Dog breeds gaining popularity

Written by:
May 11, 2021
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Dog breeds gaining popularity

Sorry cat lovers, but everyone knows dogs are man’s best friends. No other animal exhibits the absolute, unadulterated joy of a dog greeting its human companion after they arrive home from a long day at work. Dog owners have to ask: “Does any person love me as much as my dog?” The answer, of course, is probably no.

Dogs are great friends to humankind, but they’re also something of miracle workers. They've saved countless owners' lives, dialed 911 in emergencies, served as guide dogs to humans and to each other, and stood the test of time as faithful companions for at least the last 35,000 years. But as times change, so too do pet owners’ preferences. Breeds that were wildly popular a few decades ago may have fallen out of fashion. In other cases, an underdog can rise to the top of the charts.

Stacker pulled data from the American Kennel Club (AKC) to compare dog popularity rankings from 1999 and 2020; the 2020 popularity rankings were released on March 16, 2021. The 37 dog breeds that gained popularity since 1999 are ordered by their 20-year rank change and further ordered by their 2020 rank to break any ties. AKC only recognized 147 breeds in 1999, so any dog breeds added since then were not included in the original list.

Read on to find out which dogs have gained the most in popularity in the last two decades.

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#37. Samoyed

- 21-year rank change: +1
---2020 rank: #56
--- 1999 rank: #57

Who can resist the smiling Samoyed, a dog bred to work in the cold who will warm your heart? The powerful pup is gentle and loyal fluff ball that is as functional as it is fine. The working dog is an adaptable animal keen to sled, herd or train.

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#36. Russell Terrier

- 21-year rank change: +2
---2020 rank: #72
--- 1999 rank: #74

It is easy to see why the Russell Terrier is gaining popularity. The high-energy and curious working terrier loves the great outdoors and is the perfect companion for walks, hikes and rides. An added bonus is the breed’s resemblance to a plush toy.

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Sue and Marty // Wikimedia Commons

#35. Siberian Husky

- 21-year rank change: +2
---2020 rank: #16
--- 1999 rank: #18

Even dog breeds can use some publicity now and again. That’s exactly what happened when Siberian huskies appeared on “Game of Thrones” as dire wolves. The show certainly contributed to the breed's popularity spike, in spite of animal welfare groups urging people not to purchase these dogs without a proper understanding of the extensive amount of exercise and attention they require. For those fully prepared to put in the work, the Siberian husky is free-spirited, playful, and sociable.

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Pharaoh Hound // Wikicommons

#34. Brittany

- 21-year rank change: +3
---2020 rank: #28
--- 1999 rank: #31

Brittanys share a name with the region of France where they were first bred, as well as with many women born in the ’90s. This breed is happy, affectionate, and energetic. Brittanys also take quite well to obedience training. These dogs have seen a slow but steady rise in popularity, holding their spot in the mid- to high-20s on the AKC list for several years.

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#33. Whippet

- 21-year rank change: +4
---2020 rank: #59
--- 1999 rank: #63

No, that Devo song is not about them. But whippets still have plenty going for them. Small, agile, and independent, the whippet became popular for its racing skills and ease with family living.

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#32. Irish Wolfhound

- 21-year rank change: +5
---2020 rank: #74
--- 1999 rank: #79

The tallest AKC breed is known as a dignified, mild-tempered big-game hunter. Irish wolfhounds' history and legendary popularity trace as far back as antiquity, though the AKC notes they were bred from British and Middle Eastern hounds. By the 1700s, Irish wolfhounds had so successfully hunted wolves that they nearly went extinct with no work remaining. Today they remain popular as large, serene companions.

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#31. Bloodhound

- 21-year rank change: +5
---2020 rank: #46
--- 1999 rank: #51

In a world where many feel lost, it is easy to see why the Bloodhound, known for his ability to find lost and hiding people, found its way into the hearts of families. The friendly and curious hound is recognizable by its wrinkly, loose-skinned faced, long and droopy ears and large eyes. With its keen sense of smell and easygoing personality, the Bloodhound is a great best friend for all members of the family.

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#30. Doberman Pinscher

- 21-year rank change: +5
---2020 rank: #18
--- 1999 rank: #23

Doberman pinschers have become more mainstream as our culture has gradually dispelled pervasive, negative stereotypes about the breed. Many people wrongly thought of Doberman pinschers as overly aggressive, even sinister, guard dogs. Most folks today understand Doberman pinschers are extremely intelligent, loving, and responsive to strong leadership. This dog is also a recent award winner, which has helped its rise to favoritism.

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#29. Mastiff

- 21-year rank change: +6
---2020 rank: #33
--- 1999 rank: #39

The mastiff makes quite a first impression with its drooping face, muscular build, and intimidating size. Males can weigh up to 230 pounds. These dogs may seem intimidating but are actually calm, loving, and great with children. Their affectionate nature and bravery as a watchdog and family guardian have gained mastiffs increased favorability in recent years.

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#28. Standard Schnauzer

- 21-year rank change: +10
---2020 rank: #92
--- 1999 rank: #102

The standard schnauzer is the original version of the giant counterpart also featured on this list. This “sometimes willful but ever reliable” dog was loved so much that breeders were inspired to create both larger and smaller variations. The breed’s ever-growing popularity is highlighted by an AKC article begging the question, “Why doesn’t everyone have a standard schnauzer?”

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#27. Staffordshire Bull Terrier

- 21-year rank change: +11
---2020 rank: #81
--- 1999 rank: #92

The Staffordshire bull terrier was bred as a fighter. But over time, the breed has experienced a total about-face and is now known as a loving, nanny-type dog for children. These dogs are far more popular in the U.K., taking third in certain rankings of most popular dogs. Interestingly, their history in the U.K. is also linked to historic class divides.

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#26. Shiba Inu

- 21-year rank change: +11
---2020 rank: #43
--- 1999 rank: #54

Long popular in Japan, the shiba inu’s popularity in the U.S. has exploded recently. A lot of this is linked to internet culture, where shibas are the subject of a popular meme and general social media attention. The grim downside is that online appreciation led to many abandoned shiba inus, as people got the dogs without researching how much training and time goes into taking care of them. Folks who have taken the time to properly raise shiba inus love them for their strong, stubborn personalities.

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#25. German Wirehaired Pointer

- 21-year rank change: +12
---2020 rank: #60
--- 1999 rank: #72

Members of the AKC’s sporting group, German wirehaired pointers are highly active dogs requiring a great deal of movement to be happy and healthy. A growing number of people have gravitated to pointers in general after a German shorthaired pointer won Best in Show at Westminster in 2016. For those prepared to handle this intelligent creature, owning a German wirehaired pointer can be rewarding.

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#24. Australian Cattle Dog

- 21-year rank change: +12
---2020 rank: #54
--- 1999 rank: #66

The Australian cattle dog isn’t the biggest or toughest-looking canine, but can certainly be among the most mischievous if it doesn’t get enough leadership and stimulation. This dog—bred for herding cattle as its name so aptly articulates—can be stubborn, but is also extremely loyal and known for its smarts. Australian cattle dogs have gained slow but steady appreciation in the United States since being officially recognized by the AKC in 1980.

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#23. Newfoundland

- 21-year rank change: +12
---2020 rank: #41
--- 1999 rank: #53

Newfoundlands are massive. These dogs clock in at around 140 pounds when fully grown. But there’s so much more to Newfoundlands than their size—including their signature gentleness, protective quality, and love of water.

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#22. Vizsla

- 21-year rank change: +13
---2020 rank: #35
--- 1999 rank: #48

According to the AKC, vizslas are experiencing a steady climb in popularity. These athletic, smart dogs are easy to spot due to their striking rust-red coloring. They love companionship and are happiest when spending time with their owners.

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#21. Great Dane

- 21-year rank change: +13
---2020 rank: #15
--- 1999 rank: #28

Great Danes certainly know how to make an entrance. Adult males can be nearly 3 feet tall, and on average weigh more than 100 pounds. Inside this massive frame, however, is a gentle, sweet, and patient temperament. Great Danes are perfect family dogs for those willing to take on the added stature.

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#20. Rhodesian Ridgeback

- 21-year rank change: +14
---2020 rank: #42
--- 1999 rank: #56

They’re not punk rockers, but the Rhodesian ridgeback’s signature look is a naturally spiked hairdo running along its spine. Since making a splashy stateside debut in the 1950s, Rhodesian ridgebacks have been on a steady popularity climb. The dog is a natural family protector and typically very gentle.

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#19. German Shorthaired Pointer

- 21-year rank change: +15
---2020 rank: #9
--- 1999 rank: #24

German shorthaired pointers aren’t just adorable, friendly, and eager to please; they’re also repeat-winners of Best in Show at the Westminster Dog Show. Bringing home the blue ribbon has certainly impacted the popularity of this smart breed, which has made the top 15 of AKC’s ranking system multiple years in a row.

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#18. Giant Schnauzer

- 21-year rank change: +16
---2020 rank: #67
--- 1999 rank: #83

Like coffee and clothes, schnauzers come in three distinct sizes: small, medium, and large. Giant schnauzers, towering over the miniature and standard varieties, were developed in 17th-century Germany in order to combine the intelligence of smaller schnauzers with a build suitable for working and herding cattle. The breed has also gained popularity through its use in the military. Like all military dogs, serving schnauzers are always one rank higher than their handlers.

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#17. Bull Terrier

- 21-year rank change: +16
---2020 rank: #64
--- 1999 rank: #80

It’s nearly impossible to mistake the bull terrier for any other breed. With its long, egg-shaped face and muscular build, the bull terrier is tough and strong, but also gentle and affectionate. Perhaps due to its striking appearance, this breed has also become a favorite in the fashion world.

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#16. Bulldog

- 21-year rank change: +16
---2020 rank: #5
--- 1999 rank: #21

The bulldog certainly knows how to pose for the camera, with that signature sour expression and lovable underbite. The bulldog’s muscular frame is the picture of toughness, but the breed is also incredibly docile and loves to snuggle. The popularity of bulldogs has skyrocketed in recent years.

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Pmuths1956 // Wikimedia Commons

#15. Pembroke Welsh Corgi

- 21-year rank change: +19
---2020 rank: #11
--- 1999 rank: #30

When a dog breed manages to remain a favorite of the British royal family for close to a century, it’s got to be something special. Enter the Pembroke Welsh corgi: happy, loving, and also just a little bit stubborn. The striking combination of this dog’s long body and tiny legs has also led to a corgi obsession on social media.

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#14. Cardigan Welsh Corgi

- 21-year rank change: +21
---2020 rank: #66
--- 1999 rank: #87

The Cardigan Welsh corgi is distinguished from the other variety of Welsh corgi by its coloring and long tail, and was once of such high value there were laws penalizing those who would harm or steal the dog. Cardigan Welsh corgis are intelligent, sometimes reserved toward strangers, and have become increasingly beloved, though not as popular as the Pembroke variety.

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#13. Miniature Bull Terrier

- 21-year rank change: +25
---2020 rank: #105
--- 1999 rank: #130

Those entering the world of miniature bull terrier ownership need to come prepared. According to the AKC, this breed combines “terrier fearlessness and feistiness with the mischievous antics of a clown.” For those prepared to handle it, this tiny and sturdy dog is a comic delight. Of course, a little publicity from Target hasn’t hurt.

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#12. Australian Shepherd

- 21-year rank change: +26
---2020 rank: #12
--- 1999 rank: #38

The Australian shepherd has no use for a lazy Sunday. Rather, this breed loves to be kept busy and does best with an owner who can allow plenty of time for games, training, and exercise. With a history of herding, the Australian shepherd today is an ideal family dog in a place with room to run. These dogs were made popular in the U.S. by California cowboys, and they’ve continued to make waves ever since.

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#11. Greater Swiss Mountain Dog

- 21-year rank change: +29
---2020 rank: #76
--- 1999 rank: #105

Like many other breeds on this list, the greater Swiss mountain dog was bred as an all-around working dog. While today this breed is often brought on as a family pet, this dog still very much enjoys having plenty to do. Greater Swiss mountain dogs are large, visually striking, confident, and gentle. They were once considered the most popular dog in Switzerland. The breed is now inching toward that milestone in the United States.

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enil // Wikicommons

#10. English Cocker Spaniel

- 21-year rank change: +30
---2020 rank: #47
--- 1999 rank: #77

The English cocker spaniel knows good hair. But there’s more to love about this little dog than its silky, flowing mane; these guys are also funny and great with children. It’s no wonder the English cocker spaniel seems to only grow in popularity.

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#9. Portuguese Water Dog

- 21-year rank change: +32
---2020 rank: #49
--- 1999 rank: #81

The Portuguese water dog was originally bred as a fisherman’s helper. The breed remains desirable today for its low-shedding coat and hypoallergenic status. Portuguese water dogs are great with children and love to socialize, making them perfect family additions. Two of the most famous dogs from this breed are Bo and Sunny, the Obamas’ pets who grew up in the White House.

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#8. Anatolian Shepherd Dog

- 21-year rank change: +33
---2020 rank: #85
--- 1999 rank: #118

Anatolian shepherd dogs are no fad: This ancient breed was depicted as far back as 2000 B.C. Many, many years later, Anatolian shepherd dogs are still profoundly protective, intelligent, and loving. While you won’t normally find this breed on the red carpet, they have been spotted multiple times on the big screen.

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AnetaAp // Wikimedia Commons

#7. Bernese Mountain Dog

- 21-year rank change: +37
---2020 rank: #22
--- 1999 rank: #59

The Bernese mountain dog is an ideal cuddling partner and is well known for protecting its human family. These dogs can appear—and often act—goofy, but they’re also known for having eyes in the back of their heads. Their loyalty to the pack, human and otherwise, is a signature of the breed.

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Tina creates // Wikimedia Commons

#6. Border Collie

- 21-year rank change: +38
---2020 rank: #32
--- 1999 rank: #70

The border collie was developed to help with herding livestock along the border of England and Scotland. The breed is still used for herding, but also makes a great choice of family dog. Border collies have endless energy and high intelligence, and may just try to herd children if there are no sheep in sight.

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#5. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

- 21-year rank change: +41
---2020 rank: #17
--- 1999 rank: #58

The Cavalier King Charles spaniel is a hefty, royal name for a tiny dog. The breed does have an undeniably elegant look in spite of its petite form, with a shiny coat and long, graceful ears. This snuggly and sweet breed has only been officially recognized by the AKC since 1995, but has more than made up for the late registration with ballooning popularity.

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#4. Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

- 21-year rank change: +59
---2020 rank: #63
--- 1999 rank: #122

The wirehaired pointing griffon may sound like a mythical creature straight out of “Harry Potter,” but in reality, it's an intelligent, energetic dog originally bred as a gun dog. This breed can be independent, but also takes well to training, and is easy to spot because of its unique coat.

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wim harwig // Wikimedia Commons

#3. Belgian Malinois

- 21-year rank change: +59
---2020 rank: #37
--- 1999 rank: #96

The Belgian Malinois is a serious dog whose intensity and intelligence make it a perfect choice for police work, drug detection, and rescue operations. This kind of bravery and agility has brought the breed plenty of attention in recent years, which in turn has made it an increasingly popular choice as the family pet. The Belgian Malinois is affectionate, easy to train, and makes a perfect guard dog and herder.

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#2. Havanese

- 21-year rank change: +69
---2020 rank: #24
--- 1999 rank: #93

The Havanese is the only dog breed native to Cuba, where it had been well loved for hundreds of years before its arrival in the United States in the early 1960s. The dog’s striking appearance has made it a growing sensation in the U.S. ever since. The lively, social energy, and small size of this breed make it an ideal choice for city dwellers.

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#1. French bulldog

Charming, sociable, and photogenic, the French Bulldog has been steadily and swiftly growing in popularity for the past 20 years. But the breed goes way back: A small Bulldog became popular in England in the mid-19th century before crossing into France, where it was mixed with other breeds to create the distinct bat ears and French bulldog we recognize today. In 2020, the ACK's list of most popular purebreds showed the French bulldog may soon take the #1 spot away from Labs, as it reached #2, and its popularity shows no signs of slowing down.

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