As of 2009, there are more than 150 different dog breeds recognized throughout the world. Each dog's use, temperament, activity levels or physical attributes determine the group of each breed. There are seven different groups used by the American Kennel Club (AKC) to separate dog breeds. During dog competitions, each breed must compete in a certain grouping.
Pointers, retrievers, spaniels and setters make up the sporting group. These breeds are some of the most popular house pets due to their lovable and goofy personalities, loyalty and eager-to-please temperaments. Originally bred as game hunters, these dogs maintain their innate love for water and the outdoors and usually require regular amounts of exercise. Due to their sweet dispositions and ease of training, their uses have expanded into service or working jobs. Whether helping people with disabilities or sniffing out explosives or drugs, sporting dogs are still true to their all-around good-natured personalities.
The terrier group, known for its spirited and energetic dogs, includes most terrier breeds. Terriers were originally bred to control vermin, earning their nickname "Earth dogs," because they hunted underground. The larger of the terriers, such as the Airedale and Irish terriers, were multi-purpose, acting as guard dogs, messengers or in game hunting. Among the terrier group, there are terrier bulldog mixes that have the bulldog aggression with their terrier tenacity, which create an unmanageable dog if not properly trained. Most terrier breeds still have their hunting instinct; with consistent training to control their feisty personalities, they will be an affectionate, mischievous pet.
Many breeds are able to assist in hunting, but the hound group's sole purpose and specialty is hunting, whether by sight or smell. The group is a very diverse mixture of dogs ranging from the long and short Dachshund and Basset hound, to the refined Afghan hound. All hounds share a distinct hunting skill, and most have a very distinct call to alert their owners when the hunt is successful. Along with being superb hunters, they are also very lovable family and lap dogs.
Breeds within the toy groups have never had a specific job other than being lapdogs. The breeds are generally easy to handle due to their diminutive size but need training to control their large personalities. Toys are the ideal dog for owners living in a small space and first-time owners, and they are usually happy with limited exercise. Toy breeds need supervision around children, because they may "nip" when treated roughly. Toys are usually content following their owner around and can excel in any offered training.
The herding group, once included in the working group, is very diverse in size. All of the dogs in this group have a natural instinct to herd, which may cause them to be nippy and obstinate at times. These dogs enjoy being put to work and may find objects to herd even if they have never been in a farm environment. The small but sturdy Welsh Corgi and the large and fearless German shepherd are among the herding breeds that make very amiable pets that respond to and excel in training.
The dogs in the working group come in all shapes and sizes. These breeds excel and are happiest performing rescue and police duties, guarding or pulling sleds. The breeds in this group usually do not make the ideal first dog due to their size, strength, difficulty of training and high intellect. All dogs in the working group need proper training and socialization, which will prevent them from becoming aggressive. With the proper owner, all working-class dogs will make a hard-working, loving companion.
The non-sporting group is home to the breeds that do not fit in any other categories and is one the most diverse groups. The group has the small but robust English bulldog that once was a bull baiter, and the horse-loving Dalmatian that has assisted in war, hunting and firefighting. The non-sporting group has some of the most popular breeds, which all make very lovable, intelligent pets.