October 28, 2018
Giant, miniature, shaggy, spotted — everyone has a favorite type of dog. And the American Kennel Club has tracked the most popular dog breed in the United States going back more than 100 years. Find out which breed was top dog each decade.
1880: ENGLISH SETTER
- Runners-up (from second to 10th place): Irish setter, pointer, Irish water spaniel, Gordon setter, beagle, collie, fox terrier, dachshund, mastiff
The AKC was founded in 1884, and during that time the English setter was the country’s favorite dog breed. The 1880s were the only decade in which English setters were top dog, and they fell out of the top 10 entirely after the 1910s. The breed originated roughly 400 years ago in — you guessed it — England, where spaniel and pointer dogs were crossed to create a reliable hunting dog. English setters tend to be friendly and mellow, and they’ll wow you with their flowing coats.
1890: SAINT BERNARD
- Runners-up (from second to 10th place): English setter, pointer, collie, fox terrier, cocker spaniel, Irish setter, beagle, Great Dane, bull terrier
The Saint Bernard is the only giant breed ever to take the No. 1 spot, and it interestingly never appeared in the top 10 again after the 1890s. Saint Bernards weigh roughly between 120 and 180 pounds, yet they’re truly gentle giants. The intelligent and friendly breed is known for its role in rescue missions, as well as keeping a patient and watchful eye on children.
- Runners-up (from second to 10th place): Boston terrier, English setter, bull terrier, pointer, cocker spaniel, bulldog, Airedale terrier, beagle, Irish terrier
Although Lassie wasn’t even born yet, collies were the most popular breed in the U.S. at the turn of the century. Despite taking the top spot way back in the 1900s, these devoted dogs are still the favorites of many. They’re not only athletic and intelligent, but incredibly loyal and make great family pets.
1910: BOSTON TERRIER
- Runners-up (from second to 10th place): Airedale terrier, collie, beagle, bulldog, French bulldog, English setter, cocker spaniel, Pekingese, bull terrier
As the most popular dog of the 1910s, the Boston terrier became the only breed that originated in the United States to take the top spot. A Bostonian (of course) crossed an English bulldog with a white English terrier, a now-extinct breed, to create the Boston terrier. And in 1979, Massachusetts named the Boston terrier its official state dog.
1920: GERMAN SHEPHERD
- Runners-up (from second to 10th place): Boston terrier, chow chow, Pekingese, fox terrier, collie, beagle, Airedale terrier, cocker spaniel, bulldog
The loyal and courageous German shepherd gained steam in the late 1920s to take the decade’s top spot. It didn’t appear in the top 10 again until after World War II, but it’s been a staple on the list ever since. Originally a herding dog, this intelligent breed has proven it’s also highly trainable as a service and police dog.
1930: BOSTON TERRIER
- Runners-up (from second to 10th place): Cocker spaniel, fox terrier, Scottish terrier, beagle, Pekingese, chow chow, English springer spaniel, Pomeranian, bulldog
The Boston terrier regained its spot as leader of the pack in the 1930s. Notably, only small- and medium-sized dogs graced the top 10 during this decade. This likely was because people found it easier to care for a smaller dog during the Great Depression.
1940: COCKER SPANIEL
- Runners-up (from second to 10th place): Beagle, Boston terrier, collie, boxer, dachshund, Pekingese, fox terrier, English springer spaniel, Scottish terrier
In the early 1940s, a cocker spaniel won the American Kennel Club’s Best in Show title, bolstering the breed’s popularity across the country. It actually was the No. 1 dog from 1936 to 1952, and this wouldn’t be the last time it held that title.
- Runners-up (from second to 10th place): Cocker spaniel, boxer, Chihuahua, dachshund, German shepherd, poodle, collie, Boston terrier, Pekingese
In 1950, a funny little beagle named Snoopy appeared on the scene. And beagles have Charles Schultz to thank for their skyrocketing popularity during the decade. These lovable, happy dogs enjoy people and playtime, especially if it involves using their noses.
- Runners-up (from second to 10th place): German shepherd, beagle, dachshund, Chihuahua, Pekingese, collie, miniature schnauzer, cocker spaniel, basset hound
Well before everyone wanted a goldendoodle, dog lovers shot poodles to the No. 1 spot in the 1960s. Fun fact: According to the AKC, the word “poodle” comes from the German “pudel” or “pudelin,” meaning “to splash in the water.” And poodles large and small certainly make a splash when they enter a room.
- Runners-up (from second to 10th place): German shepherd, Doberman pinscher, beagle, dachshund, Irish setter, cocker spaniel, miniature schnauzer, Labrador retriever, collie
Poodles hung on to their crown in the 1970s, officially reigning as the most popular dog breed from 1960 to 1982. And with their intelligence, athleticism and trainability, it’s easy to see why people fell in love with the breed. Also notable about the decade was the first appearance of the Labrador retriever, which would go on to have quite a reign itself.
1980: COCKER SPANIEL
- Runners-up (from second to 10th place): Poodle, Labrador retriever, German shepherd, golden retriever, Doberman pinscher, beagle, miniature schnauzer, dachshund, chow chow
It was 1940 all over again in the 1980s, as the cocker spaniel once again held the No. 1 spot. As the smallest member of the AKC’s Sporting Group, these dogs are gentle and sweet, but also energetic athletes. Also of note this decade, Labradors gained in popularity, and the golden retriever made the top 10 for the first time.
1990: LABRADOR RETRIEVER
- Runners-up (from second to 10th place): Rottweiler, German shepherd, golden retriever, cocker spaniel, poodle, beagle, dachshund, Yorkshire terrier, Pomeranian
In the 1990s, the Labrador retriever took the top dog crown and hasn’t given it up since. Friendly and outgoing, Labs make great family dogs and are always up for playtime. Ironically, the breed originated in Newfoundland, not Labrador, Canada, and British breeders also helped to refine the dogs.
2000: LABRADOR RETRIEVER
- Runners-up (from second to 10th place): German shepherd, golden retriever, beagle, bulldog, Yorkshire terrier, boxer, poodle, Rottweiler, dachshund
In the 2000s and through present day, the Labrador retriever still is going strong as the No. 1 dog breed in the United States. Bred to be waterdogs, Labs are athletic and dependable. They’re easygoing in that they get along with most people and animals, yet they do need a lot of exercise to keep them both mentally and physically fit. Only time will tell whether these lovable Labs hang on to their crown for another decade.
Main image credit: JaneFaizullin/Thinkstock