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12 Ugly Dogs That Will Win Your Heart

Updated: May 15, 2024

Not every dog has a perfectly groomed and fluffy coat, but even ugly dogs are adorable—and make the perfect addition to a loving home

White with a brown patch Bull Terrier dog posing outdoors lying down in a green grass with violet lupine flowers in summer
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World’s ugliest dogs

Even ugly dogs can be cute, especially when they flash their goofy snaggletooth, gaze at you with their tongue lazily hanging from their mouth or snuggle up next to you with only a few wispy hairs to keep them warm. So many people agree that ugly dogs are adorable that the World’s Ugliest Dog Contest has been held annually for almost 30 years. “Dogs who win the ‘ugliest dog’ contests are often dogs who embody some or many of these features,” says Stephanie Filer, executive director of Shelter Animals Count, referring to the winning pups’ snaggleteeth, drooping tongues and lackluster fur.

Filer says that it’s their unique charm that makes these “ugly” breeds stand out, even in shelters where traditionally beautiful, popular dog breeds like German shepherds and Siberian huskies may struggle to find homes. Read on to explore some of the most endearing “ugly” dog breeds that possess a unique sort of beauty.

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About the experts

  • Stephanie Filer is the executive director of the nonprofit Shelter Animals Count, which maintains the database of U.S. sheltering statistics with data from over 7,000 animal sheltering organizations in all 50 states, three U.S. territories and Canada.
  • Jacqueline Brister, DVM, is a veterinarian with Embrace Pet Insurance. She earned her doctorate in veterinary medicine at the Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine and was awarded the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine Award for Compassion in Oncology.
  • Darris Cooper, CPDT-KA, FFCP, is the national dog training manager at Petco. He has more than 10 years of experience as a professional dog trainer, is recognized by the Certification Council of Professional Dog Trainers and holds certifications as a Fear-Free Animal Trainer and American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen Evaluator. He is a member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and is the head of diversity, equity and inclusion with the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants.

Chinese Crested Dog having fun at the dog park
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Chinese crested

Scooter, a 7-year-old hairless Chinese crested, wowed the judges of the 2023 World’s Ugliest Dog contest, taking first place. But forget topping the charts as one of the “ugliest” dogs—Chinese cresteds rock their hairdos and rightfully turn heads. Hairless Cresties have cute little tufts of hair on their head, paws and tails. Don’t let their punk-rock vibes fool you, though. These snuggle muffins are anything but rough-and-tumble.

Long Haired Cream and White Chihuahua
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Chihuahua

Chihuahuas might have a “land-shark” reputation, but with their bug eyes and perked-up ears, they also have an undeniable charm. Jacqueline Brister, DVM, a veterinarian at Embrace Pet Insurance, agrees. Even when one tries to “eat” her during an exam (she jokes!), their goofy grins and infectious energy can melt even the most reluctant heart. After all, who can resist a pint-sized pup with so much zest?

Portrait of beautiful English bulldog
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English bulldog

“People that prefer long, tall breeds like sighthounds may find short, squatty breeds like English bulldogs less attractive—but that’s just personal preference,” says Dr. Brister. Squatty as they might be, English bulldogs serve up a tall order of playfulness and goofiness. But beware: Once curled up, they become expert nappers—and snorers!

Neapolitan Mastiff
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Neapolitan mastiff

“Every breed has its own unique charm,” says Darris Cooper, the national dog-training manager at Petco. Take the Neapolitan mastiff. Its majestic size and droopy facial features might not be for everyone, but beneath its imposing stature lies a gentle soul. These ancient guardians are descendants of Roman war dogs purposely bred as “alarmingly ugly dogs whose looks alone were enough to deter any intruder,” according to the United States Neapolitan Mastiff Club. Today, the happy-go-lucky pups remain loyal protectors, but their primary concern is showering their loved ones with slobbery kisses and silliness.

Puli in full face.
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Komondor

This majestic mop on legs might not have the most conventional hairstyle, but it cares more about the job at hand than conforming to societal norms. Koms are rare finds outside their hometown in rural Hungary, making their adorableness an exclusive treasure. They’re even hard to spot on their home turf; these guard dogs were bred to blend in with flocks of sheep. Between its long locks and its independent streak, the komondor is a better match for older children than little tykes.

Pug dog in the garden
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Pug

Smooshed faces, big neck rolls and bulging eyes make pugs stand out from the pack. And while some might find their features unusual, others, including ancient Chinese emperors, can’t resist their charm. These royal butterballs didn’t just warm laps; they served as heroes too. One brave pug allegedly saved the life of a Dutch prince by barking to alert him of an approaching attack, according to the Northern California Pug Club. Dr. Brister says that this breed is affectionate, quirky and fun.

Xoloitzcuintli breed, mexican hairless dog on summer day
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Xoloitzcuintli

You can call it the Mexican hairless or Xolo for short. These dogs are highly intelligent, eager to socialize and adaptable to all kinds of households, making them ideal family pets. They’re among a handful of natural dog breeds with roots tracing back some 3,000 years. That’s right, these good looks are au naturel. They’ll cost a pretty penny too, but isn’t that face worth it? Those with allergies might say so; they’re considered a hypoallergenic dog breed, or at least as close as you’ll find to one.

Bedlington Terrier
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Bedlington terrier

Cooper recommends choosing a dog based on its personality rather than looks, and the lamb-like Bedlington terrier is a good pick. These playful charmers are far from sheepish—despite their wooly resemblance. While their terrier heritage shines through in their love of barking and chasing, they’re also gentle, lovable and quick to make friends.

Shaggy Irish Wolfhound
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Irish wolfhound

It’s true that the Irish wolfhound is taller than most people when it stands on its hind legs, but don’t worry: This kindhearted soul won’t look down on you. These gentle giants offer immense love and companionship.

Portrait of peruvian hairless dog
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Peruvian Inca Orchid

Embrace the unconventionally cute with this South American charmer. They’re hairless (or nearly hairless) with a slender physique, a look that’s not everyone’s cup of tea. Remember, “unique dogs need just as much love and care as any other type of dog,” says Dr. Brister. The Peruvian Inca Orchid is certainly no exception; its delicate, hairless body can be easily cut, scratched and sunburned. While they may not need frequent brushing (and aren’t likely to make you sneeze), they do require routine baths and a regular skin-care routine.

dog breed Pekingese
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Pekingese

If you’re looking for a pup with a sweet canine grin, the Pekingese might not be your first choice. But while its underbite is considered a “flaw” in other breeds, it’s a defining feature for the Pekingese. An ancient myth claims the perfectly maned Pekingese are lions shrunken down to dog size by the Buddha, while in reality, they were bred for royal companionship. Regardless of their true beginnings, these perky pups are affectionate lap dogs who adore being pampered.

White with a brown patch Bull Terrier dog posing outdoors lying down on a green grass near a flowerbed in summer
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Bull terrier

“Personally, the dogs I find the cutest are blocky-headed dogs with a wide smile, short fur, an expressive face and the personality to match,” says Filer. Check, check and check! Maybe their egg-shaped heads are too striking for some, but bull terriers definitely tick the so-ugly-they’re-cute box in the most charming way. No wonder Target chose Spot the bull terrier as its mascot. He’s completely stolen our hearts!

Why trust us

At Reader’s Digest, we’re committed to producing high-quality content by writers with expertise and experience in their field, in consultation with relevant, qualified experts. For this piece, Janelle Leeson tapped her experience as a longtime pet health and behavior writer. Then Caroline Coile, PhD, an award-winning journalist specializing in canine breeds, health and science, gave it a rigorous review to ensure that all information is accurate and offers the best possible advice to readers. We verify all facts and data, back them with credible sourcing and revisit them over time to ensure they remain accurate and up to date. Read more about our team, our contributors and our editorial policies.

Sources:

  • Stephanie Filer, executive director of Shelter Animals Count and a member of the Association for Animal Welfare Advancement and the Association of Fundraising Professionals; email interview, Feb. 9, 2024
  • Jacqueline Brister, DVM, veterinarian at Embrace Pet Insurance; email interview, Feb. 9, 2024
  • Darris Cooper, CPDT-KA, FFCP, national dog-training manager at Petco and member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers; email interview, Feb. 8, 2024
  • Northern California Pug Club: “The Pug and Its History”
  • United States Neapolitan Mastiff Club: “Breed Info”