With over 200 recognised dog breeds in existence, boasting different shapes, sizes, characteristics and temperaments, it is no surprise that some 8.5 million dogs are owned in the animal-loving UK (in accordance with RSPCA statistics). This figure includes dogs that are pedigrees, Kennel Club registered, and those that are neither.

Over the years, the list of most popular dog breeds has fluctuated, with new breeds emerging and taking pole position. However there are some breeds that have maintained their ranking and remain amongst the most popular breeds owned in the UK, including the Labrador Retriever, the Cocker Spaniel and the English Springer Spaniel. We have compiled a list of the 10 Most Popular Dog Breeds in the UK based on Kennel Club registrations from the start of 2013 until the end of June, offering an insight into the individual breed and suggesting at reasons for its prevalence. We have also ranked the 20 most registered breeds in 2012 as a point of comparison.

So, without further ado, here are the 10 most registered dog breeds for 2013 (so far!):

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1) Retriever (Labrador) – 17, 733 registered

The fact the Labrador Retriever takes pole position is probably not surprising. Described as 'the best all-round dog' by the Kennel Club, the Labrador Retriever has enjoyed great popularity throughout its existence, both as a domestic pet and service dog. This traditional working animal was originally utilised off the coast of Labrador and neighbouring Newfoundland in Canada, helping Portuguese fishermen to trawl, retrieve fish and retract the nets. The modern Labrador was developed in 19th century England and was officially recognised by the Kennel Club in 1903.

Typically a proportioned and sprightly-looking breed, the Labrador Retriever boasts strong legs, a broad head, medium-sized pendant ears, and wide-set eyes. Today, the Labrador is observed in hunting, tracking, retrieving, military and police work, search and rescue, competitive obedience, agility and as a guide dog to the blind. Highly valued for being inherently gentle, affectionate and obedient, the Labrador is well suited to the home setting and is neither unduly shy nor aggressive. The Labrador is a great lover of people, perhaps why people are a great lover of it! Click here for more information on the breed.

A yellow colored dog with floppy ears stands in profile. It's tongue sticks out.

2) Spaniel (Cocker) – 9, 846 registered

Taking second position is this versatile hunting gun-dog. The Cocker Spaniel was prominent during the Tudor reign of Henry VIII and proved a favourite in the royal courts of the 16th and 17th centuries. Until 1990, the breed was considered the most popular as registered by the American Kennel Club, however it now ranks 25th.

Characterised by an arched head, low-set ears, ovular eyes and a soft, wavy coat in colour deviations of solid black, red or liver, the Cocker Spaniel is a highly attractive breed and is considered the original family companion, proceeding the Labrador and Golden Retriever as the dog most compatible with children, other pets and domestic living. The breed experienced a resurgence in popularity following the acquisition of a black Cocker Spaniel, named Lupo, by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge before christmas of last year. Click here for more information on the breed.

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3) Spaniel (English Springer) – 4, 879 registered

Larger than its cousin the Cocker Spaniel, the English Springer is a strong competitor in the popularity contest. Deriving its name from its early usage as a game flusher, 'springing' furred and feathered game from the bush in order for the hunter to shoot it, the breed is revered for its ability to work tirelessly in a variety of working fulfillments. Having retained its popularity as a companion dog since its early prevalence in the Renaissance, the English Springer Spaniel is often described as the ideal family dog.

The coat of the English Springer Spaniel is typically wavy and feathered, common in colours of white and liver, usually with black, liver or tan markings. The breed possesses an amiable and relaxed temperament, displaying affection and loyalty towards its family and engaging well with children. Owners have described the Springer Spaniel as being ‘full of life and character,’ and making a great addition to active family life. Click here for more information on the breed.

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4) German Shepherd – 3, 784 registered

Despite falling fourth on the list, the German Shepherd – otherwise known as the Alsatian – is arguably the most popular breed worldwide. Founded in 1899, the Shepherd was primarily bred as a versatile working dog, developed to be fearless and agile for the purposes of military and police work. The German Shepherd retained its concrete reputation across Europe and the United States following its wide usage during World War I.

Athletically built to change direction at full speed, the appearance of the German Shepherd reflects its versatile working capabilities. Contrary to popular belief, a socialised and consistently trained German Shepherd will not display undue aggression. Instead, a Shepherd will demonstrate a calm and gentle manner - having an enormous capacity for love, loyalty and affection. Inherently able-minded and intelligent, the Shepherd can be trained to a very good degree and is known for being incredibly devoted to children. Click here for more information on the breed.


5) Pug – 3, 764 registered

This entry might come as a surprise to some. Much conjecture surrounds the ancestry and origin of the Pug, although it was made popular during the Victorian period when it was commonly observed atop private carriages. As a breed, it has boasted many notable admirers throughout history, including Napoleon's wife – Josephine, Queen Victoria, and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.

The breed boasts several distinctive features, including a broad, flat and pronounced muzzle, prominent eyes, low-set, triangular ears and a short tail, arching over the back. The Pug is a suitable and delightful breed choice for families or a dedicated sole owner wanting a lap dog, due to its calm and amiable temperament and its compact proportions. Animated and spirited, a Pug is guaranteed to liven up any home setting – perhaps accounting for its popularity! Click here for more information on the breed.

6) Retriever (Golden) – 3, 437 registered

Lower in the list than some might have assumed, the Golden Retriever is widely considered one of the most popular breeds, not only as a companionable house dog but in obedience, service and therapy. Believed to have been developed by Lord Tweedmouth in the late 1800s, the Golden Retriever has its roots in the Scottish Highlands where it was selectively bred for the purposes of hunting, tracking and retrieving upland game, as its name would suggest.

Easily identifiable for its wavy golden coat, the Retriever is medium-sized with a straight muzzle, large brown eyes, feathering on ears, back of legs, underside of tail and front of neck. Highly trainable, the breed is the ideal choice for the modern family, being devoted to children and demonstrating love, loyalty and affection. Like the Labrador Retriever, the breed’s natural love of people is showcased at every opportunity. Click here for more information on the breed.

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7) Border Terrier – 3, 115 registered

Boasting a rustic, working appearance, the breed is easily identifiable and held in high esteem. First developed in the early 18th century in the Cheviot Hills, the Border Terrier was primarily bred for the purpose of flushing out and killing foxes that were attacking the farmer's livestock. Highly valued for its willingness and stamina, the Border Terrier rose to tremendous popularity in the century, also hunting otters, badgers and vermin.

The Border’s wiry double coat is commonly coloured wheaten, blue, tan, grizzle, red and white, which may have aided the breed's camouflage in the outland terrains of the border. The Border Terrier is an affectionate, loyal and mannered breed, displaying a relaxed temperament that makes for an ideal companion. Compatible with children and other house pets as well as being a practical size, it is unsurprising that this breed appears on the popularity list. Click here for more information on the breed.

8) French Bulldog – 2, 840 registered

Another close contender, the French Bulldog is the eighth most popular breed choice in the UK – up four places from last year. Contrary to popular belief, the French Bulldog hails from Nottingham, England, where it was the breed choice of lace makers and craftsmen in the city. Popular amongst the artistic and eccentric of Parisian city dwellers also, the French Bulldog grew in favour, retaining its name on its return to England, as well as its concrete reputation.

A compact dog of reduced proportions, the French Bulldog possesses a steady and easy temperament, despite its bullish appearance. A popular lap dog and ladies’ companion, the Bulldog is well suited to the home setting, being compatible with both children and other house pets. Time has proven the popularity of this breed, which is unlikely to ever go out of favour. Click here for more information on the breed.

9) Bulldog – 2, 778 registered

Less of a lap dog, more of a fully-fledged canine side-kick, the Bulldog is just behind its smaller counterpart on the list of popular breeds. Commonly entitled the National Dog of Great Britain, the breed features in various patriotic pictorials – for this reason alone, the Bulldog simply had to appear on the list! Once the so-called sport of bull and badger baiting was finally dispensed with in 1850, the Bulldog grew in popularity as a fearless yet increasingly placid companion dog, hence its positioning on the list.

Bearing in mind its early sporting heritage, the appearance of the Bulldog is somewhat intimidating, however such is not a fair reflection of its nature. The breed possesses an easy and affectionate temperament, is protective of children and its home, and is a great lover of people. The appearance of the Bulldog is distinctive and clearly desirable. Anyone wanting a dog with an outwardly fierce appearance but a mellow interior should seriously consider buying a Bulldog. Click here for more information on the breed.

10) Staffordshire Bull Terrier – 2, 720 registered

Again, once the sport of dog fighting was banned in the United States in 1900, the AmStaff became a popular companion dog, used as an efficient ratter and for fearlessly hunting wild boar and bears. Featuring prominently in American military history, regard for the breed has never really been in doubt.

The common conception of the AmStaff is that of a vicious and unpredictable breed, possessing an inherent fighting instinct. Although the original AmStaff boasted these traits, being a frequenter of the unforgiving fighting pits, such has been bred out of it for the purpose of establishing a more balanced and docile companion dog. Despite having experienced global breed-bans and restrictions in recent years, interest in the breed has waned very little, as proven by its featuring on this list. Click here for more information on the breed.

If your favourite dog breed did not appear in the top 10 most registered breeds, do not despair! Perhaps it features somewhere in the top 20? If not, you can always find out more about your chosen breed on our Breed Facts and Information page, a helpful resource that details over 200 dog breeds as recognised by the Kennel Club. Below is a list of the remaining breeds registered in the Kennel Club’s top 20:

11. Spaniel (Cavalier King Charles) – 2, 705 registered

12. Schnauzer (Miniature) – 2, 653 registered

13. Shih Tzu – 2, 132 registered

14. Boxer – 1, 984 registered

15. Chihuahua (Smooth Coat) – 1, 982 registered

16. Lhasa Apso – 1, 848 registered

17. Terrier (West Highland White) – 1, 620 registered

18. Whippet – 1, 560 registered

19. Dachshund (Miniature Smooth-Haired) – 1, 335

20. Dogue de Bordeaux – 1, 200

And finally, here is a list of registrations for 2012, showing a point of comparison across the last two years. For 2012 alone, some 229, 230 dogs were registered with the Kennel Club, compared with 106, 914 this year, although bear in mind this figure is only true up until the end of June. Very little has changed since last year, except that French Bulldogs and standard Bulldogs have increased in popularity, moving up a few places in the rankings and displacing the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and the Miniature Schnauzer. Whilst the Beagle took 20th place last year, so far this year it is the Dogue de Bordeaux that holds the position. Otherwise, the top ten is very much the same as last year, with new entries emerging in the latter part of the top 20.

2012 registrations:

  1. Retriever (Labrador) – 36, 487 registered
  2. Spaniel (Cocker) – 23, 306 registered
  3. Spaniel (English Springer) – 12, 792 registered
  4. German Shepherd – 8, 502 registered
  5. Pug – 7, 359 registered
  6. Retriever (Golden) – 7, 085 registered
  7. Border Terrier – 6, 577 registered
  8. Staffordshire Bull Terrier – 6, 235 registered
  9. Spaniel (Cavalier King Charles) – 5, 970 registered
  10. Miniature Schnauzer – 5, 797 registered
  11. Bulldog – 4, 782 registered
  12. French Bulldog – 4, 648 registered
  13. Boxer – 4, 622 registered
  14. Shih Tzu – 4, 565 registered
  15. Lhasa Apso – 4, 449 registered
  16. Terrier (West Highland White) – 3, 975 registered
  17. Chihuahua (Smooth Coat) – 3, 518 registered
  18. Whippet – 3, 084 registered
  19. Dachshund (Miniature Smooth-Haired) – 2, 854 registered
  20. Beagle – 2, 728 registered

Bearing in mind there are well in excess of 200 dog breeds, the favourite 20 are fairly concrete it would seem, as indicated by the Kennel Club’s registrations. Whatever it is about these particular breeds that appeals to people – whether it’s their appearance, temperament or certain breed traits, many UK owners are clearly of the same opinion. It can sometimes be helpful to learn what others think of a specific breed before purchasing or adopting one yourself, and hopefully this information will be of benefit to prospective dog owners.

If you have a dog and would like to post a comment on what it is like owning a particular breed, please share your knowledge/experience with us! Alternatively, you can post your comment directly on the breed page in VioVet’s Breed Facts and Information.

Written by: Hannah