Dogs come in a wide variety of sizes, colors, temperaments, and intelligence levels. Having been domesticated for thousands of years, dogs have been bred to strengthen characteristics designed to meet particular human needs. While careful breeding has focused on developing attributes, such as hunting skills or docility, in certain breeds, the dangers of inbreeding are also represented since certain breeds have become more prone to particular canine ailments. As breeding continues, responsible breeders make every effort to improve the breed by trying to weed out physical defects.
The American Kennel Club (AKC) categorizes dog breeds into groups, such as Working Dogs or Sporting Dogs. All the dogs in each category have certain historical genetic traits in common.
When adopting a dog, doing some research is important. Owners are wise to consider the group and specific breed in terms of special skills, temperament, possible health problems.
This group includes dogs that have been bred to aid in hunting game birds and waterfowl. There are three distinct types of sporting dogs: pointers to locate and point to the prey, spaniels to flush the game, and retrievers to recover the dead or wounded animals.
Common sporting dogs include Irish setters, Labrador retrievers, and Cocker spaniels.
Originally, the AKC separated dogs into two groups: Sporting and Non-Sporting. Eventually, Non-Sporting dogs were split off into many other categories, such as herding dogs or toys. The Non-Sporting dogs of today are essentially the breeds that were left out of the newer categories so they vary a great deal in size and historical function.
Breeds in the Non-Sporting group include poodles, Dalmatians and bulldogs.
Hounds have been bred to hunt more independently that other Sporting Dogs. Basically, hounds both spot the game and track it down. Historically, they have been used by human hunters who follow them, on foot or on horseback. Informally, this group is divided into scent hounds and sight hounds, depending on which of their senses are stronger.
Afghans, basset hounds, and greyhounds are all included in this category.
Bred to hunt rodents and other animals considered vermin, the dogs in this group are courageous, self-confident and highly energetic. Varying in size, terriers are engaging and entertaining.
Common terriers include Airedales, wire-haired fox terriers, and bull terriers.
Working dogs are generally intelligent and physically strong since they have been bred to work as guard dogs for homes or livestock or as security, police and military dogs. These are also the dogs normally use as guide and service dogs. Some breeds in this group are not considered good choices for homes with small children.
Examples of working dogs are Doberman pinschers, Rottweilers and St. Bernards.
Herding dogs have been bred to develop their natural canine herding instinct so that they can be successfully used on farms and ranches to gather and move livestock. Breeds in this group include German shepherds, border collies and Old English sheepdogs.
Toy dogs have been bred to be portable companions, easy to carry and tend. They are charming and intelligent, but ideal for city dwellers and others with limited space available.
Some of the more popular Toy Dogs are Chihuahuas, toy poodles and papillons.
Characteristics to be Considered
Beyond the dog groups designated by the AKC, there are some traits undeniably associated with each breed of dog. In addition to having certain physiological characteristics in common, breeds have tendencies to particular behaviors that may or may not be suited to a particular household. Anyone who has had contact with dogs understands that, even within such commonalities, each dog has its own individual personality.
The following aspects of a breed should be carefully compared to the needs of the adopting individual or family. Very large dogs require room to exercise and many have considerably shorter lifespan than most small dogs. Dogs that need grooming may be more more time-consuming or expensive to own.
- Ease of training
- Tendency to cause allergies
- Life Span
- Need to be groomed
- Ability to get along with children
- Ability to get along with other animals
Taking the time to analyze such matters before adoption makes for a happy pairing of dog and humans.