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The American Kennel Club’s Rising Dog Breeds

Written by Ella White


white poodle

Each year, the American Kennel Club (AKC) reveals the most popular dog breeds in the USA – all the way through to the 197th most rare breed. In 2021, the Labrador Retriever took the top spot for the 31st year in a row, while the Norwegian Lundehund, of which there were only 6 in the 1960s, is the rarest in 197th place.

In fact, the top five spots on AKC’s list often appear to be relatively similar. What’s interesting to note is the breeds that move up and down the list. Which is why we’ve taken a look at the AKC’s rising dog breeds from 2021, and the reeds that have become more popular in the last year.

So if you’re considering introducing a new dog to the family, one of these rising stars of the AKC Most Popular Dog Breeds of 2021 might be the perfect choice.

The top 10 most popular breeds in 2021, according to the AKC, were:

  1. Labrador Retrievers
  2. French Bulldogs
  3. Golden Retrievers
  4. German Shepherd Dogs
  5. Poodles
  6. Bulldogs
  7. Beagles
  8. Rottweilers
  9. German Shorthaired Pointers
  10. Dachshunds

Right now, more families have dogs than children. So it’s no surprise to see such a wide range of dog groups – from working to toy to hounds – at the top of the list. Compared to 2020, when the pandemic saw a boost in new dog ownership, most of the top 10 popular breeds have remained the same. 

Despite the mostly-unchanging top 10, throughout the top breeds list here are some that have been rising through the ranks.


White poodle

For the first time since 1997, Poodles have secured a spot in the top five most popular dog breeds. Moving up one spot since 2020, there are plenty of reasons that families might look to the loyal and intelligent Poodle as a new addition to their home.

Their smart, alert nature makes them easy to train and trustworthy in their behavior. They also love a cuddle and will happily spend hours at their owner’s side on the sofa, or warming your feet as you work. And since their beautiful curly fur is hypoallergenic they make a brilliant choice for families that suffer with allergies but just can’t be without a pet.

Biewer Terriers

Biewer Terriers playing on grass

Not just new to the top 100 but new to the AKC list altogether, the Biewer Terrier (pronounced beaver) was officially recognised by the AKC in January 2021. Which makes it all the more impressive that they scored the #83 most popular spot in the same year.

The adorable toy dog was originally bred in Germany in the 1980s by Werner and Gertrud Biewer who began breeding tri-color Yorkshire Terriers. They were first imported to the USA in 2003 and it took 18 years for them to be officially recognised. This adaptable terrier loves to spend time outside and is very active for a small pup, making them a great fit for equally active families.

Belgian Malinois 

Belgian Malinois running at camera

Ranking at #36 this year is the Belgian Malinois, who have only moved up one rank since 2020, but have secured this spot following an impressive move from #60 in 2014. This shows that the European herding dog is likely to keep moving up as one of the most popular pets in America.

The Belgian Malinois has a strong working nature that means they need plenty of mental and physical stimulation. Aesthetically, they look similar to a German Shepherd but with a brown body and black markings on the face. The Mal adores their owners, so with the right dedication you can expect a whip-smart, loyal, and affectionate companion.

Field Spaniels

Field Spaniels

Another rising star of the list is the Field Spaniel, who still sits within the rarest 61 breeds but has made an impressive move up 24 places in 2021. Like most spaniels, the Field Spaniel is docile, loyal, and dedicated to their owners. 

Playful, intelligent, and hard-working, the Field Spaniel makes a brilliant family pet – as great as any other breed of spaniel, if you ask us. They have beautiful long fur, longer ears, and soft eyes that show off their kind, docile nature. Just don’t deprive your spaniel of activity. They thrive when they can join in with all the fun your family has to offer.

Cane Corso

Cane Corso

The loyal and majestic Cane Corso moved up five spots to #21 in 2021. A true guardian, the Cane Corso’s name is thought to come from the Latin 'bodyguard’ and the breed’s lineage can be traced back to the ancient Romans.

Though intelligent, affectionate, and easy to train, the Cane Corso is not a beginner’s dog breed. They’re wilful and determined and can run rings around an inexperienced owner that doesn’t know how to secure their spot as pack leader. That said, Cane Corso’s can make a loving and dedicated member of an active family that can commit the time the dog needs to exercise and play time.