Great dogs hail from every corner of the globe, but there’s no shortage of American dog breeds to choose from when looking to welcome a new pet into your home.
So, what makes a dog American? Knowing instinctively that grilling season kicks off Memorial Day weekend? Snagging a hot dog from someone’s plate at a Fourth of July barbecue? Proudly rocking a red, white, and blue bandana? Just as Americans represent a variety of distinct cultures and backgrounds, every dog breed has a rich history and heritage that should be celebrated. While many popular dog breeds originated in other parts of the world before coming to America, several were born in the USA.
“Much like the states and cities of the USA, these different dog breeds all have their own individual traits, spanning temperament, size, coat, and exercise needs,” says Bill Lambert, head of health and welfare at The Kennel Club in the U.K.
Let’s take a closer look at nine popular American dog breeds, and what makes each of them stand out—from sea to shining sea.
9 Best American Dog Breeds
- Boston Terrier
- Cocker Spaniel
- Australian Shepherd
- Chesapeake Bay Retriever
- Alaskan Malamute
- American Eskimo Dog
- American Staffordshire Terrier
- Rat Terrier
- Treeing Walker Coonhound
As the name suggests, the Boston Terrier was bred in Boston. It’s only natural that the breed is the official state dog of Massachusetts! According to Lambert, “the first Boston Terrier Club was founded in the 1890s with membership confined to Bostonians, however these dogs soon became popular in America, and by the 1950s, they were the most popular breed in the USA.” The smallest of the Bull breeds (12-25 pounds full grown), the Boston Terrier is nicknamed the American Gentleman for both its permanent tuxedo and enviable manners. Gina DiNardo, executive secretary at The American Kennel Club, says “the breed is known for its gentle disposition,” but that doesn’t mean these dogs are couch potatoes. “Bostons require regular play and exercise.”
The Cocker Spaniel is an O.G. American dog breed. “In 1878, [it] was one of the first nine breeds registered by the AKC and recognized once the club was founded in 1884 as part of the Sporting Group,” DiNardo says. Once used as hunting dogs, these 20- to 30-pound pups are one of the most popular breeds in the U.S., and for good reason. “Cocker [Spaniels] make great family companions…are people pleasers and [only] require moderate exercise.” Plus who can resist their velvet-soft fur?
Don’t let the name fool you—Australian Shepherds hail from the American West Coast, where they were first bred as all-purpose farm and ranch dogs to herd livestock. Weighing in at 40 to 65 pounds, these intelligent, hard-working dogs are loyal to the core, and do best with owners who are able to give them plenty of attention. “Aussies are energetic dogs that require daily exercise,” DiNardo notes. These dogs “make great family companions for active households,” she adds.
Chesapeake Bay Retriever
The Chesapeake Bay Retriever’s lineage is tied to Labradors and Newfoundlands, Lambert says. He highlights the breed’s “thick undercoat and harsh oily topcoat, which allowed it essential protection for working in the icy Atlantic waters of Chesapeake Bay,” where these dogs were originally used to hunt waterfowl. DiNardo describes Chessies as “courageous and intelligent dogs that love the water and do best with active, outdoor-loving owners.” Although not ideal for apartment-living, this breed is great for those looking for an adventurous outdoor companion.
Originally bred to carry large loads over long distances, the official state dog of Alaska is the oldest and largest of the Arctic sled dogs. But don’t let their large size (75 to 85 pounds) fool you—these adorably playful pups make for great family pets, and will treat you like one of the pack. “Alaskan Malamutes are affectionate and friendly,” notes DiNardo, who recommends this “athletic” breed for “families that enjoy outdoor activities like hiking and camping” and can keep up with their daily exercise needs.
American Eskimo Dog
Despite its name, the American Eskimo Dog hails from the Midwest where it performed in traveling circuses throughout the 19th century. Known for their thick white coats and lovable smiles, Eskies have long since left showbiz behind for life as a household pet. DiNardo describes them as “social dogs who love to be part of family life,” and are eager to please. For those looking for an attentive companion, this kid-friendly, highly-trainable breed is a great choice.
American Staffordshire Terrier
The first word that comes to mind with the American Staffordshire Terrier is loyal. “AmStaffs are people-oriented dogs who thrive when they are made part of the family,” says DiNardo, who describes the breed as “courageous and intelligent.” As is clear from their stocky, muscular build, AmStaffs have an active lifestyle and thrive in homes that keep them occupied with both mental and physical challenges.
True to their name, the Rat Terrier was used to hunt rodents and vermin in the 20th century, becoming one of the most common farm dogs in the U.S. from 1910 to 1930. The breed comes in both standard and miniature sizes, ranging from 10 to 25 pounds, and loves going wherever you go. “They are loyal and active and love being a member of their human family,” says DiNardo of these playful pups.
Treeing Walker Coonhound
This member of the Hound Group was originally developed in Virginia to hunt raccoons in the 19th and 20th centuries. “The origins of the breed can be traced back to Foxhounds, who were taken from England to North America in the 17th century,” Lambert says. When it comes to their disposition, Treeing Walker Coonhounds are “fast, active, and alert…they need regular exercise and activity [and] have extreme endurance and desire to perform, so they would do best with a family that can give them a job to do,” DiNardo describes. She warns prospective owners that “Coonhounds are bred to be heard, so be prepared for a loud voice.”
American Dog Breeds: Care Tips
While all of these dogs have American origins, each has unique needs that vary by breed and individual animal. Many of the breeds on our list are considered active dog breeds, which means they require more physical and mental exercise than other dogs. Before bringing home a new pet, it’s important to do your homework and take your lifestyle into consideration. Regardless of breed, proper training and socialization are vital. Daily walks, interactive games, and training sessions are all great ways to bond with your dog.
In an ideal world, we’d never have to be apart from our dogs for more than a few hours, but there are times when we need to leave our pets behind for extended periods. “If you’re planning a holiday, and you are not able to bring your dog with you, there are a number of options and factors to consider as to leaving them in the best care while you are away,” recommends Lambert.
If a familiar face isn’t available to sub-in during your absence, it may be beneficial to book an in-home pet sitter who can give your dog plenty of one-on-one attention, exercise, and mental stimulation. Lambert advises to always use sitters who have been “highly recommended by several people and always check their references and ensure they carry appropriate insurance.”
Once you’re back home, you can jump right back into your normal routine–just be prepared to give extra hugs and cuddles to make up for lost time.