How to choose the right dog breed for you

July 28, 2022 - 5 min read

This article was written for the United Kingdom market and the advice provided may not be accurate for those in the United States.

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?

If you’re considering getting a puppy, they'll need training from day one onwards, as well as socialization and frequent vet visits.

Which Dog Breed Is Best for Me?

The answer depends on 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 behavior 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 pedigrees 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.

How many dog breeds are there?

There are 199 pedigree breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club as of 2022. These are split into seven groups:

  • Sporting

  • Hound

  • Working

  • Terrier

  • Toy

  • Non-Sporting

  • Herding

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 to choose 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 US dog breeds

According to the American Kennel Club, the top 10 most popular dog breeds in 2021 were:

  1. Labrador Retriever

  2. French Bulldog

  3. Golden Retriever

  4. German Shepherd

  5. Poodle

  6. Bulldog

  7. Beagle

  8. Rottweiler

  9. German Shorthaired Pointer

  10. Dachshund

This is based on the number of each breed registered with the American Kennel Club in 2021.

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.

Best Small Dog Breeds

Many small dogs are classified as toy breeds or terriers by the American Kennel Club, although there are also some large and heavy terriers like Bull Terriers and Bedlington Terriers!

Smaller breeds are suitable for people of all ages from young children and those older and in retirement.

Because of their size, they 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.

Some popular Toy and small terrier breeds registered with the American Kennel Club in 2021 were:

  • Pugs

  • Border Terriers

  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniels

  • Pomeranians

  • Chihuahuas

  • West Highland Terriers

  • Maltese

  • Scottish Terriers

  • Yorkshire Terriers

  • Wire Fox Terriers

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:

Best Large Dog Breeds

All dogs need plenty of exercise and mental stimulation to stay happy and healthy but in general larger dogs need to stretch their legs a bit more.

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.

A lot of larger breeds were originally bred as livestock dogs and have a natural instinct to guard and protect.

Popular large breeds include:

  • Boxer

  • Bullmastiff

  • Newfoundland

  • German Shepherd

  • Irish Wolfhound

  • Greyhound

  • Irish Setter

  • Leonberger

  • Old English Sheepdog

  • Siberian Husky

Best Dog Breeds for Cat Owners

Cats and dogs can live happily alongside each other. But you do need to make introductions with care.

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 from the Kennel Club's terrier and hound breed lists can be less suited to living with cats. They have been bred to hunt and chase and living with a fast-moving cat might be too much temptation.

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're crossbreeds or mixed breeds.

Some of the behavior and personality traits associated with certain breeds may be inherited by crossbreeds, but there's never any guarantee.

One of the benefits of having a crossbreed is that they tend to be healthier and avoid some of the congenital and genetic problems that some breeds have.

The American Kennel Club doesn't register crossbreeds, so we looked at our own data to find the most popular cross breeds in 2021:

  1. Cockapoo

  2. Cavapoo

  3. Labradoodle

  4. Sprocker Spaniel

  5. Golden Doodle

  6. Cavachon

  7. Malti-poo

  8. Jack-a-poo

  9. Springador

  10. Jack Chi

Training, exercise, and grooming are necessary for all dogs, but the needs of a mixed-breed dog will vary based on their unique makeup.

Don't forget to consider a rescue dog – you'll often find pedigrees and 'designer' cross breeds in rescues – it's not just mongrels.

Pet insurance for different breeds

The cost of dog insurance varies depending on the breed you choose. Some dog breeds are healthier than others and that affects the price you pay.

You should also consider the cost over the lifetime of looking after a dog and really think about the possible medical problems that might develop.

Make sure you choose a policy with enough cover to keep your best friend healthy, year after year.

Derri Dunn
Content marketer

Derri is a personal finance and insurance writer and editor. After seven years covering all things motoring and banking at GoCompare, Derri joined ManyPets in 2021 to focus on pet health. She has fostered cats and kittens for Blue Cross and Cats Protection and is owned by tabby cat Diggory and two badly behaved dogs.