Crunching the data from 3,672,000 classified ads offering dogs for sale or adoption
We ran all the numbers twice just to be sure.
The fourteenth annual ANIMALS 24-7 survey of the U.S. dog population by breed, and seventeenth overall, crunched the data from 3,672,000 classified ads listing dogs for sale or adoption during the three days from June 24, 2023 through June 26, 2023.
Other surveys of breed popularity rely on relatively minuscule samplings of purebred registration, or breed-specific licensing data, overlooking that the vast majority of dogs in the U.S. are neither registered purebreds nor licensed, and even if licensed, are rarely licensed in a manner that specifies breed or breed type.
Almost every dog, however, has to get from a birth home to a “forever home” somehow, whether born in a breeding kennel or in a household as part of an accidental litter.
Almost every dog is therefore advertised somehow, usually in classified ads.
ANIMALS 24-7 not only collects and tallies classified ads for dogs each year at the height of puppy season, but also keeps a running set of averages of the percentage of each breed offered for sale each year.
While the numbers of each breed fluctuate widely from year to year, depending on what breeders expect to be able to sell, over time the averages settle down into reasonable consistency.
Most popular U.S. breeds 2023 (link to chart)
The most shocking findings in 2023 are also among the most consistent to emerge year after year, demonstrating the extent of pit bull overpopulation, driven by runaway breeding in excess of demand, and by animal shelters and rescues that endlessly recycle pit bulls who have often been surrendered or impounded for dangerous behavior (frequently not acknowledged), for whom there are no homes and will never be secure homes.
Eighty percent of the dogs advertised in 2023 were offered for purchase by breeders, brokers, or pet stores.
Twenty percent were offered for adoption by animal shelters and shelterless rescues.
The 80/20 split appears to have been approximately the norm for more than 40 years.
But, pit bulls excepted, less than six percent of the dogs available for sale or adoption from June 24 through June 26, 2023 were available from shelters and rescues.
In other words, 94% of the dogs available to someone who did not want a pit bull were offered by breeders, brokers, or pet stores.
Meanwhile, of the total available pit bull inventory, 36% were offered by shelters or rescues: six times as many as the norm for all other breeds combined.
This inescapably translates into the reality that more than a third of the pit bull inventory available during the three-day survey interval had already flunked out of one or more homes.
The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth may be much worse than that, because of the tendency of shelters and rescues to try to make pit bulls more adoptable by calling them something else, or by simply not identifying dogs by breed at all.
ANIMALS 24-7 calculated our estimates of the shelter and rescue dog population by breed from the 234,996 dogs offered for adoption whose breeds were specified––but this was only 31% of the 752,000 total shelter and rescue dogs available.
More than two-thirds of the shelter and rescue dogs available, 69% to be precise, were not identified by breed.
If even half of these unidentified dogs were pit bulls, pit bulls currently occupy more than 70% of all available shelter and rescue kennel space; if all of them are pit bulls, a breed representing only 5.8% of the total U.S. dog population occupies 80% of all shelter and rescue kennel space.
ANIMALS 24-7 has discovered similar numbers every year since 2010.
Large retrievers are most popular breed type
Such numbers did not turn up in the ANIMALS 24-7 retrospective surveys of dogs offered for sale or adoption during the first fifty years of the twentieth century, when pit bulls were under 1% of all dogs advertised, nor during the 1970-1979 time frame, when pit bulls were 1.8% of all dogs advertised.
The first warning signs of runaway pit bull overpopulation turned up during the 1980-1989 time frame, when pits were 3.4% of the advertised dogs.
Despite the huge numbers of pit bulls bred and offered for sale or adoption, the most popular dogs in the U.S. appear to be large retrievers: Labradors, golden retrievers, and close variants, amounting to 7% of all dogs.
Hounds & small terriers
Pit bulls, including the 36% at shelters and rescues, appear to be 6.1% of the U.S. dog population, followed by hounds at 5.5%, small terriers at 4.3%, and other “bully” breeds combined, including bullmastiffs, Cane Corsos, Dogo Argentinos, and Presa Canarios.
These other “bully” breeds, combined, are now a steeply rising 3.7% of all U.S. dogs.
German shepherds are next, at 3.4%.
Cumulatively, small dogs and dogs of quiet, friendly disposition such as setters and pointers still far outnumber big breeds of hostile reputation, but the rising trend toward producing, selling, and eventually abandoning at shelters big dogs perceived as weapons cannot be ignored.
Among other breeds conspicuously over-represented in the shelter and rescue dog inventory were Chihuahuas (38% of the available Chihuahua population) and Rottweilers (32% of the available Rottweiler population).
The third and fourth most abundant breeds offered for adoption were large retrievers and German shepherds. The large retrievers available from shelters and rescues, however, were only 8.5% of those offered from all sources combined, and the German shepherds available from shelters, though over-represented proportionate to population, were 15% of all German shepherds available
No longer over-represented in the shelter and rescue dog inventory are otherwise unidentified mixed breeds (23.6% of all dogs offered for sale or adoption as mixes).
Most of the 76.4% of “mixed breeds” offered for sale appear to be “designer” mixes of small popular breeds, for example “maltipoos” and “corgipoos.”
Greyhounds, however, showed the most remarkable one-year change among any of the 144 breeds and breed types surveyed in 2023.
Only a year ago more than 40% of the total U.S. greyhound population offered for sale or adoption were former racing dogs available from rescues.
With only two greyhound tracks still operating in the U.S. after the end of 2022, just under 20% of the greyhounds offered for sale or adoption as of mid-2023 were racetrack rescues.