Dog Breeds

Information about popular dog breeds

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Dogs come in all shapes and sizes, and all dog breeds have unique temperamental and physical characteristics. If you're considering adding a puppy or dog to your family, it's essential that you review information on dog breeds before making your choice to make sure that your pet will thrive in your home. The American Kennel Club (AKC) maintains a list of dog breeds, grouping every type of dog into one of eight categories: sporting, hound, working, terrier, toy, non-sporting, herding and miscellaneous (a class for breeds that don't match the criteria of any of the other seven categories).

AKC dog breeds in the sporting class are naturally energetic, alert and active. Retrievers, setters and spaniels are popular examples of sporting dogs. Hound dogs have similar activity and alertness levels, but display strong scent-tracking powers that make them ideal for hunting and tracking. Examples include beagles, dachshunds and rare dog breeds like the whippet and Norwegian elkhound.

Dogs in the AKC's working group were historically bred to perform labor tasks, such as rescuing and guarding. On the whole, they're an intelligent group, large in size and very strong. The husky, Great Dane and boxer are well-known examples.

Terriers, on the other hand, are classified by their diminutive size but feisty and energetic disposition. Lively and full of personality, the terrier group includes well-known small dog breeds like the bull terrier and the Jack Russell terrier.

Toy dog breeds are, in general, small and bred specifically for human enjoyment and companionship. The AKC's toy group includes instantly recognizable breeds like the chihuahua and poodle, as well as rare dog breeds like the striking Pekingese and the furry Affenpinscher.

By contrast, dogs in the herding group tend to be much larger; in fact, this group was officially created in 1983 as an offshoot of the working group. Herding dogs include the collie, German shepherd and corgi, among others.

The miscellaneous class currently includes breeds that can't be readily categorized or that show significant physical or temperamental differences from easily classified similar breeds. The rare dog breeds in the miscellaneous class include the redbone coonhound, the Icelandic sheepdog and the xoloitzcuintli.

The breed that's right for you and your family depends on a number of factors. Some breeds are much more tolerant of children than others; if you have young kids, a friendly Golden retriever makes a better choice than a surly cocker spaniel. Dogs also have differing care and exercise requirements, and some breeds do better than others in confined urban living spaces. Size doesn't tell the whole story, either; big boxers can be perfectly happy living in apartments, while the much smaller beagle wouldn't last long without outdoor space to run around in. Assessing your own activity level and living environment are the best measuring sticks you can use when choosing a breed of dog.