaps if breeding organizations or places like the AKC were interested in avoiding certain problems that are introduced into the breed, perhaps they could use genetic testing to create guidelines for who can participate in their exposures, and that could help prevent some problems,” said Dr. Diane Levitan, associate professor at Long Island University College of Veterinary Medicine.
Genetic diseases can be ruled out, Levitan said, noting that, for example, liver storage disease now afflicts far fewer Bedlington terriers, British watchdogs.
Mixed-breed dogs may or may not be healthier. “It’s more like the luck of the draw whether they have a health condition,” she said.
AKC spokeswoman Jessica Rice D’Amato answering questions via email about whether, for example, judges should review x-rays or other tests that would reveal if a show dog is suffering from arthritis, replied, “A breed standard is based on the historical form and function of a breed. X-rays have nothing to do with judgment. The judge does not look at the internal organs.
She added: “A dog show judge determines how well a dog meets the breed standard, which means the judge looks at conformation, temperament and overall structure. They are judged as dogs that can retain the best of their breed’s characteristics for the next generation.”
The AKC website lists a lot of information about health issues that can occur with purebreds and urges the public to carefully select breeders, asking about the health tests they perform.
Dr. Leni Kaplan of Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine recommended meeting with a puppy’s parents and asking what breeders do if a puppy gets sick later.
“Most reputable breeders will 100% guarantee their puppies so that if anything happens they will take the pup back/refund the purchase cost/replace with a new pup,” she said in an email.
The 10 Best Long Island Dog Breeds of 2020, According to the American Kennel Club
2. Golden Retrievers
3. German Shepherds
4. French Bulldogs
8. Cavalier King Charles Spaniels