How to choose the right breed for you

Irina Wells
15 February 2022 - 6 min read
Spaniels and Spoodles

You've gone through all the things you need to think about before you get a dog and decided it's the right choice for you.

You might even have decided between getting an adult dog or a puppy, but what breed should you choose?

Pet insurance with up to £15,000 vet fee cover.

Dog and cat
Dog and cat

If you’re sure you do have the time and ability to care for a pet, the next step may be thinking about what kind of breed to get.

Here’s our guide to some starting points when thinking about breeds.

Which dog breed is best for me?

The answer will depend upon your own personal circumstances, lifestyle and preference.

Choosing a breed can be very personal. You might have a connection with a breed from childhood, you might want a smaller dog because you live in the city, or you might need a hypoallergenic breed.

And although breeds do have different physical and personality traits it's important to remember their behaviour will be massively influenced by the love, care and training you'll need to give them.

Choosing a dog isn't a decision to rush into. This guide is designed as starting point to highlight some breeds you might want to consider. Once you've narrowed it down it's worth doing more research online on breeds forums and groups – there's a lot of information out there. And if you can, speak to and meet owners who have the breed you decide on.

We've focused on pedigree breeds but if you're considering a mixed breed or cross breed you can still use the guide to understand some of the traits of breeds a dog might be crossed with.

If you’re considering getting a puppy, they'll need training from day one onwards, as well as socialisation and frequent vet visits. If this sounds like too much work, you might want to consider getting an adult dog.

All dogs need plenty of exercise and mental stimulation to stay happy and healthy but the levels of physical activity required can vary between different breeds.

The type of breed you choose will also affect the level of grooming needed, food costs and possible medical issues that may arise.

There are 218 pedigree breeds recognised by the Kennel Club as of 2020. These are split into seven groups:

  • Gundog
  • Hound
  • Pastoral
  • Terrier
  • Toy
  • Utility
  • Working

These broad categories are based on the form, function or style of work, lineage, or appearance of domestic dogs.

Dogs have been bred for different purposes, so certain breeds have different character traits and temperaments. These traits can help you in selecting a dog that fits your family and household.

If you've got children, you'll want to choose a breed that's likely to be good with children and has the right energy level for your family.

Top 10 most popular UK dog breeds

Each year the Kennel Club collects information on the country’s favourite breeds. In 2019 the most popular breeds were:

The UK Kennel Club collated this information based on the dogs registered with them. Not every dog is registered but this top 10 is a good guide to the country’s most popular breeds.

Best dog breeds for first-time owners

There are certain breeds that are considered more suited to first-time owners due to their temperament.

If you’re a first-time owner, you should look for breeds that respond well to training and are good-natured and eager to please. Training puppies can be challenging and being persistent is important.

Some breeds are more responsive to training than others. Labradors are known to be instinctively compliant while poodles are considered quick learners.

Golden Retrievers are a good example of a breed suitable for anyone buying a dog for the first time. They get on well with humans and other animals.

Here's a selection of breeds popular with first time dog owners.

  • Golden Retrievers
  • Labrador Retrievers
  • Yorkshire Terriers
  • Poodles
  • Sky Terriers
  • Pugs
  • Papillon
  • King Charles Spaniel

Best small dog breeds

Many small dogs are classified as toy breeds. They’re suitable for people of all ages from young children and those older and in retirement.

Because of their size, small dogs eat less and can be more affordable to keep than large breeds.

Smaller dogs can be great if your live in flat or small house and don’t have a large amount of living space. They need less exercise than larger dogs and they also tend to live longer.

Popular toy dogs include:

  • King Charles Cocker Spaniel
  • Pugs
  • Yorkshire Terriers
  • Chihuahuas
  • Pomeranians
  • Shih Tzu
  • Rat Terrier
  • English Cocker Spaniel
  • Maltese
  • Bichon Frise

Best medium-sized dog breeds

Medium-sized dogs include a wide variety of breeds.

When trained correctly, medium sized dogs make a great addition to families. They aren't so big that they might knock a young child over, but they're also not so small that they feel threatened by outgoing and boisterous children.

Some of the most popular medium-sized dogs include:

  • Golden Retrievers
  • Irish Terrier
  • Labrador (Retriever)
  • Poodle
  • Cocker Spaniel
  • Staffordshire Bull Terrier
  • French Bulldog
  • Bassett Hound

Best large dog breeds

Larger dog breeds typically weigh more than 55 pounds, and you will have a bigger financial investment to make with larger dogs due to the cost of food and care.

Larger breeds are good for people who enjoy outdoor lifestyles and physical activity and they are well suited if you live in a more suburban or country setting.

A lot of larger breeds were originally bred to be hunters and have a natural instinct to guard and protect.

Like all dogs, large breeds need regular exercise but many don't need as much exercise as you might think and enjoy lounging around and relaxing at home.

Popular large breeds include:

  • Boxer
  • Bull Terrier
  • Dalmatian
  • German Shepherd
  • Golden Retriever
  • Greyhound
  • Irish Setter
  • Mastiffs
  • Old English Sheepdog
  • Siberian Husky

Best dog breeds for cat owners

Cats and dogs can live happily alongside each other. If you already own a cat, introducing the right breed of dog is important. As is learning the best way to introduce them to each other.

Smaller toy dog breeds who are generally sociable, affectionate and outgoing are considered good companions to cats. Other family-oriented dogs such as Boxers, Cocker Spaniels, Collies and Labradors are ideal for pet owners with children or cats.

Breeds such as Terriers and Hound dogs can be less suited to living with cats. They have been bred to hunt and chase and living with a fast-moving cat may not always be ideal.

Breeds known to get on well with cats include:

  • Bichon Frise
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
  • Boxer
  • Maltese
  • Dachshund
  • Pug

Best crossbreed dogs

Not all dogs will fit neatly into these breed groups because they are crossbreeds or mongrels.

Some of the behaviour and personality traits associated with certain breeds may not be as noticeable but you should discuss this with the breeder or shelter if you're considering buying a crossbreed.

One of the benefits of having a crossbreed is that they are sometimes seen to be healthier because the pool of dogs from which they're bred from is larger. This makes is easier to breed dogs without developing illnesses or disease.

The most popular crossbreeds include:

  • Cockapoo
  • Labradoodle
  • Chorkie
  • Peekapoo
  • Sproodle
  • Puggle
  • Beaglier
  • Dorgi
  • Sprocker

Breeders can help you identify the traits you are looking for. Training, exercise, and grooming are necessary for all dogs, but the needs of a mixed-breed dog will vary based on their unique makeup.

Final considerations when deciding what dog breed to get

The breed of dog you choose should complement your home environment and lifestyle. If you're unsure on which breed would be right for you you should visit your local shelter, rescue group or breeder who can help you find a dog with the right character traits.

You should also consider the cost over the lifetime of looking after a dog along with possible medical problems that might develop which may need pet insurance cover to pay for high costs.