Carol Reiter: Popularity isn't always good

Carol Reiter

The American Kennel Club came out with a list of the most popular breeds of dogs in the United States this week.

And on top of that, I found a list of the most popular names for dogs.

Wow, what an eye opener. If you have a Labrador retriever named either Max or Maggie, you have chosen the most popular breed and the most popular name.

I like discovering what people name their dogs. In my obedience classes, I've had everything from Max to Chip to Princess. And sometimes those names don't really match the dog. Like a mastiff named Tiny (don't ask me, I couldn't figure it out either), or a Chihuahua named Killer (he wasn't).

One thing that I've noticed is that people are giving their dogs names that are more likely to be found on people, like Cody or Charlie or Jack. This is a trend that has just started with the masses, but it has been that way for more than 100 years with border collies.

By the way, border collies didn't make the top 10 most popular dogs, it didn't even make the top 50. It ended up 53rd, which is just fine with me. I hate to see a dog get popular, because then people who should never breed dogs get into the game and produce poorly bred, ill-tempered dogs. Even the Labrador retriever, which has been one of the most genial and friendly breeds around, now has some bad apples. From nasty dispositions to horrid genetic problems, the breed has taken a hard hit because of unscrupulous breeders.

Back to names. The only names that we've had for our border collies that made the top 40 were Jack and Bo. Jack isn't actually our dog, he was from Jan's litter of puppies, but we named him. And his new owners kept the name. Bo was a great working border collie that my friend raised and then sold.

And one of my dogs kind of had a popular name. Teddy is on the top 40 names, and I had a dog named Ted. But he was never, ever called Teddy; his name was Ted and that was it. I don't even think that he would come to Teddy.

Katie is also a popular name, and again I have a dog that's close to that. My Kate has also never been called Katie, but I do call her Baby Kate, because she's so tiny.

In the working border collie world, a dog with a hoity-toity name is very, very unusual. There are plenty of Bobs and Roys and Megs and Kates, but no Bobbys or Meggies or Katies.

And now the rest of the world is coming around to that. Not so many Fluffys and Luckys, although they are still popular.

As far as the most popular breeds, the bulldog has made it back on the top 10 list after more than 70 years off it. In fact, in 1998, the breed was only the 23rd most popular breed with dog owners.

Other breeds in the top 10 are Yorkshire terriers, German shepherd dogs, golden retrievers, beagles, boxers, dachshunds, poodles and shih tzus.

If you're looking for a rare breed, a breed that hasn't a chance of making the top 50 for a long time, you have a pretty good choice. Greater Swiss Mountain dogs, a large breed, is a good choice for folks who want a big dog. And for little dog fans, the Tibetan terrier or Schipperke is a good choice.

But no matter what breed of dog you choose, make sure you first do your homework to make sure the breed is a good choice for your family and your lifestyle. And most important of all, find a good breeder. I can't emphasize that enough. I wish I could tell you how many badly bred, purebred dogs have come through my obedience classes. It's actually kind of sad, and the only way to stop the bad breeders is to not, under any circumstances, buy their dogs.

A good breeder doesn't have a lot of litters, and they usually have a waiting list for their puppies. They require almost all of their puppies to be spayed or neutered, and they make sure that the home the dog is going to is the right home for the puppy.

And after you have made your choice of breed, and found a good breeder, don't saddle your dog with a bad name. A Rottweiler named Sweetie or a Yorkie named Butch just isn't right. So do your dog, and yourself, a favor and pick a good name. You are going to be living with that dog and its name for years. Believe me, I've been there. A dog I named Pup grew up to be a 60-pound, tough-looking pit bull that wouldn't hurt a flea. But by the time I realized that, she was saddled with a bad name that I still regret. Don't give a good dog a bad name, give it a name you can be proud of, and then enjoy the heck out of the dog.

Reporter Carol Reiter can be reached at (209) 385-2486 or