The top ten most popular dog breeds in Britain

We’re a nation of dog lovers. According to the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association, Britain’s pet population stands at 57 million, 8.5 million of whom are dogs, and 24% of UK households have a pet dog. So which are the nation’s top ten most popular dog breeds? We thought it’d be fun to take a look at the ten breeds Brits love most, and some of their characteristics.

The top ten most popular dog breeds in Britain

We’re a nation of dog lovers. According to the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association, Britain’s pet population stands at 57 million, 8.5 million of whom are dogs, and 24% of UK households have a pet dog. So which are the nation’s top ten most popular dog breeds? We thought it’d be fun to take a look at the ten breeds Brits love most, and some of their characteristics.

In June 2016 ITV’s Top Dog TV series revealed the country’s top 10 breeds, identified by quizzing 1000 UK dog owners. It’s just one of several surveys carried out over the past few years, and the most recent. Here are the results.

Number One – The Labrador

Here’s an interesting fact for you: Labradors were almost extinct in the 1880s, until the aristocratic Malmesbury family and their fellow lab fans saved the breed. In the USA, where the breed originates, they’re called ‘St John’s Dogs’ and were traditionally employed aboard fishing boats, trained to help retrieve nets from the freezing waters. Today Labs are famously good-natured, hard working dogs with an outgoing, kind and even-tempered temperament. They’re highly intelligent and trusting, often performing important roles as assistance and search and rescue dogs.

Best known as:

  • A large dog that needs lots of exercise
  • One of the best breeds for children of every age
  • Famously independent yet very easy to train
Number Two – The Golden Retriever

A breed originating in the Scottish Highlands in the late 1800s, Golden Retrievers are lovable, good-mannered, intelligent and charming dogs. They adore competing, enjoy the company of other dogs and make good watch dogs, great at letting you know when there’s a stranger around. They love being around people and need plenty of regular exercise to keep them happy. Golden Retrievers are particularly good at hunting, tracking and, of course, retrieving, particularly talented as sniffer dogs and frequent winners of agility competitions as well as keen, enthusiastic swimmers.

Best known as:

  • Easy to train
  • A breed that loves children, always patient and gentle
  • Really good at learning tricks
Number Three – The Cocker Spaniel

The English Cocker Spaniel is one of the oldest spaniel breeds, originally bred as a hunting dog. They’re intelligent and sturdy, lively and gentle, and famously playful and affectionate, known for being an exceptional companion dog. They like meeting strangers and cope well with cats in the family. They are very energetic so need lots of regular exercise. And they respond very well to discipline, preferring to know where they stand. They like their owner to be the boss, appreciating clear rules and a clear pecking order.

Best known as:

  • Good at listening to and obeying commands
  • Very agile dogs that perform well in obedience competitions
  • Excellent with children
Number Four – The Springer Spaniel

Springers are even-tempered, gentle, friendly and sociable, and really good with children. They are particularly affectionate and sociable, and well-behaved, as long as there are clear rules in place, something they appreciate. They enjoy an owner who is a strong authority figure, something that stops them taking over as the leader of the pack! They love getting wet and muddy, are talented retrievers and display their pleasure clearly through a cheerful outlook and more or less constant tail wagging. And they are very good at competitive agility and obedience.

Best known as:

  • A great companion for children
  • Can be high-energy when young, needing lots of physical and mental stimulation
  • Great lovers of water, swimming and splash around at every opportunity
Number Five – The Yorkshire Terrier

Yorkshire Terriers are incredibly confident even though they’re small. They are very affectionate with their owners but often wary with strangers, and they thrive with an owner who is a good leader, firm yet gentle. Yorkies are easy to train, but if you don’t set clear boundaries they can be stubborn. You are the pack leader, and they appreciate it if you make this clear from the start! They make really sweet, loving companions and while they need regular exercise, their short little legs mean you won’t end up walking miles and miles every day.

Best known as:

  • Unusually brave and confident despite their tiny size
  • Perfect for older, quieter, calm children, not so good with young children
  • A really good watchdog
Number Six – The Staffordshire Bull Terrier

The staffie is an unusually lively and enthusiastic breed. They do everything to the max, whether it’s playing, eating or loving their owners, and they almost always have a big grin on their faces. These are extremely courageous and obedient dogs and very ‘people friendly’, not particularly wary of strangers. Staffies cope well with their fellow pets, tolerating other animals, but they need firm, kind handling from their humans, and it’s important you make it clear you are the leader of the pack. Intelligent, persistent and very active, they don’t like to swim but love to chew, and need plenty of good chew toys.

Best known as:

  • Having a strong sense of fun
  • Excellent with children as long as the dog knows he or she isn’t the boss
  • Love challenge and variety, completely fearless and very curious
Number Seven – The German Shepherd

German Shepherds make brilliant working dogs, being so cheerful, obedient and keen to learn. They’re also very clever and will happily lay down their lives for their humans. While they adore their people, they can be wary of humans they don’t know. They particularly dislike being left alone and should never be isolated for long. They don’t bark much, only when they feel it’s necessary. These dogs are big and strong, and need a lot of regular mental and physical exercise. When well trained and treated they make great pets for families with children.

Best known as:

  • Cheerful and fearless, faithful and brave
  • Often used as police dogs, thanks to their well-developed protective instincts
  • One of the smartest and easiest-to-train breeds
Number Eight – The Border Collie

Border Collies are famously bright and clever, and they need constant stimulation and training from an early age to prevent them developing bad habits through sheer boredom. Specially bred to chase and organise animals, they are best known as sheepdogs. The best known sheepdog of all, a fellow called Chaser, has a huge human vocabulary, recognising the names of more than 1000 different toys. This breed needs a great deal of exercise as well as constant mental stimulation, ideal for people who are around all the time but a big no-no if you’re out at work all day or not very active.

Best known as:

  • One of the world’s smartest dog breeds, trainable to a high degree
  • Loves nothing better than solving problems
  • Famously affectionate with people
Number Nine – The Jack Russell Terrier

The Jack Russell Terrier is an unusually loving and devoted dog, high-spirited and obedient. They love their toys and are good with children as long as they’re not teased, which they dislike. Particularly intelligent and bright, they need a fair, firm hand and they appreciate knowing you’re the boss. These dogs enjoy having rules to abide by, sure about what they are and are not allowed to do. Jack Russells are a dream to train and like to learn tricks, which is why they often appear in movies. They have strong hunting instincts so can’t be trusted around other animals. And they adore lots of regular exercise.

Best known as:

  • Cheerful, affectionate and loyal… but strong willed
  • Completely fearless, love to explore, climb, jump and go down holes
  • Kind and friendly, good with calm children
Number Ten – Mixed breeds, for example the Labradoodle

If you’ve seen lots of people with unusual little dogs that are obviously cross-breeds, that’s because they’re becoming increasingly popular. At number ten there is a group of relatively new cross-breeds including the Labradoodle, Cockapoo, Dorgi, Labski and the ridiculously cute Chug, a tiny, weeny blend of chihuahua and pug. These dogs, being crosses, don’t always suffer from some of the inbreeding issues of pure-breds and feature all sorts of appealing characteristics.

Best known as:

  • Often being very small, they are great if you have a small home or don’t have time to take a dog on great long walks
  • Sadly, these puppies often come from puppy farms so don’t always have a good start in life. According to Huffington Post, “The latest Kennel Club research shows that 83% of ‘designer dog’ crossbreed owners receive no contract of sale and 81% receive no post sales advice on caring for the dog. Another 84% do not have any health test certificates for the parents of their pups.”
A new kid on the top 10 block? It’s the French Bulldog

As reported in the UK media in February 2017, the beautiful little French Bulldog may well be set to knock the Labrador off its perch as Britain’s favourite dog breed. It’ll be interesting to see what the next big top ten dog breeds survey reveals!