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Characteristics of the Most Popular Dog Breeds in America

September 23, 2019 7 min read

Characteristics of the Most Popular Dog Breeds

According to the American Kennel Club (AKC) the most popular dog breeds for 2018 are:

  1. Labrador Retrievers
  2. German Shepherds
  3. Golden Retrievers
  4. French Bulldogs
  5. Bulldogs
  6. Beagles
  7. Poodles
  8. Rottweilers
  9. German Shorthaired Pointers
  10. Yorkshire Terriers

If you are considering one of these breeds for your family or if you simply want to learn more about what make these the most popular dogs, read more about the characteristics of these breeds below. Then keep reading to learn which are the best dog breeds for families.

AKC Most Popular Dog Breeds 2018

  1. Labrador Retrievers

The four words that best describe Labrador Retrievers are, in some order, outgoing, friendly, high-spirited and active. They are lovable, affectionate dogs who will bond well with your entire family, the neighbours and the neighbourhood dogs. They are sturdy dogs with wide heads and kind eyes. Their coats are hard and dense, and they can be chocolate, black or yellow. They are medium-to-large dogs with females standing 21.5 to 23.5 inches tall at the shoulder and weighing 55 to 75 pounds and males standing 22.5 to 24.5 inches tall at the shoulder and weighing 65 to 80 pounds. They have a life span to 10 to 12 years. One thing to remember is that Labrador Retrievers are members of the Sporting Group. They love athletic activity, and in order to stay both mentally and physically fit, these dogs need lots of it. Take them swimming or running or indulge them with games of fetch. Your arm may wear out before your Labrador does.

  1. German Shepherds

German Shepherds are known for their intelligence, nobility, loyalty, courage and confidence. They are capable of mastering many commands. The breed is classified as a member of the Herding Group, and, in that role, German Shepherds are gentle pets, but they will also take on the role of the steadfast family guardian. These dogs will willingly put their lives at risk to defend family members. With others outside the family group, they can be on the aloof side. They do not enter into immediate, indiscriminate friendships with other dogs or with other humans. They are large, muscular, agile dogs with smoothly curved rather than angular bodies. Their natural gait is an easy trot, but when playing or defending the family, they can lay down the speed. Females stand 22 to 24 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh 50 to 70 pounds. Males stand 24 to 26 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh 65 to 90 pounds. German Shepherds have a life span of 7 to 10 years.

  1. Golden Retrievers

Golden Retrievers, known for the beauty of their golden coat of fur, are outgoing, friendly, devoted and intelligent. They are trustworthy, eager-to-please family dogs that maintain a puppyish playful and joy-filled attitude into adulthood. Like Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers are member of the Sporting Group. Bred for waterfowl hunting, they enjoy playing outdoors, swimming and fetching. They also enjoy competitive events such as tests of obedience. They are medium-sized, sturdy, energetic, powerful, muscular dogs with broad heads, straight muzzles, short ears and friendly, intelligent eyes. The females stand 21.5 to 22.5 inches at the shoulder and weigh 55 to 65 pounds, and the males stand 23 to 24 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh 65 to 75 pounds. Golden Labs have a lifespan of 10 to 12 years.

  1. French Bulldogs

French Bulldogs, Frenchies for short, have distinctive “bat ears” that set them apart from Bulldogs. Frenchies are smart, playful, affectionate and adaptable. They do not bark frequently, but they are alert. Consequently, they serve as excellent watchdogs. These small dogs are members of the Non-Sporting Group and don’t require much outdoor exercise. They can live quite happily with busy families, couples, or singles in an apartment, in the city or in the suburbs. They enjoy making friends with other humans and other animals. With the exception of the ears, French Bulldogs resemble miniaturized Bulldogs with heavily wrinkled, very short noses; large, square heads; and smooth, muscular, compact bodies. French Bulldogs stand 11 to 13 inches tall at the shoulders and weigh under 28 pounds. They have a lifespan of 10 to 12 years.

  1. Bulldogs

Bulldogs are docile, calm and friendly, but also dignified, loyal, courageous and tenacious. They adapt well to life in any environment -- the city, the suburbs or the country. They tend to gain weight, though, so, wherever home is, they need regular, moderate exercise, such as a brisk walk, even though they are classified in the Non-Sporting Group. They also need someone to keep an eye on their diet. Bulldogs have a distinctive, unmistakable look with their muscular, compact bodies; their waddling walk; their drooping jowls; and their wrinkled brows and wrinkled pushed in noses. On hot, humid summer days, however, bulldogs can suffer from laboured breathing because of their short nose. On those days, it’s best for them to stay indoors in an air-conditioned environment. Bulldogs range between 14 and 15 inches in height at the shoulder. Females weigh around 40 pounds, and males weigh around 50 pounds. They have a life expectancy of 8 to 10 years.

  1. Beagles

Words that describe Beagles include friendly, funny, happy-go-lucky, merry, curious, clever, easy-going and cute. They make loving, loyal and lovable companions, and they are one of the most popular breeds in the Hound Group. Bred to hunt in packs, they love lots of company, so they are perfect for families. As energetic hunting dogs, though, they also require lots of play time and exercise. Beagles have solid, sturdy bodies and adorable faces with large hazel or brown eyes; low, broad heads; and those droopy, long ears. Their coats can be tri-colour, lemon, or red and white. There are two Beagle varieties. One stands 13 to 15 inches tall at the shoulder and weighs 20 to 30 pounds, and the other stands under 13 inches tall at the shoulder and weighs under 20 pounds. Beagles have a lifespan of 10 to 15 years.

  1. Poodles

Poodles are highly intelligent, proud, aristocratic, agile, self-confident, active dogs. Their curly, hypoallergenic coats can be black, white or apricot. Simply because some owners have their Poodle’s coats trimmed in the traditional Continental Cut these dogs have come to be regarded as sissified dandies. First of all, like the Golden Retriever, Poodles were originally bred for retrieving waterfowl from the water after the birds had been shot in flight and killed. The Continental Cut kept the joints and bodies of the Poodles warm, helping to prevent hypothermia, but also removed parts of the coat that would simple soak up water and slow the dog down or even weigh it down in the water and cause it to drown. While Poodles now are classified as members of the Non-Sporting Group, they originally were bred as hunting dogs with strong, athletic bodies. Most owners now prefer the look of the Sporting Clip, a cut that follows the smooth, squared lines of the Poodle’s well-muscled body. There are three varieties of Poodles – Standard, Miniature, and Toy. Standard Poodles stand more than 15 inches at the shoulder. Females weigh 40 to 50 pounds and males weigh 50 to 60 pounds. Miniature Poodles stand between 10 and 15 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh 10 to 15 pounds. Toy Poodles stand 10 inches tall or less at the shoulder and weigh 4 to 6 pounds. Toy Poodles are classified in the Toy Group. All three varieties have a lifespan of 10 to 18 years.

  1. Rottweilers

Descended from the mastiffs bred by the Roman legions, Rottweilers take on the role of family guardian, just as German Shepherds do. Within the family, they are loving, loyal and gentle playmates for children. When well-bred, properly trained and socialised with their territorial instincts directed properly from early puppyhood, they, like German Shepherds, grow into calm, confident, courageous dogs with no undue aggressive behaviours. Within the family, they are playful cuddlers, and they can even be silly, but, again like German Shepherds, they are aloof to those they don’t yet know. Rottweilers have rust markings on short black coats and muscular bodies with notably thickly muscled hindquarters. They move in an effortless trot. The breed is a member of the Working Group. The females stand 22 to 25 inches at the shoulder and weigh 80 to 100 pounds. The males stand 24 to 27 inches at the shoulder and weigh 95 to 135 pounds. Rottweilers have a lifespan of 9 to 10 years.

  1. German Shorthaired Pointers

German Shorthaired Pointers are another friendly, athletic breed. They firmly bond to their families, and they are happy, smart, enthusiastic and eager to please family members. Those traits make them an easy breed to train. Owners of German Shorthaired Pointers describe their looks as aristocratic and noble. They have dark eyes and coats that are either a solid liver colour (a reddish brown) or that have an attractive and eye-catching splash of liver and white spots. Bred to be versatile gun dogs and classified in the Sporting Group, German Shorthaired Pointers are agile and powerful with great speed, endurance, and a nearly endless supply of energy. They need lots of exercise and love vigorous physical activities like playing outdoors with family members, running, swimming and organised competitive dog sports such as agility competitions. Females stand 21 to 23 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh between 45 and 60 pounds. Males stand 23 to 25 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh between 55 and 75 pounds. German Shorthaired Pointers have a lifespan of 10 to 12 years.

  1. Yorkshire Terriers

Yorkshire Terriers, like French Bulldogs, are one of those breeds that pack fun and personality into pint-sized bodies. They are affectionate, lively, loving and funny but, contrary to their delicate look, they also are tenacious, self-important, brave, feisty, tomboyish dogs with a bossy side. These traits make them excellent watch dogs, and they are particularly popular with city-dwellers. Their long, silky coats of golden tan and steel blue are hypoallergenic and closer to human hair than fur. Members of the Toy Group, Yorkshire Terriers stand 7 to 8 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh around 7 pounds. They have a lifespan of 11 to 15 years.

The Best Dog Breeds for Families

Which of these 10 most popular dogs are the best for families? All of these breeds will fit in well with a family. The key is to match the personality of the breed to the personality of your family. If you have an active, athletic family, choose a dog from a breed in the Working or Sporting Groups. If you live in an area with a lot of children and pets, choose a dog from a breed that makes friends with everyone. If you lack space, choose a dog from a breed in the Toy Group. If you want a watchdog as well as a family dog, you have a choice of dogs from large breeds like the German Shepherd and the Rottweiler or from small breeds like French Bulldogs or Yorkshire Terriers. One of these dogs from the most popular dog breeds 2018 could be the best dog for your family.


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