All dogs are unique. Every dog is a sentient individual who may be very atypical for the breed, or may be a textbook example. So yes, dogs DO have different personalities which you can’t predict until you spend time becoming their friend. That said, the breed DOES influence that personality. Dogs are such a diverse group of animals; it’s hard to believe that a Chihuahua, Great Dane, Poodle, Mexican hairless, Yorkshire Terrier and Irish Wolfhound are the same species! Let’s have a look at some of the influences on these magnificent breeds, and some general characteristics shared by those breeds.

Herding dogs; the Duracell Bunnies

The Kennel Club defines these dogs as in the “pastoral group”; they were bred for herding sheep and cattle mainly, but also any cloven-hooved animal. They’re selectively bred for speed, endurance, intelligence and a solid work ethic. If you’ve ever watched Agility at Crufts, you’re sure to have noticed that it’s the Border Collies who reign supreme! These dogs need active homes with stimulation; they enjoy long walks and runs, a varied environment, obedience training and agility training to keep their active minds occupied.

Some herding dogs commonly seen are the:

  • Australian Cattle Dog
  • Australian Shepherd
  • Belgian Sheepdog
  • Border Collie
  • German Shepherd
  • Old English Sheepdog (perhaps because it resembles a sheep in fluffiness…)
  • Shetland Sheepdog (Lassie)

Did you know…? German Shepherd guide-dog named Orient led his human, Bill Irwin, over the 2,100-mile hike through the Appalachian Trail? Irwin was the first blind man to make the journey.

Watch out for… hip dysplasia is very common in German Shepherds due to their long, sloping backs and pelvic structure.

Gundogs; the brainboxes

Gundogs have been bred to help with shooting; whether by rustling up birds to be shot, or retrieving shot-down animals. They are very intelligent and take well to training, often enjoying the stimulation. They are strong, typically with long snouts (which are, like in all dogs, excellent for sniffing!). They make great family pets in active homes, as they are friendly and usually enjoy human company a lot. However, the Gun Dog Club describes an issue with them as pets as “frustrated instincts”, that is to say, they are bred to have a job, and when left alone for long periods of time with no stimulation, they may become destructive in the home, just like the herding breeds.

Some Gundog Breeds commonly seen are the:

  • Cocker Spaniel
  • English Setter
  • Flat-coated Retriever
  • German Pointer (Long-haired and Short-haired)
  • Golden Retriever
  • Gordon Setter
  • Hungarian Vizsla
  • Irish Setter
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Springer Spaniel
  • Weimeraner

Did you know…? The very popular family-pet of the Labrador is not from Labrador? Bred to help fishermen, these fantastic swimmers were bred in Newfoundland; the bear-like Newfoundland dog had already claimed this name, so they were named after the Labrador sea!

Watch out for… Elbow and hip dysplasia which is very common in the beloved Labrador Retriever.

Hounds: The Superheroes

What makes hounds the superhero? Their super senses, of course! All dogs have an incredible sense of smell, and can detect smaller noises and movements than we can even imagine! Hounds were bred for hunting either by smell (bloodhounds, beagles) or sight (greyhounds). These handsome hunters may come across as aloof compared to the loving Labrador, but they are gentle and dignified. Be aware that, like the gundogs and shepherds, they have been bred for a job which requires great skill; these dogs will need regular exercise and lots of fun activities!

Common hounds are:

The sight-hounds:

  • Greyhounds
  • Whippets
  • Irish Wolfhounds


The scent-hounds:

  • Afghan Hounds
  • Basset hounds
  • Beagles
  • Bloodhounds
  • Dachshunds

Did you know? Tigger the Bloodhound holds the World Record for the longest ears? This dog’s left ear was a whopping 34.9cm long!

Watch out for… eye conditions in hounds. The long, heavy facial skin of breeds such as bloodhounds and basset sounds can lead to “macroblepharon”, “ectropion”, and “entropion”; that is to say, large eyelids, with the lower eyelids turned out and the upper eyelids turned in.

Terriers: The happy hunters

“Terrier” comes from the Latin “terra”, meaning Earth; these pint-sized hunters were used for hunting rats and mice considered vermin. They are smaller than their larger hunter friends but sturdy, and often have a reputation for being clever and independent.

Common breeds of terriers are:

  • Airedale Terrier
  • Bedlington Terrier
  • Border Terrier
  • Cairn Terrier
  • Fox Terrier (short and wire-haired)
  • Jack Russell Terrier
  • Staffordshire Bull Terrier
  • West Highland White Terrier (Westie)

Did you know? Bedlington terriers are often described as looking like lambs!

Watch out for… Westies are prone to a lung condition called pulmonary fibrosis – so prone to it that it is in fact referred to as Westie Lung. Bedlington Terriers frequently develop “Copper storage hepatopathy” – a mutated gene which affects their ability to excrete copper from the liver, leading to excessive storage, which can cause inflammation of the liver.

Toys: The toys that love you back

Small and affectionate, what’s not to love? These companion dogs are often referred to as lap dogs, due to their small size. They don’t require as much exercise as their working friends, however, they do come with a warning that they may have tastes for the finer things in life and be fussy eaters, with a tendency to be nippy, and very protective of their owners. (However, this may be because they are often treated as tiny, furry babies as opposed to dogs, and have, as a result, formed preferences for food and affection on their terms). They can be great family pets when well handled by all the family and their smaller size can be more manageable than larger dogs.

Common toy breeds:

  • Bichon Frise
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
  • Chihuahua
  • Maltese
  • Papillion
  • Pekingese
  • Pomeranian
  • Pug
  • Yorkshire Terrier

Did you know? The world’s smallest dog is a Chihuahua in Porto Rico named Milly? Milly is a miniscule 9.65cm tall. Perhaps she is more of a “Mini” than a “Milly”!

Watch out for… Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome: BOAS. BOAS is common in flat-faced breeds (brachycephalics); these dogs characteristically have elongated soft palates, short noses and laryngeal collapse. It’s a result of them being bred for shorter snouts (compare a brachycephalic pug to a long-faced, “dolichocephalic”, Afghan Hound, for example) with no corresponding reduction in soft tissue size. It leads to respiratory noise (the pug snort), snoring, and even airway collapse. The Pug and Pekingese are particularly susceptible.

Working Dogs: The Guardian Angels

These heroes do everything from guarding homes to search and rescue missions! Highly intelligent, these wonderful aides are truly gentle giants if you’re part of their pack. They are often intelligent, and require a lot of food, exercise and space by merit of their size. Malamutes and Huskies in particular have a strong pack work ethic and are bred to do truly incredible distances. Consider these management factors realistically rather than being enticed by the prospect of having as close as you’ll get to a bear as a companion….

Common Working Dog Breeds:

  • Alaskan Malamute
  • Bernese Mountain Dog
  • Boxer
  • Doberman
  • Great Dane
  • Mastiffs
  • Newfoundland
  • Rottweiler
  • Siberian Husky
  • Bernard (Roll over, Beethoven)

Did you know? Whizz, a marine-rescue Newfoundland, can pull a boat of 12 people in a rescue mission? That’s one powerful doggy paddle!

Watch out for… Large-breed dogs are more prone to a type of heart failure known as dilated cardiomyopathy.

Utility: The All-sorts, all-stars

This miscellaneous group is made up of fit, active, intelligent dogs who were not developed for sporting or working purposes in the previous category. For example, the Poodle was bred to retrieve ducks, the Akita was a bear-hunter, the Dalmatian was a watch-dog and the Shar-Pei was a fighting dog. This group are diverse, but as dogs with a purpose other than companionship (though they are good at that!), they need activity and stimulation or they can become destructive through boredom.

Common Utility breeds:

  • Akita
  • Bulldog
  • Chow Chow
  • Dalmatian
  • French Bulldog
  • Schnauzer
  • Poodle
  • Shar Pei
  • Shih Tzu

Did you know…? In the Film 101 Dalmatians, the actors had steak juice dripped on them to get the dogs to lick them!

Watch out for… Chow Chows and Shar Peis are both prone to eye conditions, in the case of Shar Peis this is because of the excess skin around the eyes. They commonly develop entropion (inversion of the eyelids) which causes irritation of the globe, and ulceration.

The Canine Crosses

There are, of course, the lovely mixed-breeds. These tend to be less prone to congenital diseases; some of the genetic disorders mentioned above are a result of selecting for certain characteristics (size, fur) and thus narrowing the gene pool. Sometimes, the characteristics which breeders want to enhance are linked to negative conditions, and sometimes the traits which are desired themselves can cause problems, such as the long backs of dachshunds being associated with spinal damage. The rise of “hybrids” such as labradoodles, cockapoos and jugs can help improve the health of these pure-breeds, as well as conferring new advantages from combining some well-loved characteristic.

It is essential to understand your dog’s breed in order to help him live a happy and fulfilled life according to his needs. However, always bear in mind the individual variation; not every Yorkshire Terrier will love cuddles, and not every Great Dane will be a gentle giant.

Always consult with us before embarking on the exciting journey of getting a new dog. If you are the lucky owner of a dog already and they are featured in this article, we hope you’ve enjoyed reading about them – as if you don’t already know your Pongo or Perdita inside and out!