The 7 dog groups explained

There are seven groups or categories of dogs in South Africa into which dogs are placed according to their current function or previous history and heritage. Other characteristics like temperament and the physical appearance of a dog may also dictate into what group a breed is placed.

Although dogs have individual temperaments which are also related to socialisation and upbringing from an early age, if you are new to the world of dogs, you may find that better understanding the various dog groups can help with your selection. Finding a breed that suits your lifestyle, character, living space and family situation is the first step in providing a forever home for your pet.

1. Good-natured Gundogs

Loyal, reliable, sporty, relaxed

Gundogs were bred to assist the hunter in finding his quarry. Some were bred to flush out or retrieve game, while others were bred to track game, keep it at bay and alert the hunter to its location. Retrievers, Spaniels, Setters and Pointers fall into this dog group. Gundogs make suitable companions for people from different walks of life. They are naturally intelligent and their easy-going nature and willingness to please make them a popular choice for dog enthusiasts around the world.

2. Hardy Hounds

Even-tempered, loyal, sensitive, affectionate

Hounds were bred as hunting dogs, both for sport hunting and to put food on the table. Their excellent olfactory sense for tracking or their unique body shapes that are built for speed enable them to pursue and secure their prey. Scenthounds, like the Bloodhound and Beagle, use their noses to find their quarry, while sighthounds, like the Afghan and the Whippet, use their sense of sight, speed and agility to track and locate their targets. Hounds make peaceable family pets who thrive on love and companionship. Just as size and coat types differ considerably in this group, temperaments differ between members of the group and the individual breeds.

3. Terrific Toys

Affectionate, sociable, lively, spirited

The Toy group includes many of the smaller breeds. Although most group members were originally bred as companion dogs, some were bred as working dogs to control pests or as watchdogs to alert their owners when intruders approached. Many breeds within the group have an athletic, energetic nature. They respond well to training and enjoy exercise, especially walks to the park. Dogs in the Toy group are a good choice as companions for the elderly, but their small size doesn’t necessarily make them the ideal dogs for children. Some Toy breeds have coats that require a high level of care, so do your homework before you select a breed.

4. Tenacious Terriers

Independent, courageous, feisty, tough

Terriers were originally bred as ‘jacks of all trades’. They were vermin catchers, hunters, guard dogs, farm dogs and family companions. Some breeds were bred to follow their quarry underground into their holes, hence the name ‘terrier’ from the Latin ‘terra’, meaning ‘earth’. Others were bred for their coat type which enabled them to go deep into the underbrush, with good outer protection. They are dogs with high energy levels, inquisitive characters and a high prey drive. Terriers are headstrong and need early socialisation and training. Without a good foundation, Terriers can become aggressive towards other dogs and may develop behaviour problems like chewing, barking and digging.

5. Willing Working dogs

Stamina, endurance, intelligent, versatile

Working dogs are exactly that – dogs who need a job. Working dogs were bred to guard livestock, herd sheep, drive cattle or carry or pull equipment in arduous conditions. While many of these large, powerful breeds are still used in their working capacity today, they are equally suited to life as devoted family companions. They will avidly take part in and excel in many different types of dog sports. They need plenty of opportunities to work off their abundant energy levels.

6. Herders to heel

Intelligent, instinctive, affectionate, adaptable

Dogs who fall into the Herding group are known for their ability to work with livestock. They have plenty of energy and stamina to work all day in the field. Many of the dogs in this group still work in their original capacities today and still possess the qualities which make them outstanding in their field. While these traits are sought after on the farm, they may be difficult to deal with in a suburban setting. Herding small children, cyclists, other pets and possibly even nipping the heels of guests may be a challenge for pet owners. However, when mental and physical needs are channelled correctly, a herding breed can make an outstanding companion and devoted, affectionate family friend. These are highly intelligent breeds, who are easy to train and learn new things quickly.

7. Magic mix – Utility dogs

The Utility group is a mix of dogs who don’t fit comfortably into one of the other groups. It’s a broad combination of big and small breeds and dogs with short and long coats. While most of the group’s members are companion dogs today, many have at some stage of the breeds’ development been working dogs. Exercise, grooming, living conditions and intelligence differ according to the breed.

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