What are the most popular dog breeds in the UK?

uks most popular dog

There’s an estimated 12.5 million dogs in the UK – a figure which reached those heady heights during the pandemic years of 2020/2021, when dog ownership skyrocketed as more people than ever wanted some canine companionship. 

This rundown of the top ten most popular breeds in the UK looks at some of the traits that make these pups so popular, and is a great starting point if you’re choosing which breed of dog you might like to welcome to the family.

Mixed breed

No hound graces the streets of the UK more than the humble mixed breed.

Mixed breed dogs can be healthier than their purebred counterparts as their mixed bloodline means they’re susceptible to fewer genetic conditions. So, the chance of conditions such as hip dysplasia and cataracts is reduced. But, this doesn’t mean they’re going to be perfectly healthy their whole lives, just that the chances of getting a genetic illness are lower. 

Mixed breeds also make up one of the most common dogs at dog homes, and – other than saving the dog’s life –  rehoming a rescue dog comes with its own set of advantages. This includes the fact that you won’t end up supporting a puppy farm, that you could get a dog more suited to your circumstances like an older, housetrained dog, and that adopting fees also tend to be very reasonable.

Labrador retriever

Famously friendly and the largest dog on this list, labrador retrievers have a strong build, are very intelligent and out of the top ten most popular pups, can be one of the easiest to train.

With high energy levels, they require a lot of exercise or they’ll start misbehaving and exhibiting destructive behaviours like chewing. They love to swim, are great with children and have a short coat that’s easy to care for, although it does shed a lot.

The RSPCA have put together a great guide on rehoming a labrador – check it out for more detail!

Cockapoo

It seems you can’t leave your house without seeing at least one cockapoo these days, so it’s not hard to believe they’re one of the most popular dog breeds in the UK. 

And when you see them, it’s not hard to understand why. Mixing the intelligence of the poodle with the friendly nature of the cocker spaniel, they look like adorable teddy bears and were one of the first ‘designer’ crosses. Cockapoos have fairly high energy levels, so whilst they’ll be quite happy cuddling up on the sofa, they do need a good walk or two each day. 

Cockapoos are also low shedding and hypoallergenic, which makes them a great choice for people who suffer from allergies. They’re also intelligent and easy to train, with a stable temperament. What’s not to like?

French bulldog

Small dogs with a big personality, Frenchies make great companions.

Their popularity in the UK has soared in recent years, with 40,000 registrations with the Kennel Club in 2020 alone

They’re slightly lower maintenance than other dogs on this list, as they require minimal grooming and don’t need as much exercise as other, larger breeds.

French bulldogs don’t bark often, although you’ll hear lots of snorting and snuffling. Also thanks to that short face, Frenchies can develop health problems such as brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS), and they have a lower tolerance to exercise, heat and stress. Vets continue to raise awareness of the ailments associated with this type of breed, so it’s best to be aware of the concerns before taking steps towards ownership. Other ailments like a dry nose can be more common in French bulldogs.

PDSA have provided some great information on the breed here

Cocker spaniel

Another high-energy pup, the cocker spaniel was originally bred as a gun dog, used for flushing woodcocks for hunters. As such, they’re very active and require lots of stimulation to use up all that energy and satisfy their intelligence.

That being said, they make fantastic family dogs – they’re moderately sized, very affectionate (their tails don’t stop wagging!) and easily trained. Cocker spaniels are a good fit for a fairly active household that can provide them with plenty of exercise and mental stimulation – make sure they get at least two 30 minute walks per day and plenty of play time, and you’ll be rewarded with a great companion. 

Dachshund

Whilst he might not look too fearsome, the dachshund was bred for hunting – with his narrow, long and muscular body, he was able to chase badgers and other tunnelling animals into their burrows.

Nowadays, dachshunds make great family companions, and these intelligent little dogs are fairly easy to train, although as hounds, they can be prone to ignore commands once they have a scent. Also thanks to this hunting lineage, they might be prone to dig tunnels and holes in your garden, which is something to keep an eye on.

Dachshunds are brave little dogs with a big bark and make good watchdogs. They come in smooth, long and wire-haired varieties, with the most common colours being black and tan and red.

Dachshunds can be susceptible to back problems, so avoid letting your dachshund run up and down stairs, which can put stress on the back. 

Staffordshire bull terrier

Staffies were originally bred as fighting dogs, but don’t let this heritage put you off – staffordshire bull terriers make great family pets and are affectionate and loving dogs.

They’re protective of their family and great with children – they’re sometimes referred to as nanny dogs!

Lots of socialisation with other dogs is key with staffies because they can get competitive; likewise it’s best to have someone around the house with them throughout the day, or they might end up exhibiting destructive behaviour thanks to their high energy levels. 

Whilst staffies are active dogs, take care around water because they’re not great swimmers thanks to their large head and short legs. 

The very fact they’re one of the most popular dog breeds in the UK highlights how the staffordshire bull terrier’s sometimes bad reputation is unfair, and these confident, intelligent dogs make a great addition to a home.

Jack Russell terrier

Like the dachshund, the Jack Russell Terrier is a another small dog originally bred as a hunting dog.

Although they’re small, Jack Russells are not great dogs for people looking for a less active, quiet dog: they’re highly energetic, noisy and require firm training to overcome their hunting instinct and boundless energy. 

But, as long as you can give your Jack Russell plenty of exercise and keep it mentally stimulated, you’ll be rewarded with a loyal and courageous companion.

Border collie

The only herding dog to make the list of top ten most popular dogs in the UK, border collies were bred as working dogs, and are still used on farms today: their high levels of energy and stamina and the fact that they’re one of the most trainable dogs mean they’re ideally suited to herding sheep over long distances. 

But this also means they’re not great for families who are looking for a more casual pet. They wouldn’t be suitable for city-centre life, but an outdoorsy, active household would be ideal, and collies make great running mates. They also have a strong instinct to work and serve a purpose – whether that’s herding, obedience work or flyball, burning off that energy and keeping a collie mentally stimulated is recommended. 

Chihuahua

A little dog with a big big attitude, Chihuahuas are distinctive-looking lap dogs, with cute big eyes and pointy ears. Appearances vary, with both long and short-coated chihuahuas available.

Unlike the Border Collie, Chihuahuas do make good pets for first time dog owners, and would be fine to own in a flat as long as they get out for some exercise each day.

However, they can be slightly difficult to train and housebreak. It’s important that owners don’t fall into the trap of treating them differently to a large dog, for example by assuming they don’t need a walk outside, or letting them jump up to greet people. 

It’s also worth noting that Chihuahua’s have one of the longest canine lifespans, often reaching the grand old age of 18.

If this article has inspired you to introduce a new dog to the family, check out the Kennel Club’s great resources and guides to getting a dog.