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Dog Breed Groups

Dog Breed Groups are essentially trait groupings that categorise dogs by their behaviour and the roles that they were once bred for... hunting, retrieving, guarding, controlling pests and being loyal companions. The dog breed groups are defined by various organisations around the world, with the most popular groupings below.

  • Gundogs
  • Hounds
  • Pastoral Dogs
  • Terriers
  • Toy Dogs
  • Working Dogs
  • Utility Dogs


All gun dog breeds are primarily working dogs that were developed to accompany the sporting owner. They are loyal companions and respond well to retrieving. Often referred to as ‘bird dogs’ due to their working instinct to retrieve game, these hunting dogs are dedicated to their owners and the sport of shooting.

Gundogs Breeds

Springer Spaniel

Pointers and Setters were used to locate and point out the game. Spaniels were used to flush out and retrieve, and Retrievers were used to retrieve the game with their delicate jaws. Some of the best gun dog breeds include the Clumber Spaniel, Curly Coated Retriever, English Setter, Flat Coated Retriever, German Wirehaired Pointer, Golden Retriever, Gordon Setter, Irish Setter, Labrador Retriever, Spinone Italiano, Sussex Spaniel, and the Vizsla.

Small Gun Dog Breeds

Sussex Spaniel

Small gun dog breeds include the American Water Spaniel, the Brittany, the English Cocker Spaniel, the English Springer Spaniel, and the Welsh Springer Spaniel. They are all excellent gun dogs that have been bred over centuries for this specific purpose.


There are two types of hound dog, sight hounds and scent hounds. Sight hounds love to hunt what they see and scent hounds love to follow their noses. The Hound Dog group includes all dogs that instinctively want to hunt as a pack. Within the sight and scent groups are many individual and interesting hound breeds. For example the famous cartoon Basset Hound “Droopy”.

Basset Hounds

Hounds have very independent minds and are not the kind of dog that responds reliably to a command. They must be physically and mentally active to prevent stubborn behaviour. Hounds are very prone to wandering off, which is why it is always best to exercise one in a secure area and on a lead. If something interesting catches their eye, or they pick up on a scent trail they will be off at full speed and there may be no stopping them.

Sight Hounds

Irish Wolfhound

Sight hounds were developed to hunt at impressive speeds and although these breeds love the chance to gallop at full stretch, they are also more than happy to relax all day on the sofa, especially in their adult years. These include the Afghan Hound, Borzoi, Greyhound, Irish Wolfhound, Italian Greyhound, Saluki, Scottish Deerhound and the Whippet.

Scent Hounds

Blood Hound

Scent hounds are known to have the most sensitive noses of all dogs. Amongst many others, they include the Foxhound, Basset Hound, Bloodhound, Beagle and the Dachshund. Scent hounds love the sound of their own voice, and will use it to let their leader know where they are when following a scent. However, for owners who do not intend to use their dog for hunting, it can often be seen as an annoying trait.

Pastoral Dogs

Dogs in the pastoral group have been bred to either herd or guard livestock. If you have ever seen the dreadlocks of a Komondor you may be surprised to hear that these coats serve a practical purpose in the working environment. The corded coat of dogs like the Komondor and the Puli provide them with protection from wolves that they may have to fight in order to protect their flocks.


Herding Dogs


The most common herding dogs include the Border Collie, German Shepherd and the Australian Shepherd Dog. They are incredibly intelligent and must be given regular tasks with plenty of mental stimulation to keep them occupied. If they are not given enough exercise, they are likely to cause mischief. Providing they get all of this, herding dogs are very loyal and make great family pets. They have been known to herd small children, so if you are looking for an extra hand around the house, a Collie may be perfect for you.

Guard Dogs

Tibetan Mastiff Guard Dog

Guard dogs have been bred for their physical strength, loyalty and courage. When trained correctly, these breeds tend to be calm and gentle, but their guarding instincts can make them rather unpredictable. For this reason, before owning a guard dog it is recommended that you have previous experience of owning another dog.
Breeds that are used more as guard dogs include the Bullmastiff, Doberman Pinscher, German Shepherd, Komondor, Kuvasz, Mastiff, Puli, Rhodesian Ridgeback, Rottweiler, Tibetan Mastiff and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. If you are thinking about getting a guard dog and you have children, spend some time choosing the best breed for you and your family. German Shepherd Dogs are often considered the best guard dog for families with children. When loved and trained correctly, this breed is extremely obedient and make wonderful companions for adults and children.

Working Dogs

Working dogs come in all shapes and sizes, from the huge Saint Bernard with a brandy barrel round its neck (used to warm avalanche victims), to the nimble Siberian Husky which is used to pull goods across the icy tundra. These dogs tend not to make the most perfect home pets, unless you are able to provide them with a great deal of exercise and mental stimulation. This group of dogs are also the current record holders for world’s most expensive dog with a Tibetan Mastiff being bought for an estimated NZ$ 1,959,750

Working Dog Breeds

Saint Bernard

Working dog breeds include the Alaskan Malamute, Anatolian Shepherd Dog, Bernese Mountain Dog, Chinook, Pyrenean Mountain Dog, Newfoundland, Saint Bernard and the Siberian Husky. Almost all working dog breeds are typically large, and are built for strenuous exercise.

Pulling Dogs

Siberian Huskies

These breeds may also not adapt very well to a pet lifestyle unless you can provide them with the strenuous exercise they require. If you are considering getting a ‘pulling’ working dog, you may want to invest in a working dog harness so that you can control your dog’s tremendous strength when on the lead (otherwise you might find that you are the one being taken for a walk).


The name Terrier comes from the Latin word ‘terra’ meaning earth and the french name ‘chien terrier’ which translates directly to ‘dog of the earth’. Terriers were once developed as farm dogs for ratting and controlling foxes, which is why they are both fearless and small enough to fit down holes.

Yorkshire Terrier

Terriers are typically excitable dogs with mischievous temperaments. They are so much fun, you can spend hours watching them play.

Jack Russells

Terrier breeds include the Jack Russell Terrier, Scottish Terrier, Patterdale Terrier, Cairn Terrier, Border Terrier and the West Highland Terrier. The Bull Terrier and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier were also used for pest control, but were originally developed for the sport of bull baiting.

Toy Dogs


These lovely lap-sized dogs were developed to be close companions and so thrive on love and affection. They are friendly, playful and full of energy, which is why they are great to have around. Toy dogs typically become very attached to one person and if this behaviour develops your dog can become very protective and may show aggression towards anybody else who comes close. To prevent this, it is important to socialise toy dogs with plenty of visitors and other dogs from an early age.
Toy dog breeds include the Bichon Frise, Brussels Griffon, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Chihuahua, Chinese Crested, Havanese, Italian Greyhound, Maltese, Miniature Bull Terrier, Pekingese, Pomeranian, Pug, West Highland Terrier, Shih Tzu, Toy Poodle and the Yorkshire Terrier.

Utility Dogs

The word utility in this instance is used to categorize all of the breeds that do not fit into any of the other groups.


Utility dogs refers to an extremely varied group of dog breeds that were once developed for a specific job, but these jobs no longer exist or are not carried out by dogs anymore. An example of this is the Dalmatian, which was bred to run alongside horse carts.

English Bulldog

The utility dog breeds include the Akita, Boston Terrier, Chow Chow, Dalmatian, English Bulldog, French Bulldog, German Spitz, Japanese Shiba Inu, Keeshond, Lhasa Apso, Mexican Hairless, Miniature Schnauzer, Poodle, Shar Pei, Shih Tzu, Tibetan Spaniel and the Tibetan Terrier.


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