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UK's 7 Dog Breed Groups

Aug 03, 2021

Dogs are truly amazing animals. They have some incredible abilities that humans could only dream to have. For example:

A dog’s sense of smell is 1,000 to 100,000 times better than a human’s (depending on the breed). How?

Dogs can see ultraviolet light. Rodents’ urine reflects ultraviolet light, which means that dogs can see it -- and track it -- even in normal light.

Did you know that some dogs have webbed feet, making them excellent swimmers?

Thanks to their incredible abilities, there are dogs out there who have some pretty impressive duties, including:

While all dogs are pretty awesome, different breeds have varying talents. As of 2021, The Kennel Club recognises 221 breeds in total, each with a unique set of traits, temperaments and personalities. These breeds are classified into seven categories: Pastoral, gundog, hound, utility, terrier, working and toy.

Border Collie


These are the dogs you might see working on farms, herding livestock across long distances and in harsh conditions, or guarding the animals against predators. They’re energetic, hard-working dogs who are happiest when they have a job to do. Since they’re eager to please and love to learn new things, they are easy to train.

If you want a pastoral dog as a pet, here are some of the traits you can expect:

  • Independent
  • Alert
  • Smart
  • Loyal
  • Trainable
  • Confident
  • Affectionate

There are three subtypes of the pastoral breed group:

  • Herding dogs round up the herds.
  • Drovers guide the animals to where they’re going.
  • Guardian dogs protect the flock from wolves and foxes.

These dogs need a lot of both physical and mental stimulation, and love being outside in any type of weather. Since they’re bred to work under the instruction of a handler, they love human company. They have a protective nature and are always on the lookout for intruders.

The Pastoral breed group includes:

Golden cocker Spaniel


These dogs were originally bred for finding and retrieving game birds. They’re intelligent, very active and work well with people. They can follow different commands, like hand gestures and whistling.

Gundogs are energetic but also calm and even-tempered. They require a lot of exercise and without enough of it, may chew furniture or destroy your belongings. They’re well-balanced and agile, like to be outside, and love playing fetch!

If you want a gundog as a pet, here are some of the traits that you can expect:

  • Friendly and social
  • Good with children and other pets
  • Cooperative
  • Self-contained
  • Not easily upset
  • Mostly quiet but can become talkative
  • Affectionate

There are four types of gundog:

  • Retrievers capture and retrieve feathered game.
  • Pointers, as the name suggests, point hunters to the location of game.
  • Setters are usually paired with pointers because they perform the same task, which is helping the hunter get a better shot of the bird, but they do it in different ways.
  • Spaniels flush birds out into sight for the hunter. Then they retrieve the bird. They have excellent retrieving skills.

The Gundog breed group includes:

Beagle standing up with its front paws on a fence


Hounds were originally bred for their powerful sense of smell or sight. They love to explore and have a high prey drive, so they assist hunters and sometimes police. Most hounds are active but sometimes not so much.

People who have a hound should remember to keep a firm grip on the leash because their desire to explore and chase can take over. At the end of a long day, they like to curl up inside and relax at home with their owner.

If you want a hound as a pet, here are some of the traits you can expect:

  • Affectionate
  • Intelligent
  • Sweet
  • Independent

There are two types of hound:

  • Sight Hounds are lean and were bred to take down larger animals. They are incredibly fast sprinters and may be hard to train because of their one-track mind.
  • Scent Hounds are smaller and bred to capture smaller prey. Their ears touch the ground while they’re sniffing to help them get more of a scent. If they smell something, they’re likely to follow their nose no matter what.

The Hound breed group includes:

Poodle lying down on a sandy beach


This group is sort of miscellaneous because dogs in this group don’t fit the criteria for any of the other groups. There is a lot of variation and no set criteria. Another name for this group is Non-Sporting Dogs. These dogs were bred to perform jobs that they don’t do anymore. These dogs are some of the most loved breeds.

Utility dogs have a range of different temperaments, coat colours, and personality traits. However, they may be:

  • Playful
  • Curious
  • Eager
  • Loyal
  • Friendly
  • Smart

For some examples of the jobs that utility dogs used to do, the Dalmatian used to accompany carriages, the poodle used to be a water hunter, and the bulldog used to bait bulls.

The Utility breed group includes:

Jack Russell Terrier


Terriers are small and fearless with strong personalities. Since they were originally bred for pest control, including rats, badgers, and foxes, they are active, love to chase, and have a high prey drive. Terriers are also feisty and they love to dig holes. If you have a terrier, keep an eye on your garden!

If you want a terrier as a pet, here are some of the traits you can expect:

  • Energetic
  • Moderately smart
  • Independent
  • Playful
  • Predatory with small animals
  • Scrappy
  • Persistent

With some patience and understanding, they can be excellent pets, however, they can be quite stubborn and will probably always have the drive to dig up your plants or even your carpet.

The Terrier breed group includes:

Grey Grate Dane


Working dogs are medium-to-giant in size and quite active. They were bred for practical activities, such as pulling sleds and carts. They’re always ready to work and have a lot of stamina for physical activity. They’re also great watchdogs and are good for police work, including land and water rescue.

If you want a working dog as a pet, here are some of the traits you can expect:

  • Calm
  • Protective
  • Smart
  • Confident
  • Loyal
  • Courageous
  • Strong
  • Affectionate

Because of their size, they do better in large spaces. They are sturdy, fearless and obedient, which makes them easy to train. As a pet, they are loyal and protective

The Working dog breed group includes:

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel


Toy breeds are small and bred specifically to be your friend and companion, which is why they’re so sweet and friendly. They can easily adapt to living in the country or the city. If you’re happy, they’re happy. Their size means they don’t need a ton of exercise and are happy in a place of any size. They are perfect for laying in your lap and are good for inexperienced dog owners.

If you want a toy breed as a pet, here are some of the traits you can expect:

  • Sensitive
  • Sassy
  • Alert
  • Fearless
  • Affectionate

The dogs in this group are miniature versions of larger breeds. Some of them are descendants of terriers, spaniels and other breeds, and they retain some of the traits of their ancestors. For example:

  • Toy poodles are a descendent of -- you guessed it -- the poodle!
  • Pomeranians are a miniature version of an Icelandic sled dog.

Toy dog breeds:

The list is still growing and will continue to incorporate more dog breeds with the lot. Dogs rely heavily on instinct, so understanding what your dog was bred for can help you recognise some of their behaviours and assist with your understanding of what they need so that you can live your best lives together. For example, if your golden retriever has a problem with chewing furniture and you know that jobless gundogs might chew furniture when they’re bored, you can come up with a task for them and prevent yourself from having to buy new furniture in the near future. It’s a win-win situation!

Knowing about these dog breed groups and their activity level, friendliness and sociability can also serve as a guide as to what breed is best suited to you and your family to ensure that everyone feels happy and fulfilled.