UK’s most popular puppy breeds revealed: where does your dog rank?

As a new study shows rising popularity of French bulldogs and cockapoos, vets issue warning of health problems associated with “designer” breeds.

The French bulldog and cockapoo have become the UK’s favourite breeds of puppy, overtaking the lovable labrador, according to a new study from the Royal Veterinary College (RVC).

Mixed breeds remain the most popular dog, making up a quarter of the canine population in the UK. And while the labrador retriever hangs on as the most popular breed of any age, when it comes to puppies under 12 months, so-called “designer” dogs are rising in numbers, with the French bulldog making up 7% of new pups and the cockapoo not far behind on 6.2%.

group of puppies purebred dogs on a tableCredit: Shutterstock / cynoclub

Today’s study, created as part of the RVC’s VetCompass series, states that the figures demonstrate that some owners are demanding more exaggerated body shapes in their dogs, such as the French bulldog’s big ears, as well as a shift away from traditional breeds that have been popular for more than 100 years.

The cockapoo’s place on the list reflects a growing trend for poodle crosses such as the cavapoo and labradoodle which owners believe trigger fewer allergies, but they can come with a higher price tag.

Nearly a third of adults now own a dog, according to figures from the PDSA and there are 11 million of them around – which is slightly higher than cat ownership (29% vs 24%). Four million of these dogs have been bought or adopted since March 2020, with Covid lockdown fuelling the pet boom.

Top puppies in the UK 2023 (after crossbreeds, which make up 20%)

  1. French bulldog (7%)
  2. Cockapoo (6.2%)
  3. Labrador retriever (5.8%)
  4. English cocker spaniel (4.7%)
  5. Chihuahua (4.2%)

Top dogs across all ages (after crossbreeds)

  1. Labrador retriever (6.9%)
  2. Jack Russell terrier (4.5%)
  3. English cocker spaniel (4.3%)
  4. Staffordshire bull terrier (4.2%)
  5. Chihuahua (3.6%)

Source: RVC VetCompass study, July 2023

How does this compare with ten years ago?

  1. Labrador retriever
  2. Cocker spaniel
  3. English springer spaniel
  4. German shepherd
  5. Pug

Source: Figures for 2013 from the Kennel Club

This new study raises concerns of a substantial risk to health if a breed has an extreme body shape, with the popular French bulldog cited as carrying a high risk of serious health issues including breathing difficulties, eye, skin and spinal problems which are linked to their flat face, short spine and lack of tail.

Dr Dan O’Neill, Associate Professor in Companion Animal Epidemiology at the RVC, who’s the lead author of the paper said: “With 800 dog breeds available in the UK, this VetCompass study shows there are still plenty of healthy breeds to choose from that do not suffer from extreme body shapes such as flat faces, skin folds or absent tails.

“Despite this, many UK owners are still persuaded by social influences and trends into acquiring dogs with extreme body shapes that are likely to result in serious health issues during much of their dogs’ lives. The advice is to stop and think before buying a dog with an extreme body shape.”

Smiling French bulldog with its tongue out.Credit: Shutterstock / CraneBird Studios
The French bulldog is the most popular puppy in the UK this year.

If you’re thinking of getting a dog, adoption is a great choice and, as Victoria Phillips, a vet at Dogs Trust believes, you should base your decision on a whole lot more than just cuteness.

“When deciding which breed is right for you, it’s important to make sure you do your research properly and understand the needs of the individual dog rather than simply basing your decision on what they look like. For example, dogs traditionally used in working roles, such as a German shepherd or border collie, will require a lot of exercise and stimulation,” she told Saga Exceptional.

“Dogs Trust encourages people to do their research to understand any health issues common within a breed and what treatment this may need throughout the dog’s life. We’re seeing an increase in the number of popular ‘flat-faced’ breeds being handed over, such as French bulldogs. These breeds can often experience more health problems and can require expensive treatments or surgical interventions.”

Smiling labrador dog in the city parkCredit: Shutterstock / sanjagrujic
The Labrador retriever remains the most popular dog across all ages.

And as adorable as puppies are, if you’re not sure if you have the time and energy to train one, adopting an older dog could be a better – and kinder – option. 

“While people are often drawn to puppies and younger dogs, there are many advantages to welcoming an older dog into your life,” says Phillips. “Most are used to living in a home, understand basic commands and are more than ready to settle straight back into enjoying their home comforts.

“When you adopt a new canine companion through Dogs Trust, our team will help to match you with the right dog for your family and lifestyle, and our post adoption team provide ongoing support for the lifetime of your dog.”

Hannah Verdier

Written by Hannah Verdier


Hannah Verdier writes about fitness, health, relationships, podcasts, TV and the joy of reinventing yourself at 50 and beyond. She’s a graduate of teenage music bible Smash Hits and has a side hustle as a fitness trainer who shows people who hated PE at school how to love exercise.

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