Dog Classifications: The 7 Groups of Dogs

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Wondering what the seven categories that any dog falls under? Learn more about the types of dogs, how they are classified, and the breeds that make up each group. 

a rottweiler on a leash

It may seem crazy to think that with so many canine breeds (more than 195) somehow they all fit into one of seven categories, but it’s true. The American Kennel Club (also known as AKC) has guidelines and characteristics they go by to classify dogs based on what they were originally bred for and their traits. 

There is actually an eighth classification known as the miscellaneous group that are a part of the FSS

Many of these breeds will be familiar to you, but you may be surprised at several breeds that are not recognized by the AKC. Examples include the Pitbull, American Bulldog, and Spanish Mastiff.

While there are many more breeds out there, including mixed breeds, know that the AKC only recognizes purebred canines. There is a foundation that allows some who aren’t eligible (for AKC registration) to still compete in shows. 

7 Types of the Dogs Recognized by the AKC


This canine class was obviously bred to herd livestock and help protect the farm. Herding dogs are extremely smart and respond well to training. Before 1983, this class was actually considered to be part of the working group. Even if you don’t have a farm or other animals that require control, they make excellent family pets. 

Popular breeds in this category include sheepdogs, collies, corgis, and shepherds but you can find the full list of herding breeds below. 

Types of Herding Dogs

  • Australian Cattle Dog
  • Australian Shepard
  • Bearded Collie
  • Beauceron
  • Belgian Laekenois
  • Belgian Malinois
  • Belgian Sheepdog
  • Belgian Tervuren
  • Bergamasco Sheepdog
  • Berger Picard 
  • Border Collie
  • Bouvier des Flandres
  • Briard
  • Canaan Dog 
  • Cardiagan Welsh Corgi
  • Collie
  • Entlebucher Mountain Dog
  • Finnish Lapphund
  • German Shepherd 
  • Icelandic SheepDog
  • Miniature American Shepherd
  • Mudi
  • Norwegian Buhund
  • Old English Sheepdog
  • Pembroke Welsh Corgi
  • Polish Lowland Sheepdog
  • Puli
  • Pumi
  • Pyrenean Shepherd
  • Shetland Sheepdog (Sheltie)
  • Spanish Water Dog 
  • Swedish Vallhund 


Oddly enough, this group of pups is a diverse one. Because of the generalized characteristics set by the AKC, they may fall in the same category, but they definitely don’t look the same. Their coats may vary from one breed to the next, along with their personality and unique traits. Hounds were intended for hunting when they were first bred, but are also known to be able to follow a scented trail and for their stamina. 

AKC Recognized Hound Dogs

  • Afghan Hound
  • American English Coonhound
  • American Foxhound
  • Azawakh
  • Basenji
  • Basset Hound
  • Beagle
  • Black and Tan Coonhound
  • Bloodhound
  • Bluetick Coonhound
  • Borzoi
  • Cirneco Dell’Etna
  • Dachshund
  • English Foxhound
  • Grand Basset Griffon Vendeen
  • Greyhound
  • Harrier
  • Ibizan Hound
  • Irish Wolfhound
  • Norwegian Elkhound
  • Otterhound
  • Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen
  • Pharaoh Hound
  • Plott Hound
  • Portuguese Podengo Pequeno
  • Redbone Coonhound
  • Rhodesian Ridgeback
  • Saluki
  • Scottish Deerhound
  • Sloughi
  • Treeing Walker Coonhound
  • Whippet


These breeds are also known for their hunting skills, but do best when it comes to locating and retrieving (such as water dogs). Popular breeds in this category are setters, spaniels, and pointers and retrievers. When it comes to their coats, some of them are purely meant to be water repellant and to withstand extreme environmental elements. Because they love hunting, they require more exercise than other groups.

Dogs in the Sporting Group

  • American Water Spaniel
  • Barbet
  • Boykin Spaniel
  • Brittany
  • Chesapeake Bay Retriever
  • Clumber Spaniel
  • Cocker Spaniel
  • Curly-Coated Retriever
  • English Cocker Spaniel
  • English Setter
  • English Springer Spaniel
  • Field Spaniel
  • Flat-Coated Retriever
  • German Shorthaired Pointer
  • German Wirehaired Pointer
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Lagotto Romagnolo
  • Golden Retriever
  • Gordon Setter
  • Irish Red and White Setter
  • Irish Setter
  • Irish Water Spaniel
  • Harrier
  • Nederlandse Kooikerhondje
  • Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever
  • Pointer
  • Spinone Italiano
  • Sussex Spaniel
  • Vizsla
  • Weimaraner
  • Welsh Springer Spaniel
  • Wirehaired Pointing Griffon
  • Wirehaired Vizsla


Some of America’s favorite dog breeds fall into the non-sporting group such as poodles, dalmatians and chow chows. The non-sporting category is another one that is VERY diverse and would be hard to make the connection that all of these breeds land in the same classification. Across the board, most of these canines make good house dogs and some are even better protectors. 

Non-Sporting Dogs That Are AKC Registered

  • American Eskimo Dog
  • Bichon Frise
  • Boston Terrier
  • Bulldog
  • Chinese Shar-Pei
  • Chow Chow
  • Coton De Tulear
  • Dalmatian
  • Finnish Spitz
  • French Bulldog
  • Keeshond
  • Lhasa Apso
  • Lowchen
  • Norwegian Lundhund
  • Poodle
  • Schipperke
  • Shiba Inu
  • Tibetan Spaniel
  • Tibetan Terrier
  • Xoloitzcuintli


You may need to sit down for this group. Predominantly terriers are known for their fireyness and high energy, so it’s best if they have an owner that matches. Because of their personality you may find yourself thinking they are stubborn, but they do make good family dogs. In terms of grooming, they do require a special method. It’s also worth mentioning they have trouble getting along with other dogs because their ancestors were bred to protect.

The Terrier Group of Dogs

  • Airedale Terrier
  • American Hairless Terrier
  • American Staffordshire Terrier
  • Australian Terrier
  • Bedlington Terrier
  • Border Terrier
  • Bull Terrier
  • Cairn Terrier
  • Cesky Terrier
  • Dandie Dinmont Terrier
  • Glen of Imaal Terrier
  • Irish Terrier
  • Kerry Blue Terrier
  • Lakeland Terrier
  • Manchester Terrier
  • Miniature Bull Terrier
  • Miniature Schnauzer
  • Norfolk Terrier
  • Norwich Terrier
  • Parson Russell Terrier
  • Rat Terrier
  • Russell Terrier
  • Scottish Terrier
  • Sealyham Terrier
  • Skye Terrier
  • Smooth Fox Terrier
  • Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier
  • Staffordshire Bull Terrier
  • Welsh Terrier
  • West Highland White Terrier
  • Wire Fox Terrier


Small but mighty has never been more true when it comes to the toy group of dogs. This class of canines are great for those who want low maintenance, love lap dogs, or live in small spaces. While they love showing their owner affection, they still have superior instincts when it comes to protecting. They also adapt easily when it comes to new people and places.

AKC Toy Breeds

  • Affenpinscher
  • Brussels Griffon
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
  • Chihuahua
  • Chinese Crested
  • English Toy Spaniel
  • Havanese
  • Italian Greyhound
  • Japanese Chin
  • Maltese
  • Manchester Terrier
  • Miniature Pinscher
  • Papillon
  • Pekingese
  • Pomeranian
  • Poodle (Toy)
  • Pug
  • Shih Tzu
  • Silky Terrier
  • Toy Fox Terrier
  • Yorkshire Terrier


You may recognize this class and think of service dogs. These breeds have always “been a man’s best friend” and are extremely smart. They are well known for guarding, performing duties for organizations (think military and police), pulling sleds, and even saving lives. While they do have their instincts, if you are truly going to use them as a working dog, constant training and exercising is needed. Most of these breeds are larger, which means they eat more and could have more health issues compared to other breeds.

Registered Working and Service Dog Breeds

  • Akita
  • Alaskan Malamute
  • Anatolian Shepherd Dog
  • Bernese Mountain Dog
  • Black Russian Terrier
  • Boerboel
  • Boxer
  • Bullmastiff
  • Cane Corso
  • Chinook
  • Doberman Pinscher
  • Dogo Argentino
  • Dogue de Bordeaux
  • German Pinscher
  • Giant Schnauzer
  • Great Dane
  • Great Pyrenees
  • Greater Swiss Mountain Dog
  • Komondor
  • Kuvasz
  • Leonberger
  • Mastiff
  • Neapolitan Mastiff
  • Newfoundland
  • Portuguese Water Dog
  • Rottweiler
  • Saint Bernard
  • Samoyed
  • Siberian Husky
  • Standard Schnauzer
  • Tibetan Mastiff

Common FAQs 

What dog breeds are not recognized by AKC?

If you don’t see a breed on the list above, it is not recognized by the AKC. However, they do add new breeds every couple of years. 

Why would a dog not be AKC registered?

In order for a pup to be AKC registered, both parents must be full bred and registered. Most of the time dogs that are registered are more expensive. It’s up to the breeder whether they choose to register the litter or not. Dogs don’t have to be registered to be purebred, however, it does give owners a piece of mind if that’s what they are looking for. You technically only need papers if they were going to compete in a dog show. 

Should you buy a dog without AKC papers?

This is a personal preference. The only downside is that dogs that aren’t registered can’t compete and if you were to breed them, the puppies would not be recognized either.

Does AKC recognize mixed breeds?

No. However, there are other programs the AKC has partnered with where your pup can become a member.

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