Pet Portraits

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Dog Breeds of L.A.

– Posted in: Dog Breeds

Mapping the dog breeds of L.A.

“Many of the people who visit my booth at the street fair, come from L.A. and the surrounding areas. I found this mapping of dog breeds and dog names quite interesting and hope you will too. I really enjoyed listening to the broadcast. Sooo here you have it, the most popular dog breeds of L.A. •  JACKIE

Pet Portraits - dog breeds

When KCRW decided to map the dogs of L.A.,

we quickly realized we were signing ourselves up for an immersion course on our city’s passionate pup culture – not to mention several lessons in municipal bureaucracy.

How to find out where all the dog breeds live and what their breeds and names are? Licensing records.

LISTEN NOW – most popular dog breeds in L.A.

L.A. County requires dog owners to fill out registration paperwork and pay a licensing fee. We sent public records requests to the 36 different jurisdictions that oversee the process.

They varied in their enthusiasm for our project.

Some officials said they were excited to see the map. They thanked us for bringing attention to local licensing policies, and told us stories about their own dogs. (I was firmly instructed by one city employee that I should not pursue parenting until I’d experienced raising a puppy.)

Others, facing tight post-recession budgets, found our inquiries resource-intensive.

And although we only sought records about dogs, not their owners, Los Angeles’ department of Animal Services was concerned that releasing pets’ names and zip codes could help lead a celebrity tracker to a star.

We negotiated with the city for months, eventually agreeing to use the information in our map but not publish all of it in our database.


A handful of cities contract their pet licensing to non-profit humane societies.

David Greene, speaking on behalf of the First Amendment Coalition, said it is unclear whether the California Public Records Act applies to private organizations like these that contract with public agencies. The San Gabriel Valley Humane Society provided us with the total number of dogs in San Gabriel. The Pasadena Humane Society and the Inland Valley Humane Society declined to give us any data at all.

So we weren’t able to map every single L.A. County dog – far from it, because large numbers of them are unregistered, so they don’t show up in licensing records.

But the dogs we did find, all 449,034 of them, are adorable, with names like Maggie May and Popeye.

Max and Bella are the county’s most common names, and we found 18 animals named Taco.

dogsofla_top10Dogs of LA was inspired by a similar project that WNYC published last year.

Max and Bella are the most popular names there too.

In 2008, the Los Angeles Times also used licensing records to look at local dog names and breeds. Like us, they found a lot of Maxes, but Bella, while popular, didn’t dominate the way it does now. (Perhaps the growth is Twilight-related?)

Note cards - Chihuahua

Chihuahua – Most popular breed in LA © Jacobson

Our list of the most common breeds is similar to the L.A. Times data…

all of your best friends own chihuahuas, it seems, and if not a chihuahua, a lab. When you look at our map of the most common breeds in each city or neighborhood, almost all you see are these breeds.

Chihuahuas are not as popular in New York

where mutts, Yorkshire Terriers, and Shih Tzus predominate.


Note cards - Yorkie

Yorkie – “Rosie” © Jacobson

Shih Tzu - painting © Jacobson

Shih Tzu – painting © Jacobson

Some suspect that the pit bull population is much higher than it would appear from our data. We’ve heard rumors that some owners and shelters deliberately misidentify these dogs in order to avoid scaring off landlords or people looking to adopt a puppy. Robin Purcell of rescue and advocacy organization Angel City Pit Bulls said that pit bulls are underlicensed for similar reasons.

Many dog experts believe that it is often impossible to entirely determine a dog’s breed in the first place.

Dog Portraits - dog breeds  - uncertain

Diz – The Happy Dog © Jacobson

Unless a puppy is carefully, purposefully bred, most dogs have a diverse family history and we humans tend to oversimplify their backgrounds by assigning only the most obvious labels.

Cities commonly considered more industrial than residential have their share of dogs too.

City of Industry houses 19 licensed dogs. Irwindale has 27 (including 3 toy poodles) and Vernon has 46.

We don’t have any data on whether Snoopy and Buster, German Shepherds in Vernon, are guard dogs for factories or other industrial properties, but we guess that many of the animals in these cities are. Areas where protection dogs predominate often have a different pet culture than places where dogs play fetch outside apartment buildings.

Feel like a ferry ride? Even the island of Catalina has dogs – 123 of them.

The most common breed? Chihuahuas.

Chihuahua - Dog Breeds

Chihuahua – Princess Blue

 “And here’s one that I painted, who actually lives on Catalina Island. Meet Hogan…

Dog Portraits - Dog Breeds

Pollock “Hogan” ShihTzu-Yorkie

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