Poodles rule on the streets of Manhattan

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It was auf Wiedersehen to the dachshund and bonjour to the poodle as Manhattan's dog lovers pondered the latest, much anticipated, list of top 10 breeds on their pooch-congested isle.

Two weeks from the start of the Chinese year of the dog, poodle owners can preen in the knowledge that their four-legged friends - be they standard, toy or miniature - have edged out dachshunds, also known as wieners, as the top dog in New York's most crowded and expensive borough.

The wieners, their undercarriages barely clearing the footpath outside Tiffany's on Fifth Avenue, must content themselves with third position, while the ever-reliable labrador retriever has retained its No 2 spot, according to the newest census from the American Kennel Club.

To see evidence of the poodle boom, take a stroll along the boutique-lined avenues and townhouse cross-streets of the Upper East Side. There are oodles of poodles. But you should also watch out for other breeds on this year's list, including the shih-tzu, Maltese and Yorkshire terrier, in the same neighbourhoods. You may be looking at the most pampered pets in America, if not the world.

If little Lucy, apparently a hot name for diminutive dogs this year, is looking especially spry in her tartan jacket and booties, it is probably because she has just come from the nearby Biscuits and Bath Gym and Spa. (Some still swear by Ritzy Canine in Murray Hill for a really good shampoo, or Woofs and Whiskers.)

New to this year's top 10 are the Havanese and the French bulldog. Overall, small breeds remain in favour, appealing, says a Kennel Club spokeswoman, "to sophisticated people who, while they may not have a lot of space in their Manhattan apartment, have plenty of love for a petite canine companion".

And pushed-in noses are no obstacle to winning the affection of Manhattanites, it seems, with several snuffling breeds taking their place on the list. In tenth place, pugs, according to another recent doggy-demography survey, are most likely to call the West Village their home. Another old favourite with top-10 honours this year is the golden retriever.

Still too scarce to make the list, however, are the designer cross-breeds that are the rage for owners who can afford them. We speak of the labradoodle, of course, created from the splicing of this years No 1 and No 2. Puggles are big too, from pugs and beagles. And there is increasing buzz in over-subscribed dog-runs about the new and cute piggies. Their ancestry, however, is a mystery to us.

None of these statistics are very reliable, of course. Of the nearly 300,000 dogs taking up space in the mere 25 square miles that make up Manhattan (alongside 1.5 million humans) only about 20 per cent have been registered by their owners. All the others remain under the Kennel Club's radar.

And then there are the mutts, mistakes and not-quite-sures which, even in status-conscious Manhattan, outnumber the pure breeds. They will never make the Kennel Club's rankings or the cover of Dog World. But a dog is a dog, and according to the Chinese calendar, this is going to be their year too.