Decoding the Different Types of Dogs

The American Kennel Club classifies dog breeds into categories. They range from the adventurous sporting group to the pint-sized toy group.

Jan 1, 2024By Sara Payne
decoding the different type of dogs

There are more than 350 recognized dog breeds in the world. Each breed has a unique appearance, personality, and use. Many organizations, such as the American Kennel Club (AKC), further break these breeds into seven different groups based on characteristics these breeds share.

The seven types of dogs are working, herding, hound, sporting, non-sporting, terrier, and toy. Let’s see what makes these categories different!

Sporting Dogs (Spaniels and Retrievers)

labrador retriever
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When the AKC was founded in 1884, it originally divided dogs into two categories: sporting and non-sporting. But with the addition of new breeds, these categories became too restrictive, so more were added.

The sporting dog (sometimes called “the gun dog”) is a category that includes Labrador retrievers, German shorthaired pointers, and cocker spaniels. People bred sporting dogs to assist them with hunting. Many of these breeds have thick, double coats, which are waterproof and help protect against cold temperatures.

Dogs in the sporting group are typically great swimmers. Why? Because many were bred for retrieving waterfowl. Make no mistake––these guys don’t need swimming lessons. Swimming comes naturally to these canines, and they even have webbed feet to propel them forward.

Hound Group (Dachshunds and Greyhounds)

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Breeds in the hound group include bloodhounds, dachshunds, and greyhounds. This category was originally grouped with the sporting dogs because they are hunters. However, the AKC later separated hounds into their own group because humans developed these breeds to hunt independently. They didn’t need the direction that other dogs in the sporting group came to rely on.

Hound dogs have strong prey drives. They are persistent hunters that often rely on their powerful sense of smell, speed, and wide vision to chase down prey. This means that some just don’t get along with smaller animals, like cats. However, they generally do well with medium and large dogs.


scottish terrier
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People bred terriers to hunt down vermin. Most terrier breeds hail from the British Isles, where they would have walked along rocky terrain. Bull terriers, Scottish terriers, and West Highland terriers are some of the breeds in this category.

These dogs are determined, courageous, and confident hunters. People sent them underground and in tight crevices to extract rats, badgers, otters, and rodents.

Terriers with longer legs were bred to dig out these creatures. “Bully breeds” were bred for archaic sporting games like bullbaiting. Today, these breeds are excellent companions, and people adore their confident personalities. They also make great additions for families with kids.

Working Dogs

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Dogs in the working group are some of the oldest dog breeds in the world. They were bred to be industrious workers, performing tasks that assist humans in some way. Many of these dog breeds worked on farms, guarded livestock, pulled sleds, or provided protection.

Nowadays, these breeds are still hard at work in the military and on police forces, acting as service or guide dogs, and of course, being the best protectors of your family and home. Common breeds in the working dog group include boxers, great Danes, and rottweilers.

There have been many famous working dogs throughout history who have saved lives. During 9/11, many working dogs performed search and rescue efforts. In World War II, working dogs were used to alert soldiers of danger and carry messages and supplies.

These dogs are strong, intelligent, intimidating, and energetic.

Herding Dogs

border collie
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Farmers bred dogs in the herding group to help move livestock, such as sheep, cattle, and reindeer. Herding dogs collaborate closely with humans, so they are intelligent and easy to train. They have lots of energy because they historically spent hours moving animals from place to place.

Common breeds in the herding group include German shepherds, border collies, and Pembroke Welsh corgis. These dogs are typically strong and muscular. They are also quick and agile, able to maneuver on even the toughest terrains.

Herding dogs are especially perceptive because they were trained to notice the slightest hand or whistle commands to move a flock. So, these breeds are very attuned to their owners and adore pleasing and protecting their family.

Toy Dogs

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These tiny canines are popular in urban areas, where they fit perfectly into smaller yards and apartments. Pint-sized pals in the toy group are the dogs of city-dwellers, and they come in a variety of colors and types. However, toy dogs are not a new concept. Royalty and rich people have kept toy breeds as lap dogs for centuries.

Breeds in the toy category include Chihuahuas, pugs, and Shih Tzus. Many of the breeds in the toy category are smaller versions of larger breeds. They were bred to be human companions, so they love to be with their owners. Without proper socialization, these dogs can develop separation anxiety, which can lead to common behavioral problems.

Non-Sporting Dogs

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As noted, in the 1880s, all non-sporting dogs were lumped into this category. However, as more categories were made, this group continued to change. Today, non-sporting dogs are any dog that is not a part of any of the other six categories.

These breeds have little in common, and this category contains dog breeds that have a variety of shapes, sizes, and personalities. Bulldogs, dalmatians, poodles, Coton de Tulear, Keeshonds, and many more are a part of this category.

Dog Breed Groups Are Always Expanding

group dogs playing
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The AKC categorizes dogs into seven distinct types. The breeds in each group share commonalities in how they were bred, their appearance, and their uses. Over the years, these categories have changed, and more have been added. As people develop more dog breeds, and the AKC recognizes more breeds, these categories will expand.

If you plan to show your dog, these categories help you know the guidelines for your canine. Otherwise, you can better understand your companion and his needs by knowing his dog type.

Sara Payne
By Sara Payne

Sara is a mother of two and a high school English teacher who rediscovered her love of writing during the pandemic. She has 5 rescue cats: Neville and Luna, who are white cats with black and grey spots, and Ginny, Blue, and Fairy, who are calicos. Besides taking care of humans and fur babies, Sara enjoys gardening, crafting, and spending time in nature.