Home page

Animal care and behaviour

News and research


book reviews



Dogs: Breed Description and breed book index

See also:
Dogs: General
Dogs: Health and Nutrition
Dogs: Origins, canine evolution and wolves
Dogs: Puppy and manners training
Dogs: Advanced training, including working dogs
Dogs: Behaviour and training philosophies
Dogs: Breeding and kennel management
Dogs: Fiction and biography relating to dogs

Breed Categories

This page gives you access to nine pages on breeds and breed books, grouped so that they have something in common, though in one case that 'something in common' is that the breeds don't easily fit into any other category!

The categories used here are similar to those used by the UK Kennel Club, with some variations. Hounds, Terriers and Gundogs are more or less the same, though we have put some dogs in different categories. We've put Basenjs and Rhodesian Ridgebacks in Other Breeds, and Dachshunds in Small Companion Dogs for example, while the Kennel Club classes them all as Hounds. Basenjis are unique, often described as 'primitive dogs'. Rhodesian Ridgebacks are often used as guard dogs as well as hounds. Dachshunds are as much terrier as hound, and in any case tend to be used as companion dogs today. What we call Small Companion Dogs are basically the Kennel Club's Toy Dogs, with a few added, like Shih Tzuh, and Lhasa Apso from the Kennel Club's Utility class, since they tend to be small companion dogs.

We have used Herders as a category rather than Pastoral Dogs, since herders behave in slightly different ways from flock guardians, though some herders were bred to herd and guard, so have dual roles. You will also find Spitz Dogs, Bull Dogs and Bull Terriers, and Giant Breeds. Dogs in the first two categories have a lot in common in terms of character, while giant breeds have common health issues.We haven't used two UK Kennel Club categories: Working and the Utility, because they are both a bit vague. Many dogs in all categories could be described as 'working', like gundogs and hounds, and even King Charles Cavaliers, which have a serious role as lap warmers! The Kennel Club Utility category, is basically dogs that can't easily be classified. We've just called dogs we can't easily classify Other Dogs.

You may prefer the UK Kennel Club system, though the UK Kennel Club recognizes fewer than half the breeds found world wide, and different kennel clubs throughout the world use slightly different systems. The system used here is just a convenient way of categorizing breed groups commonly kept as pets in the UK, to be able to say something general about each group - no classification system is perfect.

How accurate are our breed descriptions? Again, we make no claims to perfection. Breeds can change over time, and can vary from one country to another. There can be differences between individuals of the same breed due to upbringing or genetic quirks, even big differences in litter mates. The breed descriptions we give are only approximate, though we have used a wide range of sources, including research papers, information from people who work in breed rescue, trainers, and others, to give you the most accurate picture possible. The focus is on the character of the breed, how dogs from that breed get on with children, and other aspects of breeds likely to be of interest to pet owners. We have left out detailed descriptions of the breed's looks, and its history, which are easy to find. Quite often breed guides are eulogies, and we have tried to be honest and fair. This is because forewarned is forearmed - JRTs are wonderful little dogs, for example, but don't mix well with small children - so apologies if we have offended anyone's sensibilities by being a little blunt about their breed.

Choosing a breed is an important decision. It is well worth checking with owners of the breed, trainers who know the breed, and vets who can compare the breed with others they see. Breed guides are not always as informative as they should be. Often they are written by breeders who no longer notice little quirks like yapping, or who have an interest in not telling you about them! Some breeds tend to have short lifespans, like St Bernards, Bernese Mountain Dogs and Bulldogs. Others are prone to health problems, such as bloat, which can be fatal, but otherwise they can live long lives. Bloat, which can be fatal, is a serious risk with some breeds, especially giant breeds and sighthounds, and there appears to be a genetic component which means that some lines of a particular breed can be affected worse than others. The more questions you ask, and the more sources of information you use, the better prepared you will be for the breed that you finally choose.

The advice here is geared to pet owners, rather than to owners of working dogs. There are many roles that working dogs can do, such as hunting, herding, watchdogging, guarding, protection work, sledding, tracking, search and rescue, and helping disabled people. Owners who want working dogs really need to get in touch with an experienced, specialist trainer, who can first assess whether the dog is suitable for that kind of work. Training can take a dog a long way, but not all dogs have the right genetic inheritance to perform well in specific working roles, though they may make wonderful pets. You can invest a lot of effort in training a dog, but if the potential isn't there, it can be a wasted effort. Some dogs are too nervy by temperament to take on certain roles.

Many dogs will make fine watchdogs, for example, alerting owners by barking, but not all dogs are suited to being guard dogs, and preventing intruders from entering premises. Luckily, watchdogs are usually all people need - a barking dog will deter most burglars, even if it's just a little Yorkie. Service dogs can save lives, while untrained dogs can accidentally hurt their disabled owners. Support Dogs in Sheffield is an organization which trains dogs for people with epilepsy, alerting them when seizures are about to happen, and training can literally be a matter of life or death in this case. It's well worth getting in touch with an organization that can help with training, or providing you with a trained dog, if you are disabled http://www.support-dogs.org.uk/

The pages start with a general overview of the breed group, with breed descriptions included with the first book on that breed. Please click on one of the links below to find the breed group you would like to know more about.

Click here to see some of your favourite breeds on stamps


Sighthounds: (Afghans, Borzoi, Greyhounds, Lurchers, Saluki, and Whippets) Scenthounds: (Bassets, Beagles, Bloodhounds, and Foxhounds).

Click here


(Airedales, Bedlingtons, Black Russians, Borders, Cairns, Dandie Dinmonts, Smooth and Wire Haired Fox Terriers, Irish Terriers, Kerry Blue Terriers, Jack Russells, Manchesters, Scotties, Soft Coated Wheatens, Welsh and West Highland White Terriers).

Click here


Retrievers (Chesapeke Bay Retriever, Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever) Setters (English Setters, Gordon Setters, Irish Setters) Spaniels (Cocker Spaniel, English Springer Spaniel, Welsh Springer Spaniel) Other gundogs (German Shorthaired Pointers, Viszlas, and Weimaraners) General guides to gundog training.

Click here

Herding dogs

(Australian Cattle Dog, Australian shepherd, Bearded Collies, Belgian Shepherds, Border Collies, German Shepherds, Old English Sheepdogs, Pembroke Corgis, Rough Collies and Shetland Sheepdogs).

Click here

Spitz dogs

(Akitas, Alaskan Malamutes, Chows, Elkhounds, Keeshonds, Samoyeds, Shiba Inu and Siberian Huskies).

Click here

Bull Dogs and Bull Terriers

(Boxers, Bulldogs, English Bull Terriers, French Bulldogs and Staffordshire Bull Terriers).

Click here

Small companion dogs

(Bichons, Cavalier King Charles, Chihauhauas, Dachshunds, Italian Greyhounds, Japanese Chins, Lhasa Apso, Maltese, Miniature Pinschers, Papillons, Pekinese, Pomeranians, Pugs, Shih Tzu, Tibetan Terriers, and Yorkshire Terriers).

Click here

Giant breeds

(Bernese Mountain Dogs, Bullmastiffs, Dogue de Bordeaux, Great Danes, Irish Wolfhounds, Leonbergers, Mastiffs, Neopolitan Mastiffs, Newfoundlands, Pyrenean Mountain Dogs, and St Bernards.)

Click here

Other breeds

(Basenjis, Dalmations, Dobermanns, Hungarian Pulis, Italian Spinones, Poodles, Rhodesian Ridgebacks, Rottweillers, Schnauzers, and Shar Pei.)

Click here