Dog Breed Groups

Dog Breed Groups are recognized categories based on dog traits. They classify types of dog based on behavior and the roles that they were originally bred for – e.g. hunting, retrieving, guarding, catching rats, etc.


Breeds German Shepherd Alsatian outdoors lying on grass
A German Shepherd (aka Alsatian) enjoying some down time

Dog breed groups are defined in slightly different ways by various organizations around the world. The groupings set by the American Kennel Club (AKC) are:

  • Herding
  • Hound (Hunting)
  • Sporting
  • Non-sporting
  • Terrier
  • Toy
  • Working
  • Foundation stock
  • Miscellaneous

An Old English Sheepdog - the gentlest herding dog you'll ever meet
An Old English Sheepdog - the gentlest herding dog you'll ever meet

Herding Dogs

This group includes the sheepdogs, including the Border Collie, German Shepherd, Old English Sheepdog, Puli, Collie, and Corgi. Some, such as the Border Collie, need plenty of distraction and can become obsessive and toy-fixated if confined indoors. Others, such as the Old English, do not appear to miss tussling with a flock of sheep at all.

All herding dogs will try to herd you, their family – especially children! Just watch them when you’re out on a walk – they’re forever looking back over their shoulders, and fretting if the kids start to lag behind.


Breeds Beagle outdoors alert
The Beagle - never quite loses the scent of the chase from his nose

Hunting Dogs

This diverse group of dogs have one thing in common – they were all developed for some form of hunting. Many have an acute sense of smell, and lots of them are built for stamina and the long chase. Foxhounds and related breeds instinctively “bay”. If you’ve never heard a baying hound, make sure you do so before opting for this breed! It’s the noise you might associate with foxhunts, somewhere between a sustained woof and a wolf howl.

Popular breeds in this group include the previously mentioned Foxhound, along with the Beagle, Afghan Hound, Basset Hound, Greyhound, and Dachshund.


Breeds French Pointer outdoors in snow
A Pointer looking magnificent outdoors in the snow

Sporting Dogs

This group consists of dogs originally bred for accompanying humans on foot, during shoots (i.e. not chasing prey over long distances or underground like hunting dogs). They need lots of exercise.

Classic breeds include Retrievers, Setters, Spaniels, Pointers and Vizslas.


Breeds Chow chow serious face
Chow chow - it's a serious business being in the Non-Sporting Dog category

Non-Sporting Dogs

This is a diverse group, and something of a catch-all. It takes in such breeds as the Poodle, Chow Chow, Dalmatian, Boston Terrier, Bichon Frise, Finnish Spitz, and the various Bulldogs.


Breeds Jack Russell loves the water
A Jack Russell Terrier letting off steam in the river

Terrier Group

The Terrier Group consists of mainly small dogs, originally bred for catching rats and other vermin. They tend to have very feisty personalities, and are pretty intolerant of other dogs, or indeed any other animal they meet. They are fiercely loyal to their owners, but need a firm hand.

Favorite breeds include the West Highland, Scottie, Airedale, Cairn, Border, Bull, Boston Terrier, and Russell (aka Jack Russell).


Breeds Toy Poodle ribbon in hair
A Toy Poodle sitting pretty with a ribbon in her hair

Toy Group Dogs

These were developed as companions and lapdogs. They remain very popular for dog-lovers with small apartments, or anyone who wants a dog that you can carry with one arm. Because of their small size they are relatively easy to control – but that doesn’t mean they’re any easier to train than a bigger dog. And they certainly aren’t all docile, as the angry bark and snarl of a Chihuahua will soon show!

Popular breeds in this group, in addition to the tiny Chihuahua, include the Affenpinscher, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Maltese, Miniature Pinscher, Pekingese, Pomeranian, Pug, Shih Tzu, and Toy Poodle.


Breeds Alaskan malamute
An Alaskan Malamute - hard working, tons of energy

Working Dogs

This group was developed for such tasks as guarding property, pulling sleds, and rescuing people. They are all big animals, and require lots of exercise and strict training. Not for the casual dog-owner.

Classic breeds include Doberman Pinscher, Siberian Husky, Great Dane, Saint Bernard, Alaskan Malamute, Boxer, Rottweiler, and Newfoundland.


Breeds Azawakh
The fantastic Azawakh - one of the new breeds on the block

Miscellaneous Dog Breeds and the Foundation Stock Service

New breeds take time to “settle” into a stable gene pool. The AKC Foundation Stock Service maintains a list of approved new breeds which may, at some future date, be eligible for AKC registration.

By definition, each developing FSS breed is rare, and access to puppies from breeders of such animals will be very limited. Current dogs on the list include American Leopard Hound, Azawakh, Barbet, Bavarian Mountain Hound, Bolognese, Carolina Dog, Czechoslovakian Vlčak or Wolf Dog, Hokkaido, Mudi, Russian Toy, Schapendoes, Teddy Roosevelt Terrier, Tosa, Treeing Tennessee Brindle, and Yakutian Laika.

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