There are seven different dog breed groups recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) and two additional classifications for breeds that are either awaiting approval or membership in the Foundation Stock Service (FSS). Here’s a detailed explanation of each of the breed groups and classifications.
The herding group is the latest addition to the American Kennel Club’s list of breed classifications. Dogs in this group all share traits which allow them to control the movement of other animals. One example of this is the Corgi, which standing at only 12 inches can drive a herd of cows to pasture by leaping and nipping at their heels. A larger sized herding breed is the Australian Shepherd (pictured above) which grow up 20-23 inches and weigh as much as 60 pounds. As household pets, these breeds are known to gently herd their owners, especially the children of the family. These dogs are generally easy to train, intelligent, and make great companions.
The hound group was the first hunting dog classification. These dogs have traits such as a powerful sense of smell (like the Basset Hound for example) which allows them to follow a trail, high stamina as they pursue their prey, and great speed.
Within this group there are three types of hound:
- Sighthounds: follow prey predominately by speed which allows them to keep the animal in sight. These dogs are fast and assist hunters in catching game–fox, hare, deer, and elk.
- Scent hounds: follow prey or others (such as missing people) by tracking its scent. These dogs have endurance but are not notably fast runners.
- The remaining breeds in this group follow prey using both sight and scent, making them hard to classify as they are neither sighthound nor scent hound.
Dogs of this group have one primary function, delighting their owners. Historically, these dogs were kept as symbols of affluence, as watchdogs, or for the health function of attracting fleas away from their owners. The small size of these lapdogs can be misleading since they are often very tough. An example of this is the Chihuahua, which has a bark that is hard to ignore or forget.
These dogs are ideal for people who live in cities and apartments. These smaller breeds are also popular because they are easier to own. They shed less and have a lower cost of care.
Dogs in this group do not share any mutual characteristic and simply do not fit into the other groups so they’re quite diverse. Therefore, the personality and appearance features of the dogs in this group are not similar.
This group includes gun dogs or bird dogs, which are both types of hunting dogs which were bred to assist hunters in finding and retrieving game, typically birds. There are three primary types of gun dogs: retrievers, flushing dogs, and pointing breeds.
Pointers and setters: when game is detected, a dog freezes, either pointing or crouching. If other dogs are present, they also freeze to “honor” the first dogs point. The pointing dog remains motionless until the hunters are in position. What happens next depends on how the dog was trained. Some trainers train the dog to stay motionless while the hunter steps forward and flushes the game while others choose to have the dog flush the game. When a bird is downed, the dogs are instructed to search and retrieve it.
Flushing dogs: these dogs include spaniels and retrievers which work more closely with the hunter. As a result, flushers don’t cover as much ground as a pointing dog since they must be kept within shotgun distance. These dogs do not point at their prey, giving them little time to escape on the ground. Once the bird has been flushed, the dog will sit or “hup” to watch the flight of the bird and mark the fallen birds for retrieval. A dog which does this successfully is referred to as “steady to wing and shot”. Thus steadiness is the hallmark of the finished spaniel.
Retrievers: these dogs are usually used for waterfowl hunting although they can be used to hunt birds on dry ground as well. Once the hunter has stopped shooting, the dog retrieves each bird that has been downed upon command.
The terrier group comprises breeds which are typically small, wiry, energetic and fearless. Many describe their personalities as “eager for a spirited argument.” They are bred to hunt vermin and guard family homes and barns. While terriers make for great pets, they do require a lot of focus to train since they’re very stubborn, energetic, and often require special grooming to maintain their characteristic appearance. Despite being small in size, terriers are not submissive “lap dogs.”
Dogs in the Working Group are quick learners who are usually strong, watchful, and loyal to their owners. These dogs are bred to assist humans in a number of activities, including: guarding, pulling sleds, herding animals, and performing functions for the police and military like search and rescue. These dogs make for great companions, however due to their large size and protective nature, prospective owners should know how to properly train and socialize a dog. That said, not all Working Group breeds are suitable for first-time dog owners. Popular breeds in the Working Group are Akitas and Bernese Mountain Dogs.
There are 10 different roles performed by dogs under this classification:
Military working dogs
Search and rescue dogs
Dogs are added to the miscellaneous class until the American Kennel Club (AKC) Board of Directors accepts the breed for regular status. There are several hundred different breeds of purebred dogs which aren’t AKC recognized breeds.
Dogs in this group have been accepted for recording in the AKC Foundation Stock Service. This service allows these purebred breeds to continue to develop while providing them with the security of a reliable and reputable avenue to maintain their records. FSS breeds such as the American Bulldog are not eligible for AKC registration but are approved to compete in AKC Companion Events.