Breed Differences: Form Follows Function

Breed Differences: Form Follows Function

There are over 400 separate breeds of dogs throughout the world, not including the many new independently recognized hybrid breeds (primary crossbred dogs) which are becoming increasingly popular. Each purebred dog has gone through extensive artificial-selection at the hands of humans to retain certain behavioural and physical characteristics. Many believe that most breeds’ physical distinction was just an unplanned occurrence in the process of creating a dog with optimal behaviour and skill to fulfill each particular requirement. That is not to say that presently there are not physical standard for each breed, but rather that the physical uniqueness was not the primary goal of breeders originally. Because the original purpose for creating individual breeds was to produce dogs that possessed the most favourable traits to perform their “job”, certain predictions can be made based on breed. 

Breed should never be the only basis of judgment, as there are many variables which together cultivate individuality in each dog.

For an individual seeking a pet, some breed may be more suiting than others. In order to distinguish the similarity and differences of these breeds they have been separated in to assorted classes. As differentiated by the Canadian Kennel Club the following are breed by group:

  • Group 1- Sporting Dogs, bred to point, flush and retrieve game
  • Group 2 – Hounds, bred to hunt game by sight or smell
  • Group 3- Working Dogs, bred guard and draft work
  • Group 4 –Terriers, bred to go to ground after vermin
  • Group 5 – Toys, bred to be pets and lap dogs
  • Group 6 – Non-Sporting Dogs, breeds not so easily categorized; bred to do a variety of jobs
  • Group 7 –Herding Dogs, bred to herd sheep, cattle and other livestock

The Canadian Kennel Club (CKC) is one of many clubs, and does not recognize all breed of dogs. Currently they recognize 174 different breed types. The goal of The Canadian Kennel Club, and those like it, is to provide guidance, resources, support and encouragement to purebred dog owners and breeders, to promote the quality and preservation of purebred dogs in the area they cover (CKC covering all of Canada). They host many shows and events which members are welcome to participate in. These breeds can be broken down even further in to classifications such as, retrievers, spaniels, pointers, setters, flock guarders, scent hounds, sighthounds, property guarders, draft rescue dogs, sled dogs, toy dogs, herding dogs, nonsporting and rare dogs, and common mixed-breed dogs. 

Sporting Dogs are dogs which were bred to assist hunters point flush and retrieve mostly game birds. 

In this group are pointers, setters, spaniels and retrievers. Retrievers (such as, Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retriever, and Chesapeake Bay Retriever) were used to seek out dead birds and bring them back to the hunter. They were trained to carry the birds softly as to not damage or bruise the meat. They have physical characteristics which allow them to work in the water as well as on land, and in a wide rang of weather conditions. A water repellant coat and webbed feet help them to retrieve birds in the water, and swim fairly long distances to do so. Retrievers are very tolerant of noise, and commotion which has made them a very popular choice for families with young children. Pointers (such as, German shorthaired Pointer, Weimaraner, and Vizsla) essentially got their name from their ability to create a stiff posture which would point in the direction that the game, directing the hunter of its whereabouts. Pointers require lots of exercise to burn energy, and enjoy a very active lifestyle. Setters (such as, Irish setter, English Setter, and Gordon Setter) were bred to assist hunters by crouching up to the game and keeping it cornered until the hunters captured it. Spaniels (such as, Brittany Spaniel, Clumber spaniel and English Cocker spaniel) were bred to be hardy and bare adverse conditions to retrieve game. They are amongst the smallest in this group and thus are able to navigate through this brush and covering. These are generally friendly, lively and adaptable dogs. They are prone to serious ear infections due to their large flap like ears inhibiting air flow. All these breeds come in a large variety of physical characteristics. Most have floppy ears and long tails (some are cropped). They can have long, sort or wire hair which each has different grooming requirements. In general these dogs do not require a lot of physical maintenance (other than exercise). All of the breeds in this group are very social and active. They enjoy an energetic lifestyle and are very loyal companions. 

Hound come in two varieties, sight hounds and scent hounds. 

Sighthounds (such as, Greyhounds, Whippets, and Saluki) are usually tall and lean. They are fast and agile runners, and have excellent eyesight. They are able to spot game at a great distance and chase it with amazing speed. “The fastest of the sighthounds can reach speeds of over 40 mph (60 km/h)” (Dogs names and breeds website, 2004). Kept as pets these dogs require lots of stimulation and a place to really run. They will probably require really good fencing on the off chase something catches their eye. They should not be let off leash, as instinct takes over and recall normally will not work. They are highly sensitive and responsive, and will require an attentive owner. Scent hound (such as, Beagle, Blood Hound, and Basset Hound) are notorious for their ability to follow scents for long distances, even over running water. Scent hounds come in large or small forms to be used on foot or on horseback. They would notify the hunter of the scent of prey by barking or baying. These are very friendly and content dogs, but they require lots of stimulation to stay that way. They tend to run if left of leash and may also have a tendency to bark and howl often. They are normally not aggressive towards people or other animals. 

Working dogs include draft dogs, sled dogs, guard dogs and flock guarding dogs. 

Draft rescue dogs (including, Bernese Mountain Dog, Saint Bernard, and Newfoundland) were bred to help find people lost in the snowy mountains, work as hospice care, drive livestock and pull carts to transport produce. They are hardy, well mannered, and kind dogs. They can withstand all sorts of climates and some enjoy swimming. They do require a sufficient amount of space and would benefit from county living. Due to their thick, dense coats, and full faces, they do require regular grooming. These dogs are amazing with small children and other animals when properly trained and fulfilled. They are generally tolerant, and passive in nature. Sled dogs (such as, Siberian Husky, Samoyed and Canadian Eskimo Dog) were bred to pull sleds, herd, guard and be companions. They are used to very cold climates and being worked daily. They are happiest when kept active outdoors. Guard dogs (such as, Rottweilers, Boxers, and Great Danes) were, and are still, used to keep away intruders. They are more prone to barking; as this is the way they have been bred to protect their property, and if trained improperly can become very aggressive and territorial. These dogs should be owned by owners who intend to do employ consistent training and structured living. Flock guarding dogs (such as, Great Pyrenees, Kuvasz and Komondor) were bred to guard flocks of sheep or other livestock from predators. They would notify to farmer by barking that there was a threat to the flock near by, and may even attempt to chase the predator away or fight. Potential owners should be prepared for lots of barking and territorial behaviours. These dogs are not good in small spaces with limited outdoor access, like an apartment. 

Terriers are a lively little crew. Some terriers include the Airdale Terrier, the Scottish Terrier, and the West Highland white terrier. 

Terriers were bred to hunt and kill vermin like rats, and mice. They would dig underground into borrows to catch their prey, while barking vigorously to notify the owner they were on to something. They are energetic, determined and feisty. Individuals considering a terrier should be prepared to use the intelligence of these dogs to their advantage. They should have clear-cut rules, early (appropriate) socialization, regular training and should be exercised daily. They are prone to aggressive tendencies and even when fearful will be brave and move forward.

Toy breeds are very popular, as the dogs a generally very manageable and have become fashionable. 

They are small, and were bred to be strictly companion pets and lapdogs. Toy breeds include, the Pug, the Pomeranian, the Toy Poodle, and the Chihuahua. The common error with these dogs is to treat them like “a prince” or “a princess”, not creating concrete rules and boundaries or initiating any training. This will create a spoiled dog with behavioural issues, and is no favour to the dog or the owner. A disobedient dog, which is aggressive, territorial and not good with children, will not be well liked by others no matter how cute he or she may be.

Non-Sporting dogs are really misfits, although I think the term non-sporting is more complimentary. These dogs do not fit in to the other groups, and do not have enough like breeds to form their own groups. 

These dogs include Dalmatians, Boston Terriers, Chow Chows and Bulldogs. Because these were each bred for different purposes, not a lot can be said of them as a group. If a breed in this group is of interest, it would be recommended to do extensive research on that particular breed and is origin. 

Herding dogs (including, German Shepard, Dutch Sheepdog and Bearded Collie) were originally bred to herd livestock. 

Each breed in this group is independently distinctive, but as a group these dog enjoy the outdoors, may have a tendency to bark and will require activities to stimulate them physically and mentally. They tend to have a high intellect and the ability to think independently. They require experienced handlers who are able to provide strong, reliable and fair leadership. 

Not every breed of dog will suit every person’s personality and life style. Taking the above descriptions into consideration when selecting a breed a dog, will help to eliminate breeds which would be obviously unsuitable. Furthermore, individual breed research will be very important. Contact some breeders, read as much information as possible and question owners of the breed when you meet them. To find out if you have found a match you will need to know, the breeds’ physical requirements, grooming requirements, emotional needs, any prone behavioural issues, the origin, its uses within society today, its genetic health defects, and its typical temperament. 

As mentioned earlier, there are many pure breeds of dogs and cross mixes. Analyzing breed will not guarantee temperament or personality of any dog, but it will give you a general idea of what can commonly be expected. It is important to take breed in to consideration when adopting, buy, or training a dog. Besides, any applicable and potentially helpful piece of information is worth considering when dealing with any animal. By making informed choices and decisions we can improve our success of living peacefully among our fellow animals. 



Canadian kennel Club (2007) Dogs Annual in Canada 2007, Directory of Breeders.

Etobicoke, Canada: Apex Publishing Limited

Canadian Kennel Club website (2007) About CKC: Who We Are. Accessed: February 

25, 2007, from

Dogs Names and Breeds website (2004) Dog Breed Index. Accessed: February 25, 2007, 


CBC News Canada website (2005) Pit Bull Ban Begins. Accessed: February 26, 2007 



Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia website, (2007) Rottweiler. Accessed: February 26, 

2007 from

Dog Breed Info Center website (1998), German Shepard Dog. Accessed: February 27, 

2007, from


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