A Guide to Dog Breeds

Among the hundreds of different dog breeds worldwide, there is an astounding amount of variation in size, shape, and temperament. Organizations called kennel clubs concern themselves with identifying distinct dog breeds and arranging them into meaningful groups. The American Kennel Club recognizes 178 dog breeds and separates them into seven main groups. These groups are the Herding Group, the Hound Group, the Non-Sporting Group, the Sporting Group, the Terrier Group, the Toy Group, and the Working Group. The AKC also acknowledges a Miscellaneous Class, consisting of distinct dog breeds not yet recognized by the organization as members of any of the seven main groups. The AKC first divided dog breeds into groups in 1923, when they created new rules regarding the showing of dogs in competition. Initially five groups were created, which were further divided in following years to make the seven current groups.


The Herding Group was established in 1983, when it broke off from the large Working Group. Not surprisingly, dogs in the Herding Group all display herding behavior. As such, herding dogs make terrific companions for farmers. They also make great pets for anyone who has time and energy to invest in thorough training. These highly intelligent animals sometimes have a hard time suppressing their herding instincts and have been known to herd their owners and other people. Some examples of popular herding dogs are the border collie, the Welsh corgi, and the German shepherd.


The Hound Group split off from the Sporting Group in 1930. Most of the dogs in the Hound Group have been (or have ancestors who have been) used as hunting dogs. Many hound dogs have incredible senses of smell. These dogs, like the bloodhound and the beagle, are often referred to as scent hounds. Hound dogs make terrific pets not just for hunters, but for the general public, as well. Some popular varieties of hound dogs include the dachshund, the greyhound, and the whippet.


The Non-Sporting Group was created in 1923 as a home for dog breeds that didn't fit into any of the other main groups. As such, it is a very diverse group. The dogs in the Non-Sporting Group have very little in common with each other in terms of size, shape, and personality. Poodles, Dalmatians, Boston terriers, and bulldogs are all examples of popular dogs in the Non-Sporting Group. Due to their different sizes and personalities, different breeds within the Non-Sporting Group make suitable pets for different people. Bulldogs are fairly sedentary and make great pets for people who have limited mobility or lead fairly inactive lives. Dalmatians, on the other hand, are very energetic and require daily exercise. They make good companions for individuals who lead active lives.


The Sporting Group was one of the five original groups established by the American Kennel Club in 1923. It originally included hound breeds, as well. Like hound dogs, sporting dogs were once used in hunting. Some breeds are still used in hunting today, but many of them have become popular family pets. Sporting dogs are highly intelligent, and breeds like the Labrador retriever are commonly used as helper animals for disabled people. The golden retriever, Labrador retriever, and cocker spaniel are examples of popular breeds in the Sporting Group. Because sporting dogs are so intelligent and can be easily trained, they make great companions for families with children. Due to their popularity, however, some breeds in the Sporting Group have been subjected to careless overbreeding, and dogs in this group may require frequent (vet services.) Due to the congenital problems that can arise from overbreeding, owners of certain sporting dogs may be overwhelmed with hefty veterinarian bills.


Created in 1923 as one of the American Kennel Club's five original groups, the Terrier Group includes dogs that range in size from fairly small to fairly large, but all terriers are similarly lively creatures. Originally, these dogs were bred to hunt foxes, large rodents, and other burrowing animals. They are named after their proclivity to dig in the dirt; the word terrier comes from the Latin word for "earth." Popular terrier breeds include the Airedale terrier, the Russell terrier, and the Scottish terrier. Because of their feisty personalities, dogs in the Terrier Group make great pets for people who have the time and energy to devote to proper training. When not properly trained, these dogs can be difficult to control and can even become a danger to their owners and others.


One of the first five groups created by the American Kennel Club in 1923, the Toy Group includes small dogs that were bred to be lap dogs. The most obvious trait these breeds have in common is their diminutive size, but many of them are also known for their generally happy nature and distinctive facial expressions. Chihuahuas, pugs, and Pomeranians are all popular toy dog breeds. Due to their size, toy dogs make great pets for individuals who do not have a lot of living space. They are also popular with people who like lap dogs. A toy dog owner may get to know their veterinarian quite well; many toy dogs suffer from congenital diseases and, as such, may require frequent vet services.


The Working Group was one of the first groups formed by the American Kennel Club in 1923. Herding breeds were included in this group until 1983. Working dogs were bred to perform a variety of tasks, from pulling sleds to performing rescue missions to guarding livestock. Because of their typically large size, dogs in this group are generally not recommended as pets for first-time owners. Siberian huskies, Saint Bernards, and Rottweilers are all popular breeds in the Working Group.


The Miscellaneous Class includes dog breeds that are currently part of the American Kennel Club's Foundation Stock Service, but have not yet been officially recognized by the organization or placed in a breed group. Therefore, the breeds in this group do not necessarily have anything in common in terms of size, shape, or personality. Because dogs placed in the miscellaneous class are going through the necessary steps to become an officially recognized AKC breed, they are subject to change. Breeds in the Miscellaneous Group may be officially recognized once there is significant national interest in the breed and widespread breeding occurs.