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America’s 10 most popular dog breeds — and what you need to know about them

Amy Jamieson
April 10, 2019
America’s 10 most popular dog breeds — and what you need to know about them

America’s love of Labs runs deep.

For the 28th consecutive year, the Labrador retriever has been named the most popular dog breed in the U.S. by the American Kennel Club. With registrations for this breed expanding in 2018 for the sixth consecutive year, clearly these barking beauties continue to win fans.

Did your favorite make the AKC’s annual list of most popular dogs? It’s possible your beloved breed pops up somewhere on the lengthy annual list, which includes 192 dog breeds total and is based on the number of AKC registrations.

Read on to see who made the top 10, and learn why people are charmed by each of them.

1. Labrador retriever


(c) American Kennel Club

Famous standouts:

You’ve seen them in films like “Marley & Me,” but the breed’s real-life heroics could be seen in a search and rescue dog named Jake, who looked for survivors following the 9/11 attacks and later in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. He died in 2007.

What people love about them:

Twenty-eight years in a row? That’s some serious staying power.

“The Labrador retriever shows no signs of giving up the top spot anytime soon,” AKC executive secretary Gina DiNardo said in a statement when the list was made public. “Labs make wonderful companions for a wide variety of people, and for good reason. The breed is very intelligent, friendly and great with children.”

These beautiful dogs are the traditional waterdog of Newfoundland, the large Canadian island, but the British refined the breed in the 19th century, the AKC says. Described as “outgoing,” “high-spirited” and “famously friendly,” it’s no wonder that so many households have chosen them as their trusted companions since 1991.

2. German shepherd


(c) American Kennel Club

Famous standouts:

After he was rescued from battle in World War I, a male German shepherd named Rin Tin Tin became a movie star.

What people love about them:

The modern day GSDs are relatives of German herding dogs and have beefed up their resumes with various skills, including agility, police work and more. Gary Szymczak, president German Shepherd Dog Club of America, says they’re popular first and foremost because of their intelligence and second their commitment and dedication to their families.

“They’re so intelligent. They are notoriously a family dog,” he says. “All dogs, all breeds have a negative side. If there is one to a German shepherd that I can attest to, it’s their shedding twice a year.”  

GSDs are very easily trained, he says, and love to have a job.

“They don’t need a lot of exercise like your sporting dogs do, but because they are a larger dog, they need to have some activity. But more importantly a German shepherd has to have a purpose,” he says. ”German shepherds are not couch potatoes, that’s not what they’re bred to do.”

3. Golden retriever


(c) American Kennel Club

Famous standouts:

Goldens have the “Air Bud” movies to thank for bringing them into so many living rooms. Presidents Ford and Reagan also had them in the White House.

What people love about them:

Maybe the easier question is: What’s not to love about these beauties? Not a whole lot.

“From the eager expression to the wagging tail, a golden is happiness in a canine unit,” says Alison Webb, the eastern director for the Golden Retriever Club of America. “This is an active, people-oriented breed that wants to be involved in your daily activities. Hiking, swimming and sleeping on my feet are my dogs' favorite activities. I love that these dogs are so smart, adaptable and trainable.”

They hail from the Scottish Highlands, where they were bred to retrieve — and they still take this job very seriously.

“Goldens were developed to be gundogs, and their natural retrieving instincts are intact,” Webb says. “They’ll bring you a baby bird fallen from its nest but also take your socks and underwear out to the lawn if given the chance. One of my dogs helps out by picking up all the dog bowls after a meal, while another I’ve taught to help me pull invasive weeds. Goldens do need quite a bit of exercise, or they will find something to do, which may not be on your approved list of activities.”

4. French bulldog


(c) American Kennel Club

Famous standouts:

A show dog named Ch. Bouquet Nouvelle Ami (a.k.a. Jo-Jo) won Best of Breed at Westminster a whopping eight years in a row in the 1950s.

What people love about them:

Their large “bat” ears are their signature feature, but there are a lot of traits that make this breed unique.

“French bulldogs are loving companions that will keep you laughing,” says Becky Smith, president of the French Bull Dog Club of America. “It has been said that Frenchies are clowns in the cloak of a Philosopher. They do well in smaller environments which makes them great house or apartment companions.”

That’s why you’ll often see these cuties prancing down sidewalks in cities — if you’re considering bringing one home, definitely do your research.

“Most importantly, if you are purchasing a French bulldog, buy from a reputable breeder,” she says. “With popularity comes unscrupulous breeder's out to simply make money without concern for protecting our breed. Members of the French Bull Dog Club of America sign a Code of Ethics. Our common goal [is] to ‘Protect, Promote, and Preserve’ our precious breed.”

5. Bulldog


(c) American Kennel Club

Famous standouts:

A skateboarding bulldog named Tillman captured the hearts of millions and snagged a Guinness World Record for fastest 100-meters on a skateboard by a dog.    

What people love about them:

They are a symbol of strength in their native England, so maybe that’s why they hold strong in the No. 5 spot. Their ranking “is not a surprise to their fans who love the bulldog’s appealing wrinkled face and kind and gentle disposition,” says Annette Nobles, communications/media chairperson for the Bulldog Club of America. “The Bulldog can have a ‘no worries’ attitude but surprisingly to some the bulldog can ‘turn it on’ when needed.”

An example of that, she says, is a dog named Rudy who stole the show at the Westminster Kennel Club’s masters agility competition this past February in New York. The lightning fast pup went viral for “pacing through the agility course at record breaking speeds,” Nobles says.

6. Beagle


(c) American Kennel Club

Famous standouts:

Well, Snoopy, of course! But a real dog named Uno can take credit for bolstering the breed’s presence on the show dog circuit. In 2008, he became the first beagle to win Best in Show at Westminster.

What people love about them:

There’s a reason this breed is known for its good temperament, says Michelle Sager, a beagle breeder, judge and chairperson for the education committee for the National Beagle Club of America.

“They were bred to hunt rabbits, they are pack dogs meant to hunt with other beagles, so they need to get along with other dogs,” she says. “So they’re great for families, and they get along pretty much with everything and everyone.”

Additionally, she says their size and propensity to have few health problems are desirable traits, as is their short coat.

“Another reason why there are still so many of us is that they are still very popular as hunting dogs, there are many thousands of them throughout the country that are used for [rabbit] hunting,” she says.

While they are a beloved breed, they aren’t for everyone.

“They love to follow their noses,” she says. “This is not a dog that can be reliably off leash outside of a fenced area. They’re smart, but they can be stubborn, but they are a joy to live with.”

7. Poodle


(c) American Kennel Club

Famous standouts:

Poodles walked the halls of the White House during Nixon and Kennedy administrations.

What people love about them:

“We’ve been very popular for a very long time,” says Susan Burge, president of the Poodle Club of America, who notes that the breed, which originated as a duck hunter in Germany, has appeared on the list for many years. “Poodles, unlike other breeds, come in three different sizes and multiple shades. So I think the variety is part of it. The other reality is that we have a non-shedding coat and I think poodles get the most publicity out of it.”

A well-bred poodle is first and foremost very bright, she says, so if you get one, put your thinking cap on.

“The worst possible combination is a smart poodle and a dumb owner,” Burge says. “Because the poodle will play that owner for everything it’s worth. They’re going to test limits a little bit.”

Clearly, people love poodles and vice versa.

“They don’t care if you want to go running in the park or you want to snuggle on the couch all afternoon, they need to be with people,” she says. “They’re not a dog that does well in isolation.”

8. Rottweiler


(c) American Kennel Club

Famous standouts:

A rescued Rottie named Jake was honored by the RSPCA in the United Kingdom for chasing off a woman’s attacker in 2010, according to the BBC.

What people love about them:

The AKC notes that they are loyal, loving guardians who thrive when trained early and given a job to do.

“I can tell you that they are one of the few types of dogs that will try and trick you, they can be quite cunning,” says dog trainer Jill Kessler-Miller, who is on the board of directors for the American Rottweiler Club.

The working breed has been used in various fields, including people protection, search and rescue and police work.

“A trait that most of us highly value is how enormously gentle and sensitive they are to people who are vulnerable or compromised. They have an ability to size up a situation (room, person) and quickly adapt,” Kessler-Miller says. “My own dog, Nemo, is a total goofball and in everything 24/7. But when we would go to the hospital, he ‘knew’ to dial it down and became soft and careful around folks who were very ill and hooked up to multiple machines.”

9. German shorthaired pointer


(c) American Kennel Club

Famous standouts:

A 3-year-old GSP known as CJ snagged the title of Best in Show at the Westminster Dog Show in 2016.

What people love about them:

The qualities that attract people to this breed — athleticism, enthusiasm and friendliness, according to the AKC — worked wonders this year. The competitive hunter of German origin moved from the 10th spot in 2017 to the ninth in 2018, its highest position since becoming a recognized breed in 1930.

The Labrador may have taken the top spot, but the GSPs definitely deserve an honorable mention.

“Attention must be paid to the German shorthaired pointer, however,” AKC executive secretary Gina DiNardo said in a statement when the list was made public. “This jack of all trades in the pointer world has slowly but steadily risen in popularity over the years. People continue to fall in love with its versatility, extreme intelligence and willingness to please.”  

10. Yorkshire terrier


(c) American Kennel Club

Famous standouts:

A pup named Smoky is credited with saving soldiers lives by dragging a communications cable through a drainage culvert during World War II, the AKC says.

What people love about them:

Developed in northern England in the 1800s, according to the AKC, these pups became a popular sidekick for wealthy English women. Celebrities like Gisele Bundchen and Natalie Portman would later fall for the breed likely due in part to their loyalty.

“They’ve got a very inquisitive personality, and they’re a very loving dog,” says breeder Vicki Nannuzzi, a member of the Yorkshire Terrier Club of Northern California, who adds that they also do a great job of alerting their people to happenings around the house. “They have have a mommy, and that’s their mommy. My husband doesn’t really share my opinion, of course. He’d rather have a Lab!”

Clearly, no matter your favorite, lovers of different breeds can coexist — even still, Nannuzzi thinks her breed’s beauty helps it stand out from the pack, especially when they’re in dog shows, all “prim and proper” with long, flowing tresses.

“They’re a beautiful dog and I think that anybody who has seen a show Yorkie, will agree,” she says. “They are an absolutely gorgeous dog.”

Read next: The 10 biggest dogs in the world

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