Rottweilers originally worked as drover dogs that drove the cattle to market. That required athleticism and toughness — “you have to take a hoof in the chest every once in a while,” as he noted.
“Here’s my fun fact about rotties: the owners of the dogs, when they sold cattle in the market, put their purses with the money around the neck of the rottweiler. Nobody’s going to take that from the rottweiler,” he said.
But Frei hopes people won’t get a rottweiler for the sake of seeming macho.
“If you need a macho dog to show you’re macho, you aren’t macho,” he said.
No. 9 — German Shorthaired Pointer
Active people are often fans of the German shorthaired pointer because the dogs are so energetic and can be terrific running partners and hunting companions. With their webbed feet and water-repellent coat, they’re also fantastic swimmers.
“We call German shorthaired pointers the SUV of sporting dogs because they can do it all,” Frei quipped. “They’re smart; they’re athletic. If you’ve got a German shorthaired pointer, you’d better be ready to go for long walks or runs every day if they need that.”
No. 10 — Dachshund
Dachshunds come in different sizes and with three coat varieties — smooth-haired, wire-haired and long-haired — but they’re instantly recognizable by the public as charming “wiener dogs.” (Fun fact: With a wink to hot dogs, “Saturday Night Live” star Kenan Thompson had a beloved wiener dog named Nathan.)
“They’re all going to be long, low and level,” Frei said. “They have a lot of terrier personality in them. They were bred to hunt badgers and probably other ‘bad guys,’ so they have a certain fearless temperament about them. They’re tough, little, solid dogs.”
No. 11 — Pembroke Welsh Corgi
Pembroke Welsh corgis are good enough for a queen — literally. Queen Elizabeth II surrounded herself with the stout little dogs. The internet loves them too, including their “butts” with the docked tails, which you’ll find emblazoned on T-shirts, hats and even sticking out from the inside of coffee cups.
California resident and dog writer Elaine Gewirtz says her corgi, Midge, is a character — just like most corgis you’ll meet.
“They’re not a breed that just sits and looks at you,” she told TODAY.
Corgis excel at dog sports like agility and home pastimes like cuddling. The bright, intuitive dogs also love to make friends with people and other dogs, and are typically fascinated by what’s going on around them, she added.
No. 12 — Australian Shepherd
Hiking trails, particularly in the West, often teem with Australian shepherds since they are so athletic. As a herding breed, Aussies are bred for stamina, so they’re adept on ranches and for long treks outside. They’re also fiercely intelligent. Be ready to offer plenty of training and exercise.
No. 13 — Yorkshire Terrier
The Yorkshire terrier — recognizable by that long, luxurious coat — typically weighs in at just 7 pounds. But the Yorkie’s diminutive size doesn’t denote a small personality. In fact, the AKC’s breed standard includes, “The dog’s high head carriage and confident manner should give the appearance of vigor and self-importance.”
No. 14 — Boxer
Boxers have a face that tends to bring a smile to ours. Plus, they’re playful, smart and affectionate; as the American Boxer Club notes, “The Boxer’s most notable characteristic is his desire for human affection.”
No. 15 — Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
People love Cavalier King Charles spaniels not only for their sweet, “lap-loving personalities” but also because they are multipurpose dogs, according to Kim Campbell Thornton, a dog writer and editor — and Cavalier enthusiast.
“They’re happy to do dog sports, go on a hike or to the beach, or just be a couch potato with you. Whatever you want to do, they’re game,” she told TODAY. “Finally, their size makes them great travelers, which is important with so many people taking their dogs on trips with them these days.”
No. 16 — Doberman Pinscher
The Doberman pinscher can have a fearsome reputation. But the dog “of yesterday’s scary movies” is still protective but now also a fun-loving athletic dog and “discerning companion,” according to the Doberman Pinscher Club of America.
The intelligent dogs also boast qualities like fearlessness, loyalty and an energetic nature. As with all dogs, socialization and positive training is key.
No. 17 — Great Dane
“My running joke about the Great Dane is that my parents never got me a pony as a kid, so my Danes fill that purpose,” Colorado resident Susan Kohut told TODAY.
Kohut has adopted four Great Danes from rescue organizations. (Purebred dogs can wind up in local shelters, and there are more than 450 AKC Rescue Network groups across the country.) She loves them for being goofy, silly, loyal and adaptable. Her current Dane, Eloise, will happily hike for 6 miles, but if the weather isn’t nice, she’s fine with a short walk and then a cuddle up on the couch.
No. 18 — Miniature Schnauzer
The miniature schnauzer’s beard makes the breed instantly recognizable — plus, they don’t shed much.
The spunky dogs are highly recommended for families with children by the AKC, which lists other positive attributes as being bright, friendly, trainable and fearless without aggression.
No. 19 — Siberian Husky
There’s no question that Siberian huskies are head turners — but they’re more than just a pretty face.
Colorado resident Heather Mundt, a freelance writer and family travel expert, said she and her husband got their first husky in 1997 and fell in love with the breed’s love of exercise. (She was quick to mention that this affinity can make them “monsters” without enough of it and that they bore easily).
“Huskies are always ready for a run or hike, so they’re great adventurers. They’re also beautiful but willful. Which means they’re tough to train. But I adore them, and they’ve always been great with kids,” she told TODAY. “The two we have now, Boris and Tasha, are pandemic rescues, and I was reluctant to get them because I hate losing my pets. But I’m so glad to have huskies in my life again because they are so entertaining. Plus I joke they’re my favorite children now that my boys are teens. At least the dogs are glad to see me.”
No. 20 — Bernese Mountain Dog
Driving through Switzerland — and in the city of Bern — you’ll see images of the Bernese mountain dog on postcards and souvenirs. It’s only natural that the Swiss would feel pride in the gentle giants known for being affectionate, hardy, strong, intelligent, even-tempered and eager to please.
Here’s a complete list of rankings of the top 197 dog breeds.
Choosing the right dog for you
Before bringing home any dog, it’s important to realize what you’re getting into and learn about the care a dog will need, such as training. As Frei mentioned, “They aren’t born with an obedience degree.”
It’s also crucial to work with responsible breeders whose motivation is to preserve the best traits of a breed and perform health checks, rather than backyard breeders just looking to profit, he added.
“Responsible purebred dog breeders — heritage breeders — are fighting to keep some of these breeds alive. Not just to keep the breed alive, which they are in a lot of cases, but to make sure that the best of those traits in those breeds come forth,” he said. “They’re going to be a lifetime member of your family.”
So choose that family member carefully and bear in mind that the most popular dogs might not be the right pets for everyone.