Everything you could want to know about the best-loved dog breeds on the planet
Dogs, they really are man’s best friend.
Well, if you have ever met a dog, then it has probably become immediately obvious why we are so enamored with these canines.
They’re kind, they’re attentive, and their love is unconditional. There really is nothing like coming home to a waggy tail and a barrage of stinky licks.
Each dog you meet has its own unique personality.
In our cul de sac alone we have an impressive collection of characters – from the casanova Husky, the tennis ball obsessed Chocolate Lab, and of course, a few faithful (if not stubborn) German Shepherds.
Aside from their cuteness, we may love them for another reason. Our obsession with dogs can actually be traced back to our earlier ancestors, who domesticated wolves and bred the first dogs.
Since then, we have continued to breed dogs, now we have 100s of breeds around the world. Each with different purposes and needs.
Choosing which breed of dog you bring into your life can be one of the most important choices you ever make. However, it really is worth taking the time to make the right choice.
In this article, we will talk you through how the different breeds of dogs came about, what makes a breed popular, and what the 15 most popular breeds are.
What Is A Dog Breed?
All domestic dogs are one species – Canis familiaris.
It’s true! We know it’s hard to believe – especially if you sat a Chihuahua and a German Shepherd next to each other. These two dogs would be the same species, but different breeds.
This can seem hard to believe because there is no other mammal on earth that is as varied as the dog.
Around 15,000 years ago, a group of hunter-gatherers began to domesticate a (now extinct) species of wolf. They used these first dogs to protect themselves and help them hunt.
Over time, they discovered that through selective breeding they could create dogs that could perform many different roles within their society.
Both cats and horses went through a similar process, however, neither to the extent that dogs did. Scientists are not sure exactly how many different breeds of dogs currently exist.
Although there are 450 different breeds that are officially recognized.
There are four categories of breeds in biology – pure breeds, cross-breeds, mixed breeds, and natural breeds. There are dogs that fit into all four of these categories.
So, how were the 450 different breeds of dogs created?
Well, they were selectively bred to produce dogs with different traits. These traits would allow them to be good at certain tasks or look a certain way.
Recently, people have also started crossbreeding dogs to make them hypoallergenic.
Dogs like Jack Russels and Border Terriers were bred to hunt rats and rabbits. Labrador Retrievers were bred to help bring the fishing in. Breeds like Poodle and French Bulldogs were bred to look good.
What Influences The Popularity of Dog Breeds?
There is a big debate amongst scientists about what makes certain dog breeds popular in different areas around the world.
There are clear trends in breed popularity that can be tracked – from the French Royalty’s obsession with Poodles to the 2010’s infatuation with Pugs and French Bulldogs.
And who can forget the craze for handbag dogs at the start of the 21st century?!
Why is it that Labrador Retrievers are incredibly popular in the UK, the USA, and Canada – but in South America, they would much rather have a Chihuahua?
Most dogs aren’t working dogs anymore, so this does not dictate the popularity of a breed in the way it used to.
There are three elements that are believed to most significantly impact our taste in dogs – popular media, where you live, and how easy the dog is to train.
Movies, Youtube, and other media
A study from Bristol University suggests that popular media may have a huge impact on which dogs gain popularity.
This study showed that after the airing of Lassie Come Home in 1943, Collies became at least 40% more popular. A similar thing happened with Old English Sheepdogs in 1953 after the release of The Shaggy Dog.
Lady and the Tramp, Marley and Me, and the Beethoven movies all had a huge impact on the popularity of their starring breed.
The easier a dog is to train, the more likely it is to be popular. This is one of the theories behind why working dogs continue to be popular, despite the loss of their functionality.
Where you come from and where you live are just as likely as anything else to affect if you have a dog. Some countries love dogs more than others. America is the biggest dog lover in the world.
However, where you live can also really affect the breed you have as well. Some countries love big dogs, while others prefer something they can carry in their arms.
We will explore this more, as we look at the world’s 15 most popular dog breeds
The World’s Most Popular Dog Breeds
We are now going to take a deep dive into some of the most popular dog breeds around the world. Of the 450 recognized breeds, these are 15 of the most owned right now.
This list includes classic working breeds that have been popular for years, and some more modern breeds that have taken the world by storm.
#1 – Labrador Retrievers
Most Popular in: United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and Sri Lanka
Labrador Retrievers are the favorite of many dog loving countries – most notably the USA and the UK. They are the 3rd most popular dog breed in the world overall.
Throughout the lifetime of the breed they have had many different professions. Labradors come from Newfoundland, Canada (we know it’s confusing, the breed Newfoundlands come from Labrador).
They come from the breed St John’s Waterdog and were bred with British hunting dogs to create the Labrador Retrievers.
Evidence as far back as 1000 A.C.E shows that native Canadian tribes had domesticated Water Dogs that they used to help them fish and to protect their villages.
These guarding traits are still visible in Labradors today, although they are notoriously gentle, they are not afraid to make a lot of noise to protect their pack.
Labradors’ popularity has a lot to do with their gentle but protective nature.
Labradors still hold onto their love of swimming as well. They have a double coat, one which is soft and keeps them warm.
The other is waterproof, allowing them to swim for hours in cold water without feeling its effects.
Labradors were bred to be hunting dogs, they were sent out to find the prey that was shot down and carry it back safely. They are famous for their “soft mouths” – i.e. their ability to carry game without damaging it.
Labradors come in three main colors – yellow, black, and chocolate (brown). The chocolate ones tend not to be used as working dogs as they are often harder to train and more stubborn.
While Labs are not really used for fishing or hunting anymore, they still work.
Both black and yellow labs have worked for the emergency services – there was even a black lab (Jake) who found survivors at both 9/11 and in the wreckage of Hurricane Katrina.
Labs are also used as guide and assistance dogs. They make fantastic therapy dogs and have even been paired with young autistic children to help them navigate life.
#2 – German Shepherds
Most Popular in: Poland, United States, Slovenia
Many areas of the world do not track their dog populations very well, but it is generally believed that German Shepherds are the second most popular dog breed in the world.
They are a relatively young breed, only dating back to 1899. They were bred from 6 different European working dogs. They were designed to be intelligent, loyal, and hard working dogs.
If they are not working then German Shepherds need to be entertained because they really are incredibly intelligent.
German Shepherds make excellent working dogs, so much so, that they have been picked up by both the Armed Forces and the Emergency Services in the last 100 years.
They make excellent rescue dogs, as well as police dogs, and drug sniffing dogs.
They are relentlessly loyal and make great companions for anyone who is willing to give them the time and attention they need.
#3 – Bulldogs
Most Popular in: United Kingdom, Hungary, United States
Bulldogs were originally bred for blood sports like dogfighting and bull-baiting (this is where they get their name from).
They were so successful in these sports because they were brave and persistent. These are the traits that made so many fall in love with them.
After blood sports were banned in the UK in the mid-19th century, it was the people’s love for the dogs that kept them from dying out.
Many of these loveable traits still exist in the modern Bulldog, no one can accuse this breed of being cowardly.
Bulldogs are still incredibly muscular and it’s easy to tell that they were once bred for fighting bulls. They are squat dogs with a lot of power in their back legs. They have big jaws.
They are one of the oldest British Breeds and became a symbol of the country during the second world war.
Even British prime minister Winston Churchill took it as a compliment when people told him he had a Bulldog spirit.
As well as being brave dogs, you will struggle to find a breed that loves sleeping and cuddling as much as the British Bulldog.
#4 – Siberian Huskies
Most popular in: Czech Republic, Armenia, Russia
Siberian Huskies were bred in Northern Asia to be sled pulling dogs. They are often confused with the American breed the Alaskan Malamute.
Despite the two breeds being bred on opposites of the world, they do share many similar features and were bred to do the same job. Siberian Huskies are smaller than Malamutes.
Huskies are famous for their thick double coats, wolf-like ears, and distinctive markings across their faces. These markings often make them look furious, even when they are not.
Huskies are particularly susceptible to heterochromia (each of their eyes is a different color), this does not affect their ability to see.
The dogs were bred in Asia to pull sleds but were eventually introduced to America by a Russian explorer during the Alaskan gold rush. They are still used to pull sleds by Mushers during competitions.
Huskies are famous for their wolf-like howls and their intelligence. You may have heard them referred to as escape artists.
They like to choose their own places to rest, so will often climb over or dig under fences to find a new spot. They have been known to chew through walls and open windows to do this as well.
#5 – Pugs
Pugs are one of the breeds that have recently grown more fashionable. They were very popular with Queen Victoria and her daughters, but long before that, The House of Orange (a Dutch royal family) adored them too.
A Pug is said to have saved the life of one of the Princes of Orange. However, they fell out of fashion at the start of the 20th century, but they are back with a vengeance.
Pugs are currently the 5th most owned dog in the world.
The history of pugs begins around 2000 years ago in China, they were popular because they had flat faces and were small enough to carry around. They were often referred to as toy dogs.
If you are interested in getting a Pug then you must select your dog carefully. While many people like the flat noses and snuffly breath of Pugs, these can actually be detrimental to their health.
If not bred correctly then they can have trouble breathing. They also cannot cope well in warm weather and must be manually cooled if they overheat.
However, they are kind dogs with playful hearts and lots of attitude.
#6 – Chow Chows
Most Popular in: Paraguay, Philippines, Brazil
Chow Chows are another Chinese dog breed, although they are very different from Pugs. Firstly, they are medium to large sized dogs. They are strong, well-built, and have very square features.
They are famous for their wrinkled faces and blue tongues. They are also very popular because they are very fluffy – that is the only word that can truly sum up their coats.
They have a double coat like Huskies and Labs.
They have an excess of hair around their head that is often referred to as a ruff or a mane. Explorers in Ancient China had a habit of mistaking large Chow Chows for lions.
Chow Chows are often compared to cats because of their temperament. You never quite know what you are going to get with this breed.
Some Chow Chows are unbothered by strangers and friendly to everyone.
However, others can get very protective over their family members – particularly the women in their family.
They prefer smaller groups of people, making them a great choice for couples whose children have grown up or couples who are not planning to have children.
As they tend to pick one or two people and fervently defend them.
#7 – Golden Retrievers
Most Popular in: United States, Canada, Lebanon
Golden Retrievers are often seen as the stereotypical American family dog. There is a good reason for this. Firstly, they are incredibly popular in America. Secondly, they make great family dogs.
They are great with children, they are kind, they are gentle, and they are loyal.
There are three main types of Golden Retriever – British, Canadian, and American.
The British dogs tend to be closer to white than gold, the American dogs are the typical long-furred golden dogs we are all familiar with, and the Canadian dogs are very golden but they have shorter hair.
Like Labs, Golden Retrievers were bred to help with the hunt, they also have “soft mouths” that made them perfect for picking up game like Waterfowl.
Some Golden Retrievers love to swim while others refuse to get in the water. This does not seem to be a hereditary thing, however.
Again, like Labs, Golden Retrievers like to please their owners, so will often walk, run, and work until they collapse.
They do not know when to stop, so it is often up to their owner to enforce this boundary for them.
#8 – Chihuahuas
Most popular in: Mexico, Guatemala, Puerto Rico
They may not be incredibly popular in America anymore (they are only the 32nd most owned dogs in the country), it is a different story for this breed in Central and South America.
Chihuahuas are one of the smallest dog breeds on the planet. They can weigh as little as 4lbs when they are fully grown.
And most Chihuahuas don’t grow to be any taller than 10cms – the breed has an average height of 6cm.
However, what they lack in height, size, and power they more than make up for in attitude, voice, and personality.
They are very protective and territorial dogs. They are often used as an example when talking about a Napoleon Complex.
They are named after the Mexican state of Chihuahua and are incredibly popular in that country.
We are not sure how old the breed is. There are records dating back as far as the 16th from Spanish explorers that talked about small dogs that were eaten by the Aztecs.
The breed can really vary in appearance and coat colors – however, a pale white coat is registered with one of the biggest breed authorities as the traditional Chihuahua coat color.
#9 – French Bulldogs
Most popular in: Hungary, United Kingdom, Czech Republic
French Bulldogs are another breed that has recently become fashionable. In Paris, in the 19th Century, these dogs were incredibly popular and were often referred to as Toy Bulldogs.
They were a particularly favorite subject of French artist Henri Toulouse-Lautrec. He has some charming sketches of the breed, which gives us a good idea of what they looked like at the time.
They couldn’t be more different from their British counterparts. They were originally bred to be ratters, but they have since been bred to be companion dogs.
They are much smaller than British Bulldogs and a lot less muscular, but they have the same overall body shape.
One of the concerns surrounding the breed is their noses. Just like Pugs, French Bulldogs have very flat noses which can often cause them problems in later life.
It is not uncommon for French Bulldogs to have multiple operations throughout their lifetime to fix this problem.
French Bulldogs really like to have company, and can get upset if they are left alone for too long. They are very quiet and can be extremely affectionate to their owners.
While they tend not to be fans of other dogs, they are more than happy to get a fuss from new humans they meet on their travels.
#10 – Boxers
Most popular in: Denmark, Guatemala, Sweden
Boxers are an interesting breed as one of their main ancestors is not existing. They were bred from the British Bulldog and the German Bullenbeisser.
They are big dogs with short hair that are known for being fast, strong, and smart.
They have incredibly powerful jaws that can lock on to prey with ease. They were bred to hunt and attack animals that were bigger than them.
Like English Bulldogs, they are very brave and do not like to back down or give up once they have started something.
Boxers, since their conception, have been renowned for their loyalty. They will protect their master and their family, however, if they feel an outsider is threatening the family they will go into protection mode.
That being said, they are known for doting on their families and wanting to be involved in everything they do – from walks to watching TV together on the couch (even if the couch isn’t big enough to fit a Boxer and people).
They are easy dogs to train and will behave well outside the house. They are very strong-willed and might be a little cheeky in the home.
#11 – Dachshund
Most popular in: Hungary, United Kingdom, Australia
Let’s keep this one short and sweet, like the Dachshund. There are two main types of the breed – traditional and miniature.
Both breeds have very similar temperaments – they are happy, playful dogs, who like most small dogs have a little bit of an attitude.
They like to spend as much of their time as they can with their owners and don’t like to be left alone.
#12 – Rottweilers
Most popular in: Sri Lanka, Honduras, Guatemala
Rottweilers are a German breed that was designed to herd large groups of cattle. They were also used to pull carts of meat to the market for their farmers.
Now they are used as guard dogs, as well as search and rescue dogs. They are hard-working and refuse to stop when they get tired.
They are very loyal to their owners, for this reason, they have often been used as protection.
One Rottweiler in England heard the screams of a stranger, trekked through shrubs to find her, scared off her attacker, and then guarded over the woman until the police arrived.
Rottweilers have quite a bad reputation thanks to negative portrayals in the media. They are in fact sweet and faithful dogs. They are great with kids and are happy to accept new babies into their packs.
They are very smart dogs and therefore need to be entertained and exercised a lot. When they are not in work or protection mode they are very playful and enjoy spending time with their owners.
Like Boxers, they are known for trying to cuddle up on sofas that are not designed for them.
#13 – Pembroke Welsh Corgi
Most popular in: United States, Singapore, Estonia
If they’re good enough for the Queen of England, then they’re good enough for the rest of us. Corgis have been kept by the British royal family for the last 70 years.
Pembroke Welsh Corgis are the smallest breed of herding dogs. They are smart, high energy, and eager to please. They are believed to be the 11th smartest breed of dog.
They are easy to train and tend to be very docile when on walks.
Corgis originate from Pembrokeshire in Wales. According to Welsh legend, Corgis were ridden into battle by fairies – this is why they are shaped like a horse but much smaller.
Two small children once stumbled upon a fairy funeral in the woods, as a gift for their respectfulness they were each given a Corgi puppy by the mythical creatures.
#14 – Shiba Inu
Most popular in: Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong
Shiba Inus are one of the six original Japanese breeds. It is the smallest of the six. Shiba Inus are hunting dogs.
They would originally hunt in mountainous areas and are therefore very agile and light on their feet.
The Japanese breed standard describes Shibas as “The dog has a spirited boldness and is fiercely proud with a good nature and a feeling of artlessness.
The Shiba is able to move quickly with nimble, elastic steps.”
They are very proud dogs – they go out of their way to avoid getting dirty and to keep their coats clean and shiny. They are generally friendly to humans, but can sometimes take a random dislike to some.
They also tend to have favorite humans outside their family and will get very excited whenever they see them.
Shibas are not afraid to let you know when they don’t want to do something – they will let out one of their famous screams. They will also do this when they are happy or excited.
Shiba Inus have grown more popular in Europe and America over the last decade, partly thanks to their role in meme culture.
They are often depicted in photos doing entertaining things, and the infamous Doge was in fact a Shiba Inu.
#15 – Beagle
Most popular in: Ukraine, Serbia, Portugal
For a long time, Beagles have been used to do scientific research on because they are so kind and loyal. Once they trust someone, they will stick with them even if they are not treated well.
For this reason, many laboratories chose to experiment on the breed.
Beagles are some of the kindest dogs out there. They are excellent with children and will even be used as therapy dogs (like Labs and Retrievers) because they are so patient and willing to forgive.
They were traditionally used for foxhunting and would travel in big packs. They like to have that company still, but it does not just have to be other Beagles, they are good tempered with most dogs.
However, when a group of Beagles does get together they tend to start howling and it is very difficult to get them to stop.
They have very good noses and have been used as bomb sniffer dogs and police dogs in the last century.
The most famous Beagle is perhaps Snoopy the Dog from the Peanuts comic who has been an American favorite since he first appeared in 1952.
Dogs and humans have lived together for over 15,000 years. It’s no wonder many of our homes feel empty without a canine companion.
While many breeds have remained popular for decades, some breeds have gained popularity thanks to pup culture… sorry, pop culture.
Not every breed is suitable for every person, so it is important that you spend some time researching the breed you are looking to bring into your life – this is best for both you and the dog.