A smooth hair brown dachshund puppy held in hands of its owner wearing a colorful plaid shirt and red nail polish.

What America's most popular dog breeds look like as puppies

Written by:
August 26, 2020
Alena Veasey // Shutterstock

What America's most popular dog breeds look like as puppies

Cats versus dogs. It's an age-old argument that has broken relationships, turned roommates against each other, and even spurred an anatomically questionable Nickelodeon show. But even the most hardened cat enthusiasts can't deny there is one trump card in this classic debate: puppies. Competing head-to-head with babies for the top spot on the list of "cute things everyone loves," puppies bring an earnest playfulness to any room, as well as the capacity to transform a mediocre moment into something to smile about.

Interestingly, the extent to which we find dogs, and puppies, cute could be tied to those babies more than we think. Characteristics like large heads on small torsos, big round eyes, soft body parts, and propensity to stumble are universally cute; that's to say, the same harmless, childlike "cuteness factors" as the human babies we intrinsically care for. Another common perspective hold that dogs appear cute as an evolutionary response, so the more domesticated they became over time, the more they needed human care, and thus needed to trigger our cuteness receptors that make us nurture.

We can agree on, and perhaps fall victim to, the undeniable fact that black lab puppies (as pictured), French bulldogs and golden retrievers are extremely cute. But at least we can assure ourselves there is some science to it.

To honor these sultans of sweetness, Stacker compiled photos of the American Kennel Club's 50 most popular dog breeds when they were just pups, using the 2019 popularity rankings released on May 1, 2020. For good measure, we've also included details about what exactly these furbabies are like, from temperament and energy level to obedience.

But let's be honest, you didn't come here for our explanation. You came here for the puppies. So without further ado...

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#50. English cocker spaniel

The happy, affectionate, long-eared English cocker spaniels are excellent companion dogs. They need plenty of exercise as puppies, since they are extremely energetic as they mature. Though they can be difficult to train, the key is providing enough playtime and walks—from as young as nine weeks old until one year, at which point they can join you on jogs.

#49. Portuguese water dog

Portuguese water dogs, bred as aids to fishermen in ice-cold water (rugged non-shedding, waterproof coat) are tireless activity fiends; from the time they are puppies they need ample exercise and stimulation—be it walking, running or, of course, swimming. DogTime.com recommends "early socialization" to expose your puppy to a range of sights, sounds, smells, people, and experiences. But don't worry, they can adjust to apartment life and grow up alongside your children. Just make sure there's a pool or lake nearby.

#48. St. Bernard

The '92 film "Beethoven" offers a pretty accurate portrayal of a St. Bernard puppy: big, happy, mischievous, and slobbery. These giant pups have a penchant for chewing and eating weird things, like tube socks.

#47. Akita

Akitas are fiercely loyal and consider themselves to be the guardians of their families. That also means they can be wary of strangers. Be sure to train and socialize Akita puppies well so they learn that friends are welcome. Also, look out for another trait of young Akitas: They will grab your hand with their mouth and pull you to where they want you to go.

#46. Chesapeake Bay retriever

Commonly known as the Chessie, Chesapeake Bay retrievers can be a bit difficult to train. They want to do things their own way (especially headstrong puppies), and will find a way to do so. They do make excellent support animals, though, as they are perceptive and sensitive.

#45. Shiba Inu

Keep your Shiba Inu puppy on a leash as often as possible until it's trained—these guys love to chase after what they think is prey and are very fast runners. The puppies also need a bit more socialization than other dogs, so consider getting one if your kids aren't too young.

#44. West Highland white Terrier

Westies can be noisy as puppies, as they're bred to alert owners to something suspicious—even if that something is as small as a bug. But because they're easy to train (ideally with the clicker method), that can be eliminated quickly. Housetraining is almost never an issue, either.

#43. Bichon Frise

Bichon frisé is a breed best for families with active kids or people who have a lot of time to spend with a puppy. These dogs require a lot of playtime. The puppies are high-energy and always looking for a fun time. They're also easy to train, so playtime could be used to teach them new tricks.

#42. Rhodesian ridgeback

It can be pretty difficult to train Rhodesian ridgeback puppies. They're bred as hunting dogs and will set their sights on something and go after it without notice of what's around them—like cars, people, or yards. But if you make them feel like a part of the family pack when they're young, they'll grow up to be loyal and loving family dogs.

#41. Belgian Malinois

Police forces love Belgian malinois dogs because of their desire to work and ability to be trained, both qualities that emerge when the dogs are puppies. They also have a lot of stamina and a strong chase drive, that sometimes can never be trained away.

#40. Newfoundland

From the time they're born, Newfoundland puppies are loving, attached, family dogs. They want to be a constant companion. Pups can develop severe separation anxiety, so be sure to spend time with them at home or out exploring.

#39. Weimaraner

These pale-coated beauties are incredibly active puppies to bring into a home. They need exercise, and lots of it, to get out the high level of energy they carry. But they're also very loyal and will always want to be by their owner's side—which can also mean separation anxiety that almost always translates into chewing for Weimaraner puppies.

#38. Collie

The television show "Lassie," starring a full-coated rough collie, made this breed a star. Still used on farms for their admirable herding skills, the breed has also found its way into the living rooms and hearts across the country. Standard collie puppies are easy to train, get along with other animals and people alike, and are eager to please. Just tamp down on their penchant for barking early on.

#37. Basset Hound

Basset hounds are floppy, funny pups, but have a few problem traits that need to be overcome with careful training early on. This dog breed loves to bark and loves to dig. Basset puppies react best to positive reinforcement during training.

#36. Maltese

Maltese puppies are some of the easiest to train, but can easily charm owners into allowing undesirable behavior. They're very loyal and love to be around their people. But clumsy puppies need to be watched, as Malteses, in particular, are prone to head and neck injuries.

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#35. Chihuahua

Thanks to a small size, trainability, and a big personality, Chihuahua puppies are great for apartment dwellers and first-time dog owners. Because the puppies are so small, though, homes with very young children might end up with an injured dog.

#34. Vizsla

Get ready to have a constant companion with a Vizsla puppy. The dogs were bred to work together with their humans, so they become attached very fast. They need a lot of exercise and will want to do it with their person every time.

#33. Border collie

Often said to be some of the smartest dogs around, border collies are herding dogs from birth. Even puppies will try to corral family members and other pets—something that can become out of control if it's not properly controlled with training and exercise. They're also particularly sensitive to noise, so puppies might need extra attention during storms or fireworks shows.

#32. Mastiff

As adults, mastiffs are enormous, sometimes hitting 200 pounds. That massive weight means they need to be friendly, and so the puppies need to be socialized to both new people and new places regularly. Otherwise, the guard dog roots come out—even though the puppies will rarely bark.

#31. Pug

Aside from having completely adorable smashed faces, pug puppies are also gentle, friendly, and eager to please. They make excellent playmates for young children. That said, the puppies are opinionated and can be difficult to train.

#30. Cane corso

Born and bred as a guard dog, the Cane Corso will likely never welcome other people into your home, even as a puppy. They need to be trained, trained, and trained some more to understand what is and isn't a threat. The puppies need lots of love so they know who the family members are, and they need extra-strong toys to help with a major personality trait: chewing.

#29. Miniature American shepherd

Start training the miniature American shepherd in traditional dog sports at a young age, and the pup's intelligence will likely turn him or her into an award-winner. The puppies are eager to learn, intelligent, hard workers, and incredibly loyal.

#28. Cocker spaniel

Ever the curious dog, cocker spaniel puppies are always on the hunt to experience new things. Put them on a leash and walk them a couple of times a day—they're a sporting breed and need the exercise, plus it'll satiate their curiosity. The puppies are affable, great with kids, and easy to train.

#27. English springer spaniel

English springer spaniel puppies are gorgeous, but require a lot of work to train. If they aren't constantly stimulated, they resort to tearing apart the house or chasing other critters as they're able. They are also independent and can get into a lot of trouble outside, so keep an eye on that puppy as often as possible.

#26. Brittany

Active families are the best choice for Brittany puppies. They're incredibly easy to train, but do need a lot of time outdoors because they love participating in group activities that stimulate them physically and mentally.

#25. Shetland Sheepdog

Shetland sheepdog puppies may need a bit more socialization than other dog breeds to get them used to unknown people and places, and unexpected noises and movements. They can be a bit high-strung or anxious, especially when left alone for long periods of time without physical or mental stimulation.

#24. Pomeranian

Crate training is the best option for Pomeranian puppies, who are notoriously difficult to housetrain. They also bark a lot but are incredibly loving with an independent streak.

#23. Bernese mountain dog

As good-natured, quirky dogs, Bernese Mountain Dogs have a great temperament for families with kids. The puppies are patient, but also need a job to do—whether that's hiking with their owners outdoors or carrying toys around with the children—in order to feel fulfilled.

#22. Havanese

Havanese dogs are bred to be companions, and nothing else—and the puppies are sweet enough to show that trait off. They are cheerful, silly, and absolutely love to snuggle. But that means they can have ample separation anxiety issues as well.

#21. Boston Terrier

Boston terriers have delightful silly personalities that come out almost immediately after they're born. The puppies are watchful over people they love and eager to please. They're also incredibly intelligent and easy to train to do all sorts of fun tricks.

#20. Shih Tzu

Shih tzus were bred to be the dogs of royalty in Chin, and specifically meant to be lapdogs (even "shih tzu" means "lion.") The puppies now love basically everyone they encounter. They're particularly easy to train, as well.

#19. Doberman pinscher

These dogs are very easy to train, making them well suited to police and guard dog work. But dobermans also love their families and are extremely affectionate. As puppies, dobies are very active and need a lot of exercise.

#18. Miniature schnauzer

Like most terriers, miniature schnauzers have big personalities and active minds. Puppies need to be trained with lots of positive reinforcement—punishment can depress them. Use a lot of treats and vary your puppy's activities, since these little ones have pretty short attention spans and always want to do something different.

#17. Great Dane

Great Danes grow fast and grow big—large enough to be the world's tallest dogs. Dane puppies need a moderate amount of exercise but with a lot of space to handle their clumsy loping. From puppyhood, they're gentle lapdogs and will always be a loving presence in the home.

#16. Cavalier King Charles spaniel

More than many other dog breeds, Cavalier King Charles spaniels need human attention. Puppies especially will get massive separation anxiety and bark because of it. They also distract easily, which may make it a bit harder to train them.

#15. Siberian husky

The energy level and excitement of Siberian huskies last all the way from puppyhood to adulthood. Because of that, huskie pups aren't always the best for first-time owners; they need a lot of attention, exercise, and patient training.

#14. Boxer

Another breed with a somewhat smashed face, boxer puppy owners can expect a lot of snoring, snorting, and drooling. The dogs grow to be quite large and need plenty of daily exercise while young to reel in their high energy levels. This breed loves to be around people, so boxer puppies will do well in a home with lots of family members.

#13. Australian Shepherd

Australian shepherds are born as herders and will grow old as herders. From puppyhood, they want to make sure everything is in a nice organized spot, and can even be trained to herd young family members. They're incredibly focused on their tasks; and while puppies are known to be flighty, Aussies stick to the work they're doing.

#12. Yorkshire Terrier

These tiny terriers love to run and chase after things, so keep your Yorkie on a leash at all times until properly trained. Otherwise, the puppies don't need a lot of exercise thanks to their small size. They can be quite difficult to housetrain, though.

#11. Dachshund

Dachsund puppies, often called doxies, are clever and motivated by food—so much so that the breed is prone to obesity. They're known for a trademark silly smile and accept everyone, and everything, in the home as a part of their pack.

#10. Pembroke Welsh corgi

The small but sturdy corgi is incredibly easy to train, very smart, and fiercely loyal. Early training will help with socialization: Corgi puppies bark more than other dogs and can show aggression to unknown animals and people. 

#9. German shorthaired pointer

German shorthaired pointer puppies bond firmly with and stick to members of the family. They also immeasurable amounts of energy and need to get lots of exercise—so get them outside into nature for physical activities that can help tire them out.

#8. Rottweiler

Many people are afraid of Rottweilers thanks to a bad (and incorrect) reputation, so be sure to train the highly intelligent puppies to avoid aggression and possessiveness. They're highly active animals, and as puppies they will expect you to endlessly play fetch and wrestle.

#7. Beagle

Notorious for being stubborn, single-minded, and noisy, beagles are nevertheless great family dogs. Puppies need to be kept on a leash; they'll chase anything with a unique smell. You'll need to do some fairly intense training, too—the mischievous pups love to make trouble in the home.

#6. Poodle

Poodle puppies love to sleep. A lot. They spent most of the day snoozing (don't worry, they grow out of it), and then have a ton of energy when they're awake—so expect to spend ample waking moments playing together.

#5. Bulldog

Sweet, dependable English bulldogs are lovers from birth. The puppies love to snuggle, especially with kids—and they are known for snoring and snorting while their owners are trying to sleep through the night.

#4. French bulldog

Often confused for Boston terriers, French bulldogs are a bit more difficult to train but probably an equal amount of silly. The puppies love to play, though they prefer to laze on the couch. They're also stubborn and won't give up until they get their way (or that piece of toast they're coveting).

#3. Golden retriever

This is one of the most common breeds of family dogs, known for being great with children and loyal companions who care carefully for their humans. Golden retriever puppies housebreak easily but need a lot of exercise every day and should always be kept on a leash.

#2. German shepherd

German shepherd puppies connect with one person in a family very quickly, and make that person their person. When not around that person, they can be shy or anxious. And be careful with small children—although they're great family dogs, German shepherd puppies playfully bite—and frequently.

#1. Labrador retriever

Labrador retrievers traditionally helped fishermen on the docks, and the dogs today still love to have a job. With a new puppy, give it something to do—either through exercise or training—and will be a happy lab. They are loyal, sweet, easy to train, and excellent family dogs.

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