Monday, September 20, 2010

Dog Groups and You

The American Kennel Club (AKC) separates dog breeds into seven groups: Toys, Terriers, Working, Sporting, Hounds, Non-sporting, and Herding. These groups attempt to organize the many breeds by categorizing them by things they have in common.

The Herding group is full of dogs that were originally used to herd animals such as sheep or cows. In general, these dogs work well both independently and also in response to commands. These qualities are valuable in doing the job of herding and/or droving. Sometimes the dog has to make a decision on his own regarding how to move the herd and other times the dog is told by his owner how to move the herd. These dogs tend to be fairly high energy, easily trained, intelligent and loyal.

Toy dogs are mainly used as companions. They are small and agreeable to hang out with. For example, the King Charles Spaniel likes nothing more than sitting upon his master's lap. The Chihuahua makes an excellent hot water bottle. He never cools off and is pleased to join you under the covers.

The Sporting group contains dogs used to assist in hunting. This group includes retrievers, pointers and assorted gun dogs. Like most categories where the dog has a particular job, there are variations on a theme. For example, the Clumber Spaniel does the same job as the Brittany (tracking and retrieving game) but has shorter legs so is more suited to the slower walking hunter. The Labrador Retriever likes to swim more than the Golden Retriever does, so usually the Lab retrieves ducks while the Golden retrieves Pheasant. Dogs in the Sporting group tend to have lots of enthusiasm and willingness to join in activities.

The Working group represents dogs that do jobs such as guard property, pull a sled, herd or hunt. Their temperament varies with the jobs they are breed for. The Boxer, for instance, is a protective yet jolly pal with family and friends, and patient with children. He is alert to intruders and fearless if threatened. The Siberian Husky likes nothing more than to run, which makes him ideal to pull a sled over long distances. He is usually friendly and outgoing, without the possessive qualities seen in guard dogs. Most of the working breed dogs have a confidence that can make them challenging to train but admirable to know.

The Hound group consists of dogs that, in general, hunt by giving chase rather than flushing or pointing. Some hounds hunt by sight, such as the Afghan, some by scent such as the Bloodhound. Some hunt in groups like the Black and Tan Coonhound and Beagle. Hounds are usually friendly and are always in the mood to pursue prey. This can be troublesome while, say, walking down a suburban street when suddenly the dog catches sight or smell of a critter and gives chase. Hounds tend to be amiable and loving without being clingy.

The word terrier is derived from terra, meaning earth. Dogs in the Terrier group were originally used on the farm to kill vermin or hunt ground dwelling animals such as gophers, ground squirrels or even badgers. The tallest of the terriers, the Airedale, is roughly 23 inches at the shoulder. Most of the other Terriers are knee high or shorter. Terriers have a plucky, spunky attitude.

The Non-sporting group is not a bunch of lazy dogs who are indifferent to joining in games. Rather, it is various breeds that don't fit neatly in the other groups (though that is debatable). It is difficult to find similarities in use or temperament in this group due to the huge variation in type of dogs. For example, the American Eskimo Dog is a Nordic type breed with a stand off double coat, prick ears and a curved fluffy tail. This is an intelligent dog, friendly, yet an alert watchdog. The Bulldog is a thick dog with short legs and short hair and extra skin which hangs off his cheeks. He is placid and kindly. The Schipperke is interested in everything around him and was originally bred as a guard, watchdog and vermin hunter. In sum, the nonworking group is a mixed bag.

An interesting study, albeit relaxed in scientific design, was done by the AKC profiling people based on which group their dog hailed from. The results: Toy dog owners are nurturing and meek. Terrier owners are timid and highly dependant on others for emotional support. Hound people are friendly. Those with Working breeds are the most dominant of dog owners. Herder owners are orderly and aggressive. Sporting breed people are wealthy. Non sporting dog owners are as varied as the breeds in that group.

It's a fun and silly little study. But worth thinking about. Are we who we are because of the dog we live with or do we choose the dog we live with because of who we are? Is this akin to the mate we choose? Surely the type of person we fall in love with and live closely with offers significant information about us. Is not our dog as significant?

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