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What's more important than a list of dog breeds? Simply a long, long list of all the world's dog breeds might overwhelm even the most dog savvy. For the average person looking for a new four-legged pal, there's a little more to know than simple names.
Scientists have classified every living creature into groups and given them a name such as Canis lupus familiaris (latin for dog), dog breeds are further divided into groups by the major kennel clubs of the world.
These groups of dogs tell us much about a member's good and bad personality traits, habits, and most importantly, whether the dog would be compatible with us.
Whether you register your dog with a national kennel club or not, it is good to understand how your breed is grouped or classified.
Groupings tell much about dog breeds and some of the qualities, such as what we may call "behavioral problems" of your dog can be explained based on its grouping.
All countries involved with dogs have national breed clubs that are stand-alone organizations or ones that are members of the Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI).
In this article (Mini Book) I am going to cover the following:
All organizations may group dog breeds differently and many have different group names.
People have a need to classify and find patterns within their world. Over the centuries, people have divided dogs into categories’ based on their purpose or job.
Each dog registry uses its own name to classify a group of dogs.
Many dogs are placed in the “Toy” category or group because they are small.
The American Kennel Club, The Australian National Kennel Club, Canadian Kennel Club, and the New Zealand Kennel Club all have adopted the term, Toys to describe small breed dogs.
The United Kennel Club uses the term Companion to group similar breeds.
Likewise, you may see breeds categorized as Guardians or Working Dogs depending on the registration organization.
If you live in the United States, your breed will be registered with the American Kennel Club. A Labrador retriever, for example, would be classified in the Sporting Dog breeds in the U.S., but as a gun dog in the UK.
Herding and Pastoral dogs are generally the same, but a resident of the U.S. would see their Rough coated collie placed in the Herding group, whereas a citizen of London, who owned a collie, would see their dog placed in the Pastoral group.
If you think this is complicated, consider a U.S. citizen who wishes to register a dog. Suppose his breed is Pomeranian. Does he register with the AKC in the Toy Group or with the UKC (United Kennel Club), another American Registry as a Northern Breed?
Regardless of where you live, the breeds that are recognized by your kennel club will be grouped based on characteristics.
Knowing where your dog breed is classified helps you determine much about his original purpose and many breed characteristics.
The American Kennel Club divides dogs into seven groupings: Terriers, Toys, Working, Non-Sporting, Sporting, Hounds, and Herding. Let’s look at each cluster separately.
Terriers are an easy group to begin with because most countries in the English Speaking world use the same term. They are small to medium sized dogs that were originally bred to rid the world of vermin.
Most terriers have either prick ears or dropped ears and come in a broad range of colors. Their hair coats can be wiry, but many have soft, not shedding coats.
Most terriers can be identified as belonging to this group based on their name: Cairn Terriers, Irish Terriers, Scottish Terriers, West Highland White Terriers are part of this classification.
Yorkshire Terriers, however, are not part of the terrier group, even though their name suggests otherwise. Yorkies are classified as Toys.
Terriers can be described as busy, feisty, and active. They prefer to be part of the action and have a real zest for life.
They make awesome family pets for people who do not keep small pocket pets such as hamsters or gerbils. Terriers look at these smaller mammals as vermin that must be eliminated.
Terriers are smart, affectionate, and vocal making them great watch dogs. Most do best as an only child because some have difficulty getting along with other dogs.
Terriers do best in families with active children, or with singles or couples that thrive on the energy that these dogs exude.
American Hairless Terrier
American Staffordshire Terrier
Dandie Dinmont Terrier
Glen of Imaal Terrier
Kerry Blue Terrier
Miniature Bull Terrier
Parson Russell Terrier
Smooth Fox Terrier
Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier
Staffordshire BVull Terrier
West Highland White Terrier
Wire Fox Terrier
Toys are generally small dogs under 20 pounds (9.0 kg) that make exceptional companions. Most have been developed for centuries with one purpose in mind—to assure their owners are never without companionship.
They are classified in this group because of their size, but as a group they can be quite different from each other.
Take the Pomeranian, for example, they can trace their origins to Spitz-type dogs or Sled Dogs. The Yorkshire Terrier has been bred down in size from a much larger Terrier type dog.
Many toys make great lap dogs, but not all. Characteristics that seem to set Toys apart from other dogs besides their small size includes stubbornness, watchdog ability due to their vocal tendencies and affection.
They are all people oriented and often suffer from separation anxiety if left alone too long.
They also tend to underestimate their size and tend to take control making owners wonder who is really in control.
Small Dog Syndrome refers to a collection of problems originating in small breed dogs who tend to consider themselves the Alpha Dog regardless of size. Difficulty housebreaking is an issue in the toy breeds.
These dogs are loving, cuddly, spunky and playful. They are devoted to their owners and their own job in life is to please their owner.
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
English Toy Spaniel
Manchester Terrier (Toy)
Toy Fox Terrier
These working dogs are the large, sturdy breeds that have a job to do. Whether it is guarding property, pulling sleds, or serving in the military, working dogs are not content unless they have a job to do.
These dogs are not couch potatoes, but rather need much exercise. Intelligent, Independent, protective, and loyal, these dogs make excellent family pets if their owners are experienced and willing to take the time to socialize and train.
These are the dogs that serve as assistance dogs, police dogs and in search and rescue. They are alert, courageous, hardy, self-confident and dominant.
Anatolian Shepherd Dog
Bernese Mountain Dog
Black Russian Terrier
Dogue de Bordeaux
Greater Swiss Mountain Dog
Portuguese Water Dog
This is a catch-all grouping for all of those dogs that don’t seem to fit into the other classifications. They were developed for many reasons and share few characteristics in common.
What we can say is they aren’t working dogs, sporting dogs, terrier dogs, or herding dogs. Most are too big to be considered toys.
This group is unique. Size-wise, they range from the small Tibetan spaniel to the big Standard Poodle and everything in between.
Some have long coats, others have short coats; some love everyone and others reserve their love for their owner.
They don’t even have much in the way of looks in common. Consider the wrinkled appearance of the Shar Pei to the sleek, smooth Dalmatian to the curly look of the Standard Poodle.
If classified in another kennel club, you might find these dogs listed as Northern Breeds or Companions.
American Eskimo Dog
Chinese Shar Pei
Coton de Tulear
Poodles (Miniature and Standard)
If you are an active person, a sporting dog might be just right for you. They are generally larger breed dogs but some like the Spaniels are smaller. This is a diverse group of dogs but each type excels at a particular job.
Spaniels flush out birds into the air, retrievers carry back the dead birds to the hunter, and pointers assume a position that points towards the game. They come in many different colors but most have the drop ears.
They make great pets but need owners willing to provide enough exercise to meet their high activity demands. As a rule, they are known to be vocal, but likable. Most are remarkably intelligent and will make excellent family pets.
Sturdy and athletic, sporting breeds are known to get along well with children and other dogs.
Some shed profusely, others require professional grooming. Some have that characteristic doggie smell that may be unpleasant to some people.
American Water Spaniel
Chesapeake Bay Retriever
Curly Coated Retriever
English Cocker Spaniel
English Springer Spaniel
Flat Coated Retriever
German Shorthaired Pointer
German Wirehaired Pointer
Irish Red and White Setter
Irish Water Spaniel
Nederlandse Kooikerhondje (Miscellaneous)
Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever
Welsh Springer Spaniel
Wirehaired Pointing Griffon
Hound dogs have been developed throughout the world to do one of two jobs: See or Smell. Some talented breeds have developed the ability to do both. Those dogs that have an extraordinary sense of smell are classified as scenthounds. Sighthounds, on the other hand, can hunt based on an instinct that allows them to see movement and then take off after their prey.
Scenthounds have several things in common. They have long droopy ears, large nasal cavities, loose wet lips that often drool, and bark that is hard to ignore. They are not fast runners like their cousins the scenthounds. They can follow their prey simply by keeping their noses to the ground. They come in several sizes, but most are medium to large breed dogs. They come in different colors, but most are some shade of brown or tan.
Scenthounds include the bloodhounds, beagles, coonhounds, dachshunds, foxhounds, harriers, Petit Basset Griffon Vendeens and the Otterhounds.
As a group, they can be hard to train because they are stubborn. Most find them charming pets because they are just plain fun. They are amusing, intelligent, and very loyal. They generally get along with children and other dogs. As long as you don’t mind the drool and don’t require instant training success, this group of dogs make excellent pets.
Sighthounds are the sprinters in the dog world. Some are so fast that they would win every race with a human. Greyhounds, for example, have been clocked at 40 mph (64 kph). They can take off after anything that resembles prey so secure fenced in yards are a must for most sighthounds. They also do not do well around small pets (mice, hamsters, gerbils, and so forth) because they see them as prey.
This group is diverse in size from tiny to giant. Colors vary but are mostly shades of brown and tan. Most have very short coats and little grooming requirements. The sighthounds include the Whippets, Italian Greyhounds, Pharoh Hounds, Basenjis, Borzois, Irish Wolfhounds, Lurchers, Salukis and Scottish Deerhounds.
American English Coonhound
Black and Tan Coonhound
Grand Basset Griffon Vendéen
Peruvian Inca Orchid (Miscellaneous)
Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen
Portuguese Podengo Pequeno
Treeing Walker Coonhound
Herding dogs were developed when people began keeping herds or flocks of animals. Some may have served as both guardian to the herds and as herder (German Shepherd Dogs, Bouviers des Flandres, Briards, Old English Sheepdogs), but the majority of them had a specific job to do
Keep the animals together. From the beginning until now, shepherds and ranchers tend to lead solitary lives. They needed help keeping their animals nearby and thus away from predators and danger, but they also wanted a companion.
At first, these dogs were chosen because they had a particular type of predatory instinct (herd without harming) and their ability to work alone and make decisions independently.
Later, the group diversified based on their location and type of animals they were expected to herd.
Small Shetland Sheepdogs were perfect for herding the miniature sheep and horses found in the Shetland Islands off the coast of Scotland. Australian Cattle dogs were perfect for withstanding the heat of the outback and still surviving the long stock drives.
Each has their own way of keeping sheep and other types of livestock in tightly packed herds. The Border Collie uses his hypnotic stare. Others use loud, stern barks. Almost all use that characteristic nipping at the heels to make their charges obey them.
These original traits that make them perfect for guarding, herding and driving herds of livestock, now make them the ideal candidate for work that is needed today.
German Shepherds and Belgium Malinois, for example, are sought after as police, military and assistance dogs. They also perform as search and rescue. As a group, they have plenty of energy and crave human attention. They are loyal, territorial, and have a strong chase instinct. Intelligence, confidence, courage, and the ability to problem solve may be the traits that set them apart from other groups of dogs. They are obedient, but may disobey a command if it means doing something that they know must be done.
Australian Cattle Dog
Belgian Laekenois (Miscellaneous)
Bouvier des Flandres
Cardigan Welsh Corgi
Entelburcher Mountain Dog
German Shepherd Dog
Miniature American Shepherd
Old English Sheepdog
Pembroke Welsh Corgi
Polish Lowland Sheepdog
Spanish Water Dog
Now, there is a chance we haven't listed your favorite breed, but the reason is that your breed is not currently recognized by the American Kennel Club. That doesn't make it less important, so if you don't see your breed, may I suggest you visit our alphabetical lists of dog breeds. They might be there, but if not, send me a note.