Dogs can be defined by the job they do, for example companion dogs are those that were bred to keep us company, and guard dogs were developed to protect their owners and their property. The American Kennel Club has taken these definitions further, and grouped dogs with similar purposes and temperaments together. This means that each group can consist of dogs that vary widely in appearance, and possibly even size. Let’s have a closer look at the groups and the dogs that are in each one.
• Sporting Group – these dogs were bred to hunt and retrieve. Because they were expected to work closely with their master, they make excellent companions. They love the water, and enjoy the opportunity to swim. These dogs aren’t suited to a sedentary owner because they often need a lot of exercise and mental stimulation to be truly happy. Breeds in this group include the Spaniels, the Pointers and the Retrievers.
• Hound Group – hound breeds were also used in the hunt, to track their prey by scent, and to run them down. They are a diverse group, and include sight hounds such as the Whippet and Afghan Hound, and scent hounds like the Bloodhound and Beagle. They are amiable and easy going dogs and fit in well with family life, however they can be difficult to call back if they start to chase any potential prey.
• Working Group – as the name suggests, these breeds had a job to do including guarding and pulling carts and sleds. They are intelligent and reliable, and are good family dogs. However, most breeds in this group are very large, and this should be taken into account by potential owners. These dogs need training from a young age because, while they are easy to manage when they are puppies, this rapidly changes when they are a 70-100lb adult. Breeds that fall into the working group include the Rottweiler, Newfoundland, Alaskan Malamute and Bullmastiff.
• Terriers – the most characteristic feature of members of the terrier group is their feisty and tenacious personality. They were bred to chase and kill vermin, and the tendency to be grumpy and argumentative with other animals often persists. Size varies, from the tiny West Highland White Terrier to the larger American Staffordshire Terrier and Airedale Terrier. They need an owner who can manage their stubborn and determined nature.
• Toy Dogs – these dogs serve but one purpose, and that is to be a companion. They are usually small enough to fit on your lap, and don’t cost much to care for. Having said that, they have big personalities inside that small body, and are very resilient. Whether you want a dog to groom and dress up with ribbons, or one with a short low maintenance coat, you’ll find a toy breed to suit. They are particularly suited to apartment life. This group includes such compact and attractive breeds as the Chihuahua, the Yorkshire Terrier and the Papillon.
• Herding Group – these breeds used to be included with the working dogs, but they were given their own group in 1983. All of these breeds are able to move and control other animals. They are extremely intelligent, and most need a lot of mental stimulation and physical exercise. They are not a breed for everyone. Dogs that fall into this category include the Border Collie, German Shepherd and Corgi.
• Non Sporting Group – this group contains a wide variety of breeds, with no real common traits. They vary in size, shape and coat type. It’s almost as if any breed that didn’t fit neatly into one of the other groups was put in the non sporting group. Breeds included in this group are as diverse as the Bulldog, the Lhasa Apso and the Dalmatian.
• Miscellaneous Group – the miscellaneous group contains those breeds that are not yet fully registered with the AKC, but are part of the Foundation Stock Service. Many of these breeds are registered in other parts of the world, just not in the United States. Others, like the Chinook were developed in America, but are not yet fully registered as a breed. They will stay in this group until they are fully recognized by the AKC, when they will be placed in one of the other groups, depending on their purpose. This means that breeds in the miscellaneous groups will be unfamiliar and there may be few examples of them in America. Some breeds that are currently in this group are the Pumi, the Rat Terrier, the Sloughi and the Peruvian Inca Orchid.
While we are talking about breeds, it’s appropriate to make mention of the crossbreed dog, also known as a mongrel or cur. These dogs have uncertain parentage, and come in a range of sizes, colors and coat types. They may strongly resemble one particular breed, which can give you a hint as to their ancestry.
Some people believe that mixed breeds are healthier than purebreds, because of hybrid vigor. It’s certainly possible, but a crossbreed pup may receive a double dose of unhealthy genes from their parents, and may have the worst features of his parent breeds. Add to this the fact that the parents of mixed breed pups are less likely to have undergone any genetic health tests before being mated, and you can see why there is no guarantee that they will be healthy. Having said that, they can be just as intelligent, and just as good a companion as a purebred animal.