Labs still top dog in Montgomery County, but pit bulls gaining in popularity

Labrador retrievers have led the pack in popularity in Montgomery County for more than a decade, but pit bull terriers are nipping at their heels.

The most popular dog breeds and types have remained fairly consistent in recent years, according to dog license data from the Montgomery County Auditor’s Office.

Chihuahuas rank third, German shepherds are fourth and Shih Tzus are fifth. After that comes golden retrievers (6), Yorkshire terriers (7), boxers (8), beagles (9) and dachshunds (10).

But more mixed-breed dogs are registered in Montgomery County than any other type. They outnumber the combined tally of the top 12 dog breeds and classes.

Pit bull terriers have seen a big rise in the rankings.

“People have figured out they are good dogs,” said Kirsten Knight, executive director of Adopt A Pit Rescue, which is a local network of foster homes. “People like the loyalty ― we call them Velcro dogs for a reason.”

“If you are looking for a dog that wants to spend the entire afternoon on the couch with you watching Netflix, you are going to find it in a pit,” she said. “Some other breeds are more stand-offish and aren’t going to be as cuddly.”

But it comes as no big surprise that Labs retained their top spot as they have been the most popular dog breed across the nation for 29 consecutive years, according to dog registrations with the American Kennel Club (AKC).

Labs are medium- to large-sized dogs that are friendly, outgoing and active ― perfect for families, especially those who want an affectionate pal, says the AKC.

The auditor’s office recorded 3,216 dog licenses for Labrador retrievers this year, compared to 3,172 for pit bull terriers.

The number of registered pit bull terriers has more than doubled since 2014. The number of registered Labs has declined by more than 12% during that time frame.

Pit bull terriers caught up and passed Chihuahuas in popularity in 2017 and have held the second spot ever since.

There’s no way to know for sure what explains the growth in pit bull registrations, said Mike Brill, communications and community engagement manager for the Montgomery County Auditor’s Office.

He said it’s possible more people own pit bulls or more people are identifying their dogs as pit bulls. It’s also possible that more pit bull owners are licensing their dogs than in the past, he said, or it could be a combination of factors.

“Whatever reason, this data could indicate that the stigma surrounding pit bulls is decreasing,” he said.

The AKC does not recognize “pit bull” as a specific breed. But other groups do, like the United Kennel Club (UKC).

The American pit bull terrier has a long history as a physically active, muscular and agile breed, UKC says. The dogs are medium-sized, solidly built, short-coated, athletic and powerful, the organization says.

Many people who are looking to adopt a furry companion want a social pet who will snuggle with them, and pit bulls fit the bill because they are sweet, cuddly and good with kids, said Knight, with Adopt A Pit Rescue.

The rescue organization has been able to get about 2,800 dogs adopted since its founding less than eight years ago, and the vast majority have been pit mixes, Knight said.

Pit bulls have gotten a bad rap because of news stories about rare incidents of attacks and other problems, Knight said.

Critics claim pit bulls are inherently more aggressive and vicious than other types of dog and more likely to cause seriously harm. Some communities have put special restrictions on pit bull ownership.

But Knight said pit bulls are wonderful pets. Unfortunately, she said, pits and pit-mixes account for a very large share of the dogs in shelters.

“They are the dog that needs rescued the most,” she said.

She said irresponsible backyard breeding is the main reason for this. Breeders, she said, have large litters and get rid of dogs they can’t sell.

Every dog is different, Knight said, and it’s important to be matched with a pooch whose personality is compatible with people’s living situations and lifestyles.

2021 dog licenses are on sale at the Montgomery County Auditor’s Office through Feb. 1 and can be purchased online at

People interested in adopting or fostering through Adopt A Pit Rescue can visit

The 25 most popular dog breeds and types in Montgomery County

1. Labrador retriever, 3,216 (dog licenses)

2. Pit bull terrier, 3,172

3. Chihuahua, 2,055

4. German shepherd, 2,043

5. Shih Tzu, 1,378

6. Golden retriever, 1,317

7. Yorkshire terrier, 1,248

8. Boxer, 1,218

9. Beagle, 1,075

10. Dachshund, 1,050

11. Poodle, 1,040

12. Australian shepherd, 912

13. Jack Russell terrier, 765

14. Pomeranian, 614

15. Golden doodle, 575

16. Siberian husky, 515

17. Rottweiler, 452

18. Cocker spaniel, 445

19. Boston terrier, 423

20. Pug, 420

21. Husky, 416

22. Bichon frise, 398

23. Maltese, 377

24. Miniature schnauzer, 365

25. Miniature dachshund, 358

SOURCE: Montgomery County Auditor’s Office

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