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Most Popular Pet Dog Breeds from Around the World

By: Hsin-Yi Cohen BSc, MA, MSt - Updated: 29 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Dog Breed Popular Top Pet Rank World

Everyone’s got their favourite dog breed – from those who love the wrinkly jowls and don’t mind the constant slobber to those who love the shaggy dogs and don’t mind the hairs everywhere, from those who love the gentle giants to those who love the ‘handbag pups’ – but there are certain breeds that just always seem to be more popular than others.

These breeds consistently rank high in the popularity polls and are the ones most commonly chosen as pets – usually because of their friendly, sociable natures, their desire to please (and therefore easier to train) and their cute looks.

Breed popularity is usually determined by the number of registrations lodged with the Kennel Clubs from various countries around the world, from the British Kennel Club to the AKC (American Kennel Club), SCC (France), NZKC (New Zealand), VDH (Germany), ANKC (Australia) and CKC (Canada). Each year, these kennel clubs announce the “most popular breeds” based on registrations. There can be considerable variation between countries:

Most Popular Dog Breeds in the US

  • 1. Labrador Retriever
  • 2. Golden Retrievers
  • 3. Yorkshire Terriers
  • 4. German Shepherds
  • 5. Beagles
  • 6. Dachshunds
  • 7. Boxers
  • 8. Poodles
  • 9. Shih Tzu
  • 10. Miniature Schnauzers

Most Popular Dog Breeds in the UK

  • 1. Labrador Retriever
  • 2. Cocker Spaniel
  • 3. English Springer Spaniel
  • 4. German Shepherd Dog (Alsatian)
  • 5. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
  • 6. Staffordshire Bull Terrier
  • 7. Golden Retriever
  • 8. Border Terrier
  • 9. Boxer
  • 10. West Highland White Terrier

However, it is easy to see that certain breeds are popular in many countries and in fact, consistently rank in the top spots every year, no matter where you are. These breeds include:

Labrador Retriever

The Labrador is probably the most popular breed of dog in the world, due to its versatility, friendly, sociable temperament. Originally developed as a gun dog, this medium to large dog is now used by the police and other government agencies for detection work, as well as assistance dogs for the blind and physically-disabled – but most of all, it is seen in suburbs and parks everywhere as a beloved family pet.

If well-trained and socialised, it is an excellent companion and pet – generally gentle, good-natured and patient, especially with children, while being energetic enough for those who wish to exercise or do other activities with their dogs. Their desire to please makes them easy to train and generally obedient.

The two downsides to Labradors are their high-food drives (meaning that they can be very determined in search of food and may easily put on weight) and also that they can be very boisterous if untrained. They also require a substantial amount of exercise to remain happy and healthy and prevent destructive behaviours.

German Shepherd

The German Shepherd, also known as the Alsatian, was originally developed for herding sheep. It has long been popular for its intelligence, beauty and loyalty. A wonderful watch and guard dog, this breed has been extensively used by the police and other government agencies in law enforcement and search & rescue duties, and is also popular with many trainers in advanced dog sports for its superior intelligence and working ability.

These large dogs require adequate exercise, both physical and mental, to keep them out of mischief and are best suited to a knowledgeable, confident owner. But despite its sometimes fearsome reputation, it is a friendly and sociable dog if trained and socialised well, although it will never lose its highly developed protective and territorial instincts.

Golden Retriever

Like the Labrador Retriever (although much larger), the Golden Retriever is extremely popular due to its affable nature, trainability and sociable manners. Also developed as a gun dog to retrieve water fowl, it loves carrying things around in its mouth and will retrieve items without being taught to do so. Again, their versatility means that they are used in a variety of roles from law enforcement and detection to search and rescue to assistance dogs – and of course, as great family dogs. Its one drawback is its long coat which requires regular grooming. It also require regular, adequate exercise as it is a working breed and will otherwise find other ways to release its pent-up energy.


Often called a ‘lovable clown’, Boxers are popular with active families due to their energetic, fun-loving natures. They are also extremely attractive, coming in fawn or brindle, sometimes with white markings, and with an expressive, wrinkled face. Their short coat means they are easy maintenance – however, they can easily suffer heatstroke and may not do well with long bouts of exercise, due to their short ‘squashed’ muzzles which can make breathing difficult. Boxers can be headstrong and so require good training and socialisation from young, especially to contain their boisterousness. They also need substantial amounts of daily exercise.

Popular Dogs

Interestingly, these “top breeds across all countries” tend to all be larger in size – when it comes to the smaller breeds, there is a distinct difference between the countries. For example, the Yorkshire Terrier is high up on the list of top 10 favourites in the US and Canada but doesn’t even come close to the top 10 in the UK, where the West Highland Terrier and the Cavalier King Charles Spaniels rank amongst the most popular small dogs.

Poodles of all sizes are popular in the US, Canada, Australia and Germany although not noticeably so in the UK. Similarly, other physically distinctive breeds such as the Shih Tzu, Beagle and Dachshund are popular the US and Canada but not so much in the UK, Australia and New Zealand which tend to favour the more traditional working breeds such as the English Springer Spaniel, the Cocker Spaniel and the Border Collie. And of course, each country will tend to have its own national favourites – for example, the British love their Border Terriers and Staffordshire Bull Terriers.

Regardless of a breed’s general popularity, it is always important to research the breed thoroughly and talk to breeders to determine its suitability for your lifestyle.

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