While Labradors and French Bulldogs dominate the dog park, there are a few breeds that stand out from the crowd. From the hairless Chinese Crested to the spotted Boykin Spaniel, these unique canines have fascinating backstories.
Some are hard to find outside their native homelands while others have spent decades making comebacks from population decline. Read on to meet the modern dog breeds you haven’t heard of yet.
1. Black Russian Terrier
Black Russian Terriers are majestic dogs that exude power and presence. They are calm and confident and love to play with their family. However, they can be suspicious of strangers and are protective of their family members.
They require early training and socialization to ensure their protective tendencies don’t get out of hand. They need plenty of exercise to burn off energy and do best with a fenced-in backyard.
2. Caucasian Shepherd
Known as the Ovcharka, this ancient breed has long been used to protect property from trespassers and livestock, as well as hunt big game like bear and wolf. With extensive training and early socialization, they make devoted family companions and powerful watchdogs.
They’re not for novice dog owners and must be kept leashed or in a fenced-in area due to their territorial instincts. They need daily exercise via walks, romping around the yard or a field, hikes and playing with puzzle toys to burn off their physical energy.
3. Coton de Tulear
Cotons are happy, affectionate dogs that get along well with children, other pets and adults. They do best in homes without lots of noise or chaos.
They have a 4-inch profuse, cotton-like white coat that can be snow white or shaded with light grays or red roan, mostly around the ears and head. They also may have rust-colored or black spots on their head, body and ears that fade as they age.
4. English Foxhound
English Foxhounds are scent hounds that are cousins to the sleek American foxhound. They’re active dogs that need a large fenced-in backyard to run and play in and can “speak up” with their loud barks. Apartment dwellers may find this breed hard to live with.
This smart, proud breed earned its name after a character in the novel Guy Mannering by Sir Walter Scott. It’s a pack dog and enjoys playing with other dogs but has strong prey drive and can chase smaller pets, so supervise children’s interactions.
5. St. John’s Water Dog
St. John’s Water Dogs were developed in Newfoundland and Canada to help with the fishing industry. They were used to retrieve nets thrown into the water and also helped fisherman pull in their catch.
They were large, stocky dogs that resembled English Labradors (rather than American ones) with white patches on their chest, chin, feet and muzzle, giving them the appearance of wearing a tuxedo.
Sadly, they went extinct in the 1980s. But some of their traits live on in modern dogs like Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers.
These cute little dogs pack big personalities into their pint-sized frames. Pomeranians descend from Spitz-type sled dogs from Iceland and Lapland. Breeders miniaturized these dogs to create today’s Poms, which take their name from the province of Pomerania in modern Poland and Germany.
Queen Victoria’s Pomeranians helped this breed become popular in the 18th century, and responsible breeders screen for luxating patellas, collapsing tracheas, congestive heart failure, and Alopecia X (black skin disease). This is a sturdy, healthy breed with an alert, confident personality.
7. Swedish Vallhund
Like the Cardigan and Pembroke Welsh Corgis, the Swedish Vallhund is a herding dog that can also serve as a watchdog or ratter. This breed is calm and adaptable, so it will fit into many different home environments as long as it gets daily exercise.
This breed is known to get along well with children as long as they are taught how to interact properly with dogs and early socialization occurs. This breed can also get along with other pets in the household, especially cats.
The lean sighthound is regally aloof with strangers but gentle and affectionate with loved ones. A sensitive breed, Sloughis thrive with positive reinforcement training.
They need daily exercise and excel at dog sports like lure coursing. But they should not be let loose in unsafe areas (like a neighborhood without an underground electronic fence) because their strong hunting instincts can cause them to run right into the path of a car or other danger.
9. Piebald Dog
Many breeds can carry the piebald gene, and you may have already seen a pup with white markings without realizing it. To qualify as a true piebald, a dog must display one dark spot on a white fur base and have a white tip on its tail.
This small Norwegian breed was developed for hunting puffins on the rocky island of Vaeroy. They can scale walls and squeeze into crevices to nab these tasty birds! Lundehunds thrive with families, but aren’t always fond of children who might step on their toes.