Dogs are divided into 6 general classifications in Britain: Hounds,
Gundogs, Terriers, Utility, Working, and Toy. In the
United States and some other countries the number is 7: Sporting,
Hounds, Working, Terriers, Toy, Non-Sporting, and Herding.
(The number is 8 if you count the Miscellaneous group.) The Gundog
and Sporting classes are equivalent, as are the Utility and Non-Sporting
groups. The British Working classification is broken into two
groups in the US: Working and Herding.
Hounds are hunting dogs. Some hounds hunt by sight (sighthounds
like Greyhounds); others use their noses on the ground to follow
their target (Beagles and Bloodhounds, for example). The Finnish
Spitz is unusual in that it hunts birds and indicates their presence
in a tree by standing next to the tree and barking. Hounds tend
to concentrate on the chase and not necessarily returning when
called. They also have loud barks which they like to use.
Sporting, or Gundogs, help in finding and catching feathered and
furry game. Pointers and setters are a part of this group; these
dogs indicate where the game is. Retrievers bring back game.
Spaniels do both. And there are a number of European breeds that
are known as the Hunt, Point, and Retrieve (HPR) breeds. Most
Sporting dogs tend to be trainable, gentle, and quiet dogs.
Terriers are the rodent-catchers of the canine world. They are
brave and very intelligent dogs. Terriers vary in size, from large
Airedales, down to medium-sized Lakeland Terriers, to smaller
dogs like the Norwich Terrier. They tend to be sharp in appearance
and in character.
The Herding classification (in the US) includes breeds such as the
Border Collie and the Shetland Sheepdog (these would be part of the
Working group in Britain). The Working group includes dogs such as
Boxers, Rottweilers, Bullmastiffs, and German Shepherds. The
temperment and trainability of these dogs vary tremendously.
The Toy group consists of the small dogs. Although all the dogs
are small, there is considerable variation. This group includes
the Chihuahua, the King Charles Spaniel, the Yorkshire Terrier, the
Pekingese, the Pug, the Papillon, and the Japanese Chin.
The Utility, or Non-Sporting, group includes dogs that don't fit
into the other groups, like the Dalmatian, the Bulldog, and the
Poodles. They vary greatly in size, appearance, and temperment.
All together there are nearly 200 different breeds in the AKC -- over
Source: The New Guide to Dog Breeds, by
Mike Stockman, Hermes House, London, 1998.