The various national kennel clubs have assigned breeds to groups according to the purpose for which they were developed. Some breed characteristics are common across groups and this will help the dog breed selector to choose a dog from the list dog breed. Sighthounds have traits in common as do Terrier dog breeds and Toy dog breeds.
The following 7 groups are used by the American Kennel Club (AKC). The various dogs discussed under the Groups can be found in our Directory of Breeds of Dogs which currently contains the recognised AKC dog breeds and a variety of designer dogs breeds such as poodle mixes.
1. Sporting Dog Group
The Sporting Dog group includes pointers, setters, retrievers and many spaniels. This group of fairly active dogs is composed of a wide variety of breeds, which were developed to aid hunters by finding, flushing out and retrieving game. Members of this group all need a fair amount of exercise but you don’t have to be a hunter to own one of these dogs.
Many breeds in this group are usually very good with children and include the: English Setter, Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever, Welsh Springer Spaniel, English Cocker Spaniel, and Flat Coated Retriever. Dogs in this group range in size from small dog breeds like the American Cocker Spaniel up to medium to large dog breeds with the setters (English Setter, Irish Setter and Gordon Setter) being the largest The two most popular family dogs in the world are the Labrador Retriever and the Golden Retriever.
2. Working Dog Group
This group includes most of the guard dog breeds such as the Rottweiler and Doberman Pinscher as well as the northern sled dogs such as the Alaskan Malamute and the Siberian Husky. Most of these dogs need lots of exercise and a fair amount of living space. Many of these working dogs have thick double coats and can be heavy shedders.
3. Toy Dog Group
Most of the very small and miniature dog breeds including the lap dog and apartment-sized companion dogs are in this group which includes the popular Yorkshire Terriers, Toy Poodles, Shih Tzus, Pugs, Pomeranians and Maltese. Toy dog breeds are difficult to housebreak but usually adapt well to apartment life. Toddlers and small children are too rough for toy dogs that may bite in self-defense. Toy dogs can have beneficial effects on the wellness of the sick, the elderly and the housebound.
4. Terrier Group
This group includes those small but lively terrier breeds that were developed (mainly in Great Britain) to hunt small animals. Of course these small dog breeds have been domesticated and make good pets but they are still fairly active and require firm handling. A few breeds like the Airedale Terrier, Fox Terrier, Jack Russell (Parsons) Terrier and the Kerry Blue Terrier do best with experienced owners. Other popular terriers include the: Yorkshire Terrier, Boston Terrier, Scottish Terrier and Cairn Terrier.
5. Hound Group
These breeds were developed to follow game either by sight or by smell. Sighthounds include the fast and streamlined Afghans, Greyhounds and Salukis. Sighthounds need lots of exercise but some breeds like the Borzoi, the Greyhound, the Irish Wolfhound and the Saluki can adapt to being left alone during the day if they get lots of exercise before and after work. Scent hounds include the slower Bloodhounds, Bassets and Beagles. Basset Hounds, Irish Wolfhounds and Greyhounds are usually good with children unless they have been poorly socialized and trained.
The dogs in this group have a great size variation and range from the tiny Miniature Dachshund to the extremely tall Irish Wolfhound.
6. Herding Dog Groups
The dog breeds in this group were developed to herd and control cattle and sheep and are therefore very energetic and intelligent. This group includes the Shetland Sheepdog, Border Collie, Collie, and German Shepherd. The Shetland Sheepdog and Border Collie need a lot of exercise and space to run while the Collie and German Shepherd can adapt to city living.
7. Non-sporting Dog Group
When a dog breed doesn’t seem to fit well in any other group, it becomes part of this group. The breeds in this diverse group range from the miniature dog breeds like the tiny Bichon Frise to the large Chow Chow and even include the elegant Dalmatian and the popular Bulldog and Boston Terrier.
The Kennel Club of the United Kingdom has slightly different dog classification names:
- Gundog: Dogs that were originally trained to find live game and/or to retrieve game that had been shot and wounded
- Hounds: Breeds originally used for hunting either by scent or by sight
- Pastoral: This group consists of herding dogs that are associated with working cattle, sheep, reindeer and other cloven footed animals
- Terrier: Dogs originally bred and used for hunting vermin
- Toy: The toy breeds are small companion or lap dogs
- Utility: The name ‘utility’ essentially means fitness for a purpose, most breeds having been selectively bred to perform a specific function not included in the sporting and working categories
- Working: Over the centuries these dogs were selectively bred to become guards and search and rescue dogs