Who can resist a gorgeous Labrador Retriever or a playful Cocker Spaniel? And everyone loves a classic German Shepherd or an adorable Westie, right? After weeks of passionate debate in the zooplus office, we’ve finally chosen our four absolute favourite dog breeds. Take a look at these mini fact files for all our faves and see if you agree.
A popular large-breed gundog, the Labrador Retriever has a distinctive black, yellow or chocolate coat, powerful haunches and a loyal temperament. Black is the most common coat colour, while chocolate Labs are the rarest – but did you know that you can actually get puppies of all three colours in the same litter? Labrador Retrievers were originally bred in Canada as a smaller version of the Newfoundland. Bred to retrieve hunted wildfowl from deep water, these super intelligent dogs have webbed paws, an otter-like tail and an oily, double-layered coat to help them float and stay warm.
★ Dependable right-hand dogs: Labs are clever, obedient dogs that make brilliant working animals, supporting the police or making life easier for people with sight or hearing impairments.
★ Child-friendly canines: Typically great with kids, Labrador Retrievers are often believed to be the perfect family pet. They’re very affectionate and make great big fluffy snuggle buddies.
★ Pond- and puddle-lovers: It’s not surprising given the history of the breed, but Labs absolutely love to swim. Expect to get soaked every time your dog spots some muddy water and maybe invest in a car air freshener powerful enough to cope with that delightful wet dog smell…
★ Big bundles of energy: These large dogs need loads of exercise to keep them happy and healthy, so don’t consider getting a Labrador Retriever if you aren’t up for extra-long walks and endless games of fetch.
If the Labrador Retriever resembles a big, fluffy otter, the German Shepherd is more like a lovable, domesticated wolf. These strong and fearless large-breed dogs have a handsome bushy tail and a long muzzle for successful tracking. Even the shape of their ears is wolf-like – adorably floppy as a puppy, then pointed once they reach adulthood. Although there have been quite a few famous German Shepherds on film, the breed originated in Germany as a service dog and was particularly used in the German army during the First and Second World War. In fact, this explains why these loyal dogs are sometimes also called Alsatians – some breeders felt that the connection with Germany might affect the breed’s popularity, so they came up with a completely different name.
★ Guardian angels: German Shepherds become very protective of their family pack so they make excellent guard dogs. Their intelligence, loyalty and fearlessness also means that they’re perfectly suited to work in the army or police force.
★ Top-class students: Smart and keen to please, this popular breed is known to be a very fast learner. This makes training fun and easy, even for inexperienced dog owners.
★ Furry beasts: German Shepherds have an eye-catchingly attractive coat, but you might be a bit less keen on how regularly they shed, leaving behind clumps of fur all over your home. We hope you enjoy vacuuming…
★ Large and lively: As with all large-breed dogs, Alsatians need lots of exercise and opportunities to let off steam. They really love walkies, whatever the weather!
These stocky, medium-sized gundogs make brilliant canine companions thanks to their playful and affectionate nature. Perhaps their most distinctive physical features are their long floppy ears and gorgeous glossy coats that wouldn’t look out of place in a fancy shampoo advert. They also have utterly irresistible dark round eyes – just try saying ‘no’ to a Cocker Spaniel! These lively dogs were bred in Spain in the 14th Century to hunt game birds like the woodcock, which is believed to be where they get their name. Now you’re more likely to find them causing a little mischief or being completely spoilt.
★ Speedy learners: Cocker Spaniels pick up new tricks and commands quickly, making it easier to teach them perfect manners than some other breeds. However, these doggy divas can still be a bit stubborn sometimes, so make sure your dog is in the right mood before you attempt a training session.
★ Masters of mindfulness: Okay, so you won’t exactly catch your dog doing yoga, but Cockers are typically know for adapting well to their surroundings and coping with whatever life throws at them.
★ Pampered pups: Cocker Spaniels can be very high maintenance. Their fabulous coat needs lots of grooming and it’s especially important to keep their long ears clean and healthy.
★ Constantly caring canines: Obviously being super friendly isn’t really a character flaw, but it does mean that Cocker Spaniels don’t make very good watchdogs. That is, unless you think fluffy cuddles and face licking make a good defence strategy…
West Highland White Terrier
Small but mighty, the Westie is a great family dog with a cheerful personality and bags of confidence. Bred in Scotland to clear farms, mines and large estates from vermin, these popular small-breed dogs have a double-layered white coat and an extra strong tail that was originally intended to help save them from trouble if they got stuck in a hole while out rodent hunting. West Highland White Terriers are feisty little dogs that love to get involved in everything, especially if they can create a bit of mess.
★ Sporting all-rounders: Thanks to their determined nature and sturdy build, Westies are naturally talented in a wide range of sports, from agility to tracking. If you enjoy the thrill of competition and fancy seeing your dog covered in rosettes up on the medal podium, the West Highland White Terrier might be the dog for you.
★ Durable dogs: As you might expect from a breed originating in the Scottish countryside, Westies have a thermal undercoat that means they can cope well in all weathers. You might want to wrap up warm for wet weather walks, but your dog will be just fine.
★ Headstrong hounds: While the Westie’s determination can make it great at sports, this strong-willed temperament also means that these dogs can be a bit of a handful when it comes to training.
★ Mud fiends: West Highland White Terriers are massive fans of digging so it’s not unusual for those white paws and furry muzzle to end up absolutely covered in mud. You might want to redecorate your house with wipe-clean tiles before you get a Westie…
Did we miss your favourite dog breed? Or do you have a soft spot for one of these smashing softies too? Let us know in the comments.