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We share our planet with as many as a billion dogs, but only about one-quarter of them are kept as pets. Unlike the huge number of stray dogs around the world, these furry friends are provided shelter, food, and veterinary care — and they’re often considered members of the family.
But not all nations love Fido equally. While there are varying measures of dog ownership worldwide, we looked at the relative population of dogs — pet dogs per 1,000 people — from WellBeing International. Read on to find out the 10 most canine-loving countries around the world.
Mexico ranks 10th with 184 pet dogs per 1,000 people. You might recognize Mexico’s most famous native breed, the tiny, energetic Chihuahua. But despite the Chihuahua's worldwide popularity, another native breed earns the national dog title — the xōlōitzcuintli, or xolo. Also known as the Mexican hairless dog, its name is a combination of Xolotl, the Aztec god of death, and Itzcuintli, meaning dog. Xolos are one of the world’s oldest dog breeds, with fossils dating back approximately 3,500 years.
Mexico’s Indigenous peoples, the Aztecs, Mayans, and Toltecs, revered the xolo and thought it had mystical powers to ward off evil. They even buried xolos with their owners to protect them in the afterworld. Today, many Mexicans believe xolos have healing powers for conditions such as insomnia, asthma, and toothaches. Due to their lack of hair, xolos get cold easily, and owners often wrap them in blankets at night and cuddle with them — it doesn’t get more dog-loving than that!
Portugal takes pride in its talented soccer players, exquisite port wine, cork production, and beautiful ceramic tiles, among other things. You might also have heard of another cultural treasure — Portuguese water dogs — thanks to the Obamas, who brought two of them to the White House. The breed is popular among dog allergy sufferers because they tend to cause fewer and less severe allergic reactions due to their thick, curly single coat. (They have no undercoat, which means less shedding.)
Portugal’s dog stats come in at 188 pet dogs per 1,000 humans. Despite the Portuguese water dogs’ popularity, the Portuguese Podengo earns the national dog title. For being such a small country, Portugal has a surprising number of native breeds — eight are recognized, some dating back centuries.
Poland is Europe’s third-most-dog-loving nation, with 195 pet dogs per 1,000 people. Many museums, movie theaters, hotels, shops, and restaurants allow dogs. Poles can proudly boast about their five native breeds: Polish lowland sheepdogs, Polish greyhounds, Polish hunting dogs, Polish hounds, and Tatra shepherd dogs. All are medium or large, attractive breeds that almost became extinct due to Poland’s turbulent history and World Wars. Breeders made concerted efforts to save the native breeds from extinction, and now their numbers have returned. However, non-native breeds such as German shepherds, Chihuahuas, and the French bulldog are among the most popular pets in Poland.
Argentinians have an affinity for pets in general — dogs, cats, birds, fish, and even exotic animals — but dogs are by far the most popular choice. Argentina has 197 pet dogs per 1,000 residents. Dogo Argentinos are the country’s best-known native breed, bred to hunt large animals such as wild boars and pumas. However, the most popular breeds are similar to what you’ll find in many countries — poodles, Labs, and German shepherds are among the favorites.
Brazil invokes images of iconic Carnival festivals, beautiful people and beaches, the lush Amazon rainforest, and soccer superstars. However, soccer isn’t Brazil’s only passion — canines reign big here, with about 199 pet dogs per 1,000 humans. Brazilians most prefer small canines, likely because a majority of its population (about 87%) lives in urban areas where space is at a premium. About 55% of Brazilian dogs weigh less than 20 pounds, which is the world’s highest percentage of small dogs. You’ll see plenty of Shih Tzus, Chihuahuas, and little terriers walking and romping in city dog parks.
Asian countries tend to have some of the world’s lowest dog ownership rates, but you’ll find plenty of wagging tails in the Philippines, with about 200 pet dogs per 1,000 people. The country is also home to millions of strays and free-to-roam dogs, with about 100 per 1,000 people, one of the world’s highest per-capita populations. Most Filipino street dogs are mixed breeds known as askals or aspins, and are indigenous to the Philippines. Scientists have discovered that askals are among modern dogs’ earliest ancestors. For pets, Filipinos prefer Labs, German shepherds, poodles, Shih Tzus, and Chihuahuas.
This beautiful European country’s usual claim to fame is as Dracula’s birthplace, but it turns out that Romania also ranks fourth globally in canine fandom — with 206 pet dogs per 1,000 people. About 4.1 million pups live with 19 million Romanians, and more than half of households contain a dog. The American Kennel Club recognizes the Romanian Mioritic shepherd dog as a native breed. These dogs grow to an impressive 100 to 130 pounds and are known to be loyal, independent, reliable, and fiercely protective. Another handsome breed called the Transylvanian hound dates back centuries and was used for hunting bears, boars, lynx, and wolves.
This long, narrow country running between the Andes mountains and the Pacific coast is known for its more exotic animals — Andean condors, Chilean flamingos, penguins, pumas, guanacos, and vicuñas (llama-like camelids). However, Chileans are serious dog lovers, ranking third with 214 pet dogs per 1,000 people.
If you visit Chile, be prepared to encounter a lot of free-roaming dogs — they even have a nickname. Chileans consider the 2.5 million to 3 million street dogs, known as “quiltros,” part of their culture, belonging to everyone. The (mostly) friendly dogs are not only tolerated, but also fed and cared for by residents, who built makeshift structures for them. The dogs are even known to recognize and use crosswalks!
The Czech Republic
You might be surprised to learn that this small European nation ranks second on the canine love scale with 221 pet dogs for every 1,000 humans. About 3.1 million dogs live in this country of 10.6 million people. Well-behaved dogs are welcomed in many public places. For example, pooches can accompany their owners into many cinemas, shops, public transportation, cafes, and beer gardens. German shepherds, dachshunds, Chihuahuas, golden retrievers, and terriers are among the most popular breeds, along with Bohemian Shepherds, which are native to the country and have been around for centuries. The Cesky terrier, Czechoslovakian wolfdog, and Cesky Fousek are also native breeds.
The United States
The U.S. ranks first for relative dog ownership (239 dogs per 1,000 people) and overall dog ownership, with about 76 million pet dogs in the country. About 38% of households share space with one or more tail-wagging companions. Americans also tend to prefer their hounds big — the U.S. ranks fourth in the world for owning big dogs, and 54% weigh 50 pounds or more. According to the American Kennel Club, Labs, German shepherds, golden retrievers, bulldogs, poodles, beagles, and Rottweilers are among the most popular breeds in the U.S.
It also turns out that some states love Fido more than others. Unsurprisingly, rural states where dogs have more room to roam tend to rank higher than urban areas. According to the American Veterinary Association, dog ownership per capita is highest in Idaho, followed by Montana, Arkansas, Mississippi, West Virginia, Indiana, Oklahoma, Colorado, Nebraska, and Tennessee. Roughly half the households in these states contain one or more dogs. New Hampshire ranks the lowest for dog ownership at about 24%, followed by Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, Vermont, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Maryland, Illinois, and South Dakota.