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Dog Breed Classifications

Dogs groups were developed by humans to help us categorize dogs by their functionality. Dog groups are part of the American Kennel Club (AKC) classification system.

There are seven main dog groups as classified by the AKC. These are:

Sporting Dogs
Sporting dogs tend to be natural athletes, active, very alert dogs that usually make well-rounded companions. Sporting dogs are well known for their instincts around water and woods and require regular, stimulating exercise. Sporting breeds have increasingly made their way in as the family dog, but many still participate in hunting and field activities. The sporting dog group includes Retrievers, Setters, Spaniels and Pointers.

Hound Dogs
Most hounds share a common trait: they were designed to be used for hunting. Typically, Hounds either use their acute power of scent to track or their stamina to chase them down. Otherwise, the hound group is greatly diverse and difficult to generalize. The Hound group includes the Afghan Hound, Foxhound, Beagle, Greyhound, Rhodesian Ridgeback, Dachsund and Harrier.

Working Dogs
Dogs that fall into the working group have historically performed various jobs for humans over the years including guarding, rescuing and sled pulling. Most working dogs are intelligent and quick to learn and make great companions. But, due to the size of many of the working breeds, many of them aren't suitable for certain living situations and require proper training early on. Working dogs include the Akita, Boxers, Bernese Mountain Dog, Great Dane, Mastiff and Siberian Husky.

Terriers are notorious for being lively and feisty dogs whose ancestors were bred to kill pests (rodents, mice). They range in size from the smaller Cairn Terrier to the largest of the Terriers, the sturdy Airedale. Most Terriers require regular, special grooming to maintain their look. Terriers make a great addition to families that are ready for a dog with a lot of personality.

The Toy group tends to be small breeds that were bred to sit and look pretty and bring delight to their owners. These breeds are popular amongst people that live in small places and cities. Many individuals and families seek smaller dogs for their ease of control, less shedding and lower cost of care. While these are smaller dogs, don't let the size fool you as many of these breeds are tough and can stand their ground. Breeds that fall into the Toy group include the Chihuahua, Maltese, Pomeranian, Papillon, Pug, Toy Poodle and Shih Tzu.

Non-Sporting Dogs
One of the smaller, yet most diverse of the groups in terms of breeds and sizes is the non-sporting dogs. These breeds vary greatly in terms of size, look and personality. The non-sporting group includes the Bichon Frise, Boston Terrier, Bulldog, Poodle and Keeshond.

The Herding Group is the AKC's newest classification added in 1983. These breeds were previously classified in the working group. As the name indicates, the herding group share the ability to control the movement of animals. Generally, herding dogs make excellent companions and respond well to training. The herding group includes the Australian Cattle Dog, Collie, German Shepherd, Old English Sheepdog, Border Collie and Shetland Sheepdog.

When deciding on a dog breed, it's important to consider the breed and not the group by which a dog falls into. A specific dog breed may fall into the hunting group, but the breeds traits can't be evaluated by that category. In addition, some breeds may fall into more than one group depending upon the size. For example, a toy poodle falls into the toy group, but standard poodles fall into the non-sporting group. While you wouldn't want to evaluate a breed exclusively by its group classification, it is important to understand a dogs group in order to fully understand their basic features.

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