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Two more dog stories

Posted by Kurt at 3:19 am - February 11, 2013.
Filed under: Dogs

We’re already in the midst of the second week in February, which means it is once again time for the annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York City.   That interests me mainly because I’m a “dog person” and although I don’t follow these sorts of things closely enough to care about any of the favorites or most of the technicalities involved, I do enjoy tuning in sometimes on TV when there’s nothing else worth watching (which is often the case) just to cheer on my favorite breeds and breed groups.  Although I enjoy seeing the dogs in those breeds, I find the whole world of dog shows more than a little odd, which is why it was more than ripe for parody in the 2000 Christopher Guest comedy Best in Show.  Plus, as a dog owner, I have more than a few problems with any sort of beauty contest for dogs which my beautiful and charming mutt would be unable to enter.

Regardless of which dog is named “Best in Show” in New York this week, I saw this story a few weeks ago about the ten most popular dog breeds in the U.S.   Although, this is just one list and an imperfect one at that (some of the flaws in the method employed are explained here), personally I found it somewhat encouraging that even at the start of Obama’s second term, the Labrador Retriever is still the most popular dog breed in America, followed by the German Shepherd and the Golden Retriever.  I like the fact that three large breeds are the most popular.   These are not dogs for wimps.  Although Goldens and Labradors are both known for their sociability and for being great family dogs, they are also good hunting dogs, and great companions for athletic people who spend a lot of time outdoors; German Shepherds are also great active dogs, known for their loyalty and intelligence, and they are great guard dogs.  In fact, the top four dogs are the same as they were in 2002.

What’s more intriguing is the shifting positions of other breeds and dogs further down the list in the last 10 years.   Among the top 10 dogs, I’m puzzled by the rise in popularity of the Bulldog (#18 in 2002, #10 in 2007 and #5 in 2012), but I suspect it is connected to the rise in popularity of the Rottweiler (#13 in 2002 and #9 in 2012), the Doberman (#23 in 2002 and #12 in 2012), and the French Bulldog (#58 in 2002 and #14 in 2012).   My initial impression of this trend is that in the Obama economy, people worry more about the security of their homes and their possessions, and so increasingly they are opting for dogs that can be fiercely protective over those that are just cute or aesthetically pleasing.  I think the trend points to increasing feelings of unease in our society, but I’m more curious to know our readers’ thoughts on the implications of the enduring or changing popularity of different breeds for contemporary American culture.  Should we be encouraged by the latest list, or is it a sign of more trouble ahead?

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14 Comments

  1. Where I grew up, Terriers, Cocker Spaniel-mixes and Beagles were very popular. Labs, Goldens and Setters were typically a little too big for the small-yards in our town…though plenty of the local dogs could and did run loose during the day as long as collared and tagged. Dobermans and Shepherds were considered “scary-breeds” and most people and kids avoided them.

    Oddly, I seem to remember Beagles being larger than the ones you see now. What they call “Beagles” now look more like Toy Beagles than the hunting Beagles of my day. I fear it’s the creeping Societal Infantilization of so-many aspects of America Life; affecting dog-breeds so they’re smaller and more “puppy-like” as adults.

    Comment by Ted B. (Charging Rhino) — February 11, 2013 @ 11:42 am - February 11, 2013

  2. Well Rocky relies on me for protection, I don’t have the room for a big dog. When I was growing up we had German Sheppards, and the various dogs that people would abandon on the back roads.

    Comment by The_Livewire — February 11, 2013 @ 11:58 am - February 11, 2013

  3. Every year I root for the labrador retreiver, the most popular breed and yet never a winner. My yellow lab and I watch and hope that it will finally happen. There is a reason that the labrador is so popular and anyone who is around a lab knows. Loyal, perceptive, kind, and incredibly social. My lab would turn down a readily available steak to meet someone new. It’s not even a choice for her. It is such a shame that the ordinary, or common dog never gets the limelight. One of my best memories is the moment I witnessed the sheer emotion of joy by my dog when she was a puppy. It was truly remarkable.

    Comment by Scott Lassiter — February 11, 2013 @ 12:08 pm - February 11, 2013

  4. Uhh, have you seen a French bulldog? Theyre basically Boston terriers, and they have the stopping power of a polyester garment with mild ststic cling.

    Comment by monty — February 11, 2013 @ 1:49 pm - February 11, 2013

  5. I confess I am not much of a dog person. I like my dog, but when she is gone I don’t intend to get another one (my son is a dog person and unlike many kids out there does most of the care for her).

    My dog is a Borzoi mix (she looks a lot like a greyhound). I will totally vouch for her as the best inside, big dog breed ever. She is so well behaved inside the house-although she does need a lot of exercise (thankfully my son loves to run with her).

    Comment by Just Me — February 11, 2013 @ 2:22 pm - February 11, 2013

  6. I have had a number of dogs over my life, but by far the best dog I have ever owned was my Alaskan Malamute. Her father was the “best in class” one year in New York. The breeder wanted me to show her, I chose not to and she had a great life as just a plain “family dog.” Was with us for 12 years.

    PJ was incredibly loyal and protective of all family members. She had many instances where she was demonstrated that protectiveness of my children. She was also very fearless – they do make a fantastic family dog. A little hairy at shedding time, but she made up for that with her love and affection.

    She passed away a few years ago from cancer – we had to put her down – one of the most painful days my wife and I ever had(I am tearing up as I type) in our life. I have not been of the mind to get another dog – impossible to replace PJ. I miss her very much!!

    Comment by mixitup — February 11, 2013 @ 3:41 pm - February 11, 2013

  7. Ted B.–I know exactly what you mean about Shepherds and Dobermans being considered the “scary breeds.” That was certainly what most people I knew thought about them when I was a kid in the 70s. My family and most of the folks I knew growing up had smaller size dogs (Terriers, Cocker Spaniels, Schnauzers and Poodles), as well. We knew one family that had a Shetland Sheepdog, and at the time, I thought it was a rather big dog. There was one house in my neighborhood that had a German Shepherd in the yard, but that family didn’t have any kids and no one seemed to know much about them, so none of the neighborhood kids ever lingered in front of that yard.

    Comment by Kurt — February 11, 2013 @ 3:55 pm - February 11, 2013

  8. My favorite is the Golden Retriever. Friendly and just a tad goofy (and smart). Lots of fun.

    I would never get a dog for protection. That’s what locks, burglar alarms and firearms are for. A well-trained protection dog (e.g. schutzhund training) would be effective but a “mean dog” is trouble – it can’t tell the difference between friend and foe. I started a Golden I once had (RIP) (he did OK in the temperament test) but the amount of work needed is far more than I was willing and able to do.

    The best dog shows are obedience contests. The dogs are a hoot to watch and will surprise (and humiliate) their handlers with some regularity. “Mutts” are allowed and compete with the best.

    The breed shows, like Westminster, are far too heavy on the foo-foo, yappy breeds.

    Comment by SoCalRobert — February 11, 2013 @ 7:25 pm - February 11, 2013

  9. I would never get a dog for protection.

    I agree with this. Our dog is very social and kind of goofy. We often joke that if somebody did break into our house, she would happily greet them and show them where to find all the stuff worth stealing.

    She is a very large dog though-so I suspect even if she wouldn’t hurt a flea, a burglar probably would go somewhere with out a dog just in case she was dangerous.

    Comment by Just Me — February 11, 2013 @ 11:17 pm - February 11, 2013

  10. I’m just sad that my beloved Basset Hounds never win….although one named “Noodles” did win Best in Group a few years ago.

    Comment by Bastiat Fan — February 11, 2013 @ 11:52 pm - February 11, 2013

  11. You won’t find a better dog than a Standard Poodle.

    Comment by Ignatius — February 12, 2013 @ 1:11 pm - February 12, 2013

  12. “11.You won’t find a better dog than a Standard Poodle.”

    Fixed it. I like my big dogs, but I’ll stick by my Chihuahua/Cheesehuahua/Hamhuahua any day over a poodle. :P

    Comment by The_Livewire — February 12, 2013 @ 5:29 pm - February 12, 2013

  13. I would never get a dog for protection. That’s what locks, burglar alarms and firearms are for.

    “Protection” from who/what, though? A “big, scary” Doberman, German Shepherd, Rottweiler, or Pit Bull that is much too laid-back and goofy to protect your house may still be a very effective deterrent to muggers or rapists when you’re out for a walk late at night.

    Comment by Throbert McGee — February 14, 2013 @ 12:50 am - February 14, 2013

  14. P.S. If you live in an building where dogs aren’t allowed, but you want an affectionate and loyal pet that’s easy to care for, get a rat before you start shopping around for a cat!

    P.P.S. Honestly, I love cats, but they’re kinda lame compared with dogs. And if you can’t have a dog, rats offer (at least) a cat-like degree of affection without all the feline drawbacks.

    Comment by Throbert McGee — February 14, 2013 @ 12:55 am - February 14, 2013

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