Utility dogs are one of a number of groupings that the Kennel Club in the UK uses to gather together a variety of different individual dog breeds with shared histories or core traits together for showing and registration purposes.
There are a total of seven different breed groupings determined by the Kennel Club in total, each of which are quite distinct from each other, but each of which also contain a number of varied dog breeds that at a glance, might not have a lot in common.
The utility breed group’s name too isn’t hugely informative for those that don’t have a basic understanding of dog groupings and working roles, unlike some of the other breed groups, such as the toy group or the gun dog group, which are self-explanatory.
However, dog breeds that fall into the utility group include some of the most well-known, best loved and popular breeds overall in the UK, and you will almost certainly be familiar with many of them already.
Making the decision to buy a dog or puppy of any type is one that takes a lot of time to make, both in order to determine that you’re in a good position to choose a dog of any type and provide for all of their needs, and to pick the right choice of dog for you.
This is something that only you can determine, based on doing plenty of research and meeting lots of dogs of the breeds you are considering. But in order to narrow down your options in the first place and to get a feel for what might or might not be a good choice, it can be helpful to know what type of dog breeds other people choose most commonly, and which ones are the most popular.
If you are considering a utility dog breed as your next purchase, or if you’re narrowing down your choice of breeds and find that dogs from the utility group keep cropping up, you might wish to find out more about the group as a whole, and what dogs from within it are in greatest demand.
This is information that Pets4Homes can provide for our readers, and which is often very hard to come by elsewhere. As the UK’s largest and most popular dedicated pet classifieds website, we are in a unique position in terms of our ability to assess the state of the market for dog sales in the UK in general, and to determine what breeds and types of dog are in greatest demand at any given time.
Using information collated from across the entire Pets4Homes website over the course of 2018, we’ve drawn up a definitive list of the UK’s five most popular and in-demand utility dog breeds, based on statistical information collated across the site over the course of the last year.
In this article we will explain in detail what a utility dog actually is, and share our list of the most popular utility dog breeds in the UK. Read on to learn which utility dog breeds are in the greatest demand in the UK right now.
Utility dog breeds are recognised pedigree dog breeds that are included within the Kennel Club’s utility grouping. The Kennel club’s breed groups are collections of individually recognised pedigree dog breeds that within each group, have a number of commonalities across the breeds within it, usually relating to a past or current working role or application, core traits, and sometimes, physical appearance.
Only formally recognised dog breeds as determined by the Kennel Club are assigned to a larger umbrella breed grouping like the utility dog group, and so only pedigree dog breeds are included within our own popularity listing, but a non-pedigree dog may potentially be of the utility dog type, or bred from recognised utility dog breeds.
The Kennel Club has a total number of seven different breed groups in total, and these larger groups are used to hold higher-level showing classes to find the best dog out of a mixture of different breeds with shared traits, and to indicate a dog’s origins and potential applications.
There are a total number of thirty different pedigree dog breeds recognised within the utility group as drawn up by the UK Kennel Club, and naturally, some of them are more popular and well-known than others, but many of them are very familiar to most dog lovers.
So, what makes a utility dog, what do they have in common, and what shared traits can be found within this grouping? Let’s take a look.
The utility group is, as mentioned, one that contains quite a mixture of different breeds that don’t immediately appear to have a lot in common, particularly when compared to the other Kennel Club groupings. The term “utility” means “workmanlike” or “fit for purpose,” and the group’s name provides a loose clue to the grouping’s general origins.
Utility dog breeds are those that were originally bred, developed or used for a specific role or purpose, rather than as pets or companions. However, there are various other Kennel Club groupings dedicated to recognising working and sporting dog breeds that have shared core traits – like gun dog skills, hounds, and herding breeds – and dogs that fall within the utility group are essentially dogs that don’t fit in elsewhere, but that are workmanlike or adept at performing a specific function.
This helps to explain the level of variance between the different breeds that fall within the utility group as a whole, and the utility group is perhaps the most diverse and varied of all of the various breed groups in terms of the member breeds that fall within it.
Overall, the main trait that unites dogs within the utility group is their variety, and a specific ability or skill that places them within this group but not another working group, or a different group entirely such as the toy dog section.
We’ll get on to the full list of the UK’s most popular utility dog breeds shortly, but in order to ensure that you understand the list and its order of placement, first of all we’ll explain in more detail how we determined the breeds that made the cut, and worked out the popularity order we determined.
Pets4Homes is the UK’s best-known, busiest and most popular dedicated pet classifieds website, attracting millions of visitors every month who use the site to advertise dogs for sale, browse dogs on offer, learn about pets and animals, and take part in the Pets4Homes forum.
We host more adverts for dogs for sale than any other pet classifieds website in the country, and by collating anonymous information provided by sellers that advertise dogs for sale here, we can build up a comprehensive picture of the most popular dog breeds in terms of advert numbers and demand, as well as a range of other variables too.
We can then compare different dog breeds side by side to draw like for like comparisons on their popularity and population numbers, and draw up rankings on popularity for each breed group title.
When advertisers list a dog or litter for sale on Pets4Homes, we collate statistics on the breed of dog, their pedigree status, price point and other factors, based on the information supplied by the advertiser and indexed anonymously.
By building up data in this way and making comparisons of the statistics for various different dog breeds and other metrics side by side, we can determine what breeds from different dog groups saw the largest number of advertisements placed within a given timeframe, how much they are advertised for on average, and how pedigree numbers and prices compare to non-pedigree offerings.
The data that we use to collate our statistics and compile the information that we share is drawn from Pets4Homes only, and so reflects the state of play across our own platform rather than across every combined pet classifieds portal in the UK as a whole.
However, as we are the largest pet classifieds site in the UK and Pets4Homes hosts more UK dog adverts than anywhere else, our data reflects a snapshot of the wider state of the market in the UK as a whole. Whilst the figures we’re working with show only dogs advertised on Pets4Homes, the accuracy of the relative positions of the dogs on the list demonstrate the general state of the market for the time period given.
This enables us to ensure the veracity of the data that we use, and to avoid unknowns and variables that might compromise the list’s accuracy.
We’ll share our utility dog breed popularity list below, but first of all, here’s a more detailed outline of how we determined the dog rankings.
Simply because a dog breed is very popular among other puppy buyers or because they’re very widely owned and in great demand does not of course automatically mean that such a dog will be the right choice of pet for you.
However, hugely popular dog breeds become really popular for a reason, and whilst this is different for every owner, it does help to provide an insight into what sort of breeds most people find good to live with, tick all the right boxes for them, or are a good fit for lots of different owners.
You can use our utility dog breed popularity list to get some ideas on the most popular utility dog breeds, find out about their core traits, and develop an understanding of why they’re in such demand in order to make an informed decision about the right type of dog breed for you.
The list will also help you to get a feel for the types of prices commanded by different utility dog breeds side by side, so that you can determine if any given breed is within your budget, and perhaps identify viable alternatives that may be a better fit.
Here is Pets4Homes’ definitive list of the five most popular utility dog breeds in the UK, presented in reverse order.
The Lhasa Apso is a dog breed that has only been found in the UK since the 1920s, and yet within the course of the last century they have become one of our most popular an in-demand utility dog breeds.
The Lhasa Apso is the first of two dog breeds within our utility dog popularity listing that hails from Tibet, and also, the second breed we’ll mention that was originally used as monastery guards and watchdogs, living alongside of Buddhist monks in their temples.
Lhasa Apsos are watchful and alert little dogs that would bark to alert the monks of potential strangers approaching, and today’s pet Lhasa Apsos tend to do the same within their own homes and gardens too!
The Lhasa Apso’s fifth place ranking in the utility dog popularity stakes results from a range of combined factors that helps to make these dogs versatile and adaptive, and a good choice of pets for many different types of owners.
Lhasa Apsos are also quite keenly priced on average, both compared to other utility dog breeds and also, dogs of other breeds of a similar sort of size. Under £600 for a pedigree dog of the breed and under £500 for a non-pedigree places Lhasa Apsos of all types within the budget of most prospective dog owners, which further helps to incentivise demand.
The vast majority of Lhasa Apso adverts placed on Pets4Homes in 2018 were non-pedigree specimens, which indicates that pedigree paperwork is not hugely important to most Lhasa Apso buyers. Additionally, the fact that pedigree dogs of the breed are only a touch more costly to buy than non-pedigrees indicates that the level of demand for pedigree dogs of the breed is equivalent to or potentially even a little lower than the average level of supply.
The Lhasa Apso’s small size also helps to open up the range of potential owners that might choose a dog of the breed, and there is an awful lot to recommend the Lhasa Apso to a wide variety of different types of owners.
Despite their small size, the breed as a whole tends to be robust and healthy, and the average Lhasa Apso lifespan is between 13-14 years. There are a few hereditary health issues that can be found within the breed and that may become established within certain mating pairings, but the list of health issues associated with the breed is shorter than for many equivalents, and most Lhasa Apsos are healthy and long lived.
Some of the more acute Lhasa Apso hereditary health issues can be identified by health testing of parent stock prior to breeding, and if you are considering buying a Lhasa Apso puppy, you should ask the breeder what health tests they undertook before you commit to a purchase. Health testing of pedigree breed lines is more common than for non-pedigrees, and Kennel Club Assured Breeders are obliged to undertake testing for progressive retinal atrophy within dogs of the breed.
However, there are no general mandatory health testing schemes in place for the breed, so always ask – and remember that breeders of non-pedigree Lhasa Apsos may health test their dogs too, so always find out about this first.
The Lhasa Apso coat is perhaps the breed’s most defining feature, and their coats are straight or slightly wavy, long and thick, and often reach the ground as well as covering the dog’s face! Lhasa Apso owners who keep their dogs in their full, natural coats need to spend a reasonable amount of time each day brushing and grooming it, but most people who keep Lhasa Apsos as pets have their dog’s coats partially clipped to make it easier to manage on a day to day basis.
The Lhasa Apso falls around the middle of the pack in terms of both their intelligence and energy levels, which in turn makes them very versatile and suited to lots of different types of owners. They are not lapdogs or hugely sedentary pets, needing at least a couple of moderately long walks a day to keep them happy, but they don’t take hours to wear out, and don’t tend to be overly excitable or destructive within the home.
The Lhasa Apso is also smart enough to learn and follow a reasonable range of commands and may be able to learn some tricks or higher-level skills too, which provides a nice balance for most owners, and dogs of the breed are generally considered to be very amenable to training, even for those who have never trained a dog of their own before.
They are also usually very good with children of all ages, being calm, confident and personable, and not easily daunted by noise. However, dogs of the breed may find children that they don’t know and that don’t know how to behave around a dog rather off-putting, so always supervise interactions with kids that your dog doesn’t know well.
Lhasa Apsos can be a good choice of utility dog for people who need to leave their dog alone during the day to go to work, as long as someone can pop in during the middle of the day to provide some company, and to give the dog a chance to stretch their legs and do their business.
When properly trained to stay on their own happily and left with things to entertain themselves with, a Lhasa Apso that has all of their other needs met and that is well exercised will generally be perfectly happy left to themselves for a few hours.
Lhasas also make for good watchdogs and will often be quite territorial, but they don’t tend to be snappy or unpredictable in nature, and are usually friendly with strange dogs and also people when properly introduced. They suit domestic and suburban life well, and are also a good pick for people who live in urban areas that are able to provide for the dog’s need for exercise.
The toy poodle is the smallest of the three poodle size variants that are all recognised as individual dog breeds by the Kennel Club in the UK, and like their larger cousins, they fall into the utility dog grouping for Kennel Club registration purposes.
Toy poodles and the other two poodle size variants (miniature and standard respectively) fall within the utility dog grouping, as all three poodle types are versatile and adaptive dog breeds with incredibly high intelligence and a lot of workable skills.
Toy poodles might seem like an obvious fit for the toy dog group rather than the utility group given the breed’s name, but all of the versatility and desirable traits that applies to other utility dog breeds can also be found within poodles of all sizes, and their personalities are quite unlike those of most toy dog breeds.
The toy poodle is somewhat less popular today in the UK than they have been in decades past, as more and more alternative dog breeds have been imported to the UK and gained traction and popularity, competing with longer established breeds for potential buyers.
However, it is also a breed that is very commonly used in deliberate hybrid crossings to produce mixed breeds that share all of the most popular traits of their parents, and outcrossing a toy poodle often results in a hybrid dog with a very low-shedding coat, which makes them a viable choice of pet for people who otherwise commonly suffer from allergies to dogs.
Pedigree toy poodles are reasonably expensive to buy for a smaller breed, falling just a touch under the £1,000 mark on average. However, even non-pedigree toy poodles are reasonably expensive given their non-pedigree status at an average cost of almost £700 per dog, and so this is not one of the cheaper utility dog breeds to buy.
Given the reasonably small number of toy poodle adverts placed here in 2018 overall, demand for dogs of the breed is quite likely to be somewhat higher than the current level of supply, which helps to maintain consistent pricing that is slightly towards the higher end of the scale.
Poodles are very unique dogs as a whole, given the combination of all of their core traits together, and this makes them appeal to a wide variety of different types of owners.
First of all, as a small dog breed the toy poodle can be accommodated by most people, and they don’t need a huge home in order to thrive. The low or non-shedding nature of the poodle coat is as mentioned, something that is in such great demand that it is widely replicated in hybrid dog types by using poodle breed lines, and this provides an advantage for toy poodles themselves too.
The poodle coat can be quite high maintenance to care for as the small amount of hair that the breed does shed gets tangled up in the rest of the coat, meaning that they need regular brushing and coming to remove this hair and keep the coat in good condition.
Many toy poodle owners have their dogs clipped to help to make their coats easier to care for, and there are a large number of poodle clipping patterns and styles that can produce some very distinctive shapes and appearances across individual dogs of the breed.
Poodles of all sizes are also incredibly intelligent dogs, the toy poodle included. They’re ranked very close to the top of the list of comparative canine intelligence determined by breed, and this means that they are suitable for a huge variety of different types of lifestyles, from working roles to canine sport to assistance dog work to life as pets.
The toy poodle is also a lively and energetic small dog breed that needs quite a lot of exercise to keep them fit, happy and fulfilled, and so they’re a good fit for people looking for a smaller dog breed that is not hugely sedentary and that really enjoys walks and exercise.
The breed’s combination of high energy levels and high intelligence also means that they are very amenable to training, and generally very much enjoy it too. Their quick wits and ability to learn new things means that toy poodles can often learn and execute a wide range of commands reliably, and they are quick to learn tricks and new skills, often needing just a couple of repetitions of each command before the dog catches on.
The toy poodle temperament is affectionate, loving and gentle, and they are very loyal to their owners and handlers. They also tend to be good with strangers, and happy to meet and play with other dogs when properly socialised.
Toy poodles are also quite long lived on average, with lifespans ranging from around 14-15 years across the breed as a whole, which is higher than for most other small dog breeds. However, there are a wide variety of hereditary health issues that can be found within some individual dogs of the breed, although most toy poodles are healthy, robust and long-lived.
Many of the hereditary health conditions that are considered to pose a risk to dogs of the breed can be identified in parent stock prior to breeding, and there are several approved health schemes that toy poodle breeders are encouraged to enrol their dogs in.
Ask the breeder you are considering buying a dog from about their health testing protocols, and take this into account when you make your final decision about which breeder to choose.
The Shih Tzu is a small but regal dog breed that again, many dog lovers mistakenly believe falls within the Kennel Club’s toy dog group, but like the poodle, the Shih Tzu is actually a utility dog breed rather than a toy dog breed!
Shih Tzus are small and versatile dogs that offer some competition to dog breeds that fall within the toy dog group when it comes to finding owners looking for a small, affectionate dog breed that makes for an excellent companion and pet.
Despite the Shih Tzu’s third placing in the utility dog popularity rankings, the breed is reasonably economical to buy when compared to other dog breeds of a similar size. Whilst there is a fairly steep step up between the cost of non-pedigrees to pedigrees based on advertised prices from 2018, even pedigree Shih Tzus are advertised for average prices of under £800, and just over £500 for non-pedigrees.
This means that Shih Tzu ownership falls within most puppy buyer’s budgets, and they’re not one of the breeds that have a large following of fans who cannot afford to buy a dog of the breed due to their average prices.
This breed is one of the smaller of the utility dog types, which means that they are a good fit for homes of all sizes, and don’t require a huge home and garden in order to thrive. This helps to increase their popularity, and means that people who might have to rule out some dog breeds due to their size can often accommodate a Shih Tzu instead.
Shih Tzus fall into the utility dog grouping thanks to a unique role that they performed in their past, when they were kept as monastery dogs living among Buddhist monks in Tibet. The breed was known as “temple dogs,” and they functioned as an early warning system for monks by barking to let them know if a stranger was approaching.
The breed today retains good watchdog skills and they will usually keep an eye on their territories and make a fuss to let you know if someone is approaching, but they aren’t great guard dogs as they are too personable as a rule, and rarely aggressive unless trained to be so.
For people seeking a dog as a pet and companion that aren’t looking for a hugely high energy breed or one that has particularly onerous care requirements, the Shih Tzu may well be a good fit. They are reasonably low-maintenance in terms of their need for exercise, and they are usually quite happy with just a couple of fairly short walks each day.
They also tend to get on well with children, although they may find young or very rowdy kids very daunting, so are usually a better choice for people with older children.
Shih Tzus are also generally considered to be quite a good breed to train for the first-timer, and with a little research and a plan in place, dogs of the breed will usually learn and follow all of the most important commands reliably. However, dogs of the breed are rarely capable of learning a huge range of different commands and their attention spans can be quite short, so keep training sessions short and interesting.
One area in which the Shih Tzu does need rather more care than the average dog is in their need for brushing, grooming and coat maintenance, and when left to grow to its full length, the Shih Tzu coat is long and luxurious and often reaches the floor. A coat of this type requires daily brushing and grooming, and the dog’s fringe is often tied up off their faces in order to allow them to see out!
An alternative for Shih Tzu owners who wish to make grooming less onerous is to have the dog’s fur partially clipped off to make it more manageable, and this is commonly how most pet Shih Tzus in the UK are presented, and the look that most of us are most familiar with.
Shih Tzus as a whole tend to be robust and healthy dogs, and many of them live into their mid to late teens with a good quality of life. However, like all pedigree dog breeds there are a number of health issues that are considered to pose a threat to the breed in general, and which all prospective Shih Tzu owners should research before committing to a purchase.
Some Shih Tzu health conditions can be identified in parent stock prior to breeding with health screening and tests, and these are something that all responsible Shih Tzu breeders undertake and will be willing to share with prospective puppy buyers.
The English bulldog is of course instantly recognisable and very distinctive, as well as being one of our best-loved homegrown British dog breeds and our unofficial national mascot.