Find the Right Dog Breed Group for Your Family

PetMD Editorial
Updated: October 14, 2020
Published: November 11, 2016
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The Right Fit

By Jessica Remitz


Finding the right breed of dog for your family takes research, planning, and a close look at your daily routine. While you can’t choose the exact personality of your pup, you can learn more about the different groups of dog breeds to help choose the dog that’s right for you. We’ve asked Lisa Peterson, a spokesperson for the American Kennel Club, to share some details about each of the seven groups the AKC recognizes and what to expect from breeds in these categories.


“Prospective owners should think about what group appeals to them and then do their research,” Peterson said. “They should learn about the different breeds in the group and their training, exercise and grooming requirements, and then speak with owners and breeders to learn if it would be a good fit for their family.”

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1. The Sporting Group

Dogs in the sporting group are active and alert, and make friendly, well-rounded companions, Peterson said. They’re known for pointing and retrieving skills, with many breeds ctively participating in hunting and other fiend activities today. Breeds in the group include German Shorthaired Pointers, Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, Irish Setters and English Springer Spaniels. Most breeds in the sporting group require regular exercise or daily activity so potential owners should take this, and other qualities of the individual dog, into consideration.


“There are individual dogs in each group that may need more exercise than others or require more daily grooming and ongoing coat maintenance,” Peterson said. “It’s up to the prospective owner to talk with breeders and owners, and do their homework to learn if that’s something that would be a good fit with their lifestyle.”


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2. The Herding Group

Breeds in the herding group have the ability to control the movement of other animals, and were originally bred to herd cattle and sheep on large farms. As household pets, most herding dogs will never see a farm animal, but their instincts may cause them to gently herd their owners, especially children of a family, Peterson said. Australian Shepherds, Border Collies, Collies and Shetland Sheepdogs are all a part of the herding group. Their intelligence helps them to respond well in training and makes them excellent companions, Peterson said.

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3. The Hound Group

Nearly all hound dogs have the instinct to hunt, with some using their nose to follow a scent and others using their eyes to run down game, Peterson said. Breeds in this group are often independent and may prefer to do thing their own way. They’ll need a creative, patient owner with the time needed to train them properly. Some hounds can also be quite loud, so it’s best to make sure your living environment — and neighbors' ears — can handle the sound of baying before you bring home a hound of your own, Peterson said. Breeds in this group include Beagles, Afghan Hounds, Daschunds, Greyhounds and Basset Hounds.

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4. The Working Group

Bred to perform jobs including guarding property, pulling sleds and performing water rescues, dogs in the working group learn quickly and are intelligent and capable, making them good companions, Peterson said. Breeds in the group include Doberman Pinschers, Siberian Huskies and Great Danes.


“Dogs in groups like sporting, working and herding have been bred for centuries to help their humans with hunting, herding and more, so they tend to respond well to training, Peterson said.

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5. The Terrier Group

An energetic group of dogs whose ancestors were bred to hunt and kill vermin, terriers are feisty and engaging pets, Peterson said. They have fun attitudes but will require owners with a strong hand in training and a character just as lively as theirs. They range in a variety of sizes, from the small Norfolk, Cairn or West Highland White Terrier to the larger Airedale Terrier. They also have more wiry coats than other groups of dog and will require special grooming in order to maintain their appearance.

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6. The Toy Group

Though dogs in the toy group may be small, they have big personalities and are often adored for their tough-as-nails attitude. They often make great companions and are popular with city dwellers or people without much living space, Peterson said. Their size makes ideal lap warmers and easier to handle in training or daily activity because of their smaller stature. Families with younger or excitable children may not be the best fit for some of the smaller toy breeds, however, as they can be aggressive to small children. Breeds in the group include Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Chihuahuas, Malteses, Pomeranians, Shih Tzus, Yorkshire Terriers and Pugs.

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7. The Non-Sporting Group

A diverse group with a wide range of personalities and sizes, non-sporting dogs have been placed in the group if the job they were originally bred to do no longer exists, Peterson said. Some breeds in the group like French Bulldogs, Dalmatians and Poodles are quite popular while others including Keeshonds, Chow Chows and Tibetan Spaniels are less so. Because there is so much variation within breeds in this group, it’s especially important to talk to a potential breeder about the personality and activity level of these dogs before taking one home.

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Now What?

Have you just learned that you're a big fan of one of these groups? If so, take a look at our breed-specific community groups and chat with other fun-loving dog owners. You can also learn more about finding the right dog for you by checking out AKC’s Pick a Puppy Guide.

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