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Dog Breed Guide: Explore the 7 Major Dog Groups

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Aug 25, 2020 • 3 min read

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For thousands of years, people have been selectively breeding dogs to perform specific tasks—whether it’s hunting, herding, or keeping watch. The term “dog breed” refers to dogs bred for specific genetic traits (from personality traits to physical features). Today, there are over 450 dog breeds, organized into seven main groups.



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What Are Dog Groups?

The American Kennel Club places dog breeds into groups based on their particular set of uses, purposes, and characteristics. There are seven major dog groups: Working, Herding, Toy, Hound, Sporting, Non-Sporting, and Terrier. The Working Group features breeds that perform certain practical tasks, while the Hound Group features breeds that hunt. Other groups, such as the Toy Group, go by size, and the Non-Sporting group features dogs that don’t fit the characteristics and purposes of the other groups.

What Are the 7 Major Dog Groups?

There are seven major dog groups:

  1. Working Group: Working Group dogs were initially bred to perform practical duties, including acting as watchdogs and pulling carts and sleds. They are intelligent and loyal. Examples of dogs in the Working Group include Alaskan Malamutes, Siberian Huskies, Great Danes, Doberman Pinschers, Rottweilers, Akitas, Anatolian Shepherds, Huskies, Saint Bernards, Neapolitan Mastiffs, Portuguese Water Dogs, German Pinschers, Great Pyrenees, Giant Schnauzers, Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs, Newfoundlands, Samoyeds, Bullmastiffs, and Bernese Mountain Dogs.
  2. Herding Group: Originally bred to herd livestock, dogs in the Herding Group are smart and energetic, and they retain the innate ability to corral other animals. Examples of dogs in the Herding Group include Australian Cattle Dogs, Australian Shepherds, Border Collies, Shetland Sheepdogs, Pembroke Welsh Corgis, Cardigan Welsh Corgis, Old English Sheepdogs, Belgian Tervurens, Canaan Dogs, Briards, Bouvier des Flandres, Belgian Malinois, and German Shepherds.
  3. Hound Group: Originally bred for hunting, dogs in the Hound Group have a powerful sense of smell that also makes them ideal for law enforcement applications. They are affectionate and strong-willed. Examples of dogs in the Hound Group include Basset Hounds, Salukis, Beagles, Harriers, American Foxhounds, English Foxhounds, Bloodhounds, Irish Wolfhounds, Dachshunds, Otterhounds, Norwegian Elkhounds, Greyhounds, Italian Greyhounds, Whippets, Afghan Hounds, Borzois Hounds, Black-and-Tan Coonhounds, Rhodesian Ridgebacks, Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen, and Basenjis.
  4. Sporting Group: Originally bred to assist hunters in retrieving game, the Sporting Group’s high-energy dogs retain a love for the outdoors. Examples of dogs in the Sporting Group include English Cocker Spaniels, Irish Setters, Labrador Retrievers, English Springer Spaniels, Clumber Spaniels, German Shorthaired Pointers, German Wirehaired Pointers, American Water Spaniels, Weimaraners, Golden Retrievers, Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, and English Setters.
  5. Non-Sporting Group: The Non-Sporting Group is a unique dog group because it doesn’t group dogs by a particular purpose or size—instead, it’s more of a catch-all group for dogs that don’t fit in other groups. As a result, dogs from the Non-Sporting Group run the gamut in terms of physical and personality traits, but all are ready candidates for a loving pet. Examples of dogs in the Non-Sporting Group include Dalmatians, Chow Chows, Finnish Spitz, Shar Peis, American Bulldogs, Poodles, Boston Terriers, Lhasa Apsos, Shiba Inus, French Bulldogs, Schipperkes, and American Eskimo Dogs.
  6. Toy Group: Dogs in the Toy Group are small in stature but big on brains and affection. They make perfect lap dogs. Examples of dogs in the Toy Group include Chihuahuas, Pomeranians, Maltese, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Silky Terriers, Chinese Crested Dogs, Miniature Schnauzers, Bichon Frises, Yorkshire Terriers, Pekingese, Shih Tzus, Japanese Chins, Havanese, Miniature Pinschers, Brussels Griffons, Papillons, Affenpinschers, and Pugs.
  7. Terrier Group: Terriers were initially bred to kill vermin (which they remain very good at), but they have become beloved watchdogs and pets. Examples of dogs in the Terrier Group include Airedale Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, Jack Russell Terriers, Bull Terriers, Fox Terriers, Wheaten Terriers, Cairn Terriers, West Highland White Terriers, Australian Terriers, Border Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, Bedlington Terriers, Kerry Blue Terriers, Rat Terriers, and Scottish Terriers.
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