For many years, the most popular dog breeds have been dominated by the Labrador Retriever, according to the annual list revealed by the American Kennel Club. The latest top dog is the French Bulldog. But the Labrador Retriever hasn’t fallen far, ranking as number two in the US, and still taking number one billing in many other countries around the world such as the UK and Australia.
Most popular really means most common – as the Kennel Club's list ranks breeds that have the most registrations in a year. And there’s a reason why they are in such hot demand; these breeds are wonderful dogs that tick the boxes for many households.
Let’s take a look at the breeds that are most popular in this era.
32 most popular dog breeds
1. Belgian Malinois
One of the four Belgian shepherd dogs, the Malinois looks similar to a German Shepherd, but it is a smaller and lighter build, with a shorter coat.
A high-energy dog with bundles of stamina, the Malinois is often used by the military and police.
2. Miniature American Shepherd
This compact herding dog is a true worker, a lively companion with plenty of energy, resilience and agility. They closely resemble their ancestors the Australian Shepherd, in a pint-sized version, and come in eye-catching colors: black, red, blue merle and red merle.
They seem to have an affinity with horses, and so are especially popular with the equestrian community.
3. Border Collie
As well as being the best herding dog, Border Collies are widely agreed to be the world’s most intelligent dog breed, according to a range of measures. Canine psychologist Stanley Coren ranked them number one in his book, The Intelligence of Dogs. They are an exceptionally energetic, athletic herding breed that excels at agility competitions. Be warned, if they don’t get enough of the work that they thrive on, they might find another outlet for their energy!
4. Cocker Spaniel
An adorable small spaniel breed with warm friendly eyes and a cheeky character. They are playful, athletic, a working dog (bred to help hunters flush out woodcock) with a cozy side. Their coat comes in myriad colors, and their long silky ears are wonderfully appealing.
Somewhere between a Setter and a Spaniel, these stylish white and orange/liver gundogs are suited for plenty of exercise, having great zest for any work. Although bred for hunting, this French breed thrives on any sort of sport, including obedience, agility, flyball and so on.
6. Shetland Sheepdog
Also known as a Sheltie, this speedy and willing herding dog hails from the Shetland Islands, an archipelago between the north of Scotland and Norway. It’s no surprise that they have a dense undercoat beneath their long outer coat, given their natural northerly habitat. A smaller cousin of the Collie, Shelties are intelligent and a delight to train, but like all sheepdogs, thrive on plenty of work. However, they are an affectionate and sweet household pet given an active home.
7. English Springer Spaniel
The ideal gundog bred to flush out feathered game, Springers are affectionate house pets as well as rugged and resilient workers. They are athletic and highly trainable and love to please their humans. Away from the hunting field, they love playing with balls, fetch, swimming, long walks and mucking around with the family.
This extroverted pooch is the national dog of Cuba. They are a pocket-sized sweetheart with the gentle-natured temperament to match their stunning looks. And, oh the hair envy! Their double coat is long, thick and feels like silk.
9. Boston Terrier
Loyal, intelligent and always looking like they’re dressed in a tux, ready to go to a party, the Boston is a smart little dog with style. They move with a jaunty swagger, love people, and – named after a city – make a great urban pet.
These appealing bundles of fluff have adorable, smiley faces like a playful fox. Their alert ears and soppy almond-shaped eyes, together with their voluminous coats and plumed tails ramp up the cuteness factor. Plus, they are playful – so kids love them.
11. Bernese Mountain Dog
This large, solid mountain dog has a thick and silky tricolored coat with distinctive markings. As befits a breed that has been developed in the Swiss mountains for cattle-driving and guarding the farmsteads, they thrive in cold weather. They are also impressively powerful drafting dogs. This majestic breed is typically wonderful with all the family, gentle with children, but tend to be wary of strangers.
12. Siberian Husky
A sled dog with abundant stamina and nimble feet, this is a graceful and athletic breed developed to pull light loads over vast distances on ice and snow. They are naturally friendly and can win over any dog lover with their almond-shaped eyes, which are often a bewitching blue color.
13. Shih Tzu
Meaning “lion dog” in Chinese, this friendly, independent little breed has Tibetan origins, and was bred to spend its days inside luxurious royal palaces (making it a great pet for those without loads of space). Although among the bigger of the smallest breeds, it has the toy dog look, with a plumed tail, and dense wavy coat. Should be no taller than 10.5in, and weigh 10–16lb.
14. Great Dane
Described as the “Apollo of dogs”, this tall, elegant breed makes a wonderful family dog. Bred for hunting wild boar, this noble dog makes a wonderful family companion, being gentle and loyal. They are strong and muscular, majestic and dignified with a lithe and springy action.
A Great Dane holds the Guinness World Record for the tallest dog: Zeus from Michigan, who was 3ft 5.2 tall at his withers. He weighed 155lb.
15. Cane Corso
Cane Corso means “robust dog” in Latin, and this smart and trainable Mastiff-type goes back to Ancient Roman times, where they were used as dogs of conquest. They have an intimidating look, with rippling muscles, often cropped ears, their alert expression and imposing appearance, but they are eager to please, gentle and loyal within their families.
16. Miniature Schnauzer
An outgoing, stocky, rugged, little dog with a tough, wiry coat and an endearing bushy beard and eyebrows. Great on the farm or as a ratter, they also make a companionable household pet in a portable size.
Boxers are a loyal and protective dog with an athletic physique. They have rippling muscles and an alert look, and get their name from their habit of sparring with their front paws when they are playing (or fighting). They make a great family guardian.
18. Doberman Pinscher
Very intelligent and vigilant, this German breed is a superb protection dog, with an iconic look. With their physical stature, they make fearless guardians and are used by both the police and the military – as well as in private security. They have exceptional ability at gauging perceived threats, as well as being muscular, fast and powerful.
19. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
A toy spaniel breed with a domed skull, big round, melting eyes and a silky coat. They are steeped in British upper-class history – and share a name with the current King, having been originally favoured by King Charles I and II. They may be aristocrats but they retain a spaniel’s vim and sportiness.
20. Yorkshire Terrier
This is a proper terrier: feisty, tenacious, bossy, and a lot of fun. They might look like a dainty lapdog, with their long-flowing locks in rich colors, but this toy-sized bundle of energy is tough and a super character.
21. Australian Shepherd
This ranch dog has a mix of European, American and Australian heritage. They are rugged, agile and have an extremely strong drive to herd, whether it's sheep or children! They also work brilliantly as drug detectors, search-and-rescue and therapy dogs. They are clever, indefatigable and – often with a merle coat and penetrating blue or even different-colored eyes – striking in appearance.
22. Pembroke Welsh Corgi
A small dog with plenty of attitude, the Pembroke Welsh Corgi is a strong and lively small herder who also relishes being a pet. They were bred to move cattle, so they tend to be brave and independent, and very trainable. With their impressive bark, deep chest and short powerful legs, you might be fooled into thinking they’re much bigger than their real size.
23. German Short Haired Pointer
This noble and aristocratic-looking dog thrives on tons of exercise and love. Although it is a powerful, fast and tireless breed, they also form firm bonds with humans and relish plenty of attention. Bred for hunting feathered game and developed by German noblemen, Pointers have bottomless energy, so GSP owners are always fit as fleas!
AKA Sausage Dog. Considering their teeny legs, these elongated little dogs are actually pretty speedy and very brave. They come in three sizes, and despite not being built for sport, they are game for anything. Don’t be fooled by their adorable looks – they’re bred to hunt badgers, and they bark like a big dog, but their feistiness is part of their appeal.
This hunting dog is rare in the top echelons of the popularity list for being a natural pack dog, which usually doesn’t make such a great house pet. However, Beagles are typically cheerful, easy-going and companionable. Bred to hunt on foot, the Beagle is not quite as high-energy as the rangier hounds hunted from horseback, but he still thrives on plenty of exercise and playtime.
An immensely strong dog with Mastiff ancestry developed back in Roman times. Rotties are aloof and self-assured around strangers, and fiercely loyal to their tribe. With their big muscles and effortless movement, they can seem imposing, and are exceptional guard dogs, but in well-trained hands to channel their protective drive, they are surprisingly playful and endearing.
These distinctive bruisers with their baggy skin, snub nose and furrowed brow have come to symbolize courage and determination. They are loyal, gentle and friendly, and while their rolling short-legged gait may give the impression that they don’t relish exercise, they do enjoy a good walk and need it to stay in shape. Although originally bred for bull-baiting, they have been refined into a mellow pet who is great with all the family.
Highly intelligent, beautiful and fun, Poodles were originally bred as a water-retriever for duck-hunters. Nowadays, their no-shed, hypoallergenic coat is their great highlight, and it is clipped in myriad ways to show off their pompons and puffs. A wonderful family pet, the Poodle loves to learn tricks and show off.
29. German Shepherd Dog
A hardworking dog, bred for its herding and guarding instincts. They are capable of highly skilled tasks, especially using their exceptional sense of smell – for example in search and rescue, or assisting police in tracking down criminal activity. They are also near the top of the list as assistance dogs for the handicapped and elderly.
30. Golden Retriever
A hardworking and exuberant working gundog, he also excels in search and rescue, assistancce and as a wonderful family pet. They differ from the Labrador Retriever psychologically in that they tend to be more clingy and require a more methodical training approach; physically they are furrier and have more feathering. Both are unendingly kind, patient and loving.
31. Labrador Retriever
Arguably the world’s most popular breed has a devoted following for good reason. They are gentle, loyal, people-orientated and love to please humans. While they were originally bred in Canada to assist fishermen, they are now the top breed being trained as guide or assistance dogs for the blind, handicapped and elderly. Intelligent, caring, and extremely kind.
32. French Bulldog
The Frenchie has rocketed up to the top of the popularity ranks in recent years and it’s not hard to see why. Their distinctive look, with the large bat ears and heavy wrinkles, coupled with their playful, adaptable personality make them an all-round winner. They do well in urban settings as they don’t require endless exercise, they’re small and don’t bark excessively. An affectionate charmer with style.
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Martha is an experienced journalist working in both print and digital media. She specializes in the canine, equine and rural sphere where she has covered a wide range of topics from cloning animals and the ingredients for a perfect yard dog, to helping owners find the best canine GPS trackers on the market. When she’s not busy writing about dogs and horses, she’ll be found either aboard a horse or looking after the menagerie of pets in her care.