Find Your Perfect Canine Companion

Consult our breed index to discover the best dog for you

Terri Horsford is a qualified dog trainer and behaviourist, resident at Cotswold Dogs boarding kennels in Gloucestershire. She trained with celebrity dog trainer, Steve Mann, and has studied mammal psychology, behaviour and learning. She gives us her inside knowledge on the most popular breeds in the UK right now.

Pug

Description

The Pug is a small, stocky, muscular dog with one of the shortest muzzles among dog species. They have short, thick, soft coats that usually come in fawn or black, with the fawn dogs having little black faces. They stand at 30 - 35cm and weigh up to 11kg.

History

Pugs first arrived in the UK from China in the 16th century. They quickly gained popularity, probably down to being owned and bred by The Stuarts. In those days they had longer legs and leaner bodies. They are shorter and squatter today but more popular than ever. It is believed that Pug bloodlines contributed to the founding of breeds like the King Charles Cavalier and The Bull Dog.

Life Expectancy

11 - 13 years

Do I Want One?

A Pug is a huge, comical personality wrapped up in a small package. They are extremely playful and love children. Aggression issues are very rare. Pugs don’t need hours of walking, but it’s good to remember that they are prone to weight gain, so the right amount of exercise and a healthy diet is important.

They snore loudly, as having short snouts means that breathing is somewhat compromised. The elongated palate that comes with this snout shape is also the cause of 'reverse sneezing'. This can be brought on by excitement and will cause them to snort and gasp in a very pig-like fashion. It's not harmful and can be eased by gently stroking the throat or blocking the nose. The wrinkles on their face will need cleaning and drying on a regular basis to prevent infections and skin disorders. 

Unfortunately almost 65% of Pugs suffer from hip dysplasia due to a relatively small gene pool, despite long standing popularity in the UK. Coupled with the face shape of this breed, the list of possible health issues is long. Pugs are better urban dogs and not suited to long country walks. They do shed hair all year round so perhaps matching your carpet to your dog is a good idea. 

 

Labrador Retriever

Description

A medium sized dog, weighing 25 - 35kg and standing around 55 - 60cm plus. The Labrador has a strong, athletic build. They have a short, dense coat that can be yellow, fox red, chocolate or black.

History

They come from Labrador in Canada where their ancestor, the St Johns Water Dog, retrieved fishing nets from the sea. They became the breed they are today in the 1800s, in large part, thanks to the Earl of Malmesbury. They are now the most popular breed in the world.

Life Expectancy

12 - 14 years

Do I Want One? 

Labs are comfortable and relaxed in both town and country but do need to be kept busy: retrieving, climbing, exploring and problem solving. This love of running around and play (to the point of obsession) means that exercise-induced collapse is fairly common. Labs love to eat and obesity can be a problem in the breed, so food needs to be carefully controlled and they need at least an hour of exercise a day.  

It should also be noted that Black Labs can, occasionally, be a little aggressive towards other dogs or a bit more of a handful than the other colours. However, there aren't many breeds more blindly loving and loyal than the Labrador Retriever. They like to be around people, so leaving them alone daily is distressing for them; expect anxiety chewing if you do. Labradors are highly intelligent and eager to please making them incredibly easy to train. They thrive in a busy family environment and are also gentle and patient with children. They make excellent family pets.

 

Cocker Spaniel

Description

The Cocker Spaniel is a sturdy, compact gun dog with a medium length, silky coat. They have 'lobula' ears, sometimes with a head tuft. There is a huge variation in coat colours including black, liver, red, golden, sable, silver, black and tan, orange and of course the roans, as well as countless variations and combinations of the above. They stand at 38 - 41cm and, generally, weigh from 22 - 25kg.

History

Cockers, as they are now, are divided into working (or field) dogs and show dogs with slightly different breed standards for each. Show Cockers tend to be heavier set and less agile with longer hair. There is also an English and an American version of the breed. These Spaniels (as we know them today) did not start to take shape until the 1860s. Since then, and the formation of the Kennel Club around the same time, they have won the coveted 'Best In Show' prize more times than any other breed.

Life Expectancy

10 – 12 years

Do I Want One?

Cocker spaniels are alert, intelligent, fun, exuberant and friendly. They make excellent family pets, but do tend to bond very strongly with one person in the household (often the person who feeds them). On the whole they are good with children, strangers and other pets. They are emotionally sensitive souls who live for relationships and do not do well left alone or kept outside. They are also easily upset by angry shouting and arguing. 

Spaniels can thrive both in rural and urban areas, as long as they are given sufficient exercise. There can be problems with their long ears and as such they should be cleaned and checked for mites and infection on a regular basis. A trip to a grooming parlour every 6 to 8 weeks will help with this.

 

Springer Spaniel

Description

The Springer Spaniel is one of the most clearly divided breeds, with a great difference in appearance and intelligence depending on whether it is a show dog or a field dog. They are both medium sized and come in black or liver with white markings or white with black or liver markings. The likeness ends there, as the working field Spaniel is more athletic and finer than the show version. They are bred for intelligence, trainability and their nose. The show Springer is bred for stature and coat length and texture. Field dogs tend to have slightly shorter, rougher coats as a result and a finer head with considerably shorter, squarer ears. Springers can stand at 42cm up to 52cm and weigh anything between 15kg and 25kg.

History

Although Spaniel-type dogs have been around for 500 years or more, many sub-breeds were developed in the mid 19th century. At this time, Springer Spaniels and Cocker Spaniels could come from the same litter and were selected after birth according to size and character. The smaller dogs were used for hunting Woodcock and the larger dogs were used for flushing prey into the path of a hawk or a gun, known as 'springing'. 

Life Expectancy

10 - 15 years

Do I Want One?

Springer Spaniels are extremely affectionate and make brilliant family dogs. They bond with other pets and most will enjoy playing with children. They are very bright and do need to be physically and mentally exercised every day or they can become extremely destructive; raiding bins, chewing door frames, scratching walls, or digging holes in the sofa.

They are slightly better suited to the countryside as they need the space. They also love to swim and will hurl themselves into water at any opportunity. Keeping a towel in your car is a basic necessity for any Springer owner. Researching health issues and any types of screening needed is a very good idea if you are thinking of getting one, as there are a few congenital traits with the breed. Springer Spaniels' willingness to learn makes them very trainable. 

 

German Shepherd

Description

German Shepherds are large dogs with a beautiful double coat. It has a soft, fine undercoat and a longer, coarser top coat. Mostly, they are tan with a black 'saddle' marking on their back and a black nose, but they also come in sable, all black and all white. They have strong bodies and large pointed ears that usually stand up. With females starting at around 55cm and males growing up to 65cm it's no surprise they can weigh anything from 22-40kg.

History

Up until 1850 this dog was found all over Germany as a pasture dog. For many generations the dogs had been selectively bred from local gene pools, which resulted in significant differences in the breed from village to village. The Phylax Society formed and set about standardising the breed but failed due to disagreements over the required traits. They were eventually standardised by an ex member of the society, Max Von Stephanitz, and named 'German Shepherds'. After WW1 the name was changed to Alsatian. 

Life Expectancy

9 – 13 years

Do I Want One?

German Shepherds are very obedient, making them easy to train. They need to be kept busy mentally and physically. If socialised properly, German Shepherds can be good with children and other dogs (although they aren't always tolerant of little dogs).

They are prone to territorial behaviour and can develop an alpha complex quite easily if not kept in check. For this reason they do make good guard dogs, but it’s also good to know there is a risk of biting and they are often willing to do so. As long as you have the time to put into training and socialisation you'll have the best friend in the world. If you don't you will have a big, unruly wolf ruling the roost.

German Shepherds can also suffer from hip dysplasia, which can lead to severe arthritis early in life. It's vital to check your puppy's posture as well as the mother's. If the father is not around you should ask for his hip score to be on the safe side.

When they are healthy and well, movement is never an issue. They will play and run for hours, so a large garden is essential. They need at least an hour and a half of exercise each day. The coat sheds twice a year, but good grooming will keep hair at bay.

 

Golden Retriever

Description

Golden Retrievers are relatively large dogs. They have square, dished heads and medium-sized hanging ears. Their coats have two layers: the undercoat is very short and fine whilst the topcoat is water repellent, longer and silky looking, with feathering on the ears, underbelly and tail. Colouring ranges from pale cream through to a deep gold. They stand between 50-60cm tall at the withers and can weigh 25-35kg. 

History

Known these days as Goldens, this gun dog originated in the Scottish Highlands where they were bred in the 1800s by Lord Tweedmouth. He crossed various hunting dogs with the now extinct Tweedmouth Water Spaniel to create the Golden Retriever. They are famous for having 'soft mouths' which enables them to carry delicate objects, like birds and eggs without damaging them in any way.

Life Expectancy

10 – 12 years

Do I Want One?

Goldens are extremely obedient, calm and patient, so they are great with children, particularly if they are raised with them. They are also friendly with strangers, so as a result make terrible guard dogs. Golden Retrievers are extremely intelligent and all this brain power means they can get bored easily (like their close relative the Labrador) and will chew things if they have nothing to occupy them. A fenced garden is required as they do like to wander and they need to be walked or played with for 2 to 3 hours a day to help prevent this from happening. They will be happy in either a flat in town or in a country house, as long as they receive the required daily stimulation and exercise. Unfortunately Cancer is a much-encountered disease and weight gain is also some thing to look out for as Goldens rarely have fussy appetites.

 

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