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Top 10 most popular dog breeds in the UK and the reasons we love them

Marc Crosby 15th Dec 2014 One Comment

Reading Time: 8 minutes

The Brits are a nation of animal lovers but it’s dogs with which we share an extra special bond.

As we come up to Christmas you may be thinking about getting a new furry addition for your family. But before you do you need to think it through carefully.

Rob Young, Head of Dog Rehoming at Battersea, said: “Pets are living creatures which should not be bought as presents. Prospective owners need to personally research their new pet and ensure they have the time, resources and dedication to take on an animal. Traditionally we do not see a dramatic rise in our intake immediately after Christmas. Instead, the Home tends to see a rise in the number of unwanted and abandoned animals in March when dogs and cats, which will have been young puppies and kittens in December, are brought to the home, indicating they are rejected Christmas presents.”

If you’re going to get a dog then you need to research thoroughly before you give one a home, including which breed you’re thinking of going for. And don’t forget a supply of pooper-scoopers!

But which breed is the most popular in the country? Here’s a list of the top 10 most popular dog breeds based on The Kennel Club registration. Can you guess which is the favourite?


10. Staffordshire Bull Terrier

Staffordshire bull terrier

At number ten is quite a controversial breed – the Staffordshire Bull Terrier.

The Staffordshire Bull Terrier is descended from a cross between the Bulldog and a terrier, and therefore has a mixture of the temperaments of both breeds.

Despite their historical connection with fighting they are known for their affinity with humans and generally have a special fondness for children. They’re considered intelligent, fearless and loyal, which is probably why they’re one of the most popular terriers.

However the Staffordshire Bull Terrier gets quite a bit of bad press. As they’re very strong, muscular dogs they can be a dangerous breed in the wrong hands – there are several examples of people, including children, being mauled to death by this breed.

Experts, however, are quick to point out that these cases are few and far between and, in the case of an aggressive dog, the fault almost always lies with the owner. In fact it’s often actually the breed’s love of humans and natural desire to please that is exploited by bad owners who train them to show aggression.

3 Staffordshire Bull Terriers of different colours

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 As with other breeds, their interaction with other dogs is dependent on how well they are socialised at an early age. With this kind of breed you just have to be extra careful to ensure the dog is well trained. After all, given the strength of the breed, the nice old lady’s sweet Yorkshire Terrier isn’t going to last long if anything goes wrong!

A well trained Staffordshire Bull Terrier is one of the most rewarding breeds to own.


9. Bulldog

English Bulldog running

Despite their somewhat intimidating appearance and violent history (they were once used to bait bulls), the bulldog is one of the gentlest breeds with much of their aggression having been bred out of them.

They’re good family pets but require a firm hand so that they understand their place in the family (we’re refraining from using the word ‘pack’ in light of the growing evidence that the concept of dog as ‘pack animal’ is outdated.)

They make good guard dogs but they’re quite messy within the home – they’re not particularly delicate eaters and they drool a lot.

If you’re willing to put a little bit of training in though the bulldog, with its friendly and gentle nature, is a great pet.


8. Border Terrier

Border Terrier

Originally bred for hunting foxes and vermin, the Border Terrier is a tough little breed with legs long enough to keep up with horses and a body small enough to crawl into burrows.

They are, on the whole, a good-natured breed who are rarely aggressive and adapt very well to the family environment. Be warned though, we can attest from personal experience that Border Terriers can be fiercely stubborn and strong-willed, they have a mind of their own which might not always correlate with what you want to do.

Thankfully their strong-will comes across as charmingly mischievous rather than anything more troubling. Border Terriers make a great pet for a family.


7. French Bulldog

Grey French Bulldog Puppy

Often described as a ‘clown in the cloak of a philosopher’, these funny little dogs are a cross between English Bulldog ancestors and French ratters in the 1800s.

They were bred to be companion dogs and so are great with people, being a very loving and loyal breed. They can be quite stubborn so a little firm training will be needed.

They’re commonly called ‘pigdogs’ because of their resemblance to pigs but there is a serious side to their look. Because their airways are constricted they can’t be exposed to high or low temperatures because of their inability to regulate temperature. For this reason French Bulldogs are banned from several airlines because when hot and stressed they have trouble breathing.

French Bulldogs are a charming little breed and, if you’re willing to take care of their health, a wonderful addition to your family.


6. Golden Retriever

Woman with her golden retriever

The Golden Retriever is a beautiful breed and the dogs are widely known for their hallmark good temperament and friendliness.

The Golden Retriever was bred to be a gun dog to retrieve shot down birds. These days they’re great family pets who are friendly, highly unlikely to be aggressive and usually in good spirits. They’re not a ‘one man dog’, they will be friends to all the family and often to perfect strangers. It’s for this reason they don’t make very good guard dogs – they’re more likely to give a stranger a big hello rather than scare them off.

Because of their good nature and their ability to learn commands quite easily they’re also used as guide dogs and for search and rescue.

If your home is big enough to accommodate their large size then the Golden Retriever is a breed you must seriously consider.

Jasmine says...

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Quote 2



5. German Shepherd

German Shepheard dog lying in autumn leaves

German Shepherds, also known as Alsatians, were originally bred for sheep herding but because of their strength and intelligence they were used for other kinds of work such as police and military dogs. This has given them a bit of a stigma as aggressive dogs which couldn’t be further from the truth as they are only this way when trained to be.

They’re a majestic looking breed, highly active and self-assured. They’re always curious and looking for a purpose and do not become friends with strangers immediately which makes them great guard dogs.

It’s important that this breed is well trained, however, because if they do become aggressive and attack smaller dogs they can cause serious harm due to their size and strength. It’s important to socialise German Shepherds (like all dogs) from an early age and to put the effort in when it comes to obedience training.

German Shepherd puppies looking over a fence

These dogs are generally very calm mannered making them great pets for families with young children.

A well trained German Shepherd is a highly intelligent, obedient and loyal companion, not to mention a beautiful looking animal, which is why this breed is the fifth most popular breed in the UK.


 4. Pug

Pug running on a beach

Pugs are a breed that are ever-growing in popularity. They’re a common breed for celebrities now but they’ve always been popular with people in high places. Queen Victoria developed a particular fondness for them which she passed on to other members of the Royal family.

The wrinkly, short-muzzled face is really a matter of personal taste – you’ll either find them really cute or…well, not so cute. But no-matter what you think of their looks they’re known for having a good temperament. They are stubborn but rarely aggressive and good for raising with children as they are both friendly and sturdy enough to play.

They are sometimes referred to as ‘shadows’ because they follow their owners around but they do spend quite a lot of time napping – they can be a little lazy!



3. English Springer Spaniel

English Springer Spaniel

The English Springer Spaniel is a breed of gun dog used to flush out and retrieve the poor creature being hunted.

They’re a friendly and excitable breed with an exceptional amount of stamina. They need a lot of exercise and stimulation because, left to their own devices, they can be rather destructive and mischievous.

They’re easy to train and very obedient, as well as being a very sociable breed which makes them ideal for children and other pets.

Their energy may make them hard work at times, but their good nature more than makes up for it.


2. Cocker Spaniel

Cocker Spaniel lying on womans lap

At number two is another spaniel, this time the Cocker Spaniel.

The Cocker Spaniel is one of the most beautiful breeds, with their long floppy ears and big sad eyes it’s no wonder they’re the UK’s second most popular dog.

They’re a friendly, intelligent and kind breed which are extremely loyal to one person in the family, usually the one who feeds them (I know the feeling.) They’re quite a sensitive breed and therefore they need to be treated with a soft-hand and trained with care.

There’s little wonder why this good looking and well-natured breed holds a special place in our nation’s heart.


1. Labrador

Black labrador

The Labrador is a kind of retriever, originally bread as a gun dog and now the most popular breed in the UK, United States, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

The athletic and muscular figure of the Labrador is instantly recognisable to those even with only a basic knowledge of different dog breeds. They come in three main colours; chocolate, yellow and black.

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They’re known for having a kind and pleasant temperament and are ideal for families. It’s for this reason they’re often the go-to breed for a first dog. They do require some training though as they can be quite boisterous and, bearing in mind their size, they need to be kept under-control.

They can also be a little greedy with a tendency to over-gorge on food, which is why some end up obese, so it’s important to keep an eye on their diet.

Little girl with arm round golden Labrador puppy

Their striking look and their renowned good temperament make them an instant choice for many families looking for a dog, which is why they’re the UK’s most popular breed.


Which breed costs the most to insure?

So now you know the most popular breeds, but do you know which breed would cost the most to insure?

If you’re not sure, don’t fear, here are the five most expensive and five least expensive dogs to insure.

5 most expensive to insure

Dogue de Bordeau

  • Dogue de Bordeaux
  • Great Dane
  • Greater Swiss Mountain Dog
  • Bullmastiff
  • Newfoundland

5 cheapest to insure

Jack Russell

  • Jack Russell
  • Border Terrier
  • Yorkie
  • Shih Tzu
  • Chihuahua

So in general it seems like big dogs are more expensive to insure than smaller ones. This is well worth bearing in mind if you want a dog but are strapped for cash!


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What’s your favourite breed? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Gordon Roberts
Gordon Roberts
9 years ago

I really enjoyed reading this article! I have just launched a book on Border Terrier care called: ‘The Border Terrier: A vet’s guide on how to care for your Border Terrier dog.’

Jasmine Birtles

Your money-making expert. Financial journalist, TV and radio personality.

Jasmine Birtles

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