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April 13, 2020

An Introduction to Dog Breeds

One of the most important factors you need to consider when choosing a dog is its breed. Whether you are getting a dog for the first time or you have a house full of them, it is always helpful to have a good knowledge of all the different type of dog breeds.

Thankfully, you don’t have to be a veterinarian or canine expert to know some basic information about the different breeds of dogs. Having enough knowledge of characteristics of different types of dog breeds could help you become more effective in taking care of your canine friend or assist in deciding which type of Dog you would like to adopt or buy.

So, if you need to know more about dog breeds, you definitely don’t want to miss this!

What is a dog breed?

To understand better what a dog breed is, let’s take a look at some of the popular definitions.

The Dog Digest says this about a dog breed:

A dog breed is a particular strain or dog type that was purposefully bred by humans to perform specific tasks, such as herding, hunting, and guarding.”

Merriam-Webster describes what breed means:

A group of usually domesticated animals or plants presumably related by descent from common ancestors and visibly similar in most characters.

The third definition we will look into is from the Oxford dictionary:

A particular type of animal that has been developed by people in a certain way, especially a type of dog, cat or farm animal.

From these definitions, we can conclude that a dog breed refers to a group of dogs that share almost the same physical characteristics and personalities. In most cases, dog breeds were purposely developed by people to obtain desirable traits that different dogs shared.

History of dog breeds

Dogs have already been around for thousands of years and they come from the Canis lupus species. However, the domesticated dogs belong to the subspecies known as Canis lupus familiaris.

Domesticated dogs have evolved from wolves, however, it was only in the late 19th century that modern dog breeds started to appear.

Originally, dogs were used by humans to help in hunting and sledding. Thus, people started to breed dogs in order to help them in these areas. They selectively breed dogs to create large and muscular dogs for hunting while medium-sized dogs for sledding. Later, dogs are used for guarding and herding.

However, as time passes by, humans have changed their way of life. Not only that, but they also spread throughout the world, bringing their dogs with them. In whatever location they end up living dogs have followed. People have bred their dogs to adapt to their environment, climate, and purpose.

In the 19th century, society changed and dogs were not only used for hunting or sledding anymore. They have become more of a pet and mans best friend rather than to serve agricultural or industrial purposes.

Driven by the growing popularity of dog shows at that time, a lot of people have become interested in breeding dogs to develop specific traits, features, and characteristics. This has led to the development of a wide range of dog breeds.

Here’s a quick look at some of the highlights of dog history in the world:

  • Over the past 200 years, dogs have undergone a rapid change in their appearance due to modern breeding practices and artificial breeding selection.
  • The first dogs were known to be like wolves in appearance and size.
  • Some researchers have estimated that dogs became first domesticated 9,000 years ago. This claim has been supported by the archeological findings and pieces of evidence they discovered in Zhokhov Island, located in the arctic north-eastern Siberia. The same pieces of evidence suggest that these dogs serve humans in hunting and sledding.
  • Siberian Huskies have retained their breed standard for the last 2,000 years.
  • Between 3,000 to 4,000 years ago, Egyptian and Western Asian potteries and paintings depicted greyhound dogs.
  • Most modern dog breeds today can be traced back from the controlled breeding practices during the Victorian Era.

Differences between dog breeds and dog types

You might wonder, when is a dog breed called a dog breed and when it is called simply just a dog type? Here’s the rule of thumb to follow: dog breeds always “breed true.” This means that a dog breed would consistently produce the same physical traits, temperament, and movement when bred in the same breed.

For example, a purebred Airedale Terrier, when bred with another purebred Airedale Terrier, would produce dogs that are instantly recognizable as Airedale Terrier.

Major registries in the world

There are various dog breed registries and each of them follows their own breed standards and procedure of accepting a dog breed in their list. Thus, you would observe that for each breed registry, you would find a differing number of recognized dog breeds.

Here are some of the biggest and most reputable registries:

  • Federation Cynologique Internationale (FIC, 1911, covers 98 countries)
  • The Kennel Club (1873, UK)
  • American Kennel Club (1884)
  • New Zealand Kennel Club (1886)
  • Canadian Kennel Club (1888)
  • United Kennel Club (1898)
  • Australian National Kennel Council (1958)
  • United Kennel Clubs International (UCI, 1976, Germany)

Aside from what was mentioned, you will also see various national breed registries from different countries.

Dog breed classifications

How dog breeds are classified would depend on the specific registry. The Kennel Club in the United Kingdom is considered to be the first official registry. Eventually, other breed registries are formed and have become their country’s keeper of breed standards.

In the United States, the American Kennel Club (AKC) is the most popular and recognized expert organization in dog breeds. Founded in 1884 and more than a century of existence, it is not difficult to see that AKC is the go-to registry of most Americans.

At the time of this writing, the AKC has more than 190 recognized breeds. They also have more than 5,000 licensed and member clubs and affiliated organizations. As a not-for-profit dog breed registry, the AKC is among the leading organizations that take care of dogs and support initiatives in dog health research.

The AKC classified dog breeds based on groups. These are the following:

  • Hound Group – includes Bloodhound and Dachshund. The hounds are historically bred to track both small and large game. Because of their exceptional sense of smell, hound dogs are used to find missing people, insects that may destroy paintings, locate disaster survivors, find explosives, and others.
  • Working Group – includes Siberian Husky and Rottweiler. Except for hunting and herding, working dogs are bred to perform a wide range of tasks.
  • Terrier Group – includes Bull Terrier and Scottish Terrier. Initially, terriers were bred to help in rodent population control.
  • Toy Group – includes Pug and Chihuahua. Toy dogs are among the tiniest dog breeds and they typically weigh under 10 pounds. They are lap dogs who are originally bred to keep people company.
  • Non-Sporting Group – includes Bulldog and Dalmatian. Those dog breeds that couldn’t readily be included in other groups are added here.
  • Herding Group – includes Border Collie and German Shepherd Dog. As herding dogs, they are bred to help in handling sheep, cattle, and other livestock. Dogs in this group are known to be intelligent and easy to train. Aside from their intelligence, they are also agile. These attributes make them ideal for herding animals.

As you can see, dog breeds are classified based on their general characteristics, size, appearance, and abilities.

While AKC is no doubt the primary breed registry in the United States, the United Kennel Club is also a major registry most people recognize. Not only that, but they are the largest performance dog registry in the world. Thus, it would be worth your time if you also note how they divide accepted breeds.

According to UKC, there are eight groups of dog breeds. These are the following:

  • Companion dogs – include Affenpinscher, Chihuahua, and Dalmatian
  • Guardian dogs – include American Bulldog, boxer, and Bullmastiff
  • Gun dogs – include American Water Spaniel, German Long-Haired Pointer, and Golden Retriever
  • Herding dogs – include Australian Cattle Dog, Collie, German Shepherd
  • Northern Breeds – include Akita, Chow Chow, Shiba
  • Scent Hounds – include Basset Hound, Beagle, and Dachshund
  • Sighthounds and Pariahs – Whippet, Pharaoh Hound, and Irish Wolfhound
  • Terriers – include Airedale Terrier, German Pinscher, and Welsh Terrier

The Kennel Club is another popular registry and it is located in the United Kingdom. Formed in 1873, it is older than the AKC or any other registries.

The Kennel Club is best known for its conformation show, Crufts. The Kennel Club has more recognized dog breeds compared to the AKC.

With the Kennel Club, dog breeds are divided into:

  • Working
  • Utility
  • Toy
  • Terrier
  • Pastoral
  • Hound
  • Gundog

The largest breed registry is the FCI or World Canine Organization. So far, the FCI has recognized more than 330 dog breeds. The FCI has more than 90 member countries and it serves as an international coordinating body for its members.

The FCI has its own way of dividing dog breeds as well. In fact, it has 10 divisions which include Sheepdogs and Cattle dogs, Pinscher and Schnauzer, Terriers, Dachshunds, Spitz, Scenthounds, Pointers and Setters, Retrievers, Companions and Toy Dogs, and Sighthounds. These groups are further divided into subgroups.

How a type of dog becomes an established dog breed

The AKC’s way of establishing a dog breed is meticulous. Before a dog type is considered a dog breed, they would need to go through various stages. The complete process of recognizing a dog breed is done through AKC’s Foundation Stock Service (FSS).

One of the most important parts of a dog breed is to consider its health condition and characteristics. AKC does this to ensure that breeders would be raising healthy dogs in a safe and ethical manner. Without the right health standards set for a specific dog type, the process of recognizing dog breeds won’t be complete.

Before a dog breed is established, there should be at least 150 registered individual dogs belonging to that breed. The dog population should span a minimum of three generations.

Another consideration is to have a national kennel club that is fully committed and devoted to the new breed. Not only that, but the kennel club should have at least 100 members spread out over more than 20 states.

To make things more stringent, the kennel club should have a set of standards and qualifications that they can use to determine whether a dog is part of their handled breed or not.

Now, once all these prerequisite requirements are met, a national breed club can now officially apply to the AKC. The AKC would then assess their application. If approved, the new breed can appear and compete in the “miscellaneous” class in one of the dog shows affiliated to AKC.

The dog breed, after about three years, can now move up and become an official breed status after they are reviewed by the board of directors.

Since 2010, there have been about 25 new breeds added to the AKC registry. This shows you how difficult it is for a new breed to make it to full breed recognition.

How many dog breeds are there?

The FCI or Federation Cynologique Internationale recognizes about 360 dog breeds. In the United States, there are about 190 dog breeds officially registered.

There are constantly experimental breeds being considered to be part of the recognized dog breeds. However, as was mentioned, it isn’t easy to be part of the official registry.

For this reason, the official AKC list doesn’t include mixed-breed dogs such as crossbreeds like puggle (beagle and pug) and Goldendoodle (poodle and golden retriever). There are other crossbreeds that might have become popular in the past few years, but still, haven’t received a purebred certification because they don’t have a standard health qualification yet.


Crossbreeding can be a controversial practice and topic among dog lovers. Some purebred advocates would be quick to point out how keeping the breeds pure ensures better offspring. On the other side of the coin, some crossbreeding proponents would tell you that they are improving the DNA pool by mixing breeding dogs.

Whatever side of the argument you might be in, it is worth noting the advantages or disadvantages of crossbreeding.

But first, you might wonder, what is crossbreeding? It is simply the practice of breeding two dogs from different breeds. Probably, one of the most common crossbred dogs today is the Labradoodle, a mix of a standard poodle and a labrador retriever.

By theory, you can actually breed any dog breeds and types as they belong in the same species. You can even have hybrid dogs. For example, inbreeding dogs and dingoes or wolves and coyotes. These combinations can produce viable litters.

Here are some pros of crossbreeding:

  • Variety – there are pet owners who don’t like their dogs to look exactly like other dogs. In this case, they consider crossbreeding to add variety.
  • Different personalities – while each dog breed has its own expected personalities, a dog from crossbreeding can make a great pet depending on proper socialization and training.
  • Lower chances of developing health problems – purebred dogs are seen to suffer from various genetic conditions that have been passed from one generation to another. Crossbreeding is seen to lower the risk of these genetic problems.
  • May lead to another pure breed in the future – crossbreeding can potentially lead to creating a new breed.

On the flip side, here are some of the disadvantages of crossbreeding:

  • Temperament issues – it is not easy to predict the temperament of a crossbred dog.
  • Dog size – breeding dogs of a different size may make it difficult to predict adult size.
  • High-risk deliveries – When you use a big stud and a small bitch, there’s a chance that the mother dog would have a complicated pregnancy. In some instances, if the puppy is way too big to be delivered normally, a C-section is required.
  • Congenital problems – there’s really no decisive studies made to show that purebreds have longer life expectancy than crossbreds. So, there’s always the chance that crossbreds would still develop congenital health.

As you can see, it is not difficult to note how crossbreeding can be controversial to many. It presents both advantages and disadvantages. You won’t even know how much benefit or the lack of it you will get from crossbreeding until the dog fully develops into an adult.

Therefore, be sure to discuss this with a qualified vet or expert. Do your research and learn as much information as possible about purebred and crossbred dogs before proceeding.

Popular dog breeds in the United States

There are three dog breeds that have consistently been in the top three spots. The most popular dog breed is the Labrador Retriever followed by the German Shepherd and Golden Retriever, respectively. Year after year, the top three rankings remain unchanged while the rest of the list changes annually.

The other dog breeds that have consistently been part of the top fifteen are Beagles, Boxers, Bulldogs, Dachshunds, French Bulldogs, German Shorthaired Pointers, Poodles, Rottweilers, Siberian Huskies, and Yorkshire Terriers.

How to choose a dog breed?

With so many dog breeds available, the choices can easily get overwhelming. If you are not careful, you might end up choosing a dog breed that doesn’t meet your needs, preference, and even budget.

There’s no “one size fits all” dog out there. Thus, it is strongly recommended that you take enough time to think about your options.

Here are some of the things you need to consider when choosing a dog breed.

  1. Temperament – thankfully, dog breeds have a relatively predictable temperament. There are breeds that are known for their playfulness and while others are basically calmer and less active. So, choose a dog breed with a temperament that will suit your personality.
  2. Size – it goes without saying that larger dogs need larger space. So, make sure that your house can accommodate your dog’s size.
  3. Expense – generally speaking, taking care of bigger dogs would cost more. In addition, there are also some dog breeds, though beautiful and cute, that are more predisposed to develop certain medical conditions.
  4. Your situation – if you are starting a family, you need to consider other members of your household. If you are single, you have more freedom when it comes to choosing dog breeds, but if you have children, you need to make sure that you don’t choose a dog breed that is known to be aggressive and protective.
  5. Your experience – if you have dogs before, you do have a certain level of understanding of some dog breeds. Use your experience to make a better choice when selecting a new dog.

Get to know more about dog breeds

These are just some of the basic things you need to know about dog breeds. As they say, experience would be your best teacher. There are certain things that you will know better when you actually go through the process of taking care of a certain dog breed.

Moreover, you don’t have to own all dog breeds just to get familiar with them. You might want to ask around first. Discuss your options with breeders or people who have expert knowledge on this subject. Join dog shows and meet new friends who share the same interest. You can also participate in dog clubs or kennel clubs. They are a rich source of relevant information.

Talk to veterinarians and ask for recommendations. They can take into consideration your whole situation and give you a more personalized piece of advice. Don’t hesitate to do your own research. There are hundreds of useful sources on the Internet which you can read to learn more about this topic.

Below is a comprehensive list of Dog Breeds from Alpha Paw. Categorized in alphabetical order you can find detailed information and dog products that are a fit for your dog. Whether it’s a puppy to keep you company, a guard dog, hunting dog, herding dog, or just “your best friend” we are here to provide in depth information about your dog.


  • Affenpinscher
  • Afghan Hound
  • Airedale Terrier
  • Akita
  • Alaskan Malamute
  • American Bulldog
  • American English Coonhound
  • American Eskimo Dog
  • American Foxhound
  • American Hairless Terrier
  • American Leopard Hound
  • American Staffordshire Terrier
  • American Water Spaniel
  • Anatolian Shepherd Dog
  • Appenzeller Sennenhund
  • Australian Cattle Dog
  • Australian Kelpie
  • Australian Shepherd
  • Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog
  • Australian Terrier
  • Azawakh
  • Barbet
  • Basenji
  • Basset Fauve de Bretagne
  • Basset Hound
  • Bavarian Mountain Scent Hound
  • Beagle
  • Bearded Collie
  • Beauceron
  • Bedlington Terrier
  • Belgian Laekenois
  • Belgian Malinois
  • Belgian Sheepdog
  • Belgian Tervuren
  • Bergamasco Sheepdog
  • Berger Picard
  • Bernese Mountain Dog
  • Bichon Frise
  • Biewer Terrier
  • Black and Tan Coonhound
  • Black Russian Terrier
  • Bloodhound
  • Bluetick Coonhound
  • Boerboel
  • Bohemian Shepherd
  • Bolognese
  • Border Collie
  • Border Terrier
  • Borzoi
  • Boston Terrier
  • Bouvier des Flandres
  • Boxer
  • Boykin Spaniel
  • Bracco Italiano
  • Braque du Bourbonnais
  • Braque Francais Pyrenean
  • Briard
  • Brittany
  • Broholmer
  • Brussels Griffon
  • Bull Terrier
  • Bulldog
  • Bullmastiff
  • Cairn Terrier
  • Canaan Dog
  • Cane Corso
  • Cardigan Welsh Corgi
  • Carolina Dog
  • Catahoula Leopard Dog
  • Caucasian Shepherd Dog
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
  • Central Asian Shepherd Dog
  • Cesky Terrier
  • Chesapeake Bay Retriever
  • Chihuahua
  • Chinese Crested
  • Chinese Shar-Pei
  • Chinook
  • Chow Chow
  • Cirneco dell’Etna
  • Clumber Spaniel
  • Cocker Spaniel
  • Collie
  • Coton de Tulear
  • Croatian Sheepdog
  • Curly-Coated Retriever
  • Czechoslovakian Vlcak
  • Dachshund
  • Dalmatian
  • Dandie Dinmont Terrier
  • Danish-Swedish Farmdog
  • Deutscher Wachtelhund
  • Doberman Pinscher
  • Dogo Argentino
  • Dogue de Bordeaux
  • Drentsche Patrijshond
  • Drever
  • Dutch Shepherd
  • English Cocker Spaniel
  • English Foxhound
  • English Setter
  • English Springer Spaniel
  • English Toy Spaniel
  • Entlebucher Mountain Dog
  • Estrela Mountain Dog
  • Eurasier
  • Field Spaniel
  • Finnish Lapphund
  • Finnish Spitz
  • Flat-Coated Retriever
  • French Bulldog
  • French Spaniel
  • German Longhaired Pointer
  • German Pinscher
  • German Shepherd Dog
  • German Shorthaired Pointer
  • German Spitz
  • German Wirehaired Pointer
  • Giant Schnauzer
  • Glen of Imaal Terrier
  • Golden Retriever
  • Gordon Setter
  • Grand Basset Griffon Vendéen
  • Great Dane
  • Great Pyrenees
  • Greater Swiss Mountain Dog
  • Greyhound
  • Hamiltonstovare
  • Hanoverian Scenthound
  • Harrier
  • Havanese
  • Hokkaido
  • Hovawart
  • Ibizan Hound
  • Icelandic Sheepdog
  • Irish Red and White Setter
  • Irish Setter
  • Irish Terrier
  • Irish Water Spaniel
  • Irish Wolfhound
  • Italian Greyhound
  • Jagdterrier
  • Japanese Chin
  • Japanese Spitz
  • Jindo
  • Kai Ken
  • Karelian Bear Dog
  • Keeshond
  • Kerry Blue Terrier
  • Kishu Ken
  • Komondor
  • Kromfohrlander
  • Kuvasz
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Lagotto Romagnolo
  • Lakeland Terrier
  • Lancashire Heeler
  • Lapponian Herder
  • Leonberger
  • Lhasa Apso
  • Löwchen
  • Maltese
  • Manchester Terrier (Standard)
  • Manchester Terrier (Toy)
  • Mastiff
  • Miniature American Shepherd
  • Miniature Bull Terrier
  • Miniature Pinscher
  • Miniature Schnauzer
  • Mountain Cur
  • Mudi
  • Neapolitan Mastiff
  • Nederlandse Kooikerhondje
  • Newfoundland
  • Norfolk Terrier
  • Norrbottenspets
  • Norwegian Buhund
  • Norwegian Elkhound
  • Norwegian Lundehund
  • Norwich Terrier
  • Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever
  • Old English Sheepdog
  • Otterhound
  • Papillon
  • Parson Russell Terrier
  • Pekingese
  • Pembroke Welsh Corgi
  • Perro de Presa Canario
  • Peruvian Inca Orchid
  • Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen
  • Pharaoh Hound
  • Plott Hound
  • Pointer
  • Polish Lowland Sheepdog
  • Pomeranian
  • Poodle (Miniature)
  • Poodle (Standard)
  • Poodle (Toy)
  • Porcelaine
  • Portuguese Podengo
  • Portuguese Podengo Pequeno
  • Portuguese Pointer
  • Portuguese Sheepdog
  • Portuguese Water Dog
  • Pudelpointer
  • Pug
  • Puli
  • Pumi
  • Pyrenean Mastiff
  • Pyrenean Shepherd
  • Rafeiro do Alentejo
  • Rat Terrier
  • Redbone Coonhound
  • Rhodesian Ridgeback
  • Romanian Mioritic Shepherd Dog
  • Rottweiler
  • Russell Terrier
  • Russian Toy
  • Russian Tsvetnaya Bolonka
  • Saint Bernard
  • Saluki
  • Samoyed
  • Schapendoes
  • Schipperke
  • Scottish Deerhound
  • Scottish Terrier
  • Sealyham Terrier
  • Segugio Italiano
  • Shetland Sheepdog
  • Shiba Inu
  • Shih Tzu
  • Shikoku
  • Siberian Husky
  • Silky Terrier
  • Skye Terrier
  • Sloughi
  • Slovakian Wirehaired Pointer
  • Slovensky Cuvac
  • Slovensky Kopov
  • Small Munsterlander Pointer
  • Smooth Fox Terrier
  • Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier
  • Spanish Mastiff
  • Spanish Water Dog
  • Spinone Italiano
  • Stabyhoun
  • Staffordshire Bull Terrier
  • Standard Schnauzer
  • Sussex Spaniel
  • Swedish Lapphund
  • Swedish Vallhund
  • Taiwan Dog
  • Teddy Roosevelt Terrier
  • Thai Ridgeback
  • Tibetan Mastiff
  • Tibetan Spaniel
  • Tibetan Terrier
  • Tornjak
  • Tosa
  • Toy Fox Terrier
  • Transylvanian Hound
  • Treeing Tennessee Brindle
  • Treeing Walker Coonhound
  • Vizsla
  • Weimaraner
  • Welsh Springer Spaniel
  • Welsh Terrier
  • West Highland White Terrier
  • Wetterhoun
  • Whippet
  • Wire Fox Terrier
  • Wirehaired Pointing Griffon
  • Wirehaired Vizsla
  • Working Kelpie
  • Xoloitzcuintli
  • Yakutian Laika
  • Yorkshire Terrier
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