The American Kennel Club, formed in 1884, registers millions of purebred dogs and their litters every year, allocating 185 dog breeds into seven groups primarily based on shared, predominant traits: Herding, Hound, Non-Sporting, Sporting, Terrier, Toy and Working. While the AKC group designation keeps dog shows organized, it’s also a helpful guide for selecting a canine family member who will be most compatible with your lifestyle and environment.
Created in 1983, the Herding Group is the most recent AKC classification, incorporating 26 breeds that were formerly in the Working Group. These high-energy dogs think for themselves and have the uncanny ability to round up, expertly guide and forcibly drive massive livestock where they want them to go. Fiercely loyal, intelligent and affectionate, dogs in the Herding Group make wonderful companions.
The breeds in the Herding Group are not couch potatoes, and require lots of exercise. If they don't have a farm job or engage in activities that redirect their powerful urge to herd, some breeds may gently nip at the heels of children and other dogs and cats in the household. Their love of working makes them ideal candidates for obedience training and agility sports.
Among the breeds in the Herding Group are:
- German shepherd dog
- Australian cattle dog
- Belgian sheepdog
- Bouvier des Flandres
Historically, most hounds accompanied hunters, and prized for their natural ability and stamina to chase down quarry by sight or scent, became indispensable to the hunt. Despite their shared talent, the 29 diverse breeds in the Hound Group, established in the late 1920s as an offshoot of the Sporting Group, have distinct breed-specific traits. Some common personality traits are courage, intelligence and confidence. . Blessed with an even temperament, breeds in the Hound Group are affectionate and relaxed in the home, but bred to follow the scent or sight of prey, they’ll need a fenced yard and on-leash walks to keep them happy and safe outside. Although most hounds will never go on a hunt, when they get excited, some have a unique vocalization called a bay. This boisterous howl-like call can morph into high-pitched singing, an acquired taste and music to a hound enthusiast’s ears.
Among the breeds in the Hound Group are:
- Rhodesian ridgeback
- Afghan hound
Encompassing 20 breeds, the Non-Sporting Group, formed in 1924, includes breeds of vastly different shapes, sizes, coats, colors and temperaments. Variously described by enthusiasts as smart, playful, aloof with strangers, friendly, dignified, amusing, alert and confident, all are uniquely charming and make lovable, engaging companions.
Among the breeds in the Non-Sporting Group are:
- Chow chow
- Lhasa apso
The 29 breeds of the Sporting Group, formed in 1924, are gentle, calm inside the home -- exuberant in the field, sweet-natured, fun-loving, devoted and affectionate companions. Consisting of pointers, retrievers, setters and spaniels, this group’s members are naturally active and alert. With an affinity for water and extraordinary instincts in the woods, they excel in field sports and hunting. They are highly trainable and have a willingness to please. Regular vigorous exercise is a must to keep them fit and content.
Among the breeds in the Sporting Group are:
- Labrador retriever
- German shorthaired pointer
- English springer spaniel
- Irish setter
The Terrier Group, formed in 1924, includes 30 lively, spirited breeds known for being clever, tenacious, persistent and intensely inquisitive. Originally bred to kill rats and other vermin, they are hard-wired to chase small animals. Terriers are not suitable for homes with cats, ferrets and other small pets; some don’t even like other dogs. Bold, feisty, fearless and playful, these breeds are ideal companions for active, fun-loving people who can give their terriers lots of playtime and love.
Among the breeds in the Terrier Group are:
- Jack Russell terrier
- Airedale terrier
- American Staffordshire terrier
- Bull terrier
- Dandie Dinmont terrier
Cute as buttons with vivacious personalities to match, the 21 diminutive breeds in the Toy Group are alert and intelligent characters. The AKC promotes the benefits of owning Toys for their relatively minor shedding, cleanup, food and care costs, exercise needs, space requirements and control issues compared to larger dogs. Ideal for apartments and as companions for the elderly, they are cuddly lap dogs, but also feisty and fearless with a tendency to bark. Whether guarding the home, romping with their dog or cat playmates or curled up on the sofa with you, Toys are irresistible.
Among the breeds in the Toy Group are:
- Shih tzu
- Yorkshire terrier
Formed in 1924, the Working Group consists of 30 breeds who have jobs or are bred specifically to work. Guardians of the home, sled dogs and rescue dogs are among its members. Each breed has unique traits. Proper socialization and obedience training are essential for the guardian breeds; their strong personalities suit an equally strong pack leader. Sled dogs need a lot of exercise, and giant rescue breeds need a lot of space. In addition to their size and strength, keen intelligence is a distinguishing characteristic of all the breeds in this group. Few breeds make as loyal and devoted companions as those in the Working Group.
Among the breeds in the Working Group are:
- Great Dane
- Doberman pinscher
- Siberian husky
- Saint Bernard