Every year the American Kennel Club (AKC) releases their ranking of dog breeds. While some breeds are perennial top tens, there is some change each year. Whether it’s the movies (Dalmatians increase in popularity any time a 101 Dalmatians movie is released) or changing lifestyles (smaller dogs are more popular now that more people live in condos), top breeds are reflective of our lives. So what makes these breeds so popular? Plenty of fascinating characteristics that make them ideal pets!
1. Labrador Retriever
Labrador Retrievers, or ‘Labs’ as they are lovingly known, are the quintessential family dog, which is why they’ve held top spot on the AKC dog breed list for 19 years in a row!
The popularity of Labs as a family pet comes from their mellow temperament, loyalty, intelligence, and gentle nature with kids.
These traits make them popular as working dogs too. Seeing-eye/assistance dogs, search and rescue dogs, detection dogs and more are regularly Labs. They’re movie stars too – did you see the recent hit Marley & Me?
Originally from Newfoundland, Labs come in three different colors: yellow, black, and chocolate (brown). They can also be a red color, called ‘fox-red’, which is technically still a yellow lab.
2. German Shepherd
German Shepherds have long been popular dogs, and were even the #1 dog breed throughout the 1920s, reportedly due to their starring roles in Hollywood (as characters such as Rin Tin Tin). Bred as herding dogs, they originated in the 19th century – in Germany, of course!
They are large-sized dogs, most commonly tan & black or red & black varieties. They are known for their loyalty and protective nature, which makes them an ideal choice for a family pet.
German Shepherds are considered the third-smartest dog breed, behind Border Collies and Poodles. Due to their high intelligence, they are also the number one choice for police, guard, and military dogs in the world.
3. Yorkshire Terrier
Celebrities often carry pet Yorkies around in their purses, contributing to their popularity! Famous fans include: Britney Spears, Tara Reid, Venus Williams, Kelly Rowland, and even Joan Rivers.
Yorkies originate from Yorkshire, England. They have glossy, straight hair and are black and tan in color. Intelligent, attention-loving dogs, they’re affectionate and protective to their owners. While these ‘toy’ dogs don’t intimidate with their size, they have a ferocious bark to make up for it! They’re also known for their bravery – one Yorkie named Smoky fought in 12 combat missions and won eight battle stars for her service in the US Air Force.
4. Golden Retriever
Many people believe Golden Retrievers are part of the Labrador Retrievers breed. It’s easy to see why: like Labs, Golden Retrievers are dogs bred originally for retrieving that make great family pets due to their friendly temperament. They’re a similar color too.
But Golden Retrievers are a completely separate breed, with different origins (they’re from Scotland!), a stockier build and a longer, shaggier coat.
Golden Retrievers are a good breed for agility and obedience training. They are too friendly to be guard dogs, but their intelligence makes them well-suited for search and rescue. These sweet dogs are even used by zoos as surrogate mothers to babies of different species, due to their kind, nurturing temperament.
Beagles are small-to-medium sized dogs that were developed as scent hounds for hunting. Beagle-type dogs have had a long history in literature and art, and have been favorite dogs of royalty. But no beagle can compare to the most famous one of all: Snoopy!
Beagles are popular as pets because they have a ‘merry’ temperament and enjoy spending time with their family. In the working world, they are often used as detection dogs in airports, sniffing out contraband food and other items in luggage.
Like most of the dog breeds listed so far, Boxers make great family pets. They’re a medium-sized dog that are playful, energetic and great with children. Boxers are also good guard dogs due to their alertness and strength.
Boxers have short, smooth hair and are usually fawn or brindle in color, sometimes with black and white accents. White boxers, though much rarer, also exist. The breed was developed in Germany from the English bulldog and the now extinct Bullenbeisser.
Chances are you either love Bulldogs or you hate ’em. But enough people love these unique-looking dogs to make them number 7!
When people picture Bulldogs, they are usually thinking of the English (or British) variety. Two other breeds exist: the American Bulldog and the French Bulldog. American Bulldogs are larger and less stocky than the English version, while French Bulldogs are much smaller – similar in size to a Boston Terrier.
British Bulldogs were bred at least as early as the 16th century. Known for their stubborn nature, Bulldogs are also friendly and very loyal to their family. The Bulldog is a national animal of the United Kingdom and is also a popular mascot of the U.S. Marine Corps!
The word ‘dachshund’ is German, literally translated as ‘badger dog’ since this breed was originally bred to hunt badgers and small prey animals. You might know this dog better as a ‘wiener’ or ‘sausage’ dog, due to their unique look – a long body with short, stubby legs. Dachshunds are usually small to miniature-sized dogs. They have three different kinds of coats: smooth, long-hair, and wired.
Dachshunds are known for being devoted and loyal dogs, though they typically make better pets for older children due to their stubborn temperament. Dachshunds, like a lot of small dogs, tend to have a personality much larger than their size, and will often bark at unfamiliar dogs or people. Sometimes they need to be carried up and down stairs too!
You probably know Poodles for their traditional poufy haircuts. Despite their sometimes goofy appearance, they are one of the most intelligent breeds of dogs, and one that has been around for centuries. They come in four sizes: standard (large), medium, miniature and toy.
Since Poodles are such smart dogs, they do very well in agility and obedience training. They were originally bred as retrievers, so they also love water and water sports.
They’re easy to train and are good with children, so they make great family pets. Plus, they have curly coats that don’t shed.
10. Shih Tzu
The Shih Tzu is one of the most ancient dog breeds in the world, originating in China (or possibly Tibet), where the name literally means ‘lion dog.’ Shih Tzu were considered holy dogs in ancient times, and were treated as sacred companion dogs by Chinese royalty.
They are small dogs with long, soft coats that come in a variety of mixed and solid colors. Since Shih Tzu have a long history of being companion dogs, they are excellent family pets. They are friendly and playful and are known as lap dogs. Like the Yorkie, you probably have seen Shih Tzu being carried around in dog purses, and they are also a popular breed to outfit in the latest fashion trends.
DID YOU KNOW
A German Shepherd guide dog, named Orient, led her blind hiker the entire 2,100 mile Appalachian Trail. Average size of a German Shepherd litter is 8 puppies.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police, which originally utilized white German Shepherds in their breeding and training program, now consider the breed unsuitable because “white hairs don’t go well on dark blue pants and they make too good a target at night.”
The proper English name for this breed is German Shepherd Dog but they are usually informally referred to as German Shepherds, Alsatians (commonly used in the UK) or Schäfer(hund).
A 12 lb Yorkshire Terrier named Oliver once defended an elderly woman from an 80 lb Akita. The woman escaped to safety and the Yorkie survived with only nine stitches.