The 7 Types of Dog Breeds

The AKC's dog breed categories have diverse roles and characteristics

types of dog breeds

Compassionate Eye Foundation / David Leahy Getty Images


With more than 190 dog breeds and varieties registered with the American Kennel Club, each dog was assigned to one of seven groups that detail its particular functions, roles, and characteristics. Here are the seven types of dog breeds, their histories, and what pet owners can expect when taking one of these four-legged friends home.

A quick note about training. While dogs do have breed tendencies, all will require positive training to help them reach their full potential and to fit most happily into any home.

  • 01 of 07

    Sporting Group

    sporting dog group-retriever


    John McKeen / Getty Images

    Dogs in the sporting group were bred to be a hunter’s best sidekick; their purpose is to assist with catching feathered game. Thanks to the invention of the gun, sporting dogs were developed as hunters found they needed a canine’s help with retrieving upland game birds or waterfowl.

    There are four basic types of Sporting dogs: spaniels, pointers, retrievers, and setters. Some of the breeds in this group, such as retrievers, are especially adept at swimming and specialize in waterfowl like ducks, while setters, spaniels, and pointing breeds are known experts in hunting quail, pheasant, and other game birds in the grasslands.

    While these breeds may be known for performing multiple tasks to aid the hunter, typically pointers and setters would identify and mark game by pointing, spaniels would flush game, and retrievers would be in charge of recovering dead and wounded game.

    All of the Sporting Group dogs are characterized by their natural active and alert personalities, stable temperaments, as well as their instincts both in the water and out in the woods. Sporting dogs make lovable, well-rounded pets, and are the perfect addition to active families, as these energetic, alert dogs will require plenty of exercise and time spent outdoors.

    Take a look at some dog breeds in this group:

  • 02 of 07

    Hound Group

    hound group - beagle


    Manuel Breva Colmeiro / Getty Images

    Originally, dogs in the Hound Group were also used for hunting and classified as Sporting Dogs. However, in 1930, the American Kennel Club introduced the Hound Group to include dogs that have specifically been bred to pursue warm-blooded quarry, such as rabbits, raccoons, or even antelope!

    Though Hounds share their astute hunting skills, this group encompasses a diverse array of breeds. Scent hounds are responsible for using their acute sense of smell to track game, while sighthounds typically rely more heavily on a larger field of vision and speed to hunt.

    While it’s difficult to make generalizations about such a diverse group of dogs, generally, the charming, affectionate dogs in this group will make loyal companions and family pets, and some will require more vigorous exercise than others. According to the American Kennel Club, "members of the Hound Group possess strong prey drives and often will stop at nothing to catch their quarries."

    Check out some popular hound dog breeds:

  • 03 of 07

    Toy Group

    toy group - japanese chin

    Tara Gregg / EyeEm / Getty Images

    In existence for centuries, the toy breed was bred for the purpose of serving as companions for their humans. These small, easily portable dogs can be most often found sitting in the lap of their humans—or being carried around. Ideal for apartment living or anyone with limited space, many of these dogs have been bred down from their larger cousins.

    The breeds categorized in the Toy group tend to be affectionate and easily adaptable to their family’s environment. They are intelligent, sociable, and full of energy, and despite their small stature, many do have strong protective instincts and big personalities.

    Learn more about toy breeds:

  • 04 of 07

    Non-Sporting Group

    non-sporting group dog - dalmatian

    Anna Rostova / Getty Images

    A group for dogs that don’t quite fit in anywhere else, the Non-Sporting Group encompasses a variety of breeds with jobs that don’t satisfy the requirements of the other six groups. The AKC originally registered dogs as either Sporting or Non-Sporting, and over time, hounds and terriers were separated from the Sporting Group while Toy and Working dogs developed from the Non-Sporting. There was eventually a separate category to distinguish Herding dogs from Working dogs.

    The Non-Sporting Group are all the dogs that remain, and thus have a variety of sizes, functions, and history. Most of these dogs make generally good house dogs and watchdogs, but with breeds ranging from the French Bulldog to the Poodle, their differences are so vast that it makes it difficult to generalize their individual traits.

    Read more about some of the breeds that make up the non-sporting group:

    Continue to 5 of 7 below.
  • 05 of 07

    Working Group

    working dog breed group - great dane

    Capuski / Getty Images

    The Working Group dogs split off from the Non-Sporting Group, due to their roles of performing specific jobs related to guarding property or performing rescues. Arguably, the hardiest breeds in the canine community, dogs that are categorized into the Working Group have historically been responsible for tasks ranging from pulling sleds and carts to guarding flocks and homes.

    While the appearances and jobs of the dogs in this group vary, most are powerful and intelligent, and can be relied on to perform rescues and any other tasks to protect their families. These dogs include farm and draft animals, security, police, and military dogs, as well as guide and service dogs. As such, they make dependable, loyal pets with incredible intelligence and energy.

    Find out more about some of the working group breeds:

  • 06 of 07

    Herding Group

    herding dog breed group - german shepherd

    Nick Ridley / Getty Images

    Categorized by the AKC in 1983, the Herding Group includes the breeds with possibly the most straightforward task. Once included with the Working Group dogs, the group includes 30 breeds in a wide variety of sizes, from the Corgi to the German shepherd.

    Herding dogs have historically been bred to gather, herd, and protect livestock, and work closely with human shepherds. The intelligence and natural responsiveness of these dogs makes them highly trainable. Additionally, they tend to be affectionate and loyal companions. Most of these breeds are happiest in homes that can provide lots of exercise, structure, and clear instruction about expected behavior. Because they are usually very intelligent, they will often become bored and need mental stimulation, as well as physical.

    Read up on the following herding dogs:

  • 07 of 07

    Terrier Group

    terrier breed group - dog in clovers

    Jelena Matvejeva / EyeEm / Getty Images

    The vast majority of the dogs in the Terrier Group originated in the British Isles and evolved with particular duties based upon the geography of their specific area, including killing vermin and guarding their family’s home or barn. Most of these dogs were bred for tasks such as hunting small animals including rats, otters, and badgers.

    There are a few variations of terriers; short-legged terriers were bred to pursue rodents underground, while terriers with long legs are able to dig out these creatures rather than burrowing in after them. “Bull” breeds were once created for bull baiting and dogfights, but, happily, are now some of today’s go-to companion dogs.

    All of these dogs share the common trait of self-confidence and courage, as they are determined to do what it takes to locate its quarry, no matter the terrain. Dogs in the Terrier Group tend to be energetic and feisty. While they do make lovable pets, they tend to have strong personalities and some breeds may require special grooming.

    Learn more about these terrier breeds:

  • What dog breeds should not be shaved?

    Any dog breeds with a double coat—huskies, terriers, German shepherds, etc.—should never be shaved.

  • What types of dog breeds have curly tails?

    So many! The list includes Basenji, Akita, shiba inu, Chow Chow,

    Norwegian Buhund, Samoyed, Finnish Spitz, and Pomeranians.

  • What dog breeds howl?

    Among the dogs that howl are several hound breeds, beagles, Alaskan Malamutes, basset hounds, bloodhounds, American Eskimo dogs, and huskies.