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Dog Breed Information Center

Having a good source of dog breed information can help you pick the perfect pup for your home, family & lifestyle.

Because making the right choice is the first step towards ensuring a long and happy relationship between you and your new pup, it makes sense to do some research and get an idea of what your 'ideal dog' might be like..... before you bring him home.

There are a LOT of breeds to choose from, and lots of different families for them to love.

Let's find out why it's so important to take the traits and characteristics of individual breeds into account......


The Differences Between Breeds

Breed Categories

Mixed Breed Dogs

Dog Breed Information - Differences Between Breeds

The first, and most obvious, difference between dogs of different breeds is their size.

In fact dogs have the biggest size differential of any species.

When you're looking at a Great Dane and a teacup Chihuahua, it can be difficult to believe that they're the same type of animal.

After that, color, body shape, coat type and ear/tail set are the things you're going to be able to evaluate by looking.

When it comes to choosing the right breed, it's what you can't see that makes all the difference.

Breed characteristics such as temperament, personality, trainability and (very important) activity level aren't visible, but they have a bigger impact on how well a dog may fit in with your family and lifestyle than even the most obvious physical difference.

Getting the right information about the traits and characteristics of any dog breed you're considering is very important.

Each purebred dog comes from ancestors that have been selectively bred to perform a task or job of some sort. It might be hunting, herding, guarding... or simply providing companionship (think 'lapdog').

The instincts and behaviors needed to fulfill those 'duties' are hard-wired into their brains, even as very young puppies, and if you want a dog you can live with it's important to understand what type of instincts are deep-seated in the breed you're considering!

Of course, just about any breed can make excellent pets and there's a perfect 'fit' for every single one of them, but high-energy, high-drive, active 'working' breeds sometimes don't make the best family dogs, especially if it's a laid back family environment where activity levels are low.

Dog Breed Categories

I'm going to take the AKC (American Kennel Club) categories to use here as this is the largest, and most easily recognized, dog registration organization in the US. Each breed is assigned to a specific category depending on it's original purpose.

These groups are pretty much self-explanatory, but it's not always easy to figure out which group a particular breed belongs to.

For example the Italian Greyhound and the Shih Tzu are both members of the Toy Group but are complete opposites as far as appearance, personality and purpose are concerned.

Overall, each dog breed within a group will have some characteristics in common - although remember, dogs are as individual as people are. No two are the same, even litter mates can be at totally opposite ends of the spectrum (if you have children you'll have no problem understanding this!).

You can find dog breed information that includes a detailed description of each breed and search by name, or breed group, here - AKC Breed Index . Here's a quick look at the main characteristics of these groups....

Sporting Breeds

golden retriever puppy with baseball

Often referred to as 'Gun Dogs' this group is full of active breeds, they're the ones that are itching to go hunting/fishing/hiking with their owners. Many of them love being in the water and are good swimmers.

Overall they're an energetic bunch, but usually happy, friendly, outgoing and eager to please - which makes them very trainable. Occasionally they be a bit over-energetic and highly strung though.

Sporting dogs need a LOT of exercise, and are happiest when they're included in regular activities with their owner and family. They also tend to be 'mouthy', and are avid chewers and can be very nippy as puppies, so if you own one of these dogs you may need to work extra-hard to discourage puppy biting.

Some gun dogs have a high prey drive which means they're inclined to chase smaller dogs or small animals, occasionally even little children.

Various types of Pointers, Retrievers, Spaniels and the ever-popular and #1 family dog the Labrador Retriever (and the Golden Retriever too for that matter) are all in this group.

Hound Breeds

basset hound puppy

Hound dogs are basically hunting dogs, and an important piece of dog breed information that is relevant to this group is that it's divided into two distinct categories ... Sighthounds and Scenthounds.

Sighthounds are possibly one of the very earliest breeds, and use their very keen sense of sight and their speed and athleticism to hunt their prey. These are usually slender, long-legged, elegant dogs and if you're not sure what a sighthound might look like, think of a Greyhound or an Afghan Hound.

Scenthounds use their highly developed sense of smell to locate and track their prey. When they find and corner whatever animal it is they're hunting they let their owners know about their success by 'baying'.

This is a unique sound, not barking or howling, but once heard you won't forget it. Even a Beagle or Basset Hound who has never hunted a rabbit in his life is perfectly capable of making this noise, so bear that in mind.

Scenthounds look quite different to sighthounds. They're heavier, often with shorter legs, and have wrinkled faces and long ears which help trap and waft the scent they're following towards their noses. The popular little Dachshund is a scenthound.

Overall hounds in general are energetic, happy, and loving dogs who get along well with people, children and other pets.

Both varieties are very single-minded if they decide to follow or chase prey and as pets they need to be leashed when out walking and only allowed to be alone in a yard if it's very well fenced and secure.

Working Breeds

rottweiler dog with puppy

An interesting bit of dog breed information specific to this group is that not all breeds that were specifically bred to work are included in this group!

That's because herding is considered 'work', but herding dogs have their own specific category, as do hunting dogs (see Hound group above).

As far as the AKC is concerned, working breeds include dogs bred as guardians, rescuers and weigh-pullers.

Guardian breeds may have originally been designed to protect people, livestock or property - sometimes all three - and many of them are very old breeds, or can trace their ancestry back to these ancient dogs.

The most well-known guardian breed is probably the Rottweiler, followed by the Doberman Pinscher. These types of dogs are often misunderstood in general, and misrepresented by the media.

Well-bred Rotties and Dobies can make excellent family pets, they're loving, devoted, intelligent, surprisingly sensitive, and loyal... and very easy to train.

They're big dogs, but usually not high-energy when adult and are confident and friendly. They do have strong guardian instincts though and will protect their home and family with their life if necessary.

Other lesser-know guardians include the Akita and the Black Russian Terrier.

A guardian breed isn't a great choice for first time dog owner though because they need a confident leader who won't be afraid of their 'reputation', but who also understands that they need gentle, loving handling not loud, physical or rough treatment.

Working breeds that are of the 'hero' variety include Bernese Mountain Dog, the Newfoundland and the Saint Bernard. These guys are friendly, outgoing and make loving, devoted family pets.

The popular and lovable Boxer is also a 'working breed' was originally bred to help his owner hunt large game, and also for fighting purposes (along with the Pitbull and Staffordshire Bull Terriers).

They are BIG though, and although they're usually very gentle they're often clumsy as puppies and can easily knock down a small child or slender, elderly or frail adult.

Portuguese Water Dogs  are a less well-known working breed, but thanks to President Obama's family dog 'Bo', they're one that has gained in popularity recently. This breed was bred to play an important role in the fishing industry of it's home country of Portugal.

A useful tid-bit of information is that it's worth remembering that along with big dogs come big expenses and of course they need the X-Large size of everything!

Other breeds in the Working Group include:

Northern breeds who pull sleds such as the Siberian Husky and the Alaskan Malamute.

Herding dogs including the Anatolian Shepherd Dog, the Great Pyrenees, the Komondor and the multi-talented Kuvasz who is a hunter, herder and guardian all rolled into one.

Hunting dogs such as the Cane Corso (who also fills several roles being a hunter of large prey, a guardian and a cattle drover) and dogs originally bred for fighting or bull baiting such as the Boxer, the Bullmastiff and the Dogue de Bordeaux.

Hunting dogs such as the Cane Corso (who also fills several roles being a hunter of large prey, a guardian and a cattle drover) and dogs originally bred for fighting or bull baiting such as the Boxer, the Bullmastiff and the Dogue de Bordeaux.

Terrier Breeds

jack russell terrier puppy

In my experience, 'Terrier' is more a state of mind than it is a size!

This is another dog breed group that is divided into two groups - the traditional terriers who were bred to hunt and kill small prey and vermin, and the bull-and-terrier breeds who were originally a result of breeding bulldogs and terriers together and used for bull-baiting and fighting.

These dogs are often on the smaller end of the size scale, but they're feisty live-wires who tend to be on-the-go at all times.

Terriers bred to hunt and kill have a tendency to be determined, stubborn and willful and they naturally have a high prey-drive which means they often don't do well with cats, other dogs or even small children.

These include breeds such as the Russell Terrier (and the Parsons Russell Terrier), the Border Terrier, the Cairn Terrier and the Fox Terriers.

Even the smallest terrier has the heart of a lion (and thinks he's about as big!), they're basically fearless and will take on the biggest dog in the park without a second thought. The adorable Yorkshire Terrier fits this profile perfectly!

The bull-and-terrier breeds tend to be calmer and more laid-back, although they can still be stubborn when they want to be.

This is another breed group that is often misunderstood and misrepresented, and includes the Bull Terrier, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier and the American Staffordshire Terrier (aka AmStaff).

Many of the 'traditional' terriers have wiry coats and docked tails. These coats often need to be professionally trimmed or 'stripped' regularly to keep them in good condition, but they tend to shed less than many other types of hair.

The bull terriers have short, smooth coats which just need brushing, but are more inclined to shed.

Toy Breeds

yorkshire terrier puppy

The dog breeds in this group were generally designed to be companions, although some of them were originally bred for a particular job that is now obsolete.

They're small dogs, but not all small dogs are in the 'Toy' category. Although these little guys (and gals) may be small on size, they're usually BIG on personality and are much tougher than they look.

Some toy dogs are just smaller versions of a larger (or standard-size) breed, such as the Poodle and the Greyhound.

Usually these little ones make great lapdogs, are devoted companions and a good choice for people with limited space, or mobility, but they're not always docile or laid-back!

Small dogs can sometimes be difficult to train, stubborn, 'nippy', anxious, highly-strung or have a tendency to be a bit 'snappy' or 'yappy'

This breed group includes some terriers such as the Fox Terrier, the Manchester Terrier and the popular Yorkshire Terrier, plus spaniels including the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and the English Toy Spaniel and more 'exotic' breeds like the Shih Tzu, Pekingese, Havanese and the Brussels Griffon (to mention just a few).

The Chihuahua is also a toy breed.

Non-sporting Breeds

english bulldog puppy and adult dog

This might be the most diverse breed group of all, and includes dogs of all shapes, sizes and personalities!

Basically it's a collection of dogs who might be workers but don't fit fill the traditional roles of guardian or herding dog. Dogs bred as companions, or whose original 'job' no longer exists are also in this group.

The Lundehund was originally bred to hunt Puffin in Norway and the Dalmation who's best known for being the 'fireman's dog' following along (or even riding on) the old-style fire engines are included in this group.

Other non-sporting dog breeds have an unusual history too. The American Eskimo dog was once popular in the circus, the distinctive Chinese Shar-Pei was a farm dog and guardain with an exotic twist as their Chinese owners believed that this breeds' frown-wrinkles and black mouth pigment would scare off evil spirits!

Among the smaller group members is the Tibetan Spaniel whose appearance was carefully shaped by Tibetan Buddhists to resemble the revered lions or 'Foo Dogs' in Buddhist culture.

But not all non-sporting breeds are unusual or rare, this group contains some very popular and well-known breeds including the Poodle, the English Bulldog, the French Bulldog and the Boston Terrier.

Because this group is made up of such different dogs, there isn't really any way to define them in terms of outward appearance or internal traits.

german shepherd puppy

Herding Breeds

This is the most recent classification added to the AKC's list, and it's a pretty easy group to sum up... they're all working dogs who herd livestock of some description!

The majority of these dog breeds are medium to large-sized dogs, with thick or long coats, but there are exceptions to both of these 'rules' as the Corgi is a very short-legged breed and the Australian Cattle Dog has a relatively short coat in comparison to the others.

As a whole herding dogs are very active and intelligent because both of these traits were absolutely essential if they're to learn the job that they were bred to do. They are quick witted, eager to please and extremely energetic.

They can also be highly-strung, very nippy and absolutely NEED to have a job to do or a lot of physical activity on a daily basis. You don't have to live on a farm to keep a herder happy though as there are lots of other activities that you can participate in with your dog.

Dog agility, formal obedience and flyball are just a few of the structured options, and long hikes, camping or jogging are good alternatives if you don't want to join group activities.

These breeds can become anxious, compulsive and destructive if they get bored or aren't stimulated or exercised enough. Don't buy a Border Collie pup and expect him to be happy lying around at home, or shut in the back yard by himself. This is a recipe for disaster.

Due to their very 'mouthy' natures (a natural by-product of being herders who often guide the livestock by nipping at their heels or flanks), they can also be a handful around little children and enjoy herding them as well!

Some very popular breeds are in this group including the German Shepherd Dog, the Australian Sheepdog (aka the Aussie), the Shetland Sheepdog and the Old English Sheepdog.


coton de tulear puppy

This is an interesting group of breeds, and is purely an AKC category, it doesn't mean the dogs in it don't have individual and specific jobs, skills or history.

It's basically a temporary classification for breeds that are relatively new and who are showing promise in terms of popularity, solid breeding activity, nationwide recognition and staunch supporters and official breed organizations.

Dogs included in the 'Miscellaneous Group' are allowed to compete in AKC competitions in a limited capacity, but once the breed demonstrates (to the AKC's satisfaction) that it is 'continuing a healthy, dynamic growth' (quote from AKC) then it is added to the Stud Book into whichever Group it belongs, and becomes a fully recognized breed.

Some dog breeds that are currently in this group include the South African Boerboel, the Coton de Tulear, the Miniature Australian Shepherd, the Spanish Waterdog, the Wirehaired Vizla and the exotic and hairless dog breeds such as the Peruvian Inca Orchid.

The Rat Terrier moved from this group to the Terrier Group fairly recently.

Of course, again because this group contains a 'mixed-bag' of breeds of entirely different looks, personalities and breed-specific characteristics there is no way to sum them up en-masse.

What About Mixed Breed Dogs?

fluffy mixed breed puppy

A good question. If you're not especially concerned with whether or not your new puppy has 'papers' and if you don't have your heart set on any particular dog breed a mix could be just the answer.

It's important to realize though, that it can be a bit more difficult to estimate the adult size, temperament and looks of a puppy with a mixed heritage.

Even if you know exactly how Fifi's parents looked, you don't know what their parents looked like!

There are good reasons for finding out what breeds are in your mixed-up puppy's family tree because hereditary health conditions, activity level, prey drive, herding instinct and all sorts of breed-specific traits and behavior are 'hard-wired' based on his heritage.

He will be healthier and happier when you know what he needs in terms of health care, exercise and activities, diet and more.

It's actually pretty easy to get a closer-look at your new addition's genetic makeup by using one of the simple, at-home dog dna tests that are available, and in my opinion it's really worth doing.

You can get also information on the different ways you can estimate the eventual size of your puppy on my Puppy Weight Estimates page. But remember, these are just estimates and with mixed breed pups the whole process is that bit trickier.

On the plus side, mix breed dogs tend to be healthier overall than the average purebred. This is mostly due to the fact that the dogs within each individual dog breed are descended from the same ancestors - and a fair amount of inbreeding was usually involved.

As a result there can be genetic weaknesses and a most dog breeds have a pre-disposition to certain hereditary problems. (Although if you buy from a reputable breeder you will be much less likely to get a puppy with significant problems - more about that later).

Although not strictly 'mixed breed' dogs, the newer Designer Dog Breeds are becoming more and more popular.

They often have the health advantages of mixed breeds, but due to being a mix of two purebred dogs you have more information on their heritage and they're a little more predictable in terms of size/character traits (at least in the first-generation pups).

More related pages.....

For more info. on specific breeds here are a few of websites and groups/organizations you can check out.....

Love-Springer-Spaniels.com - An online guide and community dedicated to English and Welsh Springer Spaniels, tips and advice on choosing, feeding, training and grooming Springer Spaniels to name just a few items we cover.

About-Cocker-Spaniels.com - the best free online guide to caring for Cocker Spaniel puppies and dogs. Lots more practical tips and helpful advice on how to look after your Cocker Spaniel; from his puppy days right through to adulthood. No matter what you're searching for, you'll probably find it here.

The-Hunting-Dog.com - This website is devoted to hunting dogs of all shapes and sizes. There's tons of information and advice on choosing and caring for one of these intelligent, versatile and all-round incredible dogs.

A Love Of Rottweilers - A complete guide to Rottweilers. All the tips, advice and information owners need to take care of the incredible Rottweiler dog. Includes history, temperament, puppy care, training and lots more.

For visitors from outside the US, here are a couple of online resources that you might enjoy:

The Dog Club Internet Directory (UK)

The Dog Site Australia

› Dog Breed Information

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