Who’s top dog in Buffalo? It depends on whom you’re asking.

In its annual survey of its registrations of purebreds, the American Kennel Club found that Buffalo bucked the national trend toward the Labrador retriever by registering more German shepherds than any other dog.

Those rankings are pulled from registrations of AKC-recognized purebreds in Buffalo ZIP codes, usually carried out by breeders when pups are whelped or by a person who buys a puppy whose parents were both registered with the AKC, says Jessica Rice, public relations manager for the AKC. “We base the rankings off our registration statistics,” she says.

But if you want to dig deeper into what dogs actually live in the city, as reflected in dog-licensing numbers kept by the City Clerk’s Office, you’ll find that Rin Tin Tin has a few competitors.

In front of German shepherds are, in order, Labrador retriever mixes (792 licensed), German shepherd mixes (502 licensed), American Staffordshire terriers/pit bulls (499 licensed), Labrador retrievers (484 licensed) and pit bull mixes (377 licensed). Dogs identified as purebred German shepherds are sixth in popularity, with 331 licensed by the City of Buffalo.

Although the AKC recognizes both the American Staffordshire terrier and the Staffordshire bull terrier, which people might classify by appearance as “pit bulls,” dogs must be the offspring of two purebred AKC-registered dogs to be registered with the group. Rescued dogs, mixed-breed dogs, canines from breeds not recognized by the AKC, or purebred dogs whose parents lack AKC papers cannot be registered by the AKC.

German shepherds topped the Buffalo AKC ranking last year for the first time, beating out Labrador retrievers.

“I’m kind of shocked” at the high AKC ranking of German shepherds in the city, says Gina M. Browning, public relations director of the SPCA Serving Erie County. Browning says that few shepherds wind up in the shelter, which might be expected for a popular dog, but she also sees few German shepherds at agency-sponsored large public events to which people bring their dogs.

Almost 1,000 dogs attended the agency’s Paws in the Park fundraiser last year, and the only German shepherd that Browning recalled seeing was the working K9 with a Cheektowaga police officer.

Things were far different for German shepherds in the 1990s, Browning says. “We used to have so many German shepherds when I came here 20 years ago,” she says, “and people would go out of their way to not walk past their kennels because they were so afraid of German shepherds.”

The public fear of certain breeds shifted from German shepherds to Doberman pinschers, then to Rottweilers, and is now focused on pit bulls, Browning says. “German shepherds have now evolved to being hero dogs,” she says. “I think on 9/11, people started seeing these dogs at work, and now instead of being afraid of them, people regard them as heroes.”

Nationally, Labrador retrievers, which come in three colors – yellow, black and chocolate _ topped the popularity list for AKC registrations.

By winning the national AKC derby in 2012, its 22nd consecutive year atop the group’s registration charts, the Labrador retriever – a happy-go-lucky family dog – tied the record set by the poodle, which was the most popular AKC-registered purebred from 1960 to 1982. That category included all three recognized sizes of poodle – toy, miniature and standard.

The AKC list for most popular Buffalo registered breeds includes, after German shepherds, Labrador retrievers, a tie between dachshunds and golden retrievers, and Yorkshire terriers.