The 2015 Dogs of the Dow

Munchy the Pooch | Instagram: @munchythepooch
Giovanny Moreano | CNBC
Munchy the Pooch | Instagram: @munchythepooch

Investors hungry for yield have latched on to "the Dogs of the Dow" strategy, which pays off more often than not.

According to Bespoke, in 9 of the last 14 years, the "Dogs" have beaten the Dow by an average of about 1 percent. In 2014, the index is heading toward year-end with an 11 percent total return, while the Dogs are up 12 percent.

Microsoft, Intel and Cisco, for instance, were three stocks that were Dogs for 2014, but they have now moved off the list based on strong gains in their stocks which reduced relative attractiveness of their yields. Caterpillar, Exxon Mobil and Coca-Cola are the new Dog members for 2015.

While the strategy does not pay off with huge gains, Bespoke analyst George Pearkes said it is a way to screen for higher-yielding stocks that are well established and are not likely to cut their dividends.

"The argument is that you may be catching stocks that have gotten cheap and as Dow members are relatively unlikely to cut their dividends," Pearkes said. "If the higher dividend yields trend back towards the mean for the Dow as a whole over time, you're able to pick up excess return as well as additional income from the higher dividends."

The popular investment strategy is also known as "High Yield 10," and it works by targeting the Dow stocks with the 10 highest dividend yields at the end of the year.

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The basic strategy suggests putting an equal amount of money into each of the 10 stocks, although there have been variations that include proportionate investments in the Dogs weighted by share price.

Another permutation suggests dropping the lowest-priced, but highest-yielding Dog, out of concern that there may be a negative reason why the yield is so high.

As with any other investment strategy, there's no magic formula, but such analysis often provides insight into potentially undervalued names.

In the last 14 years, the Dogs posted a total average return of 8.9 percent, compared to a gain of 7.6 percent for the Dow and a total return of 7.3 percent for the S&P 500.

When looking at the broader market, the Dogs strategy comes up short. When compared with the performance of the Dow and the S&P, the Dogs of the Dow strategy outperforms only half of the time.