The Fédération Cynologique Internationale, the world governing body of dog breeds, recognizes about 340. But the American Kennel Club only recognizes 167.
I was fortunate to be raised by parents who not only loved dogs themselves but decided that I should grow up with one. My mom loves German Shepherds, despite never having had one. When it came time to select a family pet that I could grow up with, they decided to go with the Rough Collie, the classic “Lassie” dog. I couldn’t have had a better dog to grow up with, and that’s why the Collie will always top my list of favorite dog breeds.
1. The Rough Collie
I was smart enough never to fall into a well, but my first dog, a Rough Collie, protected me as if she were Lassie protecting the fictional Timmy. She was a great dog and treated me like I was her puppy, watching after me and herding me away from anything she thought might present a danger. She died of cancer just a couple of months shy of her 11th birthday and it was heartbreaking for all of us. But I have loved the breed ever since. The only drawback for a Rough Collie is that you have to deal with a lot of dog hair. But what you get in return — a sweet, loyal, loving companion — is more than worth some extra brushing and vacuuming in my book.
I currently own my fourth Collie and he may well be the most affectionate of them all. He’s almost three years old but still acts like a puppy, not that I’m complaining. When I brought him home, he was 50% underweight, but now he’s fully developed and is (as of his latest checkup) a very healthy 86 pounds! Collies are sensitive, loving, loyal dogs, and while they can be stubborn at times, they genuinely want to please and their intelligence makes them surprisingly easy to train. If you can only get past the dog hair.
2. The Golden Retriever
I’ve never owned a pure-blooded Golden Retriever, but I’ve always loved the breed because I’ve never met one that wasn’t a sweet, loving dog. The mixed breed dog I adopted from a shelter was part Golden and she had all of the loving traits associated with the breed. When I lost her, I actually attempted to adopt a Golden Retriever from a local rescue group, but they seemed a bit too “selective” and “judgmental” when it came to the people who they wished to grant interviews, and after getting the runaround, I decided to go back to the Collie.
3. The Cocker Spaniel
I’ve owned two Cocker Spaniels. The first was a female who died at age 7 from a rare anemia that typically strikes a female dog between the ages of 3 and 7 if it’s going to strike at all. She was a sweet dog, very smart, and very loving. My second Cocker Spaniel was sweet when he wanted to be but ultimately had to be euthanized over a severe behavioral issue that made him dangerous. (I consulted multiple dog trainers and veterinarians before making a very painful decision.) Despite the bad experiences, I still love Cocker Spaniels. They’re sweet dogs but they can be very stubborn when they want to be, which makes them a challenge to train.
4. The ‘Heinz 57’ Dog
Okay, I realize the “mutt” isn’t technically a dog breed. But for a few years when I lived in Richmond, I volunteered at a local animal shelter. And I met some really great dogs that had the misfortune of being born as mixed breeds and, therefore, automatically less desirable than other full-breed dogs. I adopted one of them: Zoey, a dog we think was a mix of Golden Retriever and either Spaniel or Border Collie. (My guess was Golden Retriever and Border Collie based on her shape and size.) She had been abused and was scared of her own shadow when I brought her home. Within a couple of months, her personality had fully emerged and she was a great dog. She was somewhere between 8 and 10 years old when she passed away from what was believed to be liver cancer, but she was a great, loving dog.
It was also at that same rescue group where I met “Eddie,” a hound mix who had been a former hunting dog. We knew that detail because he had a number, 12, stenciled onto his side with hair dye. I’m reliably informed that some hunters number their dogs so they don’t have to get attached to them the way they would if they named them, so that it’s easier to just turn them loose in the woods when hunting season is over. Eddie was one of the sweetest dogs I ever met there. He’d slowly, cautiously crawl into your lap as if he was hoping you wouldn’t notice until he was sitting there trying to give you a kiss. He ended up being adopted by a woman who needed a running partner, and we later heard from her that he loved running in the morning and loved his new home.
5. The Poodle
When I was growing up, we had two different poodles. Since then, my mom has had a couple of dogs that were mixes of poodles and something else. Poodles are very intelligent dogs, pleasant to be around, protective of their people and always happy to entertain. The first poodle we ever had had a thing for those Litle Debbie Jelly Creme Pies. He loved them. Because of the chocolate outer coating (which was thin), we didn’t give him much of one, but he could be sound asleep in my parents’ bedroom and you could tiptoe to the kitchen at the other end of the house, gingerly open the wrapper of a Little Debbie cake, and before you could take your first bite, there he was sitting there waiting for his.
6. The Shetland Sheepdog
Though a Shetland Sheepdog is related to the Rough Collie, it is its own breed. But the “Sheltie” has a similar temperament and needs as the Rough Collie and is said to be better able to adapt to its environment. For me, the Rough Collie is inside dog, so the adaptability argument isn’t that big a deal. But if I ever found myself without a dog and wanting to adopt one and facing a weight limit that would rule out a Rough Collie, I might well give a Sheltie a chance.
7. The Siberian Husky
I’ve never owned a Husky, but I’ve always thought they were beautiful dogs. A friend of mine has had two of them and he’s told me plenty of entertaining stories about them. Then there’s this famous Husky named Blaze who demonstrates the amusement factor by saying “No” to going into her pen:
8. The German Shepherd
Like my mom, I do love the breed, but I’ve never owned one either. These gorgeous dogs are very intelligent and loyal, but the fear of hip dysplasia is the main thing that has kept me from bringing one home so far.
9. The Border Collie
Border Collies are beautiful dogs and have always been a breed I’ve admired. They’re said to be among the smartest dog breed there is. The main reason I’ve not yet owned a Border Collie is because of the greater exercise requirements of the breed; I’m reliably informed a bored Border Collie can get destructive, so they must be kept occupied. My Collie, on the other hand, is a couch potato who’s always happy to go for a walk but is just as delighted to sack out for the afternoon without a worry in the world.
10. The Labrador Retriever
My dad owned a Black Lab years ago. He was a character of a dog. My dad wanted a boating buddy, but managed to overlook the idea that when you put a Labrador Retriever on a boat in the middle of a lake, the dog loses all interest in the boat is going to dive in, quite enthusiastically, right into the lake. Pulling a 90-pound dog back into a boat is no small feat, and when the dog shakes water all over everyone and everything only to search for the perfect spot to dive right back in, that changes the appeal of a boating buddy. But this dog, entertaining as he was, lived 15 years and died peacefully in his sleep on evening after providing a lifetime of laughs.
A neighbor of mine has a Chocolate Lab who won’t leave the apartment without a stuffed animal. So every time you see her, she’s prancing around with some silly looking fluffy teddy bear or rabbit or something. She’s a sweet dog as well and she never growls if you eye her toy…but you can bet she won’t part with it.
Those are my top 10 favorites, with apoligies to friends with breeds I might have missed.