Dog Breed Groups: Everything You Need to Know (Part 1)

With all the different breeds for dogs that exist, it makes sense that certain breeds would be divided into groups. However, it’s important to note that different organizations group dog breeds together differently. 

For instance, The American Kennel Club (AKC) and The Kennel Club (KC) both group dogs similarly based on the breed’s function or original purpose, not so much on breed characteristics or physical traits. 

The Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI) on the other hand, tends to groups dogs together based on a blend of attributes and original function. For instance they have sighthounds and scent hounds in separate groups, as well as, spitz and primitive type dogs in a combined separate group. 

In part one of this guide we will discuss what a Kennel Club is in general and the dog breed groups of the American Kennel Club (AKC) , the Kennel Club (KC).

Part two will cover the Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI).

A quick side-note:  While discussing this article with my wife, she asked “Why would anyone care about the FCI?” That’s a fair question. It is important to know why and we will cover that in part two. 

In this article will go over the main similarities of the AKC and the KC, as well as, the differences. We will not be reviewing the Canadian Kennel Club since their grouping is virtually identical to the AKC. 

What is a Kennel Club?

So the question here is what is a kennel club exactly? Well, a kennel club is a council of people that set standards and regulate breeding, showing, and promotion of more than one breed of dog. 

large dog show arena
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

This is important to know because kennel clubs set the standards for the classifying or grouping of dogs. Each kennel club groups dogs differently. Here in the United States, the American Kennel Club reigns supreme, but that’s not the case globally. 

Therefore, we will look at three of the top four internationally known kennel clubs to compare their groupings: the AKC, KC, and FCI. 

American Kennel Club

Naturally, the AKC groups are probably the most familiar grouping to those of us in the United States. The AKC is the main standard for dogs in America and drives the formatting of many dog shows here in the States.

Brief History of the AKC

The AKC was founded in 1884 by 10 American clubs and three Canadian clubs. The AKC was formed out of the need for a regulating body for the breeding and showing of dogs.  In 1909 the group headquarters were moved to New York City, where it still is today. 

American Kennel Club Dog Groups

The AKC separates dogs into nine different groups:

  • Sporting Group
  • Hound Group
  • Working Group
  • Terrier Group
  • Toy Group
  • Non-Sporting Group
  • Herding Group
  • Foundation Stock Service Group
  • Miscellaneous Group

Links to each dog group’s page will be included for more information on individual breeds within each group.

Sporting Group  

The Sporting Group is home to most of the dogs used in hunting with humans. These dogs are well-rounded canine companions with a strong work ethic. These dogs are vigilant, active, and known to enjoy and excel in environments of water and forests. 

There are four basic types of Sporting Dogs:

  • Spaniels – small gun dogs specifically bred to flush game out of denser brush. Spaniels are specialized into water and land breeds. 
  • Pointers – type of gun dog used to locate game. The name pointer comes from the dog’s instinct to freeze and point (aiming it’s muzzle) towards the hidden game. 
  • Retrievers – a type of gun dog that retrieves downed game for the hunter. Retrievers are bred for willingness to please and specifically to have a soft mouth, meaning that these dogs don’t bite hard or chew on game. In fact, many retrievers can carry eggs in their mouths without damaging them. 
  • Setters – a type of gun dog used often for hunting quail, pheasant, and grouse. These dogs crouch upon finding game until the game can be flushed. 

Many of the dogs in the sporting group are versatile in the functions across all four subtypes. For instance, many dogs in the sporting group can be trained to flush, point, and retrieve. 

List of AKC Sporting Group Breeds

American Water SpanielGordon Setter
BarbetIrish Red and White Setter
Boykin SpanielIrish Setter
BrittanyIrish Water Spaniel
Chesapeake Bay RetrieverLabrador Retriever
Clumber SpanielLagotto Romagnolo
Cocker SpanielNederlandse Kooikerhondje
Curly-Coated RetrieverNova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever
English Cocker SpanielPointer
English SetterSpinone Italiano
English Springer SpanielSussex Spaniel
Field SpanielVizsla
Flat-Coated RetrieverWeimaraner
German Shorthaired PointerWelsh Springer Spaniel
German Wirehaired PointerWirehaired Pointing Griffon
Golden RetrieverWirehaired Vizsla
Links are to American Kennel Club (AKC) Breed Descriptions

You can find more breed information on the AKC’s Sporting Group page HERE

Hound Group

Like the Sporting Group, the Hound Group breeds have their origin in hunting. However, unlike the sporting dogs, hounds are used to hunt animals in packs. Some hounds used strong scenting abilities to follow the faintest of trials. Other hounds are ridiculously fast with endless stamina to relentlessly run down game. 

There are two types of hounds:

  • Scent Hounds – these hounds primarily track prey by using their scent to pick up trails. These hounds are built for endurance and steadily track their prey.  Many scent hounds drive prey back to the hunters or tree an animal until the hunter arrives. 
  • Sight Hounds – these hounds rely on their sight to track prey rather than scent. Sight hounds are built for short, high-speed chases. These hounds can catch and kill prey on their own. 

List of AKC Hound Group Breeds

Afghan HoundHarrier
American English CoonhoundIbizan Hound
American FoxhoundIrish Wolfhound
AzawakhNorwegian Elkhound
Basset HoundPetit Basset Griffon Vendeen
BeaglePharaoh Hound
Black and Tan CoonhoundPlott Hound
BloodhoundPortuguese Podengo Pequeno
Bluetick CoonhoundRedbone Coonhound
BorzoiRhodesian Ridgeback
Cirneco Dell’EtnaSaluki
DachshundScottish Deerhound
English FoxhoundSloughi
Grand Basset Griffon VendeenTreeing Walker Coonhound
Links are to American Kennel Club (AKC) Breed Descriptions

You can find more breed information on the AKC’s Hound Group page HERE.

Working Group

The working group is exactly what it sounds like. These dogs were bred to help humans with all kinds of tasks, such as, guarding, sled and freight pulling, as well as water rescues and any other tasks requiring big, strong canines. The working group are highly intelligent and loyal companions. However, these large dogs are naturally protective and independent, which can be a challenge for novice or new dog owners. 

List of AKC Working Group Dogs

AkitaGreat Pyrenees
Alaskan MalamuteGreater Swiss Mountain Dog
Anatolian Shepherd DogKomondor
Bernese Mountain DogKuvasz
Black Russian TerrierLeonberger
BoxerNeapolitan Mastiff
Cane CorsoPortuguese Water Dog
Doberman PinscherSaint Bernard
Dogo ArgentinoSamoyed
Dogue de BordeauxSiberian Husky
German PinscherStandard Schnauzer
Giant SchnauzerTibetan Mastiff
Great Dane
Links are to American Kennel Club (AKC) Breed Descriptions

You can find more breed information on the AKC’s Working Dog Group page HERE

Terrier Group

Terriers are the tenacious and feisty scrappers of the dog world. These dogs were originally bred for hunting and killing vermin such as rats, mice, weasels, and more. Often these dogs were used to guard houses, barns, and even ships against such pests. The dogs can be stubborn and extremely energetic. 

List of AKC Terrier Group Breeds

Airedale TerrierMiniature Schnauzer
American Hairless TerrierNorfolk Terrier
American Staffordshire TerrierNorwich Terrier
Australian TerrierParson Russell Terrier
Bedlington TerrierRat Terrier
Border TerrierRussell Terrier
Bull TerrierScottish Terrier
Cairn TerrierSealyham Terrier
Cesky TerrierSkye Terrier
Dandie Dinmont TerrierSmooth Fox Terrier
Glen of Imaal TerrierSoft Coated Wheaten Terrier
Irish TerrierStaffordshire Bull Terrier
Kerry Blue TerrierWelsh Terrier
Lakeland TerrierWest Highland White Terrier
Manchester TerrierWire Fox Terrier
Miniature Bull Terrier
Links are to American Kennel Club (AKC) Breed Descriptions

You can find more breed information on the AKC’s Terrier Dog Group page HERE.

Toy Group

The toy group are the small companion dogs that were, quite honestly, bred for human companionship. These dogs are small in stature, but big when it comes to charisma! These guys are affectionate, energetic, and adaptable to almost any living situation, especially apartment and city living. 

List of AKC Toy Group Breeds

AffenpinscherMiniature Pinscher
Brussels GriffonPapillon
Cavalier King Charles SpanielPekingese
Chinese CrestedPoodle (Toy)
English Toy SpanielPug
HavaneseShih Tzu
Italian GreyhoundSilky Terrier
Japanese ChinToy Fox Terrier
MalteseYorkshire Terrier
Manchester Terrier
Links are to American Kennel Club (AKC) Breed Descriptions

You can find more breed information on the AKC’s Toy Group page HERE.

Non-Sporting Group

The Non-Sporting Group seems to be the collection where the breeds that don’t seem to fit anywhere else are placed. There is a wide array of attitudes, personalities, abilities, and coats in this group. Many of these dogs are good watch dogs and companions. 

List of AKC Non-Sporting Group Breeds

American Eskimo DogKeeshond
Bichon FriseLhasa Apso
Boston TerrierLowchen
BulldogNorwegian Lundhund
Chinese Shar-PeiPoodle
Chow ChowSchipperke
Coton De TulearShiba Inu
DalmatianTibetan Spaniel
Finish SpitzTibetan Terrier
French BulldogXoloitzcuintli
Links are to American Kennel Club (AKC) Breed Descriptions

You can find more breed information on the AKC’s Non-Sporting Group page HERE

Herding Group

Originally, dogs in the herding group belonged to the working group. It wasn’t until 1983 that the herding group was created as a stand alone group. The breeds of the herding group excel at their namesake…herding. These dogs are instinctually gifted to control the movement of other animals. Some herd dogs excel at keeping animals in groups, others at driving them forward, and others are used to protect livestock. These dogs are also incredibly eager to please and are highly trainable. 

List of AKC Herding Group Breeds

Australian Cattle DogEntlebucher Mountain Dog
Australian ShepherdFinnish Lapphund
Bearded CollieGerman Shepherd Dog
BeauceronIcelandic Sheepdog
Belgian MalinoisMiniature American Shepherd
Belgian SheepdogNorwegian Buhund
Belgian TervurenOld English Sheepdog
BergamascoPembroke Welsh Corgi
Berger PicardPolish Lowland Sheepdog
Border ColliePuli
Bouvier des FlandresPumi
Canaan DogShetland Sheepdog
Cardigan Welsh CorgiSpanish Water Dog
CollieSwedish Vallhund
Links are to American Kennel Club (AKC) Breed Descriptions

You can find more breed information on the AKC’s Herding Group page HERE.

Foundation Stock Service Group

The Foundation Stock Service Group are breeds that are not eligible for registration with the AKC, but can compete in AKC Companion Events. These purebred breeds in the Foundation Stock Service are given a reputable and reputable way to maintain their records. 

List of AKC Foundation Stock Service Group Breeds

American BulldogKarelian Bear Dog
American Leopard HoundKishu Ken
Appenzeller SennenhundKromfohrländer
Australian KelpieLapponian Herder
Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle DogMountain Cur
Basset Fauve de BretagnePerro de Presa Canario
Bavarian Mountain Scent HoundPorcelaine
Bohemian ShepherdPortuguese Pointer
BolognesePortuguese Sheepdog
Braque de BourbonnaisPudelpointer
Braque Francais PyreneanPyrenean Mastiff
BroholmerRafeiro de Alentejo
Carolina DogRomanian Mioritic Shepherd Dog
Catahoula Leopard DogRussian Tsvetnaya Bolonka
Caucasian Shepherd DogSchapendoes
Central Asian Shepherd DogSegugio Italiano
Croatian SheepdogShikoku
Czechoslovakian VlackSlovakian Wirehaired Pointer
Danish-Swedish FarmdogSlovensky Cuvac
Deutscher WachtelhundSlovensky Kopov
Drentsche PatrijshondSmall Musterlander Pointer
DreverSpanish Mastiff
Estrela Mountain DogStabyhoun
EurasierSwedish Lapphund
French SpanielTaiwan Dog
German Longhaired PointerThai Ridgeback
German SpitzTornjak
Hanoverian ScenthoundTransylvanian Hound
HokkaidoTreeing Tennessee Brindle
JagdterrierWorking Kelpie
JindoYakutian Laika
Kai Ken
Links are to American Kennel Club (AKC) Breed Descriptions

You can find more breed information on the AKC’s Foundation Stock Service page HERE

Miscellaneous Class

According to the AKC, “the breeds currently eligible to participate in the Miscellaneous Class are still enrolled in the AKC Foundation Stock Service. FSS enrollment is maintained until the AKC Board of Directors accepts the breed for regular status.”  

Essentially, the Miscellaneous Class is a next step towards full AKC acceptance. Routinely, breeds spend 1-3 years in Miscellaneous Class before full AKC acceptance. 

List of AKC Miscellaneous Class Group Breeds

Belgian LaekenoisNorrbottenspets
Biewer TerrierPeruvian Inca Orchid
Bracco ItalianoPortuguese Podengo
Dutch ShepherdRussian Toy
Lancashire HeelerTeddy Roosevelt Terrier
Links are to American Kennel Club (AKC) Breed Descriptions

You can find more breed information on the AKC’s Miscellaneous Class page HERE

There you go! Now you know how the AKC groups all dogs recognized by the organization.  Maybe that’s all the information you were looking for. That’s fine.  There is a reason the AKC was first and why such detail was put into that section. 

However, if you are interested in learning more information about grouping from other international kennel clubs, please continue reading.  The FCI is particularly interesting as it is so much different from the AKC and KC organizations.  

The Kennel Club

Another internationally recognized kennel club is the Kennel Club (KC) out of England. KC is the official kennel club of the United Kingdom, just as the AKC is to the United States. The KC is the oldest recognized kennel club in the world.

Brief History of the Kennel Club

The KC was formed in 1873 by Sewallis E. Shirley. Shirley was frustrated by the lack of consistent sets of rules for showing dogs. Shirley, with the help of 12 others interested in pedigree dogs formed the Kennel Club in London, England. The Kennel Club is still headquartered in London today. 

The Kennel Club Dog Groups

The dog groups of the KC are very similar to the AKC. Therefore, we will stick to highlighting the differences of groupings since they are very much in line with one and other.


The Gundog group is equal to the Sporting Group of the AKC with the exception that the four types of gun dogs are structured slightly differently:

The KC Gundog Types:

  • Retrievers
  • Spaniels
  • Hunt/Point/Retrieve
  • Pointers and Setters 

As mentioned before, many of the breeds in the Gun Dog Group are capable of doing the same work in the different types/sub-groups. Hence why the types seem to overlap. 

List of KC Gundog Breeds

BarbetRetriever (Chesapeake Bay)
Bracco ItalianoRetriever (Curly Coated)
Braque D’AuvergneRetriever (Flat Coated)
BrittanyRetriever (Golden)
English SetterRetriever (Labrador)
German Longhaired PointerRetriever (Nova Scotia Duck Tolling)
German Shorthaired PointerSlovakian Rough Haired Pointer
German Wirehaired PointerSmall Munsterlander
Gordon SetterSpaniel (American Cocker)
Hungarian VizslaSpaniel (American Water)
Hungarian Wire Haired VizslaSpaniel (Clumber)
Irish Red & White SetterSpaniel (Cocker)
Irish SetterSpaniel (English Springer)
Italian SpinoneSpaniel (Field)
Korthals GriffonSpaniel (Irish Water)
Lagotto RomagnoloSpaniel (Sussex)
Large MunsterlanderSpaniel (Welsh Springer)
PointerSpanish Water Dog
Portuguese PointerWeimaraner
Links are to the Kennel Club (KC) Breed Descriptions


The Hound Group in the KC is defined the same as with the AKC. There are also the two types of hounds in this group:

  • Scent hounds
  • Sight hounds

List of KC Hound Breeds

Afghan HoundDeerhound
AzawakhFinnish Spitz
Basset Fauve De BretagneGrand Bleu De Gascogne
Basset Bleu De GascogneGreyhound
Basset Griffon Vendeen (Grand)Griffon Fauve De Bretagne
Basset Griffon Vendeen (Petit)Hamiltonstovare
Basset HoundHarrier
Bavarian Mountain HoundIbizan Hound
BeagleIrish Wolfhound
Black & Tan CoonhoundNorwegian Elkhound
BorzoiPharaoh Hound
Cirneco Dell’EtnaPortuguese Podengo
Dachshund (Long Haired)Rhodesian Ridgeback
Dachshund (Miniature Long Haired)Saluki
Dachshund (Miniature Smooth Haired)Segugio Italiano
Dachshund (Miniature Wire Haired)Sloughi
Dachshund (Smooth Haired)Whippet
Dachshund (Wire Haired)
Links are to the Kennel Club (KC) Breed Descriptions


The Pastoral group is the equivalent of the Herding Group in the AKC. These are all the dogs that are “associated with working cattle, sheep, reindeer, and other cloven footed animals”. 

List of KC Pastoral Breeds

Anatolian Shepherd DogHungarian Puli
Australian Cattle DogHungarian Pumi
Australian ShepherdKomondor
Bearded CollieLancashire Heeler
BeauceronMaremma Sheepdog
Belgian Shepherd Dog (Groenendael)Norwegian Buhund
Belgian Shepherd Dog (Laekenois)Old English Sheepdog
Belgian Shepherd Dog (Malinois)Picardy Sheepdog
Belgian Shepherd Dog (Tervueren)Polish Lowland Sheepdog
BergamascoPyrenean Mountain Dog
Border ColliePyrenean Sheepdog (Long Haired)
Catalan SheepdogShetland Sheepdog
Collie (Rough)Swedish Lapphund
Collie (Smooth)Swedish Vallhund
Estrela Mountain DogTurkish Kangal Dog
Finnish LapphundWelsh Corgi (Cardigan)
German Shepherd DogWelsh Corgi (Pembroke)
Hungarian KuvaszWhite Swiss Shepherd Dog
Links are to the Kennel Club (KC) Breed Descriptions


Again, just as with the AKC, the KC’s Terrier group are those dogs bred for hunting vermin. 

List of KC Terrier Breeds

Airedale TerrierKerry Blue Terrier
Australian TerrierLakeland Terrier
Bedlington TerrierManchester Terrier
Border TerrierNorfolk Terrier
Bull TerrierNorwich Terrier
Bull Terrier (Miniature)Parson Russell Terrier
Cairn TerrierScottish Terrier
Cesky TerrierSealyham Terrier
Dandie Dinmont TerrierSkye Terrier
Fox Terrier (Smooth)Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier
Fox Terrier (Wire)Staffordshire Bull Terrier
Glen Of Imaal TerrierWelsh Terrier
Irish TerrierWest Highland White Terrier
Jack Russell Terrier
Links are to the Kennel Club (KC) Breed Descriptions


The KC Toy group and the AKC Toy group are also one in the same. This is the small companion dogs bred for any lifestyle. 

List of KC Toy Breeds

AffenpinscherItalian Greyhound
Australian Silky TerrierJapanese Chin
Bichon FriseKing Charles Spaniel
BologneseLowchen (Little Lion Dog)
Cavalier King Charles SpanielMaltese
Chihuahua (Long Coat)Miniature Pinscher
Chihuahua (Smooth Coat)Papillon
Chinese CrestedPekingese
Coton De TulearPomeranian
English Toy Terrier (Black & Tan)Pug
Griffon BruxelloisRussian Toy
HavaneseYorkshire Terrier
Links are to the Kennel Club (KC) Breed Descriptions


The Utility group is the KC’s equivalent to the AKC’s Non-Sporting Group. These are the dog breeds that don’t really fit into any of the other categories, but were still bred specifically for certain purposes. 

List of KC Utility Breeds

AkitaKorean Jindo
Boston TerrierLhasa Apso
BulldogMiniature Schnauzer
Canaan DogPoodle (Miniature)
Chow ChowPoodle (Standard)
DalmatianPoodle (Toy)
French BulldogSchnauzer
German Spitz (Klein)Shar Pei
German Spitz (Mittel)Shih Tzu
Japanese Akita InuTibetan Spaniel
Japanese Shiba InuTibetan Terrier
Japanese SpitzXoloitzcuintle (Mex Hairless) Int
KeeshondXoloitzcuintle (Mex Hairless) Min
KooikerhondjeXoloitzcuintle (Mex Hairless) Std
Links are to the Kennel Club (KC) Breed Descriptions


This final group, the Working group, is again aligned with the AKC group by the same name. These are the dogs selectively bred for guard duty, search and rescue, as well as, sled and freight pulling. 

List of KC Working Breeds

Alaskan MalamuteGreenland Dog
Bernese Mountain DogHovawart
Bouvier Des FlandresLeonberger
BullmastiffNeapolitan Mastiff
Canadian Eskimo DogNewfoundland
DobermannPortuguese Water Dog
Dogue de BordeauxPyrenean Mastiff
Entlebucher Mountain DogRottweiler
German PinscherRussian Black Terrier
Giant SchnauzerSiberian Husky
Great DaneSt. Bernard
Great Swiss Mountain DogTibetan Mastiff
Links are to the Kennel Club (KC) Breed Descriptions

You can find more breed information on the KC Working page HERE

Conclusion on the AKC and KC Dog Breed Groups

There are definitely similarities in how the AKC and KC group their dog breeds. There may be different words used such as “Sporting Dog” compared to “Gun Dog”, but the vast majority of grouping between the two clubs is aligned.

As previously mentioned, the dog breed grouping of the AKC and KC is certainly what readers here in the United States would be used to. However, most of the world actually follows the FCI guidelines.

If you are interested in learning more about how the FCI groups dog breeds then continue on to part two.


Thank you for taking the time to read my article! I hope it was helpful and insightful. I absolutely love dogs and my mission is to help dog owners better understand their dogs and how to care for them in the best way. Please checkout my about page: CLICK HERE!

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