Not winning any popularity contests
I have discovered an online newsletter called Vetstreet that I’m having a lot of fun with, so you poor readers will just have to bear with me until I get it out of my system.
Awhile back, I wrote about the 20 kinds of dogs most rapidly gaining popularity in the United States. This week, I am writing about the 20 kinds of dogs most rapidly losing popularity. Both pieces are based on articles written by Kristen Seymour.
Truth be told, I don’t know why some of the breeds listed ever were popular, but some surprised me in that I would think people would be falling all over each other to own them.
For example, the first one listed is the greyhound. I have owned greyhounds for over a decade, all retired racers, and I have come to the opinion that they are an almost-perfect dog, and they accomplished this with very little formal training from me.
Neither our dearly departed Seamus or Irish, the greyhound we have now, demand nearly as much from us as our other four bozos, for which we paid a lot more money and spent a lot more time and still more money training. Greyhounds don’t bark much. They don’t shed much. Mine have never dug up my garden or chewed anything except the chewies I buy for them.
They don’t start fights. They don’t even pull on the leash. They enjoy their walks but don’t demand a lot of exercise. In fact, greyhounds make great apartment dogs because 95 percent of the time, they are asleep. When they are awake, they enjoy affection but don’t demand it. If you are too busy, they just go back to sleep.
I hope the decline in popularity of these beautiful dogs reflects the decline in popularity of the sport of dog racing, which can be faulted for many reasons, not the least of which is that the animals are often destroyed when their careers are over and homes can’t be found.
Fortunately, there never was much money in dog racing, and racetracks in many states have been closing, including the one in Oregon. There are now more greyhounds retired and living out their days as pets than there are on the track: 120,000 compared to 55,000.
Oddly, very few greyhounds are actually bred to be pets. Only about 125 greyhound puppies are registered with the AKC annually (the AKC will not register dogs used for racing). But don’t get discouraged. Plenty of these lovely dogs still are available for adoption if you are interested, and a couple of active greyhound rescue groups in Oregon will help you find a hound for your home.
They are a real deal, moneywise. We paid $200 for 4-year-old Irish, which included his neutering and all vaccinations except rabies, and he has had no health problems.
Oh, dear. This column seems to be turning into an advertisement for rescuing greyhounds. Let’s get back to the other 19 breeds declining in popularity.
Next is the smooth-haired fox terrier. I would explain this by saying that they are highly energetic little guys who demand lots of exercise, but so are Jack Russell terriers, and I see them all over the place. Go figure.
The next breed listed is called the spitz/unknown mix, and honestly I’m not sure to what exactly the name refers. I know that several breeds — keeshonds and American Eskimo dogs, for example — have something called a spitz in their genealogical histories, as do a lot of dogs with long hair and a tail that curls over their backs, but I don’t know of a breed actually called a spitz. But whatever they are, they apparently need a lot of exercise or they bark and destroy property, according to the article.
The next breed losing ground is actually a dog I like a lot — the schipperke. Granted, its nickname — little black devil — is a bit off-putting. But schipperkes are small dogs not in the toy group and have no expectation of being coddled. That said, they can be a bit overly energetic and independent-minded (aka stubborn).
Dropping in popularity from 26 in 2002 to 66 in 2012 is the chow chow. This does make sense to me. With extremely thick coats, their grooming needs must be pretty intense, and they have a reputation for being aggressive.
The Dalmatian has dropped from 54 to 87 in 10 years. I guess the writing was on the wall. We all wanted one after the Disney movie “101 Dalmatians” came out. But they, too, are highly energetic dogs and the breed has some serious inherent health problems.
Tied for seventh place are the Samoyed, which is a very impressive looking dog that probably requires a lot of work to stay that way, and the keeshond, another member of the spitz family.
In ninth place is the English cocker spaniel — I think spaniels, in general, have lost popularity. Tenth is the silky terrier, which baffles me. I can’t tell these little guys from Yorkshire terriers. They look almost identical. Yet I’m practically always tripping over somebody’s Yorkie, and the silky terrier is declining. I don’t get it.
No. 11 is the basenji. It doesn’t bark, but it has every other obstacle to being trainable, so not many people can actually live with them. No. 12 is the Cairn terrier, the most famous of which, of course, is the ageless Toto from “The Wizard of Oz.” How could anyone not want Toto?
Another spitz-type dog, the American Eskimo dog, is tied in 12th place with the llasa apso, which looks somewhat like a very big shih tzu. Tied for 14th place are the toy fox terrier and the Norwegian elkhound. I think being tied for 14th in declining popularity is the only thing these breeds have in common.
Sliding from 64th to 89th in popularity is the Italian greyhound, which I find to be a pretty little dog, but I guess they’re hard to housetrain. And sliding from 65th to 90th is the Scottish terrier. The article says they can be “scrappy” with other dogs, which, as the owner of Blarney-the-dog-park-terrorist, I can tell you from personal experience is a real drawback.
The next dog is the English setter. I think these are absolutely gorgeous dogs and have no idea why so few people have them. They need a lot of exercise, but no more than any other of the sporting breeds.
Last is the wire-haired fox terrier, although one of them was Best in Show at Westminster in 2012, which may slow or even reverse their decline.
So there you have it. Twenty dogs you aren’t as likely to see as you used to. Why the pit bull gains popularity while greyhounds decline just seems wrong to me, but I guess we humans are as diverse in our tastes as the dogs we own.
Nancy Carlson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.