There are seven breed groups recognised, they may be known by some different names but often their traits are the same. These are: Gundog (Sporting), Hound, Terrier, Toy (Companion), Pastoral (Herding), Working and Utility (Non-Sporting). For the breed profiles on this site I often use the breed group classifications of The Kennel Club of the UK. You’ll find links to other kennel clubs within each breed profile.
Gundogs, were originally bred and trained to find or retrieve (bring back) live game. There are further sub-categories within the group, but the main difference is that your dog will either have been bred to find and flush out game, or go and retrieve it. There are four basic types of Gundogs/Sporting dogs: spaniels, pointers, retrievers, and setters. Gundogs tend to be intelligent and have been bred to work with their owner, so make good companions. They’re usually really active dogs and need plenty of exercise. They’re also likely to love a good game of fetch!
Some gundogs include: Cocker Spaniel, Springer Spaniel, Labrador Retriever, Golden Retriever, English Pointer, German Pointer, English Setter, Irish Setter.
Hounds were used throughout ancient history to hunt animals. While times have changed and few hounds today are used for hunting purposes, this instinct remains strong in all Hound Group breeds. The hounds are divided into two subgroups: sighthounds and scenthounds. Sleek, long-legged sighthounds rely on their explosive speed, incredible stamina, and sharp, wide vision to chase fast animals like jackrabbits and antelope and either bring them down or hold them at bay until the hunter arrives. Scenthounds are responsible for using their acute sense of smell to track game, and are known for being more rugged and durable and having the ability to trail just about anything—whether it’s a squirrel or a missing person.
Some hounds include: Greyhound, Whippet, Irish Wolfhound, Beagle, Basset Hound, Dachshund, Bloodhound, Rhodesian Ridgeback, Basenji.
The name “terrier” is derived from the Latin word terra, meaning “earth”—thus, the terrier is an earth dog. The vast majority of the dogs in the Terrier Group originated in the British Isles and evolved with particular duties based upon the geography of their specific area, including killing vermin and guarding their family’s home or barn. Terrier breeds come in all sizes. Developed especially to go to ground and burrow in the earth to chase and catch vermin like rats, foxes, badgers, weasels, and otters, the terrier was selectively bred for centuries to be a determined and tenacious dog. Dogs in the Terrier Group tend to be energetic and feisty. While they do make lovable pets, they tend to have stubborn personalities and some breeds may require special grooming.
Some terriers include: Staffordshire Bull Terrier, English Bull Terrier, Jack Russell, Bedlington Terrier, Lakeland Terrier, West Highland White Terrier, Border Terrier.
In existence for centuries, the toy breed was bred for the purpose of serving as companions for their humans. Often their only purpose was to keep their loving owners company and this is just one reason why they make such popular family pets today. These small, easily portable dogs can be most often found sitting in the lap of their human, or being carried around. Many have descended from larger breeds of terriers or spaniels and still retain those inherent instincts. Despite their small size, they are vocal defenders of their homes and ideal pets for those with limited space.
Some toy breeds include: Pomeranian, Maltese, Chihuahua, Pug, Shih Tzu, Bichon Frise, Italian Greyhound, Miniature Pinscher, Yorkshire Terrier.
Pastoral breeds tend to be the dogs bred for herding and working with livestock on farms. Herding dogs have historically been bred to gather, herd, and protect livestock, and work closely with human shepherds. Breeds in the Pastoral/Herding Group have been an integral part of every country’s use of livestock, and the herding dog still retains many of the physical characteristics and instincts for this work. Herding breeds have been bred to be intelligent, athletic, and diligent and are arguably the most trainable of all breeds, making them naturals for obedience work, agility, and herding trials. As long as they receive enough exercise and mental stimulation, herding dogs are wonderful, devoted pets who thrive on, and demand, human companionship.
Some pastoral breeds include: Samoyed, Border Collie, German Shepherd, Welsh Corgi, Old English Sheepdog, Belgian Malinois, Australian Shepherd.
The medium to very large breeds that make up the Working Group are well known for their athleticism, strength, courage, and loyalty – all attributes that have made them invaluable to the people who rely on them. While the appearances and jobs of the dogs in this group vary, most are powerful and intelligent, and can be relied on to perform rescues and any other tasks to protect their families. These dogs include farm and draft animals, security, police, and military dogs, as well as guide and service dogs. As such, they make dependable, loyal pets with incredible intelligence and energy. If you can provide a working dog with a job to do, you’ll have an enthusiastic partner for life.
Some working breeds include: Boxer, Alaskan Malamute, Siberian Husky, Dobermann, Rottweiler, Newfoundland, St. Bernard, Portuguese Water Dog.
If a dog doesn’t fit into another breed group, chances are they’re classed as a utility breed! The Utility/Non-Sporting Group are all the dogs that remain, and thus have a variety of sizes, functions, and history. A varied collection of breeds, the Utility/Non-Sporting Group comprises those dogs who no longer perform the duties for which they were originally bred. For example, the Dalmatian is no longer used to accompany horse-drawn carriages, and the Bulldog no longer functions as a bull-baiter. It’s hard to pinpoint key traits within the utility group as all the breeds are very different from one another, it’s best to look at the history of the individual breed to find out what they were bred for. Most of these dogs make generally good house dogs and watchdogs, but with breeds ranging from the French Bulldog to the Poodle, their differences are so vast that it makes it difficult to generalise their individual traits.
Some utility breeds include: Bulldog, Japanese Shiba Inu, Dalmatian, Akita, Boston Terrier, Poodles, Miniature Schnauzer, Shar Pei.