Selective breeding in different types of dogs was originally designed to make the most of useful traits so that dogs could be utilized for various working purposes. Ranging from hunting and guarding to entertainment and status, different dogs developed according to the tasks for which they were required.
Breeding specific types of dogs based on looks alone is only a practice that began during the 19th Century and since this time, there have been certain breed standards that are recognized.
The different types of dogs we know and love today fall into 7 basic categories, along with an 8th miscellaneous category for dog breeds that are still being classified.
Sporting dogs, or gun dogs, also encompass three sub-varieties of dogs. These are the Retrievers, Pointers, and Setters. Originally bred to hunt game birds, most breeds are able to work equally well on land or in water.
The primary difference between the three sub-varieties of sporting dogs is as follows:
Retrievers will locate any killed or injured game and bring it back to the hunter. To these happy-natured dogs, retrieving is a great game.
Pointers were designed to locate prey and, once found, will stand with nose and often one paw raised to point toward the location of hiding prey. These intelligent dogs thrive on games of hide and seek.
Setters will locate their prey and, once found, will crouch before the hiding place or position in which it was cornered to wait for the hunter to complete the hunt with a net.
All types of dogs in the sporting dogs group respond well to obedience training and seem happiest when trying to comply with their master's commands. While they are very intelligent, they are also extremely energetic, so sporting dogs need a lot of regular exercise.
Some of the more common types of sporting dogs include the Labrador retriever, Irish Setter, Cocker Spaniel, Weimaraner, and the German Short-Haired Pointer.
Hound dogs were originally bred to chase quarry either by sight or smell, or in some cases, both. These types of dogs have excellent eyesight along with speed and amazing levels of stamina, which makes them ideal for tracking, flushing out game, and hunting.
Many hound dogs have an inherently determined nature and once they have set their sights on their prey, it can be difficult to deter them from their goal. They can seem quite single-minded and this can sometimes make obedience training a challenge unless handled with firm, positive-reinforcement.
Some of the more common types of hound dogs include the Dachshund, English Foxhound, Greyhound, Basset Hound, and the Rhodesian Ridgeback.
Dogs belonging to the Working Dogs group were specifically developed to perform a wide range of working tasks. These tasks include herding, droving, hauling, herding, hunting, pulling, guarding, and even rescuing.
The physically demanding nature of these tasks tends to require types of dogs with large, strong frames and a level of intelligence sufficient to perform these tasks well. Working dogs also share a very loyal nature, which in turn may develop into a strong protectiveness of their owners.
Working dogs tend to be very intelligent, independent and can often be domineering. For a person unused to firm control and handling, this can make these larger dogs seem difficult or out of control. Their intelligence means that most working dogs will learn quickly but will require effective obedience training and regular socialization with all types of dogs.
It is recommended that owners seeking a family pet or first-time dog owners learn adequate dog training and obedience techniques prior to obtaining a working dog breed.
Working dog breeds such as Rottweilers or Doberman Pinschers are still used frequently as police dogs or guard dogs. Alaskan Malamutes and Siberian Huskies are commonly used as sled pulling dogs. Many larger mountain dogs, such as the Saint Bernard, are commonly used as rescue dogs.
In more recent times, the German Shepherd dog has been utilized in various working dog roles instead of their more traditional herding dog roles. It is common to see German Shepherds in the roles of police dogs, tracking dogs, and search and rescue dogs. Their high level of intelligence has also seen them trained as successful service dogs to handicapped owners.