Choosing the Right Dog: a Guide to Breeds

Choosing the right dog to fit your lifestyle and temperament is important. If you live a sedentary life, you don’t want a dog that requires a lot of outdoor exercise. If you have an active social life with many friends and visitors, you don’t want a highly territorial dog who will threaten your social consorts. You need to answer some important questions:

How much time are you willing to give a dog in terms of exercise, grooming, and companionship. What kind of dog would best fit into your living situation? Do you have children who are willing to take on some of the responsiblities? Do you have other pets that might be a problem?

Dogs need companionship, grooming, bathing, nail clipping, exercise, feeding, and training. The responsibilty of owning a dog lasts for a long time. Large breeds typically have the best temperaments and live about 10-12 years; smaller breeds are more likely to be high strung and live longer sometimes 18-20 years. Each dog is an individual based on its genetic heritage, training, and environment.

Specific dogs of even the most notorious breeds can be friendly, loveable, family companions. Research the breeds you are interested in, and then ask local veterinarians and trainers which breeders are producing the most sound and stable dogs in your area.

Here’s a rundown of the different groups:

Sporting Dogs

Specifically bred for pointing, flushing, or retrieving game. A few may be used as guide or protection dogs. Most of these dogs need a lot of exercise!


Brittany, Pointer, German Shorthaired, German Wirehaired, Vizlas, Weimaraner, Wirehaired Pointing Griffon


Chesapeake Bay, Curly-Coated, Flat-Coated, Golden Labrador


English, Gordon, Irish Spaniels: American Water, Clumber, Cocker, English Cocker, English Springer, Field, Irish Water, Sussex, Welsh Springer


Includes over twenty breeds adapted for hunting and/or tracking game or humans by sight or smell. These dogs require non-traditional training techniques as they are easily distracted by movement or scent. These dogs vary in size from the Dachshund (5″ tall, 10lbs) to the Irish Wolfhound (3′ tall at the shoulder to 7′ tall standing, 160lbs).

Included in this group are:

Afghan, Basenji, Basset Hound, Beagle, Black & Tan Coonhound, Bloodhound, Borzoi, Dachshund, American & English Foxhounds, Greyhound, Harrier, Ibizan Hound, Irish Wolfhound, Norwegian Elkhound, Otterhound, Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen, Pharaoh Hound, Rhodesian Ridgeback, Saluki, Scottish Deerhound, Whippet


Used mostly for herding, guarding, guide and rescue dogs. Most are large to enormous in size. Usually territorial, strong, and confident, they need a strong confident leader to master their temperament. Some of the dogs make excellent companions and are commonly used to assist humans.

Included in this group are:

Akita, Alaskan, Malamute, Bernese Mountain Dog, Boxer, Bullmastiff, Doberman Pinscher, Giant Schnauzer, Great Dane, Great Pyrenees, Komondor, Kuvasz, Mastiff, Newfoundland, Portuguese Water Dog, Rottweiler, St. Bernard, Samoyed, Siberian Husky, Standard Schnauzer


Vary in size and shape from the very small Norwich Terrier (10″, 10lbs) to the Airedale (23″, 55lbs) to the American Staffordshire (18″, 70lbs). Used for a variety of purposes including guarding, pit fighting, and hunting small predators such as rats, badgers, foxes, and rabbits. Known for their tenacious temperament and admired for their ability to hunt and work relentlessly. With proper training and socialization they can make good house pets.

Included in this group are:

Airedale, American Staffordshire & Staffordshire Bull, Australian, Bedlington, Border, Bull & Miniature Bull, Cairn, Dandie Dinmont, Smooth & Wire Fox, Irish, Kerry Blue, Lakeland, Standard Manchester, Miniature Schnauzer, Norfolk & Norwich, Scottish, Sealyham, Skye, Soft-Coated Wheaten, Welsh, West Highland White


Tiny dogs weighing from one to eighteen pounds with the average being eight pounds. Bred for pampering and protecting. Usually very sensitive to extremes in temperature as they do not have the body mass to maintain heat. Tiny dogs did not evolve naturally; humans bred and altered them specifically for their small size to be held and coddled.

Included in this group are:

Affenpinscher, Brussels Griffon, Chihuahua, Chinese Crested, English Toy Spaniel, Italian Greyhound, Japanese Chin, Maltese, Toy Manchester Terrier, Miniature Pinscher, Papillon, Pekingese, Pomeranian, Toy Poodle, Pug, Shih Tsu, Silky Terrier, Yorkshire Terrier


Includes all dogs that have not been otherwise classified. Function primarily as companion dogs with some possibly serving as guard dogs or retrievers.

Included in this group are:

Bichon Frise, Boston Terrier, Bulldog, Chinese Shar-Pei, Chow Chow, Dalmatian, English Bulldog, Finnish Spitz, French Bulldog, Keeshound, Lhasa Apso, Miniature & Standard Poodles, Schipperke, Shiba Inu, Tibetan Spaniel, Tibetan Terrier


Relatively new classification of dogs that have had a history of or have been bred specifically for herding purposes. Intelligent, active, and athletic dogs. They can make good house pets with the proper environment and obedience training. Most of these dogs love to work and are eager to please. This group separates some dogs formerly known as Working Dogs into a new Herding Dog group.

Included in this group are:

Australian Cattle Dog, Australian Shepherd, Bearded Collie, Belgian Malinois, Belgian Sheepdog, Belgian Tervuren, Border Collie, Bouviers Des Flanders, Briard Collie, German Shepherd, Old English Sheepdog, Puli, Shetland Sheepdog, Cardigan & Pembroke Welsh Corgi


For dogs that have not been classified into one of the other groups.

Included in this group are:

American Eskimo Dog, Australian Kelpie, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, Jack Russell Terrier, Pit Bull Terrier, Spinoni Italiani, Wolf Hybrids