There are more than 100 different recognized dog breeds, some of which are more popular than others. Classification of these breeds varies in different countries, although broadly speaking most accept broad categories that include sporting breeds, hounds, working and non-working breeds, terrier breeds and toy dogs.
Sporting breeds include Pointers, Retrievers, Setters and Spaniels, all of which are popular breeds that are sometimes called gundogs, because they are trained to find and flush out game birds hunted by man.
Pointers are thought to have originated from Spain where they were bred for helping with the hunting of game birds. They literally gallop, and have an excellent sense of both sight and smell. They are well-built dogs with a high head-carriage and long, muscular neck. English, Irish and lesser-known Gordon Setters have a similar build to Pointers, but their heads are longer, with a finer skull, and their heavy coat is long. Both Golden and Labrador Retrievers are large, active dogs with large, but soft mouths and a good nose for finding game. Unlike Pointers and Setters, the Retriever will stay with its master until the bird has been shot, or until they are given the command to fetch the dead or wounded bird. Cocker Spaniels were originally bred in Britain for flushing woodcock, a game bird similar to the snipe.
Popular hound breeds that use scent for hunting include Bloodhounds, Bassett Hounds, Foxhounds and Beagles. Those that rely on their sight for hunting include Greyhounds, Afghans, Borzois, and amazingly Dachshunds (or sausage dogs) that were originally bred in Germany as badger dogs that would go down holes after their prey.
Dogs are, by nature, hunters, and so it isn't surprising that man has, over time, developed this instinct. Most scent hounds originated thousands of years ago. For example, the Basset Hound was used in 16th century France to hunt badgers, wolves and other small animals. It is an odd-looking breed, with a long body and short, sturdy legs, as well as long, droopy ears and a soulful expression. It also makes a loving, although notoriously difficult to train, house pet. The Beagle has also been used for hunting for thousands of years, particularly in Britain. Smaller than the Bassett, but bigger than Fox Terriers and long-legged Jack Russells, Beagles are active hounds that make wonderful companion pets.
Sight hounds were originally bred for speed. Today the Afghan Hound is a popular show dog although it is still used as a guard dog and for hunting deer and wolves in its native Afghanistan. The elegant Borzoi, or Russian Wolfhound, is one of the quickest dogs on foot. This breed was originally kept in packs by Russian nobles that used to hunt wolves. It has also become a popular show dog in various parts of the world including the USA and Britain. The oldest of all the sight hounds is the Greyhound, used in Ancient Egypt to run down gazelles (a type of antelope). Greyhound racing has become big business in some countries. The Saluki is also a sight hound.
Popular working breeds include St. Bernards, Boxers, Huskies and Collies, while popular non-working dogs include Bulldogs, Dalmations and Poodles. When we talk about a "working breed" we mean a dog that did or does a very specific job of work, for example herding sheep (like Collies) or guarding properties or people (like German Shepherds and Dobermann Pinchers). Draught dogs (like Huskies) and guide dogs (like Labradors) are also categorized as working breeds.
There are several popular Terrier breeds including Jack Russell Terriers, Fox Terriers and Scottish Terriers. Hardy dogs originally bred to get rid of foxes, badgers, lynxes and so on, they are all quite small, sturdy dogs. Incredibly active, they make amazing, loyal pets.
Toy dogs are, of course the smallest of all, and two particularly popular breeds are the Pekingese and Chihuahua. The odd-looking Pekingese is a firm favorite and a particularly pampered creature in many countries. It originated in China in about the 8th century, making it one of the world's oldest breeds.
The Chihuahua is the smallest dog in the world, and it originated in Mexico.
Whichever dog breed or mix of breeds (cross) you choose, remember that the dog, unlike the cat, is happier if it does what its owner wants. This means that dogs are happier if trained to be obedient. If you train your dog well and care for it, you will be rewarded with amazing love and companionship. After all, it is true that the dog is man's best friend.
""Even the tiniest Poodle or Chihuahua is still a wolf at heart."
- Dorothy Hinshaw