All kennel clubs group individual breeds by their traditional roles. Because similar characteristics were beneficial to a specific task many of the breeds in a group will have a lot in common. Most of these groups contain roughly the same breeds but there are some differences particularly between North American and European kennel clubs.
Below is a listing of the breed groupings commonly used in North America along with some insight into the characteristics the breeds in the group share.
The Sporting breeds were traditionally used to flush or retrieve birds and other small game. This group usually includes the pointers, retrievers spaniels and setters. Two in this group the Labrador Retriever and the Golden Retriever consisitently rank among the top 5 most popular breeds.
The Sporting breeds are typically active dogs that require some exercise and are usually obedient and easy to train. Many breeds share a love of water. The breeds in this group usually make good family pets.
The Hound breeds were also traditionally used track and trail game. These breeds are usually divided into two categories, scent hounds and sight hounds. In general the sight hounds tend to be long legged slender high energy breeds built to run down their quarry on open plains and praries. These include breeds like the Afghan Hound, Borzoi and greyhound.
The scent hounds on the other hand tend to be stockier and built lower to the ground with a great sense of smell in order to track their quarry through brush and woods. These include breeds like the bloodhound, basset hound and beagle. The scent hounds usually make good family pets and the sight hounds are usually better suited to an adult household.
The Herding breeds were developed to assist man in handling livestock. The best candidates for this task needed to be smarter than the animals they were herding and be able to learn a large number of commands.
This led to breeds that tended to be intelligent, easily trained and protective of their flocks. These include breeds like the sheperds, collies and sheepdogs. They tend to be good choices for family pets and often try to herd smaller children.
The Working breeds originated from dogs bred to perform various task like providing security and protection, working as draft animals or performing search and rescue operations. These were usually better accomplished by large dogs a number of these breeds can reach over 100lbs.
This group includes breeds like the mastiffs, pinchers and sled dogs. These dogs tend to be protective, intelligent and loyal but their size and strength alone can make them a handful and a poor choice for homes with small children. Proper training is a must for dogs that are often considerably stronger than their owners.
The Terrier breeds are derived from dogs bred to hunt and kill vermin. In general they are smaller breeds with a scrappy attitude but there are a few larger breeds.
Their big dog attitude in a little dog body served them well when they were used to persue pest into their burrows and dens but it also leaves them somewhat intolerant of other pets and a better choice for adult owners than children. Some of the more popular terrier breeds are the (Jack) Russel Terriers, the Fox Terriers and the West Highland terriers.
The Non-sporting breeds are the most diverse collection of all the groups. Many of these breeds were developed soley as companion animals but more than a few originated in the far east serving as temple and palace dogs.
The breeds in this group are small to medium sized dogs and many have special grooming needs but these are about the only generalizations that can be made about the group however their uniqueness or rich histories make them a favorite of many dog lovers.
The Toy group is based soley on size, or lack of to be more precise. It's sometimes said that these breeds pack a hundred pounds of love into a 10 pound dog. Their small size makes these breeds ideal when space is in short supply like for apartment dwellers.
These breeds only purpose in life is to be a companion and a number of the breeds have been around for a very long time serving as lap dogs for the privilaged for hundreds of years while others are diminutive strains of dogs found in other groups. So if you have limited space or would like an easy to handle dog one of these breeds might be the ideal pet for you.