Did you know that the AKC (American Kennel Club) classifies dogs into groups? There are five groups classified as “working” dogs: sporting, working, terriers, hounds, and herding. These groups are very different and were originally bred for different purposes. Let’s examine the breeds in each group.
The sporting group was created to assist hunters with retrieving feathered game. Retrievers, aptly named, were built to swim and for water game. Setters, spaniels, and pointers were blessed with abilities to grab quail and pheasant in their nests. The variety of sporting breeds is staggering in both size and scope. A lay person would never think to group these dogs together!
We have the American Water Spaniel, Brittney, Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Cocker Spaniel, English Setter, Springer Spaniel, Pointing Griffon, Irish Setter, Weimaraner, Vizsla, German Wirehaired Pointer, Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever, Pointer, and a Duck Tolling Retriever. There are a few others, but these are the most common breeds.
The working breed are your blue-collar dogs. They pull sleds and carts. These breeds do rescue work, guard homes and animals, and they most certainly protect their humans. These are the dogs that everyone fears and loves at the same time because they are truly man’s best friend. They were bred that way.
Included in the working class are: Akita, Alaskan Malamute, Anatolian Shepherd, Bernese Mountain, Black Russian Terrier, Boxer, Bullmastiff, Mastiff, Doberman, German Pinscher, Giant Schnauzer, Great Dane, Great Pyrenees, Newfoundland, Siberian Husky, Kuvasz, Saint Bernard, Komondor, Swiss Mountain Dog, Rottweiler, and Portuguese Water Dog.
Short-legged terriers are down and dirty hunters. They don’t hunt out in the open or after a gunshot, they get into holes, under things, and dig out their prey. They get to rodents and varmints, and are wonderful companions with high energy and excitement.
The short-list of terriers are: Airedale, American Staffordshire, Australian, Bedlington, Border, Bull, Cairn, Fox, Irish, Kerry Blue, Lakeland, Manchester, Miniature Bull, Norwich, Parson Russell, Jack Russell, Scottish, Skye, Norfolk, West Highland, Welsh, and Staffordshire Bull!
Hounds run after warm-blooded animals. They are hunters, tough, and durable. They range from fast and swift to extreme smellers who can nose out anything. Hounds are not classified as sporting dogs, but they are often used in sport. We often think of just a hound dog, but, surprisingly, there are over a dozen breeds of hounds.
Hounds include: Bloodhound, Borzoi, Dachshund, English Foxhound, Otterhound, Petit Basset, Irish Wolfhound, Harrier, Greyhound, Rhodesian Ridgeback, Scottish Deerhound, Whippet, and Norwegian Elkhound. There names sort of give away what they hunt.
Herding breeds are working dogs in the sense of, well, herding. They move livestock. It’s a pretty narrow, but very working-class purposes. These dogs love being around livestock and other animals, and make great farm animals. They are also good at herding humans, and they are among the easiest to train breeds out there.
These breeds include: Australian Cattle, Australian Shepherd, Bearded Collie, Belgian Sheepdog, Belgian Tervuren, Border Collie, Canaan, Cardigan Welsh Corgi, Collie, German Shepherd, Old English Sheepdog, Polish Lowland Sheepdog, Puli, Shetland Sheepdog, and Briard. As you can see, many of these breeds got their names from what they herd!