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Dog Breed Groups Recognized by the American Kennel Club

Shane Sykes - Last Updated on May 19, 2021

Dog breeds belonging to the same dog group often share many of the same traits. These unique or specialized characteristics differentiate each breed, and can help to narrow your search for the dog breed best suited for you! View individual dog profiles and characteristics.

Simply put, the seven dog groups specified by the American Kennel Club (AKC) ensure that (in competitions) judging is type-to-type in categories of dogs with similar dog characteristics, traits and genetic backgrounds.

In addition to the seven dog groups, the AKC has a "Miscellaneous Class." Dogs in that category have not been granted full recognition by the organization at present; they are in the process of evolving into fully recognized breeds. Once they are recognized by the AKC, they will be assigned to one of the seven breed groups and moved out of the Miscellaneous Class.

The AKC is currently considering whether to expand and reapportion the seven groups into ten. The changes would be made by dividing the current Hound group into two separate groups (Scent and Sight); dividing the current Sporting group into two separate groups (Pointers & Setters in one and Retrievers & Spaniels in the other) and creating one entirely new category, the Northern group, which would be comprised of all the Northern and Spitz breeds. That change would take dogs that are currently in other groups by character traits and skills and move them into the new Northern group based on common genetics.

1. Terrier Dog Breeds

This group of dogs has the broadest range of sizes. In fact, the diminutive West Highland White Terrier can stand under a Kerry Blue or a Lakeland Terrier with room to spare. Most of these dogs were bred to hunt and kill other small animals viewed as vermin.

2. Hound Dog Breeds

There are two kinds of hounds: those that hunt by sight and those that hunt by scent. Both are members of the AKC's Hound Group. From the short-legged Basset Hound to the tall and graceful Afghan Hound, every breed in this category has incredible endurance, bred into them for centuries in some cases, so that they would never give up the hunt.

3. Toy Dog Breeds

There's quite a range of personality in the Toy Group: gentle lap dogs, feisty terriers and expressive divas are all in this category. Overall, the popularity of toy breeds was a cyclical function of fashion throughout history, but that changed in our modern age, as people became more mobile and many chose the smaller quarters common to city life.

4. Herding Dog Breeds

All dogs developed for specific tasks, including those bred to herd livestock, were originally part of the AKC's Working Group. Toward the end of the 20th century (1983), the organization separated these livestock specialists into a group of their own.

5. Working Dog Breeds

As the name implies, these are the dogs that are relied upon to do a specific job: in fact, some do multiple tasks for man. For the most part, they are large animals who perform these jobs by combining physical strength and endurance with keen intelligence.

6. Sporting Dog Breeds

Many of these dogs have accompanied humans for centuries on hunts, and they still do exactly that today. But just as many now participate only in competitive events and never retrieve a duck or a grouse. Whether bringing you a pheasant or a Frisbee in its mouth, members of the sporting group are active dogs with even temperaments.

7. Non-Sporting Dog Breeds

Think of the term 'companion animals' and you'll understand the AKC's Non-Sporting Group. These dogs were not bred for a specific function, but that doesn't mean they are without talents. What these dogs have in common is their ability to become part of our lives.

9. Dog Mix Breeds

Mixed breed dogs (dog mixes) are not new - every culture and every country has a different name for a dog of mixed parentage and that's been true for centuries. Today, the knowledge of genetics has enabled breeders to 'design' dogs as never before, and that's become the moniker of choice: Designer Dogs.

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