Are These Popular Dog Breeds Easy to Care For?

Just because a certain dog breed is well-liked, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s easy to care for. And that’s critical information for people to know before they jump on a breed bandwagon and bring a dog into their home. Using the American Kennel Club’s most recent data for popular dog breeds in the United States — plus VetStreet’s rankings for their exercise needs, grooming needs, health issues, social needs and trainability — here’s what you can expect when caring for these dogs.

1. Labrador retriever

  • Exercise needs: 5/5
  • Grooming: 1/5
  • Health issues: 4/5
  • Social needs: 5/5
  • Trainability: 5/5

Labrador retrievers have been the most popular dog breed in the United States since the 1990s, according to the AKC tally. And part of that might be because they’re generally easy to live with. “The ideal Labrador is kindly, outgoing and tractable, eager to please, and tends not to be aggressive toward people or other animals,” VetStreet says. They don’t require much grooming — just a brushing once or twice a week to remove loose fur before it sticks on your furniture plus regular nail trims and dental care, according to VetStreet. And give them occasional baths, especially if they go swimming outdoors, to remove dirt and irritants.

Unfortunately, Labs are prone to multiple health issues, including hip and elbow dysplasia, eye diseases, exercise-induced collapse, heart disease and skin problems. But they’re still very friendly, energetic dogs, who prefer an active lifestyle with their families. And because they’re so easy to train, you’ll have your pick of dog-related activities — obedience, agility, tracking, therapy, etc. — to get them involved in and drain some of that energy.

2. German shepherd

German shepherd lying outside in grassCredit: Bigandt_Photography/Getty Images

  • Exercise needs: 3/5
  • Grooming: 3/5
  • Health issues: 4/5
  • Social needs: 3/5
  • Trainability: 5/5

German shepherds are intelligent, devoted dogs who can be trained to do many jobs. But you’ll have to be pretty comfortable with dog fur getting everywhere if you have one, as their thick, medium-length coat does shed a lot. They require brushing at least once a week and baths as needed — increasing in frequency during the couple times a year when they shed their undercoats.

These dogs do face several health issues, including hip dysplasia and degenerative myelopathy (a progressive, debilitating spinal cord disease). They’re only moderately active dogs, but they require frequent stimulation to keep their brains occupied. “Their genes tell them to be a guardian, a police dog, a guide dog, a search and rescue dog — almost anything other than a couch potato,” VetStreet says. “If you aren’t ready for that level of commitment, find another breed.”

3. Golden retriever

  • Exercise needs: 5/5
  • Grooming: 3/5
  • Health issues: 4/5
  • Social needs: 5/5
  • Trainability: 5/5

Like Labs, golden retrievers have been a quintessential family dog for many years — and for good reason. These dogs typically love people and are sweet, gentle and eager to please. They do need a moderate amount of grooming to keep their coats free from debris and mats. That means brushing once or twice a week plus baths as needed, making sure their ears are clean and fully dried to reduce their risk of infection.

Sadly, goldens as a breed are prone to multiple cancers, “including hemangiosarcoma, lymphosarcoma, mast cell tumors and bone cancer,” according to VetStreet. They also might develop hip dysplasia, heart disease, eye problems and allergies, among other issues. But a healthy golden is an active dog who prefers to be with their humans doing something both mentally and physically challenging. They love participating in dog sports and therapy work, and they “will retrieve a tennis ball until your arm gives out,” VetStreet says.

4. French bulldog

French bulldog outside on grassCredit: druvo/Getty Images

  • Exercise needs: 2/5
  • Grooming: 2/5
  • Health issues: 3/5
  • Social needs: 5/5
  • Trainability: 3/5

French bulldogs are generally low-maintenance little canines who can adapt to most living situations. “He doesn’t need a great deal of exercise, fits comfortably into a condo, co-op or apartment, and is far less likely to bark than many small dogs,” according to VetStreet. These dogs don’t shed much and only require brushing weekly and bathing monthly or as needed. But you should pay special attention to keeping their skin folds (wrinkles) clean, as they can be a place for bacteria to grow. “Wipe out the crud from the wrinkles with a soft, damp cloth or a baby wipe, then dry them thoroughly,” VetStreet says.

One main health concern for French bulldogs is brachycephalic syndrome — or breathing problems due to their small, flat faces. Consequently, you must watch them closely for labored breathing — especially in hot weather and during exercise — and avoid putting them in risky situations. Plus, Frenchies are prone to spinal, reproductive and eye problems. They’re a little stubborn when it comes to training, but they do bond closely with their families — and consequently prefer not to be left alone for long stretches.

5. Bulldog

  • Exercise needs: 1/5
  • Grooming: 3/5
  • Health issues: 5/5
  • Social needs: 4/5
  • Trainability: 3/5

The bulldog first made the AKC’s top 10 list of most popular dog breeds in the early 1900s. And though it dropped out of that group in the latter part of the century, it has recently seen a resurgence in popularity. “If all you’re talking about is personality and temperament, the Bulldog is just about perfect,” VetStreet says. “He loves children and is very easy to train as a family pet. He’s an endless source of amusement, clever and very affectionate.”

While bulldogs have an easygoing nature that makes them a good fit for many households, they do come with many health issues. “Their hips and spines can be malformed and they are prone to knee issues and injuries,” according to VetStreet. “Their many wrinkles and folds, and tightly curled tails, mean lots of skin infections if they aren’t kept clean. Cherry eye, inverted eyelids, cataracts and dry eye are just a few of the eye abnormalities that can affect the Bulldog.” Plus, like the French bulldog, brachycephalic syndrome is a major concern. So be prepared to provide proper veterinary care if you plan to adopt a bulldog.

6. Beagle

beagle sitting in grassCredit: RyanJLane/Getty Images

  • Exercise needs: 5/5
  • Grooming: 1/5
  • Health issues: 3/5
  • Social needs: 5/5
  • Trainability: 2/5

If you can manage their overwhelming urge to follow their nose, a beagle might be a good fit for you. “The most important thing to know is that Beagles are ruled by their nose,” VetStreet says. “A Beagle will follow an interesting scent wherever it leads him, across busy streets and miles from home, so a fenced yard is essential to keep him safe.” These dogs are social and loving, but they do have a stubborn streak and often display “selective hearing,” which makes training a bit difficult. “Successfully living with a Beagle means making everything a game, one that will hold his attention,” according to VetStreet.

The good news is beagles are generally easy to maintain. They’re only moderate shedders who need brushing once or twice a week and occasional baths. Just pay extra attention to their droopy ears, which are prone to infections. Have your vet show you how to properly keep them clean and monitor for issues. Moreover, beagles are predominantly healthy dogs, but some might develop hip dysplasia, hypothyroidism, diabetes, cataracts, seizures and allergies. They do best with active families, and many maintain their playful, puppy-like nature well into old age.

7. Poodle

  • Exercise needs: 4/5
  • Grooming: 5/5
  • Health issues: 3/5
  • Social needs: 5/5
  • Trainability: 5/5

The smart, humorous, energetic poodle long has been one of the most popular dog breeds. “Poodle lovers know the dogs for their intelligence, ease of training, low-shedding curly coat, and love of family,” according to VetStreet. Although they sometimes might outsmart you, these dogs are people-pleasers who can easily pick up training commands. They excel both in dog sports and as therapy dogs. And because of their social nature, they prefer to be heavily involved in family activities. “He can’t bear being alone too often, and he will channel his boredom in ways that are not likely to meet your approval,” VetStreet says.

Poodles do face several health issues, including Addison’s disease, Cushing’s syndrome, hypothyroidism, eye disease, skin problems and certain types of cancer. Plus, though a poodle’s coat is low-shedding, it does require a good amount of grooming. According to VetStreet, their coat should be clipped roughly every six weeks and brushed regularly to prevent matting. Furthermore, dental care is important for all sizes of poodles — but especially the miniatures and toys, who might experience tooth crowding due to their small mouth size. Still, if you’re willing to put in the work, poodles make excellent, entertaining companions.

Main image credit: sanjagrujic/Getty Images

79 comments

hELEN hEARFIELD
hELEN hEARFIELDabout a month ago

tyfs

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Elaine W
Elaine W3 months ago

Good to know. Thanks

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Louise A
Lara A4 months ago

thank you for sharing

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Glennis W
Glennis Whitney4 months ago

Thank you for caring and sharing

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Glennis W
Glennis Whitney4 months ago

Thank you for caring and sharing

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Glennis W
Glennis Whitney4 months ago

Adorable dogs Thank you for caring and sharing

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Glennis W
Glennis Whitney4 months ago

Interesting Thank you for caring and sharing

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j W
j W4 months ago

Never met a dog I didn't like!
(unless a human trained it badly, but of course that isn't the dog's fault)

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Irene S
Irene S4 months ago

This is helpful if you try to take a mix of this breeds home, but I would appreciate if there was more education about the health issues of the most purebreds.

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heather g
heather g4 months ago

Mixed breeds tend to be healthier and the animal shelters will thank you for saving a life.

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