Sporting dogs were developed to assist hunters with searching for and retrieving game birds. This group included spaniels, setters, retrievers and pointers. They are all high-energy dogs that require daily exercise. They love the active, outdoor lifestyle but make great family dogs because of their gentle temperament. In general they are non-territorial and social, enjoying playing with other dogs.
Hounds include well-known, diverse breeds such as the diminutive Dachshund, the Beagle, the Rhodesian Ridgeback and the Greyhound. Hounds come in two varieties, the Scenthounds which have an amazing sense of smell that is used for tracking game. And the Sighthounds, which were bred to sight and chase game; these dogs are amazingly fast runners. Some hound names tell the story of what they were bred to hunt: Norwegian Elkhound, Irish Wolfhound, American Foxhound. Hounds can be independent characters with a strong instinct to chase. The Scenthounds are more social creatures; the Sighthounds tend to be more aloof. Many hounds hunted in groups, so they are not territorial or dominant.
Working Breeds are loyal, stalwart companions that are also protective of their owners. They are territorial and dominant. They are good alarm dogs. Working Breeds were bred for such wide-ranging tasks as pulling sleds, protecting flocks of sheep from predators, rescuing people who were stranded or hurt, patrolling property. They tend to be large, sturdy dogs but many are good natured with proper training. They don’t demand as much exercise as the sporting breeds, so they can live in smaller homes or even apartments. The Akita, Boxers, Doberman Pinschers, Saint Bernards are all members of this group.
Terriers are confident, tenacious creatures, two traits that were necessary for their prior careers as hunters of rats and other vermin. They are curious, busy and love investigating and exploring. They have a sharp, staccato warning bark, so they make good companions for people living alone. Airedale Terriers, Miniature Shnauzers, Scottish Terriers and Norwich Terriers are some of the members of this group. They don’t demand too much exercise or attention, but some are high energy companions.
Toy breeds were bred to be companion animals, sometimes for royalty. They are ideal for small homes, the elderly or frail or just those individuals who want a companion that is small in every way: small size, small messes to pick up, smaller feeding requirement, smaller need for exercise. Toy dogs are among the longest lived, often reaching their late teens or even 20 years of age. They are devoted to their owners, cuddly and loving. They have a strong desire to please. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Chihuahua, Maltese, Pomerian, Toy Poodle, Pug and Yorkshire Terrier are all members of this group.
Non-Sporting Breeds are a delightful assortment of dogs, so diverse that it is difficult to summarize them in a tidy classification. The classification does not describe them accurately: they are definitely good sports. The playful little Bichon Frise, the Boston Terrier (a friendly dog sometimes called the American Gentleman), the unmistakable Bulldog, the high-energy Dalmatian, and the sensitive Standard Poodle are some of the members of this group.
The Herding group was originally dogs that were the best friends of ranchers and shepherds-protecting both livestock and people. Now, they also make great home companions, though they sometimes retain some herding instinct that must be channeled appropriately. Border Collies, for example, will try to herd the children around the house as though they were cattle. They are problem solvers and independent thinkers. They are also loyal, attentive and eager to learn. Some breeds in this group are quite active and needs lots of exercise. Australian Shepherd, Collie, German Shepherd, and Old English Sheepdog are some of the members of this group.
Dee Power is the author of several nonfiction books, and the novel “Over Time” about Green Bay Football. She lives with two dogs, Rose and Kate, who happen to have their own dogs blog.