Dog Breed Groups and Characteristics
In the U.S., the American Kennel Club (AKC) classifies dogs into seven basic breed groups based on shared physical characteristics and similarities in behavioral traits.
These groups are named according to their most striking features:
Understanding the basic drives and needs of each breed group can help you select the right pet for your family and your lifestyle.
While a comprehensive list of members of dog breed groups and characteristics of these breeds would be exceptionally long, here are the highlights of each of these categories.
Herding Dog Breeds
Although some kennel clubs categorize herding dogs as part of the working dog group, the AKC classifies these dogs into their own special group.
Herding dogs were bred and trained to herd sheep, cows and other livestock for farmers.
The top herding dog breeds include the following:
- Australian shepherds
- Border collies
- Standard collies
- Australian cattle dogs
- German shepherds
- Pembroke Welsh corgis
- Shetland sheepdogs, also known as shelties
- Old English sheepdogs
Herding dogs are excellent choices for families with small children.
The care that these dogs show for their animal charges carries over nicely to guarding and watching over babies and younger children.
Training and discipline is necessary to ensure that larger dogs do not herd children too persistently.
The Bouvier des Flandres and the Puli are among the few hypoallergenic dogs in the herding dog group.
Corgis, Australian shepherds and shelties are especially prized for their sweet tempers and gentle behavior with children.
Hound Dog Breeds
As the group that contains beagles, basset hounds and dachshunds, the hound dog breed category is one of the most beloved in the U.S. and around the world.
Known for their hangdog expressions and soulful eyes, hound dogs have been used to assist hunters and to track missing persons in many areas.
Loyal and patient, members of the hound dog group need room to run and regular exercise to stay healthy.
Some of the most popular members of this AKC group include the following:
- Irish wolfhounds
- Norwegian elkhounds
- Black and tan coonhounds
- Rhodesian ridgebacks
The temperaments and sizes of hound dogs can vary widely.
Providing proper training can help you manage any incipient behavior problems before they become major issues.
Peruvian Inca Orchid hounds and Basenjis are among the only hypoallergenic hounds and are ideal choices for families in which allergies may present a problem.
Sporting Dog Breeds
Specifically bred to assist hunters in the field, sporting dogs include retrievers, spaniels, pointers and setters.
The sporting dogs recognized by the AKC are active and energetic pets that require plenty of outdoor exercise to remain healthy and happy as family pets.
The most popular breeds of sporting dogs include the following:
- Golden retriever
- Cocker spaniel
- Labrador retriever
- Irish setters
Wirehaired pointing griffons are hypoallergenic and are loyal and affectionate pets for the whole family.
As a group, sporting dogs tend to be gentle and trainable, making them ideal companions for children and adults alike.
Terrier Dog Breeds
Originally bred to help farmers control the populations of rats and other vermin in fields and storehouses, members of the terrier breed group are agile and determined.
Terriers can vary significantly in size and in temperament.
Some of the most popular terrier breeds include the following:
- Fox terriers
- Cairn terriers
- Jack Russell terriers
- Airedale terriers
- Miniature schnauzers
- Rat terriers
- Scottish terriers
Terriers are tenacious and even stubborn at times.
They can also exhibit a strong drive to chase and pursue people and items they perceive as prey.
As a result, maintaining a dominant position with these pets and enforcing discipline when necessary can ensure a more harmonious household.
Frequent walks, trips to the dog park and active play with balls and flying disks can help these dogs work off excess energy.
West Highland white terriers, wire fox terriers and soft-coated Wheaten terriers are hypoallergenic choices in the terrier breed group.
Toy Dog Breeds
Small size and weight are the primary characteristics of the toy breed group.
These companion animals can provide affection and entertainment far in excess of their tiny size. Some of the most popular toy dog breeds include the following:
- Yorkshire terriers
- Miniature pinschers
Toy dog breeds less than five pounds are ideal choices for smaller apartments and enjoy daily walks and supervised visits to dog parks.
Yorkshire terriers, Maltese, toy poodles and Shih Tzu dogs are among the hypoallergenic toy dog breeds and are well-suited for individuals with allergies to pet fur and dander.
Members of the toy dog breed family vary in temperament and may be calm lap dogs or active and excitable playmates.
Training can provide added assistance in keeping toy dog breeds quiet and content for apartment and condominium dwellers.
Spending some time with the dog you are considering prior to adoption can help you ensure the right fit for your family.
Working Dog Breeds
The jobs performed by the working dog breed group are as varied as the dogs themselves.
Working dogs serve as police K-9 units, guards for people and property, water and mountain rescue assistants and sled dogs.
Some of the most popular members of the working dog breed group include the following:
- Doberman pinschers
- Great Danes
- Siberian huskies
- Saint Bernard dogs
Only a few breeds in the working dog group are suited for families suffering from allergies.
Hypoallergenic working dog breeds include the Portuguese water dog, the giant and standard schnauzer and the Samoyed.
Working dogs are active and task-oriented.
Providing them with opportunities to be useful and to release excess energy is essential to ensure that they stay healthy and happy in your home.
Proper training is required to maintain the dominant position and provide stability for pets from the working dog group.
Non-Sporting Dog Breeds
The AKC non-sporting dog breeds category includes a wide range of dogs that do not fit clearly into any other category.
Some of these breeds are among the most popular and include:
- Tibetan terrier
- Shiba Inu
- French bulldog
- American Eskimo
- Chow Chow
- Lhasa Apso
Each of these breeds has its own distinctive look and personality.
For example, Dalmatians are sensitive and require a great deal of attention and exercise to ensure the most positive temperament.
French bulldogs are playful, affectionate and even-tempered.
Shiba Inu puppies and dogs are expert watchdogs and are known for their absolute fearlessness.
Doing a little research can provide you with added information on the physical attributes of these dog breed groups and on characteristics that may be important in choosing the right pet for your family.
Understanding the physical traits of these dog breed groups and the characteristics that define their temperaments can help you make a more informed choice when selecting a new addition for your family.
Taking the time to research your preferred breeds can ensure a lasting and loving relationship between you and your adopted dog.