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Outdoors/Adventure

Which are Alaska's most popular dog breeds?

John Schandelmeier’s German shepherd Kip. (Photo by Jona Schandelmeier)

PAXSON — Spring is the time when a young man's thoughts turn to love, right?

Maybe, but spring is also when Alaskans' thoughts turn to their muddy dog racing into the house as soon as a door is opened. Our pet dogs have a tendency to be housebound during winter, but as soon as the snow melts, they are overjoyed to gallivant through the yard, sampling every puddle.

"Get that dog out of here!" is a cry the reverberates through many Alaska households this time of year.

In Alaska, as in 44 other states, the Labrador retriever is the most popular dog breed. Labs love water, so the dog that shakes muddy water on the white couch becomes one of the least-loved dogs for a few weeks every spring.

Alaskan huskies also lose some of their appeal. Muddy dog yards and the tendency of sled dogs to jump on their owner create washing-machine havoc. German shepherds, a somewhat calmer and more respectful breed, have less tendency to jump, but they're still quite fond of mud.

Beloved malamute and Siberian

German shepherds ranked No. 2 on the list of popular dogs in Alaska. (The AKC doesn't rank Alaskan huskies because it doesn't regard them as a registered breed.)

Third on the list of popular dogs for 2016 was the golden retriever. This is also in line with the rest of the nation. Alaska diverges somewhat after that, with the Siberian and the malamute both crashing the top 10.

My wife owned a Siberian for 16 years, and thus considers that dog to be one of her top breeds. Siberians love to wander and shed year-around, but are also one of the most loving dogs on the planet.

Siberians come in at No. 12 on the list of most popular dogs in the country. Personally, I prefer shepherds because of their diversity. Many tout the ability of their Labrador to retrieve — and they are top-notch bird dogs — but at the risk of a loud reader outcry, I'd say shepherds have better noses.

Years ago, I was at my favorite duck lake with my dog, a big German shepherd named Kip. There were a couple of dudes dressed as duck hunters with a couple of really nice black Labs at heel. I walked over to talk with them, and while discussing ducks and dogs, Kip wandered off and came back with a green-wing teal. The dudes were surprised.

"My dog must have missed that one," one of the hunters said.  A minute or so later, Kip pounced on something in the grass and came up with a shoveler.

The Lab owners were somewhat chagrined, but indicated that they had a wounded duck on a floating moss island that their dogs could not get to because of debris in the water. I sent Kip. He didn't use the accepted technique of the straight-line retrieve.  He worked his way around the far edge of the pond and swam from island to island until he found the duck. That dog could get birds.

I like to hunt and walk in the woods so prefer an athletic dog that stays close and listens well. That said, there is a Yorkie who lives in our house. Yorkies are perennials on the top-10 dog breeds list, too.

Some surprises

The nationwide list of favored breeds included some surprises for me.

Greyhounds are No. 151 out of 189 AKC breeds, while cane corsos, a type of mastiff, are No. 40.

American foxhounds were No. 189, and various coonhounds ranked in the low 120s.

As expected, pitbulls and beagles are among the top breeds. French bulldogs? Pencil them in at No. 6.

Rankings and numbers mean little to dog owners who love their animals. Statistics are hard to come by, but the information I could find led me to believe that there are more dogs per capita in Alaska than in any other state.

That bodes well for dogs. Dogs need room to roam. They need space to be a dog. Our Yorkie will spend her day in the yard chasing squirrels, birds and chewing on bones. In any body type, a dog is a dog.

After all, in Alaska, "Get that muddy dog out of here!" soon becomes, "Has anyone seen the dog?"

Which breed do you prefer? Leave a comment and let us know.

John Schandelmeier is a lifelong Alaskan who lives with his family near Paxson. He is a Bristol Bay commercial fisherman and two-time winner of the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race.

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