When it comes to the most popular dog breeds, we all know the usual suspects — but what we don’t always see on our TVs and the big screen are the lesser-known breeds. But no matter which breed you choose, dogs will always be man’s best friend and will always be our great companions. In this article, we share some of the least popular dog breeds in the United States and why you should consider having one or two for your home.
What Makes a Dog Popular or Unpopular?
While we shouldn’t love one breed more than another, it’s part of human nature to play favorites, and with over 200 registered dog breeds, some of them will inevitably sink to the bottom. There are a wide range of factors that play a role in a breed’s popularity or lack of it, which include the following:
- Maintenance needs
However, name recognition is arguably the most important, which is probably why retrievers, labradors, and bulldogs are consistently among the most popular. Another reason why some breeds are less popular than others is access — less common or newer breeds won’t have many reputable breeders. Because of these factors, many breeds are hidden in the shadows of all the dogs we often see in movies and shows, but they are nevertheless good dogs that can offer us the love and friendship we need.
The Least Popular Dog Breeds
Whether you want a unique pet or are looking for an exotic addition to your family, below are some of the least popular dog breeds in the country.
American Foxhounds serves as the state dog of Virginia, where they worked as a hunting breed — thanks to their keen sense of smell, they are also valuable members in search-and-rescue missions. These old dogs were first developed using dogs given to American colonies. Today, they can be great family dogs that do well with children; some have even learned to walk by holding onto these dogs’ tails.
These dogs boast two unusual characteristics which makes them the best dogs for sniffing out puffins. Interestingly, these pups come with 6 toes on their feet, which seems to be an evolutionary adaptation for navigating slippery rocks. Moreover, they can fold their ears shut to keep them protected from water while also helping them crawl inside puffin burrows.
American Eskimo Dog
It’s strange to see that one of the most trainable dogs in the world is one of the least popular — the American Eskimo dog is the first to learn how to walk on a tightrope, building its reputation as a circus dog. You won’t need to train your pooch tricks for the circus, but this breed is more than capable of learning your commands, making them great pets to have around. This breed comes in three different sizes, known as the standard, miniature, and toy.
American Hairless Terrier
This breed is the first of its kind in the United States, and like its name suggests, it’s completely free from hair. The American Hairless Terrier is hypoallergenic which means it can be a good addition to families with allergies. However, it will require something that most dogs don’t, which is sunscreen for summer and sweaters for winter.
This dog is the favorite companion of Tibetan monks, and will often accompany them during meditative walks or in bed to keep them warm at night. Tibetan Spaniels are alert and watchful of their owners when someone approaches their territory but this is how far their assertiveness goes. They are known to be kind and gentle, which can make them a great fit for families.
Miniature Bull Terrier
This small breed stands between 10 and 14 inches and is known for its silly and energetic nature. They can become excellent companions but will need patient and diligent training — they can become good watchdogs and can even be qualified for protection work despite their tiny size. While they have a mischievous and inquisitive nature that will often get them into trouble, if you exercise them regularly, they can become a well-behaved house pets.
Dandie Dinmont Terrier
These tiny dogs are known for their prominent hairstyles along with their mild-mannered nature. Although they’re very loving dogs, the Dandie Dinmont Terrier can also be stubborn, which means they’ll need a patient and assertive owner. Fortunately, they’re not stubborn and are much calmer compared to other terrier breeds so they can be great pets for children.
This scent hound is a relentless hunter once it sniffs out some game to hunt but can be just as happy to laze around for the day. These dogs can become quite big, where males can reach around 27 inches tall and weigh 80 pounds. Thankfully, there are plenty of exercises and activities that you can do to prevent it from becoming loud and destructive in your home.
This breed won the first-ever AKC herding championship — this says a lot about this breed’s stamina and work ethic. They are bright and loving dogs that can form protective and strong bonds with their family, constantly working for your love and affection. Apart from being great pets, they are also superior working dogs that have worked alongside Belgium’s police force.
Black Russian Terrier
This breed is relatively new to the U.S. and has only been here since the 1980s but before making its way here, they were put to work in the Soviet military. These dogs are calm and are protective of little ones in their families, but because they’re such large dogs, they’re more suited for older children. They are also known to be loyal, loving, and hardworking but might not be the best choice for first-time owners since they can get excited easily.
Polish Lowland Sheepdog
The Polish Lowland Sheepdog has a reputation for being a hero of World War II — one of these dogs was believed to warn people in Warsaw when bombs would drop, ensuring that people escaped. Today, these pups thrive in any job they do thanks to their trainable attitude and eagerness to please. Just keep in mind that they can be stubborn, dominating, and suspicious of strangers, so early socialization and training are highly recommended.
These pups were among the first breeds of dogs registered in the country back in 1878. The Gordon Setter is the largest and rarest of the setters, and is likely to get along with everyone in your family, including your cats. However, their rarity may make it difficult for you to find a trustworthy breeder.
Parson Russell Terrier
Back in 2003, the Parson Russell terrier was recognized as a separate breed from their more popular cousins, the Jack Russell. While both breeds share high stamina and energy, this dog has a wonderful zest for life and is always ready to play. These dogs are affectionate, playful, and fun-loving, making them a great addition to families as a loyal companion.
The Norwegian Buhund is an ancient breed that was once known as the Vikings’ dog and has been recorded to participate in their many battles. This medium-sized dog is hardworking and is always available to care for their family and the farm. As part of the family, they are affectionate, smart, steadfast, and devoted but can be talkative, while their lush coats will need a lot of maintenance to keep them healthy.
Entlebucher Mountain Dog
The Entlebucher Mountain Dog will often be found working around Switzerland’s mountains where they come from. They are cousins of the Bernese mountain dog, and share some of their traits, so they can be hard to tell apart. These dogs can be a good fit for families with older children, but they may also take time to warm up to strangers due to their protective nature.
The Japanese Chin comes with a size and temperament that makes them great for families and people living in solitude. While they are active dogs, they can easily fit in a home or apartment setting — they’re generally quiet dogs and are easy to train. If you’re after an entertaining and loyal companion, then this dog might just be for you.
These dogs have a history that spans centuries and continents which makes it hard to determine their exact root. They did, however, get their name from Chinese sailors back in the 14th century before they were traded throughout the world, according to the American Kennel Club. But even with their mysterious origins, they come with a cheerful disposition that allows them to do well with most families, as well as other pets and kids.
The Tibetan Terrier is a gentle, yet highly intelligent breed that can be sky and reserved around new people. They are also playful, affectionate, and intelligent dogs that can make wonderful family pets, plus, they have a long history as good luck symbols. Dogs of this breed are able to adapt to a wide range of homes and lifestyles and love spending time with people.
Because they’re not a well-known breed, the Norwegian Elkhound is often overlooked as a good family dog, although their high prey drive won’t make them suitable for homes with smaller pets. They are intelligent, proud, and independent, but affectionate dogs that will do best with families without any children or older, well-behaved kids. Because they’re so big and athletic, it’s best to keep them in a fenced yard and they will need someone to supervise them for the day to ensure they don’t get in trouble.
This true farm dog loves to do jobs and will do them all happily; apart from hunting, they can guard flocks and protect homes, making them a great all-rounder. Thanks to their intelligence and swiftness, they were even used as watchdogs and messengers throughout WWI. The Irish Terrier can be great with kids when socialized early and are deeply loyal to their owners, but they will need to be taught boundaries to help them cultivate respect.
As one of the oldest retriever breeds, the Flat-Coated Retriever can make for a lively companion that stays forever young thanks to its slow maturity rate. They are friendly to everyone, loving towards children, and are highly sociable, much like their more popular cousins. These dogs live for their family, thrive on attention, and give back plenty of affection, which makes them terrific family dogs.
These brave dogs served next to soldiers during WWI and WWII, which is a testament to just how loyal these dogs can be, and how much they love a chase. Today, they can be terrific pets for the right home — just keep in mind that they will display herding behavior such as circling, chasing, and nipping at people’s feet. It’s also essential that you keep them inside a fenced yard to prevent them from scaring runners or cyclists.
Known for their distinctive and sheep-like appearance, these cute little dogs look more like cuddly toys than actually canines. However, its looks can be deceiving — this is a hunting dog that loves to track and run after rabbits. They love the outdoors and will thrive off attention, making them great companions for owners who want a sweet and active pooch.
Anatolian Shepherd Dog
These gorgeous dogs are generally subdued and calm, but won’t hesitate to jump into action should they sense a threat to their family. It’s this instinctive nature to keep their loved ones safe that makes them such a great addition to families with older children. Unfortunately, many people will only get these dogs because of their majestic appearance, only to realize that they’re working dogs that need regular exercise and aren’t just casual pets.
Also known as the Italian Sighthound, these dogs were originally bred around the Mediterranean region, where they thrived as companion dogs for wealthy families. They are shy at first but can develop into loving and affectionate pups that have the characteristics of a family pet that will get along well with children. While they were rare in the U.S. around 20 years ago, they are enjoyed by many owners today thanks to their adaptability to various lifestyles and low-maintenance needs.
During the World Wars, these dogs were almost made extinct — thanks to the efforts of one man, they were able to bounce back in numbers and have thrived in the years since. These devoted and smart dogs can become great companions who have a similar disposition to the more popular Doberman. The German Pinscher has high energy levels and will display a loving personality to their family while keeping a watchful eye on strangers.
The Cesky Terrier is a calm dog that’s rare to find, but if you do manage to find one, you’ll be sure to enjoy their keen hunting skills and prowess in agility courses. Despite their small stature, they are just as prey-driven and determined as any other hunting dog but are also more mellow than the average terrier. These dogs are protective and wary of their loved ones, so they can be great watchdogs without being loud — they’re also easy to train and eager to please.
Greater Swiss Mountain Dog
Known affectionately by their fans as “Swissies,” the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog were originally bred to work and are strong enough to pull heavy loads while also being agile enough for herding purposes. When trained and socialized at a young age, these dogs can be devoted and calm members of the family. Unfortunately, despite their affectionate nature, these dogs may end up in rescue groups since they can get so big and may not fit in all homes.
Spanish Water Dog
These dogs are easily recognizable thanks to their gorgeous, curly coats that allow them to swim and retrieve items from the water. Spanish Water Dogs are intelligent, friendly, even-tempered, and bright dogs that love working — they’re actually herding dogs rather than sporting dogs. Because they’re so easy to train and can quickly pick up herding skills, they can be employed in a wide range of professions and will do well in various activities and dog sports, making them fun and excellent companion dogs.
The Sussex Spaniel is a medium-sized dog with stubby and short legs that help them stay low on the ground and will max out at 15 inches tall. They are even-tempered and athletic dogs that can bark to alert hunters of their location — despite being hunting dogs, they have a gentle and loving temperament. These dogs are also easygoing and calm, which makes them terrific companions while their nature allows them to get along with animals and children when properly socialized.
While this may come as a surprise, Alaskan Malamutes don’t make the cut for America’s 50 most popular dogs, although they’re still very well-known. Unfortunately, many people will get an Alaskan Malamute to get a cuddly puppy or a gorgeous dog once it becomes an adult, resulting in many neglected dogs. However, they are loyal and affectionate dogs that are playful despite their serious appearance and are the perfect addition to families looking for a powerful breed.
The Norwich terrier’s love for roaming around means that you can’t trust this dog off-leash when you’re in an open space, but don’t let their antics stop you from nurturing their spirit of adventure. These dogs tend to excel in competitions and agility training and can form deep bonds with their owners. They want nothing more than to be around their humans as much as possible and may develop separation anxiety if left alone for long periods.
Toy Fox Terrier
Much like other terriers, these small dogs were used to catch rats but their eagerness to learn and trainability allowed them to take up another profession as a clown assistant. They come with jumping skills and boundless energy that makes them such a favorite in the circus. When socialized at a young age, they can be great around new people, situations, and animals — they can even be great family dogs but may not do well with children.
While Chow Chows are undoubtedly cute and fluffy, too many people will get one without knowing what kind of adults they can grow into. They can be good family pets but they’re not known for their patience or playfulness, so they’re more suited to families with older children or no children. Apart from being physically strong, they can also be stubborn and strong-willed, which means they won’t do well with novice owners.
As its name suggests, the English Foxhound was originally bred to assist hunters during fox hunts, and they are still employed for this job today. Today, they are also kept as family companions; their devotion, mild temper, and easy-going nature allow them to get along with kids. However, potential owners will need to practice persistence and patience when training these dogs — they can also pick up unwanted behavior if they don’t get enough exercise.
The Most Popular Dog Breeds
So what is the most popular breed? The answer might surprise you — for the last 30 years, the Labrador Retriever has held the record, until it was dethroned in 2022. For the first time, the AKC had crowned a new top dog in the form of the French Bulldog. This bite-sized canine has made its way into everyone’s hearts and has since taken over the internet.
Below are other popular breeds that have made it into AKC’s top 50.
- Golden Retrievers
- German Shepherds
- German Shorthaired Pointers
- Australian Shepherds
- Cavalier King Charles Spaniels
- Doberman Pinschers
- Miniature Schnauzers
- Cane Corso
- Great Danes
- Shih Tzu
- English Cocker Spaniels
- Border Collies
- Rhodesian Ridgebacks
If you’re looking for the perfect companion dog but want something out of the ordinary, then why not opt for one of the choices above? They might not be known but everyone, but you’ll definitely come home with a dog that’s just as loving, devoted, energetic, and affectionate as any German Shepherd, French Bulldog, and Labrador Retriever. They may even have many talents and skills that you won’t find in more common dogs, and you can be sure that they’ll keep your home entertained for hours!