Britain's top dogs: Old favourites rise and fall while continental cousins skyrocket

  • Labrador reclaims the throne as Britain’s ‘top dog’ but popularity of breeds from across the continent soars
  • Meanwhile one of Britain’s oldest breeds, the Pointer, could risk extinction as its numbers tumble to historic lows
  • Popularity of other British favourites such as the West Highland White Terrier, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Boxer and Border Terrier slashed by over half in a decade, taking them out of the UK’s top ten
  • Kennel Club encourages puppy buyers to consider all 221 breeds to find the right pup for them

The shape of Britain’s favourite dogs is shifting as breeds from across the continent are dramatically rising in popularity, whilst native British breeds are rapidly declining, with some so unpopular that they could be at risk of disappearing from our streets and parks.

New data released today (17 November) by dog welfare organisation the Kennel Club, shows old favourite, the Labrador, has reclaimed the throne as Britain’s top dog following the short reign of the à la mode French Bulldog.

However, shifts over the last five years indicate continental dog breeds certainly are the ever more popular choice with UK dog owners. Of the ten breeds which have risen the quickest in popularity since 2015, nine are of foreign origin. This compares to just one historically native breed, the very royal Welsh Corgi (Pembroke), famous for featuring on Netflix series The Crown, which first aired in 2016 and is returning to our screens today with its much-anticipated third series.

Those breeds ‘going up’ include the small European breeds, the Dachshund and Pomeranian, the distinctively fluffy Chow Chow from China and the exotic and stylish Japanese Shiba Inu.

Similarly, comparing the shape of the UK’s favourite breeds today to ten years ago, iconic British favourites such as the West Highland White Terrier, Boxer, Staffie and Border Terrier, which used to be in the top ten, have been pushed aside in favour of the more European and en vogue French Bulldog, Dachshund and Miniature Schnauzer (both of German descent). 

While dogs from across the globe are increasing in popularity, one of Britain’s oldest native dog breeds, the Pointer, has for the first time become at risk of extinction. Tracing back to the 17th century, the Pointer is set to number only around 436 registrations by the end of the year if its rate of decline continues, which could see it move for the first time ever into the Kennel Club’s ‘At Watch’ list. This list is maintained so that those breeds that number between 300 and 450 registrations annually, and are at risk of disappearing in the future, can be closely monitored. The Pointer’s popularity has slashed almost in half in a decade, while its continental cousin, the German Shorthaired Pointer is up 25 per cent across the same period.

In total 16 vulnerable native breeds have declined so far this year, compared to 13 which have increased.

Bill Lambert, spokesperson for the Kennel Club, said: “People simply forget there are so many different dog breeds, with different personalities and characteristics, and it’s not just the popular, well-known ones that make a great match for our varying lifestyles. These latest figures show that whilst some historic native breeds like the Corgi are having a revival, others continue to fall rapidly in popularity and are genuinely at risk of disappearing. While we’re lucky to have such diversity amongst our canine companions, it is worrying that old favourites like the Pointer and Parson Russell Terrier are dropping in numbers to historical lows.

“We urge people to make sure they understand the breed and its characteristics before they make a decision to buy or rescue a dog, and to spend time researching the wide variety of breeds we are lucky to have in this country, to make sure they get the right one for them. The newly popular Chow Chow for example, due to its delightful profuse woolly coat, needs a lot of grooming, while the Shiba Inu - which translates to ‘small dog’ – has a big personality and is full of energy.”

The impact of celebrity may have had a positive effect on at least one vulnerable native breed, the Sussex Spaniel, which has experienced a burst in popularity this year compared to the same period in 2018, with registrations increasing by 56 per cent. This is a huge contrast to last year, where the Sussex Spaniel was the most vulnerable breed in the UK with just 34 puppies registered with the Kennel Club. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, who are known to be dog lovers and have been very much in the media spotlight recently, may have had an impact.

Read more information on finding the right breed for your lifestyle.