Dogs: Breed descriptions, and breed book index

Breed categories

This page gives you access to nine pages on breeds, and books on breeds, grouped into categories with something in common, though in one case that 'something in common' is that the breeds don't easily fit into any other category!

The categories used here are similar to those used by the UK Kennel Club, with some variations. Hounds, Terriers and Gundogs are more or less the same, though we've put Basenjs and Rhodesian Ridgebacks in Other Breeds, and Dachshunds in Small Companion Dogs, while the Kennel Club classes them all as Hounds. Basenjis are unique, often described as 'primitive dogs'. Rhodesian Ridgebacks are often used as guard dogs as well as hounds. Dachshunds are as much terrier as hound, and in any case tend to be used as companion dogs today. What we call Small Companion Dogs are basically the Kennel Club's Toy Dogs, with a few added, like Dachshunds, and Shih Tzuh, and Lhasa Apso from the Kennel Club's Utility class, since they tend to be small companion dogs.

We've grouped Herders together rather than Pastoral Dogs, since herders tend to behave in different ways from flock guardians, though some herders were bred to herd and guard, so have dual roles. You'll also find Spitz Dogs, Bull Dogs and Bull Terriers, and Giant Breeds. We haven't used two UK Kennel Club categories: Working and Utility, because they're both a bit vague. Many dogs in all categories could be described as 'working', especially gundogs, herders and hounds. The Kennel Club Utility category is basically dogs that can't easily be classified. We've just called dogs we can't easily classify 'Other Dogs'.

The UK Kennel Club recognizes fewer than half the breeds found world wide, and different kennel clubs throughout the world use slightly different systems. We've just grouped breeds commonly kept as pets in the UK, to be able to say something general about each group.


Breed descriptions


How accurate are our breed descriptions? Breeds can change over time, and can vary from one country to another. There can be differences between individuals of the same breed due to upbringing or genetic quirks, even big differences in litter mates. The breed descriptions we give are only approximate, though we've used a wide range of sources, including research papers, information from people who work in breed rescue, trainers, and others, to give you the most accurate picture possible. The focus is on the character of the breed, how dogs from that breed get on with children, and other aspects of breeds likely to be of interest to pet owners. We've left out detailed descriptions of the breed's looks, and its history, which are easy to find. Quite often breed guides are eulogies, and we've tried to be honest and fair, because forewarned is forearmed - JRTs are wonderful little dogs, for example, but often don't mix well with small children - so apologies if we've offended anyone's sensibilities by being a little blunt about their breed.

Choosing a breed is an important decision, so take time to talk to owners of the breed, trainers who know the breed, and vets who can compare the breed with others they see. Breed guides aren't always as informative as they should be. Often they're written by breeders who no longer notice little quirks like yapping, or who have an interest in not telling you about them! Some breeds tend to have short lifespans, like St Bernards, Bernese Mountain Dogs and Bulldogs. Others are prone to health problems, such as bloat, which can be fatal, but otherwise they can live long lives. Bloat is a serious risk with some breeds, especially giant breeds and sighthounds, and there appears to be a genetic component which means that some lines of a particular breed can be affected worse than others. The more questions you ask, and the more sources of information you use, the better prepared you will be for the breed that you finally choose.

Working and pet dogs

This site is geared to pet owners, rather than to owners of working dogs, though in fact there's no clear dividing line between pet and working dogs. Working activities include hunting, herding, watchdogging, guarding, protection work, sledding, tracking, search and rescue, and helping disabled people. There are many dog sports that mimic these activities, and they are increasingly popular among pet owners. Owners who want dogs for a particular activity really need to get in touch with an experienced, specialist trainer, who can advise on choosing a pup, or assessing whether an adult dog is suitable for that kind of work. Training can take a dog a long way, but not all dogs have the right genetic inheritance to perform well in specific working roles. You can invest a lot of effort in training a dog, but if the potential isn't there, it can be a wasted effort.

It's well worth getting in touch with an organization that can help with training, or providing you with a trained dog, if you're disabled. Properly selected and well-trained service dogs can save lives, while untrained dogs, or dogs that haven't got the right temperament can accidentally hurt their disabled owners.

The traditional advice was that dogs from working lines may be too much for pet owners, and there's some truth in this. If all you have time for is a couple of walks a day, and your dog has a need to work, it's not a good match! However, many pet owners spend most of their free time doing dog sports, and like to pick dogs from working lines that can excell at these sports. Some dogs in litters from working lines may also be more placid than others, and make fine pets. Dogs from show lines may not always have nice temperaments, and if they've been bred for extreme looks, they may be less healthy than dogs bred with no particular purpose in mind, which have less extreme features. What's important is health, and that the dog's temperament is one that you can live happily with.

The pages start with a general overview of the breed group, with breed descriptions included with the first book on that breed. Please click on one of the links below for the breed group you'd like to know more about.

To see some of your favourite breeds on stamps, click here


Sighthounds: (Afghans, Borzoi, Greyhounds, Lurchers, Saluki, and Whippets) Scenthounds: (Bassets, Beagles, Bloodhounds, and Foxhounds).

Click here


(Airedales, Bedlingtons, Black Russians, Borders, Cairns, Dandie Dinmonts, Smooth and Wire Haired Fox Terriers, Irish Terriers, Kerry Blue Terriers, Jack Russells, Manchesters, Scotties, Soft Coated Wheatens, Welsh and West Highland White Terriers).

Click here


Retrievers (Chesapeke Bay Retriever, Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever) Setters (English Setters, Gordon Setters, Irish Setters) Spaniels (Cocker Spaniel, English Springer Spaniel, Welsh Springer Spaniel) Other gundogs (German Shorthaired Pointers, Viszlas, and Weimaraners) General guides to gundog training.

Click here

Herding dogs

(Australian Cattle Dog, Australian shepherd, Bearded Collies, Belgian Shepherds, Border Collies, German Shepherds, Old English Sheepdogs, Pembroke Corgis, Rough Collies and Shetland Sheepdogs).

Click here

Spitz dogs

(Akitas, Alaskan Malamutes, Chows, Elkhounds, Keeshonds, Samoyeds, Shiba Inu and Siberian Huskies).

Click here

Bull Dogs and Bull Terriers

(Boxers, Bulldogs, English Bull Terriers, French Bulldogs and Staffordshire Bull Terriers).

Click here

Small companion dogs

(Bichons, Cavalier King Charles, Chihauhauas, Dachshunds, Italian Greyhounds, Japanese Chins, Lhasa Apso, Maltese, Miniature Pinschers, Papillons, Pekinese, Pomeranians, Pugs, Shih Tzu, Tibetan Terriers, and Yorkshire Terriers).

Click here

Giant breeds

(Bernese Mountain Dogs, Bullmastiffs, Dogue de Bordeaux, Great Danes, Irish Wolfhounds, Leonbergers, Mastiffs, Neopolitan Mastiffs, Newfoundlands, Pyrenean Mountain Dogs, and St Bernards.)

Click here

Other breeds

(Basenjis, Dalmations, Dobermanns, Hungarian Pulis, Italian Spinones, Poodles, Rhodesian Ridgebacks, Rottweillers, Schnauzers, and Shar Pei.)

Click here

"Designer" breeds

(Poodle crosses, pug crosses, yorkie crosses etc.)


Further reading

Asher L, Diesel G, Summers JF, McGreevy PD, Collins LM. (2009) Inherited defects in pedigree dogs. Part 1: disorders related to breed standards. Vet J. 182(3):402–11.

Collins LM1, Asher L, Summers J, McGreevy P. (2011) Getting priorities straight: Risk assessment and decision-making in the improvement of inherited disorders in pedigree dogs. Vet J. 189(2):147–54.

Farrell, Lindsay L et al. (2015) The Challenges of pedigree dog health: Approaches to combating inherited disease. Canine Genetics and Epidemiology 2 : 3.

O’Neill DG et al (2014). Prevalence of disorders recorded in dogs attending primary-care veterinary practices in England, PLoS ONE 9(3): 1-16.

Summers, JF, Diesel G, Asher L, McGreevy PD, Collins LM (2010) Inherited defects in pedigree dogs. Part 2: disorders that are not related to breed standards. Vet J. 183(1):39–45.