As a veterinarian, I am frequently asked by clients to provide recommendations on which dogs breeds might suit their lifestyle. I’m fortunate that in my line of work, I’ve experienced first-hand hundreds of different dog breeds. Nevertheless, I am fully aware that a vet practice is an unfamiliar place for any dog, so it’s not fair to judge a dog’s demeanour entirely on their interactions with me as a vet. But one of the things I most enjoy about conversing with clients is hearing everything about their dog’s character and quirks at home which make them special. And as a result, I feel I have had more of an opportunity than most to learn about different dog breeds over the course of my career.
In addition to this, I’m an avid dog lover and owner myself. In my entire lifetime, there has not been more than a few weeks gone by where there isn’t a dog in my house, and so naturally some of the dog breeds I’ve grown up with have a special place in my heart.
In this article I’m going to outline my top five all-time favourite dog breeds and explain my reasoning behind the choices. These breeds have been picked for deeply personal reasons and by no means constitute the best five dog breeds in general, but I hope I will be able to open your mind to some dog breeds which you may not have considered in the past, and maybe you might wish to get to know them better.
Top favourite dog breed – English springer spaniel
If asked what my absolute favourite dog breed is, I would have to say English springer spaniel. While this comes from a personal connection with the breed (as I have had some wonderful childhood memories growing up with Springers), it’s also because the English springer spaniel has a truly unique and quirky personality.
English springer spaniels are energetic and intelligent dogs. Due to this, they are bred for working in the field and are highly trainable. Since they have a strong desire to be with their own special people and are natural people-pleasers, they also make excellent family pets as long as they still receive a high level of attention and exercise. Growing up, my dad always used to describe our beloved Springer as having two speeds: fast and off. Outside of the house, her focus and stamina were second to no other breed, but at home she thoroughly enjoyed lazing on the sofa or in front of the fire.
Not only do they have brilliant brains, they are also beautiful dogs. A little bigger than the Welsh springer spaniel, the English springer spaniel is a medium sized dog weighing around 18-24kg. They can come in a variety of colours but are often liver and white or black and white. Springers are notoriously expressive, with large puppy-like eyes and long feathered ears. They are particularly wonderful to watch when they are happy and excited, since the power of their wagging often causes the whole hind quarters to wag with it.
I look back with particularly fond memories of a Springer of mine called Tosca. In her latter years, she developed a brain tumour which caused her to go blind. She was so clever, and it was easy to teach her commands to help her cope with her way of life, such as stop, step up and slow down. But in her own garden, she would still get that “Spaniel mist” where she forgot all about the world around her and allowed herself to become frantically excited at any scent enhanced by dew, such as a fox, cat or squirrel that had scurried through the garden. As a result, each tree had to be bubble wrapped around the base to prevent a far too frequent concussion! She was a wonderful dog and lived three years without sight, until she succumbed to her disease at age 13, which is approximately the average life expectancy of an English springer spaniel anyway.
If you would like to read more about English springer spaniels, you can purchase my book entitled “The Complete Guide to English Springer Spaniels” from Amazon.
Most surprising dog breed – Staffordshire bull terrier
For a large part of my life, I was never a huge fan of the Staffordshire bull terrier. However, I came to know a few on a personal level through my line of work, and through them I realised I had huge misconceptions about the breed. Staffies frequently have a poor reputation due to badly matched ownership and lack of training, and sadly that results in many ending up in rehoming centres. Historically, Staffies also have a dark past in the fighting world, and as a result, many people believe them to be troubled and aggressive dogs. However, naturally Staffordshire bull terriers are incredibly gentle, lovable, and loyal, and make excellent family dogs. In fact, the breed is nicknamed the “nanny dog” because it is such a good guardian and playmate for children.
Staffies have the most wonderful personality and are full of energy and endless entertainment. It always brightens up my day seeing an unmissable Staffie grin which goes from ear to ear due to their wide shark-like mouth. Nevertheless, their playful nature sometimes means they are a little tricky to examine as a vet! They are typically small to medium dogs, however their broad stature and heavy musculature can make their appearance seem bigger than it is. Speaking from experience from trying to perform clinical checks, they can be quite strong for their size too! Staffies can come in a variety of colours including black, white, fawn, blue, red and brindle, as well as combinations, making them really unique looking dogs.
If you would like to read more about Staffordshire bull terriers, you can purchase my book entitled “The Complete Guide to Staffordshire Bull Terriers” from Amazon.
Favourite sporting dog breed – Golden retriever
Ever since coming to own my own house, I have always said to myself the next dog I get will be a small, short-coated, non-shedding, non-drooling, non-smelly breed. But I would put all that aside for a golden retriever. This is because if happiness could be represented as a dog, the golden retriever would be a perfect representation. This breed is simply a huge ball of fluffy kindness and love.
But behind that gentle and loving nature, is also an incredibly smart and trainable breed, which is why they are so often chosen as working dogs, such as service dogs to the disabled, emergency services, search and rescue, or retrievers out in the field. Golden retrievers are eager to please, and endlessly loyal, trustworthy companions, so it’s no surprise that they are one of the most popular dog breeds in the Western world.
Goldies tend to come in three colours: golden, dark golden and light golden. They are large, tall dogs and have an average life expectancy of 10-12 years. Unfortunately, as a breed they are predisposed to joint ailments, such as osteoarthritis and joint dysplasia, so I am frequently visited by Goldies for orthopaedic consultations. Therefore it is so important to ensure you purchase a puppy from a reliable breeder who is breeding from parents with excellent hip and elbow scores.
If you would like to read more about golden retrievers, you can purchase my book entitled “The Complete Guide to Golden Retrievers” from Amazon.
Best family dog breed – Africanis
Until I spent some time in South Africa, I had never heard of the Africanis breed, nor had ever come across one when working in the UK. However, my life has become abundantly richer since I have had one that I can call my own. This dog breed is not acknowledged by any of the world’s kennel clubs as a purebred, nor is it one you will find in the show ring, but it certainly shouldn’t be overlooked.
Africanis dogs are medium in size, with long legs and relatively slender bodies. They vary considerably in colour and overall appearance, due to the natural development of the breed on the streets in South Africa, rather than years of in-breeding in controlled circumstances. For example, my dog is black with a small white fleck on her chest and looks similar to a slim version of a collie crossed with a Labrador. But many are brown or black, with characteristic eyebrow markings similar to a Doberman. Africanis dogs are also resourceful and friendly in nature, and typically extremely hardy dogs with very few health concerns.
Despite originating from the street, they are one of the most loyal dog breeds you will ever come across. If you give them a warm place to sleep and a belly full of food, they will protect and love you unconditionally for the rest of their lives. They are also extremely patient with children. My beautiful dog “Raven” adores my 4-year-old and newborn baby, and given the choice, will choose to sleep at my daughter’s bedroom door to protect her from anything and everything.
Favourite dog breed personality– Greyhound
My final favourite breed is the greyhound. This was a tough choice for me, and there were many I could have chosen, but the one which has stolen my heart the most is the greyhound. In my early career days, I had the opportunity to work closely with many greyhounds during my time as a locum for a greyhound racecourse vet. I was always amazed by their gentle and aloof nature, quite different from their thoroughbred racehorse counterparts. I always felt so sorry for the unfortunate ones who made their way into my vet’s office to be patched up after a race, for example if they’d torn a claw or pulled a muscle. They were always trusting and never complaining, despite the adrenaline coursing through their bodies from the sprinting (which can reach an astounding 45 miles per hour), and discomfort they were going through. I vividly remember the feeling that they deserved better.
This is one reason why I am an avid advocate for the adoption of greyhounds after their racing careers. Not only are they beautiful and graceful, but they are incredibly gentle and sensitive. Despite their athletic abilities, greyhounds love nothing more than spending the rest of their days being a couch potato and will happily spend the majority of the day sleeping. They make wonderful loyal, family dogs and will be always loyal to their owners.
With over 360 dog breeds worldwide, there’s a dog breed for everyone. We’d love to hear from you about your favourite dog breeds and why, so please pop us a message in the comments box below.