What Are the Classes of Dogs in a Dog Show?

Dog shows are competitive sporting events where handlers and dogs show off their skills. An exhibition of instinct, training and impeccable grooming, dog shows draw millions of spectators each year. With so many purebred breeds, the competing canines are divided into seven distinct categories for judging purposes.



The sporting group represents dogs that are bred to assist the hunter in hunting game birds both on land and in water. These breeds include spaniels, pointers, setters and retrievers. As such, the dogs in this group must be well balanced. They have high energy, yet stable temperaments and are capable of quick bursts of speed and stealthy movements.


Hounds were members of the sporting group until 1930, when they were assigned their own category. The hound group assists during hunting as do sporting breeds, but they work independently of humans. Hounds forge ahead and bring down game on their own and hold it at bay until the hunter arrives. The breeds in this group have heightened sensory perception; sight hounds such as the greyhound hunt by sight whereas scent hounds such as the bassett hound and beagle track with their noses.


The working group consists of powerfully built, intelligent hard-working breeds. These are the working farm dogs, police and military dogs and guide and service dogs. Some of the most popular working breeds include the great Dane, Newfoundland, rottweiler and bullmastiff.


Breeds in the terrier group such as the Norfolk terrier, Airedale terrier and fox terrier possess determination, self-confidence, courage, agility and quickness. Headstrong members of the terrier category originally were bred to hunt and flush out quarry such as rats, otters, badgers and even fox.


Toy dogs are bred as companion animals. They are sweet, spirited, smaller versions of their cousins. The toy poodle, for example, is much smaller than the standard variety and is the smallest variety of poodle available.


The herding group broke off from the working group in 1983. These breeds have a natural herding instinct, and commonly serve ranchers and farmers. The diligent, hard-working collie, old English sheepdog, Australian shepherd and German shepherd were all bred to gather and move livestock from one place to another.


The non-sporting group represents any remaining breed that does not fit into the other six categories. It's a diverse group of canines with temperaments that range from the happy-go-lucky bichon frise to the loyal, headstrong dalmatian.

By Christina Stephens

About the Author
Christina Stephens is a writer from Portland, Ore. whose main areas of focus are pets and animals, travel and literature. A veterinary assistant, she taught English in South Korea and holds a BA in English with cum laude honors from Portland State University.