I like dogs. They're loyal and friendly. And when it comes to investing, they can indeed be your best friend.

Most investors have probably heard of the Dogs of the Dow strategy. Rank the dividend-yielding stocks from highest to lowest yield and buy the top 10. Hold for one year and a day and sell. Then do it all over again. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

Four-dog night
The Motley Fool even used to follow a strategy called the Foolish Four, which built on the original strategy by ranking those high-yielders by price -- lowest to highest -- and buying just four of the top five stocks (if the cheapest stock is also the highest yielder, throw it out, because it's probably a real dog). While the Fool abandoned the strategy because of doubts about its efficacy, some sites still track results, and over 35 years it has a pretty impressive record, with annualized gains of 17.7%.

Like I said, I like dogs. The Foolish Four was my first foray into investing in individual stocks, so I've always carried a warm spot for it in my heart. With the Fool's own foray into its investor-intelligence ratings, I thought Motley Fool CAPS might be an interesting addition to the strategy. More than 145,000 professional and novice analysts have rated more than 5,300 stocks, with the best stocks earning five stars.

For the past three years, I've been tracking how using a CAPS strategy on top of the Foolish Four might hold some pleasant surprises for us. The first year saw the CAPS Dogs strategy not only outperform the original Dow Dogs theory, but also the Foolish Four, the S&P 500, and the Dow 30.

In the second year, the CAPS Dogs beat everyone handily except the Dow 30, which just managed to squeak by. While on an absolute basis the returns were a clunker, relative to any of the other strategies, the top CAPS stocks were the clear winner.

So last year I updated our list once again and tracked their performance. Here's the 2009 list of CAPS Dogs and their returns.

Company

2009 CAPS Rating

Price on 12/31/2008

Price on 12/31/2009

1-Year Return^

Bank of America (NYSE:BAC)

***

$14.08

$15.06

6.96%

General Electric (NYSE:GE)

****

$16.20

$15.13

(6.60%)

Pfizer (NYSE:PFE)

****

$17.71

$18.19

2.71%

Dupont

****

$25.30

$33.67

33.08%

Alcoa (NYSE:AA)

****

$11.26

$16.12

43.16%

AT&T (NYSE:T)

****

$28.50

$28.03

(1.65%)

Verizon (NYSE:VZ)

****

$33.90

$33.13

(2.27%)

Merck

****

$30.40

$36.54

20.20%

Kraft

****

$26.85

$27.18

1.23%

CAPS Dogs

 

 

 

10.76%

Dogs of the Dow (all 10)

     

12.90%

Foolish 4 Dogs

     

13.86%

Dow 30

     

18.82%

S&P 500

     

23.45%

^Excludes dividends, commissions, and taxes.

After handily beating the other strategies for the past several years, our CAPS formula fell behind in 2009, lagging even the basic Dow Dogs. I think there are some valid theories why: Last year was an anomaly in so many ways, and while the broad market averages enjoyed fairly substantial returns, it was a rally that was fueled in no small part by the Fed and the Treasury. I think this ultimately skewed results.

No excuses, though. We're back with our new list for 2010 and I think we've got a great chance to beat the averages this time around. Here are the Dogs of the Dow for this year.

Company

CAPS Rating

Yield

Price 12/31/2009

AT&T

****

5.85%

$28.03+

Verizon

****

5.83%

$33.13

DuPont

****

4.87%

$33.67

Kraft

****

4.27%

$27.18+

Merck

****

4.16%

$36.54

Chevron

****

3.53%

$76.99

McDonald's

****

3.52%

$62.44

Pfizer

****

3.52%

$18.19+

Home Depot

***

3.11%

$28.93+

Boeing (NYSE:BA)

***

3.10%

$54.13

+Qualifies for Foolish Four.

What's it all about, Wolfie?
Since all of the stocks rank three stars or better, they will all be included in our list, though if I were running this in my own portfolio I'd probably just look at the top-rated, four-star stocks that fit the criteria.

I'd be remiss, though, if I didn't mention that I no longer invest using mechanical investing strategies like the Dogs of the Dow or the Foolish Four, but I do keep an eye on how they perform, just for nostalgia. As smart as our Foolish investors are, this is a contrarian investing strategy that tries to stand market wisdom on its head.

If you want to get your own CAPS dog in the race, just click here to get started. It's 100% free.

Home Depot and Pfizer are Motley Fool Inside Value picks. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services today, free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Rich Duprey does not have a financial position in any of the stocks mentioned in this article. You can see his holdings here. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.