The 8 Dog Breed Groups
There are over 330 different breeds of dog currently recognized by veterinarians and breeders all over the world, and this number is increasing as cross-breeding becomes more popular. Whilst there are so many breeds, though, the broad categories of dog groups remain the same.
Working dogs are dogs who are bred and trained to assist their human counterparts with daily activities. This category includes service dogs, sled dogs, guard dogs, police dogs, rescue dogs and farm dogs. Working dogs can be almost any breed but they are distinguished by their intelligence and high energy levels, and are usually on the larger side. An example of a common working dog breed is a German Shepherd working as a K-9 unit.
Companion dogs are what we typically think of as family dogs – the lazy pooch going for strolls with their owner and hogging the couch. Their primary function is as a pet. Again, companion dogs can be almost any breed or size, but the best companion dogs are those with manageable energy levels, friendly dispositions and obedient natures. An example of a common companion dog breed is a Golden Retriever.
Herding dogs are one of the oldest types of working dog, assisting farmers with livestock. Herding dogs have been bred for centuries to exhibit a specific form of predatory behavior that involves rounding up cattle and sheep by nipping at their heels. They are high energy, very intelligent and obedient, as they must be able to follow complex commands from their handler. An example of a common herding dog breed is a Border Collie.
Hound dogs are traditionally hunters with a heightened sense (smell or sight) that can enable them to track and capture prey. These dogs come in all shapes and sizes, from extremely quick sight hounds like greyhounds, to perceptive scent-hounds like bloodhounds. Whilst energetic, loyal and fun to have as pets, hounds do not usually enjoy taking instruction. An example of a common hound dog breed is the hunting Whippet.
Hybrid dogs are the result of a specific and intentional choice to breed two different purebreds to achieve an exact mix of physical and behavioral traits. An example of this is the Labradoodle, the hybrid of a Labrador and a Poodle. Whilst technically a mixed breed dog, this hybrid is anything but an accident.
Mixed Breed Dogs
Mixed breed dogs can be any combination of breeds, with any number of variations in their lineage. All mutts are mixed breed and over 50% of all dogs in the U.S. are considered mixed breed.
Sporting dogs are used as aids in human sports such as game shooting, where they are used to find, chase and retrieve game birds. Typically small-medium, they are highly obedient and trainable, energetic and naturally alert, as well as excellent swimmers. They have good stamina that allows them to remain active throughout a long hunt, and as such require a lot of exercise even if kept as a pet. An example of a sporting dog breed is the American Water Spaniel, often used as a gun dog.
Terriers are small, wiry-haired and fearless dogs, originally bred to hunt small prey such as rats, foxes and moles. They are energetic, feisty and intelligent, and require thorough training to keep them in check. Whilst more common these days as pets, some are still used on farms and estates as ratters. An example of a terrier breed is the Cairn Terrier, beloved worldwide as Toto from the Wizard of Oz.
Choosing The Right Dog For You
The first step in choosing the right dog for you is to identify what you want a dog for – companionship, a specific type of work, hunting? Once you know this you can identify the category of dog you need and then study characteristics and breeds within the dog groups to find the best fit for your lifestyle.