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The Most Chicago-Style Dog? According to the Data, It’s a Black Pit Bull, Possibly Named Max or Bella

Kazu is a pit bull terrier available for adopting from Peace for Pits.   Photo: Courtesy of Peace for Pits

Inspired by this incredible look at the dogs of New York, I recently asked Chicago’s city clerk for the records of all dogs registered in 2015. To be sure, the 5,527 entries I received are a tiny fraction of the hundreds of thousands of dogs estimated to live in Chicago, but they nonetheless provide some fun insights into the latest trends.

For example, the busiest ZIP code for dog registrations was 60647, which includes Logan Square and Bucktown.

2015 Dog Registrations

Darker colors indicate more registrations. Hover over or tap a ZIP code for more details.

The most popular name in 2015 was Max for males and Bella for females—the same No. 1’s that WNYC found in 2013.

Popular dog names in Chicago

  1. Max (63)
  2. Bella (47)
  3. Charlie (45)
  4. Lucy (45)
  5. Buddy (39)

And the most popular breeds? Here the data get a little messy, doggone it. At first glance, it looks like pit bulls are off the leash, well ahead of Labradors.

Popular dog breeds in Chicago

  1. Pit bull (357)
  2. Labrador (223)
  3. Mixed breed (214)
  4. Shih Tzu (191)
  5. Chihuahua (171)

“I think it’s so wonderful that city is becoming desensitized to pitbulls,” says Megan Lindberg, co-founder of Peace for Pits, an organization that helps place and train rescue pit bulls. “People are realizing through education that pit bulls aren’t vicious, and they can be wonderful family pets.”

But what of all the various mixes? According to the information provided by owners, labs in Chicago have mixed with tiny beagles, giant mastiffs, and just about everything in between. And “pit bull” can carry a stigma, Lindberg says, so many owners will identify their dogs otherwise, including as “American Staffordshire terrier” or “American bully.” Nonetheless, once I included all the various mixes and alternative names, pit bulls still lead, but it’s a bit closer: 559-504.

Including all the mixes and different labels, the various pit bulls and Labradors make up almost 1 in 5 registrations. Where do these dogs and their owners live? Like so many Chicago stories, this one breaks down clear geographic lines, with Labradors the more popular breed on the North Side, pit bulls on the West and South Sides. (The most pit bulls are in the 60629 ZIP code, which includes the West Lawn and Chicago Lawn neighborhoods east of Midway. Labradors, meanwhile, are king of 60613, which includes parts of Lake View and Uptown.)

Pit bulls vs. Labradors

   More pit bulls than Labradors
   More Labradors than pit bulls
   No data or no difference

Darker colors indicate a bigger difference. Numbers for each breed include various mixes and aliases.

And finally we are able to tally the colors of Chicago’s dogs. Color data follow a long tail, as it were, including more than 400 different designations, including “copper” and “blue harlequin.” More than 40 percent of the registrations, however, fall under just five color combinations.

Popular dog colors in Chicago

Black
11.2%
Black/white
8.8%
White
8.3%
Brown
7.8%
Brown/white
5.7%

Lindberg says shelters are full of pit bulls, and black ones can be the hardest to find homes for. She says, “They’re nice for going on walks in the city. If a family walks in wanting a medium-size dog that is active, yet able to relax and be a part of the family in the home, they are going to walk out with an adopted pit mix.”

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