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The Most Popular Dog Breeds: The Top Fan Favorites

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If you’re a dog-lover, no one needs to do much to convince you canines top the charts. You squeal over every pup you see. If a dog comes up on the television screen, you drop whatever you’re doing to pay attention. (Admit it, you watch the Puppy Bowl instead of the Super Bowl) And your pooch? They dominate the photo album on your phone. Maybe you even have an Instagram account just for them. So it won’t come as any surprise that there’s an annual ranking of the most popular dog breeds. After all, these amazing canines have an incredibly devoted following! Does your favorite breed rank at the top? Let’s find out!

Canine Popularity

Surveys across the country prove one solid fact: people LOVE dogs. As a matter of fact, more people list dogs as their family members than children! (I’ll certify that one: we have zero kids, one dog, and three cats) Almost 50 MILLION households have at least one dog snuggled in with them. That makes dogs the most popular pet in the country! (Cats are a close second, in case you wondered)

The American Pet Products Association notes that most people share their homes with 1.7 dogs. Obviously, you can’t have part of a dog, so it means many people keep multiple canines. And no wonder: Dogs have partnered with humans for close to 35,000 years. They help save lives, work alongside us as service dogs, and keep us company. And some of the most popular dog breeds remain at the top of the list due to those hard-working habits.

AKC Registration

May 1st is known as National Purebred Dog Day. It’s also the day each year that the AKC releases its list of the most popular dog breeds. How do they decide? They look at the registration statistics for ALL of the dog breeds from the previous year. Then they rank the breeds according to those registrations. It’s a fair and impartial way to look at popularity (no social media influence).

Yes, it’s a reflection of purebred dogs, so mixed breeds miss out on the fun. And if someone neglects to submit their dog’s registration, the breed may slip in the ranking. Some people think registration is unnecessary, especially if they’re not planning to show or breed their pup. However, that registration represents more than you may think.

The AKC uses the statistics from registration for their research and relief programs. As they receive the information, they investigate breeders to ensure they meet industry standards. They DON’T want puppy mills appearing in their Marketplace. The registration process encourages breeders to continue education to support health advancements, safety programs, and welfare development. All from ONE registration paper. (Not too shabby)

The Most Popular Dog Breeds

Popularity’s a fickle thing. As people learn about new breeds (or spend time gushing over adorable pictures), preferences change. And the most popular dog breed statistics follow suit. However, the top slots? They’re usually pretty consistent. As of May 1, 2020, the top 15 breeds held fairly steady (a few swaps happened). If you want to know what happened for 2020, you’ll need to watch for the statistics on May 1, 2021. (Remember, they need a full year of data to generate the table) How did your favorite dog rank? Are they tops? Near the middle? Or maybe still waiting for audiences to understand how cool they are? (Not gonna lie: Greyhounds came out at 162 – insert sad face here)

The Most Popular Dog Breeds: 15-11

For the most part, these rankings remained unchanged from previous years. However, there was a slight shift. In the past, the Yorkshire Terrier held a HIGHER post. (For comparison, the Yorkie enjoyed the NUMBER TWO spot before 2008!) It just goes to show you that it’s possible to slide around as people learn about new dog breeds, pay attention to pictures on social media, or happen to stumble onto a new puppy at a rescue or shelter. It’s rough being one of the most popular dog breeds.

  1. Siberian Husky: Siberians rank as one of the original sled dogs of the tundra. Originating with the Chukchi people, they pioneered the sledding technique of hauling loads through frozen expanses – in icy conditions! Balto is the most famous Siberian, known to every Alaskan child (including yours truly) and visitors to New York City. He served as the lead dog on the final grueling journey of the critical “serum run” that brought diphtheria serum from Nenana to stricken Nome – a 658-mile trek! Mushers continue to look to Siberians as their breed of choice.
  2. Boxer: Boxers trace their ancestry to the German Bullenbeisser. This medieval canine helped nobles hunt big game – including bear! When the nobles fell out of favor in the 1800s, crosses with smaller mastiffs in England led to the modern Boxer. The name came from the manner the dogs had of holding their front paws up like a prizefighter when sparring or playing. Active, loyal pups, they work well with families or as service dogs. They’ve been one of the most popular dog breeds since the 1950s when Bang Away won at Westminster, turning into a national celebrity.
  3. Australian Shepherd: Curiously, the Australian Shepherd started its path in the Pyrenees Mountains. Between France and Spain, people known as the Basques worked as shepherds, and they developed a breed known as the Pyrenean Shepherd. In the 1800s, as some Basques migrated to Australia to explore the pasturelands, they brought their dogs. They mixed in a little Collie, some Border Collie, and ta-dah: Australian Shepherd! When California ranchers spotted the dogs, they assumed they were native Aussies, giving them the name we know them as today.
  4. Yorkshire Terrier: Champions of the small dog world, it’s not surprising to find Yorkies on the list of the most popular dog breeds. They do EVERYTHING! They’re active and brave enough to handle any challenge. Yet they remain sensitive to their owner’s emotions and offer unconditional affection. You can keep them in a city apartment or on a sprawling country estate. People refer to them as “the tomboy toy,” but you can also adorn them with the cutest accessories. These little darlings appeal to EVERYONE.
  5. Dachshund: No matter who you talk to, odds are they own or know someone who owns a Doxie. They’re one of the spunkiest dog breeds on the planet! Despite their short legs, they pack a punch of personality. Doxies often run their household, and you won’t find a more organized pup out there. They’ll keep you on track with your day (and remind you when you’re running late – with sharp barks), and they “help” with the daily chores. That much loyalty and affection always yield popularity!

The Most Popular Dog Breeds: 10-6

As we climb higher on the most popular dog breeds list, we start to see some changes. 2019 was the first year the Pembroke Welsh Corgi broke into the top ten. Why? Good question. Maybe people decided to join in on support for Queen Elizabeth II? Or perhaps they saw a film or television series and fell in love with the breed. It’s hard to say. 2019 also marked the second year for the German Shorthaired Pointer’s spot in the top ten. They haven’t enjoyed this exalted position since they joined the AKC in 1930! Good hunting years, perhaps? All whims of the general public – and they could change in an instant.

  1. Pembroke Welsh Corgi: Corgis charm people with their perpetual smiles. And after Queen Elizabeth II received her first Corgi – Susan – on her eighteenth birthday in 1944, she maintained a small troop of the adorable dogs. Unfortunately, Willow, the fourteenth descendant of Susan and final member of the Corgi royalty, passed away, but they’re still the breed associated with Her Royal Highness. Their champion herding skills and unending loyalty bumped them up on the most popular dog breed list this past year.
  2. German Shorthaired Pointer: When you think of the perfect hunting dog, you think German Shorthaired Pointer. They’re capable of doing everything: pointing, flushing, and retrieving (even in water – they have webbed feet!). And with credit for their development going to Prince Albrecht zu Solms-Braunfels, how could you not want one of these champions around? Their name comes from the stereotypical pose they adopt: focusing their gaze on the game while lifting one paw to signal their human partner.
  3. Rottweiler: In the middle ages, dogs known as metzgerhund worked as guardians for butcher deliveries. They were the earliest stock for the Rotties we know and love today. And that protective streak remains. But the popularity extends to more than guard duty. In World War I, Rotties worked as messenger hounds and draft haulers, a precursor to their service history. Despite their vet bills’ hefty costs, they remain one of the most popular dog breeds one could find.
  4. Beagle: Who doesn’t love a baying howl? With floppy ears, a sad-faced expression, and the sweetest hearts around, it’s no surprise Beagles appear on the most popular dog breed list. They adore families, don’t hassle cats, and have no problem diving into the field to course after rabbits or other small game. You won’t find a more loyal pup to keep around, and they bring constant joy into your life.
  5. Poodle: Unique among the dogs on the most popular breed list, Poodles offer three sizes – appealing to everyone. Whether miniature, standard, or toy, people flock to these intelligent and athletic pups. They fit in with families (no matter which size you choose), and they love to engage their canine minds. And if you’re looking for a workout companion, you couldn’t ask for better. Slide on a harness and the pair of you are off for a jog!

The Most Popular Dog Breeds: 5-1

For the 29th year in a row (yes, you read that correctly), the Labrador Retriever reigns supreme. It’s a record for the AKC, with no other dog managing such a feat in the history of the most popular dog breed list. The previous record went to the Cocker Spaniel, who managed a 23-year streak in the 1940s. But since 1991, the Labs have held the top spot, with no fear of a challenger. And yet, Labs have NEVER won a Best in Show at Westminster, the National Dog Show, or the AKC National Championship! Funny how these things seem to work, huh?

  1. English Bulldog: Everyone loves a wrinkled face, and people adore English Bulldogs. They’ve long served as the national symbol of England, and people often compared the breed to Winston Churchill during World War II. In the U.S., many schools adopt the Bulldog as their mascot, focusing on the tenacity and courage the breed’s known for. Handsome Dan, the mascot of Yale, is credited with the honor of the first animal mascot in sports history.
  2. French Bulldog: When you discuss wrinkles in an adorable smushed face, Frenchies aren’t far behind. Those iconic bat ears keep this fan-favorite firmly entrenched at the top of the most popular dog breed list. Surprisingly, though, those ears only persisted because American fanciers of the breed insisted. Originally, the “rose ear” typical of the English Bulldog appeared. Had no objections been raised, these little charmers would resemble mini Bulldogs!
  3. Golden Retrievers: You’re never without a friend if you share a home with a Golden. They combine keen intelligence with a sweet temperament and a gentle disposition into the perfect pup. They adore children, snuggle down with cats, and even tolerate hamsters and guinea pigs! You can train them for obedience or agility, or you can run through the backyard with them. They’re practically perfect in every way.
  4. German Shepherd: If you look across the various jobs canines pursue, you’ll find German Shepherds in EVERY SINGLE ONE. They’re brilliant, loyal, muscular, and adoring. It’s a combination that leads to an intense bond with their owners (or handlers – to use the proper military and police term). Owners work with them for herding, tracking, and agility competitions, and these dogs sweep the ranks without a second thought.
  5. Labrador Retriever: What makes the Lab so incredibly popular? After all, people aren’t scrambling to bring home an award-winning champion. It seems to be the breed’s all-around wonderfulness that earns them the top spot on the list of the most popular dog breeds. They can hunt, dock dive, track, compete in obedience or agility, or just lounge around with the family. Labs love everyone, and they have the energy to keep up with the youngest children (or greatest athlete). And as long as those traits remain, they’ll stay number one.

Most Likely to Succeed

Is a dog better because it’s popular? Of course not. The most popular dog breeds simply represent those registration numbers. It’s an interesting reflection of the general public. But the dog YOU prefer doesn’t have to reflect everyone else. You may find appeal in the most obscure breed out there. Everyone’s different.

Good thing there are so many dog breeds to choose from!

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Andria Kennedy

Andria Kennedy

Andria Kennedy worked as a Licensed Veterinary Technician for 10 years, focusing on Emergency/ICU and later Cardiology, as well as volunteering at both the Philadelphia Zoo and Virginia Living Museum for over six years. She's now a freelance writer, but she gravitates toward writing projects with a focus on animals (once an animal-lover, always an animal-lover). She lives in Virginia with her husband, three cats (one "works" as her personal assistant), and a Greyhound who thinks she's a big cat — all of them rescues.

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