In the world of purebred dogs, the American Kennel Club holds a place of unrivaled prestige. Founded in 1884, it has long served as an authority on canines and maintains a registry of the country's purebred population, adding 1.3 million dogs to its roster each year.
The AKC recognizes 150 dog breeds, which it divides into seven groups: sporting, hound, working, terrier, toy, non-sporting, and herding.
Members of the sporting group include some of America's most popular family pets, such as Labrador retrievers and cocker spaniels. These dogs were bred to aid hunters and are usually friendly and energetic.
Hounds, which were also bred for hunting, include basset hounds and bloodhounds, both of which have a keen sense of smell, as well as Afghan hounds, greyhounds, and borzois, which are known for their superior sight. Scent hounds are sensitive, meaning that their training needs to rely on positive reinforcement, while sight hounds are quiet and require regular periods of exercise.
Working breeds, such as Akitas, bullmastiffs, Great Danes, and rottweilers traditionally served as watchdogs or pullers of carts and sleds. These dogs are especially intelligent, but their size, strength, and need for training may make them unsuitable pets for many families.
Terriers, which were bred to burrow underneath the ground in pursuit of prey, are tenacious and energetic dogs. Although terriers can be decidedly stubborn, the right training can make breeds such as Airedales or Jack Russells great pets. Chihuahuas, Pomeranians, and poodles, which are all member of the toy group, were once prized dogs in royal courts. Their generally happy dispositions make them good candidates for adoption.
Non-sporting is a vast group comprising many breeds that no longer serve the function they were bred for; bulldogs, for example, were once used in the sport of bull baiting, and dalmatians used to guard coaches and horse teams. Typically, these dogs are medium-sized and make loyal companions.
As their name implies, herding groups were bred to aid farmers in protecting or moving livestock. Some of the better-known members of this group, such as shepherds, sheepdogs, and border collies, are endowed with a heightened intelligence and stamina, but while loyal, can be challenging pets.
Learn more about the American Kennel Club.