Dogs may be man’s best friend but, with so many best friends from which to choose, it may be difficult to determine which breed is best for your specific lifestyle. The American Kennel Club has released its most recent popularity rankings, revealing that there are plenty of pups to go around.
You simply cannot ignore that each breed has its own distinct appearance, personality, and character traits. Every owner chooses the breed of dog that they bring into their home for one reason or another. Sometimes that reason may be tied to those aforementioned qualities. However, sometimes it may have something to do with the breed’s reputation - either in history or in entertainment.
Nonetheless, all of the different characteristics and stories that influence our decisions when selecting which breed of dog to make a member of our family are as inexhaustible as the day is long. Here is a look at The American Kennel Club’s most recent popularity rankings when it comes to dog breeds as well as a bit about what makes each breed unique.
The exact origins of the "Sleuth Hound," as the breed is sometimes called, are unknown. Bloodhounds became popular during the medieval times, and the "blood" part of their name means "of aristocratic blood," due to princes and other noble church members owning packs of these dogs. Bloodhounds are known for their droopy, wrinkled features and their distinct sense of smell, which can often help law enforcement locate criminals and missing persons.
Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers stand as high as 19 inches and weigh as much as 40 pounds. Famous for what has come to be known as the “Wheaten greetin,’” an incredibly crazy display of affection upon welcoming their owners home, these exuberantly playful pups were originally bred as farm dogs, expected to herd livestock, hunt down potentially destructive pests, and protect their owners’ homes from perceived threats with a signaling bark. Today, they make fantastic family pets due to their exceptionally outgoing personality and reputation for playing well with kids.
Anyone who grew up in the 1990s may be compelled to call their St. Bernard Beethoven thanks to the breed’s starring role in the family film franchise of the same name. That 1992 movie and its subsequent sequels displayed St. Bernards as slobbery-yet-loyal beasts, but that is an improvement over their portrayal in 1983’s horror flick “Cujo.” In reality, St. Bernards are large, friendly, hard-working dogs that are famous for their alpine rescues of lost and injured hikers.
Originally known simply as snow country dogs, Akitas hail from the mountainous region of Japan, where they were used to track and hunt wild boar, deer, elk, and bears. Author and activist Helen Keller is said to have brought the breed into the U.S. in 1937, and Akitas have since become known for their remarkable loyalty. The most famous Akita in history is Hachikō, a dog that waited for its owner for more than nine years after his death. Their most recognizable features are their webbed toes and their curly, plush tail.
Bichons Frises love to be the center of attention. They are highly trainable and easily perform new and exciting tricks. In fact, this breed’s knack for entertaining originally earned it a spot in the circus. Today, Bichons Frises are considered to be the ultimate companions thanks to their cheerful demeanor and cloud-like white fur coat that makes them resemble a child’s toy. However, because of their exceptional affection, they are also prone to separation anxiety if left alone for long periods of time and heartbreak if subjected to scoldings or harsh training.
Shiba Inu (Japanese for “brushwood dog”) is a very independent breed. Because of this, they are next to impossible to train. However, what they lack in obedience they more than make up for in loyalty. After the 2004 Chūetsu earthquake, a Shiba Inu helped rescue workers locate her elderly owner who had been trapped beneath the rubble - an ordeal that was adapted into a movie called “A Tale of Mari and Three Puppies.” They are also known to frequently groom themselves similarly to cats as well as emit a piercing scream when they are unhappy or afraid.
Most commonly associated with police work, Belgian Malinois are known for their exceptional tracking abilities. These dogs can detect odors, hunt down suspects and find injured persons in search and rescue missions better than most any other breed. Because of this, Belgian Malinois are the dogs that the U.S. Secret Service uses to guard the White House grounds. Their popularity rose after one appeared in the 2015 family film “Max,” but it is important to remember that Belgian Malinois require plenty of stimulation and exercise or they may develop destructive and neurotic behaviors.
Chesapeake Bay Retrievers were originally used to hunt and retrieve ducks in Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay. Today, they remain a hunting breed but are also known to be ideal companions for people across the U.S. Chesapeake Bay Retrievers - or, as they are more commonly known, Chessies - are less friendly than Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers, and are better suited for those with a commanding presence who prefer a protective hunting companion than an obedient pet.
Although they are small in size and look quite cuddly, West Highland White Terriers have very high energy levels and are unlikely to settle for being someone’s lap dog. Commonly called Westies, they were originally bred in Scotland to hunt foxes, badgers, otters, and rats. A West Highland White Terrier has long-served as the mascot for the Caesar pet food company while the breed has most recently been prominently featured in the 2018 comedy “Game Night,” starring Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams.
Rhodesian Ridgebacks are most easily recognized by the naturally occurring ridge along their spine, for which they have been dubbed “the dog with a snake on its back.” They have also been commonly referred to as “African Lion Hounds” thanks to their history of distracting lions for big-game hunters in Africa. Naturally, Rhodesian Ridgebacks need plenty of exercise as well as mental stimulation to satisfy their active, energetic and protective instincts.
Known for their sheep herding abilities and their outstanding loyalty, Collies are considered to be very compassionate and intelligent dogs. Additionally, they are easily trained, protective of their families and play well with children. Although there have been many Collies featured in pop culture over the years, the one that is the most recognizable is Lassie, a canine character that has been the subject of several television series and major motion pictures and one of only a few animal actors to have their own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Basset Hounds’ most recognizable trait is a toss-up between their droopy, puppy dog eyes that burrow into the heart of even the most stoic person and their ear-piercing howl. Then again, many also first think of Basset Hounds for their sense of smell, which is second only to that of a Bloodhound. They have been frequently featured in pop culture, including several Walt Disney animated films and an array of television series - such as “The People's Choice,” “Columbo,” and “The Dukes of Hazzard.”
Border Collies, such as the one featured in the family film “Babe” and its sequel “Babe 2: Pig in the City,” originated in the hilly border country between Scotland and England. Their trademark “herding eye” made them excellent at controlling flocks of sheep - a task for which they are still commonly used today. In addition to sheep herding, Border Collies are great competitors in agility, flyball, flying disc, and other dog sports, therefore they are an ideal fit for owners with an active lifestyle.
Also known as Italian Mastiffs, Cane Corso were originally bred as guard dogs that also hunted wild boar. Usually standing at least 28 inches tall and weighing more than 100 pounds, their muscular appearance may be in and of itself enough to ward off intruders. Cane Corso do not typically demonstrate their affection for their owners or their families through requests for attention or touch. However, they are known to attempt to communicate their love through “woo woo woo” sounds and snorts.
Newfoundlands are known to be sweet-tempered with a watchful eye. Perhaps that is why author J.M. Barrie chose one to be the nursemaid dog Nana for Wendy John, and Michael in “Peter Pan,” which is only one of many representations of the breed in pop culture. However, before that, Newfoundlands were originally working dogs, pulling nets out of the water and hauling wood from the forest for their working-class owners. They have since earned their place in the home, enjoying a slower lifestyle with the occasional physical activity - especially swimming, at which they excel thanks to their webbed feet.
Miniature American Shepherds resemble Australian Shepherds - except on a smaller scale. Whereas their larger counterparts measure about 18-23 inches tall at the shoulder, Miniature American Shepherds stand 14-18 inches tall. They were originally selectively bred in the 1960’s from small Australian Shepherds in the U.S. rodeo circuit to further reduce their size. Their small size and intelligence make them popular picks for travelers and those who frequent livestock shows - especially for their portability and reliability in herding.
Weimaraners are said to have been developed by German aristocrats who crossbred Bloodhounds with German and French hunting dogs. Once used in big-game hunts, tracking bears, deer, mountain lions and wolves, Weimaraners have since evolved into canine sidekicks that want to be with their owner all of the time. Because of this shadowing characteristic, they have earned the nickname “Gray Ghosts.” However, their hunting instincts have not completely disappeared as Weimaraners will still chase and kill anything that resembles small prey, including mice, birds, cats, and even small dogs.
Maltese have been around through the ages. Its exact origin is unknown, but the breed is believed to have been developed in the Isle of Malta in the Mediterranean Sea and representations of it have shown up in early Greek, Roman and Egyptian cultures. Typically weighing less than seven pounds, Maltese are known for their long, white coat that floats across the floor and gives them an elegant appearance. This, paired with their uncanny athletic ability, makes this breed a favorite at show competitions.
Chihuahuas are much more than Taco Bell’s former spokesdog. They are small dogs with very big personalities and perhaps even bigger hearts. Chihuahuas develop exceptionally strong bonds with their owners, a quality that has contributed to the phenomenon of young women carrying the breed around in their purse wherever they go. Standing between six and nine inches tall and weighing between three and six pounds, Chihuahuas are naive about their small stature and are considered to be one of the world’s best watchdogs thanks to their alertness and proclivity to bark at suspicious activity.
Pugs’ history goes back 2,000 years, when they were developed to serve as refined pets for emperors of China. They are clowns at heart and love to be the center of attention - which they are thanks to their big eyes, wrinkly face, curly tail and tongue that often sticks out for all the world to see. Pugs often snort, snore, and wheeze and cannot tolerate high heat or extreme exercise. They have taken Hollywood by storm, having been highlighted in movies like “Milo and Otis,” “Pocahontas” and “Men in Black.”
Vizslas were initially introduced to the U.S. in 1950 when one was smuggled out of Communist Hungary. They were first used as hunting dogs by Magyar hordes before being bred to serve as pointers and retrievers for Hungarian nobles. They have since earned the nickname “Velcro Vizslas” due to their desire to stay close to their owner. Vizslas are very active dogs with a strong sense of smell - qualities that have made them great at competitions, drug-detection, and search-and-rescue.
Contrary to what Disney’s “Lady and the Tramp” would have you believe, Cocker Spaniels do not and should not eat spaghetti. Easily identified by their big, puppy dog eyes and their long, lush ears, Cocker Spaniels are the American Kennel Club’s smallest sporting spaniel, standing about 14 or 15 inches tall at the shoulder. They are also exceptionally easy to train and very affectionate companions that are gentle in temperament around children, the elderly and other pets. However, it is important to remember that, in addition to lovers, Cocker Spaniels are also hunters - and very athletic ones at that.
Mastiffs are descendants of ancient Molossers, which are said to have originated in Tibet or northern India where they were used to guard flocks against predators. Mastiffs are considered to be the largest breed in the world, standing about 30 inches tall and weighing 120-230 pounds. In fact, a 342-pound Mastiff named Zorba earned his status as the world’s heaviest dog according to the Guinness Book of World Records. Although their massive size makes them immediately intimidating, Mastiffs are surprisingly patient and affectionate - just as the kids in the 1993 movie “The Sandlot” discovered.
English Springer Spaniels’ name is derived from the way in which they “spring” at game to flush it out for hunters. They are typically bred as either hunting dogs or show dogs - but never both. One thing that they all excel at, though, is pleasing their owners and becoming valuable members of a family, including those with children and other pets. Oh, and they simply cannot resist a long walk, a friendly game of fetch, swimming, or anything else that provides them some quality time with their owner.
Brittanys get their name from the area where they were developed hundreds of years ago - the westernmost region of France. They are primarily bird dogs, hunting anything and everything covered in feathers. They tend to be a bit hyperactive and are therefore best paired with owners who can match their boundless energy with plenty of physical stimulation. Their exceptional exuberance also makes Brittanys quality companions for children - albeit only those who are big enough to not get trampled by the dog during one of its bursts of enthusiasm.
Bernese Mountain Dogs are originally working dogs from the farmlands of Switzerland, where they were bred to herd cattle and pulls carts. Sometimes referred to as Berners, these dogs have been known to pull up to ten times their body weight. Bernese Mountain Dogs tend to become very attached to their owners - especially children - and can express a great deal of affection. For that reason, they make excellent therapy dogs. Because of their large size and hauling capabilities, Bernese Mountain Dogs make ideal companions for hikers as they don’t mind pulling the extra weight of a backpack or other supplies.
Shetland Sheepdogs were once described as miniature Collies since they essentially resemble that breed albeit on a smaller scale, although they come in a variety of unique markings. Commonly called Shelties, Shetland Sheepdogs originated in the Shetland Islands - which is also where Shetland Ponies and Shetland Sheep got their start. They integrate very well into families, including those with children, but can be wary of strangers and therefore have been known to be loud barkers. These qualities make Shetland Sheepdogs excellent watchdogs.
Havanese’ name is derived from Havana - the capital city of Cuba, where the breed began in the 1800s as a lapdog for aristocrats and wealthy planters. This history of pampering has imprinted upon Havanese an expectation of being spoiled rotten, as these house dogs stick to their owners like glue, crave lots of attention, and become anxious if left alone for too long or exiled to the backyard. However, this also makes them people-pleasersand therefore easy to train as well as teach agility tricks.
Pomeranians look more like toys or fashion accessories than actual dogs. Maybe that is why the breed is popular among celebrities like Paris Hilton, Nicole Richie, Hilary Duff, Gwen Stefani, and Eva Longoria. You might be surprised to learn that Pomeranians are actually descendants of full-size sled dogs, which likely explains their excessive energy level. In addition to featuring all of the vigor of a big, athletic dog, Pomeranians are rarely intimidated by strangers and other animals - even those that tower over their tiny bodies, which typically weigh less than seven pounds.
Boston Terriers’ roots are said to begin in England where someone crossbred a Bulldog with the now-extinct White English Terrier for the purposes of pit fighting. That dog, which was sold to an American and brought to Boston, Massachusetts in the late 1800s, is believed to be the common ancestor of all true Boston Terriers. Despite these origins, this breed would rather show affection than aggression. Their black-and-white tuxedo-like pattern paired with their great manners have earned Boston Terriers the nickname “The American Gentleman.”
Literally translated from Chinese to English as “lion dog,” Shih Tzu were originally bred in China to serve as lapdogs for royalty. Centuries later, they have not forgotten their pampered roots. Although this lifestyle has not left them feeling entitled and therefore arrogant or aggressive, they live for naps on the laps of their owners. Shih Tzu are one of the friendliest dog breeds in the world, constantly showing affection for the members of their family and always eager to make new friends of both the two- and four-feet varieties.
Cavalier King Charles Spaniels were named in honor of King Charles I and his son King Charles II, European nobility who were especially fond of toy spaniels. Standing 12-13 inches tall and weighing 13-18 pounds, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are one of the larger toy breeds but that does not stop them from wanting to cuddle up on their owner’s lap. And although they are known to be a bit stubborn and difficult to train, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels enjoy the best of both worlds. When they are not lounging on laps, they can be found running around on the agility course or even helping out with small-game hunts.
Miniature Schnauzers are maybe most recognizable for their bushy beard and eyebrows, features that protect their faces from the vermin they were originally bred to hunt. They still perform pest control duties and are instinctually curious about mice, gerbils, and even small birds, so they may not be the best dog for families with small pets. However, Miniature Schnauzers are not ones to be left alone anyway as they have a reputation for following their owners everywhere and keeping them constantly entertained with their playful antics.
Contrary to what their name suggests, Australian Shepherds originated in the U.S. during the 1840s. Nicknamed Aussies, they are one of the smartest and most loyal dog breeds in the world. In fact, it is not uncommon for Australian Shepherds to outsmart their owners, so it is best to keep their minds occupied with various household tasks like bringing in the newspaper and taking out the trash. They are also one of the most versatile dog breeds in the world, excelling at herding, obedience, agility, and even rodeo events.
Doberman Pinschers have a reputation for being sleek guard dogs, especially in films like “Hugo,” “Resident Evil,” and “Beverly Hills Chihuahua.” That is perhaps because they were originally bred to be such in Germany during the late 19th century. However, Doberman Pinschers have since proven themselves to be much more than the sinister attack-dogs pop culture continues to portray them as. While it is true they remain great guard dogs, they never look for trouble on their own and typically only attack when defending their family from perceived threats. Doberman Pinschers are actually very loving companions who view themselves as their family’s protector.
Do not allow the Pembroke Welsh Corgis’ short legs fool you - they are one of the most effective herding dogs in the world, having originally been bred to herd sheep, horses, and cattle. However, while they have proven themselves to be hard workers, Pembroke Welsh Corgis are also extremely affectionate and outgoing, with regal personalities that lend themselves to pampering. Perhaps that is why Queen Elizabeth II typically owns four or five Pembroke Welsh Corgis at a time, with whom she is frequently photographed.
Possibly best known for their fictional counterparts Scooby Doo and Marmaduke, Great Danes are giant dogs whose physical size is matched only by the size of their hearts. Commonly standing as tall as 32 inches at the shoulder, Great Danes are often referred to as the “Apollo of Dogs.” They are gentle giants, with very affectionate personalities, who sometimes seem to be oblivious about their size as they enjoy cuddling up on their owners’ laps. However, while Great Danes are tender to the members of their family and other friendly individuals, they will not hesitate to protect their loved ones if the need arises - starting with a bark that is truly representative of their size.
Dachshunds have many nicknames, including “wiener dog,” but their name actually translates from German to English as “badger dog.” That is because Dachshunds were originally bred more than 300 years ago to hunt badgers - and even fight them to the death. Their incredible sense of smell paired with their short legs and long bodies made these hounds the perfect little exterminators of the burrowing creatures. This history has likely instilled in Dachshunds an instinctual courageousness, which may be a bit surprising to some - especially considering their relatively small size.
Siberian Huskies were originally developed by the Chukchi people in Siberia as a working dog to pull heavy sleds over long distances. They were introduced to the U.S. in the early 1900s when they began to compete in Alaskan sled races. Featured in films like “Snow Dogs” and “Eight Below,” Siberian Huskies are pack dogs and are particularly independent and difficult to train but still very affectionate dogs - albeit ones who do not beg their owners for attention 24/7. It is especially important to have a properly fenced backyard for this breed as Siberian Huskies are highly athletic and known to be serial escape artists.
Boxers are probably best known for their wrinkled, worrisome faces. However, do not let those sad expressions fool you - Boxers are exceptionally playful dogs that are full of energy. In fact, these qualities have earned Boxers the honor of being occasionally called the “Peter Pan of Dogs” - an especially appropriate title since they have one of the longest puppyhoods in the world and do not reach maturity until they turn three years old. And they are quite affectionate too, often giving their owners big, sloppy kisses. Speaking of which, a Boxer named Brandy from St. Clair Shores, Michigan holds the Guinness World Record for the longest tongue on a dog at 17 inches.
German Shorthaired Pointers were originally developed in Germany during the late 1800s as a dog that would instinctively perform a variety of hunting-related duties. The breed’s name is partially derived from the arrow-like stance they exhibit when locating their prey. However, German Shorthaired Pointers are quality companions for more than just hunters. Their high energy makes them good company for long hikes, their athleticism makes them great agility competitors, and their strong work ethic and desire to please make them all-around excellent additions to any family.
You may not believe it because of their current status as one of the most pampered pooches in the world, but Yorkshire Terriers are descendants from dogs who were originally used to hunt rats in the coal mines, textile mills, and factories of England during the Industrial Revolution. Today, their beautiful, floor-length, silky coats have made Yorkshire Terriers - or, as they are more commonly called, Yorkies - a favorite among fashionistas (even if said coat does require a lot of maintenance). However, it is important to note that Yorkshire Terriers have short tempers and tend to nip when anxious or annoyed and are considered to be one of the more yappy breeds.
Rottweilers have a history of being quite the hard-working dogs. Originally bred in Germany to drive cattle to butchers and pull carts filled with meat, Rottweilers were later used as police dogs before eventually settling into their current jobs as very reliable guard dogs. They have an uncanny natural instinct to protect their owners, their family, and their home and have therefore earned a reputation for being somewhat aggressive and especially ferocious in their defense methods. However, when properly trained and socialized, Rottweilers can be quite loveable and even forget that they are entirely too big to be lap dogs
Originating in Germany as duck retrievers, Poodles have since earned a reputation of royalty among dogs due to their consistent success at show competitions. These dogs look the part with their often fancy hairdos and dignified stances, but those who believe Poodles are prim and proper may be surprised to learn that they actually have quite the goofy sense of humor. And although they often live relatively luxurious lives and develop superiority complexes as the alpha of a family as a result, Poodles are extremely intelligent dogs that can be trained to perform a variety of tasks and tricks.
Beagles’ name is said to have been derived from an old French word that translates into English as “gaped throat.”That is likely because Beagles bark, howl, and bay - especially when their uncanny sense of smell picks up something that intrigues them. Their noses have about 220 million scent receptors - exponentially more than the roughly five million scent receptors humans have, which is probably why they are used to maintain safety at U.S. airports. However, their noses also tend to get them in trouble as Beagles will break just about every one of their owner’s rules to get whatever food they happen to smell and require a great deal of patience while sniffing around during walks.
Much like the one featured in the 2002 comedy “Van Wilder,” Bulldogs tend to be quite flatulent dogs. Their uniquely brutish faces have earned Bulldogs many mascot titles, making their name and image synonymous with the terms courageous and tenacious. Originally bred to fight bulls for sport (hence their name), Bulldogs have now made a place for themselves in homes where they can essentially be couch potatoes and be a constant source of amusement for families thanks to their loving demeanor, low maintenance, and undying devotion.
French Bulldogs’ trademark feature is their erect “bat ears,” but this breed has a lot more going for it than its Bulldog-like face in miniature size. They are one of the most affectionate dog breeds out there, and can even exhibit a possessive nature when it comes to their owners. Therefore, French Bulldogs need plenty of socialization and as little isolation as possible. They also do not need much exercise, lending themselves to a pampered lifestyle that has made them a favorite among celebrities including Martha Stewart, whose French Bulldogs even used to have their own blog.
Golden Retrievers very well be the All American dog - especially if you consider their frequent appearances in movies like “Air Bud” and television series like “Full House.” However, before coming to the U.S., Golden Retrievers were bred in Scotland for the purposes of - as their name suggests - retrieve game for hunters. However, while they will still perform those duties, Golden Retrievers are now more prone to retrieving their owner’s newspaper and slippers. They are exceptionally easy to train but one of the least effective guard dogs thanks to their highly affectionate instincts.
German Shepherds may just be the most versatile dog breed as they have made names for themselves in a variety of industries - including law enforcement, the military, guide and assistance, search and rescue, herding, and drug detection. German Shepherds tend to become very attached to their owners and are therefore affectionate and prone to separation anxiety if left alone for long periods of time. However, this quality also makes them particularly protective of their owners and suspicious of strangers, which coincidentally makes them very effective watchdogs. Few animal actors have stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame but this breed has two that made it big enough for that honor - Strongheart and Rin Tin Tin.
Labrador Retrievers originally hail from Newfoundland, where they were bred to be waterdogs that could help hunters retrieve ducks and fishermen pull in nets. Their “otter tail” assists them with these tasks by acting as a powerful rutter. Commonly called the quintessential dog due to their tendency to be both easygoing and athletic at the same time, Labrador Retrievers may be one of the most frequently portrayed dog breeds in movies and on television - with appearances ranging from “Family Guy” and “Lost” to “Old Yeller” and “Marley and Me.” The breed is also the first to grace the cover of Life Magazine as well as a U.S. stamp.