The latest figures put the UK canine population at 12.5 million. It’s worth noting that pet ownership, in general, has changed in Britain. Figures from 2019–2020 to 2020–2021 saw an 18% spike, undoubtedly a consequence of the pandemic.
Of course, once you start talking numbers, it’s natural to want to know what breeds are topping the list. The primary dog registration organization is The Kennel Club (KC) in the UK. It’s the equivalent of the American Kennel Club (AKC) in the US. The former recognizes 222 breeds, whereas the latter, 197. Our round-up uses KC registration data to determine the most popular ones.
(Statista, American Pet Products Association, Statista, KC, AKC)
The 25 Most Popular Dog Breeds in the UK (2023 Update)
1. Labrador Retriever
|Notable Traits||Affectionate, intelligent, playful|
The Labrador Retriever is a playful dog that will do well in an active household. This pup loves the water, a reflection of its life in its native Newfoundland. That trait makes this breed a decent choice for waterfowl hunters who will live up to its name. Interestingly, it’s on of the most popular breeds in the United States, too. It’s not hard to see why.
2. French Bulldog
|Notable Traits||Fun-loving, mischievous, sweet|
The French Bulldog is just as adorable as its cute face suggests. This breed follows the cue of the AKC’s popularity with the same rank across the pond. Part of its appeal is the dog’s oversized ears. Its rise in popularity is a recent phenomenon that is well-deserved.
3. Cocker Spaniel
|Notable Traits||Happy, affectionate, energetic|
Cocker Spaniel is from the original stock that gave rise to the American variant. We often think of the latter as simply a family pet. However, it was traditionally a hunting dog, hence its place in the Gundog group. The breed is the epitome of its class with its gentle nature.
|Notable Traits||Easy-going, playful, docile|
Brits have a special affinity with the Bulldog that is as tough as the country’s people. While the pup is docile, it also has a fearless side. While you may think it’s a couch potato, this dog will surprise you with its energy when the situation calls for it.
5. Miniature Smooth-Haired Dachshund
|Notable Traits||Brave, animated, friendly|
The Miniature Smooth-Haired Dachshund has a devoted following. It’s easy to see why. This pup has a lot of personality for a small dog. It has an astonishing amount of energy for a dog of its size. The Doxie has an independent streak that you often see in hunting dogs like this one. You’ll find it in several coat variations, including long and wire-haired.
6. English Springer Spaniel
|Notable Traits||Sweet, obedient, adaptable|
The English Springer Spaniel is a sweetheart of a dog that has earned its place in the top 10 most popular breeds. It has many of the traits that make it an excellent gundog, such as its obedient nature and eagerness to please. This pup does just as well hanging out with the family as doing its job in the field.
7. Golden Retriever
|Notable Traits||Friendly, eager to please, intelligent|
It’s hard to believe that the Golden Retriever started as a black-coloured dog. Selective breeding by Lord Tweedmouth resulted in the pup we know and love today. It’s an adaptable breed that will do well in the city or country. They make excellent family pets and will get along with other canines.
8. German Shepherd Dog
|Notable Traits||Courageous, noble, loyal|
The German Shepherd Dog carries itself as the most dignified of dogs and deservedly so. This pup is one of the most intelligent that you will ever meet. Its fearlessness suits it well in its many roles as a protector, service animal, and guardian.
|Notable Traits||Mischievous, affectionate, friendly|
The Pug has a way of capturing your heart. It can be a naughty pet, but this pup somehow is able to get away with its antics simply by cocking its head in a knowing way. The AKC considers it also a part of its Toy group. Yet, that belies the fact that this pooch lived with Chinese and Holland royalty.
10. Staffordshire Bull Terrier
|Notable Traits||Tolerant, eager to please, patient|
The Staffordshire Bull Terrier has a bad rap. Despite its association with violence, this pup is a gentle pet when raised by responsible owners. It is a small but strong animal that does surprisingly well with other pets and children. Thankfully, enthusiasts have selectively bred the canine to bring out these favorable traits.
11. Miniature Schnauzer
|Notable Traits||Fearless, intelligent, loyal|
The Miniature Schnauzer is a dog that you can’t help but love. While it’s a small breed, you’d never know it from its personality. That’s not unusual for a pup that hunted pests on farms. That purpose gives this dog its independent streak and bravado. It is an adaptable pet that will earn its keep with its loyalty and affectionate nature.
12. Border Terrier
|Notable Traits||Spunky, happy-go-lucky, adaptable|
The Border Terrier is an adorable pup with a larger-than-life personality. We dare you to try to ignore it. This dog has the spunk you’d expect to see in a terrier. It’s playful yet eager to please when it comes to training. This pooch loves children, although it may give other pets some headaches because of its protective nature.
|Notable Traits||Calm, affectionate, energetic|
Americans may find the Whippet’s place on the UK’s most popular breeds a bit odd, considering its rank in the United States. It’s a long-lived dog that needs lots of activity, as its name may suggest. It’s surprisingly quiet despite its high energy. It was one thing that endeared it to race-loving Brits in Victorian England.
|Notable Traits||Playful, spunky, intelligent|
In many ways, the Boxer resembles an oversized Pug. They both have a happy-go-lucky personality with a touch of mischievousness tempered with lots of love. Responsible breeders encouraged these desirable traits, a lucky break from its unfortunate past. Like other intelligent dogs, this breed needs mental stimulation to be happy.
15. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
|Notable Traits||Adorable, gentle, friendly|
The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is probably one of the cutest dogs you’ll ever meet. Its sweet face says it all. It gets along with everyone and every pet. Its past includes brushes with royalty, but you’d never know it when you meet this pup. They are sweet pets that won’t turn away from chasing the occasional chipmunk.
16. Hungarian Vizsla
|Notable Traits||Affectionate, loyal, active|
The story of the Hungarian Vizsla is a sad but happy one. The love and devotion of enthusiasts saved the breed from certain extinction during World War II. It’s almost as if the pup knows it because of its loving nature. It’s an energetic dog, as its physique may suggest. The Vizsla embodies nobility and grace despite its brush with death.
17. Shih Tzu
|Notable Traits||Outgoing, affectionate, charming|
The Shih Tzu lives life large, enjoying the company of children and other pets alike. It’s a loving dog that defies its royal upbringing. It continues to attract the attention of notables such as Queen Elizabeth II. At the end of the day, this pup just wants to have fun or enjoy sitting on your lap while you binge-watch your favorite series.
|Notable Traits||Loyal, affectionate, protective|
The Rottweiler is a large dog with the goods to back up its protective nature. It is eager to please despite its formidable size. It’s a smart pup that needs daily mental stimulation to be a good pet. As with any animal of its size, early socialization is imperative. Responsible pet owners will ensure that this pooch doesn’t become aggressive.
|Notable Traits||Active, vocal, friendly|
The Beagle’s history tells the story. It is a dog that is a social animal, often hunting in groups. That also means it’s a vocal canine so that it can stay in contact with its mates. It’s an energetic pup that enjoys its job. That’s evident when you see one in the field. Beagles can hardly contain their excitement. That’s probably a trait that makes them such a popular breed in the UK and the United States.
20. German Shorthaired Pointer
|Notable Traits||Active, intelligent, independent|
The German Shorthaired Pointer is a sleek and energetic dog, well-suited to its job. This pup seems like it can go forever on the hunt. Some describe this breed as a set of lungs with four legs, an apt observation. They are all-purpose pups that also succeed in the role their name suggests. Its primary hunting targets are upland game and deer.
|Notable Traits||Bold, confident, intelligent|
Anyone who knows a Pomeranian will relate to its lively nature. This pup doesn’t just ask for your attention. It demands it. That comes to light with its tenacity. It’s a dog that doesn’t seem to realize how small it is if its bark is any indication. However, this pooch also has its comical side and will be sure to provide a laugh or two with its antics.
22. Border Collie
|Notable Traits||Energetic, intelligent, eager to please|
The Border Collie is the epitome of canine intelligence. This pup makes training so easy. However, it also provides challenges to give it enough mental stimulation to be a good pet. Remember that a bored pet is a destructive one. This dog needs activity to keep it happy. It is also an active canine, a holdover from its job in the field.
23. Chihuahua (Smooth Coat)
|Notable Traits||Fearless, active, adaptable|
The Chihuahua (Smooth Coat) is more than a handful for a pup of its size. It probably has more energy, bravery, and emotion than the average pet owner would expect with a dog of its size. It’s demanding yet sassy, fearless but reserved. This dog isn’t the best choice for families with children. This pooch wants all the attention.
24. Bull Terrier
|Notable Traits||Charming, strong, active|
The Bull Terrier is all muscle, reflected in its energetic nature. This pup wants to work or at least play all the time. It’s hard to ignore its pleads with its cute face. If you’re looking for a dog that can handle the long haul, this one is it. It will likely wear out your kids before they do the same. It’s unfortunate that the breed has a questionable reputation because you couldn’t ask for a sweeter pet.
25. Dogue de Bordeaux
|Notable Traits||Protective, loyal, affectionate|
Americans likely won’t recognize the name of the Dogue de Bordeaux with its Mastiff-like appearance. It’s an ancient breed that goes back hundreds of years. This stocky pooch demands your attention, even if it’s a baby inside. While it has a fighting history, selective breeding has tamed these undesirable traits, bringing a lovable dog to the forefront.
Most Popular Breeds by Group
KC has seven groups. Gundogs are by far the most popular, accounting for nearly 40% of 2020 total registrations. We’ll end the top three for each category to give a well-deserved shout-out to these pups.
There is a reason why dogs are a favorite pet across the globe. The UK dog-owning population will most likely continue to rise as more people realize how amazing the breeds listed in this article are and how they positively contribute to people’s lives. Whether people have these dogs for sporting or non-sporting reasons, each breed will make a wonderful family member.
- See also: 25 Most Popular Dog Breeds in the US