Bulldog puppies at Long Island Bulldog Club in Bay Shore....

Bulldog puppies at Long Island Bulldog Club in Bay Shore. (Nov. 1, 2011) Credit: Handout

Small pedigreed pooches may warm our laps, but on Long Island the big breeds have our hearts.

In the American Kennel Club's 2011 rankings of the 10 most popular purebreds on Long Island, bigger dogs ruled -- claiming the top five spots.

Rottweilers and bulldogs surged ahead of shih tzus and Yorkshire terriers, smaller dogs that made the AKC's top five in 2010.

The diminutive Havanese, ranked No. 10 in 2010, didn't make the cut last year. Same for the beagle, despite being ranked third nationally.

"Maybe they're not rushing to the city as much anymore with their little dogs on the subway," joked AKC spokeswoman Lisa Peterson.

The Labrador retriever held on to the Island's top purebred spot like a prized bone, having hogged it for years here and nationwide.

The upward mobility of bigger breeds is a trend in metropolitan areas, Peterson said.

"Maybe Long Islanders are spending more time outside," she said. In a society where fat is bad and baby boomers are empty nesters, she figures dog lovers want companions who can run and go on nature trips.

Rankings are based on pedigreed papers submitted by dog owners to AKC, which does not release any numbers.

Despite the bigger-is-better trend for purebreds, local animal experts say small dogs are still popular overall.

Huntington-based dog trainer Ellen Rassiger said she's seeing more small "designer" dogs, including shih-poos, a shih tzu-poodle mix, and morkies, a cross between a Maltese and a Yorkie.

The AKC's lists don't reflect the popularity of those dogs, she said, because they aren't considered purebreds.

While small has its advantages, big dogs make people feel protected, said Joan Phillips, co-founder of the Animal Lovers League, which operates Glen Cove's shelter.

Adopters who want a big pet usually ask for golden retrievers or Labradors, who have earned reputations as great family dogs, she said.

"Big dogs have a dignity and grace and athleticism," Phillips said. "That makes them beautiful."

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