How to decide on your dream dog

Picking the perfect dog isn’t easy. With so many adorable breeds to choose from – all with different traits and temperaments – it can be tough to decide who’s top dog.

Should you go for a male or female? Adult or puppy? Crossbreed or pedigree? This in-depth guide has done the dog work for you – so you can focus on finding your dream dog.

Choose a breed

Each dog breed has its own characteristics and temperament, so it’s important to do your research and find the perfect breed for your personality, lifestyle and family circumstances.

If you haven’t got your eye on a certain canine chum yet, a good place to start is by looking at the seven dog breed ‘groups’. Each pedigree breed belongs to a group of similar breeds. And while every dog is different, these groups can give you an early insight into characteristics and traits they may share.

In the UK, the seven pedigree or purebred groups (defined by The Kennel Club) are:

  • Gundog
  • Hound
  • Pastoral
  • Terrier
  • Toy
  • Utility
  • Working

If you or a family member suffer from allergies, there’s no need to call off the search just yet – your doggy dream is far from over.

Hypoallergenic breeds, which don’t shed as much as other breeds, could well be the answer.

While no breed is entirely hypoallergenic, popular breeds include:

  • Bichon Frise
  • Poodle
  • Portuguese Water Dog
  • Shih Tzu
  • Yorkshire Terrier

The majority of dogs included in this guide are pedigree chums. But crossbreeds – or designer dogs – are becoming increasingly popular for people searching for their ideal dog.

Crossbreeds are simply dogs whose parents are different breeds. If they’re intentionally crossbred for their looks or personalities, they’re commonly known as designer dogs.

If they haven’t been intentionally bred, they’re known as mixed breed, mongrels or mutts.

Some of the most popular crossbreeds in the UK include:

  • Cockapoo (Cocker Spaniel and Poodle)
  • Jug (Jack Russell and Pug)
  • Sprocker (Springer and Cocker Spaniel)
  • Labradoodle (Labrador and Poodle)
  • Puggle (Pug and Beagle)
  • Schnoodle (Miniature Schnauzer and Poodle)


Size matters

Do you want a tiny terrier that doesn’t need much exercise? Or a giant Great Dane that loves long walks?

The size of dog you choose will completely depend on your lifestyle and family circumstances. But to help you pick your perfect canine companion, we’ve looked at some of the most popular dogs in the UK by size.

Small dogs can be great for people who live in flats or apartments or who don’t have a lot of time for exercise.

But that doesn’t mean these cute canines are a walk in the park. Some small dogs have huge personalities. And, according to The Kennel Club, they’re taking over as the UK’s top dogs.

Here are some of the UK’s most popular pint-sized pups:

There’s nothing standard about these mid-sized pooches – they’re among the most popular in the UK. Not too big, not too small. Just right.

Large dogs are among the most energetic and physically demanding you can get your paws on – but they can also be incredibly loving and affectionate.

So if you’re looking for a gentle giant, you may want to choose from these popular breeds:

  • Boxer
  • Dalmatian
  • Dobermann Pinscher
  • English Setter
  • Flat-Coated Retriever
  • German Shepherd
  • German Shorthaired Pointer
  • Golden Retriever
  • Great Dane
  • Greyhound
  • Hungarian Vizsla
  • Rottweiler
  • Weimaraner 


Best fit for your family and lifestyle

No two dogs are the same. And your perfect pooch will be different from your next door neighbours’.

The best fit for you will completely depend on your lifestyle and family circumstances.

For example, if you’ve got kids at home, you’ll want a gentle, good-natured dog. And if you’re busy at work with little time on your hands, you’ll be looking for one that’s laid-back and low-maintenance.

If you have children at home, you’ll have your eye on a loyal, affectionate dog that can fit in with the family. They’ll need to be patient too – to put up with your finger-prodding, tail-pulling bundles of joy.

Some of the best breeds most suited to family life include:

Don’t have time to take your dog for long walks or live in a small home in the city centre? A low-maintenance dog might be best for you.

Here are some of the best low-maintenance dogs that are more than happy to lie back and snuggle up on the couch with you:

  • Bichon Frise
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
  • Chihuahua
  • Dachshund
  • French Bulldog
  • Lhasa Apso
  • Poodle
  • Shih-tzu


What else do you need to consider?

Now you’ve got the lowdown on the various dog types and breeds available, you should have whittled your long-list down to some firm favourites. So, what else do you need to think about?

Two of the most popular ways to get a new dog are to buy from a responsible breeder or rehome a dog from an animal shelter.

Dog buyers have a responsibility to buy from a reputable breeder. The Kennel Club runs assurance schemes for registered breeders, who follow strict guidelines when it comes to how they breed their dogs and keep them healthy.

Rehoming a rescue dog can be a rewarding experience, but it’s not a decision to be taken lightly. Our guide to dog rehoming has in-depth information on best practices.

Whether you’re buying a dog from a breeder or adopting one from an animal shelter, you’ll have to decide what’s best – a playful puppy or a wise old dog.

To help you decide, you may want to consider the following questions:

  • Do you have any experience raising a puppy?
  • Do you have the time, patience and flexibility to deal with an untrained puppy?
  • Would an older, more emotionally developed dog be a better fit?
  • What can you afford (costs vary hugely between puppies and adult dogs)?


Other helpful dog guides

Want to make sure your new dog stays healthy, happy and safe? Our handy guides are here to help.

Guide to dog breeds

Get to know each dog breed in more detail

Take a look
Create a dog-friendly home

Top tips to help create the perfect pad for your pooch

Get started
Prepare for a new dog

Get ready to welcome your new canine chum

Get started


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Sainsbury's Bank plc, Registered Office, 33 Holborn, London EC1N 2HT (registered in England and Wales, no. 3279730) is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority (register no. 184514). Sainsbury's Supermarkets Ltd is an appointed representative of Sainsbury's Bank plc.
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