Over the years, people have developed and bred dogs for specific reasons – such as hunting, tracking down prey, or to be their companions, to name just a few. These were used as a basis to group dogs into seven categories, which today make it easier for us to distinguish between the various canines.
The dogs in each group, except for the Utility group, have similar characteristics or traits. Therefore, it is important to understand the breed, and to socialise your dog from an early age, as each dog still develops his own personality, based on his upbringing.
Temperament These dogs are naturally loyal, reliable, sporty and relaxed. They are generally good companion dogs for just about everybody. Dogs that fall into the Gundog category are also naturally intelligent with an easy-going nature and a willingness to please their owner. That’s why they are so popular.
Background Gundogs were originally bred to help hunters – whether to flush out or retrieve game, to keep the game at bay, or to alert the hunter to the location of the prey.
Examples Retrievers, Spaniels, Setters and Pointers.
Temperament Herders are intelligent, instinctive, affectionate and adaptable. If their mental and physical needs are channelled correctly, herding dogs make outstanding companions, and devoted and affectionate family friends. They are also easy to train and learn quickly.
Background These dogs were bred to work with livestock. Their qualities make them outstanding in their field – even today many Herding dogs still work on farms. But be aware that they might try to herd small children and other pets if given the opportunity.
Examples Collies, Old English Sheepdog, Australian Shepherd.
Temperament Hounds are typically even-tempered, loyal, sensitive and affectionate dogs. They make peaceable family pets who thrive on love and companionship, but their temperaments do differ between the various breeds.
Background Hounds were bred to hunt – either for sport or to put food on the table. Therefore, these dogs have an excellent sense of smell for tracking, and unique body shapes that are built for speed to hunt down prey.
Examples Bloodhound, Beagle, Afghan and Whippet.
Temperament Terriers are independent, courageous, feisty and tough, and have high levels of energy. They are generally also inquisitive, with a high prey drive. They can be headstrong and need early socialisation and training, as they can develop behavioural problems, such as chewing, barking and digging.
Background They were bred as vermin catchers, hunters, guard dogs, farm dogs and companion animals. While some dogs were bred to follow prey underground into holes, others were bred for their coat type, to provide outer protection when they need to go into the underbrush.
Examples Fox Terrier, Jack Russell Terrier, Scottish Terrier and Staffordshire Bull Terrier.
Temperament They are mostly smaller breeds and are generally affectionate, sociable, lively and spirited. These dogs respond well to training and enjoy exercise. Toy dogs also make good companions for the elderly, but are not necessarily good with children.
Background While most dogs in this group were bred as companion dogs, some were bred to control pests and others as watchdogs. Many of them have an athletic, energetic nature.
Examples Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Maltese, Miniature Pinscher, Pomeranian and Yorkshire Terrier.
Temperament Dogs that fall into this group have stamina, endurance, are intelligent and versatile. These large and powerful breeds need a job and they will avidly take part and excel in various dog sports, as they need to get rid of their excess energy. At home, they are great family companions.
Background Working dogs were bred to guard livestock, herd sheep, drive cattle, and carry or pull equipment in strenuous environments.
Examples Alaskan Malamute, Siberian Husky, Boerboel, German Shepherd Dog, Mastiff and Saint Bernard.
Dogs who don’t fit into the other categories are all placed together in the Utility group. This is a combination of dogs who range from small to large, their coats from short to long, and they have different temperaments. Although mostly companion dogs today, the dogs in this category were probably originally bred to perform one or the other task. As a result, their exercise, grooming and preferred living conditions vary, according to the breed.
Examples Boston Terrier, Chow Chow, Poodles, Shih Tzu and Shar Pei.