Meet the dog thespians of ‘A Dog’s Journey,’ a canine method-acting masterclass

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“A Dog’s Journey” follows a dog through his many lifetimes.

Spoiler alert! What follows reveals key plot points in “A Dog’s Journey,” though not the ending. You might want to see the movie before reading.

The pooch ensemble in “A Dog’s Journey” (in theaters Friday) has serious acting chops.

These skills are required in the saga, a continuation of 2017’s “A Dog’s Purpose,” which follows the spirit of Bailey as he’s reincarnated into pup after pup (all voiced by Josh Gad) before eventually passing to heaven.

The circle of life requires the full spectrum of canine emotion – from cuddly to consequential. Director Gail Mancuso, who has five dogs of her own, pulls Oscar-worthy performances from her canine thespians in a movie where there’s a pooch in every scene.

For your consideration, we present the leading contenders:

Bailey as Buddy (voiced by Josh Gad) with Ethan (Dennis Quaid) in "A Dog’s Journey."
(Photo: UNIVERSAL PICTURES AND AMBLIN ENTERTAINMENT)

Bailey as Buddy (voiced by Josh Gad) with Ethan (Dennis Quaid) in “A Dog’s Journey.” 

Buddy brought the beautiful heartbreak early.

Boss dog Buddy (a Great Pyrenees/Bernese Mountain dog mix) was played by three lookalike dogs, but mainly Odin, the film’s primary star. 

Odin was tasked with dying in the lap of Buddy’s beloved owner Ethan (Dennis Quaid), which happens early in the film. It was already a Kleenex moment before Odin lifted his head for a final, soulful look into Quaid’s eyes and faded. “That look was pure magic,” Mancuso says. “That moment resonated with me, as I have experienced my own dog looking at me during our goodbye. It’s a special bond.”

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Young CJ (Abby Ryder Fortson) and Molly, a Beaglier, became besties in "A Dog's Journey."
(Photo: UNIVERSAL PICTURES AND AMBLIN ENTERTAINMENT)

Young CJ (Abby Ryder Fortson) and Molly, a Beaglier, became besties in “A Dog’s Journey.” 

Molly was more than adorable energy.

The energetic Molly, who steps in to support the movie’s human heroine CJ when her mom moves her away, was played by two Beagliers (a beagle crossed with a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel). Lead dog Lemy showed parkour skills, bounding through backyard obstacles (down stairs, over a gate) to jump into young CJ’s arms (played by Abby Ryder Fortson). “And then started licking my face all over,” Fortson says.

But Lemy had to get tough later and “bite” the leg of the film’s villain (Jake Manley). Dog trainer Bonnie Judd first taught Lemy to tug with a toy, then placed a pouch of meat in Manley’s pant leg. “It’s kind of like a pinata,” Judd says. “The more they go at it, the more they get.”

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Bailey became Big Dog, an African Boerboel, in "A Dog's Journey."
(Photo: UNIVERSAL PICTURES AND AMBLIN ENTERTAINMENT)

Bailey became Big Dog, an African Boerboel, in “A Dog’s Journey.” 

Parting is such sweet sorrow for Big Dog.

Big Dog, played by an African Boerboel named Phil, has a small role, portraying a chance meeting with his spiritual owner CJ, now an adult played by Kathryn Prescott, in a roadside store. Phil hit his marks, and gave a hearty paw-shake. But the soulful-eyed dog hit dramatic paydirt when he bid farewell forever to CJ.

“When he’s saying goodbye as he’s leaving, it’s so sad that it made me cry,” Prescott says.

Buddy (voiced by Josh Gad) climbs in with toddler CJ (Emma Volk) for an affectionate lick as Hannah (Marg Helgenberger) looks on in "A Dog’s Journey."
(Photo: JOE LEDERER/UNIVERSAL PICTURES AND AMBLIN ENTERTAINMENT)

Buddy (voiced by Josh Gad) climbs in with toddler CJ (Emma Volk) for an affectionate lick as Hannah (Marg Helgenberger) looks on in “A Dog’s Journey.” 

Buddy and an adorable toddler make giddy magic.

Emma Volk was 2 when she shot her screen debut as Buddy’s kid friend (and Ethan’s granddaughter) in “A Dog’s Journey.” But her giggling chemistry with Odin’s Buddy is magic, with dog and toddler clearly happy together in a way that goes beyond acting. “Emma just really loved the big brute, and it looks natural,” Judd says.

Max, a Biewer terrier (voiced by Josh Gad), was played by four dogs in "A Dog's Journey."
(Photo: UNIVERSAL PICTURES AND AMBLIN ENTERTAINMENT)

Max, a Biewer terrier (voiced by Josh Gad), was played by four dogs in “A Dog’s Journey.” 

Max’s exit scene was tough even for the dog actor.

Rescue dog Max, CJ’s adulthood dog, was played by four Biewer terriers. Belle, the character’s primary actor, was so invested in her death scene, she had trouble letting Prescott’s CJ tearfully sing to her.

“The first time, Belle really wanted to kiss her tears away, but after that she kept her head down and closed her eyes each time,” Judd says. “It’s a tough scene for any dog but Belle was still a super-hyper puppy. Yet she did exactly as I asked over and over again. On each cut, she would quickly kiss CJ and play.”

Dogs are incredibly popular, there’s no doubt about
Dogs are incredibly popular, there’s no doubt about that: 60 million American households have almost 90 million dogs as pets. In honor of National Pet Day, 24/7 Wall Street set out to identify the 100 most popular breeds in the USA, reviewing data from the American Kennel Club (AKC). Whatever your taste, budget or house size, there’s a dog on our list for you. alexei_tm / iStock
100. Leonbergers • 2016 rank: 95 • 2007 rank: N/A •
100. Leonbergers • 2016 rank: 95 • 2007 rank: N/A • Leonbergers are large and powerful dogs that can weigh about 150 pounds, but have gentle and playful temperaments. The breed is named after the German city of Leonberg, where the dogs originated, and came to the United States in the 1970s. Bigandt_Photography / Getty Images
99. Wire fox terriers • 2016 rank: 101 • 2007 rank:
99. Wire fox terriers • 2016 rank: 101 • 2007 rank: 82 • Wire fox terriers were bred in Great Britain in the late 1700s to assist in the now-banned practice of foxhunting. There are a number of different fox terriers, including the wire, the smooth and the toy fox terrier, recognized by the AKC in 2003. CaptureLight / Getty Images
98. Boykin spaniel • 2016 rank: 110 • 2007 rank: N/A
98. Boykin spaniel • 2016 rank: 110 • 2007 rank: N/A • The Boykin spaniel is named after L.W. “Whit” Boykin, who created the breed in the early 1900s to hunt ducks and wild turkeys in South Carolina’s swampy terrain. The Boykin spaniel became the state’s official animal in 1985. redsidephoto / iStock
97. Rat terriers • 2016 rank: 96 • 2007 rank: N/A •
97. Rat terriers • 2016 rank: 96 • 2007 rank: N/A • As the name suggests, rat terriers were bred to kill rats, but they have also been used as watchdogs and for hunting. In the early 20th century, rat terriers, supposedly named by Teddy Roosevelt, were among the most common farm dogs in the U.S. D. Homer / Getty Images
96. Flat-coated retrievers • 2016 rank: 89 • 2007 rank:
96. Flat-coated retrievers • 2016 rank: 89 • 2007 rank: 100 • It was first bred in Britain in the mid-19th century and was known as the “gamekeeper’s dog” because of its widespread use on estates. It is distinguished by its lustrous coat and long head, which is unique among retrievers. Flatcoater / Getty Images
95. English setters • 2016 rank: 102 • 2007 rank: 93
95. English setters • 2016 rank: 102 • 2007 rank: 93 • The English setter was bred by crossing spaniels and pointers to create a breed that would would “set” (or crouch low) after finding game birds. English setters have a unique speckled coat pattern that can include such colors as orange, lemon and blue. JaneFaizullin / Getty Images
94. Brussels griffons • 2016 rank: 97 • 2007 rank:
94. Brussels griffons • 2016 rank: 97 • 2007 rank: 60 • The Brussels griffon is an affectionate breed with big black eyes and a beard. It has a noisy bark and makes a good watchdog, despite its small stature (typically, less than 10 inches tall and 10 pounds). alexander ashikhmin / Getty Images
93. Afghan hounds • 2016 rank: 113 • 2007 rank: 94
93. Afghan hounds • 2016 rank: 113 • 2007 rank: 94 • Instantly recognizable because of its long, silky coat, which provided protection against the harsh climate of the mountainous regions where it originated. Famous people who have had Afghans as pets include Zeppo Marx and Pablo Picasso. Mariana Mikhailova / Getty Images
92. Border terriers • 2016 rank: 86 • 2007 rank: 81
92. Border terriers • 2016 rank: 86 • 2007 rank: 81 • The border terrier was bred to hunt foxes in the rugged terrain of the English-Scottish border. It is a very active and tough breed with a weather-resistant coat. It adapts well to city life as long as it gets lots of exercise. CaptureLight / Getty Images
91. Norwegian elkhounds • 2016 rank: 94 • 2007 rank:
91. Norwegian elkhounds • 2016 rank: 94 • 2007 rank: 96 • As the name suggests, this ancient spitz-type dog was bred to hunt the giant elk, a formidable foe. It was popular with the Vikings and sailed with them on their voyages of exploration and conquest. slyncher00 / Getty Images
90. Standard schnauzers • 2016 rank: 85 • 2007 rank:
90. Standard schnauzers • 2016 rank: 85 • 2007 rank: 102 • Schnauzers come in three sizes: miniature, standard and giant. The standard is a medium-size dog weighing 35 to 45 pounds. All schnauzers have wiry coats, arched eyebrows and walrus-like whiskers. cynoclub / Getty Images
89. Nova Scotia duck tolling retrievers • 2016 rank:
89. Nova Scotia duck tolling retrievers • 2016 rank: 87 • 2007 rank: 110 • The smallest AKC retriever was bred in the 19th century in the Little River District of Yarmouth County, Nova Scotia. “Tolling” refers to its method of luring waterfowl within range of hunters. Also distinctive: its crimson coat. chris-mueller / Getty Images
88. Pekingese • 2016 rank: 93 • 2007 rank: 50 • The
88. Pekingese • 2016 rank: 93 • 2007 rank: 50 • The Pekingese was bred to be the lapdog for Chinese royalty and small enough to fit inside the huge sleeves of ancient Chinese garments. The Pekingese is a survivor: One of the dogs to escape from the Titanic was a Pekingese named Sun Yat-sen. DevidDO / Thinkstock
87. Keeshonden • 2016 rank: 92 • 2007 rank: 99 • A
87. Keeshonden • 2016 rank: 92 • 2007 rank: 99 • A medium-sized dog with a fox-like face and markings and shadings around the eyes that resemble spectacles. It is cute, friendly and excels as a therapy dog. The Keeshonden kept Dutch sailors company as they prowled the waters around the Low Countries. bruev / Getty Images
86. Anatolian shepherds • 2016 rank: 84 • 2007 rank:
86. Anatolian shepherds • 2016 rank: 84 • 2007 rank: N/A • These Turkish shepherds, used to guard livestock, were brought to the U.S. after World War II. They prefer to intimidate predators rather than to attack, so they were the right dog for the job after the passage of the Endangered Species Act, which protected wolves. erdinhasdemir / iStock
85. Bouviers des Flandres • 2016 rank: 83 • 2007 rank:
85. Bouviers des Flandres • 2016 rank: 83 • 2007 rank: 84 • The name translates as “cowherd of Flanders,” but it’s a versatile breed employed as a watchdog and to pull carts. The dog has a weatherproof coat and a beard and mustache. Liete / iStock
84. Basenjis • 2016 rank: 88 • 2007 rank: 89 • The
84. Basenjis • 2016 rank: 88 • 2007 rank: 89 • The Basenji originated in Africa and is one of the oldest dog breeds. That said, it has some un-doglike characteristics: It doesn’t bark and grooms itself like a cat. Madjuszka / Getty Images
83. American Staffordshire terriers • 2016 rank: 81
83. American Staffordshire terriers • 2016 rank: 81 • 2007 rank: N/A • The AmStaff is bigger than its British cousin, the Staffordshire bull terrier. It is naturally playful and has a stubborn streak that can make it difficult to train. Aleksandr Zotov / Getty Images
82. Staffordshire bull terriers • 2016 rank: 82 • 2007
82. Staffordshire bull terriers • 2016 rank: 82 • 2007 rank: N/A • Bull terriers were originally bred in England for bull-baiting, and this breed was particularly popular in the county of Staffordshire, hence the name. They were brought to America in the mid-19th century, where the AmStaff was bred. CBCK-Christine / Getty Images
81. Coton de Tulear • 2016 rank: 80 • 2007 rank: N/A
81. Coton de Tulear • 2016 rank: 80 • 2007 rank: N/A • Also known as the “royal dog of Madagascar.” “Coton” is French for cotton, which the breed’s white coat resembles, and “Tulear” is a town in Madagascar. It’s a small but sturdy companion dog with a hypoallergenic coat. Bigandt_Photography / iStock
80. Giant schnauzers • 2016 rank: 79 • 2007 rank: 83
80. Giant schnauzers • 2016 rank: 79 • 2007 rank: 83 • A larger (up to 95 pounds) and stronger version of the standard schnauzer. It was developed in the Bavarian Alps in the mid-19th century to drive cattle from farm to market, and has also been used as a military and police dog. bruev / Getty Images
79. Chinese crested • 2016 rank: 77 • 2007 rank: 52
79. Chinese crested • 2016 rank: 77 • 2007 rank: 52 • A toy dog with a distinctive hairdo (thus, the name). It’s an affectionate dog with some cat-like traits: It likes to sit in high places. Kate Hudson had a Chinese crested in “How to Lose A Guy In 10 Days,” and the Olsen twins had one in “New York Minute.” Africa Studio / Shutterstock
78. Russell terriers • 2016 rank: 90 • 2007 rank: N/A
78. Russell terriers • 2016 rank: 90 • 2007 rank: N/A • Russell terriers are small, lively, and friendly. They are named after John Russell, a 19th-century English clergyman known as “The Sporting Parson.” The breed was subsequently developed in Australia. Sarah Vessely – Photografik / Getty Images
77. Lhasa apsos • 2016 rank: 71 • 2007 rank: 49 • The
77. Lhasa apsos • 2016 rank: 71 • 2007 rank: 49 • The Lhasa apso is an ancient breed from Tibet, where it served as a companion and watchdog in isolated monasteries. It can be cute, mischievous and deeply devoted. oceane2508 / Getty Images
76. Chow Chows • 2016 rank: 74 • 2007 rank: 63 • The
76. Chow Chows • 2016 rank: 74 • 2007 rank: 63 • The Chow does fine without a lot of exercise. Its deep-set eyes give it a serious look. It comes in a variety of colors, including red, black and blue. It’s one of two AKC registered breeds with a blue-black tongue, the other being the Chinese Shar-Pei. Willbrasil21 / Getty Images
75. Greater Swiss mountain dogs • 2016 rank: 78 • 2007
75. Greater Swiss mountain dogs • 2016 rank: 78 • 2007 rank: 90 • The greater Swiss mountain dog is descended from war dogs brought across the Alps by Julius Caesar’s armies. It is a large, powerful working dog. It needs regular exercise but does not cope well with hot weather. Anzze86 / Getty Images
74. Italian greyhounds • 2016 rank: 72 • 2007 rank:
74. Italian greyhounds • 2016 rank: 72 • 2007 rank: 59 • The ancient miniature breed was popular with European royalty and is featured in numerous Renaissance paintings. It’s a sight hound (as opposed to a scent hound) and will pursue fast-moving prey. Rauluminate / Getty Images
73. Irish wolfhounds • 2016 rank: 73 • 2007 rank: 80
73. Irish wolfhounds • 2016 rank: 73 • 2007 rank: 80 • As the name suggests, it was used to hunt wolves, which it did very successfully; there haven’t been wolves in Ireland for hundreds of years. You need space to have an Irish wolfhound as a pet: It’s the tallest of all AKC breeds and can weigh as much as 180 pounds. alkir / Getty Images
72. Irish setters • 2016 rank: 76 • 2007 rank: 66 •
72. Irish setters • 2016 rank: 76 • 2007 rank: 66 • Famous for their fine red coats and for their grace and speed, these dogs thrive on human companionship and get along well with children and other dogs. But they may have problems with cats. Abramova_Kseniya / Getty Images
71. Miniature pinschers • 2016 rank: 68 • 2007 rank:
71. Miniature pinschers • 2016 rank: 68 • 2007 rank: 26 • Known as the “king of toys,” it’s small and athletic and has a big dog personality. Because of the shared name, it’s sometimes mistakenly assumed to be a miniature Doberman pinscher. SensorSpot / Getty Images
70. Old English sheepdogs •  2016 rank: 75 • 2007 rank:
70. Old English sheepdogs • 2016 rank: 75 • 2007 rank: 72 • The old English sheepdog is famous for its shaggy double coat and has been immortalized in Disney films such as “The Shaggy Dog” and “101 Dalmatians.” It makes a great pet, but requires a lot of grooming. JIM EVANS/KENNEBEC JOURNAL via AP
69. Cairn terriers • 2016 rank: 70 • 2007 rank: 48
69. Cairn terriers • 2016 rank: 70 • 2007 rank: 48 • The cairn terrier originated in Scotland, where it was used to catch vermin. In “The Wizard of Oz,” Dorothy’s dog Toto was a cairn terrier. GlobalP / Getty Images
68. Cardigan Welsh  • 2016 rank: 69 • 2007 rank: 78
68. Cardigan Welsh • 2016 rank: 69 • 2007 rank: 78 • The Cardigan Welsh corgi looks a lot like its cousin, the Pembroke Welsh corgi, but with a tail. It is fond of children and gets on well with other pets. The Cardigan Welsh corgi does require care, as it can get overweight easily. volofin / Getty Images
67. Dogues de Bordeaux • 2016 rank: 63 • 2007 rank:
67. Dogues de Bordeaux • 2016 rank: 63 • 2007 rank: N/A • “Dogue” is French for “mastiff,” and this is a big breed with a massive head. While not aggressive, it isn’t great with other dogs. A dogue de Bordeaux was featured in the 1989 Tom Hanks movie “Turner and Hooch” but it wasn’t recognized by the AKC until 2008. whitephotoroma / Getty Images
66. Great Pyrenees • 2016 rank: 67 • 2007 rank: 57
66. Great Pyrenees • 2016 rank: 67 • 2007 rank: 57 • The Great Pyrenees is a strikingly beautiful breed, but requires training and socialization or else it can become aggressive. It needs a lot of exercise and tends to bark a lot. schubbel / Shutterstock.com
65. Wirehaired pointing griffons • 2016 rank: 66 •
65. Wirehaired pointing griffons • 2016 rank: 66 • 2007 rank: 105 • The griffon is a medium-sized gundog (trained by hunters to collect game) with a wiry coat and a pointing instinct. It is a very good swimmer, helped by its webbed toes, and retriever. PharmShot / Getty Images
64. Chinese Shar-Pei • 2016 rank: 61 • 2007 rank: 46
64. Chinese Shar-Pei • 2016 rank: 61 • 2007 rank: 46 • Shar-Pei have some very distinctive characteristics, including a rough coat and folds of wrinkled skin. They are intelligent but stubborn and need to be trained at an early age. djiledesign / Thinkstock
63. Dalmatians • 2016 rank: 62 • 2007 rank: 77 • The
63. Dalmatians • 2016 rank: 62 • 2007 rank: 77 • The dalmatian is known for its spotted coat, although puppies are born without spots. The breed has been known to generations of children as the star of the Dodie Smith book and Disney film adaptation “101 Dalmatians.” Matthew Murray / Getty Images
62. German wirehaired pointers • 2016 rank: 64 • 2007
62. German wirehaired pointers • 2016 rank: 64 • 2007 rank: 18 • Somewhat bigger than its close relative, the German shorthaired pointer. A dependable hunting dog, its coat provides protection from rough terrain and bad weather. As a pet, it needs a lot of exercise. Bigandt_Photography / Getty Images
61. Whippets • 2016 rank: 60 • 2007 rank: 61 • The
61. Whippets • 2016 rank: 60 • 2007 rank: 61 • The whippet looks like a small greyhound and is almost as fast. Despite its energy level, it does fine as an apartment pet, as long as it gets regular exercise. City dwellers will be pleased to know whippets don’t bark much and require little maintenance. BiancaGrueneberg / Getty Images
60. Bull terriers • 2016 rank: 57 • 2007 rank: 58 •
60. Bull terriers • 2016 rank: 57 • 2007 rank: 58 • Originally bred for bull-baiting, they’re now regarded as lovable companions. They have distinctive egg-shaped heads. The bull terrier is known the pet of General George S. Patton (known for his fierceness as a fighter) and the mascot of Target. volofin / Getty Images
59. Alaskan Malamutes • 2016 rank: 59 • 2007 rank:
59. Alaskan Malamutes • 2016 rank: 59 • 2007 rank: 56 • The official dog of Alaska is named after the Mahlemut, a native Inuit tribe. Malamutes are true working dogs and have been used to pull sleds, hunt seals and protect people from bears. They are also friendly, loyal and make great pets. Sergey Nazarov / Getty Images
58. Scottish terriers • 2016 rank: 58 • 2007 rank:
58. Scottish terriers • 2016 rank: 58 • 2007 rank: 45 • The Scottie, steadfast and loyal, may be the oldest dog indigenous to Britain. It has been incredibly popular with famous people: Owners of Scotties have included Humphrey Bogart, Franklin Roosevelt and Shirley Temple. WMBass / Getty Images
57. Samoyeds • 2016 rank: 65 • 2007 rank: 73 • The
57. Samoyeds • 2016 rank: 65 • 2007 rank: 73 • The Samoyed originated in Siberia, where it was used to hunt and herd reindeer, as a watchdog, and to pull sleds. Roald Amundsen, the first man to reach the South Pole, relied on samoyeds to get him there. bruev / Getty Images
56. Australian cattle dogs • 2016 rank: 54 • 2007 rank:
56. Australian cattle dogs • 2016 rank: 54 • 2007 rank: 64 • Bred to herd animals many times its size, it isn’t easily intimidated. The animal needs a lot of exercise – more than a daily walk – and mental stimulation. If not given enough to do, it will not be happy. Purestock / Getty Images
55. Airedale terriers • 2016 rank: 55 • 2007 rank:
55. Airedale terriers • 2016 rank: 55 • 2007 rank: 55 • Known as “The King of Terriers” because of its versatility. It is the largest of all terrier breeds, with males standing 23 inches at the shoulder, and the animal excels as a hunter, herder, guardian, athlete and family dog. NateDogg85 / Getty Images
54. Portuguese Water Dogs • 2016 rank: 51 • 2007 rank:
54. Portuguese Water Dogs • 2016 rank: 51 • 2007 rank: 65 • This hypoallergenic breed has an advantage on other water-loving pups: a waterproof coat. Easily the most well-known of the breed is former “first dog” Bo, who belongs to the Obamas. (Daughter Malia is allergic to dogs.) Scott F Smith / Getty Images
53. Papillons • 2016 rank: 53 • 2007 rank: 36 • This
53. Papillons • 2016 rank: 53 • 2007 rank: 36 • This dog is named for the shape of its ears: “Papillon” is French for butterfly. It was developed during the Renaissance by crossing other toy breeds with spaniels. It became popular with royalty: Marie Antoinette’s papillion waited outside the prison for the doomed queen. RichLegg / Getty Images
52. English cocker spaniels • 2016 rank: 56 • 2007
52. English cocker spaniels • 2016 rank: 56 • 2007 rank: 69 • A compact dog with a silky coat that comes in striking colors and patterns. It is famous for its mellow personality and its ability to flush out and retrieve gamebirds. It’s larger than its cousin, the U.S. cocker spaniel. Artush / Getty Images
51. Bullmastiffs • 2016 rank: 48 • 2007 rank: 40 •
51. Bullmastiffs • 2016 rank: 48 • 2007 rank: 40 • A cross between a bulldog and a mastiff, it was bred to guard country estates and game preserves from poachers. It is large (up to 130 pounds), powerful and intimidating. Eriklam / Getty Images
50. Bloodhounds • 2016 rank: 52 • 2007 rank: 43 • Famous
50. Bloodhounds • 2016 rank: 52 • 2007 rank: 43 • Famous for its sense of smell and tracking ability, the breed is used by police to find missing people and escaped prisoners. It is instantly recognizable because of its wrinkled face and large drooping ears. alkir / Getty Images
49. Soft-coated Wheaten terriers • 2016 rank: 50 •
49. Soft-coated Wheaten terriers • 2016 rank: 50 • 2007 rank: 62 • This sturdy terrier originated in Ireland, where it was used as a farm dog. It has a soft coat in wheat-like shades and a lot of facial hair. RangerRon / Getty Images
48. St. Bernards • 2016 rank: 49 • 2007 rank: 39 •
48. St. Bernards • 2016 rank: 49 • 2007 rank: 39 • Named after a monk who aided pilgrims crossing the Alps on their way to Rome, the St. Bernard is famous as a rescue dog. It is very big (males can weigh up to 180 pounds) and strong, but has a gentle and winning expression. swisshippo / Getty Images
47. Akitas • 2016 rank: 46 • 2007 rank: 51 • The Akita
47. Akitas • 2016 rank: 46 • 2007 rank: 51 • The Akita is a large, powerful breed that originated in Japan. Two distinguishing features are its trademark curling tail and its alert expression. It is wary of strangers, has little tolerance for other animals, and is protective of its owners. AlynJ / Getty Images
46. Bichon Frises • 2016 rank: 45 • 2007 rank: 32 •
46. Bichon Frises • 2016 rank: 45 • 2007 rank: 32 • “Bichon frise” translates into English as curly dog. This breed’s most distinctive feature is its white coat and dark, inquisitive eyes. The fluff ball has been described as a canine comedian, reflecting its winning personality. Eudyptula / iStock
45. Shiba inu • 2016 rank: 44 • 2007 rank: 67 • The
45. Shiba inu • 2016 rank: 44 • 2007 rank: 67 • The shiba inu originated in Japan and is a muscular dog once used as a hunter. It is that country’s oldest, smallest and most popular breed. The shiba inu was brought to the USA after World War II and has been growing in popularity ever since. Nayomiee / Getty Images
44. Belgian Malinois • 2016 rank: 47 • 2007 rank: 79
44. Belgian Malinois • 2016 rank: 47 • 2007 rank: 79 • This dog was bred to herd livestock. It is versatile and hard working and also used as a military and police dog. It makes for a great pet but needs more exercise than most dogs. Belgian Malinois resemble German shepherds. Pixabay
43. Chesapeake Bay retrievers • 2016 rank: 43 • 2007
43. Chesapeake Bay retrievers • 2016 rank: 43 • 2007 rank: 47 • The official state dog of Maryland, its home state. This family-oriented dog has a waterproof coat that’s oily to the touch. It’s protective of its owners and determined, making it a great watchdog. ktatarka / Getty Images
42. West Highland white terriers • 2016 rank: 41 •
42. West Highland white terriers • 2016 rank: 41 • 2007 rank: 35 • The Westie originated as a hunting dog in Scotland, where the tenacious dog pursued vermin and has retained a strong prey instinct. It is smart, independent and energetic, and needs careful training and lots of exercise. LSOphoto / Getty Images
41. Rhodesian ridgebacks • 2016 rank: 42 • 2007 rank:
41. Rhodesian ridgebacks • 2016 rank: 42 • 2007 rank: 53 • Named for its land of origin and the distinctive ridge of hair that runs along its back. Bred to hunt lions, but not kill them, it’s an imposing-looking dog. They are affectionate toward children. o_sa / Getty Images
Collies • 2016 rank: 37 • 2007 rank: 38 • Collies have
40. Collies • 2016 rank: 37 • 2007 rank: 38 • Collies have tremendous herding abilities and protective instincts, as generations who have seen Lassie in films and on television know. They are strong, loyal, affectionate and respond well to training. Collies are a good fit for families with an active lifestyle. Getty Images
39. Basset hounds • 2016 rank: 39 • 2007 rank: 31 •
39. Basset hounds • 2016 rank: 39 • 2007 rank: 31 • Originally bred in France, the basset is known for its droopy features, hunting ability and keen sense of smell, which is second only to that of its cousin, the bloodhound. Bassets are great with kids and, despite their size, think of themselves as lap dogs. dageldog / iStock
38. Border collies • 2016 rank: 38 • 2007 rank: 54
38. Border collies • 2016 rank: 38 • 2007 rank: 54 • Widely considered to be the most intelligent dog breed, it is trainable and has protective instincts. However, it also needs more physical exercise and mental stimulation than many other breeds. Ocskaymark / Getty Images
37. Cane Corso • 2016 rank: 40 • 2007 rank: N/A • Bred
37. Cane Corso • 2016 rank: 40 • 2007 rank: N/A • Bred in Italy as guard dogs, they’re described by the AKC as “peerless protectors.” Notwithstanding their intimidating appearance — males weigh 100 pounds — cane corso are also intelligent, loyal and docile in the company of their owners. DevidDO / iStock
36. Newfoundlands • 2016 rank: 35 • 2007 rank: 44 •
36. Newfoundlands • 2016 rank: 35 • 2007 rank: 44 • Originally bred as working dogs for Canadian fishermen. They’re strong, loyal and excellent swimmers with lifesaving instincts, and are referred to as “the nanny dog.” J.M. Barrie specified that the beloved Nana in “Peter Pan” was a Newfoundland. SvetaElfimova / Thinkstock
35. Miniature American shepherds • 2016 rank: 36 •
35. Miniature American shepherds • 2016 rank: 36 • 2007 rank: N/A • Developed in California in the 1960s, they were originally called miniature Australian shepherds. The dogs have been used to herd small stock such as sheep and goats, and its own small size and temperament makes it a good pet. Jamie McCarthy / Getty Images
34. Weimaraners • 2016 rank: 34 • 2007 rank: 30 • Named
34. Weimaraners • 2016 rank: 34 • 2007 rank: 30 • Named after the German city of Weimar, where it was bred as a hunting and retrieving dog. It has distinctive silver-gray coloration and bright blue eyes. It’s an excellent pet known for its friendliness and obedience, but needs to be kept active. Bigandt_Photography / Thinkstock
33. Maltese • 2016 rank: 33 • 2007 rank: 19 • The Maltese
33. Maltese • 2016 rank: 33 • 2007 rank: 19 • The Maltese is an ancient breed (images of Maltese can be found on Egyptian artifacts) and a classic lapdog. It’s small, dainty and proud. It also has a reputation for being affectionate and perky. Thinkstock
32. Chihuahuas • 2016 rank: 30 • 2007 rank: 12 • Originating
32. Chihuahuas • 2016 rank: 30 • 2007 rank: 12 • Originating in the Mexican state of Chihuahua, these dogs are intelligent, loyal and loving, but distrustful of strangers. Because they were bred for a warm climate, they don’t do well in the cold. Thinkstock
31. Pugs • 2016 rank: 32 • 2007 rank: 14 • Pugs have
31. Pugs • 2016 rank: 32 • 2007 rank: 14 • Pugs have a lot of personality in a small package, and they like attention and affection. They are intuitive and sensitive to the moods of their owners, which makes them good companions. They can be strong-willed but aren’t aggressive. LexiTheMonster / iStock
30. Vizslas • 2016 rank: 31 • 2007 rank: 42 • Also
30. Vizslas • 2016 rank: 31 • 2007 rank: 42 • Also referred to as the Hungarian Pointer, the Vizsla may date back more than 1,000 years. There are depictions of the Vizsla being used as hunting dogs from the early 10th century, when Magyar tribes invaded Central Europe. Thinkstock
29. Cocker spaniels • 2016 rank: 29 • 2007 rank: 17
29. Cocker spaniels • 2016 rank: 29 • 2007 rank: 17 • The smallest of the sporting dogs packs a lot of cuteness into a small package. With a handsome face and soulful eyes, it’s no surprise it always does well in the AKC popularity rankings. Jacques Brinon, AP
28. Mastiffs • 2016 rank: 28 • 2007 rank: 28 • A massive
28. Mastiffs • 2016 rank: 28 • 2007 rank: 28 • A massive breed (up to 160 pounds) developed to guard livestock from predators such as wolves. There are accounts of them being used as fighting dogs in ancient Roman arenas, where they were pitted against lions and tigers. Despite their fierce history, mastiffs are good-natured and surprisingly docile. OLI SCARFF, AFP/Getty Images
27. English springer spaniels • 2016 rank: 26 • 2007
27. English springer spaniels • 2016 rank: 26 • 2007 rank: 27 • Named for its hunting style, this breed “springs” birds, flushing them into the air. It is a friendly and playful pet, and considered a hunting buddy of hunters. English springer spaniels are highly trainable and bred to work with humans. Thinkstock
26. Brittanys • 2016 rank: 25 • 2007 rank: 29 • Brittanys
26. Brittanys • 2016 rank: 25 • 2007 rank: 29 • Brittanys get their name from their native French province and didn’t officially become recognized as a breed until 1907, when an orange and white pup named Boy in France was registered as the first Brittany Spaniel. Thinkstock
25. Bernese mountain dogs • 2016 rank: 27 • 2007 rank:
25. Bernese mountain dogs • 2016 rank: 27 • 2007 rank: 41 • This breed originated in the Swiss Alps, where it was used as a working dog. The Bernese is good for families because it is gentle with children but may become attached to one person in particular. Thinkstock
24. Shetland sheepdogs • 2016 rank: 24 • 2007 rank:
24. Shetland sheepdogs • 2016 rank: 24 • 2007 rank: 20 • Bred to tend the small sheep of the Shetland Islands northeast of Great Britain, they’re intelligent and obey commands. While the dogs are loyal and affectionate, which makes them great pets, they also tend to be reserved toward strangers, making them great watchdogs. yanjf / iStock
23. Havanese • 2016 rank: 23 • 2007 rank: 37 • The
23. Havanese • 2016 rank: 23 • 2007 rank: 37 • The national dog of Cuba is small and sociable. A distinguishing feature is its long, silky coat. It manages to look like a puppy throughout its life — even when it has an old-man beard. Dorottya_Mathe / iStock
22. Pomeranians • 2016 rank: 22 • 2007 rank: 13 • The
22. Pomeranians • 2016 rank: 22 • 2007 rank: 13 • The Pomeranian is the smallest of the spitz breeds, weighing 3 to 7 pounds. It was made popular by Queen Victoria, who was smitten by its puppy qualities. She had as many as 35 Pomeranians and died with one by her side. tsik / iStock
21. Boston terriers • 2016 rank: 21 • 2007 rank: 16
21. Boston terriers • 2016 rank: 21 • 2007 rank: 16 • Just like Boston itself, this dog is relatively old with a young heart. Nicknamed “The American Gentleman,” it’s compact and classy. It excels at canine sports and is eager to please and so is popular as a therapy dog. f8grapher / iStock
20. Shih tzu • 2016 rank: 20 • 2007 rank: 9 • Although
20. Shih tzu • 2016 rank: 20 • 2007 rank: 9 • Although diminutive, they take their name from the Mandarin word for lion. They began appearing in the USA after World War II. They have a long flowing coat and a proud bearing. Among their owners are Queen Elizabeth II and Miley Cyrus. chaoss / Shutterstock.com
19. Cavalier King Charles spaniels • 2016 rank: 19
19. Cavalier King Charles spaniels • 2016 rank: 19 • 2007 rank: 25 • This breed has been popular since the days of King Charles II in the 17th century. It goes through its puppy stage slowly, staying frisky even when older. It has big eyes and a big heart. Bigandt_Photography / iStock
18. Miniature schnauzers • 2016 rank: 17 • 2007 rank:
18. Miniature schnauzers • 2016 rank: 17 • 2007 rank: 11 • In the U.S., it’s classified as a terrier rather than a working dog. It is intelligent and alert, which makes it a good watchdog, and it excels in obedience trials and agility competitions. The miniature’s eyebrows and beard make it easily recognizable. olgaIT / iStock
17. Australian shepherds • 2016 rank: 16 • 2007 rank:
17. Australian shepherds • 2016 rank: 16 • 2007 rank: 33 • It started out in the Pyrenees Mountains between France and Spain, was brought to Australia to herd sheep, and became popular with U.S. ranchers. It is an intelligent breed with a strong herding instinct and work ethic. The Australian shepherd is closely associated with the cowboy lifestyle. Thinkstock
16. Doberman pinschers • 2016 rank: 15 • 2007 rank:
16. Doberman pinschers • 2016 rank: 15 • 2007 rank: 21 • The Doberman pinscher was bred in Germany in the mid-1800s by Karl Friedrich Louis Dobermann, a tax collector and night watchman who wanted a dog to protect him. The Doberman ranks high in intelligence, obedience and trainability, making it popular with police and military forces. OlgaOvcharenko / Shutterstock.com
15. Pembroke Welsh corgis • 2016 rank: 18 • 2007 rank:
15. Pembroke Welsh corgis • 2016 rank: 18 • 2007 rank: 22 • Popular with English royalty as well as American pet owners, it’s Queen Elizabeth II’s favorite. Despite its little legs, it excels at many sports. The corgi is an easy pet to have, and its short coat needs little maintenance. Laures / iStock
14. Great Danes • 2016 rank: 14 • 2007 rank: 23 • The
14. Great Danes • 2016 rank: 14 • 2007 rank: 23 • The great Dane was developed in England and Germany as a boar hound, its long ears often shredded by their sharp tusks. Today’s great Danes lead much less hazardous lives and can make for great pets. They are dependable, patient and friendly. But they are huge. RalfWeigel / iStock
13. Dachshunds • 2016 rank: 13 • 2007 rank: 7 • Developed
13. Dachshunds • 2016 rank: 13 • 2007 rank: 7 • Developed in Germany centuries ago to hunt badgers, its short legs and long body make it good at below-ground work. The dachshund is intelligent and should be kept busy or it will get bored. Liliya Kulianionak / iStock
12. Siberian huskies • 2016 rank: 12 • 2007 rank: 24
12. Siberian huskies • 2016 rank: 12 • 2007 rank: 24 • Known for its endurance, huskies prefer running to walking. The husky is so energetic that it has to be kept leashed or it will run away. In 1925, a relay team of huskies and other sled dogs saved Nome, Alaska, from diptheria by running for five days to bring medicine to town. SVPhilon / iStock
11. Boxers • 2016 rank: 10 • 2007 rank: 6 • The boxer
11. Boxers • 2016 rank: 10 • 2007 rank: 6 • The boxer became popular in the U.S. after World War II, when returning soldiers brought the dogs home with them from Europe. Its popularity also received a boost when Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall were given one as a wedding present. Ryan McVay / Thinkstock
10. German shorthaired pointers • 2016 rank: 11 • 2007
10. German shorthaired pointers • 2016 rank: 11 • 2007 rank: 18 • The pointer is a great gundog and a great pet, although it likes a lot of exercise. It is a natural retriever on land and water, and is one of the finest swimming dogs, aided by webbed feet. Thinkstock
9. Yorkshire terriers • 2016 rank: 9 • 2007 rank: 2
9. Yorkshire terriers • 2016 rank: 9 • 2007 rank: 2 • The Yorkie’s confidence and courage make it a good pet to keep in cities, and those qualities have earned it the nickname “the tomboy toy.” It’s known for its beautiful silky coat, which has a texture similar to human hair. The Yorkie requires a lot of attention. Watcha / iStock
8. Rottweilers • 2016 rank: 8 • 2007 rank: 15 • The
8. Rottweilers • 2016 rank: 8 • 2007 rank: 15 • The Rottier may have been herding livestock since the days of the Roman Empire. The breed combines intelligence, strength and endurance. The dog is sometimes portrayed as aggressive, but according to the AKC, it is “a calm, confident and courageous dog.” Grigorita Ko / Shutterstock.com
7. Poodles • 2016 rank: 7 • 2007 rank: 8 • Standard,
7. Poodles • 2016 rank: 7 • 2007 rank: 8 • Standard, miniature and toy poodles are smart and eager to please. They’re also energetic and are good runners and swimmers. They require regular clipping and grooming of their hypoallergenic coat. paylessimages / iStock
6. Beagles • 2016 rank: 5 • 2007 rank: 5 • Beagles
6. Beagles • 2016 rank: 5 • 2007 rank: 5 • Beagles are sociable dogs and like the company of their human families, as well as other dogs. They are scent dogs, which can sometimes get them into trouble. Kostyazar / iStock
5. Bulldogs • 2016 rank: 4 • 2007 rank: 10 • The bulldog
5. Bulldogs • 2016 rank: 4 • 2007 rank: 10 • The bulldog has long been associated with British culture (note the resemblance to Winston Churchill!) but it’s also one of the most popular breeds in America. Its name belies a friendly personality and gentle disposition. Thinkstock
4. French bulldogs • 2016 rank: 6 • 2007 rank: 34 •
4. French bulldogs • 2016 rank: 6 • 2007 rank: 34 • Contrary to its name, the French bulldog actually comes from England. These sturdy dogs with bat-like ears are playful, good with small children, and intelligent. They’re prone to snoring, which can add to their charm — or not. Thinkstock
3. Golden retrievers • 2016 rank: 3 • 2007 rank: 4
3. Golden retrievers • 2016 rank: 3 • 2007 rank: 4 • Intelligent and hard working, they’re often used as guide dogs in search and rescue, and for hunting. Their patience and playfulness make them great pets. Thinkstock
2. German shepherds • 2016 rank: 2 • 2007 rank: 3 •
2. German shepherds • 2016 rank: 2 • 2007 rank: 3 • The second most popular dog in the U.S., but the first choice for many roles because of its intelligence, trainability and obedience. They’re used for disability assistance, search and rescue, and as police dogs. IGOR KOVALENKO, EPA-EFE
1. Labrador retrievers • 2016 rank: 1 • 2007 rank:
1. Labrador retrievers • 2016 rank: 1 • 2007 rank: 1 • The Lab has topped the AKC’s list of most popular breeds in the U.S. since 1991. Labs are friendly, outgoing and eager to please. They are also one of the most sought-after breeds for challenging work, whether as guide dogs or for search and rescue. Thinkstock

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